Wednesday, April 04, 2012

What, Me Debate?

Barry Eisler is participating in an online debate today on the Seattle Times website about Amazon.

I offered this quote to Barry for him to use at his discretion:

"J.A. Konrath, who has sold over 800,000 ebooks--the vast majority via Amazon--told me he had no interest in participating in this discussion because he doesn't expect the Seattle Times to be around for much longer. He said, and I quote, 'People paying to get their news delivered via dead trees? That's so 2002.' He also said, 'They won't print my quote. But I'm not hurt by this, because pretty soon they aren't going to be printing anything.'"

This does, however, bring up a point Barry and I often discuss between ourselves. Barry will be debating with a reporter, another author, and a book critic.

But where is the Big 6 representative? Where is the publishing professional?

The Times ran a four part hit piece on Amazon (if you don't think it's a hit piece, read it and then the reader comments.) You'd think that some Big 6 pro who hates Amazon would relish the chance to express the reasons for it in a public forum.

But they aren't. For the same reason they don't come to this blog and debate me.

I wouldn't ever say my website is so important that every criticism I have of the industry should be answered by industry professionals. But points I've raised (and that Barry has raised) on my blog have become widely known and accepted by a large group of writers, our advice is consistently taken, our actions emulated, and our names mentioned on a regular bases when the topics of self-publishing and ebooks are brought up. Even secular atheists such as Richard Dawkins and the late Chris Hitchens were invited to churches, synagogues, and religious colleges to engage in open debate. I've been asked to do so many media interviews that I've turned the majority down. Whether the industry likes it or not (and whether I like it or not) I'm a mouthpiece for the future of publishing.

But those people who work in the industry that I consistently, thoroughly, and publicly eviscerate don't speak publicly of me, or acknowledge my views.

I'd love to debate John Sargent, Megan Tingley, Jamie Raab, or even Scott Turow--folks who have said such jaw-droppingly stupid things that my gallbladder squirts bile when I read them.

The publishing industry employs thousands of people who are invested in its success. It has spawned several periodicals, newsletters, and websites dedicated to reporting industry happenings. These people can come to my blog anonymously, at any time, and explain how I'm wrong.

But that won't ever happen. And it isn't because they fear my rapier wit or harsh criticism, or because they despise me so much they refuse to acknowledge me.

They won't address my points for a simple reason: they can't. They still believe in a flat earth, and that's what they've invested in, monetarily and emotionally. If I worked for the Big 6, I wouldn't debate me either. No one wants to be shown how wrong they are. No one wants to be told that their relevance is fading. The majority of the world would rather defend their wrong-headed beliefs to the death than consider changing their minds. It's a flaw of the human psyche.

This doesn't bother me. It amuses me. The asteroid has already hit, and the dinosaurs still believe they'll continue rule the earth. Let them. We won't have to put up with their silliness much longer. As I said years ago, the Big 6 are selling drinks on the Titanic. I haven't seen a single one yet acknowledge the need to run for the lifeboats.

Oh, well. Natural selection is a bitch.

160 comments:

Dale T. Phillips said...

Joe, how dare you point out the truth, you awful man, you! YOU must be the problem... (along with Barry, and all the other folks who are plainly stating the non-clothed status of the Emperor)

Romana Grimm said...

Oh, I don't know, in Germany a few small presses have jumped on the e-book waggon and try to offer better royalties. In my opinion the real shame is that it is very hard (if not impossible) to find a small press or even a POD publisher to only take on the print rights. They want all or nothing, and that is a policy they'll have to do away with if they hope to make any big business in the future. We lived with the "a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush" policy our whole lives, now they'd do well to live by it as well. And no, I'm not spiteful. Much. ;)

Jon Olson said...

So, the only venue in which you'll debate the Big 6 is in your blog? Maybe by taking up the offers for media interviews -- and, surely, the debates that would follow them -- you'd raise your profile even higher, and become a spokesman for the eBook world beyond cyberspace.

Guy new York said...

I've had a few conversations with some of the big 6 publishers recently and what I'm hearing is that they're making so much money selling e-books that they don't know what to do with themselves.

So, while they're still making giant mistakes left and right, they are also getting excited. And they are slowly starting to talk about it. But without actual talking points, they're not quite sure what to say.

But more to your point, at the top level, they very much seem to believe that they're doing everything right. Which is ridiculous.

Jonas Saul said...

At times I wonder: why debate at all.

You know what you're doing and it's working. They know what they're doing and it's not working.

Let the dinosaurs pass on. We need more forward thinkers. They had a place at one time - but that position has slowly been weeded out, just like the cassette tape.

They don't debate with you because they know you're right.

It's called fear.

Jonas

Gary Ponzo said...

The only thing I would add is the need for newbie writers to understand if your name doesn't rhyme with Hatterson or Bishom, the Big 6 doesn't want to hear from you. They have no interest in investing time and money in a no-name author when they can promote the latest work of fiction by renown literary talent, Tyra Banks.

Stephen Knight said...

What the shipyards said when the Titanic set sail:

"Drown, motherf*ckers!"

Looks like they were right.

Merrill Heath said...

Guy new York said: I've had a few conversations with some of the big 6 publishers recently and what I'm hearing is that they're making so much money selling e-books that they don't know what to do with themselves.

Compared to the cost of producing print books, I'm sure the trad publishers are making a lot of money on ebooks. After all, they're pricing them at anywhere from $7.99 to $14.99. But they still have tremendous overhead and are not making nearly the profit they could make on ebooks if they trimmed the fat a little.

It's also interesting to see how long it takes some trad publishers to produce an ebook. A publisher purchased the rights to my father's YA book, Most Valuable Player, 2 years ago. It still isn't available. However, in the last 9 months I've published 6 of his novels myself as ebooks. Go figure.

Merrill Heath
Novels by W. L. Heath

Jude Hardin said...

It says Richard Russo. Is Barry going to be on too?

~Sia McKye~ said...

Joe, long established businesses like a comfortable groove and will do a great deal to save that comfort spot. Sometimes it takes them awhile to see bailing out the water isn't saving the ship.

As Guy mentions e-books are money makers. Many of the 6 have hired younger more innovative staff that can and do look beyond the status quo (I bet a lot of them do read blogs by you and others)for better ways. But if you can't convince the top management or management puts a cap on what they will do,it's still bailing water.

The Titanic was one of three Olympic class ocean liners. Only one of those three, HMS Olympic, survived to retire. In her career she took some major hits, adapted, refitted, and survived.

Cyn Bagley said...

Joe -
I get a kick out of your posts. Woot!
And all that jazz.

;-) cyn

Ruth Harris said...

Sounds like they're the same ones who still believe in cheap Greenwich Village walk-ups, existential poets smoking Gauloises in Parisian caf├ęs, and fishing invitations from Papa Hemingway.

Tony Hursh said...

@Guy new York: that's only going to last until all their authors realize that there's no longer any reason to give them all the money.

JPK said...

It just kills me when "pundits" of the publishing industry keep preaching about changing with the times, and the changing landscape within the industry. Uh, hello! It's been changed for a long time now. Like, 2008. I'm just glad that I spotted an empty lifeboat and hopped in before the whole ship went down.

Joe Konrath said...

Maybe by taking up the offers for media interviews -- and, surely, the debates that would follow them -- you'd raise your profile even higher, and become a spokesman for the eBook world beyond cyberspace.

I don't want to be the spokesman for the ebook world. And I've done two many one hour phone interviews or lengthy email interviews and had my comments reduced to three lines taken out of context, or completely misquoted.

But I would welcome to have an open debate with anyone in the Big 6, in any forum they choose. Not to satisfy my ego, or to help mankind, but to hone my argument.

Won't happen. Ever.

Kiana Davenport said...

@Jon Olson...Hi Jon. Your suggestion is definitely valid. Except... it seems to me Joe HAS done interviews. I've seen his thoughts on his blog postings, and then seen how those theories get edited down, or edited OUT in 'interviews.'

2) These things are time-consuming. Better to spend that time writing another novel.

3) Any rep from the Big 6 comes with their own agenda, so why should Joe waste his time doing more interviews, reiterating what he's been predicting for years.

4)The reason they don't challenge him right here
on his blog or in any open debate is based on that old four letter word: FEAR.

(But oh my, wouldn't that be a sight to see!)

Christopher Wills said...

The media in the UK rarely report ebook success and when they pretend to discuss ebooks they always get some of the literati mafia in to pretend the Titanic is not sinking. Even the almost untouchable J K Rowling is criticised for choosing to go down the ebook route. She has been accused of trying to shut bookshops and bring down publishers because she chose a different route for her ebook versions of Harry Potter. I look forward to a huge success when Pottermore finally opens. I suspect the numbers will be so big that the media will not be able to ignore it. Pottermore could be the straw (albeit a very big straw) ...

Anonymous said...

PW flagged a financial report of one of the big 6 (S&S ? ) last week to the effect that profits were UP. Sure, print down some, but more than compensated for by e-book sales. Maybe your pronouncement of their death is premature.

it's true that indie authors have a new option now with Amazon and most will make at least some money, versus no chance with a traditional world. Still, that doesn't mean the "traditional" world has gone away or become irrelevant.

Joe Konrath said...

Maybe your pronouncement of their death is premature.

Consumers won't kill the Big 6. Authors will.

Sure profits are up. Give it another year, when authors realize 90% of their income is from ebooks, but they only get 17.5% royalties. See how many stick with the Big 6 when there will no longer be print deals.

Prediction: This year a major imprint by a major publisher will stop print and go ebook-only. Watch what happens then.

Summer said...

For the handful of authors who benefit from this outdated publishing model - life must be pretty good. It has to be in order to ignore the meteor strikes the industry continues to take. Fossil fuels anyone?

Yesterday's interview with best selling author Jodi Picoult yielded the following quote:

"DO NOT SELF PUBLISH."

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/03/jodi-picoult-on-writing-publishing-and-what-she-s-reading.html

I wrote a blog post about it and posted about it over on Kindleboards. There seems to be more than a few successful self-published authors that might care to disagree. ;-)

JDuncan said...

What exactly would there be to argue about? Amazon's platform works very well for authors who have the talent, where-with-all, and understanding to make it work for them. Big 6 folks can't present any arguments against that. It doesn't work for 99% of the writers out there, but the same can be said for standard publishing too.

