The Opposite of Legacy

30 August 2014

From Joe Konrath:

So I just read the latest drivel from The Guardian which completely misrepresents self-publishing. There’s no need for me to fisk it–Howey, Eisler, Gaughran, and others already shredded the stupid in the comments. And there was a lot of stupid. It makes me ponder how the mainstream media keeps getting so much wrong.

It also makes me ponder why self-pubbed authors care.

As far as mainstream media, I can point to lazy reporting, willful ignorance, nepotism, and not-so-hidden agendas. This blog has a long history of pointing out why legacy publishers do what they do, and their priorities often coincide with those of the legacy media.

. . . .

Years ago, Eisler used “legacy” to describe traditional publishing, and I’ve played a small part in popularizing the term on this blog. Indeed, the paper publishing industry is a legacy system. There are now faster, cheaper, and less-restrictive ways to get words to consumers than the antiquated method of acquiring, printing, and shipping.

The legacy publishing world knows this, and they have been putting up a continuous, united front to preserve this status quo while doing their best to inhibit the widespread adoption of ebooks. They’re so single-minded in this pursuit, that they are missing opportunities to capitalize as much as they can on this new tech, instead trading potentially higher profits to retain a paper oligopoly.

I call self-publishing a shadow industry because the mainstream has steadfastly refused to understand its scope and power. Self-publishing is the most serious threat that legacy publishers must face, but legacy publishers don’t realize it is a threat. They don’t see the money being generated. They don’t see the scale of authors adopting it. They haven’t been hurt enough to acknowledge that a revolution is even taking place.

. . . .

If the mainstream news is just as antiquated, biased, self-interested, and increasingly obsolete as mainstream publishing, isn’t it also a legacy system? Hachette isn’t reading my posts and admitting I’m right, then following my advice. Why would The Guardian or the NYT or PW listen to me or any other self-pubbed author? The legacy media are facing the same problems as legacy publishing; digital replacing paper, readers going elsewhere for information and entertainment, talent creating content without them and building their own followings and fanbases.

As a writer, I once craved the validation that came with a legacy publishing contract. I felt it legitimized me. Once I was accepted, I experienced a sense of fulfillment. Getting a PW starred review was a victory. Seeing my book on a library shelf was its own reward.

Now I realize how empty those feelings were. Getting paid well and being treated fairly is much more fulfilling that the approval of a clique. Having power and control over my career trumps seeing my book in Wal-Mart. I don’t care what the legacy publishing industry thinks of me, or of self-publishing. We’re going to outlast them.

. . . .

What is happening is an echo chamber on both sides. Legacy authors, and those who want a chance to be legacy authors, continue to defend the status quo. Indie authors continue to point out the stupidity exhibited by legacy authors, publishers, and media. The only time anyone will change their mind is when they have direct experience of one, the other, or both.

. . . .

Evolution isn’t about choosing sides. It’s about slowly adapting to new environments. The Guardian doesn’t want to adapt? They’ll be forced to deal with the consequences of their actions. Click bait and concern trolling isn’t going to pay their shareholders. Like the Big 5, the days of Big Media in its current form are numbered. There is still some money to be squeezed out of it, but status quo bias is an indicator of desperation, not growth.

Self-publishing may always be a shadow industry. The media may not ever discuss it. The Big 5 will continue to ignore it. And that’s okay.

As writers, we can continue to inform one another, share data, and point out stupidity. This is helpful.

But it isn’t vital. Change will come even if we all remain silent.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books

As usual, Joe makes some excellent points.

It doesn’t matter what the Guardian or the Times say. It doesn’t matter what a group of rich tradpub authors say. The PR strategies of Hachette and other large publishers will have no effect on the ultimate outcome of the disruptive change that is taking place in the way books are created and consumed.

Technology disruption is based upon some iron laws, some of which are relevant to the book business:

1. Cheap beats expensive.

2. Even if cheap isn’t as good as expensive at the beginning, it will catch up.

3. Bits always beat atoms for the dissemination and consumption of information.

The contents of books are information. Bits – the basis of digital representations of information – are virtually free. Yes, the infrastructure required to distribute and consume bits isn’t free, but once it’s in place, sending trillions of additional bits through that infrastructure is virtually costless.

Nobody charges you any more money when you download hundreds of ebooks from Project Gutenberg instead of just one book. It costs Amazon almost nothing to make and distribute 100 copies of an ebook file to sell to 100 different customers. Credit cart fees are probably the largest per-ebook cost for each incremental sale.

