Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Welcome to 2015

It has been a standby of this blog to post New Years Resolutions for writers, and also to make publishing predictions for the upcoming year.

As I enter into my tenth year of blogging, I reserve the right to forgo standbys. But to carry on a tradition, albeit belatedly, here are the condensed versions.

Quickie resolution: Self-publish.

Quickie publishing prediction: The world will always need storytellers. That won't change. What will continue to change is how storytellers are discovered by readers.

I'll do a post on the rise of ebook subscription services very soon. But right now I'm in New York, eagerly anticipating a live debate with Scott Turow.

Mr. Turow has been fairly maligned on this blog for many years. I've never read his fiction, though all signs point to him being a good writer. I commend him for his pro bono legal work, specifically for his efforts to abolish the death penalty in Illinois. And for many reasons, I believe his term as president of the Authors Guild was harmful, and that he continues to harm authors by using his platform to misinform.

On January 15th, at the Kaufman Center on 67th Street, I'll be debating Turow, and former New Republic editor Franklin Foer, on the topic of "Amazon is the Reader's Friend". On my team is the executive editor of Vox, Mathew Yglesias. You can guess the side we're taking.

This event is brought to you by Intelligence Squared. Tickets may still be available. If you're in the Big Apple, stop by and watch the sparks fly.

Over the last decade, the tone of A Newbie's Guide to Publishing has changed as I've changed. I entered this business naive, earnest, with a fierce work ethic and a belief that publishers and writers were business partners. As the industry repeatedly disabused me of that notion, I began to evangelize the preferable alternative of self-publishing.

Along the way I've made a few bucks, helped convert a few writers to my way of thinking, and pissed off some people. For many years now, I've felt that spreading awareness of the advantages of self-publishing isn't enough; I also feel it has been necessary to openly ridicule the status quo for its continued insistence that an archaic, wasteful, broken business model is preferable to the revolution currently taking place.

The media gives a great deal of attention to the old guards of legacy publishing, compared to the upstarts who are trying to show that what was once a closed system is now open to anyone. This blog has been my modest efforts to balance that one-sided coverage by attacking old school pundits who spout nonsense.

It is rare when one of those pundits responds to one of my fisks. Which is why I'm making a rare public appearance. Back in 2009, it was all but impossible to get the media to even acknowledge that there was a viable alternative to legacy publishing. Six years later, a loud-mouthed blogger gets invited to debate the former AG prez. We've come a long way.

I'm assuming the video feed will be live. I also assume there with be a Twitter hashtag with live updates. As I get those links, I'll post them here.

If anyone has anything they'd like to ask Scott, Franklin, or Matt, post them in the comments and I'll do my best to squeeze it in.

The debate is over. I blogged about it here:


  1. Awesome news and looking forward to the discussion! Did you start a new beer diet as training in preparation for this? ;-)

    It's actually hard for me to imagine how one could argue the stance that Amazon is not the readers' friend. If all they can come up with is, "But, who will think of the gatekeepers!" then I think you'll have a pretty easy time of it.

    Enjoy yourself!

  2. This should be good. I'm eagerly awaiting this heavyweight round. Go get 'em, champ!

  3. Anonymous8:45 AM

    If he suggests the quality of self-published books is questionable, I'd love you to ask how many self-published books he's actually read. People harp of the quality, but in order to make that an informed statement, you'd have to have read several hundred thousand books.

  4. I can't think of anything to suggest that you say to any of them that you don't already have in mind, so I'll just say this:

    Have fun, and don't let the idiots anger you.

    At least, until you get back here...

  5. Please remember that you're entering an arena in which facts and reasoning are almost irrelevant. You will be judged on what you wear, your tone of voice, whether or not you sweat or fidget, whether you come across as "nicer" than the other guy, the weather, and what the New York Times says about the debate.

  6. I hope the video will be made available for those that can't attend, I would really enjoy watching that.

    Have fun!

  7. Re Arphaxed's point: Will the video be available on YouTube?

  8. Sorry for misspelling Arphaxad.

  9. I can't wait to see that! I'm sure you'll do great. Just remember you've got nothing to prove. As you've said before on this blog, people will believe what they want to. You're really talking to (and for) those open-minded individuals who want to make informed choices for themselves. Otherwise, you might lose sight of why you're there and just stare in complete shock at the insane responses you'll be hearing at the debate.

    Good luck!

  10. Re: what Meerkatdon said.

    That’s the absolute truth. Show them that you can come into a public arena, look presentable, act civilized, and STILL destroy them with facts and figures, and by putting questions to them that they cannot answer.

