Sunday, January 31, 2016

Book Cover Art Sale

My cover designer is having a sale on his pre-designed covers, and they're gorgeous.

As I've said many times in the past, a great book cover is one of the four essential ingredients to finding readers (the other three being a great book, great description, and reasonable price).

If your sales are slumping, one of the things you should look at is your cover art. An amateurish cover can send subconscious signals to potential fans that the writing is also amateurish. You don't want to be dismissed by your readers before they even read your first sentence.

For a limited time, these pre-designed covers available on are $200. When you buy one, it's yours, and no one else can claim it. So if you see one you like, snap it up fast.

Via the Extended Imagery website:

When a book cover concept is created but not used as the final, I alter the design and offer it to other authors for a discounted price. See a concept that would work perfectly for your paperback/ebook cover? Email me at with the number of the cover you're interested in.

Pre-designed covers are sold on a first come, first serve basis. Minor changes to elements such as the color scheme or font are included in the price. Additional fees will be required for any major alterations. Fees are determined by the complexity of the requested changes.

Just like with my custom covers all pre-designded book cover packages include:
- 6x9 inch (72dpi) ebook cover used for publishing on Amazon and all other major online retailers.
- 6x9 inch (300dpi) full paperback print cover used for Print-On-Demand books.
- 3D book mock-up image used for online promotion.
- Website banner used for social media sites, blogs and author sites.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Guest Post by Silas Payton

The F-word Authors Should Learn from Rap Music

Hip hop, or rap, has done extremely well in the past twenty years and I would argue it is largely because of the F-word. Fans want the F-word, plain and simple, and I'm willing to bet this holds true with writing just as much as with rap music. The F-word I'm referring to is featuring. It's seen after the title of many, many hip hop songs, used to highlight a guest performer. Many music artists have worked together in the past, but no other music genre has done it so effectively. Writers would do well to learn from this strategy. In this post I highlight some rap examples of this success and discuss ways we can apply this technique to writing.

When someone starts listening to a particular rapper, it's not long before they have a list of other rappers they also want to check out. Fans quickly become aware of other artists similar to, or liked by, their new star. When they are looking for something else to listen to, guess where they are going to turn.

Rappers seem to enjoy promoting each other. Not only do rappers collaborate on songs and show up to each other's concerts, but often other performers will be mentioned in a song without even being featured in it. The only benefit is to raise awareness. Perhaps it's from the roots or history of rap, I'm not sure. What I do know is rappers take cross-promotion to a whole new level.

Take for example, Eminem. Arguably one of the most successful rappers of all time. A quick scan of singers he has featured, or has been featured with, reveals an extensive list, including: Skylar Grey, Obie Trice, Pink, Rhianna, Sia, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Busta Rhyme, Cashis, Yelawolf, Dr. Dre, D12, Lloyd Banks, and Akon, Jay-z, and The Game, to name just a few. I stopped counting at sixty collaborators.

As a second example, I looked up Snoop Dogg. I stopped counting at ninety collaborators. Here's a quick scan of a few other big names: Jay-z, over sixty; Lil Wayne, over fifty; Kendrick Lamar, new to the scene has over twenty... eleven on one album.

This "featuring" in rap music, is simply cross-promotion done right. A fan of one is introduced to another through collaboration. Just as in the book world, rap fans are always on the lookout for more. As an author, there are a number of ways we can cross-promote as well. A few come to mind and I'll briefly mention each: anthologies, multi-author book collections or boxed sets, Kindle Worlds, co-writing a book with someone else, and a few other ideas.


An anthology is a collection of stories... quite often short stories, from different authors. An anthology often has a common genre or theme, which introduces fans to authors they may not heard of. It may be be a collection put together and sold for shared profits, for charity, or it may even be put out as a free collection. Either way it gets your name out in front of new readers.

Multi-Author Boxed Sets

This is a collection of books put out by a number of authors, usually at a discount price. Similar to an anthology, this may be a collection of books of similar genres. This is often a collection of previously released books bundled together. It could be a permanent option or and possibly only be available for a short time for a promotion. A huge benefit to anthologies and boxed sets are the collective marketing. If all authors are pushing the book or collection, more readers can be introduced to the other authors.

Kindle Worlds

Anyone who follows Joe's blog should know about Kindle Worlds. Amazon has a series of Worlds that anyone can write in. These include a number of popular series from authors, comic books, and even television series. The idea here is the same... if you write in the 'world' of an established author, you may be able to entice some of their existing fans to cross over into your books.

I've been in J.A. Konrath's Jack Daniels and Associates Kindle World for roughly six months now, and sales have been steady since. Not only am I currently selling books to Konrath fans, but I have no doubt this will also bring new readers to my other books over time.

