Home » Amazon, Big Publishing » My 2015 Writing and Publishing Wishlist

My 2015 Writing and Publishing Wishlist

31 December 2014

From author Chuck Wendig:

DEAR AMAZON:

Yes, Amazon, you know I have to start with you, first. How can I not? You’ve dominated the 2014 news-cycle, haven’t you? Amazon is increasingly the Wonka Factory of publishing: calliope music drifting from its colorful chimneys as great burping tubes upchuck new programs and initiatives and algorithms into the river. Sometimes we stare in wonder at your multiplying glories, basking in the power you’ve given us. Other times we regard you with alien horror, and we whisper to one another, I think they make Kindles out of little dead girls. We know you do amazing things. And we’re also really worried about the things you might do.

So, here’s my 2015 wishlist for you.

1.) Drop the exclusivity on Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited. Here’s how you keep people publishing with you: just be awesome. Do no evil and be continuously aggressive in being better than everyone else. But forcing exclusivity — and worse, doing so by making the authors (effectively) pay a cost — is really weird, and sounds like you’re hoping folks will buy in without realizing what they’re doing. It’s corrosive and erosive and, ennh.

. . . .

4.) Your pricing window is artificial. Stop forcing it. $2.99 to $9.99 is fine, but you don’t need to restrictively force that pricing window — just give the 70% on everything. The price of e-books will shake out fine because buyers and publishers will wibble-wobble until they find What E-Books Should Cost At This Moment. And besides, you muddy your own pricing waters with Kindle Unlimited. “Keep the price between $2.99 and $9.99,” you say, “unless of course you’re in Kindle Unlimited, in which case do the opposite because that’s the only way you earn well per download.”

. . . .

DEAR BIG PUBLISHERS:

. . . .

1.) Quit the sly wink-wink vanity publishing. That time has come and it reeks of sinister mustache-twirling authorial sweat-shops. I’m not saying there’s not a place for you in the interstitial author-publisher realm, but charging exorbitant fees for essentially nothing is Not How Publishing Should Work. You know it, and you’d never tell an actual author friend to do it, so stop doing it. Stop it! Bad Author Solutions! Bad.

2.) Okay, the 25% e-book royalty thing? Gotta change. Someone, please please please, take the move to to change this. Up it. You’ll be heroes. We’ll carry you around the city square — ticker tape and flung candy and consensual sexual favors, ahoy. You make more money on e-books while we, the author, make less. Either up the rate or make it based on list price rather then net price (“net” meaning, on the money after lots of other little fees and percentages whittle it down). If you want to counter self-publishing, and polish your own apple a little: make this one change. We will sing paeans to you. You have my sword. And my axe. And my sweet kisses.

. . . .

4.) It’s time to talk about non-compete clauses. I understand why they exist. I do! You’re still beholden to physical print books and the bookstores that sell them. I understand that if your author, Damien Caine, releases one supernatural thriller with you and a different supernatural thriller with a separate publisher — and these releases happen fairly close to one another — that someone like Barnes & Noble may make the difficult call of stocking one book over another. Still, a lot of your non-competes are overly restrictive — they’re like, YOU CAN’T PUBLISH A TWEET WITHOUT CHECKING WITH US FIRST and it’s like, hey, whoa, ease off the stick, hoss. Writers these days need to make a living and that sometimes means writing diversely across genres, age ranges, publishers, and formats.

Link to the rest at Terrible Minds and thanks to SFR for the tip.

Here’s a link to Chuck Wendig’s books

Amazon, Big Publishing

46 Comments to “My 2015 Writing and Publishing Wishlist”

  1. I wrote about the fair non-complete some time ago, and have heard from agent friends that pubs are open to it.

    Writers going trad need to be more informed than their cousins from the “old days.”

    • No mention of the other terrible clauses though e.g. rights reversion/OOP. I would have thought that one is a bigger issue than non-compete.

  2. Not much here I disagree with.

    I was able to negotiate a NC with my publisher we could both live comfortably with. I do understand why they exist, but they are often just WAY too restrictive to be reasonable.

  3. I don’t understand the point of this. Why not just wish for unicorns and rock candy mountains? If you’re going to wish for other people and organizations to change their behavior in ways that benefit you and will cost them something, shouldn’t you at least give them a reason? I mean besides promising that you will think better of them.

    • I don’t know. I expect that this is an expression of “sentiment.” And it’s actually a necessary precursor to any real movement.

