Joe Konrath

The Amazon Agenda

26 August 2015

From Joe Konrath:

Amazon was recently the subject of world news when the ever intrepid David Streitfeld, the NYT reporter that gave us the wonder of whale math, did a hit piece on Amazon corporate culture that came to the startling and controversial conclusion; Amazon employees work really, really hard.

. . . .

Streitfeld, too, has a book available on Amazon, though his dismal 700,000 rank may be part of the reason he dislikes Zon so much.

Last I checked, the five hundred plus signatories of the latest Authors United bullshit letter also all had their titles available on Amazon. That letter recently arrived at the DOJ, and I’d bet it wasn’t a coincidence that it was on the heels of Streitfeld’s anti-Zon piece. I can imagine their delicious, mutual self-gratification as Preston and Streitfeld exchanged super-important emails about how to best coordinate their Anti-Amazon efforts for maximum impact, and about how Suzie in Algebra is dating Brad now because he dumped Melissa after she gained weight, and OMG doesn’t gym class suck this year 4 realz?!?

. . . .

Here we have all of this vocal, public author disapproval of Amazon, yet no one has the guts to actually pull their books.

. . . .

Amazon has allowed more writers to reach more readers than any other company in history. They’ve done this by innovating, giving readers what they want, and working with authors to offer us much better terms than any publisher ever has, in the past, or the present.

The Big 5 are a price-fixing cartel who want to charge readers high prices. That’s why the DOJ went after them and Apple, and that’s why they lost the suit. They had an oligopoly over paper distribution for decades (the only way to reach readers was through bookstores, the only way to get into a bookstore was through those publishing gatekeepers). Because they controlled who got published, they could get away with giving authors take-it-or-leave-it unconscionable contract terms.

Amazon has broken that oligopoly by allowing readers to reach readers via ebooks.

Because of this, the Big 5 can no longer control book pricing—and independent author can undercut them—and as a result the Big 5 are losing marketshare to Amazon and to indies.

. . . .

This isn’t altruism on Authors United’s part. It’s greed. It’s wanting to return to the old ways, where top authors got seven figure advances. Great for that 1%, not great for the 99% that Big Publishing ignored, harmed, and/or took advantage of.

Because Authors United is a bunch of entitled rich and famous authors (who should be celebrating the luck they’ve had in life rather than whining like babies about Amazon), they’ve been wooing their media contacts to wage a public opinion war against Amazon by painting Zon as a bully.

. . . .

Authors United are a bunch of greedy whiners who don’t want the status quo to keep shrinking; and it is shrinking, for the good of all readers and the vast majority of writers. So they beat their chests and flail about, trying to spin media, hoping public opinion will make big bad Amazon stop disintermediating the publishers who have made them rich.

It won’t work. Authors United knows this. Their argument doesn’t hold up to US antitrust law, logic, or majority opinion. But they are seeing their livelihoods slip away because their corporate masters don’t control the book world anymore, so they’re throwing a public tantrum.

. . . .

I’m pretty tied into the indie community, and the thousands of writers I’ve encountered are smart, and aware. Sometimes they draw incorrect conclusions, or feel persecuted, but the difference between dealing with Amazon and dealing with the Big 5 is like the difference between and honest, open, friendly relationship, and being beaten up by a group of muggers.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to James for the tip.

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

Zombie Publishing Memes #2 – Low Prices Devalue Books

24 August 2015

From Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler:

Low Prices “Devalue” Books.

The premise behind this zombie meme is not only wrong; it’s also exceptionally strange. After all, if you love books, why would you focus on their monetary worth rather than their worth in society? Isn’t what makes books valuable how widely they’re read, absorbed, and discussed, rather than how much money they make? And if books cost less and more people can afford them, doesn’t it stand to reason (assuming everyday experience is valid and what they teach in Economics 101 is correct) that more people will buy more books (in fact, they are doing just that)? If books are indeed valuable for society and we don’t want to devalue them, shouldn’t we look for ways to make books less expensive and therefore more widely accessible?