I have two in Joe's Jack Daniels Kindle World, White Lady, and Paralyzer. Please check them out.

Co-Writing a Book

If you are very lucky, you may be able to co-write with a more established author. There are many examples of new authors being given an opportunity. Self-published Jude Hardin writing with Lee Child, Russell Blake writing with Clive Cussler, and Joe Konrath writing with F. Paul Wilson, are a few that come to mind. Even if you collaborate with other new authors, it will still benefit both of you. This isn't something I've tried yet, but it's on my list.

Author Mentions

In my first book, Going Under, I name drop as a character (my psychotic antagonist) reads a J.A. Konrath book. In my new book, 14 Gable Lane, due out in February, I've worked in a similar scene where I have a character reading a book by another author friend of mine.

Back Material: Recommended Reading Lists, and Bonus Material

I've also seen cross-promoting using a Recommended Reading List in your back pages. This has been used by traditional publishing for years. If you can get a group of writers together who you recommend, you can list each other. With ebooks, you can even add hyperlinks to the author's Amazon page. You can also pair up and have an introduction to a friend's book as an extra at the back... maybe a few chapters, or a blurb, maybe even a short story.

Cross-promotion is an easy way to get your work in front of new eyes, but the take home message here is not just how to gain readers. The real message is, there are many ways in which you can help others by cross-promoting their work. We all gain far more from trying to help others than from trying to help ourselves. Take a lesson from the rappers on this one...prolific use of the F-word will help.

Silas Payton

Friday, January 15, 2016

Freedom of Expression?

A guest post by frequent contributor to this blog, Barry Eisler. I chime in midway.

Barry sez: I just learned about an event put on by an organization called New America (formerly The New America Foundation): Amazon’s Book Monopoly: A Threat to Freedom of Expression? Ordinarily, propaganda is something that concerns me, but when it veers this far off into parody, I sometimes welcome it as a comic diversion.

Because, come on, putting your tendentious conclusion right there in the title and disguising it as a question, while an impressively textbook instance of question-begging, in this context is also pretty funny. Because, “Hey, we’ve already established that Amazon is a monopoly; we’re just here to determine how much of a threat the company poses to Freedom and All That Is Good. Is it an existential threat, like Roger Cohen said about ISIS? Or merely an extremely threatening threat?”

And who knows, maybe they’ll answer the question, “No,” right? Maybe the panelists will decide that Amazon’s “book monopoly” is actually a benefit to freedom of expression, as monopolies often are. It’s not as though they’ve structured things so that the question answers itself, and I don’t know why anyone would suspect this panel might be anything other than a diverse collection of open-minded people honestly engaging in free inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge wherever the facts may lead!

Thanks to the efforts of serious-sounding organizations like New America (and if that vague but happy-sounding name didn’t cause your bullshit detector to at least tingle, it should—see also Americans for Prosperity and the Center for American Progress), this “Amazon is a Monopoly” silliness is so persistent that Joe and I dealt with it in our inaugural post on zombie memes—“arguments that just won’t die no matter how many times they’re massacred by logic and evidence.” Half the purpose of the Zombie Meme series is to save Joe and me from having to repeat ourselves, so if you want to have a laugh about why, despite its persistence, “Amazon is a Monopoly” is so embarrassingly dumb and misguided, here’s your link.

But here’s the amazing part: “Amazon is a monopoly” is actually the clever half of the event’s title. The really funny part is what follows: that Amazon poses a threat to freedom of expression!

As I said in a previous Techdirt guest post called Authors Guilded, United, and Representing…Not:

Given that Amazon’s self-publishing platform enables all authors to publish whatever they like and leaves it to readers to decide what books they themselves find beneficial, while the New York Big Five (no concentrated market power in a group with a name like that!) has historically rejected probably 999 books for every one they deem worthy of reaching the public, a few questions present themselves. Such as:

                     Who has really been “manipulating and supervising the sale of books and therefore affecting the exchange of ideas in America,” and who has really “established effective control of a medium of communication”—an entity that screens out 99.9% of books, or one that has enabled the publication of any book?

                     Who has really been running an uncompetitive, controlled, supervised, distorted market for books—a company dedicated to lower prices, or a group calling itself the Big Five that has been found guilty of conspiracy and price fixing?

                     Who is really restoring freedom of choice, competition, vitality, diversity, and free expression in the American book market—an entity that consigns to oblivion 999 books out of a thousand, or one that enables the publication of all of them?

