PG’s Thoughts

End the Discount Double-Cross

16 November 2015

From The Authors Guild:

In our last installment of the Fair Contract Initiative, we detailed how publishers’ outdated accounting practices consistently delay and minimize authors’ royalty payments. But that’s not the end of the story. In another common practice, publishers routinely use contract provisions to slash authors’ royalties to mere pennies per copy sold.

Standard trade royalties are based on a percentage of the publisher’s list price. But publishers have come up with a variety of clever methods to base royalties on the much lower net amounts they actually receive from booksellers and wholesalers. Then they add insult to injury by cutting the royalty rate itself by as much as two-thirds. When an author gets paid on less than half the list price, that’s bad enough. When an author gets paid only one-third the normal rate on that reduced price, the word “pittance” seems appropriate.

So-called “deep discount” clauses let publishers offer titles to booksellers and wholesalers at big markdowns. They stipulate that a publisher’s sale at a discount of over 55%, for example (a number that appears to be the new standard), the author’s royalty suddenly drops from, say, 15% of list price to 15% of the far smaller amount the publisher actually receives. A standard deep discount clause looks something like this: “On copies of the Work sold by the Publisher at a discount of greater than 55% from the publisher’s retail price through channels outside of ordinary retail trade channels, the author will be paid a royalty of 15% of the Publisher’s net proceeds.” (Many smaller publishers, which pay royalties on net proceeds to begin with, often slash the royalty rate in half on discounts from 50–70%, and by 2/3 for greater discounts.) Thanks to that drop in royalty payments the publisher makes out like a—well, the word “bandit” springs to mind.

It seems fair that when a publisher sells a book at a deep discount, the author’s take might be reduced proportionally. But there’s no proportionality in many standard “deep discount” clauses.

. . . .

We’ve seen these discount double-crosses applied for sales to book clubs and book fairs, for “special sales” in bulk outside the usual book trade, for large-print editions, for export editions. Let’s say the publisher sells our sample book in bulk for just $2.00. The discount double-crossed author would get one thin dime per copy, a royalty cut of an astounding 93%—even though the net to the publisher would decline by less than 33%.

. . . .

Even crazier, some reductions can apply even to direct sales from publishers to readers, despite the fact that the publisher gets to keep the share of the transaction that would normally go to a retailer or wholesaler. If anything, an author’s royalty rate on such direct sales should be higher than normal.

. . . .

The documented decline in authors’ incomes stems in part from these unconscionable reductions in royalty payments. Unless publishers begin to see authors as partners rather than patsies, many authors will no longer be able to afford to deliver publishers the quality work the industry was built on.

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild and thanks to Jacqueline for the tip.

PG says some authors get excited when they see their books in Costco. Unfortunately, it’s almost certain that their Costco sales will fall under the deep discount royalty structure, generating only tiny royalties.

Then, there are publishers who sell virtually everything at “deep discount” so the author never receives the royalty rates that are listed first and most prominently in their publishing contract.

PG has mentioned this before, but perhaps it bears repeating. During PG’s legal career, he has helped clients with a wide range of business contracts, including agreements prepared by many of the largest and most successful companies in the world.

Standard publishing contracts from large traditional publishers stand out in the constellation of business contracts for their one-sidedness and, in some cases, outright duplicity for anyone who fails to read them very carefully. The way that Randy Penguin and its cohorts write their standard contracts is not the way that Apple, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Disney, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, American Express, Merrill Lynch and similar entities write their contracts.

PG doesn’t agree with many initiatives undertaken by the Authors Guild, but he’s pleased to see their latest efforts to shine a light on some of the most abusive contract provisions routinely employed by Big Publishing.

However, the cynic in PG holds little hope that AG’s efforts will bring about any meaningful reform. Treating authors badly is too much a part of the corporate and cultural DNA of traditional publishing to change. These dinosaurs will die before they evolve.

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The Wrist and The Mouse

10 November 2015

PG’s wrist has been freed from its bindings. There’s a little residual soreness, but the absence of a bandage that impaired half of his limited manual dexterity will speed things up quite a bit.

During this period, PG started using a new mouse that was a bit better than his former one for his wrapped and clumsy wrist. At the moment, it looks like it may become his right-hand companion.

Here’s a link if you’re interested.

The Wrist

1 November 2015

PG appreciates those who have expressed concern over his wrist and its recent encounter with the medical community.

Here’s a PG right wrist selfie:


As you might appreciate, this slows down PG’s typing a bit and reduces dexterity with a mouse.

For longer form writing connected with his legal work, PG uses a Dragon Dictate voice recognition system as he has done through good wrists and bad for several years, but Dragon is not terribly agile at the select-copy-change windows-paste routine associated with keeping TPV fresh and tidy.

