From Barry Eisler via Techdirt:
One of the more Orwellian aspects of the book world is the number of publisher advocate groups calling themselves Author This and Author That. The Authors Guild, Authors United, theAssociation of Authors’ Representatives… their devotion to protecting the interests of authors is right there in the names, right? No further inquiry necessary.
That’s the idea behind the misleading nomenclature, anyway. But even a cursory glance at the behavior of all these “author” organizations reveals their true priorities and actual allegiances.
Let’s start with the Authors Guild, which claims to “have served as the collective voice of American authors,” and which describes its mission as “to support working writers. We advocate for the rights of writers by supporting free speech, fair contracts, and copyright. We create community and we fight for a living wage.” The Authors Guild even proudly notes that it “has initiated lawsuits in defense of authors’ rights, where necessary.”
Leave aside the wooly talk about creating community. How does the collective voice of American authors, the supporter of working writers, the advocate for the rights of writers, go about fighting for that living wage? Especially given that publishers are making more money from digital booksthan ever, and sharing less of that money with authors than ever.
Well, the organization has periodically mentioned in passing that the shockingly low lockstep17.5% legacy publisher digital royalty rate “needs to change,” so there’s that. Sometimes a spokesperson expresses his or her “hopes” for a little more fairness. And recently they did managea whole blog post on the topic. But that’s all. Occasional words; zero deeds. And likewise regarding a host of other obvious, longstanding, outrageous legacy publisher abuses such as life-of-copyright (forever) terms, twice-yearly payment provisions, draconian non-compete clauses, and impossible out-of-print clauses. Pro forma words and practiced complicity.
But does all this mean the Authors Guild is lying when it says it sometimes initiates lawsuits?
Not at all. The organization did sue Google and Hathitrust over digitization (the first suit was settled; in the second, the Authors Guild lost). Leave aside the merits of those suits; I think they were wrongheaded, but that’s not the point. The point is that when the Authors Guild really wants to throw down, it throws down — just never against legacy publishers and the Rich Relationships™ by which they systematically screw authors (in fact, in the Google suit, the Authors Guild fought alongside the Association of American Publishers).
. . . .
If the Authors Guild really wanted to “advocate for fair contracts,” it would support self-publishing, which even more than Amazon publishing is empowering authors with the first real competition the industry has ever seen — a 70% digital royalty rate (four times the lockstep legacy standard); control over packaging and other business decisions; faster time to market. Yet there’s nothing on the Authors Guild website about how to use KDP, Kobo, NookPress, Smashwords, or any other self-publishing resource. Nothing about AuthorEarnings.com, the most comprehensive breakdown available about where authors are making money in Amazon-, legacy- and self-publishing. The only “self-publishing” resource available through the Collective Voice of American Authors has been a notorious scam outfit called (naturally) Author Solutions (a relationship the Authors Guild finally terminated in May).
Link to the rest at Techdirt
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