                     And who is really ensuring that the American people determine for themselves how to take advantage of the new technologies of the 21st Century—an entity responsible for zero innovation and dedicated to preserving the position of paper, or one that has popularized a new publishing and reading platform that for the first time offers readers an actual choice of formats?

Think about it. This “New America” organization has put together a panel dedicated to persuading you that there was more freedom of expression when an incestuous group of five Manhattan-based corporations held the power to disappear 999 books out every thousand written, and indeed performed that disappearance as the group’s core function (they call this “curation”). And that, now that Amazon’s KDP platform has enabled all authors to publish virtually anything they want, freedom of expression is being threatened.

 For an organization calling itself “New America,” these jokers sure seem wedded to the old version.

In fairness to New America, I should note that their worldview is hardly unprecedented. The notion that the traditional way of doing things is ipso facto the best way of doing things was lampooned by Voltaire over 150 years ago through his character Dr. Pangloss, who was convinced (before experience in the world introduced doubts) that “All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” And Pangloss was himself based on the religious philosophy known as theodicy—a word coined over 300 years ago to describe a kind of faith that’s doubtless as old as the human race (and a word I admit I like because it sounds a bit like “idiocy”).

In fact, it was as recent as, say, the 1950s that a group of tweed-jacketed, straight white male college professors were genuinely convinced that the collection of books they deemed the most intrinsically worthy—all, coincidentally, written by other straight white males—represented the maximally possible amount of valuable expression, information, and ideas. They even called their collection the “canon,” which I admit did tend to make their subjective choices sound important and even divinely ordained. As people came to question the absence of women and minority writers from this collection selected exclusively by straight white males, I imagine the straight white males genuinely believed that broadening the “canon” to include women and minorities was a threat to freedom of expression and all that. This is just the way a lot of people are wired, especially when status and privilege are part of the mix.

And really, you do have to take a moment to applaud the mental gymnastics required of otherwise presumably intelligent people to say shit like “more authors writing more books reaching more readers is threatening freedom of expression, the flow of information, and the marketplace of ideas.” It’s War is Peace/Ignorance is Strength/Freedom is Slavery level doublethink. On the one hand, it’s sad, but on the other hand, in all the universe could there be a race as capable as humans of clinging so resolutely to faith in the face of so many contrary facts? Seen in this light, there’s something tragically beautiful about it.

And while I admit that New America’s “day is night, black is white” bizarro worldview isn’t easy to parody, I can’t resist trying. So…

Coming up next from New America: The Internet’s Dictatorial Grip: Impeding Access to Information? And The Tyranny of the Cell Phone: Shutting Down Communication? And Our Addiction to Paved Roads: A Threat to Freedom of Movement?

One more thing about this event that’s unintentionally hilarious, and then I need to get back to something worthwhile (AKA, the new manuscript). Take a look at the guest list. If you hired a team of NASA scientists to design the most rabidly, incestuously anti-Amazon panel possible, this is pretty much the group the team would propose. Though I doubt even the scientists (assuming they had a little dignity) would have gone to far as to bring in Douglas Preston and his literary agent, Eric Simonoff. I mean, this is getting pretty close to just adding clones of existing panelists and eliminating the last fluttering fig leaf of diversity.

They also have the dean of the Amazon Derangement crowd, Scott Turow. And Franklin Foer, who in fairness should be disqualified from even being on this panel because of his claim—in his much-derided “Let us kneel down before Amazon” screed—that “That term [monopoly] doesn’t get tossed around much these days, but it should”!

By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if Foer makes the same cringe-worthy claim again, on this very “Amazon is a Monopoly” panel. The anti-Amazon crowd has never been particularly educable.

Also present will be Mark Coker, the head of Smashwords, an Amazon competitor. And author Susan Cheever, a member of Authors United, an organization that represents pretty much the platonic ideal of Amazon Derangement Syndrome. A couple of anti-trust lawyers to provide a veneer of legal gravitas (and to troll for clients, no doubt). And a second-year law student named Lina Khan who has argued that Amazon “should alarm us.”

And that’s it. That’s as diverse and wide-ranging as the lineup gets. The full gamut of viewpoints, from A…all the way to B.

Although really, even that feels a little generous.

Oh, by the way, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, another Amazon competitor, is the chairman of New America’s board of directors, too. No conflict of interest there. Nothing to disclose to anyone who might think this is some sort of disinterested, scholarly event.

So yeah, it’s really that much of a hive-mind lineup. But that’s not even the best part. The best part is, this remarkably insular and incestuous exercise in groupthink has been assembled to speak out against a purported threat to…freedom of expression! The flow of information! And the marketplace of ideas!

