From Joe Konrath:
Often times it seems as if those who work in the legacy publishing world are so out of touch with authors that a translator is needed to explain the true meaning of what has been said.
Such is the case with John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, in his recent public letter.
Sargent in crazy bold italics, the translation in common-sense normal font.
Dear Authors, Illustrators, and Agents,
There has been a lot of change in the e-book publishing world of late, so I thought it a good idea to update you on what is going on at Macmillan.
Translation: It will be easier to accept the bad news if I warn you first.
The largest single change happens today, December 18th. Today a portion of our agreement with the Department of Justice (called a consent decree) expires, and we will no longer be required to allow retailers to discount e-books.
Translation: Remember when we illegally colluded with other publishers to price-fix? We did that because we were worried that low-priced ebooks would harm our paper distribution oligopoly.It doesn’t matter that we have a much higher profit margin on ebooks. It doesn’t matter that since forcing the agency model on Amazon, our authors made less money. What matters is that we foresaw a day where ebook sales surpassed paper sales, and we knew that would put us out of business because savvy authors wouldn’t need our value-added publishing services anymore.Happily, Amazon won’t be able to discount our ebooks anymore, so we can charge high prices and protect the interests of our business and of the cartel at the expense of your financial situation.
. . . .
Simon & Schuster and Macmillan have appealed the court’s decision to extend these dates. This appeal still awaits resolution.
Translation: Money that could have been given to you in the form of higher ebook royalties has been given to lawyers. But the lawyers will hopefully help us ensure that your ebook sales remain low. So why should a low royalty even matter to you? It’s not as if your ebooks are priced to sell in the first place.
. . . .
Irony prospers in the digital age.
Translation: We kinda screwed ourselves.
This odd aberration in the market will cause us to occasionally change the digital list price of your books in what may seem to be random fashion. I ask for your forbearance. We will be attempting to create even pricing as best we can.
Translation: We are attempting to create even pricing with ebooks. With paper, we want Amazon to discount them as much as possible. We’re okay with Amazon undercutting the competition on the price of paper books. That’s a monopoly we want them to have, even if it hurts B&N and indie bookstores. But with ebooks, because we have no distribution oligopoly and are technically not needed by authors, we insist on controlling prices.
. . . .
In our search for new routes to market, we have been considering alternative business models including the subscription model. Many of you know that we have long been opposed to subscription. We have always worried that it will erode the perceived value of your books. Though this significant long-term risk remains, we have decided to test subscription in the coming weeks.
Translation: Be prepared to make even less money. And we’re doing this even though we’re concerned the perceived value of your books will drop, something often pointed to as the reason we’ve kept ebook prices high. So we’re hypocrites. But it’s okay, because we’re trying to save ourselves.
. . . .
I remain entirely optimistic about our prospects together as we go forward.
Translation: Macmillan’s prospects. Not the prospects of our writers.
Macmillan owns your rights, and we can do whatever the hell we want with them, and you have no say in it because you signed those rights away to us. Your rights are our sole assets.
We haven’t exploited your rights like we should have, because we were looking at the long game. Ours, not yours.
Looks like the long game won’t pan out. So we’re changing strategies.
You’ll undoubtedly suffer because of this. But you’re used to suffering because of the poor decisions we’ve made.
Hey, at least we’re warning you, right?
. . . .
Joe’s questions for John Sargent on behalf of Macmillan authors:
1. Can I opt out of this new subscription idea?
2. My books aren’t available in print anymore, or the print sales are minuscule. Can you give me my rights back?
3. Why do you think low ebook prices are bad, but a subscription service is a great opportunity?
. . . .
10. You said that this is for books that “are not well represented at bricks and mortar retail stores”. Does that mean no Macmillan bestsellers will be in this subscription program? The rich authors don’t have to deal with this, but I do?
. . . .
14. You said there is a long-term risk that this will devalue my titles, but you’re testing it anyway. Are you going to compensate me in any way to be your guinea pig? A bonus? Higher royalties? Some sort of promotion that features my titles?
. . . .
17. A lot of self-pubbed authors are unhappy with Kindle Unlimited because they’re earning less money. Now you want to force me into similar subscription programs. Do you see my income increasing because of this decision? Because the blogosphere is full of complaints that subscription services aren’t author-friendly, and I’m very concerned.
Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Daniel for the tip.
Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books