I just got back from a wonderful vacation with my family with limited cell phone and Internet access. We had to communicate by doing something called talking, which is a lot like texting or emailing, but without emoticons or abbreviations.
I have now returned, and as I might have guessed, the stupid was strong on the world wide web while I was away.
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First off, Laura Miller said some ridiculous things in a recent Salon article.
Laura: Anyone who has followed the coverage of the ongoing Amazon-Hachette dispute knows that some of the most impassioned voices on the pro-Amazon side of the argument come from self-published writers. It’s easy to understand their impulse to defend Amazon’s e-book publishing programs, given that many had tried in vain to publish their books with traditional houses before opting for, say, Kindle Direct Publishing.
Joe: Sure, Laura. It’s bitter losers, snubbed by the industry, who despise it because they had to settle for the meager compensation of controlling their own rights and making more money with Amazon.
You’re aware many have also tried to publish with legacy houses and succeeded. Then we discovered that legacy publishers had unconscionable contracts, archaic business practices, and overall behaved badly. But, as they were the only game in town, we lived with it… until Amazon came around.
Many authors are pro Amazon for a simple, easy to understand reason: Amazon treats authors better and pays them more.
. . . .
Laura: The Big Five compete with each other for the books they want to publish.
Joe: Compete how? The size of the advance?
Don’t you find it curious that they don’t compete by offering better contract terms in other areas, such as royalty percentage, rights reversion, length of term of rights, indemnity clauses, non-compete clauses, next options, and many other author-unfriendly provisions?
How about competing like other companies compete for employees? Insurance, bonuses, 401k, pension plans, severance packages, vacation time, paid lunches, travel compensation, expense sheets, etc.?
. . . .
Is it real competition when all the major publishers somehow wound up offering lockstep 25% ebook royalties? Isn’t it odd some publishers didn’t try to attract authors by offering more?
Now perhaps all publishers coincidentally came to this figure independent of one another. But I think it is more likely that everyone secretly agreed that the only terms they’d “compete” on were advance sizes, except in the rare case of mega-bestsellers.
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Laura: Most readers are not willing to read dozens of sample chapters in order to find something acceptable or to rely on consumer reviews of questionable authenticity.
Joe: Can you show me the poll you took of “most readers”? I assume the sample was at least tens of thousands, right?
Have you ever been in a bookstore, looking for something new to read? Readers browse, whether it is legacy pubbed books, or self-pubbed ebooks. Sorta like you do when you Google something and find the website you want in the search results.
Google doesn’t only list the vetted, curated, sifted websites. It lists them all. And the popularity of a website is based on reader preference, not sifting.
. . . .
Laura: While there’s not much self-publishers can do to influence the outcome of the Hachette-Amazon dispute, this affair should serve as a cautionary tale about placing too much power in the hands of a single retail outlet.
Joe: Hachette authors aren’t at the mercy of Amazon. They’re at the mercy of Hachette.
Self-pubbed authors aren’t at the mercy of Amazon, either. If you’re concerned about Amazon, can you show me their history of squeezing and mistreating writers? Why worry about being eaten by wolves, when there is currently a lion feasting on your legs?
Hachette authors are getting screwed because they signed away their rights to Hachette, trusting that publisher to make business deals that best serve them. If Hachette can’t make a deal with the biggest retailer of books in the world, Hachette is the problem.
I sympathize with Hachette authors, and with all legacy pubbed authors. But they need to accept that they signed the deal. I signed four legacy deals. I felt I had no choice, and no negotiating power. They were the only game in town, and I had to take it or leave it. So I took it, and I accepted full responsibility for my publishers’ many mistakes.
Now that there IS a choice, authors must accept even more responsibility. Signing away your rights, when you’re now able to keep them and self-publish, is a huge gamble. Because if your publisher screws the pooch, you’re stuck. Forever.