  11. If the debate is "Amazon is the reader's friend":

    Ask what size of a bookstore was available to the reader before Amazon (limited to the local B&N, Waldenbooks) vs. today (Amazon as a store with almost every book available in about two days or less).

    Then, what is the average price of a book (adjusted for inflation) before and after Amazon.

    As for the quality of what's available on Amazon, see Hugh Howey's post about welcoming the glut of books.

    So, you could prove better selection, better pricing and better reader satisfaction with the wide variety of titles.

    Let's see Turow argue against math.

    Please drop diamond cutters whenever and wherever possible. Best of luck.

  12. As an avid reader, Amazon is certainly a better "friend" to me than publishers are or ever were. And clearly they have been one of the BEST friends self-publishers could ever have for several years. However, like all digital content aggregators, Amazon is not the ultimate solution to authors or readers.

    Now that open-publishing platforms are available, it can be imagined that authors will more easily be discovered by, and more easily connect directly with, their readers; while maintaining not just their publishing independence, but their business independence as well.

    Finally the creators of the world and their patron consumers have the advantage.

  13. I'm sure Turow and Foer will do their best to make it another "Amazon--Threat or Menace?" panel. Whatever. You and Matt will eat their lunch. Go get 'em, Tiger.

  14. I'm sure you'll ask this, but:

    In light of the way the AG went into overdrive defending Hachette against Amazon, why hasn't it shown the same energy or outrage when it comes to the abysmal royalties and contracts offered by the big publishers, in lockstep, for years?

    (BTW, I imagine you'll do quite well--with all your fisking, you've seen all their arguments, but I'd bet they've not bothered to put much energy studying yours over the years and will be pretty complacent. Still... hope you guys are doing a little mock debating against someone who has a good idea of what they'll throw at you.)

  15. Can't wait to see what comments and stories come out of this event.

  16. Anonymous12:41 PM

    Try to make an argument for the writers whose work doesn't fit neatly into genres and therefor won't be touched (much less published) by the legacy publishers.

    Enjoy yourself, and get the results distributed for the rest of us if you can. I'd love to see it.

    Curtis Manges

  17. Give'em hell, Joe. I try to plug the indie POV in my blog too. If there are any EU pubbers to query at the NYC debate, ask'em about VAT. Seems like they put U.S. authors between a rock and a hard place.
    I'm looking forward to your take on book borrowing. I'm a wee bit worried about those trends, even for Amazon.

  18. That's going to be so incredible! I wish I could be there and I certainly hope they have video. Good luck and illegitimis non carborundum!

  19. I just wanted to tell you: we're all counting on you.

    I'd love to ask your opponents about the whole "sea of self-published crap" myth. When was the last time they tried to find a book and had to wade through an ocean of supposedly bad indie titles to get what they wanted? The other side brings it up all the time, but nobody sees the bad books. They sink to the bottom (along with some good ones, too). They are hardly an impediment to good reading.

  20. Smart Debut Author3:31 PM

    Don't forget to ask Foer and Turow why the 40,000 top-selling self-published books have better consumer review scores on average than the 40,000 top-selling traditionally-published ones.

    And then shake your head sadly as they:
    1) Deride real-reader reviewers vs "qualified" reviewers
    2) Insult the intelligence of ebook readers vs "real" book readers
    3) Claim review fraud on a ridiculous scale

  21. Adrian3:45 PM

    I don't see why this is focused solely on Amazon. Yes, they are the biggest player, but they're not so big that the others aren't significant. 30% of my self-publishing sales are from Nook readers using B&N. Certainly much smaller than the 65% of Kindle readers using Amazon, but hardly a monopoly.

    This is also why I don't consider KDP exclusivity a good thing for anyone but Amazon.

    Indie publishing is great. I'm glad Amazon is among the big players making it easy and lucrative for indie publishers.

  22. Anonymous3:49 PM

    @ Anonymous 8:45 AM,

    If he suggests the quality of self-published books is questionable, I'd love you to ask how many self-published books he's actually read. People harp of the quality, but in order to make that an informed statement, you'd have to have read several hundred thousand books.

    I'm sorry. I'm a self-publisher. It was what I wanted to do. Never queried, never wanted to go the trad pub route. But to argue that most self-pub books are not substandard is being a bit disingenuous.

    As self-publishers, I know we like to convince ourselves that's not the case (or the indie meme that "there are just as many errors in a trad pub book as a self pub book," which is another whopper), but it's a lie we tell ourselves to feel better.

    Not that I care, mind you. My books are pro quality and I sell 100s a day, so it's not like the tsunami of crap bothers or even affects me.