Nothing underneath the bandage hurts very much and PG is considering a call to his physician to discuss an early release.

PG again apologizes for being a bit tardy in with new TPV posts over the past few days.

A Little Slow

29 October 2015

PP had a little surgery on his right wrist yesterday.

All went well, but he has a rather large  and very thick bandage on his right hand and wrist. Typing is slow, but, fortunately, PG has used voice dictation systems with some regularity over the years.

Dealing with the mouse is like wearing the world’s largest mousepad all the time, so that is a bit slow.

If posting is not as sprightly as usual, please understand the cause.

In Defense of The New York Times

22 October 2015

From Stratechery:

On Monday, two months after The New York Times wrote a brutal exposé on Amazon’s workplace culture, Jay Carney, former White House press secretary for President Barack Obama and current Senior Vice President for Global Corporate Affairs at Amazon, wrote a blistering piece on Medium entitled What The New York Times Didn’t Tell You:

When the story came out, we knew it misrepresented Amazon. Once we could look into the most sensational anecdotes, we realized why. We presented the Times with our findings several weeks ago, hoping they might take action to correct the record. They haven’t, which is why we decided to write about it ourselves.

The Times got attention for their story, but in the process they did a disservice to readers, who deserve better. The next time you see a sensationalistic quote in the Times like “nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk”, you might wonder whether there’s a crucial piece of context or backstory missing — like admission of fraud — and whether the Times somehow decided it just wasn’t important to check.

It was really something: Carney’s accusations were strong, disturbingly detailed (Amazon presented presumably confidential employee performance data), and perhaps most curiously of all, out of nowhere.

 The fact the response was on Medium was interesting as well: the placement helped guarantee attention from a certain segment of the public without tying it too explicitly to Amazon.

Then, a few hours later, something even more surprising happened: the Executive Editor of The New York Times, Dean Baquet, responded, also on Medium.

. . . .


The importance of Amazon’s response is obvious: unlike days of old, when corporations or individuals in the news had to resort to letters to the editor (which may or may not have been printed) and angry calls to the editor-in-chief, Amazon can go straight to the public with their complaints; it may sound cliché to say that “everyone is a publisher” but for the fact it’s true. Moreover, like anything else on the Internet, Amazon’s response was immediately available to everyone in the world: we take that for granted today, but compared to not that long ago when distribution required printing presses and delivery trucks this is truly an astounding development.


Even more important, though, was the fact that Baquet responded, and on the same (small-m) medium as Amazon to boot. An unfortunate side effect of owning said printed presses and delivery trucks was that newspapers held themselves as the oracles of truth, none moreso than The New York Times. Consider the motto printed on every paper: All the News That’s Fit to Print; I criticized the mindset behind this motto in Why BuzzFeed Is the Most Important News Organization in the World:

It’s important to appreciate that this was more than just a slogan and [the front-page meeting was more than just a] meeting; there are important assumptions underlying this conceit:

  • The first assumption is that there is a limited amount of space, which in the case of a physical product is quite obviously true. Sure, newspapers could and did change the length of their daily editions, but the line had to be drawn somewhere
  • The second assumption is that journalists, by choosing what to write about, are the arbiters of what is “news”
  • The third assumption is that the front page is an essential signal as to what news is important; more broadly, it’s an assumption that editors matter

My point then was that none of these assumptions held on the Internet: there is an unlimited amount of space, news can come from anywhere or anybody, and that the front page is a lot less important in the age of social media. And, I noted, as long as The New York Times held to these assumptions, they would slowly but surely fall behind.

This is why Baquet’s response is so significant:

  • His response was public, not private, and why not: an extra web page is free
  • His response was on the same medium as Carney’s post, which is fine, because Medium is just as accessible and potentially newsworthy as
  • His response was a part of a conversation, not a pronouncement

Baquet actually made this conversation point himself in an interview with Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka at Recode’s Code/Media conference in September:

The construct was, “It was true, it was important, we made the case there was something anomalous about Amazon.” And most importantly, and this to me is what the best journalism does, it sparked vibrant debate about the workplace.

A vibrant debate about the workplace? That is journalism? Not printing the truth?

. . . .

In fact, this was one of a whole host of very interesting things Baquet said in the interview. Several minutes prior he had attacked another journalism shibboleth, that of the necessity of a “wall” between the newsroom and the business side of the paper.

I think our relationship with people outside the newsroom is different…in the world I grew up in, and in the world that created The New York Times…I think that that rule that there was a big fat wall between the news room and everybody else doesn’t make sense anymore in the modern era…I think that we now understand that that’s sort of nuts…I think that that was a comfortable position when we had a 30% profit margin, but it went on too long…

I think of myself as primarily the executive editor whose job it is to ensure the quality and the integrity of the report. But I also think of myself as somebody whose job it is to preserve The New York Times which means I do think about advertising, I do think about The New York Times as a business. That does not mean that I drop the wall and sell ads. But it does mean that I think about the whole of the enterprise.