      It’s not meant to change anything, but rather to start staging positions and building consensus among one side for future negotiations.

      The great thing about floating sentiments is that often it does work as a pre-negotiation. You look at the other side’s sentiments and then you use it to get something you want.

      Amazon does this all the time. When they set up a new program, they say “You want X, if you sign up and give us Y, you can have X as a part of the deal.”

  4. Chuck Wendig is one of those that when I agree with him, I REALLY agree, and when I disagree, I REALLY disagree. I have to say I agree with just about all of this. (except the part about hybrid publishing, in the original post. Being traditionally published is not a CHOICE. It’s an option you can pursue, should you so desire, but the actual decision is up to someone else. Which is one reason why I’m not interested; depending on other people to make decisions that are vital to me just doesn’t sit well with me.)

    • I always want “hybrid publishing” to involve genetics and a lab. Can I be a hybrid eagle-author? Pretty please?

      Seriously, though, exactly this. The position that one can choose one’s path beyond independence is one that fails to acknowledge its own privilege. To be able to say “Well, this manuscript I’m going to publish on KDP, but my agent can have the next one” is pretty much entirely privilege.

      On the other hand, how long it will be before authors get to choose their agents, rather than vice versa? Already there are a lot of authors who do really well on Kindle and then have agents who query them, rather than the reverse. That’s exceptional right now, but really, getting published has always been the exception. We’re dropping exceptions left and right.

    • Kyra:

      You are so right. If Trad publishing were truly a Choice, I’d have been published by a Big-6 ten years ago.

  5. I suspect his wish list clashes with Bezos’ wish list.

    • I’d wager you’re right, and I’d further wager that the big difference between the two is that Chuck’s wishlist is what Chuck (and corporate publishers, and agents and editors and authors) wants, while Bezos’ wishlist includes what readers want — you know, bigger selection, better recommendations, lower prices . . . etc.

      • Item #6 deals with benefit to consumers. All the rest deal with benefit to suppliers.

        • I don’t know about that. When it comes to suggestions for Amazon, I tend to look at it as a consumer:

          #1 is the biggest thing that keeps me out of KU as a CONSUMER — because if I sign up for it, I want access to all the books, not just those who signed up for exclusivity. IMHO, #1 is more of a consumer thing than a supplier thing.

          On the other hand #6 – that’s PURELY a supplier thing. Consumers are happy with the website design. Suppliers want something more hip because they feel it represents their products. But I have not heard ONE consumer complain about how uncool Amazon’s website is.

          • For some reason he thinks consumers need something that looks different. He talks about looks, not consumer functionality and use. And I don’t know what Facebook has to do with it.

            • Especially since everybody seems to HATE Facebook. They might use it, but only because everybody does.

              People don’t hate to use Amazon. They don’t whether anyone else uses it. They use it because it’s a wonderful experience from front to back.

            • I forgot, I think that was the other thing I strongly disagreed with. There’s nothing wrong with Amazon’s website, except that somehow it always manages to show me more stuff I want.

          • What Facebook vs. MySpace has to do with it is terribly revealing to his mindset. Social media platforms are really not that different from each other. They compete not on functionality, but on “you need to be here because everyone is here.” Therefore, they will always be subject to the tastemakers, the trend-setters, and the people who market themselves as hip, witty, insightful, and cool.

            Amazon, on the other hand, is a business where you go to buy stuff. Sometimes you know exactly what you want to buy, like a replacement filter for your fridge. Sometimes you want to research among choices, like ‘a new vacuum cleaner.’ And sometimes you’re just hitting the also-boughts or recommended-for-yous, going “what looks good?”

            They are continually optimizing their website to make it easier to find exactly what I need or want, as painlessly from any screen on the entire site to one-click buy as possible. But the best design for a webstore is to make the shopping process almost invisible, while the best design for coolness is having obvious changes that shout “I’m hipper than thou!”

            Chuck Wendig is witty, charming, and undeniably markets himself as a leader in cool and hip. That’s awesome for insights into social media and marketing, where his strengths lie. It’s completely useless when paired with “I don’t care what the cool kids think is best, or what the manufacturer wants to push. Which vacuum cleaner in my price range actually works well for getting the 0.5 cat worth of hair that the little furball sheds per week out of the carpet?”