    But come on, let's not pretend there aren't more terrible self-pub books than there are good ones. Or is it your contention that 500 identical books about Alpha Bear Shifters that cost .99-cents a piece and features zero editing qualifies as "quality"?

  23. Good luck, Joe! Though I'm sure Mr. Turow is the one who'll be needing all the luck.

    Amazon is the reader's friend. To disagree with this statement is to: 1) desire limitations on what readers can get their hands on, and 2) control pricing on the limited number of options available to the reader.

    Ask Mr. Turow if he wishes for someone else to have control over which restaurants he is allowed to visit and which dishes at those restaurants he is allowed to order. And then ask him if he wishes to pay a premium for all meals available to him, regardless of how they taste.

  24. Hope there's a youtube of the event available for the rest of us. Go get 'em!

  25. I've read most of Turow's books. Like him, I'm an attorney/author, but proudly self-published. Yup, he's a good writer. I would even be willing to concede, in basic agreement with Anonymous at 3:49, that a greater percentage of trad pub books are of a high "quality" -- written and edited better -- than indie books. Which is not surprising, since those writers are forced to jump through many hoops (.5 percent get through the first gauntlet after querying an agent?) AND be edited before being published. But that point doesn't prove the corollary that there isn't all kinds of fabulous and quality material available from indies. If we beat that ratio -- and we do -- we're doing pretty well. P.S. I would also argue that the pioneers and entrepreneurs who have been bold enough to self-pub are MORE creative, and more capable, than those who are happy to let others control their writing future. P.P.S. Thanks for speaking up for us, Joe, and be sure to have fun!

  26. Anonymous4:56 PM

    @ Anonymous 3:49 PM said:

    "I'm sorry. I'm a self-publisher. It was what I wanted to do. Never queried, never wanted to go the trad pub route. But to argue that most self-pub books are not substandard is being a bit disingenuous. As self-publishers, I know we like to convince ourselves that's not the case (or the indie meme that "there are just as many errors in a trad pub book as a self pub book," which is another whopper), but it's a lie we tell ourselves to feel better."

    I'm a self-publisher by choice, too. I've turned down Thomas & Mercer when they approached me and offered me a contract based on my book's indie performance.

    And I gotta say it's sad to see a smart, successful self-publisher fall for the industry's bullshit PR spin.

    You're committing the classic logical fallacy of comparing ALL self-published books (including the self-published slush pile equivalent) to the tiny fraction of 1% of traditionally-published submissions that are lifted from the trad-pub slush pile and get representation and a publisher.

    If you want a fair comparison, compare the top 100, 1000, 10000, or 100000 self-published books against the top 1000, 10000, or 100000 traditionally-published books.

    You'll see that the self-published books at any reasonable sales level have fewer typos, better editing, and better reviews than their traditionally-published peers.

    Right now I'm reading a (nonfiction) traditionally-published ebook about Epigenetics. It's so riddled with missing words and grammar errors that I'm having a hard time getting through it, even though the subject is fascinating.

    In general, I find more errors like that in trad ebooks -- which are mostly OCR scan afterthoughts -- than in self-published books.

  27. There must be video!

    I can't think of a question that wouldn't be 100% snark.

    Joe, I'm sure you've done your preparation, but I'd have a sheet of quotes with their dates so that I could bring their words back to them verbatim.

  28. Is it me or is Legacy World surprisingly quite about this debate? I mean, every peep that Turow has uttered over the years about Evil Zon, the poor Price-fix 6 victims, the grievous danger posed by the unwashed, un-curated masses, etc, etc, has instantly gotten main page coverage on blogs and news sites.

    And now that Turow (insert sarcasm) finally has Joe where he wants him, where he can publically debunk and disprove his years of disgruntled, anti-legacy propaganda rants in front of the NY pub crowd, and the pre-event coverage the showdown is getting is...crickets.

    Anyone else think that's kinda of odd?

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. When debating against nonsense, you may not have time to convince people with the facts. Throw them in if you get a chance, but this will be won (with the live audience, anyway) based on the emotional response you are able to obtain.

    The other side will focus on fear. Amazon is big, commercially driven, doesn't care about readers or writers, libraries, bookstores or innocent little kids who love pop-up books. "Look at what will be lost if this continues"...same old shit.

    In order for you to "win" in the live debate, you will have to create a bigger, better emotional response from the audience. I would go with hope. Share with the audience a look at how it was, a look at the doors that have been opened for readers and writers, and where this looks like it's going.

    If they run with fear, and you go with celebration and hope, and try and keep it positive, you will win the hearts of the audience. You are more than capable of dragging them through the mud and I think this may be why they chose you, but you don't need to do that and it may even enhance their credibility.