Amazon gives the ability for the individual to succeed. This is a great thing. Lots of great stories get put out there that might otherwise have never seen the light of day. Nobody can legitimately argue with that. Publishing companies do the same thing, albeit far slower. They also provide the advantage of shelf space in a physical book store. Big bonus there, but if you can make a liveable income on your own, doing something you love, does it really matter? Publishers can't compete with that.

I think they can argue that Amazon is bad for publishing overall, however. If Amazon has the attitude and promotes the notion that you, as the author can make it solely through our venue, and wide, physical distribution doesn't matter, which they seem to be doing rather well, then you can say that they honestly don't give a shit about the physical book environment. Given Amazon's history with suppliers, it seems pretty apparent that they don't care if the physical book industry dies away and bookstores go bye-bye.

And why would they care? They want people to be funneled through their system to buy books, because, when your in the store to buy books, you buy other things too, and that's how they make money. Fairly simple really. The more people we can get through the door, the more we'll sell. Smart business practice. It's working.

Publishers can't compete against someone who has thousands of things to offer along with books. How can you? It's impossible. When you can leverage your sales to sell something at a loss in order to garner more business, you're in a very good position. When you can drive consumer price expectations below your competition's margins, you're in a great position to send your competition packing.

It's not a level playing field. Amazon has all of the cards for the most part and can deal themselves whatever sort of hand they see fit to deal. Great for consumers who want cheap books and authors who want control over the process and do things on their own. Not good if you're in the business of publishing books. Hard to stay in business if you have no profit.

I could rant all day really, about Amazon and their efforts to destroy and reinvent publishing. You could say this is typical business in the world today, and too bad for the publishers, but typical or not, I don't find it very ethical. Playing by the bully's rules or not playing at all isn't really much of a choice in my opinion.

So, you are right, Joe. They'll never come to debate you, but I don't think it's because they don't think they can win the argument. The argument doesn't even matter to the publishers. Arguing over the rules of the game is kind of moot when the bully has you by the collar and is punching you in the face.

Mark Asher said...

All the debating back and forth is getting to be tiresome. NY publishers don't need to debate anyone -- the market will settle all debates anyway. Either they will continue to sign writers and sell books and make profits or they won't. Debating the issue isn't going to change anything.

Tony Hursh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Butter said...

Barry spanked 'em. Good debate, thanks for the heads up.

Jim Thomsen said...

The most amazing part of this is that until yesterday afternoon, it was going to be a chat with two folks from The Seattle Times and high-profile Amazon-basher Richard Russo. The whole hour-long chat was shaping up to be a Amazon-pinata-pummeling. Where is the balance and fairness in that?

I wigged, and sent a note to the Times' book editor pleading for them to come up with a balancing voice ... and cc'ed Barry. Barry, wonderfully, was willing and able on criminally short notice to chime in. And, as I suspected he would, he dominated the chat with facts and logic and calm rationality. (It was surreal to see him chase after Paul Aiken, pontiff of the Authors Guild, asking the same question: "Why are you so worried about Amazon and its alleged monopolistic and predatory practices, and so sanguine about the the 17.5% royalty rate offered in lockstep by most traditional publishers?" Aiken just wouldn't take on the question directly.

Joe is right. The series amounts to a hit piece. And I am still shaking my head that they decided to cap the series with a one-sided, Amazon-hate chat session. Objective media? Not hardly.

For all that, and some poorly moderated cross-chatter (and an unreasonably short chat time), it was a useful conversation. It was gratifying to see reader comments that showed that people are thinking for themselves, studying the information out there, and coming to their own conclusions — and not letting the golden glow of Richard Russo (an author I greatly admire) wash away the opportunity for civil but pointed discourse.

Thanks, Barry.

Dan DeWitt said...

Summer, I just read that interview. Unbelievable.

"What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Take a workshop course. You need to learn to give and get criticism and to write on demand. And DO NOT SELF PUBLISH."

And that's it. No rationale whatsoever.

Brilliant advice from Ms. Picoult.

Dan

Jude Hardin said...

Given Amazon's history with suppliers, it seems pretty apparent that they don't care if the physical book industry dies away and bookstores go bye-bye.

Ebooks are a superior delivery system for the written word. That's why the paper book industry will shrink.

I'm sure buggy manufacturers blamed Henry Ford for their sharp decrease in sales. But then, as now, it was the technology that sparked the revolution, not one person or one company.

Aric Mitchell said...

So proud of Barry. He bitch-slapped Richard Russo and the Authors Guild. Definitely came off looking like you were the guy, who knew what the hell he was talking about. No wonder no one wants a piece of you guys.

Gretta Curran Browne said...

We need someone like you over here in the UK, Joe. Here the trade publishers still believe they are KING and those of us who publish on Amazon are just part of the "New Slush Pile."

Jodi Picoult has been doing interviews over here - but one thing she said about eBooks was absolutely TRUE and I quoted it in my own blog below.

Great work Joe, keep the sword high.

Gretta Curran Browne
http://grettacurranbrowne.blogspot.com

wannabuy said...

I blogged this month's release of AAP e-book sales:
http://ebookcomments.blogspot.com/2012/03/january-2012-e-book-sales.html#comment-form

Then I realized something, they are not reporting print sales as retail and ebooks as wholesale...

Anything to avoid the panic to the lifeboats.

Neil

wannabuy said...

@JDuncan: : It doesn't work for 99% of the writers out there, but the same can be said for standard publishing too.

Self publishing works for far more authors than the big6. Ok, so authors that would make $5k/year (or less) from the big6 make $10k/year self publishing. But their sales grow...

Its more like the big6 work for 0.2% of authors and self publishing works for 10% of authors.

Does anyone expect electronic gadgets to become less common? Does anyone expect a Kindle5 to cost more than a Kindle4? (Hint: no).

Joe is right, it will be authors that kill off print.

Neil

JDuncan said...

@wannabuy, honestly I'd be shocked if 10% of the self-pubbed authors in the kindle have sold more than 100 copies. Since Amazon likes to keep their numbers a secret, I can't say for sure one way or the other.

It does work for some, and regardless, it gives a chance to all. However, I wasn't really harping on Amazon's platform for authors. I could complain about the sheer amount of poor writing that gets put up for sale, but everyone has their shot. Much like music and journalism, which have seen them taken over by the amateur ranks. There are pros and cons on both sides of the argument.

The music industry finally figured things out after several years of upheaval. The corporate music industry adapted and survived. I suspect and hope the publishing industry will too. But, there's a difference between what Apple did with music and what Amazon is doing with books. itunes and the ipod was set up to focus on music and sell music. Amazon has a much broader scope. They're selling books in order to sell other things. It's a major gateway product into the store for Amazon, so it behooves them to make books as cheap and easy to get as possible. What the book is doesn't matter. The quality doesn't matter. Quantity does. So to have a model that proliferates production regardless of quality is in their best interest. With publishing in the hands of individuals instead of corporations, they can more easily manage pricing. Who wouldn't want a business with endless resources they don't have to invest in? What business wouldn't love employees who work for the possibility of pay and no guarantee for the work done, where the product quality doesn't even matter to their bottom line?

Publishers are in it for money as much as Amazon, but at least those in the industry (not talking shareholders here) give a damn about the product going out the door. Yes, publishing has issues, and authors deserve more than they are getting. That's sort of beside the point though as far as what I am trying to get at.

With regard to story, to the art of storytelling, Amazon is a mindless machine. It has become a widget for the bargain bin inside their behemoth store, the coupon to entice the consumer through the door so that they can sell those things which actually make them money.

And once again, I've rambled on. Apologies.

Jude Hardin said...

The quality doesn't matter. Quantity does. So to have a model that proliferates production regardless of quality is in their best interest.

Amazon's publishing imprints are as selective as any other publisher. They employ professional editors and cover artists and marketing people. They release products as good or better than any of the Big 6, yet their contract terms are WAY more favorable to authors, and the exposure they provide is second to none.

If you're talking about KDP (and if you are, you might want to say so), there was a time when I would have agreed with you. But I've come to notice something over the past year or so: Amazon isn't making boatloads of money selling crappy self-published books, because as a general rule crappy self-published books don't sell.

A lot of good books don't sell either, but if you publish crap you're pretty much guaranteed to reap what you sow.

Very Dumb Government said...

In my humble opinion, I think any publisher is going to have to make a big adjustment. I'm new to this publishing business but it is obvious that paper books are today's buggy whip. I personally don't even want to sell paper books only because they are so much trouble. I may do it if my ebooks sales seem to warrant a paper edition. My tactic is to see if I can sell a decent amount of ebooks first.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Check this link for a list of 70 self-published authors who have each sold more than 50,000 ebooks as of March, 2012. Some of them have sold many times that much, as has Joe here:

http://patricefitzgerald.com/?p=147

I don't know what the percentages are in terms of the entire universe of self-published writers, but lots of folks are making money that ranges from serious to life-changing. (As in, they can quit their day jobs, not as in they can do that and take a world cruise, too. Although, if they can keep writing while they cruise...)

I'm just a beginner, with one novel and some short stories released. Since December, I've sold 2,400 books and had 860 borrows, plus 40,000 downloads. It's starting to look like real money.

Unquestionably MORE people are going to be able to make a living wage through self-publishing than ever before in history. More of us write, for one. And more of us read. Now that we have the tools to produce books independently, we will keep getting better and attracting more readers.

The market will decide which writers will get read. We're just cutting out the middleman.

Ms. Taken said...

I agree agree agree. Did I mention that I agree?

Christopher John Chater said...

They treat Ron Paul the same way. Ignore the truth teller and hope he'll go away. Revolution's a bitch. Thank God for social media.

C R Myers said...

I applaud Amazon, and am thrilled to be a part of the e-book revolution. I love the fact that anyone with a dream can see their book online as an e-book. And for a lot of people, that alone is enough. Water seeks its own level, the cream goes to the top, and readers will buy what they want to read - whether quality or crap. A few years ago I wondered if reading books would die out altogether. The e-book reader changed all that. Books have been given a second chance. I, for one, am thrilled. I've read more books on Kindle in the last 3 months than I've read in the five years (and my bookshelves are full) The future is e-books, and the future is here.

JDM said...

Sorry man, but when you enter a media room even the candles in the sheltered red glass blow out.

:D

Lara Martin said...