Traditional publishers are primarily focused on the atoms business – hard copy books. Traditional bookstores require a lot of atoms – bricks, bookshelves, etc. – to remain in business. Atoms cost money. The atoms for two bookstores cost more than the atoms for one bookstore.

The value-add of traditional publishers is all on the atoms side. Creation of physical books is an industrial-age process involving paper mills and printing presses and ships and trains and trucks moving boxes of books around, ultimately delivering them to those big stacks of atoms called bookstores.

Success in the industrial, mass-production world of atoms requires scale. Huge publishers dealing with millions of physical books have a substantial financial advantage over individual authors in a world where mass quantities of atoms are cheaper to create and deal with on a per-atom basis than smaller quantities of atoms.

Life is much different in the post-industrial world of bits. An author sitting at a personal computer can create all the bits necessary for an ebook without any assistance from any third party or any incremental cost. A personal computer costs as much if you use it for surfing the web as it does if you use it for writing a book.

Once an author creates the bits for an ebook, the author can send those bits to a dozen ebookstores for no additional incremental cost. An internet connection costs as much if you use it for surfing the web, etc., etc.

Once the bits arrive at the ebookstore, those bits can be offered for sale at an infinitesimally small incremental cost to the ebookstore.

The ebook monetization process includes no industrial-era components and no industrial-era advantages for Big Publishing. Not only is the author is the most important part of ebook commerce, the author is the only necessary part of that process other than an ebookstore.

At the moment, the atoms-world publishers are leeching off the bits-world of ebooks and ecommerce, but their ability to continue to do so is entirely dependent upon the willingness of authors to be hosts to which the leeches attach.

As Joe implies, the enthusiasm tradpub authors express for the legacy publishing business is in direct proportion to their ignorance of what is happening in self-publishing. To put it very directly, the dumber the author is about self-publishing, the more likely he/she is to be an ardent supporter of Big Publishing.

Big Publishing, Joe Konrath, PG's Thoughts (such as they are), Self-Publishing

80 Comments to “The Opposite of Legacy”

  1. Yes, change will come if we all remain silent, but how many new writers will get brainwashed if we do? Sure, I drank the Kool-Aid when there wasn’t anything else to drink, but methods to get stories to readers have altered radically since I took my first sip twenty years ago.

    Or to use PG’s analogy, I got lucky and was barred from the swamp. Now, I chose not to cross the leech-infested muck. And I’ll keep warning new writers not to enter those waters. But I doubt if there’s hope for the writers like Preston, who’s covered in blood-suckers and can’t tell where he ends and the leeches begin.

    • Agreed. We can pull the ladder up behind us and hope others find their own way, or we can lower it down and urge more people to climb up.

      • Suzan, Hugh, and all other self-published authors that are making an impact on the sales charts, keep telling your story. As a rookie author I can tell you that hearing about your successes showed me that being published is now, finally, an attainable dream without kissing up to an agent, then an editor, and then a publisher. The only person I need to impress now is the reader, which is how it should be.

        So I implore you, please continue to tell about your success. Get your name and story in every media outlet you can so that your names are household names. Make sure to have the title of self-published author right next to your name. We need to change the popular definition and understanding so that people know that self-published author does not mean untalented, and educate them to the fact that self-published author means you care only for telling your story in hopes the reader enjoys it.

        I have seen your ladder Hugh, and I am climbing it rung by rung. Thank you for leaving a path the rest of us can follow. I only hope to do the same for others in the future.

  2. People who are the most vehemently opposed to the lumbering industry (Save Trees, it’s for the children! Use recycled toilet paper!) are the people who are most fervently for paper publishing and against digital. It seems.

    • I think people’s “fors” and “againsts” are probably quite contextual, Barb, like most everything else we do (and think, which is a form of behavior). Joe Human can want to save the trees AND the books for entirely different reasons in different contexts–it’s part of what makes Joe human.

      I doubt that most of the people defending tradpub with torches and pitchforks (or the occasional considered argument 🙂 ) give much of a thought to the conservation issues involved. In this fight their context is “Save book culture!” or “Save the ‘writing life!'”

      Someone remarked here recently that tradpub was at the heart of it liberal and indies were libertarian. I think anyone who observed the wide political spectrum at P.G.’s place would understand that in this context we’re indies. And we’re of whatever political coloration we are in political contexts.