    Ps. When I say "win" I am referring to the feelings people will walk away with. We all know which side is right and that you have already won. However, as Richard Dawkins has found, public debates are won on emotions, not on facts. That's why he rarely debates anymore. Best of luck.

  31. It looks like a live stream will be available here: http://intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/upcoming-debates/item/1250-amazon-is-the-readers-friend

    At any rate, it will be available later on this site, as you can watch any debate in their archives.

    I can't wait! Thanks, Joe.

  32. Anonymous1:04 AM

    Hey Joe. Good luck.

    I'm not sure if my advice means anything, but if Scott and the others try the tsunami of crap line, say that reviews and readers will help curate it. If they put that down or brush it off, question why they think that readers don't have the needed critical faculties.

    Most viewers won't care about sub-standard contracts or the struggle of self-publishing. However, if the established order insults the reader, they might take notice.

  33. Good advices here. In my opinion, there's a 95% that the Kindle Unlimited question will be raised, because it's a service targeting mainly the readers, and because of H.M. Ward's recent statement.

    So, maybe it would be useful to message miss Ward prior to the debate in order to get a written statement from her stating that despite Kindle Unlimited, Amazon KDP has been the best thing to happen to her as an author, and Amazon helped her connect with the readers, and gave more reading freedom/power to many many readers, or something like that.

    Kindle Unlimited is viewed as the default in self-published's armor, so you have to be ready.

    You can say that you are not Amazon's fanboy, and that you acknowledge that KU made you lose money, BUT that you also acknowledge that Amazon can be its own disruptor in its effort to tackle competition (new services like Oyster). You can even draw a parallel between your experiments as a self-publisher, and Amazon making its own experiments: sometimes our goals converge, sometimes not. But overall, Amazon has been a very beneficial force for readers, which is proved by the fact that there are even more paper books printed today than before.

    Be also prepared for questions regarding Amazon and taxes and Amazon and its warehouses.

    Good luck!

  34. I follow your blog from Iceland and am always inspired by your posts. Hoping there will be a video feed or - even better - a YouTube version. Best of luck ... if you argue anything like you write on this blog you should blow them right out of the water.

  35. I'm with Richard Fox: the debate is "Amazon is the reader's friend", so I'd destill what he said into one question:
    With Amazon, more readers have easy access to more books/authors than ever - how is that a bad thing?

  36. "was once a closed system is now open to anyone" -

    Yes, sir, and thank goodness :-)

  37. Please ask Turow what he thinks of James Petterson's criticisms of Amazon and e-publishing as diminishing the quality of fiction-writing when he admits to only providing ideas for his co-authors to flesh out.

  38. I found myself rebutting Mr. Turow on PBS's Here and Now. Please don't let him get away with some of the numbers. For example - How much published writers make per book. The numbers he quoted might be what he gets, but it's not what most contracted writers get.
    And I'd agree with Anonymous - ask him if he's read any self-published books. Someone needs to point out that the old system didn't allow for a level of diversity of thought that the new system does.

  39. Anonymous8:33 AM

    I'd probably prepare for the following issues (1) is Amazon a monopoly (or close to one) and is this good for readers, publishers and/or authors long term? and (2) who should get to set the price of an ebook, amazon or the publishers, and why?


  40. Anonymous1:03 PM

    For those who watched the Nixon/Kennedy debate, they all thought Kennedy won.

    For those who listened to the debate, they believed Nixon cleaned Kennedy's clock.

    Same for those who read a transcript.

    Sadly today debates are about the immediate emotional response of a viewing audience.

    Reading a transcript or only listening to a debate forces you to pay attention to facts alone.

    You're a master wordsmith. Make your emotional argument in such a way that you include lots of facts that never see the light of day when the legacy industry controls the language of the argument.

    Wish I could be there to watch and I agree with many of the posters here, I hope this is filmed and made available on YouTube.

    Finally, keep in mind the great concept from Miracle on Ice. What was the greatest advantage the Soviet Ice Hockey team had? They knew before the game started they were going to win and so did their opponent. You've already won.

    Good luck and have fun!

  41. w. adam mandelbaum esq.2:37 PM

    Kick ass bubelah! Know that you will.Plus, after the debate you can pig out in the best food city in the world! Don't get mugged.

  42. Happy New Year!

    Oh man, wish I could be there. But alas, London is a loooong way away :)

  43. Anonymous5:31 PM

    Good luck Joe

    Although I can't help wondering why a group of writers/editors were invited to discuss Amazon's impact on READERS?