      • I would say that Bezos’ wishlist includes what is good for Amazon, not necessarily what is good for readers. There would be a point where readers’ wishes would clash with Amazon’s interests, just as we seem to have reached the point where Amazon’s widhes do clash with those of a majority of indie publishers’ interests (sorry but no hard data here, just a feeling).
        “Le client est roi”… only up to a point.
        But of course Amazon would be much more “diplomatic” and try to hide the fact that this point has been reached, while it doesn’t need to be diplomatic with its suppliers.

        • Both consumers and suppliers express their dissatisfaction by taking their business somewhere else. What we see today is a subset of suppliers complaining the market has not created what the suppliers want it to create.

          Another subset of suppliers will navigate the market and prosper. That’s how most every other market works. It’s competition. No reason to think books are special.

  6. I like his list.

    • You and me both! It’s pie in the sky, but I find it very hard to dislike Chuck Wendig, and it reflects exactly my own wishes as an author.

  7. I don’t understand what there is to like about this inane wishlist. Surely some of you folks understand that free wishes are tricky, right? Here’s what you would get if he all his wishes came true:

    1. Drop exclusivity for Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited – If you are really wishing for this, you are wishing for what the ADS sufferers claim is Amazon’s secret plan – putting all of KDP in Kindle Unlimited. Without exclusivity, KDP Select = KDP. Which means every KDP book gets auto-enrolled in KU. Are all of you people who think this is a great list really sure that’s what you want?

    2. Or better royalties for exclusivity. Amazon already offers this in some markets and, again, ADS suffers point to that as “the worst thing evah!” In those markets, to get the 70% rate, you have to be in Kindle Select. Are you really sure that’s what you want for Amazon.com?

    3. Pay the same rate for borrows as sales. Despite the fantasies that some people have, that will never be a sustainable business model for Amazon. Amazon’s customers read a lot of books. Maybe Oyster or Scribd can move from conning VCs to conning their subscribers, but I doubt it. Also, see Wendig’s wish number 8. Paying the same rate for borrows as sales makes books the biggest loss leaders ever. The dude can’t even makes wishes internally consistent.

    4, 5, 6, and 7 are all just Wendig babbling about stuff he doesn’t know anything about. On one side we have Amazon’s datastore of consumer behavior data about book buying, top notch data scientists, and relentess drive to sell more stuff. On the other side, we have Wendig’s totally uninformed opinion biased by his clear self-interest. Hmm, it’s not really hard for me to choose which is more likely to be correct. Also, how many multibillion dollar ecommerce sites has Wendig created? And he’s going to tell Amazon to redesign their web site? Because he doesn’t like the way it looks. Go talk to someone who understands UX about Amazon’s web site. I did, about a year or so ago, because I thought Amazon’s site looks a little dated. The UX expert pointed out about a dozen things about the site that looked “behind the times”, but were actually key features that helped sell stuff. He also pointed out that Amazon constantly tweaks their web site, testing new features, etc.

    Wendig’s wishes for Amazon basically amount to wishing they would ruin their ebook business and destroy the careers of every indie author. That is not something I wish for.

    • I didn’t bother to read Wendig’s list, because it looked to be wishing for pie in the sky. But I like your take on it, William of Ockham. (Of course, I generally like – and learn from – your take on things. 😉 )

    • The point of it is it’s a wish list. This isn’t a large publication, it’s a personal blog. As an author, there’s very little here I could argue against! I absolutely love Chuck Wendig, in addition to writing great books, he is nothing if not honest. Whether I agree with him or not, he always speaks his mind. And to be honest, I end up agreeing with him more often than not.

    • The thing that jumped out at me was him saying that if big 5 publishers would just please please raise their royalty payouts a little bit they would be heroes deserving of a ticker-tape parade and “consensual sexual favors”, etc. Really? That’s the only thing wrong with writers relationship with trad-pub?

      wadda maroon.

      • He never once mentioned it was the *only* thing. But of course if trad publishing was to raise the royalty payments for ebook sales, or make the rate for list price rather than net price, that would be a big step up. The guy is hardly a moron just because you misread him…

    • “The UX expert pointed out about a dozen things about the site that looked “behind the times”, but were actually key features that helped sell stuff. He also pointed out that Amazon constantly tweaks their web site, testing new features, etc. ”

      THIS!!!!

      While I agree with a number of things Wendig has to say, the idea that Amazon should redesign their website is INSANE. As a customer, there is nothing I hate worse than a retailer who trots out changes to something I like and use every day.

      And as an investor, I see those kinds of changes as signs of desperation and incompetence.