    • Honestly, it continues to boggle my mind that NO ONE seems to be championing digital publishing and ebooks for environmental reasons. The printing industry is ridiculously wasteful. There’s no question that the shift to ebooks is going to save a ton of trees. But NO ONE mentions that when they talk about the pros and cons of ebooks. I just don’t get it.

      • Same here. I was sure environmentalists would jump hard and loud on the ebook revolution, especially the ones who don’t want logging for fear of hurting owls or fish or whatever. I keep thinking it will happen any day now.

      • My library is carbon sequestration.

        • 😉

          Actually, I’m not sure ebooks are more ecologically sound. Generating electricity for all the servers has an ecological cost. The materials that go into computers include some truly toxic commodities; I’m guessing tablets and ereaders have similar components. Plastic is a petroleum product. So…it might be a wash.

          • Have you ever looked at what’s involved with paper production? there are pleanty of toxic chemicals involved there.

            And the petroleum needed to make the plastic (and by the way there are non-petroleum plastics) is tiny compared to the petroleum used in distributing the books, even if you could wave a magic wand and change all the fuel used by the trucks to 100% bio-diesel, the petroleum needed in the vehicle lubrication would be more than one book’s share of the plastic used in a tablet that is used to read hundreds of books.

            for that matter, the lubricants used on the printing press and the forklifts in the printing plant is probably more than the tablet.

    • The manufacturing and disposal of computers and other consumer electronics producers large amounts of toxic waste.

      • I have brought it up numerous times and always get the toxic waste of electronics retort. And yet, paper books take up space (which has to be heated or a/c) and must be transported (metal/rubber/gas) and must be shelved (more trees, metal) and all that has to be disposed of, too. I have no idea how ink is created or what pertains to that manufacturing/disposal.

        I have had 6 ereaders over the last several years and I still have them all at home (though one is now ready to go to the trash). In those, I have 1000 or so books. I somehow think that the equation is coming out in favor of ebooks. Plus folks will buy smartphones and tablets and laptops regardless. To add ebooks to those is not adding to waste–they will be used for other work/purposes.

        I think ebooks come out way on top of the conservation side.

      • Computers and tablets would exist regardless of the ebook vs pbook choices people make. Kindles are a bit different, but they are awfully small.

        • Exactly my point. Even if ebooks didn’t exist, people will have the smartphones, tablets, desktops, laptops, and whatever gadget evolves next. The books will be read on what is already being created (and must be disposed of). They require NO new gadget (ereaders are lovely, but not necessary to read digital books, as we all know).

          So, yeah. Reading on what is already in one’s possession. I would say it wins in green.

    • Just because they say what they say it doesn’t mean that they do what they say, as long as it is in their interest.

    • Before the widespread use of computers in the workforce, information was processed by secretaries who typed your memo on a typewriter and distributed a carbon copy to your boss and to your file. Then we entered the “paperless” digital age, where everyone could now create their own documents using word processors, and print as many copies as they wanted to send to everyone they knew, who could then produce as many copies as they wanted on that fancy Xerox machine and send them to everyone they knew. The “Paperless Age” ushered in by computers was a godsend to the timber industry.

      • And then came the Internet and email. That blizzard of paper has now largely disappeared; and the big-box office supply stores that sprang up in the 1980s to sell paper for the ‘Paperless Age’ are now losing money, and some of them have already gone out of business.

        • My experience may be an anomaly, but the last time I walked through an office space of ~ fifty people, there were four heavy-duty-cycle printers, two copiers the size of washing machines, and a 4’x6′ cabinet filled with paper to service them. That was just before I retired two years ago, and I believe the age of the Internet and e-mail was well underway by then. And, no, it wasn’t a stodgy old publishing company who still lives in the 1950s. It was a Fortune 50  technology firm.

  3. For Extra Credit:

    Name one industrial-age process involving paper mills and printing presses and ships and trains and trucks moving boxes of books around.

  4. If the industry wants to nail its colours to the mast of physical books, it could at least concentrate on better quality ones, by which I mean using decent materials. The difference between my CreateSpace TPBs and the ones I get from BPHs is so striking that people comment on it. (“Wow, how much did that cost you to print?”) I didn’t have to price them higher than my legacy TPBs, either. Readers keep commenting on the print and manufacturing quality, especially the tactile sensation of the covers. The BPH TPBs (oh dear, acronym overload…) seem really shoddy for $16-plus. At least readers buying my TPBs feel they’ve got something that’s worth the money and won’t fall apart after a single reading.