  44. Anonymous6:40 PM

    I predict that neither Amazon or traditional publishers will be necessary in future because authors can grow their own readership on social networks and sell their ebooks direct to readers via their websites, taking 100% royalties. That's what I'm doing anyway.

    I like debates though. Grown men shouting at each other is always interesting.

  45. I'd ask if the culture of the English speaking world is so deficient that only a small group of incumbent players can produce good books.

    Then I would ask if the economy of the English speaking world is so deficient it can't deliver books to consumers unless they come from a small group of incumbent players.

  46. Anonymous9:50 PM

    I don't have any problem with a world where traditional publishers can be successful and indie writers can also be successful.

    I hope the debate doesn't devolve into arguments over controlling pricing. I have no problem with allowing publishers to set their pricing, be it a giant publisher or an indie publisher. I think the whole blowup between Amazon and Hatchette was about control rather than what was best for consumers.

  47. Anonymous1:51 AM

    Good luck with the debate. It'll be interesting to see where self publishing goes this year. It's growing really fast and the quality is comparable to trad published books.

  48. Anonymous9:41 AM

    the words 'intelligence' and 'vox' and 'matthew yglesias' should never be in the same paragraph - much less the same universe.


  49. Joe, thanks for doing this. A word of warning.
    My son is an attorney and a litigator. He is able to turn my words around on me and use them against me on any subject. He listens more for what I am implying rather than what fact I am trying to address. He then slices it at an angle and body slams me with it.
    Be aware of the items you introduce to the conversation. Your opponent will have anticipated this and will bait you.
    I couldn’t think of a better spokesman for us; Go get um.

  50. My advice would be to drink a LOT before and, if allowed, during the debate. It may not help you do well, but it will help you think you did.

    And, to show your support for Amazon, and because they're so damn sweeeet, both of you guys should come in sporting 3 wolf moon shirts. They might give up right then and there.

    Oh, and if things get dicey and you need a quick riposte, here's a little FYI:
    "S. Turow" anagrams out to: "U Worst!!!!"

    You're welcome.

  51. Has anybody seen a streaming or twitter link?

  52. Not criticizing your stance on Amazon vs. the old guard, but I would like to know how you feel about the new unlimited readership model. Is that good or bad for authors?

  53. copy and paste!


  54. Foer and Turow's arguments seem to consist entirely of some very old, and rabidly debunked, memes.

    And Joe wore a goddamn 3 Wolves t-shirt.

    Joe wins. No contest.

  55. And so, in the end, we can conclude that 50% of the audience is ruled by fear.

    I'll just say this: Foer proposed that Amazon is already a monopoly. If that's true, then why are we not seeing them jack up the prices of books as he and Turow claim they will do as a monopoly?

    Joe, great job and thank you for presenting a voice of reason rather than fear mongering.

  56. That was pretty entertaining. I really liked Joe's attire. He missed his calling. Well, maybe not. Three stuffed shirts and 1 guy who could have starred in something like Animal House or Blazing Saddles.

  57. Really strong job tonight. Transparent, cogent, and wholly based in the actual present publishing climate, not Foer's mythical dystopia. Loved, Joe, that they didn't seem to understand how the percentages change when an author experiments with platform and exclusivity. Ignorance, or dishonest, as the audience laughed.

    I think you and Matt clearly made the better argument for the motion. Thanks for doing it!

  58. Good job, Joe, as always.
    The NY studio audience vote leaned slightly against Amazon being a reader's friend (no surprise). The online vote however was about 70% agreement that Amazon is a reader's friend.
    And this will change the business approach of each party how? Me thinks the readers will continue to decide where THEY want to spend their money. Writers will continue indie publishing in growing numbers until legacy competes by offering better royalties and contracts with more control by the authors of their own product.
    We're proud of your representation of "our world."

  59. In studio audience were clearly plants, set up in advance. No way so many went from undecided all to the other team. Ridiculous on its face--that wouldn't have happened unless Joe and his partner literally each put each other's foot in the other's mouth.

    I thought Joe did great, very funny, a bit of an "f you" to the overly serious vibe the literary and intellectual establishment is always putting on.

  60. "...online vote however was about 70% agreement that Amazon is a reader's friend."

    And that online voting will continue. With peoples wallets.

  61. Smart Debut Author8:27 PM

    I just left a comment on the IQ2 site -- let's see if they moderate it:

    Interesting how the votes from the paying audience members are skewed so differently compared to online users from all around the country.

    Funny also that a randomly selected audience member just happened to be a... wait for it... an old-school literary agent! Either that was a heck of a coincidence or publishing industry folk were pretty thick on the ground in that particular audience.

    This debate wasn't held in New York by any chance, was it?