The more I learn about self-publishing (through writers like Konrath and Hugh Howey www. hughhowey.com ) the more weight is lifted from my shoulders. I realized the needle through which I was attempting to thread my work was suddenly a wide open road and I was freakin' born to run. What I don't understand, now that the logic of self-publishing is so apparent, why aren't visual artists and jewelry designers brought up as examples in the discussion? Does an artist have to be repped by the Louvre or a jeweler by Kay to be legit? Are the literary arts something completely separate? I have some street cred as a writer for radio and newspapers, so when I told my father I was thinking about self-publishing (he has been published by the Big 6) I expected him to hem and haw about how it was a cop-out. Instead, he said, "Why the hell not? An artist should be able to frame her own work."

Chrissy said...

I swung by the blog to see if there was a commentary on the Asshat's Guild commenting on BN backing down in the exclusivity battle with Amazon... sort of.

(A summary here: http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2012/04/04/authors-guild-okay-with-authors-getting-hurt-in-barnesnoble-amazon-spat/)

This was a special nugget of a reward. There's really nothing left to debate. It's time for those who can see the smoke to take three steps back and hope somebody goes in after the cat.

Marshmallows, anyone?

L.L. Muir said...

I'd love to hear a timeline guestimate of when the asteroid is expected to his these dinosaurs.

Give us a swag. Come on!

LMAO

D. Nathan Hilliard said...

Thank you for posts like these. Every time I start to second guess my choice to go indie, it's these kind of posts that make me feel better about it.

JDuncan said...

@Jude Hardin Yes, I wasn't really referring to Amazon as a publisher. I honestly don't know enough about that end of things to make even a half-formed opinion, other than I know most of the hires have come straight from the traditional publishing world, so they likely have quality people working for them. I was talking more about the general kdp, everyone is a publisher model.

As for Amazon not making boatloads of money off of crappy books. The thing is, they don't have to. I'm sure they'd like to maximize what they can make, but there is no need to profit off of books. Their money is in the delivery system and the other media that system provides access to. It's pretty easy to manipulate an industry when you don't have to worry about making any profits from it.

Personally, I like ebooks and reading on the devices. I'm not lamenting the loss of paper books, though I love the paper versions as well. And over time, I believe more writers will find more success digitally. I just don't like Amazon's draconian business practices and the lack of value their model puts on the art of storytelling. One other issue this has brought to mind, which is another blog topic entirely, I think, is how the rise of self-publishing is creating this uneasy, growing sentiment in some circles, of how "real writers do it themselves" and how going through a publisher is somehow a copout or working with the devil, as it were.

Anyway, it certainly makes for interesting and intriguing discussion.

Anonymous said...

Amazon is currently being investigated over its tax affairs. See the link to Huffington Post below. This story is in every UK Newspapeer.

Amazon appears to pay very little corporation tax in the UK. It's tax affairs in the US are being investigated too.

If true, it seems that Amazon's good deals for authors are not purely due to technology. Paying no tax might have something to do with it too.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/05/amazon-pays-no-uk-corpora_n_1404869.html

Top100EbookRanking said...

108 and counting - authors who have sold 50,000+ self-published ebooks.

http://selfpublishingsuccessstories.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Here's why I think the following don't reply to you.
Publishing employee = lose job for potential PR disaster + contractual agreements.
Publisher = Don't bite the hand that feeds (or one of) openly.
Author (me) = I'm afraid of being lynched by other authors on this blog. (JA and Barry are fine).

The last one is sad but true. Thanks for allowing me to speak my mind anonymously. Nt; Even then I still take a risk, as do others.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I should say 'lynched by mob justice' (book reviews, starring, tagging, slander, etc.) by authors - welcome to the Internet.

Daniel O'Halloran said...

I participated in the chat hosted by the Seattle Times – and got a few questions and comments through, though most weren’t directly addressed. Richard Russo, a successful literary author, suggested that while Amazon was good for established writers or absolute newbies, that Amazon dominance would be bad for mid-list authors. I asked why he thought this – and the commentator posted the question – but Richard never addressed it.

Paul Aiken, the executive director of the Author’s Guild, also joined in the chat which gave Barry an opportunity to direct some pointed questions at him – including why won’t Scott Turow respond to any of the criticisms of his opinion pieces. Paul never answered that one – and danced around Barry’s question of why the Author’s Guild does not feel the need to challenge legacy publishers over their 17.5% royalty rate on ebooks.

As a sign of the disconnect the Seattle Times reporter has with the ebook landscape, they posted a poll during the chat asking which price point readers are willing to pay for their ebooks: $9.99, $12.99, $25.99, or depends on the author. A number of people including myself chimed in with the comment that a better price point breakdown for the poll would be something like: $0.99, $2.99, $4.99, $9.99, and above. The thrust of the argument being of course that the lowest price point they posted on their poll is actually above what most people actually think is a fair price for ebooks (as I believe Barry and Joe have proven through their research and ebook success)

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is here implicit method is a high volume of work wins the day. However, she chose to emphasize workshops? That said, she only publishes a book or two a year. I publish one a month. Hmmm... I'm not impressed.

(Note: The journalist probably cut out info and emphasized his own agenda. That's journalism for you.)

Mary Stella said...

Maybe they won't debate you here or anywhere besides a conference with only a couple of hundred people in attendance, but they sure like to talk about how wrong you are when you aren't around.

It's sort of fun to be in the audience and watch them seethe. More fun when you're on the panel, too.

Matthew Lee Adams said...

The most telling comment from the article happened at 1:55:

richard russo, author: Brad--When I was a young writer there were many newspapers that reviewed lots of books. Young writers also got sent on book tours, even when those tours lost money. There was much more money for advertizing. Over time, writers could find an audience, not through algorithms (if you like JRRTolkien you'll love Stephenie Meyer) but through dedicated local booksellers. It's harder, much harder today, and writers who haven't made a name for themselves face a much more difficult time of it for all kinds of reasons. Honestly, I don't know if I could do now what I did then.

This was after his 1:21 comment:

richard russo, author: The role of publishers will become clear as traditional publishers disappear. The role of the publisher has always been to nurture the writer. My early books were all published well, but didn't sell in large numbers. Other bestsellers allowed my publisher to carry me until I could pay my own way. And I've had two of the best editors in the business, who have made every book better, and not by a little. You notice when books aren't edited well.

And Paul Aiken's comment along the same lines, about publishing essentially serving as venture capitalists to incubate authors:


Comment From Paul Aiken
I've followed this closely (I'm the executive director of the Authors Guild). The publisher's role has traditionally been partly a venture capital role -- funding the author's work. It's a critical function, especially for new authors. That doesn't mean there shouldn't be other means to reach readers. Amazon's done a good job at providing those.


They're talking about 20 or more years ago - and not the last decade or so.

I haven't heard new and unknown authors, let alone a lot of midlisters, talk about how they believed their editors and publishers were helping to build their career in a very long time. Advances are down, getting subsequent books published if previous ones sold poorly is more difficult, and book tours are pretty much reserved for those whose books are proven sellers.

And sorry, but badly edited books have been released by traditional publishing for easily a century but especially the past several decades - a trend that has grown more pervasive since the 1980s. I'll say that traditional publishing probably catches more typos or outright grammar mistakes. But issues with pacing, clumsy dialogue, thin and undeveloped characters, bad plotting, etc. regularly flow out. Some of it becomes bestsellers - since none of those things have ever been an impediment to appeal.

I just don't understand waxing nostalgic about a past that's past.

Rather than saying what traditional publishing used to do how about defending what they do now?

Todd Trumpet said...

Joe said: "And it isn't because they fear my rapier wit or harsh criticism..."

NOBODY fears your "rapier wit or harsh criticism".

Of course, I mean that in the most respectful way...

...uh, sir.

Todd
www.ToddTrumpet.com

Joe Konrath said...

NOBODY fears your "rapier wit or harsh criticism".

Now you've blown it, Trumpet.

O_o

Hmm. Maybe my rapier wit is overstated.

Joe Konrath said...

Playing by the bully's rules or not playing at all isn't really much of a choice in my opinion.

Interesting point, but don't forget that this bully is a democracy.

No one is being forced to buy things from Amazon (or Walmart, or B&N, or anywhere.)

Consumers vote with their dollars. Amazon has found a way to capture those dollars, by using the insidious practice of good prices and customer relations.

Do they do things that hurt the competition? Sure. They also do whatever they can to protect themselves and their profits, gain market share, etc.

That doesn't make them a bully. It makes them a company in a capitalist system.

Nobody likes a bully. If Amazon were unfair to consumers, no one would shop there. If it were unfair to authors, they wouldn't publish there.

Unfair to competition? That's just plain American.

Joe Konrath said...

but they sure like to talk about how wrong you are when you aren't around.

What was it Oscar Wilde said? "It's better to be talked about, then do two years hard labor."

Ron Edison said...

RE the plight of the Big Six. I can't help but think of the line from BLAZING SADDLES: "We've got to protect our phony-baloney jobs, gentlemen!"

C R Myers said...

Well said, Joe....as usual! Thanks!

Mary Pat Hyland said...

LOL! That closing argument is a killer. :)

David L. Shutter said...

yeah, the "hit piece" was pretty biased and one sided. I love how the same three incidents about Amazon warehouses keep coming up over and over again.

They're very unfortunate and the afflicted parties should be compensated, but honestly, I've worked in a couple warehouses and big box retail stores and to have incidents like that (or much, much worse) happen in a single location...in only a week or a month...is fairly common.

My point is that I love how a few isolated incidents, spread out over such a long period of time, and an organization as insanely huge as Amazon automaticaly means Bezos = antichrist.

Give me a fucking break.

Eathen White said...

@Joe, here is a bit more ammunition for you... and Barry... and all us self-published authors being led to believe we should not self-publish.

This is a study by Pew Research. Among other things, the study suggests ebooks are the future. Who knew? Joe knew, that's who.

The rise of e-reading

David L. Shutter said...

Matthew: "I haven't heard new and unknown authors, let alone a lot of midlisters, talk about how they believed their editors and publishers were helping to build their career in a very long time. Advances are down, getting subsequent books published if previous ones sold poorly is more difficult, and book tours are pretty much reserved for those whose books are proven sellers.

Exactly! Someone show us the blog populated with thousands (or even hundreds) of followers singing the praises of staying (or returning) on the traditional side, and how great it's working out.

"Hey guys, I have big news! I just signed another contract where my latest book will be e-pubbed for only 17% royalites and windowed for 18 mths until the miniscule paper release. Phew! Thank God I'm not self-pubbing like all those losers out there!"

