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Poor Poor Pitiful Me Is Not A Business Model

22 January 2016

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Last week, I wrote a blog about the Authors Guild letter of 2016. I explored a number of things about the letter, but avoided the one thing that annoys me the most.

The letter’s tone.

It begs. It whines. It pleads.

Don’t believe me? Read it.

For those of you too lazy to click on the link, here are three examples of what I mean from the letter itself:

•It is time for publishers to give authors the respect, compensation and fair play they deserve.

•And authors should be able to get a fair shake even if they don’t have powerful agents or lawyers…Why not do the right thing by all authors and eliminate those provisions for everyone?

•Without serious contract reform, the professional author will become an endangered species and publishers—as well as society at large—will be left with less and less quality content. Publishers need to treat their authors equitably so they can keep writing the kinds of books that have enabled the publishing industry to achieve the financial and cultural status it enjoys today.

Note the repetition of the word “fair” and “equitable.” Yeah, all well and good, folks. But the Authors Guild is writing a letter to large corporations begging those corporations to give up profit and advantage because it’s “the right thing” to do.

How nice, and sweet, and naïve of these people. In a perfect world, maybe, some Powerful Publisher will grant its Poor Little Writers a few more crumbs from the Big Kids table.

But a friend of mine, who started and ran a multimillion-dollar business (not publishing) for decades, has a saying. Whenever he hears or sees something like this, he gets an impish little grin, and says, “Fair is in August.”

For those of you outside of the United States, he’s referring to county and state fairs that show up every summer, with carnival rides and cotton candy and all sorts of circus-like entertainment.

. . . .

The tone of the Authors Guild letter reminds me of children begging their parents for one more piece of candy, one more movie, one more toy from the toy store. “It’s not fair!” the child whines. “Suzy gets one! Why can’t all the kids have the same toys?”

It’s not fair. Nothing in life is fair.

And no large for-profit business, which is answerable to shareholders, is ever going to lose a profitable advantage because it’s somehow fair.

Here’s the truth of publishing, folks. Those terms the Authors Guild is fighting for, the thing they want all authors to have? Some authors already get them. It’s not that the industry refuses to grant the terms to allauthors. It’s that the industry gives those who have some kind of clout in a negotiation more respect—and better terms—than someone who rolls over and whines.

That clout doesn’t have to be multimillion dollar book sales. That clout might simply be backbone. From my early days as a beginning writer, I asked for good contract terms. And because I asked, I often got them. It wasn’t like the publishers refused everyone, but they certainly aren’t going to give good terms to someone who is too dumb to ask for them.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Krist Rusch’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Big Publishing, Contracts, Kristine Kathryn Rusch

17 Comments to “Poor Poor Pitiful Me Is Not A Business Model”

  1. I don’t feel it’s necessary to write a whiny blog post about a whiny letter.

    Maybe that’s because I’m not a successful author, however.

    • I’m not seeing whiny blog post. I’m seeing a blog post written largely to writers that haven’t done a lot of negotiating of why whining doesn’t work in negotiations and what to do instead.

      For baby writers who are still being fed boohicky about trad is the only path to success that isn’t a lot of work, it’s not necessary to tell them, but it sure is nice to.

      • Maybe I’m just getting tired of reading about Author solutions…all the time.

        How many times do we need to be reminded to not do business with these folks? Sheesh!

        We get it, already, we get it.

  2. “Complaining is not a strategy.” — Jeff Bezos

  3. One interesting comment over there talked about the letter being a big publisher’s scam using AG as a front. Which is the guild’s usual role, so it makes sense to me that something else is going on.

    • Considering AG acts more like the pig5’s lapdog than anything ‘for’ the authors, I’d agree with them.

      The thing is, these pretend ‘carrots’ usually come out just before/after they try to hit someone (like Amazon) with a ‘stick’ …

  4. She’s right. The entire publishing industry would be on its knees if authors simply stood up for themselves and gave the industry an ultimatum. Pay us more or f**k off. We don’t really need you.

  5. Yes, things would change if authors only stood up, but that’s like herding cats. It won’t ever happen. As soon as you get a group of them educated about how horrible contracts are, a new herd comes along that hasn’t bothered to learn about modern publishing, is totally convinced they need A) nurturing and B) validation. The newbies jump at a contract — any contract — and become “real” authors.

    I have no interest in joining anything like the AG, but their weak, misguided and/or phony attempts to get authors treated like valued components in the publishing world can be somewhat amusing. Especially if things are Fed Exed.

    • Six years ago I accepted a contract from a micropublisher, no advance, small (but larger than pig5) royalties, and I was to do all the marketing.

      Four years ago I’d have jumped at any other contract I was offered.

      Three years ago I decided to go indie. My writing income has doubled each year since then. I got my rights back for the first book, and I’m earning more from it now than from the royalties.

      Newbies and newly-opened eyes need this kind of post.

  6. Anyone who thinks “whining” isn’t a winning strategy doesn’t understand activism. One person’s “whining” is another person’s righteous grievance.

    Historical note (might as well go right to Argumentum ad Nazium): There’s a reason Hitler insisted that French capitulation be signed in the same railroad car in which the Versailles Treaty was signed.

    Grievance (real or concocted) is a powerful device, and shouldn’t be underestimated.

    • Excellent point. The idea that you should just go indie/be better negotiators is like telling early 20th century, say, textile workers that they should just be independent workers! Do you want to be cared for by a business?! What are you, whiners?! By her logic the people complaining were whiners, since the vast bulk weren’t organising for anything before some leaders stepped in and lead things. They were just hating their lot, the lazy sods.

      Most people can’t run businesses. Almost nobody actually wants to. And that’s fine. Her hostility to people who don’t want to work 80 hours a week – well, put it this way: I’d feel a lot better if smart people worked in paid employment less and spent more time having and raising their families.

    • Exactly. This may be addressed to the publishers, but it’s intended audience is the public at large and readers in particular. By its very nature, the AG is at a disadvantage because it’s not an actual union. It can’t go on strike, it can only advocate. Given those limitations, the court of public opinion is its best option for getting anything to change.

      • The Court of Public Opinion is helpless and toothless against The League of Corporate Beancounters.

        Just sayin’…

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