Regular readers will know just how important I think this is. I wrote last month in Popping the Publishing Bubble:

Publishers going forward need to have the exact opposite attitude from publishers in the past: instead of focusing on journalism and getting the business model for free, publishers need to start with a sustainable business model and focus on journalism that works hand-in-hand with the business model they have chosen. First and foremost that means publishers need to answer the most fundamental question required of any enterprise: are they a niche or scale business?

What is exciting about the Amazon story is that, at least according to Baquet, it came from embracing the nichification of The New York Times.

I think that people know that the Amazon story came from The New York Times. I think my job is to ensure that the percentage of stories we do is very different. My job is to do as many Amazon stories as possible and to do fewer and fewer of the traditional stories that don’t work as well as the bundle disintegrates. My job is to produce a lot of Amazons.

In other words, the job of The New York Times is no longer to produce “All the News That’s Fit to Print”; rather, it is to invest in stories that make a difference — stories that start a conversation — and trust that readers will be willing to pay for quality. The content follows from the business model.

. . . .


The fact of the matter is that The New York Times almost certainly got various details of the Amazon story wrong. The mistake most critics made, though, was in assuming that any publication ever got everything completely correct. Baquet’s insistence that good journalism starts a debate may seem like a cop-out, but it’s actually a far healthier approach than the old assumption that any one publication or writer or editor was ever in a position to know “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

Link to the rest at Stratechery and thanks to Felix for the tip.

So The New York Times’ objective is to foster debate with its articles?

Sounds like reddit or Twitter. Maybe clickbait on BuzzFeed.

“The mistake most critics made, though, was in assuming that any publication ever got everything completely correct.”

The reason the Amazon story fostered so much debate was that it was wrong. In many ways. And shoddy. And, pretty clearly, a hit piece. It was not mostly completely correct.

A lot of people jumped in to correct the false narratives and to point to the quotes from disgruntled former employees that formed the basis of the article as atypical of Amazon employees as a whole.

You don’t need to be a big newspaper to start an internet argument. If you’re a major advertiser, do you really want your brand associated with a place that originates internet arguments? If so, you can buy a lot more eyeballs for a lot less money than at

As a reader of The New York Times, do you now have to decide whether a major story you’re reading is written to tell the truth or foster debate? Or are they all written to foster debate?

Perhaps the NYT Bestseller Lists are really designed to foster debate.

What a great strategy. When the truth is too boring, find somebody who will give you an inflammatory quote and build your story from there.

Actually, it sounds more like the traditional business plan for the tabloid press.

“Headless Body in Topless Bar!” – The New York Times


Author Robert Scoble Is Glad That Independent Bookstores Are Closing

12 October 2015

From The Observer:

It’s no secret that Amazon has dominated the book and e-book markets, and the site’s lower pricing has angered authors and publishers. Brick and mortar bookstores have also been adversely affected, forced to confront decreased sales as consumers decide to read or download books at home.

But according to Robert Scoble, that’s not a bad thing at all.

The blogger and futurist, who has published several books through Amazon, posted a picture of Half Moon Bay Books, a recently closed California bookstore, on Facebook over the weekend. He admitted that “It is sad to see this business gone. A reminder of the way things used to be.”

But at that point the mourning ended, as Mr. Scoble declared “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

This store’s closure was actually a reminder for Mr. Scoble to always find new ways to improve. He claimed it reinforced his blunt motto to “Innovate or die.”

Link to the rest at The Observer and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

PG is not happy to see anyone’s business fail. Such failure almost always carries a human cost.

However, no one is entitled to business success. And, particularly, no one is entitled to business success forever.

There were lots of wonderful people in the typewriter business. The man who occasionally appeared in PG’s high school typing room to fix a typewriter was friendly and good at his job. After he finished, all the typewriters worked wonderfully.

When the high school bought Selectrics to replace its battered old Smith Coronas, a different person appeared to minister to the Selectrics. Compared to the Smith Corona, the Selectric was a magical machine upon which you could type like the wind. The keys never jammed. And a correcting Selectric even allowed you to fix typos without a bottle of white-out.

The rise of personal computers with attached printers destroyed the typewriter business and even the nicest people who worked in that business had to move forward to different businesses and jobs.

PG likes people who like books and most bookstores contain several people who like books.

For the record, Amazon also contains a lot of people who like books.

Personal computers do most everything better than Smith Coronas did plus a million different things that would be impossible for a Smith Corona.

People who put thoughts into words and words onto paper or a screen or into a digital file chose a personal computer as the best means of doing those things. In making this choice, they bore no ill will toward people who fixed Selectrics.