Anyone seen that post anywhere?

Anonymous said...

So is all this talk/debate about the big 6 going under just for kicks? I sure like reading your wrath about how much you hate traditional publishers! There's really no point in discussing the inevitable i.e. the big 6 failing completely, but it's fun, yeah?

Alan Tucker said...

According to some news reports today, at least two of the big 6 being investigated for collusion by the DoJ are already talking settlement. What does that say about Turow and the others crying foul at Amazon?

Kate Madison, YA author said...

Great points, as usual.

Admitting one's mistakes (even as a group) is a trait that isn't cultivated in many corporate environments. I would think the problem would be even worse culture-wise in companies that have been in existence for decades without having to adapt.

(I'm in a very corporate mindset as I have just gotten off a Mad Men bender to catch up on season 4 & 5.)

Thanks for being the mouthpiece, Konrath. Your efforts and annoyances endured are appreciated.

Kate Madison

The Phantom Husband said...

Tale of woe from the husband of a traditionally published writer of two books.

1) No marketing (no surprise there)

2) Title change (huge mistake)

3) Couldn't even get a copy to a well know author in time for a blurb (was beside myself)

4) Wrong covers (just plain wrong)

5) After books were remaindered I actually tried to get them sold in Costco and was making headway, till I was slapped back by the sales department and told never to do that (The books never ended up anywhere, let alone costco)

6) Said they were going to GROW the wife's career. (rejected all her follow up work)

7) The person running the company was replaced and her editor retired (My guess is the editor quit based on her new boss)

8) They took my wife's work and tried to turn her into a clone of a popular mid-level author, titles cover and all(to this day I couldn't tell you why)

I could go on and on but needless to say, they fumbled big time.

wannabuy said...

@JDuncan: "@wannabuy, honestly I'd be shocked if 10% of the self-pubbed authors in the kindle have sold more than 100 copies. Since Amazon likes to keep their numbers a secret, I can't say for sure one way or the other."

Fair enough. Maybe its 2% and publishing publishes 0.01%. Same point. ;)

Neil

wannabuy said...

Eathen White,
Interesting link. I found the stats interesting. Almost a doubling of ereader ownership over the holidays!

Note: I fully expect most new ereader buyers to buy fewer books (each) than prior ereader owners. I also expect many to be like myself: eating down the print TBR pile and taking six to twelve months to become an ebook enthusiast.

From the link:

"Ownership of e-book readers like the original Kindle and Nook jumped from 10% in December to 19% in January and ownership of tablet computers such as iPads and Kindle Fires increased from 10% in mid-December to 19% in January. In all, 28% of Americans age 18 and older own at least one specialized device for e-book reading – either a tablet or an e-book reader."

Neil

Matthew Lee Adams said...

@The Phantom Husband

Your wife's experience ought to be posted as a rebuttal to every author talking up how well the trad pub model works.

It reminds me of for instance people who have achieved successful financial wealth who argue they got where they are through hard work.

What people like this never recognize is that while a high proportion of financially successful people "worked hard," only a small proportion of people who work hard become "very financially successful."

In other words, the correlation only works when you begin with the small subset and look backwards.

I think the fallback some of these people have is that if you've "paid your dues" by more or less following the path they took to achieve their success (in whatever endeavor) then if you fail it "wasn't meant to be" and if you also succeed you've basically ratified what they said.

Nothing like self-selecting logic to weed out the greater instances of exceptions that do anything but prove a rule.

Social Media Blog Solutions said...

Heres a book I found that explores the craft of writing in the 21st Century. Between the Sheets is the story of two writers journey to publish their art and navigate the emerging world of digital self-publishing. The authors share insightful wisdom and humor in relating their successes in the new age of the book.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007RI7GFU?ie=UTF8&tag=scifibuff-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B007RI7GFU

Anonymous said...

Social Media Blog Solutions said...Heres a book I found that explores the craft of writing in the 21st Century. Between the Sheets is the story of two writers journey to publish their art and navigate the emerging world of digital self-publishing. The authors share insightful wisdom and humor in relating their successes in the new age of the book.

Also spammed to:

http://mashable.com/2012/03/22/self-publishing-trends/#comment-18092623

https://www.google.com/search?ix=aca&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=%22Heres+a+book+I+found+that+explores+the+craft%22

Note to authors of said work - when you hire someone to flog your newly released ebook which is supposed to promote your strength as experts in the author and editorial processes, write a script for said marketers so their typos and poor grammar don't impugn the possible quality of your work.

Better yet, don't spam.

Anonymous said...

Qoute from a famous billionaire I saw on television:
"Let's talk about what really matters, money."

I'm unpublished.

I don't make money if nobody publishes my work.

I don't make money if nobody markets my work.

Vanity publishing is a no go beccause I am poor.

Amazon and other e-publishing venues provide a place for me to efficiently publish my work, and the Interwebs provides me with a way to efficiently market my work.

I wouldn't have known about this if pioneers like J. A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking didn't sho me the way.

For me the debate is moot.

I see my one chance and I'mma gonna take it.

I don't care a bit about the big six.

Anonymous said...

I don't go over my posts with a fine tooth comb.

If money was on the line, then I would have.

I would get critique partners and beta readers and maybe even an editor if I could find one who works cheap.

Walter Knight said...

The Big-6 have adapted. The Big-6 E-books are fighting the self-published E-books, and winning. The earning potential for the Big-6is tremendous because of their huge back list.

I'm feeling plenty of pressure as my small press books get crowded out, and made less visible.

Gary Ponzo said...

Walt, if you mean the Big 6 is winning like Charlie Sheen "Winning," then yeah, I get it. But if you're serious about that comment, I'm sorry about that. Those back lists are going to be sold at a higher price than self-pubbed books and therefore pricing themselves out of the market.

Hugh Laurie (House Actor) has a novel out which is ranked at 22,000in Amazon's bestselling list, which means he's selling like 100 or 200 a month. There's dozens of indie authors selling thousands of books a month in the same genre as him. He has a Big Name and plenty of money to promote, but the problem is--the book sells for $8.25. Indies tend to be around .99 cents to $3.99 therefore gobbling up a lot of downloads the Big 6 won't stoop for.

I wish you well if you're part of a small press and hope you can find a way to make it in this environment. And I truly mean that.

J.T. Dunsmere said...

Good article in the HuffPo by BJ Gallagher. Item 5 pretty much puts the lie to Russo and the others with their "Big 6 gets you into bookstores" spiel.

5. A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore. For every available bookstore shelf space, there are 100 to 1,000 or more titles competing for that shelf space. For example, the number of business titles stocked ranges from less than 100 (smaller bookstores) to approximately 1,500 (superstores). Yet there are 250,000-plus business books in print that are fighting for that limited shelf space.

There are some other interesting points also.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bj-gallagher/book-publishing_b_1394159.html

Jake Scholl said...

Just read the "debate". I wouldn't exactly call it a true debate. It was only one page....So much for the Seattle Times trying to be an unbiased newspaper.

Louis Shalako said...

Hi Joe,

I canceled the daily paper a long time ago. I don't miss it. It's online if I want to read it. It was a familiar problem, these folks didn't even know they were right-wingers. They simply didn't know! They were unable to report a negative story that reflected poorly on the community, or the country, because this would reflect poorly on the established order which they represented. Hell, they even reported 'miracles.' They were 'mouthpieces' for a point of view, as you acknowledge you have become almost by accident. You might want to get the gallbladder checked out, incidentally. The point is, if they didn't take my needs into account, there was no good reason for me to take theirs into account. In Canada, it is only a matter of time before the government starts subsidizing the press. That's because it serves the needs of government.

Dan DeWitt said...

The paper posted the "conversation" on its site today. To say it's HEAVILY edited and slanted would be an understatement:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2017915696_amazonchat05.html

Just so you know what you're in for, here's the lead question:

"Many editors and authors are terrified of speaking out against Amazon because they fear this type of retaliation. Richard, are you?"

Dan DeWitt said...

Compare to the actual chat here:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2017895348_amazonchat.html

Barry said...

Jim, thanks again for interceding with the Seattle Times and shaming them into injecting some balance into what was going to be a misleading, one-sided "Amazon Is Evil!" circle jerk. And thanks everyone else for your thoughts here.

I wish we could have gone on a lot longer, because one hour wasn't nearly long enough to shovel back all the bullshit in that forum. Russo, wondering why anyone would think he hates Amazon? Call me crazy, but maybe it has to do with statements like "Amazon wants to bury the competition and then bury the shovel," and suggestions that Amazon "is like the John Candy character (minus the eager, slobbering benevolence) in Mel Brooks’s movie 'Spaceballs' — half man, half dog." Or his own acknowledgment that he "takes personally" Amazon competing against the booksellers Russo favors.

And in case Amy Martinez is mystified about how the vast majority of Seattle Times' commenters could have been appalled at her own obvious anti-Amazon animus, I might have suggested it could have to do (to use just one example out of dozens) with how, rather than praising Amazon for supporting Washington's pro-marriage equality bill, she criticized them -- because some other corporations did so sooner. After all, everyone knows that if a corporation isn't the very first to back legislation ensuring equal rights for gay Americans, it should be criticized for its timing, not praised for its stand.

Oh shit, one more, because I can't resist: she criticized Amazon for not putting its name and logo on the buildings it owns. WTF? Does anyone doubt that, had Amazon done so, Martinez would have criticized them for arrogantly displaying their belief that they own Seattle, or similar such nonsense?

Yeah, another hour would have been nice. But at least for once, thanks to Tim, there was some substantive discussion. Though the way it went, I don't think I'll be receiving many more such invitations anytime soon... :)

Joe, as I see it, there are three related reasons the Scott Turows of the world won't debate you. One is fear of public humiliation; two is their sense that if they engage you, they will somehow legitimize you; three is a cultural belief that information should properly travel only one way, from the rulers to the proles.

I don't know if anyone saw this Guardian op-ed by Tim Waterstone, founder of the eponymous UK book chain. The op-ed itself is the usual drivel, a lot like what Scott Turow writes in his capacity as Authors Guild president but from a bookseller instead. What's interesting is the reaction: over 300 comments so far, about 99% of which just beat the shit out of Waterstone for his whininess, illogic, and hypocrisy... and not a single response from Waterstone himself. Just a perfect encapsulation of the behavior Joe talks about in his post, and, I think, the three reasons I suggest are behind that behavior.