    Joe's team actually managed to bring more of the audience over to his side over the course of the debate, picking up a percentage point (he had 41% of the vote before, but 42% of the vote after).

    But the bottom line is, the rules of how the debate would be judged basically invited fraud. So the audience (which looked pretty small) was clearly packed with industry types and sympathizers. And even an idiot in that audience could see how to steer the outcome by playing a little game with their "before" and "after" votes.

    Why else do you think so many of them pretended to be "undecided" initially?

    Because the winners would be determined by how many audience members claimed to change their minds between the two votes, a lot of the anti-Amazon plants deliberately misrepresented their first vote before the debate (falsely claiming they were undecided). And then they voted anti-Amazon the second time, throwing the "win" to Turow and crew.

    Look at the %ages, and try to explain it any other rational way. It's very unlikely that so much of the audience was truly initially "undecided"... in a publishing-industry debate where there were so many publishing types in the audience that the first randomly-picked audience questioner happened to be a literary agent. :)

    Well played, actually. You gotta give them that. :)

  62. Joe, I used to teach debate and rhetoric. And I listened carefully tonight. I just didn't think their side made much sense. Truly.

    You were engaging and--even more importantly--your joking around always had a solid point behind it. To my thinking, you showed the other side up as being a bit pompous. And your partner was excellent as well. He was very calm, and very logical.

    Yeah, I think it was clearly a prejudiced audience that was voting strategically, rather than honestly.

  63. You played well, Joe. Very proud of your representation. You and Matt complemented each other.

    I question how so many people could be undecided on a topic where they paid to attend. Were tickets given away as a promotion to employees, perhaps?

  64. Well done, Joe. I think you actually ticked Turow off a couple of times!

  65. It's on Youtube


    Note Turrow's reaction to Howey's Author Earnings Report.

  66. I teach fiction writing and publishing to English undergraduates and this semester I have a unit called Writing & The Literary Industry. We will begin by looking at the invention of the printing press in the mid 15th century and how it revolutionised culture politically and socially, and how the gatekeepers tried to limit its sphere back then and going forward through each and every stage in the evolution of publishing to date. We end with an assignment whereby students are tasked with writing an essay based on an independently published writer (I've given yourself, Barry Eisler and Hugh Howey as examples) and a critique of the career decisions made and their outcomes. This video will be a valuable educational resource. I look forward to it and would like to thank you for educating myself and so many others so far and those future writers and teachers whose lives and work you will be influencing.

  67. You kicked ass, Joe! Wish I could have been there. Fantastic!

  68. I think that the end results of the debate shows that people fear change. It's instinct. It's amazing how fear can sway the perception of a group. We like the familiar.

    The evil you know rather than the evil you don't.

  69. Wonderful debate last night! I'm impressed with that moderator and the crowd's questions. I'm not entirely sure if your humor helped or hurt the cause (and I don't mean that New York crowd. I could understand Turow gaining a few points to win the debate, but 22%!?), but being paired up with Matt balanced your arguments well. Great tag-team with 2 strategies. Turow seemed to struggle and that other guy flat up annoyed me. Self-Publishing authors don't want to be edited!? That one made me yell at the screen. So arrogant.

    I'm stunned by the amount of fear the audience bought into. I don't remember anything that defined Amazon as bad for readers, just "They're coming for us, and you're next". You even read their defining arguments from the website, and it too is empty of logic as to why Amazon is bad for readers. I had ideas for their sides arguments and could probably go devil's advocate to give you a challenge. If they weren't so afraid, I think they'd find better straws to grasp at.

    Well done. I think Matt's performance was stronger than yours, but you made me laugh a lot!

  70. The reason you lost is that only in Manhattan, when the economy is in the crapper and unemployment is high, can "literary culture" be more important than affordable, convenient books.

  71. Anonymous1:37 PM

    Great debate. What was amazing about the whole thing that I was able to watch it live (streaming online) even way out here in the Mountain West.

  72. Anonymous2:39 PM

    What the...was in the middle of watching the debate and suddenly got the message "This video has been removed by the user."

  73. I wasn't at all surprised by the vote results. Not because Joe and Matt did a poor job—I thought they both made wonderful points—but because this was obviously an industry crowd, and the way the voting is set up, it's very easy for them to game it by voting "For" or "Undecided" at the beginning.

    I think the online voting results are probably closer to the truth.

  74. I'd also add that this "victory" for Turow and company really means nothing. Something they can feel smug about for a few days. But no matter what they've said, the industry is changing and will continue to change and Amazon will likely continue to dominate it as long as they make both authors and readers happy.

  75. Anonymous3:18 PM

    The video should appear here soon.