    And that’s without getting into design. Purely from a packaging point of view, the wall of paperbacks in my local Waitrose (a fancy supermarket chain, for US readers) is a dreary display of cloned covers that say, “It doesn’t matter which one of us you pick up, really…”

    Author and content is what matters, obviously, but you ought to give customers something that looks and feels like a special treat.

    • This is where I see the value of print (as well as in study/textbooks. I still study better with a print text I can mark up, flag, flip around, etc). Make it super beautiful and it’s worth its price–gorgeous paper, cover, art, font, styling, white space usage, deckle edges, lovely details, etc.

      Why would I want to pay lots for a print book unless it’s gorgeous? (or useful, such as a text)

      • Yep. Annotation and highlighting suck for ebooks. Citations should actually work better, but the system isn’t set up for that.

        In theory, you should be able to create a hyperlinked citation that goes not only to the right book, but to the right passage within that book. In practice, the author can create a hyperlink to a passage within the same ebook, but not to a passage in another ebook (you can kinda-sorta create a link to another book as a whole, if you don’t mind it being vendor-specific). Readers can’t do either.

        • That’s possible to do. The hyperlink would contain the information that needs to be searched for (but not seen by the reader). It would consist of a phrase that would be used as the search term to direct readers to the paragraph in the new book.

          The ereader program would have to be modified to look at the link, look in the reader’s library for the book in question, open that book, then search for that term. There may need to be an if/then statement along the lines of “if this book cannot be found, search for books with the same title that the reader owns, then present the reader with a choice of titles to pick from.”

          So, yeah, it’s doable.

  5. As we refer to Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster as the Big 5, perhaps we should refer to Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Hugh Howey, TPG and David Gaughran as the Best 5?

  6. I agree with most everything you say here, PG, except that bits **always** trump atoms. I live at the end of nowhere. Last night alone, we had three power outages and one outage from our internet provider that went on for several hours. When the tourists arrive and hit light poles or overload our systems in our tiny town, these outages are **common** At least one or two a month in the summer, more in the winter when we get storms. No downloading, no power, no e-books (unless the Kindle is charged). So atoms do trump in outlying areas where streaming is hard and internet connections are uncertain.

    I agree with all the rest of this. My reaction the article Joe mentioned? A shrug. I’m getting used to this unbelievable misinformation campaign going on in the traditional media. They’re scared. They have a right to be. 🙂

    • Good points, Kris.

      FWIW, I just bought a generator for our house, but that won’t solve problems with no live internet connections.

      • The great thing about self-publishing is we can make paper books available without pulping half the print run.

        Edit to add: I’m not anti-paper; I’m anti-waste. I nearly cried the first time I pulled covers and threw a few hundred books into the dumpster at the bookstore where I worked.

        • Exactly. What’s always bothered me is the return policy that then means a lot of perfectly good, readable books are destroyed. THAT is a sin to me. Not just waste. WRONG.

          • Actually, I don’t hate paper. I would rather read in paper than in any other format. But I like e-books and audio, too. I like the flexibility to be able to choose–or get multiple formats. Also really agree with Suzan. If we are going to do paper let’s do it in a way that dumps the waste!

        • You gotta wonder why they don’t donate them to libraries or literacy programs or something. Pathetic.

          • The covers need to be sent back to the publisher so the bookstore can be credited (else the store could claim the credit and sell the book, doubling their profits). Libraries or lit programs would probably look askance at mutilated books.

          • It’s contractual, Kathlena. According to my manager, the bookstore used to give away the books sans cover, but then the books were resold on the secondary market w/o being sold on the primary market first. The publishers threw a fit since they weren’t getting any of the money.

            Working at a bookstore was a enlightening/depressing look at how the publishing industry really works.

      • You can use satellite for Your internet connection. You can also substitute a hybrid car (e.g. Prius) for your generator. Just a thought.

    • A USB device charger that takes standard batteries is very handy in a situation like that.

      I have one that takes AAs, but would love to have one that took D cells or even a 6V lantern battery. I haven’t seen any of those, though.

      A USB charger that plugs into a car cigarette lighter is also a good thing to have.