The truth is, on a tactical level, it probably makes sense for the publishing establishment to avoid engaging you, as engaging you would only serve to make more people more aware more quickly of how much self-serving bullshit the publishing establishment is serving. But their tactics won't matter much. Facts are stubborn things, technology is relentless, and consumers will continue to vote with their wallets -- so the bullshitters can run, but they can't hide.

Barry said...

Sorry, here's that Guardian link:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/06/amazon-destroy-britain-book-industry?commentpage=all#start-of-comments

And Jim, not Tim. Sorry.

Naja Tau said...

Thank you for posting. I keep trying to find professional opinions about how the tide is going on this Kindle/ebook thing. More and more of my friends are buying Kindles, or smartphone ebooks, etc. And so am I!

As a first time novelist, I'm trying to get as much information as possible about my options for getting book out there- so I really value your blog.

Thanks again-
Naja

http://najatau.blogspot.com

Christy Pinheiro EA ABA said...

I don't know if anyone saw this Guardian op-ed by Tim Waterstone, founder of the eponymous UK book chain

That Waterstone piece is hilarious. Notice that Waterstone spent decades driving indie bookstores out of business (like B&N over here) and now is crying that Amazon is doing the same to him. What goes around comes around.

And the tax issue is ridiculous. Of COURSE companies are going to arrange their affairs to pay less tax. That's what ALL of us do! It's called basic tax planning. Exxon hasn't paid a dime in US corporate tax in years. If you don't like it, blame congress and their lobbyists.

As a small publisher myself, I do everything I can to reduce my corporate tax to zero, too.

Archangel said...

Christy's right. Years ago when Mr. Waterstone came onto the scene, he was a younger man... ambitious, and pitted his stores against every mom and pop store he could. Nary a mom/pop eccentric/knowing/odd/informed store is standing save those who have gone major antiquarian/used. Those tiny often beautiful pockets of another time and place were replaced by huge. Then Waterstone's over the years began to cherry pick stock, according to what burned the shelves, rather than also what was timeless or of small eccentric but little jewel of a book. He complains now, because he pays taxes to some extent, and AMZ doesnt. AMZ is traded, Waterstone's? Dont know. AMZ has the small and large treasures, and the works readers are interested in. Waterstone's did not build massive online presence. Could have. Didnt. Instead, shrunk their linear shelf space for books. Thinking books afire= profit. Big mistake. Readers finding what they like= profit. Level playing field has ever been an issue in book publishing. Before this, is was ABA and indies vs big discounting publishers re chain stores. This is not new. Just the most recent turf blah-blah.

drcpe

Adam Pepper said...

I just love how guys like Waterstone confuse their own demise with the end of culture as we know it.

Anonymous said...

'People paying to get their news delivered via dead trees? That's so 2002.' He also said, 'They won't print my quote. But I'm not hurt by this, because pretty soon they aren't going to be printing anything.'"

I'd love to debate John Sargent, Megan Tingley, Jamie Raab, or even Scott Turow--folks who have said such jaw-droppingly stupid things that my gallbladder squirts bile when I read them.



They won’t ‘debate’ with you because your tone is boorish. This is not debate in any broadly educated sense, it’s the sloppy ‘wit’ of some guy who was very successful very suddenly and now has an answer for everything.

Suggestion: try not sneering at people (in this case journalists) whose profession is going down the pan, decent folk in the main who are about to lose their careers because of technological change, the same change that you have benefitted from.

You’re dead right about many things, Joe, but you are also becoming the kind of person that no one wants to ‘debate’ with.

Splitter's Blog said...

If I were to debate someone, I would want them to be boorish. The boorish stoop to name calling when their argument falls apart and that would signify a win for me.

However, if the facts were against me, that "boorish" person would suddenly become someone who was just driving home points my facts would not let me refute. They would become relentless, not boorish.

I cannot believe that traditional publishing does not have one person who could counter a lowly, boorish, self-pub advocate. People in that business are supoosed to be experts along with possessing their own creativity, yes?

Unless, of course, the facts are against traditional publishing. Then, it is better that they ignore the self-pub advocate.
If a traditional publisher showed up at my door with a large check, I would sign tomorrow. I am more of a whore than a zealot. But, since I do not foresee that happening, I'll take the route Amazon and people like Konrath have opened. I am glad for the choice.

And that's why traditional publishing is up in arms. Writers and readers now have choices and control has been lost. The entity spearheading the movement? Amazon. That is why they are the main target. That is also why they have gained such market share.

Splitter

Anonymous said...

"Suggestion: try not sneering at people (in this case journalists) whose profession is going down the pan, decent folk in the main who are about to lose their careers because of technological change, the same change that you have benefitted from".

I agree. That comment is below the belt. You are not going to be the voice of self-publishing, Joe, as long as you make comments like this. Forget those who defend traditional publishing: you are driving self-publishers away.

People want a representative who is fair minded. Please raise the bar on your tone, I think you'll be surprised how many more will follow you if they are not driven away by comments like the one above.

wannabuy said...

@Naja Tau:" I keep trying to find professional opinions about how the tide is going on this Kindle/ebook thing."

Why do you want an opinion? How about charts:
http://ebookcomments.blogspot.com/

My latest graphs show ebooks are growing. Since the growth is better than linear, it implies e-books have yet to achieve half of their market penetration.

Joe Konrath said...

They won’t ‘debate’ with you because your tone is boorish.

Ahh, the argument of "tone".

Actually, they won't debate me because I'm right. So is Barry, who has a much loftier "tone" than I do.

The day I start worrying if I offend people with my tone is the day I eat a gun. Life is too short to worry about what people think of you. If my tone bothers you, there are plenty of places on the net to hang out other than here.

try not sneering at people

Try not being an anonymous coward, because your accusations lack weight if you refuse to sign your name to them.

I think you'll be surprised how many more will follow you if they are not driven away by comments like the one above.

If you seriously believe I do this because I'm concerned with how many people follow me, you don't read my blog. I could not possibly care less. But the fact remains that I get millions of hits a year, and people listen to me. Because I'm right, regardless of tone.

The Big 6 should be listening, not pretending I don't exist.

Joe Konrath said...

try not sneering at people (in this case journalists) whose profession is going down the pan, decent folk in the main who are about to lose their careers because of technological change, the same change that you have benefitted from".

Should I also not sneer at drunk pilots, or police officer who rape those they arrest?

Real simple: journalists have a responsiblity to report the news. A biased bullshit hit piece is only newsworthy in that it is a pathetic attempt to sell a few more newspapers before the bottom drops out. It's sad, it's reprehensible, and it is jeer-worthy.

I am not the Seattle Times. I am not held to the standards of journalistic integrity. I'm just some right dude with a blog, calling it as I see it.

Except I seem to see it accurately, and the so-called establishment is amazingly, disgustingly wrong on a regular basis.

So can I sneer? Hell yeah I can sneer.

Joe Konrath said...

You are not going to be the voice of self-publishing, Joe

I DO NOT want to be the voice of anything.

But I do want my comments and concerns to be taken seriously by the establishment, because I still have 8 (EIGHT) legacy books still part of that establishment, held hostage by their incredible stupidity.

But let's be clear: I don't give a flying fuck on a windy day who likes or dislikes my tone, attitude, or demeanor.

If those in power don't want to debate me, they can cry in their fucking beers a few years from now when they are working in some other industry, lamenting how it all went to shit.

But better to take me to task for "tone".

Un-fucking-believable.

Whoever said...

Joe, you're just cranky because you're malnourished, just like that Waterstone guy said. Print two books and call him in the mourning...

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, you're just cranky because you're malnourished, just like that Waterstone guy said. Print two books and call him in the mourning...

LMFAO! I'm malnourished like the Pope is undersexed. :)

AJI said...

try not sneering at people (in this case journalists) whose profession is going down the pan, decent folk in the main who are about to lose their careers because of technological change, the same change that you have benefitted from"

I understand the impulse behind saying this. If it were just a few frustrated employees worried about their jobs, then you would be right. But that is not at all what this is.

First, the journalists involved are not reporting facts or presenting multiple sides - they are trying to use their access to an audience to advocate a particular point of view. They are not doing their jobs, and worse, they are corrupting them. They deserve no benefit of the doubt, as they have chosen to act in this way.

As far as people from the publishing industry, the problem here is that instead of trying to adapt to a new environment that offers them many opportunities if they are willing to evolve, they prefer to attempt to hold back the clock, using yellow journalism, and misleading arguments. These people aren't acting honestly or in good faith - they are just praying that government, popular opinion, or some heavenly force grabs the hands on the clock and stops them from moving so nothing will change for them.

The pro-Big 6 crowd keep talking about the valuable services publishers provide, but I'm not so sure there is anything substantive to that (besides a stranglehold on distribution, which has begun to erode). Yes, there is somewhat of a filter in that truly badly written stuff gets weeded out, but I have seen some appalling, dreadful crap published too. And it is readily apparent that many books that were rejected many times by publishers were, in fact, items that did very well when self-published. I would assume that the big publishers, confident as they are in their tremendous abilities would have to argue that these books would have sold even better if they'd published them. Yet they passed.

Why does it take up to 2 years to get an already written book in to print? I was a real estate developer, and we could build a 2,500 square foot house from the ground up in 75 days. Two years? WTF?! That is doing a good job? That is an industry only being undone by an unscrupulous competitor?

This isn't about people who don't want to lose their careers. Editors will still be needed, proofreaders, marketing people. In fact, there is the potential for somewhat of a golden age for these people, and even for publishers if they adapt to evolving markets.

They don't want to. They want to pout and whine and scream it's not fair. They think they have a constitutional right to a midtown office and an expense account.

Ramon Terrell said...

"LMFAO! I'm malnourished like the Pope is undersexed. :)"

Okay, you almost made me spit up water on my computer!

lol

Anonymous said...

"You are not going to be the voice of self-publishing, Joe"

"I DO NOT want to be the voice of anything.

But I do want my comments and concerns to be taken seriously by the establishment, because I still have 8 (EIGHT) legacy books still part of that establishment, held hostage by their incredible stupidity.

But let's be clear: I don't give a flying fuck on a windy day who likes or dislikes my tone, attitude, or demeanor.

If those in power don't want to debate me, they can cry in their fucking beers a few years from now when they are working in some other industry, lamenting how it all went to shit.

But better to take me to task for "tone".

Un-fucking-believable."

Excuse me. I am not one of the Big Six. I am a writer who supports self-publishing and I am seriously disappointed in you.