None of this is an accident, by the way. It isn’t just stupidity and incompetence. There’s a reason organizations will try to take a narrow outlook and propagate it through multiple mouthpieces: doing so can create the impression that a rare and radical notion is in fact widely held—held even by ostensibly disparate groups—and therefore more trustworthy. Indeed, this form of propaganda is a favorite of some of the same reactionary groups New America is showcasing on its panel. As I said recently about the supposedly “unprecedented joint action” of some booksellers, authors, and agents complaining together about Amazon:

Which brings us to the second revealing aspect of this “propaganda masquerading as an interview” drill. You see, in the standard “blow-job masquerading as interview” gambit, it’s generally enough to hope the reader will just assume the interviewer and interviewee are working at arms-length. Making the point explicitly isn’t really the done thing. Here, however, perhaps not trusting readers to be sufficiently gulled, the ABA and AG are at pains to describe the “unprecedented joint action” of the AG, Authors United, the ABA, and the Association of Authors’ Representatives in going after Amazon for monopolizing the marketplace of ideas, devaluing books, and generally crushing dissent, democracy, and all that is good. The impression they’re trying to create is, “Wow, if so many separate organizations hate Amazon, Amazon must be doing something bad.”

But what’s critical to understand is that the most fundamental purpose of the Authors Guild, Authors United, the American Booksellers Association, and the Association of Authors is to preserve the publishing industry in its current incarnation. Whatever marginal differences they might have (I’ve never actually seen any, but am happy to acknowledge the theoretical possibility) are eclipsed by this commonality of purpose. Under the circumstances, the fact that these four legacy publisher lobbyists agree on something is entirely unremarkable (indeed, what would be remarkable would be some evidence of division). But if people recognize the exercise as a version of “No really, I read it somewhere…okay, I wrote it down first,” the propaganda fizzles. And that’s why these propagandists have to nudge readers with the bullshit about the “unprecedented joint action.” Otherwise, when Authors Guild Executive Director Mary Rasenberger cites Authors United pitchman Doug Preston as though Preston were a separate, credible source, people might roll their eyes instead of nodding at the seriousness of it all. They might even giggle at the realization that all those “When did Amazon stop beating its wife?” questions were functionally being put by Rasenberger to herself.

So no, this wasn’t remotely a cross-examination, or even a cross pollination (indeed, publisher lobbyists are expert at fleeing anything that offers even the slightest whiff of actual debate—which does make their alleged devotion to the Free Flow of Ideas and Information as the Engine of Democracy worthy of a smile, at least, if nothing else). It was just a stump speech lovingly hosted by someone else’s blog. The sole reason for the exercise was to create the misleading appearance of multiple, arms-length actors when functionally there is only one.

In fairness to the aforementioned Unprecedentedly Joint Actors, there is a rich heritage behind this form of propaganda. For example, in the run-up to America’s second Iraq war, Dick Cheney would have someone from his office phone up a couple of pet New York Times reporters, who would then dutifully report that anonymous administration officials believed Saddam Hussein had acquired aluminum tubes as part of his nuclear weapons efforts…and then Cheney would go on all the Sunday morning talk shows and get to say, “Don’t take my word for the aluminum tube stuff—even the New York Times is reporting it!”

So leave aside the fact that the “joint action” in question is anything but unprecedented—that it is in fact publishing establishment SOP. Anyone familiar with the record of these organizations will instantly realize that the “unprecedented joint action” in question is a lot like the “joint action” of all four fingers—plus the thumb!—of someone throwing back a shot of tequila. Like that of a little boy pleasuring himself—with both hands!—and trying to convince anyone who will listen that the Unprecedented Left and Right Action is proof that “Everybody loves me!”

Okay, I apologize for the multiple excerpts from previous posts. But what are you going to do? These bloviators keep vomiting up the same tired bullshit, no matter how many times it’s debunked. It just saves time to refer to the previous debunkings rather than typing it all out again.

My advice to New America? If you’re more than just a propaganda operation—if you really do care about freedom of expression, and the flow of information, and the marketplace of ideas—you might want to add at least a token panelist with a viewpoint that differs even just a tiny bit from that of the nine Borg you’ve assembled to intone that Amazon Is Evil and Will Destroy All That Is Good. Otherwise, your event is going to feel more like a circle jerk and less like sex. And, doubtless, with similarly productive results.

Joe sez: And just when I think I’m out…

Thanks, Barry, for turning a spotlight on this silliness, and patiently picking apart why it is so silly. I’m sure the panel will be a resounding success, much like all circle jerks and echo chambers are for those involved. Masturbation is supposed to be satisfying, and a nice “atta boy!” and backslap at the finish seems preferable to eating the soggy biscuit.