      • Tony, last year I met a bunch of friends in Memphis and one of them had a USB charger (available from Amazon, of course) that doesn’t use regular batteries, but has some kind of rechargeable batteries in it. She carried it in her purse and we were all passing it around to recharge our cell phones. Half the people went home and ordered one of their own. Much more compact than a 6 V lantern battery, but if kept charged when not in use I’m fairly certain it has at least as much capability.

      • I’ve got some of the battery USB chargers, a solar panel USB charger (actually a couple of them, one built in to a backpack), and I’ve even got a crank powered USB charger. then there’s the generator, and the car…

        And the kindle is really nice on battery life compared to a tablet.

        No I can’t download books if the local infrastructure is down, but I’ve got enough queued up to last me a few weeks

      • I’ve seen solar USB chargers in several places now. Granted, they don’t work at night, but they definitely work off grid.

        • BigAl

          I just bought one (also off Amazon) and it’s a LiOn USB charger. Basically, a giant cell-phone battery, only not much bigger than a smart phone itself. Thicker and heavier tho. I’m on a Navy deployment in the Med right now and when we go to port its all about finding wifi cuz we have none on the ship really. Surfing, pics an videos can wipe ur phone batt clean in only an hour or two and finding a recharge spot isn’t alwasy easy so I just got a Jackery 12,000 mah charger. MaH is ur batteries capacity (I believe) so the thing I have now will charge my Galaxy (2100 mah batt) about 5x.

          Zon shipping got it through the FPO mail systems in just under 2 weeks, free shipping and was about 30% cheaper than other places I saw it.

          But Zon and their dark overlord are still evil! 😛

          • You’re right–Amazon ships to APO/FPO when many retailers won’t. That had a lot to do with cementing my loyalty to Amazon years ago. I considered it great customer service, but I’m sure there is a more evil term for it. 😉

  7. From a personal point of view as an author I want my books available to readers in whatever format they want. I can achieve this worldwide without a publisher.

    • And if there are authors overseas (who write in English, sorry) who want to reach an American market, they can do so. It’d be pretty cool to read a novel from India or Japan by someone like us.

      • You can also add expats who want to read something in their mother-tongue.

        • Exactly. Expat bookstores are often expensive, with limited stock, especially if they’re in a country or city “off the beaten path.” Factor in a local employee who thinks working in a bookstore is a prestigious and lucrative position hearkening back to Soviet days when people paid bribes to get their hands on certain books, and your Kindle becomes even more precious. 😉

  8. Smart Debut Author

    PG sez: To put it very directly, the dumber the author is about self-publishing, the more likely he/she is to be an ardent supporter of Big Publishing.

    To put it even more directly, the dumber the author is, period, the more likely he/she is to be an ardent supporter of Big Publishing.

    • I’m coming to think it isn’t the dumb factor. It is a fiercely held belief that the author/editor/agent relationships we see in movies and TV reflect reality. One of the Preston 900 recently referred to it as the writing life, and wanted everyone to pay more for books so it could survive.

  9. Bits and atoms, and their differentials. One of the best put ways of seeing what’s going on, thanks so much!

    Bits do trump atoms, as you say, for information and delivery, but it’s the atoms that will control how the bits will be deployed.

    At least until and if AI pulls itself up by its digital bootstraps and finds a way to control the atoms. 🙂

  10. I used to think that Big Pubs cannot be that stupid and not keep tabs on the Indie Authors and how much they stand to lose if they have a mass exodus from their captive writer camp to the Indie camp. Or maybe the paper books, which they control, are generating enough profits, and with eBooks as icing on the cake they don’t need to worry about what we think it is the inevitable.
    But you know what? they are that stupid. I have to remind myself the stagnant thinking of my previous employer, which was a state sponsored monopoly, as in an Electrical Utility. They may have a monopoly, but they don’t have a monopoly on new methods of generating electricity. And very soon the new comers, solar, will sell the electricity for less than the Utility. You’d think that any such company would take steps to maintain their competitive advantage in the area where the monopoly protection will not help them. No, they don’t.
    The actions any enterprise takes depends on who is at the top, the executives. Mature industries and corporations’, like Paper-Book Publishers, top executives are always bean-counters and lawyers (sorry PG.) Mature corporations are cash cows. By their shear size and limited access to the markets they control they don’t have to innovate and invest, but just protect what they have. The bean counters work to minimize the expenses to make the profits better than the last quarter. The lawyers will fight to keep their territory and stop the newcomers. Bean counters and lawyers will not invent new stuff, they don’t have the skills and the aptitude to do so.
    Maybe I was to rough to call the executives stupid, maybe they don’t have vision. After all the current executives did not build the present publishing houses. They are not entrepreneurs, they are more like custodians of what other innovating people created before them. Their jobs is to maintain and squeeze the last penny from the dying cow.