But even if you think the sole value of a book lies in how much money it makes, it’s silly to believe higher prices automatically mean more revenues. As a thought experiment: it’s unlikely anyone would maximize revenues with a five-cent price point, but then why not charge a hundred dollars for a book instead? Wouldn’t that $100 price point value the book even more?

Of course not. So intuitively, we all know there’s a sweet-spot price — the price at which volume x unit price maximizes revenues, and logically, this would seem to be the price that derives the greatest (financial) value from the book. If we make more money from our books at a five-dollar price point than we do at ten (not a hypothetical for us, by the way, but empirical fact), which is the price that’s “devaluing” the book?

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books and to Barry Eisler’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Zombie Publishing Memes #1 – Amazon is a Monopoly

20 August 2015

From Joe Konrath:

This is the first in an ongoing series that Barry Eisler and I are writing. When we talk about zombie memes, we’re referring to arguments that just won’t die no matter how many times they’re massacred by logic and evidence. Because we’ve been shooting down so many of these memes for so long, and because they just keep reanimating (often repeatedly from the same people), we thought it would be useful to create an online source for easy (and time-saving) reference.

We’ll be tackling these memes one at a time over the course of the next few weeks and then publishing a downloadable compendium, so if you’ve encountered a zombie meme that you’d like to see addressed, please mention it in the comments. And if you’re aware of articles out there on this topic, please refer us to them so we can include links.

We’d also like to ask for your help in spreading this cure. When you see the meme “Amazon is a Monopoly” anywhere on the Internet, please link to this post. When fighting the walking dead, a group is always helpful.

Amazon is a Monopoly.

This meme is incoherent, mistaken, and perverse.

Incoherent, because the “evidence” of Amazon’s monopoly power is always that Amazon is hard on its suppliers, not on its customers (no one can argue with a remotely straight face that Amazon is anything other than exceptionally customer-centric). If the evidence is that a company is squeezing suppliers, it might be evidence of something called monopsony, not of monopoly.

Mistaken, because Amazon has numerous competitors, including Apple, Google, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Kobo, Smashwords, Scribd, Oyster, and more than 2000 independent bookstores (with new indies opening all the time).

It’s important to remember that US antitrust laws were adopted to protect not competitors but competition. Monopolies (and monopsonies) are not themselves illegal — what is illegal is abuse or unfair acquisition of monopoly power. Ultimately, antitrust laws are intended to protect the consumer, and it’s difficult to argue that low prices, innovation, and an ever-expanding variety of products are bad for consumers (though valiant efforts are constantly made).

. . . .

Perverse, because it fails to point out there actually is a monopoly in publishing — or call it a quasi-monopoly, or oligopoly, or cartel. This is the New York Big Five (the cartel is right there in the name). The Big Five actually was prosecuted by the Justice Department for price-fixing under the Sherman Act. The Big Five settled; Apple fought and then lost. For any lawyers out there, note that price fixing is per se illegal under the Sherman Act. Meaning it is the very definition of abuse of monopoly power.

Of course, even if we didn’t know about the per se price collusion, we might surmise by its singular lack of innovation that the Big Five is functionally a single entity. Until Amazon pioneered online bookselling, digital books, and self-publishing, the Big Five was content to subsist on monopoly rents, developing nothing new or disruptive in generations.

In describing the Big Five as a cartel, by the way, we don’t mean to be insulting. We doubt even OPEC looks in the mirror and sees a cartel. Most likely, OPEC perceives itself as a humble organization beneficently managing prices for the good of society overall. This is just human nature, and there’s no reason to believe the Big Five views itself less attractively than does any other cartel.

Moreover, the Big Five has always itself functioned as a monopsony, abusing its author suppliers. How else to explain the forever-term contracts, the twice-yearly annual royalty payments, the lockstep low digital royalties, the outlandish rights grabs and draconian non-compete provisions? Could practices like these persist except by the abuse of vastly asymmetrical take-it-or-leave-it power exercised by a Big-Five controlled system against authors?