You're being just plain stupid in the way you are handling this. So is Barry. You are both intelligent men and you should know better. You could seriously take leadership if you stopped your self-indulgent ranting. That goes for both of you.

You're acting like children. Why would anyone want to debate you when you set the bar so low?

I'm truly disappointed. I would really like leadership in the self-publishing movement, but I can't support you because you argue in immature and insulting ways.

Stop acting like a little child throwing a temper tantrum.

Unless you change your tone, you are absolutely not and will never be a representative of the self-publishing movement.

And you will go down in history as a disappointment. Someone who could have been a leader.

Anonymous said...

Seems as though someone hit a nerve here, JK...

On the point of cowardice and anonymity, a few posts back you were actually inviting members of the trad publishing community to post here anonymously.

You see?

Dan DeWitt said...

Let's be honest here: Joe comes across as a dick sometimes because he's right about a lot, he knows he's right, he's direct, and he's past the point of caring about being polite to people who are wrong.

I both appreciate this and identify with it. Sometimes, people start deserving scorn for being obtuse (or flat-out lying), despite the fact that they go to great lengths to say, "Look how sophisticated yet approachable I am, therefore I must be right." This is Scott Turow's argument in a nutshell.

As far as leadership of the self-pub movement goes, not only does he not care about being a leader, I'd argue that self-pub shouldn't have a recognized leader. It kind of goes against the whole vox populi thing.

Count me among those who couldn't care less about my (or Joe's) place in history.

Just pay us. :-)

Dan

Joe Konrath said...

I'm truly disappointed. I would really like leadership in the self-publishing movement, but I can't support you because you argue in immature and insulting ways.

And I'd like to not have to deal with anonymous morons. Guess we both go home disappointed.

It's a simple precis: I don't need anyone's support. What does being right have to do with how many people agree, or how many people like you?

I allow anonymous comments because there is a chance that someone, somewhere, will add to data pool or make an interesting argument.

On the point of cowardice and anonymity, a few posts back you were actually inviting members of the trad publishing community to post here anonymously.

Anyone who posts anonymously is a coward. Period.

But you can be a coward and still make good points. You can be afraid to sign your name and still make a compelling argument.

And you will go down in history as a disappointment.

I'm pretty comfortable with my place in history. Are you comfortable not having the stones to sign your name to your posts?

Jane Tessa said...

A whore to the written word, and a virgin to publishing, I hope I never forget the sensation of being star struck by words like ‘eviscerate’. I read, ‘rapier wit’ and I feel like I just walked by a guy who looks like Bruce Willis. I think that was Bruce Willis! I hope I never lose the urge to turn around with a hopeful double-take, only to roast in the humble disappointment of realizing, he was just a guy.
I digress. Those Bruce daydreams get me every time.
It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if the publishing industry would just acknowledge that, yes, they are a dying breed. A breed that should passionately beg you not to tell anyone that e-pub is the VD of their industry, spreading like…well, VD.
Like any taboo, it’s known, just not talked about. Unless you have it, in which case you only talk about it with other people who suffer the same affliction. In private, not on the radio.
I urge you to keep your head held high, and your pages close to your vest, whoring yourself just enough to get the attention of Bruce Willis.

John Barlow said...

Meteorite, not asteroid.
Just sayin...

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. I love internet debates about publishing. I wonder when Chuck Wendig will post again about "tone" or something new so I can go onto his blog and read all the funny comment replies that result.

Anonymous said...

This is Anon. 2:41 a.m.

I apologize. I was just as immature and childish in that post as I accused you of being.

I can't delete it, but feel free if you would like. Or not, if you prefer. Either way, I'm sorry. You've done nothing that excuses such an attack. Very sorry.

David Wood said...

Joe,
Sorry to drift off-topic but I'd love to hear your thoughts on this situation:

http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/new-beginnings-or-what-happened-to-my-novels-first-sentence/

To sum up, Tor is releasing this new book with the first sentence omitted, several historical and continuity errors, and "assorted other small typos." The only way they'll correct it in print is if the first printing sells out. What's that we keep hearing about editing being one of the major advantages of going with a Big 6 company?

Joshua Simcox said...

"It's a simple precis: I don't need anyone's support.

But let's be clear: I don't give a flying fuck on a windy day who likes or dislikes my tone, attitude, or demeanor."

Joe has stated on numerous occasions how little he cares what others think of him. I think that's generally a pretty healthy attitude--up to a point.

But is it really the right attitude to have when your trade involves the necessity of complete strangers paying for and investing time in your work? I'm not so sure.

If no one likes what you do, they simply won't continue paying you to do it. That's as true in publishing as it is in brick-laying or dish-washing. So Joe obviously has to care somewhat about what others think--if he didn't, he would put no effort at all into the stories he produces.

He isn't doing this for himself. He's doing it to gain readers and get paid. And he would probably fail miserably at that if he was as truly apathetic about the opinions of others as he claims to be. And few readers would want to spend money on a writer that they felt was rude, disrespectful, and indifferent to their feelings and opinions.

So I'm a little torn on the argument of tone. On one hand, I realize that being oversensitive and easily offended is no way to live your life. On the other hand, I also feel that some who bitch about Joe's tone have a legitimate gripe. Sure, Joe's mostly right--but he can also be pretty insulting to anyone that disagrees with him.

Compare Joe's blog to Scott Nicholson's and notice the difference: Scott's opinions are virtually identical to Joe's in many respects. But he's always respectful and rarely insulting. I'm by no means suggesting that Scott's blog is better or more useful than Joe's, but it is a nice counterpoint for anyone that truly has issues with Joe's tone and demeanor.

I'm no Turow or Franzen apologist, and I won't argue that they've made some monumentally stupid comments regarding the rise of digital publishing. But I would argue that they've done no real harm by sharing their opinions, and all the anger and bile and venom just seems a little unnecessary.

If Joe and Barry and others following this blog disagree with Turow and Franzen and feel confident in their positions, then great--they should just keep being right and reaping the benefits of it. Are they really gaining that much from all the insults and personal attacks?

The simple fact is that traditional publishing isn't dead yet. It's a broken system that needs a massive overhaul if it's to have any hope of survival. But it's still here and self-pubbing just won't seem like the right answer to everyone with a manuscript in a drawer.

Digital publishing isn't for everyone. Some readers will always prefer paper over ebooks. They can ignore trends and new technology at their own peril, but is insulting them mercilessly really the answer?

--Joshua

Baldomero G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Joe said:

Sure profits are up. Give it another year, when authors realize 90% of their income is from ebooks, but they only get 17.5% royalties. See how many stick with the Big 6 when there will no longer be print deals.


Joe? I'm thinking it's less how many stick with them than who sticks w them. If enough of their cash cows walk...

Got any predictions on that?

Nick Sparks? Stephen King? Grisham? Patterson?

Who's coming over to the dark side?

Anonymous said...

It's finally happened! The Department of Justice has officially sued Apple, Inc. and some of the Big 6 publishers for price-fixing (aka running a cartel, as you mentioned in your previous post).

Victoria said...

Cash cows under contract can't walk anywhere. They're chained to the farm. Which is why it boggles the mind when new authors sign bad contracts in this day and age.

Joe Konrath said...

And few readers would want to spend money on a writer that they felt was rude, disrespectful, and indifferent to their feelings and opinions

This blog isn't for readers. Readers don't care about the publishing industry. They don't care about what Amazon or the Author's Guild or the Big 6 are doing.

I don't disrespect readers. I'm always gracious and grateful.

But I have very little respect for those who defend terrible business practices. And I'm vocal about tat, because somebody should be.

This debate isn't about tone. It's about what's best for authors. My blog is not A Newbie's Guide to Being Sensitive and Politically Correct. If I see someone acting like a jackass, I call them a jackass.

If they don't want to be told they're stupid they should stop acting stupid. And if some writers don't like my tone, they don't have to read my blog.

Joe Konrath said...

Are they really gaining that much from all the insults and personal attacks?

Are they really personal attacks?

We attack the argument, then deride the person for making a bad argument, as they should be derided. Mocking sends a message. There has never been a revolution without mocking. Effigy and ridicule go hand in hand with movements.

But it's still here and self-pubbing just won't seem like the right answer to everyone with a manuscript in a drawer.

Every writer needs to decide for themselves, based on their goals. But that decision should be informed. If someone decides they wants to go with a legacy publisher, it should be with full awareness of all they'll lose by doing so. As for gains, they are rapidly approaching zero (and I could argue they are already at zero.)

Joe Konrath said...

I'm thinking it's less how many stick with them than who sticks w them. If enough of their cash cows walk...

If Patterson is selling millions of ebooks and only making 17.5% he won't put up with that for long if he can make 70% on his own. I bet all the big writers are watching Pottermore very closely. Once Patterson or King jumps ship, legacy publishing is over. And they will jump ship.

I.J.Parker said...

I've never found Joe's comments objectionable. Colorful perhaps, but not rude or unfair. I hear the voice of anger and I relate to that. It's taken me a decade to understand fully what publishers (and two of them belong to the big 6) have done to me and my career. Mind you, some understanding came almost immediately with the first title still in editorial hands; the rest came later, piece by piece, in a long succession of painful discoveries and gradual hopelessness.
It's entirely due to Joe that I found a way to go on. For that I shall always be grateful for his honesty and frankness and unselfishness. Even when I don't agree with him, he can pretty much say what he wants, and I'll still know that his intentions were always good and generous . . . at least toward his fellow authors.

Eathen White said...

Joe said:
If Patterson is selling millions of ebooks and only making 17.5% he won't put up with that for long if he can make 70% on his own. I bet all the big writers are watching Pottermore very closely. Once Patterson or King jumps ship, legacy publishing is over. And they will jump ship.

Joe, you're thinking small. Having a big name author jump ship may send shockwaves through the industry, but that will only happen at the conclusion of a giant contract war.

Pottermore is already a few steps ahead and providing an example of what an established author can do, but again, it's the result of Rowling's original contract that didn't include digital distribution rights.

The real upheaval will happen when a celebrity like Donald Trump, Jay-Z, Oprah, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos self-publishes their autobiography or memoir. Think of how Louis CK is changing the way stand-up comics distribute their specials; Aziz Ansar followed suit and I suspect many more are coming down the pipeline.

Anonymous said...