  11. Is there really a conspiracy going on?

    Are we really to the point that anytime anyone makes inaccurate or negative comments about indie publishing, that we immediately assume they are part of some vast conspiracy?

    It’s like the comments made a week or so ago here saying Lee Child gets his talking points from his publisher.

    Until someone can produce the smoking email between the Suzanne McGee (the author of the article) and her editor stating she needed to stretch the numbers, of if someone can post notes from the clandestine meeting they both attended in which they plotted this heavy blow to Indieland, or something similar, then I’m going to just chalk this up to . . .

    (cue the scary music)

    shoddy research.

    Is The Guardian known for it’s in-depth analysis and investigative journalism? For its thorough research?

    If not, then what did we expect?

    • The reason many consider the possibility of a conspiracy? They done it once already.

      Read Judge Cote’s opinion.

      • You don’t need a formal conspiracy when interests converge.

        -George Carlin.

        • I’m glad Carlin isn’t running any sort of legal system. His is the model used in the medieval witch hunts. No evidence. Lots of speculation. He probably also doesn’t like cats.

          • I’m not seeing a call for a witch hunt in the quote, just a succinct statement of a known fact. An easy way to verbalize a piece of wisdom.

        • People of the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or some contrivance to raise prices.
          — Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776

      • Plus, they *said* they were going to deliver a unified message this year.

        • They?

          Who is “they”? Where is anyone from The Guardian mentioned in that?

          Felix, I too saw Gaughran’s post when it came out. But I have yet to see any communication that is a product of this statement.

          Who are these “communications people”? This is an association of publishers. Could it be four or five of the IPA’s folks? They certainly didn’t gather every PR person from every publisher. We’re talking thousands of publishers. Thousands of newspapers and magazines. Such a meeting never happened. If it had, we would have known about it. That would have been a huge event.

          Gaughran put his own spin on this announcement. If you just look at it, it looks like they are going to make positive PR for publishers. Where in that bit does anyone mention waging war on Indieland?

          Until someone can provide actual data, the idea of a vast cabal is just a bunch of speculation 🙂

          • You don’t need a cabal.
            All you need is a cozy relationship and unquestioned acceptance, which legacy media has long displayed when covering “friendlies”. (Consider the contrast in big media coverage of Apple products and Microsoft, Google, etc. Apple products get hyped to the sky, everybody else’s gets caveated and on-the-other-handed to the hilt.)

            The traditionalist media relies on long-standing contacts among the publishers who feed them the party line on whatever the topic dujour might be. No overt cabal is needed, just good buddies doing business as usual. You find the same relationships in other areas, like political coverage, financial reporting, etc. Beat reporters rely on their contacts and the contacts rely on them to get their story out.

            Any reporter who won’t play along gets cut off and soon ends up on another beat. Or doing obits. 🙂

            • I’m happy to believe in a cozy relationship. Just show me the evidence. And show me the direct evidence in this specific case with The Guardian.

              We already have the author of the piece stating she interviewed a whopping five people for this. We don’t need to look for any conspiracy, or speculate the Guardian is carrying water for some unnamed and assumed buddies in unnamed publishing houses, when she already revealed her shabby workmanship.

              • There’s more to the BPH coordinated campaign than just one shoddy report, but to keep it simple, let’s stick with that one.

                How *did* that shoddy piece get out in the first place? What with legacy media’s “finest journalistic practices” and fact-checking and editorial reviews? It’s not like it came from a disreputable new media blog like Slate or the Huffington Post ( 😉 ); it came from a venerable legacy media establishment, after all.

                Either everybody in the vetting process is an idiot or, more likely, they are blinded by institutional bias.

                They know what they know and everything they see is colored by that, by their legacy knowledge. Of course self-publishing is expensive; it’s always been. You have to pay editors and formatters and pay for the reviews (they should know about *that*), pay for ARCs and blurbs (in cash or trade), pay for bookstore placement…
                They *know* those things because their beat is publishing and Publishing is publishing.

                So, when looking at indie publishing they, of course, want to list all costs. (Wouldn’t want to actually encourage authors to go that way.)