Don’t Google that if you don’t know what I mean. You can’t unlearn it.

One of the reasons I’ve largely eschewed activism lately is because I haven’t seen any ill effects from all the Amazon bashing being done by the usual spin doctoring suspects.

At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, the propaganda classic Triumph of the Will was just released on BluRay for the first time. It’s an effective piece of filmmaking, and Frank Capra imitated a lot of elements from it for his Why We Fight series.

It worked. And it is still being imitated today, both as a film, and as propaganda. Fear mongering is an old standby for getting people on your side. I wrote a whole post about alarmist terminology and spin

But I don’t think this approach works when it comes to Amazon. People aren’t so ready to buy what the pinheads are selling. Today we can have the New York Times, which I believe still has the motto “All the news that’s fit to print”, show such stunning anti-Amazon bias that the public editor has called it out more than once, and the public simply doesn’t give a shit. Amazon still gets their approval and their business, no matter how many times David Streitfeld one-finger-types his screeds while busting out knuckle babies with his other hand.

The public likes Amazon. Even if it were true that Amazon is planning to overthrow the government and replace the Bill of Rights with a guarantee of same day free shipping, its approval rating is so high that I don’t think most folks would care.

But for all the alarmist rhetoric and soothsaying predictions of world domination, I’ve yet to see anyone other than Big 5 apologists and their NY media cronies show much concern over Amazon’s mounting dominance of online retail.

Maybe that’s because—wild guess here—Amazon offers authors unprecedented opportunity to reach readers, and offers readers the widest selection at the lowest possible prices coupled with good customer service.

Authors United, and the NYT, are doing everything they’re supposed to be doing to spread their anti-Zon propaganda, but the people don’t care.

If I had faith in human nature, I’d posit that access to the Internet (and the ability for anyone with second grade spelling skills to type words into a search engine) can reveal in a click or two what utter nonsense the morons are spouting.

But I think the more realistic answer is that people simply like Amazon because it has a wide selection, low prices, and good customer service.

So I no longer feel the need to correct the greedy, self-interested 1% of authors who want to prop up an archaic, inefficient, and ruthless publishing industry with stupid organizations and articles and events. Joe Average might very well read about this panel in a Streitfeld spat of “journalism”, cluck his tongue at how Amazon is destroying freedom of expression, and then quickly forget about it when the UPS guy knocks on the door with a box of Bounty because yesterday Joe used his Amazon Dash button to order more.

The legacy publishing industry is dying. Once it lost its lock on distribution, it lost the majority of its power. The only ones who will mourn that industry are the few handfuls of authors it made rich. And when their corporate masters merge and downsize into inevitable bankruptcy, watch how quickly they jump on Amazon’s teat when the seven figure advances are gone.

But, for old times’ sake, let me fisk New American’s event description. Their nonsense in italics, my replies in regular font.

Amazon dominates the U.S. book market to a degree never before seen in America.

But does it dominate the U.S. book market to a degree never before seen in Canada?

Okay, I’m making fun of the lousy sentence, but isn’t that like saying “In my house I dusted the bookcases to a degree never before seen in my house?”

That's silly. Especially since I switched to ebooks and got rid of my bookcases.

This corporation dominates every key segment of the market.

Wow, that's a lot of dominance. I hope the public has a safeword.

We had a cartel dominating publication and distribution for decades. It was an oligopoly called the Big 6. Not only did it reject a high percentage of books submitted to it—which can be argued is a form of censorship—but when it accepted a book it fucked the author in the ass with unconscionable, one-sided contract terms. Terms even the Big 5 enamored Authors Guild has spoken out against.

And this immense size gives Amazon unprecedented power to manipulate the flow of books – hence of information and ideas – between author and reader.

OK, reread what Barry and I have written here. For over a hundred years, publishers have refused to publish the overwhelming majority of books, essentially preventing the public from ever reading them. They had a right to do that, just like Chick-Fil-A has a right to be closed on Sundays for ridiculous religious reasons.

But unlike the Big 6, or Chick-Fil-A, Amazon is allowing more traffic than ever before. More books are flowing with Amazon than flowed with the Big 6.

Plus, Amazon isn’t a monopoly, and doesn’t control the Internet, so if there were cases where Amazon decides it doesn’t want to sell something, it can’t prevent it from being sold elsewhere.

Last summer a group of authors made the case that Amazon’s actions constitute an abuse of its monopoly powers and threatens this vital marketplace of ideas.

It was a shitty case. But let’s not allow facts to get in the way of good propaganda. Because if you keep repeating the same lie, some people are bound to start believing it. 