  76. Anonymous7:31 PM

    Please make certain this debate will be posted on Youtube, some way, somehow. Love your blog; respect your advice.

  77. WTF! Started watching the debate at work. Saved the link to watch in full when I got home and now all I see is a message that the video has been removed (presumably by the Illuminati). Based on the results I can only assume that Amazon demanded that Intelligence Squared take down the video. Wouldn't want the general populous to know about the Death Star they're building in Earth's orbit after all. You must have made some damn good points, Joe.

  78. SpringfieldMH11:34 AM

    Transcript and DVD of the debate are currently available at http://intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/past-debates/item/1250-amazon-is-the-readers-friend under the Video/Audio tab, with audio/podcast to apparently follow at some point.

  79. Smart Debut Author12:31 PM

    If you think about what actually happened in that debate, it's really funny.

    1. The debate was supposed to be: “Amazon Is the Reader’s Friend: Yes or No.”

    2. Scott Turow and Foer instead turned it into a debate on “Should Be Amazon Allowed To Destroy Publishers: Yes or No.”

    3. 42% of a industry-stacked crowd in NYC, the heart of Big Publishing territory, voted yes to... that.


  80. Anonymous7:38 AM

    Joe - Nice job at the debate. I read the transcript last night and will check out the video later (so I can see if there's a Nixon/Kennedy effect going on).

    I thought Turow and the New Republic guy were a bit disingenuous and strayed far, far from the central question posed, i.e. whether Amazon is the reader's friend. Of course this is not surprising. It's an old lawyer's trick to reframe the issue so you can give the answer you want. Of course they argued about the need for publishers to fund non-fiction, which is complete and utter crap (publishers don't offer non-fiction authors a living wage to write these books).

    It both amazed and ticked me off that these guys had the balls to argue the need for gatekeepers, and how the poor New Republic guy was overwhelmed by the content on Amazon and needed someone to essentially tell him what to read. I would have thought an intellectual of his caliber would be able to sort the wheat from the chaff. Guess I'm wrong.

    Again, good job!

    Evan Ronan - author of The Unearthed paranormal thriller series.

  81. Saw the video, and came to one conclusion: Frank Foer is a shrill little fucker.

  82. Anonymous8:31 PM

    The world has changed a lot. Gatekeepers now in many cases are reader reviews. Writers don't need to be traditionally published or get reviewed in the NY Times Book Review to find an audience and be successful.

    We will always have a literati, an intelligentsia, who vet books and writers and that's fine -- they can enjoy communicating good books that fit their standards of excellence to one another, and maybe these are the books that will last beyond one generation. All good and well.

    But there are a great many other readers who simply want good stories. They don't need Hatchette and the rest to determine what stories are good and what stories aren't good. Their fellow readers, passionate about their genre and related genres, can do so better than the NY publishers.

    Amazon has been a great boon for readers, delivering more choices at cheaper prices and developing algorithms that do a decent job of matching readers to the books they might like.

    Amazon is also scary, because as they gain more and more marketshare the potential for them to raise prices and squeeze authors increases, but that's fear, not reality at this point.

    Just some thoughts.

  83. As I guessed, the question about Kindle Unlimited was asked (by Scott Turow).

    The debate was interesting, but it seemed to me that the arbiter of the debate was leaning towards the traditional publishing side.

    At one time, a person in the public asked a question about out of print books, and three of the debaters answered, while Joe declined to answer.

    This disappointed me, because Joe could have talked about the numerous authors he invited right here in this blog, who have been dumped by traditional publishing and have been born again through self-publishing, mainly because Amazon offered them this huge opportunity.

    On the contrary, I liked very much Joe's point about Leslie Wells when the editing question was raised.

    Both Joe and Mathew Yglesias made great points. Unfortunately, if we admit that the debate wasn't skewed from the beginning (which I'm not sure it wasn't), I think that Turow and Foer won because of their stance: "we are the most moderate and tolerant people here, because while Joe Konrath and self-publishers deem that they don't need traditional publishing and they don't care if it's utterly destroyed, we are happy with self-publishing, and yet we care about traditional publishing".

    It hasn't been stressed enough that traditionally publishing has always been tolerant toward self-publishing PROVIDED self-publishing were accounting for less than 0,5% of the overall market of publishing. Traditional publishers are tolerant with self-publishers the way the society is tolerant with beggars.

    And that's at that very point in the debate that the collusion between publishers to raise price should have been pointed, in my opinion.

    Yes, Yglesias mentioned the collusion, and Joe talked about the publishing cartel, and it was interesting to notice that Turow aknowledged traditional publishing being an oligopoly. But the collusion wasn't talked about, just mentioned.