. . . .

The tendency of some writers to draw support for the validity of a zombie meme by citing previous manifestations of the same meme might offer some insight into the resilience of zombie memes generally. Zombie memes are based on emotion, not on evidence or logic (in fact, they are contravened by evidence and logic). It may be that finding other people who share your fears and prejudices has the effect of validating and reinforcing those fears and prejudices. After all, it’s easier to ignore evidence and logic when you can point to other people who seem to be feeling the same things you are.

. . . .

Ultimately, the “Amazon is a monopoly” meme is attractive to some because it seems to paint a veneer of objectivity and reason over what is fundamentally a subjective emotional reaction.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books and Barry Eisler’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Konrath Kindle Unlimited Numbers

16 August 2015

From Joe Konrath:

I might be pretty good barometer for this experiment, because I have a large backlist, I haven’t released anything new in over a year, and I didn’t do any BookBubs or other promo in June or July (May was the last one I did.)

So the only real difference between my numbers in June and my numbers in July is the new KU 2.0 payout system. I’d already shared some thoughts about it last month.

Let’s take a look how I did.

I have 28 novel-length works in KDP, all over 60k words. I have 17 shorter works, ranging from 8k-50k. Genres include mystery, thriller, horror, humor, erotica, and sci-fi.

In June, I made $9300 in KDP sales.

In July I made $10,550 in KDP sales.

In June, I made $5700 in KU/KOLL borrows.

In July, I made $11,600 in KENP reads.

So my KU income doubled under the new payment system. I have no idea what to attribute the extra twelve hundred in sales to, but it’s pretty clear that KU 2.0 benefits me.

Under the old system, I earned as much for With A Twist, which is 23 pages, as I did for The List, which is 310 pages.

. . . .

Under the new system, estimating $.005779 per page read, a full read of With A Twist earned me $0.16, and a full read of The List earned me $1.79.

. . . .

First, I wonder why I didn’t pay more attention to KU 1.0 while it was in full effect, because I should have written a ton of short stories. The short story market prior to Kindle was dismal. Getting into a top market was very hard. There was a lot of competition. Most markets paid $0.05 a word, so With A Twist was worth about $300, and I was lucky EQMM paid more. But the fact that I was making $60 a month on a short story is insane. Never before, in the history of publishing, have short stories been worth so much. I was fortunate enough to get that story into one of the top paying markets in the world, and I made $450. Under KU 1.0 I was on track to make $720 a year on that same story, just in borrows.

Second, even though short stories were finally lucrative, thanks to Amazon, my readers still seem to prefer longer work. With a Twist is a Jack Daniels short. Cherry Bomb, my weakest selling JD novel, had 313 borrows in June, and 179 sales. This is true for all of my shorts and novels; the novels had more sales and more borrows. Anyone who needs more proof of this, look at the thousands of reviews I’ve had for novels. whereas my shorts are lucky to garner a few dozen.

Third, readers really seem to like KU. I was getting more borrows than sales.

Fourth, even though readers did more borrowing than buying, I was earning almost twice as much via sales than borrows.

Maybe this is why I didn’t pay a lot of attention. I saw the numbers, saw that sales were still financially superior to borrows, and decided not to worry about borrows.

Now, there’s no doubt KU was cannibalizing sales, but I wasn’t complaining. I was in KDP Select, but it wasn’t my only source of income. So I didn’t worry about it, nor did I take advantage of it. It was what it was.

. . . .

Under KU 1.0, Amazon was rewarding writers for enrolling in KDP Select. Amazon wanted as many titles as possible, to build their Kindle Unlimited catalog. Shorts are easier and faster to write than novels, so Amazon rewarded short stories by paying authors much higher for shorter works, way out of proportion with novels and with the paper short story market, in order to get more titles into KU so it appealed to more subscribers.