Unless they're Prime members. Then they'll cluck their tongues and ask Alexa to pre-order the new Barry Eilser book,

Amazon’s actions, they wrote, may already be affecting what authors write and say.

As evidenced by Amazon refusing to sell any work by any signatory of Authors United.

Oh… wait.

But look how Amazon has forced writers to cower in the shadows, fearful of offering any sort of critique.

Oh… wait.

Hmm. Doesn’t a panel about Amazon restricting freedom of expression prove that Amazon can’t restrict freedom of expression? Or if it can, doesn’t want to?

Oops, my bad. They used the word "may". So it could read "may already be affecting what authors write and say, even though there is no evidence or logic to support that conclusion." Like someday I "may" own my own country, which I'll name Joetopia and make our main export beer parties. If you'd like Joetopia to export a beer party to you, let me know because it "may" happen. Wait by the phone until you hear back.

The authors strongly urged antitrust regulators to take action, in what would be the most important antitrust case since Microsoft in the late 1990s.

Except for the tiny little fact that, you know, THERE IS NO CASE.

Barry and I take a lot of time to add these links to prove out points. You diligent readers are clicking on them, right?

Join New America’s Open Markets program for a discussion of Amazon’s monopoly over books and what it means for American readers and America’s democracy.

For God’s sake, someone think of the children! Because an online retailer is all that stands between the freedom to vote for representatives in government (that's the definition of democracy), and a zombie world where neighbors feast on neighbors and the only law comes from the business end of a twelve gauge. Because that argument makes as much sense as theirs.

Some of the nation’s best-known authors will discuss their personal experiences with Amazon.

And nary a one with a contrary point of view! Perhaps because they couldn't find any author with a good personal experience with Amazon. I mean, other than a hundred thousand or four. But I'm sure New America has much better things to do with their time than a little research.

Antitrust lawyers and experts in Big Data and price discrimination will then discuss the larger effects of the corporation’s behavior, and whether the government should bring a case against Amazon.

With Data so Big it’s Capitalized! Did that become a thing and I missed it?

And what could they possibly say in regard to price discrimination? Amazon fights to keep prices low. The Big 6 fight to keep them high. They illegally collude to keep them high. They print the prices on their damn books to keep them high.

Could they be going into the nefarious business practice of co-op, and Amazon charging publishers for better visibility? Is that the discrimination they mean? Or maybe loss leads?

Last I checked, both were not only legal, but commonplace in retailers.

I wonder what the antitrust lawyers will say about Amazon allowing anyone to sell through Amazon. In other words, if Amazon decided it no longer wanted to sell Big 6 titles, I could open up an Amazon seller account and sell Big 6 titles on Amazon. Can someone explain to me how that limits the flow of books between reader and author?

Follow the discussion online using #BookMonopoly and follow us @NewAmerica.

No thanks. But here's a hashtag you can follow: #StoptheStupid.

Lunch will be provided.

And it will be the only substantive thing offered that afternoon.

Now I’m going back to my WIP. When the NYT write-up of this stupid event runs, I’m going to ignore it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Latest from the Authors Guild

From the Authors Guild website:

January 5, 2016


Unfair terms in publishing agreements negatively affect authors’ incomes and even their ability to write at all. That’s the conclusion the Authors Guild’s Fair Contract Initiative has repeatedly demonstrated since it was launched in May 2015. Now it’s time to act on that conclusion.

The Initiative’s fresh look at standard book contracts has proven without doubt that provisions that would never be acceptable in other contexts have long been taken for granted in publishing agreements. Authors are now standing together to say “no.” It is time for publishers to give authors the respect, compensation and fair play they deserve.

What we demand is simple: Publishers need to revise many of their standard contract terms to make them more equitable. Authors should get at least 50% of net e-book income, not a mere 25%. They should not have their hands tied with non-compete and option clauses that can make it impossible for them to write new books without delay. They should not be forced to accept royalties that can decline by 50% when the publisher cuts its wholesale price by a single cent. They should be able to get the rights back when the publisher stops supporting a book.

And authors should be able to get a fair shake even if they don’t have powerful agents or lawyers. When negotiating with known agents, publishers often start from previously negotiated contracts that remove many of the most draconian provisions handed to unagented authors. Why not do the right thing by all authors and eliminate those provisions for everyone?

Authors’ income is down across all categories. According to a 2015 Authors Guild survey—our first since 2009—the writing-related income of full-time book authors dropped 30% over that time period, from $25,000 to $17,500. Part-time authors saw an even steeper slide: their writing income dropped 38%.