    Just my 0.0000002 cents.

  84. Anonymous3:30 PM

    I think that anyone who is looking to be a writer and publish their works should get as much help as they can. I'm no writer myself, but it seems to me that it would be hard work. Getting the help of a publishing company can really give your book the boost it needs. http://www.weecreekpress.com

  85. i didnt like the debate.... i think you could have made a better argument about why amazon is the readers friend. instead you fell into the usual chat about the big 5 and the legacy publishers being the gate keepers to keep writers out....

  86. Anonymous6:24 AM

    I've read one Scott Turow book - "1L" and I am ever grateful that he wrote it because it honestly made certain (non-academic) aspects of law school and practice easier even though it is basically a navel gazing exercise.

    I hadn't thought about it before this morning, but Mr. Turow is a Harvard law graduate and I believe he earned his master's degree from Stanford University in something to do with English Arts. Both are elite schools and in the field of law, so many of an attorney's professional opportunities are greatly influenced by the "tier" of law school attended.

    Harvard is, of course, first tier (there are four tiers) and very high up within that tier. I can say, from 13+ years of working with my law degree before self-publishing allowed me to replace a healthy six-figure income with an even healthier six-figure income, that the interpersonal component of law practice is very "pedigree" oriented.

    I really think that explains the entirety of Turow's position on self-publishing.

  87. Anonymous5:07 AM

    I have a question with regards to this. And just to clarify I have only recently discovered you and your blog, and am very pro indie in everything.

    I spent 3 years working in and around the independent and DIY music scenes. Trying to help DIYers who were amazing get seen and noticed. I made friends with many bands who were very talented and were producing music better than a lot of released music in their genres.

    I watched them do the DIY thing, embracing the rally cry of the internet democratising music.

    Some of them did everything right. The gigging, the mailing lists, the self releases, the music videos, but with the exception of one band, they all hit a glass ceiling, because although the production of music has been very much democratised, the marketing, distribution, promotion and selling of it is still very much in the grasp of record labels. The PR$ buys sales. The DIY route simply does not work in a sustainable way for DIY bands.

    I would love to believe the literary world is different. It seems, from a slightly naive position, that is is different. It has a different audience and the content is consumed differently by that audience.

    But I wonder, despite some people obviously succeeding at self publishing, is the rally cray of literature that the digital age has democratised publishing also a false dawn?

    I hope not, and you seem to have had enough experience to have a solid and informed opinion. I do not know if you know anything about the DIY / independent music scene, but if you do do you believe that self publishing can succeed where self releasing (music) still hits a glass ceiling and you need labels to achieve even a living?

    Sorry for a slightly cluttered post about a subject that could probably do with more information, anecdotes and explanation, but I am genuinely curious.

    I will self publish. I love the concept and the challenge. But my experience from the music scene still lingers and I am curious as to others opinions.

    Cheers and all the best


  88. I'm watching the debate now. What a bunch of tedious, whiny blowhards on the anti-Amazon side... yeah, Turow, we can tell you're a lawyer before you announce it. Heaven forbid publishing accidentally becomes a meritocracy. I think the thing that irks legacy authors the most is indie upstarts with zero promotional budgets are upstaging them in sales and positive reviews. I think legacy authors are frightened of Joe and everything he represents, and rightfully so. Maybe they should be. Very few can wear the Three Wolf Shirt!

  89. Anonymous12:03 PM

    Interesting that we all cheered Joe on before the debate telling him to 'kick ass' but now the results are in we decided that somehow they don't count and that the Amazon customers in the audience (all of them) were wrong.

    Better to take on board the audience reaction to the debate and make better and more reasoned points in the future.

    From the applause it seemed to me that Joe had a lot of fans in the audience. On that basis their decision is all the more interesting.

  90. Anonymous7:12 PM

    Here is a link to the debate for anyone who hasn't seen it :)


  91. I watched the debate and couldn't believe the end results! I think the online poll they have on the website is likely more accurate, the one in the studio rigged.

    I thought it interesting the "against" side definitely kept shifting the debate away from a reader focus. I mean, it makes sense - they were on the logically losing side. To argue the issue directly would have been debate suicide!

    Joe, you're pretty good at rhetoric and should totally do your own vlog. I would watch that! :)

  92. There will always be storytellers.

    That says it all!

    Brian January

  93. Thank you for this (and previous) eye-opener. We need more people to speak openly about this. "Pissing off" people, as you say, is inevitable when you are the one who states publicly what others want to keep a secret...


Thanks for the comment! Joe will get back to you eventually. :)