Under KU 2.0, Amazon is rewarding writers for being good writers. Amazon wants writers to hook readers for longer than 10% of the ebook. Amazon wants good, meaty novels, which my numbers point to readers liking more than shorts.

. . . .

Under KU 2.0, I’m continuing to do what all professional fiction writers have done throughout history; write novels. It’s what readers want. With the rare exceptions of a few authors, no one made a living selling shorts. There was a brief moment, during KU 1.0, where shorts were valuable. Their market value has now dropped. Novels are going to earn writers more money. But they have to be good novels.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

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

Kindle Unlimited Thoughts

29 July 2015

From Joe Konrath:

Like everyone else in KDP Select, I’ve been paying attention to my Kindle Unlimited page reads.

When the new accounting began at the beginning of this month, I had 33,000 daily page reads. I had no idea if this was good, or bad. It was what it was.

But I was intrigued to see my Amazon Author Rank go up. My best rank was #1, but for the past two years I’ve been hovering around #1000. On June 30 I was #854.

Now I hover around #400. I got to #267 last week, and now I’m at #441.

Since I haven’t released any new solo novels in two years (I have three coming out by fall, two Jack Daniels thrillers and a Jack Kilborn horror), the only explanation I have for this jump up was the new KU rules.

By the end of the first week, my daily reads were up to 60,000. By the end of this month, they’re at 85,000.

Now, this all could mean absolutely nothing. Maybe my page reads have remained static, and Amazon’s new accounting system is simply finding its groove.

Maybe people are finishing my books, and the more they read the more they want to read. Or maybe a lot of people are starting them and not finishing them. The likeliest answer is some readers finish, some don’t. Page reads, by themselves, don’t give us enough information.

. . . .

Now, I became a writer via the legacy publishing industry. I collected 500 rejections before I sold a word. For roughly a decade I worked and worked and worked to improve my craft, and when I finally got a pub deal I worked even harder. My publishers gave me feedback. I got better. I attended conferences, and made friends with peers, and we traded WIPs. I got better. By the time this Kindle thing happened, I had a pretty good idea of how to tell an engaging story.

But I never had the opportunity crowdsourcing presents.

While I’ve worked with professional editors and writers, the only true reader feedback I got was from friends and family, and they’re biased. Reviews are feedback after publication, but rarely are they specific enough to help authors (unless the author has really screwed up.)

But if I knew 1000 readers stopped on page 156 of one of my books, and never returned to it, that information would be worth a lot to me.

One of the big advantages to ebooks, which doesn’t get mentioned often, is their fluidity. A paper book pubbed by the Big 5 is static. Once it’s released, that is pretty much the version that exists forever. But ebooks have the ability to update. Change. Improve. Evolve.

We’re on the cusp of an unprecedented level of feedback. These are exciting times. What other medium can tailor its IP to its audience to this degree? Readers don’t like it? Fix it!

. . . .

Now, I invite you to share your KU data. Post anonymously if you feel uncomfortable going public with your numbers. But I’d like to know what your daily page read count was on July 1, and on July 28, and if you notice any upward/downward movement. Also, share your author ranks from those dates, and mention if you’ve released anything new this month.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books. If you like his posts, you can show your appreciation by buying his books.

Authors United Epic Fail-O-Rama

14 July 2015

Joe Konrath considers the latest whinings to the Justice Department from Authors United, the Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association and the Association of Authors Representatives:

More nonsense from Authors United.

. . . .

This is a long one, because their letter was so long. And so, so stupid. Tomorrow I’ll spank the Authors Guild, which did something semi-helpful by blogging about ebook royalties, and then stomped on that good faith with awful opinions about piracy, and by endorsing the following nonsense:

Dear Assistant Attorney General Baer:

We believe that Amazon has gathered unprecedented market power over the world of books, which many experts have asserted make it both a monopoly in its role as a seller of books to the public and a monopsony in its role as a buyer of books from publishers. We believe Amazon has been misusing that power in many ways, and we seek the benefit of your office to address this situation.