While there are many reasons for these declines, unfair terms, including reduced royalty rates, are clearly a major part of the problem. Without serious contract reform, the professional author will become an endangered species and publishers—as well as society at large—will be left with less and less quality content. Publishers need to treat their authors equitably so they can keep writing the kinds of books that have enabled the publishing industry to achieve the financial and cultural status it enjoys today.

We’ll be asking for individual meetings in the coming months with publishers both large and small to discuss the substance of the attached articles and what publishers can do to ensure this business is fair and profitable for those who create the works that sustain it.

We don’t stand alone in our commitment to more equitable book contracts. The Authors Guild Fair Contract Initiative has earned the support of many U.S. and foreign authors groups, representing many tens of thousands of individual members in the United States alone. Those supporting groups have signed on to this letter.

The Authors Guild

Joe sez: I've been blogging about unconscionable contract terms for years. I've also been chastising the Authors Guild for years, berating them for not doing anything.

Well, now it looks like they're doing something.

And I tip my hat to them.

I look forward to Authors United buying a full page NYT ad to support this cause, because this actually is a cause worth supporting.

I also look forward to the media giving this a lot of attention. Do you hear that, David Streitfeld? We're all waiting for your in-depth expose of how--for decades--NY Publishing has systematically screwed tens of thousands of authors with one-sided take-it-or-leave-it contracts.

The Authors Guild has my support in this endeavor. I've created a petition on to show solidarity. Please add your name.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Pay the Writer?

I just read a repost on Passive Voice called Pay the Writer. And I disagreed with most of it.


Because no one owes me a living.

Repeat that to yourself. Say it out loud if you need to.

No one owes me a living.

A sense of entitlement is a dangerous thing. If you're lucky, you'll find readers. If you're really lucky, you'll make a few bucks.

But just because you can string a few pretty sentences together doesn't mean you get to earn a living.

I know how hard you work, because I also work hard. But I'm not entitled to earning a living, either.

It's a very dangerous thing when writers start to believe that they are owed something for their work. It's also fallacious.

Let's say you're a ditch digger, because--as a wise man once said--the world needs ditch diggers too. And you spend 8 hours digging a ditch, busting your ass in the hot sun.

Do you deserve to be paid?

Sure, if someone hired you to dig that ditch. If you're just randomly digging ditches that no one commissioned, on property no one owns, you don't deserve anything. You're an idiot. Or a dreamer. Or both.

Same thing with writing. Just because you wrote it, doesn't mean you deserve to be paid for it.

Q: But! But! But! But what if someone reads what I wrote? Don't I deserve to be paid then?

A: Someone reading your book is not the same as someone hiring you to dig a ditch.

First of all, when you write a book, you can potentially have an infinite number of readers. Let's say you work on it for three months. Well, someday your great-great-great-great grandchildren might read that book in the year 2155. Do you really think you deserve to get paid for something you wrote 139 years ago?

That ditch digger, assuming he was hired, dug a ditch and got paid for his time. He doesn't continue to get paid every time someone looks at his ditch. He got paid for the hours he put in, then he didn't get paid anymore.

The doctor who got a $700,000 salary for 2015 got paid $700,000 for 2015, and no more. He doesn't continue to earn money on hours he worked last year.

Are Khufu's relatives still getting royalties every time someone visits the pyramids?

Intellectual Property, which is protected by archaic copyright laws, can allow creators to continue to get paid for things they wrote long ago, for long into the future.

Personally, I don't think that's fair. And I've blogged about that at length in the past. But we'll hold off on making this an argument about reforming copyright, and focus on the belief that if a writer spends an hour on a story, they deserve to be paid over and over for that hour for eternity.

It doesn't make sense.

Q: But! But! But if someone reads a book, shouldn't they pay?

A: Not necessarily. You don't pay the writer if you check out a book at a library, or buy it used, or borrow it from your buddy.

Q: That's because readers haven't been properly taught that those venues don't pay writers.

A: Kinda like teenagers haven't been taught that drugs are bad? Do you think being taught makes a difference? While you answer that I'll be over here, getting stoned with my teenage son.

Heads up: there has always been free media. You could spend fifty lifetimes reading books and watching videos and never pay a cent. Welcome to the digital world. It's here to stay.

And beyond the free stuff out there, I believe subscriptions are quickly outpacing sales when it comes to ebooks (according to my own numbers). Kindle Unlimited pays me less for borrows than it does for sales, and my sales continue to go down as borrows go up.

Also, whining to your customers that they should spend more money on your work because you're not getting paid, and calling that "education", isn't a wise way to get in their good graces. Just sayin'.

Q: So are you okay with this borrowing trend?