                And, naturally, they look for indie authors who did it “the right way”, and the easiest way is to look at indies reviewed by Kirkus.
                Voila! Self-publishing *is* expensive.
                No cabal or idiots needed.
                Just institutional bias confirmed.
                No need to go further and talk to those who *don’t* do it the right way.

                Just as with Apple: legacy media has for decades used Macintoshes and most even bragged about never touching a PC. So naturally, every time Apple bragged about how much better Macs were than PCs they nodded, smiled, and echoed the party line, all nice and cozy. And secure that Apple would never lie about their computers being as fast as supercomputers (never mind the UK and Australia fining them and forcing them to remove the ads) and they would never conspire to ripoff consumers and employees. No way! “We know Apple!”

                Everybody has bias.
                And legacy media’s biases makes them easy prey for politicians and companies with the “proper” pedigree to use them for astroturfing and disinformation campaigns.

                Sometimes, they even know they are being used and cooperate willingly. Often, they simply don’t question what their friends say. After all, plausible deniability isn’t just for politicians.

                • I bow before your superior arguments, Felix. 🙂

                • Felix,

                  I don’t think your story for explaining what happened above and mine are very far apart 🙂 What you’re suggesting above isn’t a conscious campaign of misinformation. It’s not flimflam. Your portrait is of a lazy writer who doesn’t care to check for her own bias.

                  To play devil’s advocate, though, we don’t know that McGee is pro legacy as you suggest. She might be pro Indie.

                  In fact, there are probably quite a few people in traditional publishing who are. For example, Brandon Sanderson is pro indie. Hugely published traditional author who loves what trad pub has done for him AND sees great value in indie. I communicated recently with an editor at a big house in Germany. That editor had no indie animosity. Quite the contrary. I don’t think we can make the assumption that everyone financially tied to legacy publishing is anti-indie.

                  Do we have any other statements of McGee’s where she says anything negative about indie publishing? Can we substantiate your claim about what’s going on?

                  Whether she is was blinded by bias or under a time crunch or doesn’t understand statistical representation or whatever, what we do know is that she conducted shabby research. And shabby research is different in my mind from a conscious campaign to mislead.

      • Suzan,

        Nowhere in that opinion is The Guardian ever named. Nowhere in that document does anyone mention anything about newspapers being in cahoots with the publishers involved. Or involved in anything of their own.

        This is not any kind of evidence that would suggest there is a vast media conspiracy. Or even a small one involving a handful of players.

        Saying that some publishers colluded to price fix does not have anything to do with The Guardian or Huffington Post, or that they are in on a plot to destroy Indies 🙂

  12. Oh, and if you go to the comments section of the article, Suzanne McGee posts about the research she did.

    Where did she get her numbers?

    Five self-published writers.

    There’s no evidence of a conspiracy. There’s plenty demonstrating a complete failure to grasp the importance of sample sizes and representativeness.

    • Suzanne’s sample size was way too small. Even more notable, she failed to include more prominent European self-publishers such as Irish author David Guaghran.

      As for the five writers interviewed for the article, they definitely overpaid for the services they received. The cast and crew of TPV already dissected the poor ROI of the writers in the article here:

      • Yup. This was a sloppy piece of work.

        The unfortunate thing is that I don’t think it’s uncommon. I was recently contacted by someone writing a news piece for a website about Author Earnings. Her MO was the same–shoot a handful of people emails, then write a story based on the few that replied, and imply that the handful was representative of all indie authors.

    • Or not WANTING to get enough info that it would change her perspective.

  13. Just as the last century transformed our technological landscape, we are going to see changes in this century that will make digital distribution progressively more simple, efficient and accessible.

    About the same time your legacy publishing contract expires, the “Daily Prophet” will be flying into your living room via Amazon drone.

  14. It’s always been about the stories we tell as humans.

    Traditional publishers want control of the distribution for these stories.

    But, we want to hear these stories … even the ones trad. publishing doesn’t “approve” of.

    The gatekeeper has been removed, and no media coverage or silly PR campaign will change that.

    We will tell our stories, we will distribute our stories, even if there is no Amazon to help us do that.

    • And we will reap our just rewards. All of them. Not just the meager crumbs Trad Pub tosses down to the creators of what they purvey.

      Yeah, it’s about the money, too. Damn right.

  15. I am eagerly awaiting the next uncoordinated and spontaneous move from Douglas Preston and the finest writers in the English language.

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