      Amazon knows what they are doing in terms of customer satisfaction. Leave that alone.

    • I agree. I’m not a fan of Wendig. He’s the originator of the s*** volcano meme (which wouldn’t surprise me if it was invented in a trad publish hired PR spin office). That smear, which he tosses back in, is damaging to self-publishing. It’s been a very good club for the spin doctors. Hard to forgive him for that. He’s no friend of self-publishing, despite wanting to sell books on writing to wanna be writers.

      And I doubt his overall sincerity. Feels like a focused attack on Amazon with some criticisms of trad publishing stolen from Kornrath tossed in so he can appear balanced.

      Let’s start with the s*** volcano. It’s just about to destroy publishing any moment. Yet, over a year after he tossed it out, according to him at the end, publishing is growing. Which is it?

      Self-publishers also need to beware of this push (which also feels like it might be concocted in a PR office) to get everyone to reject exclusivity. Remember, the biggest thing the big publishers want is to lower Amazon’s market share so they have more leverage. They are desperate (to the point of illegal efforts) to help Apple’s iBook gain more market share. And they would much rather Scribd and Oyster to win the subscription wars.

      Amazon’s success in building a great platform for self-publishers is a key weapon it has against big publishers. If self-publishers get fooled into working against Amazon’s interests, big publishers will smile.

      People need to make their own choices about what business models work best for them. Maybe that is exclusivity or maybe it isn’t. (Latest interesting advice I hear is to start your book non-exclusive, and then go exclusive after a couple months. Opposite of what I had thought.) But I wouldn’t trust what Wendig has to say on the subject.

      Note that he advises self-publishers to unilaterally reject Amazon exclusivity. But he doesn’t advise traditional published writers to refuse contracts with the big 5 until they improve digital royalties or non-compete clauses. Why not push for a movement were all writers only self-publish until digital royalties are improved?

      Opps, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

      But doesn’t hurt to tell the other dogs to bite the hand feeding them.

  8. Big companies are not your pals

    I think we can make a drinking game out of this. Every time some windbag says a company isn’t our friend, down a shot.

    • We would all get alcohol poisoning! It would bring down the U.S. health system!

      I’m already under treatment for irony poisoning on this issue. (All those people practically marrying major publishing corporations. Our relationship with Amazon is not a personal one. We aren’t friends, we aren’t dating.)

      • I think the proper relationship with Amazon is to view it as a bank. You own a valuable intellectual property: your book. If you deposit it at Amazon, you collect interest (sales/money). Right now, they seem to be paying the highest interest. If another company offers better interest, switch to them.

        If you make more money spreading your asset around to iBooks and Nook, do that. If you don’t, don’t do it.

        • Yes, and we all know that banks are not our friends. That doesn’t mean we aren’t enthusiastic when one does things to or advantage.

          But you know, publishing is really really really stuck on the patronizing dating metaphor.

          • Perhaps it’s a leftover from the days when traditional publishing was the only option. You had to have a friend in the business to get published.

            Let’s correct it to, Amazon is not traditional publishing’s friend.

    • KKR wrote it in her blog about what indie publishers learned in 2014, if I am not mistaken. Is she a windbag ?

      • One of her weaknesses is that she doesn’t understand the mindset of indie publishers. She knows traditional authors who have switched over, but she and Dean have always had a prickly relationship with the mass of unwashed indies.

      • First drink for Scalzi from last week.
        Second drink for Rauch.
        Third drink for Wendig.

        Happy New Year!

    • I know, right? Every would-be anti-Amazon publishing guru seems to think that’s somehow the insight of the decade.

  9. What William Ockham and Mackay Bell said. Chuck Wendig writes shite like he thinks we all have bells on our toes. Geeze, people, Amazon is more our friend than he is. And the Zon ain’t our friend.

  10. I actually have one significant beef with Amazon’s website: it doesn’t set the focus to the search window when I bring up the main page. I go to google and start typing, and my typing goes into the search box. I go to amazon and start typing, and my screen goes berserk. I have to click on the edit box before I can type in a search term. Feels like amateur hour.

    • My guess is that’s because of what each company wants you to do on their site. Google makes money from search ads, so it wants you to search. Amazon makes its money from you when you buy something from the site, and they want you to buy as much as possible. Think of the homepage as the check-out counter where you find the impulse buys. You might go to Amazon for something specific, but they want you to buy way more than that.

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