A: It is what it is. Educating readers isn't going to change anything. Pleading with Amazon for scraps won't change anything. I expect this trend to continue, and whining isn't the answer.

Q: What is the answer?

A: The answer is looking for new ways to monetize your IP. But, again, that isn't the object of this blog post. This blog post is about writers who believe they deserve to be paid. I think this attitude is bad, and potentially dangerous. Encouraging a sense of entitlement isn't a good thing. Irritating readers is shitting where you eat. Believing that you deserve to earn $100 an hour on a book you wrote in 2005 is nuts--and I say that having ran a BookBub ad yesterday for Bloody Mary, which I wrote in 2005. I sold over 3000 copies and made about $2400.

I don't deserve this. I'm lucky as fuck.

Q: So what attitude should writers have?

A: I hope to be read. Any way possible. Free books, libraries, loans, used, whatever. I believe that the more readers who find me--whether they pay for it or not--the better off I'll be.

Q: But what if two million people read you but no one pays you?

A: If I have two million fans and I can't figure out how to make money off of that, then I'm an idiot.

But rather than try to squeeze money from every single person who ever glances at one of my IPs, I think the smarter thing is to sell stuff to people who want to buy stuff.

I don't fear free ebooks. I fear obscurity.

Q: And what if everything becomes free and no one buys ebooks anymore?

A: That could happen someday. But something will come along and monetize that model. Where there are fans, there is cash spent. I can't think of any situation that works differently.

But we shouldn't be expecting all fans to pay. We shouldn't be whining that we're owed something. As a writer, you're contributing to the collective creative output of the species. Good for you. But no one is forcing you to this. If you can get paid, awesome. If you can't, go find someone to pay you to dig a ditch.

Blaming Amazon, or bookstores, or libraries, or ebooks, or readers, for your inability to turn your clever words into eternal and infinite cash isn't the way to go. Less time whining and blaming, more time writing and innovating.

Q: But what about piracy? What if people are stealing my stuff?

A: You mean like someone broke into your house and stole your bike, thereby preventing you from continuing to ride that bike?

Q: No. I mean stealing my IP.

A: You mean plagiarism and bootlegging? They're selling your ebooks without your permission and keeping all the money?

Q: No. I mean they're reading my ebooks without paying.

A: Like at a library or used bookstore?

Q: Yeah! I mean no. What it they got it by file sharing?

A: Are you telling me that it upsets you when someone goes through the trouble of downloading your ebook and reading it?

Q: Yes. Without paying me.

A: Because you think you deserve to be paid every time someone reads you?

Q: Yes.

A: Do you pay the creator of every YouTube video you watch for free?

Q: No. But they have ads.

A: Then maybe your ebooks should have ads.

Q: They choose to put their work on YouTube. I don't choose to be file shared! I'm being pirated, man!

A: I've blogged at length at how I don't mind piracy. But, again, that's a topic for another blog post. This one is talking about writers who feel they deserve to be paid.

If you feel you deserve to be paid, and get upset that people are pirating you, there is an easy solution: stop writing.

There is no one forcing you to write. And certainly no one forcing you to try and sell what you've written. You wouldn't go swimming in shark infested waters, would you? Especially if you were bleeding.

Well, writing an ebook and then being shocked that you were pirated is the same thing. If you don't want to get eaten, stay out of the water.

Piracy isn't going away. Go do something else with your precious time if piracy bothers you, because if you create any sort of IP that anyone is interested in, that IP will be pirated.

Not only are you not owed a living, but you will never stop people who want to experience and share your work for free. Our species shares information, freely. It's the reason civilization exists. To try to limit that is a fast track to censorship and flies in the face of net neutrality. The reason oppressive regimes have always existed is because of their ability to limit information and the free exchange of ideas. Sorry, but I support open and free sharing of ideas over your insistence that you earn $2.74 from every person your reads your opus.

Q: You're a hypocrite. Why don't you write for free if you love free so much?

A: I'm not saying writers shouldn't be able to make a few bucks if they can. I'm saying the world doesn't owe them, so stop whining about it. I consider myself lucky to be read, and even luckier that there are avenues where I can make some money. But I also understand that getting rid of libraries and used book stores and piracy would be a bad thing, even though I don't make money in those venues.

Do you really want to prevent people from reading your work because they can't afford it?

Do you want to miss making a fan because they don't want to spend any money on you until they've tried you for free first?

Do you really think they only value books have is what people pay for them? And that everything available for free has zero value?

Do you believe that berating your customers and potential customers is ever a good thing?

You insist the writer get paid?

Instead, thank the reader.

Because if you get enough readers--no matter how you acquire them--the money will follow.