So the Seattle Times, in its four-day series, ripped Amazon a new one -- and you and your ilk are taking it personally. You've thrashed around in chats, blogs, tweets, etc., "banging on" and "bitch slapping" those you foolishly perceive as your enemies. It's not that you're wrong about everything, because you have some good points. It's that you're assholes -- self-righteous, presumptuous, insufferable. The online chat hosted by the Seattle Times is an example. Though you guys are quite proud of your performance in that "debate," and I'm sure you excited your circle of butt boys, I doubt you were effective in winning over many impartial chat followers (Seattle Times' readers, like myself) to your side. Russo was not only more thoughtful, he was more compelling. He actually had something interesting and profound to say about the publishing business. But, of course, you smart asses weren't interested in what a "legacy" writer had to say. You were too busy being a-holes. ... Apparently incontinence is getting the better of you.

Wayne said...

I wonder how many people realise that if the sales tax thing changes then each author's website that sells to various states will be required to file taxes in each state. The issue isn't just affecting Amazon, it potentially affects all internet sales from Best Buy, to eBay sellers, etc.

Archangel said...

@Anonymous who wrote "I'm sure you excited your circle of butt boys"

what does "butt boys" mean?

Surely peevishness doesnt lead to slurs about gays? Or am I misunderstanding your lingo... please set me straight.

thanks
drcpe

Walter Knight said...

Archangel, I am confused. Do you want to be set straight, or to learn about butt boys?

David L. Shutter said...

Hmm, I don't know if I'm a butt boy or not.

Is it like in a forum where you get a status after a certain number of posts? How do I get my butt boy ranking?

Please clarify.

Archangel said...

@walter, @david
you both crack me up.

I am sincere. I dont know what it is. What does it mean, like jargon for? or an epithet? or?

thanks
drcpe

Dan DeWitt said...

I watched the whole chat live. The moderator was clearly toeing the paper's anti-Amazon line.

Having said that, I don't recall seeing Russo saying anything overly thoughtful, interesting, or compelling. He seemed like a likeable guy while he harped on the worst-case scenario of lower Amazon royalties, but he repeatedly ignored Barry's question about traditional pubs offering only 17.5%. He also talked about midlisters being "squeezed out" on Amazon, which really made no sense.

And I have no idea what the fuck Anonymous over there is talking about re: "too busy being a-holes." The chat was very civil, just horribly slanted.

"Buttboy?" Really? Was yesterday a half-day of school?

Jude Hardin said...

J.K. Rowling's new book is now available for preorder.

$19.99 for the ebook version. Published by Little Brown and Company (Hachette).

So there's one that's not jumping ship yet.

Tom Simon said...

@Jude Hardin:

In case you missed it, Rowling has already jumped ship. Or did you miss all the numerous references to Pottermore in this comment thread alone?

Jude Hardin said...

I know about Pottermore, but she obviously chose to go with a major publisher for this new one, and they obviously acquired the digital rights along with print.

I'm wondering why. Seems like she could have made more money doing it herself.

Jude Hardin said...

Barry Eisler debates Andrew Gross regarding the DoJ lawsuit against Apple and major publishers.

AJI said...

One, I doubt J.K Rowling is motivated primarily by money at this point. It makes a huge difference to a writer whether he/she makes $50,000 or $100,000 on a book, but once you've made your first billion you might decide you just don't want to be bothered, even if you could make a bit more publishing it yourself.

Two, print is still a huge market, and if you are such that when your book comes out there will be colossal piles of it out in front of every bookstore in the U.S., going with a major publisher may be the right business decision now (but not in five years, maybe). Especially since this is a new genre for her - her name will get the book prominently displayed, but the book may not have the built-in audience that Harry Potter 8 would have. So the marketing that she WILL get is worthwhile and builds her personal brand further.

Three, I can only imagine that she got a deal substantially different than the average writer, and probably a lot of money upfront.

Jude Hardin said...

I can only imagine that she got a deal substantially different than the average writer, and probably a lot of money upfront.

But isn't that probably true of most bestsellers? I just don't see a bunch of the big names jumping ship anytime soon.

David L. Shutter said...

I just don't see a bunch of the big names jumping ship anytime soon.

I'm expecting it, like a lot of other people, but I keep coming back to a couple of things:

The truly "top selling" writers aren't making a million a year, their making tens of millions a year under the status quo. Why fix what's not broken?

They don't live the horror stories we've heard from the legions of mid-listers blogging these days, or at least not in a long time. They've all gotten the royal treatment since their first breakout hits.

None of them are kids. They've all been in whatever routine or system they follow for years, if not decades. Change is hard and most people need a reason to do it.

And yes, I believe the top 1% get deals unheard of for the other 99%. Just my opinion though.

But mostly, I think a lot of the anti-Amazon "circle the wagon" rhetoric is a symptom of rampant fear of change in the traditional system, top print writers being an integral part of that system.

Wayne said...

http://blog.authorsguild.org/2011/02/03/e-book-royalty-math-the-house-always-wins-2/
Always interesting to see who lost under Agency.

Tom Simon said...

@Jude Hardin:

I know about Pottermore, but she obviously chose to go with a major publisher for this new one, and they obviously acquired the digital rights along with print.

Legacy publishers right now are staying in business by taking those digital rights, even from writers who never agreed to give them up. If you want a print deal from a major publisher, you have to give up e-rights, even if you’re J. K. Rowling.

As for whether she’s jumped ship or not, remember how slowly print publishers work. I haven’t been able to find specific information, but it would not surprise me at all if this deal had been signed a year or more ago, when Pottermore was barely a glint in Ms. Rowling’s eye.

Merrill Heath said...

What David Shutter said.

Anonymous said...

From Shatzkin:
"Over time, the biggest losers here will be the authors. The independent authors will feel the pain first. Agency pricing creates a zone of pricing they can occupy without much competition from branded merchandise. When the known authors are only available at $9.99 and up, the fledgling at $0.99-$2.99 looks very attractive and worth a try. Ending agency will have the “desired” effect of bringing all ebook prices down. As the big book prices are reduced, the ability of the unknowns to use price as a discovery tool will diminish as well. In the short run, it will be the independent authors who will pay the biggest price of all.

But, in the long run, all authors will just get less. They will join the legion of suppliers beholden to a retailer whose mission is to deliver the lowest possible price to the consumer."

Jude Hardin said...

If you want a print deal from a major publisher, you have to give up e-rights, even if you’re J. K. Rowling.

I don't believe that for a minute. She could have kept those rights if she'd wanted to. John Locke kept his. Rowling must have gotten a great advance and a great digital split on royalties.

Jude Hardin said...

I'm not criticizing Rowling for taking the deal, btw. I think Barry Eisler has it right. Publishing is a business, not an ideology. Authors should do what makes the most sense from a business perspective at the time they're doing it.

David L. Shutter said...

As the big book prices are reduced, the ability of the unknowns to use price as a discovery tool will diminish as well. In the short run, it will be the independent authors who will pay the biggest price of all.

Now, I'm a nobody to question someone like Shatzkin, but there's one problem I have with the Amazon "race to the bottom" doomsayers.

Low, or even no-cost, alternatives to new titles have always existed in publishing. And, before e-pub started chipping away at paper sales, none of those institutions ever prevented popular print books from selling in the hundreds of millions.

I don't think a Patterson, Roberts of King title will ever need to be sold at .99-2.99, but 12.99 t 14.99 for an upload is just fucking ridiculous.

I think one could argue that the race to the bottom is already over with an ocean of indie titles available at the lower price range.

I quess Barry Eisler is doing pretty good at the $7.99 price pt. depiste that. He's been pretty vocal lately on a number of issues. Bitching about shitty sales hasn't been one of them.

Anonymous said...

You have to take Shazkin with a grain of salt. He is extremely pro-publishing.

He has an agenda.

It would be highly diffcult for any publisher or retailer to compete with indie authors on price.

Indie authors will still keep their price advantage. Shazkin is wrong, and using a scare tactic.

Ramon Terrell said...

And now that this lawsuit is underway, watch what happens when the media starts to say that $9.99 is a deal. Consumers will listen. People were already sold on the $9.99 price tag, and if and when it returns, the indie books priced between $4.99 and $9.99 will still get plenty of love.

Check out Kristine Kathryn Rusch's new blog post about it here:http://kriswrites.com/2012/04/11/the-business-rusch-writers-and-the-doj-lawsuit/

However this all pans out, the indie writer will continue to do well as long as we continue to write good books and price them effectively for ourselves by not giving them away or pricing them into the bargain bin.

Gretta Curran Browne said...

haha - don't know if it is because she is on tour over here in the UK or whether it is Jodi Picoult's fans that have taken such offence about my last blog - because my blog disappeared and Google tell me someone hacked it down!

Must be someone like those "Indie haters" on the forum boards on Amazon.

American has a Constitution guaranteeing free speech, but the UK only has the Magna Carta which guarantees nothing.

Except as most of her devoted fans are in the USA I reckon the ones who hacked my blog down came from there.
Still, what comes down, goes right back up. Nobody's shutting me up!

Good luck to all Indies.

David L. Shutter said...

watch what happens when the media starts to say that $9.99 is a deal. Consumers will listen. People were already sold on the $9.99 price tag

I did say that the higher pricing, for a mere digital upload, churns my stomach as a reader.

That said, I do have to concede that, from a business standpoint, it makes good sense. For now anyway. And the current, rapidly expanding, digital market is where legacy houses are clearly trying to squeeze every penny they can before the big tipping pt.

I know that in sales, whether you're recruiting, doing retail or selling timeshare, that a lot of your time and effort is spent on building "perceived value."

When the latest title from an old favorite, or the newest craze book that everyone is talking about (ie; a book you HAVE to read) is only available from the legacy side as a 25$ hardback...$9.99 and slightly higher, is an inherent bargain.

Again, personally I think the pricing is gouging for an e-book, and it won't stay this high, but I will give credit to the Legacy side for generating profits while they can. This is still America and capitalism is ok.

Merrill Heath said...

You raise some good points, David. No doubt the cost to publish, stock, and distribute an ebook is considerably less than a printed book. As a result, I believe the consumer should get a break on pricing.

However, the effort it took to write the book is the same and that shouldn't be overlooked. To me the value of a book is based on its entertainment value, not the physical attributes. I enjoy a good read on my Kindle as much as I do a printed book. It's all about the story.

So a consideration must be given to the hours of entertainment the writer provides the reader - regardless of the format. That shouldn't be undervalued just because it cost less to deliver the novel to the reader.