Amazon is not a monopoly, via Time Magazine:

While Amazon is certainly a large and growing online retailer, even a liberal interpretation of its share of the domestic e-commerce market puts the figure at less than 50%, which is well below the 70% threshold courts typically require as proof of monopoly power. (…) And even if a court found Amazon to possess monopoly power — as one could somewhat realistically claim it does in the e-book market — that’s still only half the battle, as it must also be proved that said power is being exercised to the detriment of consumers.

Lower prices is not to the detriment of consumers.

. . . .

Good luck trying to show that suppliers are being forced to sell ebooks at a loss, which reduces the supply. There are more ebooks available than ever, with more suppliers than ever. Digital media doesn’t subscribe to the rules of supply and demand. Supply is unlimited, because ebooks can be copied and delivered with the press of a button, with low to no overhead other than sunk costs involving the initial production (editing, cover art, formatting, etc.)

The Big 5 are hurting because they are too stupid, lazy, and inefficient to compete. Not because Amazon is controlling them, or anyone else. And, ultimately, pulishers aren’t suppliers. They are middlemen. Writers are the suppliers–something Authors United can’t seem to grasp.

On its current course, Amazon threatens to derail the benefits of a revolution in the way books are created and sold in America. This shift was brought about by two broad innovations. The first is the e-book, the most dramatic new technology in publishing since the invention of the printing press. Because of the low cost of producing and distributing an e-book, many more authors now have the opportunity to self-publish, and millions of people can read books in formats that better fit their pocketbooks and preferences.

The second advance is the e-commerce technology that makes possible on-line bookstores. This techonology has connected readers with a vast selection of physical books, including rare, obscure, and out-of-print volumes. E-commerce has also made it far easier for small publishers to reach customers around the world.

I might be getting ahead of the letter, but apparently Amazon threatens to derail the benefits that Amazon itself–at great cost and risk–revolutionized.

Also, I hope Authors United spell-checked and corrected “techonology” before sending this. Lots of irony in misspelling that…

. . . .

Initially, Amazon deployed these new technologies in ways that benefited both readers and authors. While Amazon did not invent the e-book or e-reader, it created a platform that made it easy for millions around the world to access e-books, including readers who live nowhere near a brick and mortar bookstore.

But as Amazon has become a global corporation of unprecedented size, scope, and power, it is increasingly engaging in practices that undermine the interests of readers, authors, publishers, and society as a whole. Amazon has used the digital revolution in book publishing to exercise control over the marketplace of ideas in ways that threaten not merely open markets but free speech.

And Gutenberg needed to be stopped because he sold more printing presses–you know, that thing he invented–than anyone else.

If by “threatening an open market” they mean “competing better than anyone else” than they are correct.

I’m looking forward to see how Amazon also threatens free speech and the marketplace of ideas. Let’s read on…

While Amazon contends that its goal is to serve consumers by eliminating middlemen in publishing (which it calls the “gatekeepers”), Amazon’s executives have also made clear they intend to make Amazon itself the sole gatekeeper in this industry.

Unlike every other company, which limit themselves to small shares of a marketplace without ever trying to grow. I mean, Coke never tries to take market share from Pepsi. That would be unfair.

But what’s at stake here is not merely monopoly control of a commodity; what is at stake is whether we allow one of the nation’s most important marketplaces of information to be dominated and supervised by a single corporation.

Okay, I think I’m beginning to understand. So many consumers and suppliers use Amazon, freely and by choice, that free speech and ideas will be squelched, because…

Uh…

Because there is no other place to speak freely or exchange ideas. Because Amazon has become the sole omnipotent totalitarian power in the universe, because…

Um…

Because consumers and suppliers freely choose it to be.

Ack. And there are 20 more pages of this crap.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

The Path to Success

13 April 2015

From Joe Konrath:

On the surface, the path to becoming a successful writer has three key components.

1. Write a great book.

2. Do whatever you can to make that book a success.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.

Like all paths, just because the path exists doesn’t mean you’ll be able to follow it. There are known routes up Mount Everest, but there are no guarantees you’d make the summit no matter how good you are or how hard you try. Even the best mountain climbers must deal with the unpredictability of weather, among many other bad things that can happen.

Luck is always a factor.

Even if you’re an Olympic gold medalist with natural talent and years of training, you were lucky no one was better than you at that time. Because all records get broken. Someone always winds up being better.

. . . .

2. Do whatever you can to make that book a success.

Before you begin this step, you need to identify what your goals are, and what success is.

Then you need to research the different avenues open to you, to pursue goals and success.

It’s different for everyone. And it involves luck.

Again, the more deliberate you are, the better your odds. At least, that makes sense logically. The actual numbers may not hold up. You have to be self-aware to know that.

In other words, you can be pretty damn sure you’re doing everything right, and you can still fail to hit your definition of success.

You should always be able to reach your goals, because goals are within your power. Finishing your book by May 10th is a goal. Self-publishing it by Christmas is a goal.

Getting an agent is a dream, not a goal, because that involves an agent saying yes to you, and that isn’t within your power. Neither is hitting a bestseller list, getting a great review, selling 1000 copies, or getting fan mail. Those aren’t goals.

Your goals, and your definition of success, are plastic. They’ll change. Make sure your goals push you to learn, experiment, practice, and work harder. That should, theoretically, improve your luck and chances at whatever you call success.

As with your writing, this applies to how you promote yourself, your titles, your brand. Try anything and everything. Luck still comes into play, but reason dictates it is better to do something than nothing.

Even though doing something doesn’t guarantee anything.

Yeah, it’s frustrating. So is life.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books

Ebooks for Libraries

27 March 2015
From Joe Konrath:

TL;DR

  • I want to help authors get their ebooks into libraries.
  • I want to help libraries acquire indie ebooks.
  • To do this, I started a business called EAF – EbooksAreForever.com.
  • I want to sell your ebooks to libraries.

What’s going on with libraries and ebooks?

There are 120,000 libraries in the US. These libraries, and their patrons, are eager for popular ebooks. Many libraries have a budget they must spend, or they risk having that budget cut.

Currently, libraries have no allies in the ebook market. They aren’t happy with the restrictions and costs of the current leader in supplying libraries with ebook content, Overdrive. Through Overdrive, many publishers charge high prices for ebooks, some higher than $80 a title. They also require yearly license renewals, and may force libraries to re-buy licenses after a certain arbitrary number of borrows.

Just one example of the perils of this approach for America’s libraries is that a library must pay for extensions of time-limited licenses of old ebooks and purchases of licenses for new ones. All kinds of sustainability and predictability issues aris

. . . .

Some indies are on Overdrive and 3M. I’ve been on Overdrive for a few years. My last quarterly check was about $60, and I have a large catalog. This is small money, not just for me, but for any writer. And I was fortunate enough to have been invited into Overdrive. Many authors are not.

The vast majority of libraries don’t have access to many of the ebooks that readers are seeking. The latest AuthorEarnings.com report showed that 33% of all ebooks sold on Amazon are from indie authors. Libraries are missing out on 1/3 of available titles, because they have no way easy way to acquire them.

Just as important, these are quality titles. People are reading, enjoying, and recommending them. Indie authors are hooking readers, and selling as well as the major publishing houses, but there isn’t a way for libraries to offer them to their patrons.

. . . .

For the past year, my business partner, August Wainwright, and I have been talking to acquisitions librarians across the country, and they crave an alternative to the status quo. These libraries are looking to buy thousands of ebooks at once in order to best serve their patrons and community.

Their main wish is to be treated fairly – which means they want to own the ebooks they purchase, acquire good content at a reasonable price, and have access to as many copies as they need.