David L. Shutter said...

So a consideration must be given to the hours of entertainment the writer provides the reader - regardless of the format. That shouldn't be undervalued just because it cost less to deliver the novel to the reader.

Merril: Yeah, I agree to that too. I have no trouble paying 7$ for something from Eisler or one of the Hunger Games follow ups, just to name a few, and I'm sure a lot of others do for work of a demonstrative or established quality.

All in all, the "race to the bottom" argument is pure shit. Content providers have, and will always, sell for whatever their respective market or niche can bear.

Self-pub is a widly exciting new market, but in the big economic picture, there are no wheels of commerce being re-invented here.

Ramon Terrell said...

Honestly, the difference in producing an ebook and print isn't as vast as one might think. The major cost of producing a book comes from labor, ie: author, editors, art (which is often laughable, but still) formatting, and marketing. The actual printing of the book is not as big a cost because they get an excellent rate for it.

Boba Fett said...

Putting up with the snobbery of those who look down on self publishing is a bit annoying.

Not really sure what else to say, other than, looking forward to telling those people to fuck off if success comes knocking at my door.

Oh I will be a bitter fuck when the time comes. For now just enjoying collecting names for my enemies list. :-)

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Jude Hardin said...

J.K. Rowling's new book doesn't come out until September, and it's already #21 Paid in Kindle Store.

At $19.99.

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Karen said...

A bit late to the post, but...why would you want the Big Six to debate with you, or to take your advice? If they started using the same strategies you do, for their big name authors, it would pretty effectively stamp on your sales, wouldn't it? Or if you have enough of a reader following now to avoid that...wouldn't it prohibit a newer self-published author from getting noticed using the tools you did?

And I have a second question but can't figure out how to phrase it so excuse the awkwardness. I'm with you that most publishers today aren't entirely sure how to handle the future and a lot of what they're trying is failing. But are you prepared for the future if they fail? If in 10 years time there are no old publishers left, and amazon is the marketplace for authors to publish directly, with the same level of market dominance that Amazon currently enjoys - where is the power to oppose what Amazon might want? What if they decided to maximize profits by changing their cut to 40/60? And 50/50? What power would an individual author have to oppose them? They could squeeze authors in the same way they are now squeezing publishers. If they controlled as much of the market (or more, which if the whole Agency Agreement goes away seems likely), authors wouldn't have any choice but to sell via Amazon at whatever terms Amazon dictated. Seems a dangerous future to me.

Walter Knight said...

Deliberate misinformation from the media? I'm shocked and appalled. I'm sure the media will clean itself up as the elections draw closer.

Anonymous said...

Concerns about Amazon becoming so dominant in the marketplace that they will raise book prices and/or lower royalties to authors, are overblown.

If Amazon tries to do something like that, another company will offer cheaper books and/or better royalties to authors, and thus grab customers away from Amazon. The invisible hand of the marketplace at work.

The next stage in epublishing might be emerging now. Authors and publishers could sell their work directly from their websites. Amazon (or for that matter, Apple, Barnes and Noble, etc) in this scenario is the middleman being cut out.

For example, I have bought a particular magazine from the publisher directly from their website, and read it as a pdf document on my computer. The pdf price is about half the price of the paper version.

Now, one may not want to read pdf documents on their computer. I imagine, then, a company selling a new ereader that accepts works from any website.

In this scenario, readers benefit by the cost savings, and authors benefit because they get all the proceeds from the sale of the work; the authors pay NO ROYALTIES AT ALL.

Anonymous said...

In my previous post, I meant to say at the end of it, the authors get the entire proceeds from the sale of the work; the author's income is not reduced because of portion of the proceeds has to go to some publisher.

Aric Mitchell said...

Karen said: "What if they decided to maximize profits by changing their cut to 40/60? And 50/50? What power would an individual author have to oppose them? They could squeeze authors in the same way they are now squeezing publishers. If they controlled as much of the market (or more, which if the whole Agency Agreement goes away seems likely), authors wouldn't have any choice but to sell via Amazon at whatever terms Amazon dictated. Seems a dangerous future to me."

More dangerous than the 17.5 percent that publishers are paying authors now? I don't think so. Even with your worst case scenario, that's two, close to three times what the Big 6 are paying. Damn Amazon. How dare they!

Anonymous said...

Joseph,

An employee of a Big 6 publisher has written a response to (one of) your complaints against them on The Futurebook before, and yet rather than enter into discussion in that forum you decided to reply on your terms and on your> blog to write a post about how wrong she was. This is a two way street. You refuse to engage on their industry blog just as they have not engaged on yours. I agree they may have a PR issue and are silent far too much of the time but if you read publishers' blogs - almost anyone who works at a publishing house - you would see they are not being self congratulatory but are asking questions and trying to solve problems.

I don't necessarily a debate between yourself and the publishers would be a fruitful thing for the same reason you give for not entering into a discussion with the Seattle Times. You're so diametrically opposed to one another that probably neither of you would listen to the other and end. But realise its a two way street.

Tom Simon said...

Anon @ 4:04 PM:

rather than enter into discussion in that forum you decided to reply on your terms and on your> blog to write a post

Yeah, that’s how blogging works. You have free speech on your blog, the publishers have free speech on theirs, Joe has free speech on his. Where a reply is made doesn’t matter; what matters is what was said.

if you read publishers' blogs - almost anyone who works at a publishing house - you would see they are not being self congratulatory but are asking questions and trying to solve problems.

Yup. The question they’re asking is, ‘How can we keep on gouging authors with low royalties and readers with high prices, now that we no longer have a hammerlock on distribution?’ And the problem they’re trying to solve is, ‘How do we save our phony-baloney jobs?’

Shortly put, for us writers, their solution is our problem, and vice versa. Our interests simply do not coincide. Intelligent writers have known this all along, but had to put up with publishers because they had the power to exclude us from bookselling channels.

More than sixty years ago, George Bernard Shaw wrote: ‘I object to publishers: the one service they have done me is to teach me to do without them. They combine commercial rascality with artistic touchiness and pettishness, without being either good business men or fine judges of literature. All that is necessary in the production of a book is an author and a bookseller, without the intermediate parasite.’

Decades before that, Mark Twain offered up this observation, which he paraphrases from a conversation he had with U. S. Grant: ‘He thought it placed him in the attitude of a robber — robber of a publisher. I said that if he regarded that as a crime it was because his education was limited. I said it was not a crime and was always rewarded in heaven with two halos. Would be, if it ever happened.’

As for the present state of the question, I can summarize that with less originality but more brevity: A writer needs a publisher like a fish needs a blow dryer.

Anonymous said...

"Actually, they won't debate me because they know I'm right."

Yes, that's the kind of rhetorical skill that would frighten anybody away. I'm betting you do a fine line in door slamming, too.

Anonymous said...

Tom - I am aware of how blogging works. I was calling attention to this:
But those people who work in the industry that I consistently, thoroughly, and publicly eviscerate don't speak publicly of me, or acknowledge my views.

His views have been acknowledged, but he refused to engage on their platform the same way they haven't engaged on his. It's not because they are ignoring each other. If I had to guess, I'd say it's because they're afraid of not having their comment cronies to back them up with the sort of rapier 'wit' I have read here.

Well, that and the fact that throwing poo at one another at close range would do absolutely nothing of value. I don't understand why Joseph would want to incite any sort of debate when he's made his hatred abundantly clear - only a very weak person would invite the opposition to their territory and then refuse to speak to them in reasonable terms (ie: using dramatic hyperbole like A writer needs a publisher like a fish needs a blow dryer.). That goes for both parties, but at least publishers don't spend a large portion of their time calling self-published writers scum. Left well alone, I say.

I hope publishers do get their act together enough to engage in public debate, though not for your benefit. Your minds seem made up. Any public debate from a publisher now will only serve to pad out your bloated disgust for them. In fact if you feel they are indeed ignoring you (any of you) perhaps you should do the same.

Rob Blackwell said...

Joe,

I recognize you've said everything that needs to be said about 1,562 times, BUT the DOJ lawsuit has stirred up a lot of articles that could benefit from your response.

Slate: The Real Bad Guy in the E-Book Price Fixing Case
http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2012/04/e_book_price_fixing_amazon_is_the_real_bad_guy_.single.html

and the New York Times: Book Publishing’s Real Nemesis
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/16/business/media/amazon-low-prices-disguise-a-high-cost.html?_r=1&ref=business

Help us, Obi-Joe. You're our only hope.

Tom Simon said...

Anon @ 6:52 AM:

I notice that you attacked my formulation of the relationship between writers and publishers, but glossed over what Shaw and Twain had to say about it. You were quite right to do so, according to what I conceive to be your lights: if the evidence is against you — in this case, expert testimony going back over a century that knowledgeable and informed writers viewed their relationship to publishers as unhelpful and exploitative — you can either change your mind or ignore the evidence. And ignoring the evidence is a hell of a lot easier.

When I said that writers need publishers like fish need blow dryers, that was not dramatic hyperbole; it was, in the present state of the market, a figurative expression of the exact truth. Fish require water to survive; writers require readers, and live on their share of the money that readers spend on books. Publishers, by limiting distribution to a favoured few authors, have always restricted writers from reaching audiences; by hogging most of the revenue from ebooks (after the physical costs of production and distribution are gone), they restrict the money from getting back to the writers. They are taking the water away from the fish.

Any public debate from a publisher now will only serve to pad out your bloated disgust for them. In fact if you feel they are indeed ignoring you (any of you) perhaps you should do the same.

Indeed. That’s why I don’t bother talking to publishers, and consider the idea of publicly debating them to be foolish. I wouldn’t ask Mr. Konrath (or anyone) to debate a Flat Earther, either. Print publishers, at this point, literally have nothing to offer except their ability to flood the physical distribution channels with paper books, and to keep other parties out of those channels. Now writers can reach readers directly: the channels are superfluous.

This is not a case of publishers locking the barn door after the horse has bolted, so much as publishers locking the barn door while everyone else is buying a car. Horses? Who needs horses?

Stephen T. Harper said...

Jude said "Amazon isn't making boatloads of money selling crappy self-published books, because as a general rule crappy self-published books don't sell."

Yep. Just like any other industry. Crap has a small portion of any given pool of customers, but the market for it gets crowded fast. Those rushing to fill e-book stores with sub-standard work in the name of easy money will also be the first group of writers in the new paradigm to quit.