Our solution? Give libraries what they’re asking for, and in a way that gives libraries the sustainable purchasing model they deserve. We’re striving to offer a large, curated collection of popular ebooks that libraries can easily purchase with just one click.

. . . .

EbooksAreForever distributes to libraries at $7.99 for full length novels, and $3.99-$4.99 for shorter works. We’re offering 70% royalties to the author, and the library will have the ability to purchase more copies as needed.

The way this works is that if a library wants to allow 3 patrons to borrow your ebook at any given time, they’d need to have purchased 3 “copies”. Most libraries adhere to a strict hold ratio (usually around 3:1) in order to present patrons with the best user experience possible. Our hope is that by making ebooks both affordable and sustainable, then libraries in response will automatically purchase more copies.

So, if you have a catalog of 10 ebooks that we then distribute to 1000 libraries, you’ve just earned $56,000 in royalties from making your books available to the library marketplace if they each buy one copy. If your titles are popular, they’ll buy more copies and you’ll earn more.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Sabrina for the tip.

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books

UPDATE: PG put this post together and scheduled it to appear a couple of days ago. He couldn’t figure out why so many people kept sending him tips about Joe’s plan. Then he checked and discovered that WordPress had failed to publish this at the proper time.

On Copyright Again

2 March 2015

From Joe Konrath:

Last summer I wrote about the need to reform copyright.

. . . .

I talked about how fun it would be to write a comic where Superman, Hulk, and Spawn fight, but how that isn’t ever going to happen.

DC owns Superman. Marvel owns Hulk. Image owns Spawn.

Since none of these characters are in the pubic domain, the only way to use them is with a license. But that’s only one level of restriction. Even with an approved license, licencors will have rules. The few existing Marvel-DC/Hulk-Superman fights have been lackluster at best. That’s because the rules imposed by the licensor override any creative freedom on the part of the author/artist.

Writers who work for a specific comic company have rule sheets and bibles for what is allowed and what isn’t. Unless special exceptions are given, there are boundaries. It’s stifling creatively.

. . . .

How interesting it would be if fair use allowed writers to use the IPs of others. Let’s say it was a limited use; maybe 15% of the completed protect. It would still be a game-changer.

. . . .

We live in a world where artists are regularly screwed by publishers, producers, and record labels, but it’s okay because they signed on the dotted line, even though the contract sucked. But then we have a ridiculous double standard, where heirs and companies can hold onto the rights to Mickey Mouse and Sherlock Holmes and Carmina Burana for long after the original artists died.

I know I’m bringing up a lot of ideas here, some of them possibly conflicting, so let me highlight a few points:

  • When an artist dies, any IP they created should revert to heirs.
  • If that IP is currently being exploited by a company (producer, label, publisher) it should still revert. Artist dies, contract is over.
  • Once reverted, heirs are allowed to hold that copyright for a minimal amount of time. Say 40 years. But they don’t have a say in how that copyright is used.
  • Once reverted, any other artist or producer can use that IP in a commercial version of fair-use. I’ll propose that if a certain percentage of the IP is used in a certain percentage of a new work, the heirs get a certain percentage of profits associated with that work, or certain set fees if that work is for advertising purposes.
  • If the artist is still alive, there should still be commercial fair use laws. Perhaps stricter than what the heirs have, but other people should still be able to use what the artist has done. I point to my Jack Daniels & Associates Kindle World as an example of that. Go ahead and use what I created, however you’d like, but pay me some set percentage.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

Amazon is the Reader’s Friend . . . or Not

16 January 2015

Video removed because of autoplay annoyances.
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Thanks to Ziv for the tip.

UPDATE: Sorry for the autoplay. The video didn’t do this in PG’s browser. He added autoplay=”false” to the video code which is supposed to turn off autoplay. Since he can’t see whether autoplay is, in fact, now off, drop a comment to let him know what’s going on.

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