Perhaps we’re seeing the cell phones or tablets that will some day make the personal computer look like a Smith Corona. It is almost certain that the process of putting thoughts into words and sharing those words with others will be much different twenty years from now than it is today.

People who buy books are increasingly choosing Amazon as the best means of acquiring the books they want. They typically do this with no animus toward bookstores but a book purchased on Amazon is likely a lost sale for a bookstore.

This kind of thing happens over and over again.

Kris Rusch on Author Earnings

9 October 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

A while back, I promised I would look at the new report from Author Earnings. I needed time to assess the data for the purposes of this blog.

. . . .

I also write this blog primarily for career writers, those who are either in the writing business for the long term or hope to be in it for the long term.

That automatically makes me an outlier among bloggers. I have 30+ year professional career in publishing, in all aspects of publishing except agenting (which is something I never, ever, ever wanted to do), so I have a long term approach to all that I look at, including a historical approach. What is old is often what is new.

And what looks obvious sometimes isn’t.

That said, I have three problems with Author Earnings. Hugh and Data Guy do not work magic. They’re trying to find out information here, and they are limited by the way they have set up their company. They’re aware of the problems I am going to list below, and address them in their report, mostly by saying they don’t have access to that particular data.

My problems with the data? First, Author Earnings measures one day on one bookstore. Yes, it’s the largest bookstore in the United States, but not in the world.

Second, Author Earnings only measures ebook sales on that one bookstore. Not print sales, not audio sales, not outside earnings.

Finally, Author Earnings tries to separate their data into “traditionally published writers,” “self-published writers,” “writers published by Amazon” (which is, by the way, a traditional publisher), and “hybrid writers.” Their categories leaves out the most business-minded writers, those who understand how to set up corporations, how to establish their own small traditional publishing companies, and those who publish a multitude of books in a variety of ways.

That makes Author Earnings data small and specific, not really a snapshot of the industry at all, but a snapshot of the ebook sales on one bookstore in the United States, a snapshot that shoves some of that information into categories where it doesn’t belong.

In other words, like any statistical analysis, it has flaws.

Once you recognize the flaws, however, as Hugh and Data Guy do, you can work with the numbers to make some conclusions. Especially given the last report they released at the end of September.

. . . .

They created a study that did the things they wanted. They wanted to know, specifically, what route a new writer of 2015, with manuscript in hand, should take to have success. Success, as Hugh and Data Guy define it in the study, is hitting Amazon bestseller lists and making a “midlist” income of at least $10,000 per year.

Let’s ignore the fact that most one-book midlist authors in traditional publishing do not hit bestseller lists nor do they make $10,000 per year even if that was the advance.

. . . .

Hugh and Data Guy found that long-established writers, who were publishing before the year 2000and still consistently hit bestseller lists out earned every other writer on the list. But, according to Hugh and Data Guy:

13 out of the 20 authors who debuted in the last five years, and 8 of the 10 authors who debuted in the last 3 years, and who are now consistently earning $1,000,000+/year from just their Kindle ebook best sellers are indie authors.

So the thrust of the study is this: If you want to earn the most money as a writer in 2015, publish indie. Which to me is a well-duh, because indie writers earn at least 65% of their retail prices (which the indie writers set themselves), and traditionally published writers—ebook only—earn 25% of net price paid, minus 15% for an agent.

However, ebooks on Amazon make 70% of retail, and Amazon is what Hugh and Data Guy measure.

So for an ebook priced at $10 (because $10 math is easier for Ole Kris here), the indie writer would earn a minimum of $7.00 for each sale.

The traditional writer earning number is dicey from the beginning. What is “net” after all?

“Net” varies from contract to contract, writer to writer. But let’s assume that “net” is 75% of the retail price (assuming, perhaps falsely, that a traditional publisher will get a better deal from Amazon). That means the publisher gets paid $7.50, and the writer gets 25% of that number, which is $1.875. The agent then gets 15% of that $1.875, and the writer is left with roughly $1.59 per book.

The indie writer earns $5.41 more per ebook sold than the traditional writer.

. . . .

Most traditionally published midlist ebooks sell the same number of copies as an indie published ebook by the same writer, if the books are priced the same. The indie writer will make more money. Significantly more money.

. . . .

When I look strictly at ebook sales, I have to wonder why anyone would go with a traditional publisher any more. (When you factor in paper books sold over three years [as opposed to six months of release], the sales numbers are similar, and the indie writer earns more as well. But that’s a blog for another day.)

. . . .

They write:

There are fewer than half as many traditionally published authors as indie authors who debuted in the last 3 years and are now earning consistently at the $25K/year level or $50K/year level from Kindle ebooks.

Numerically, Hugh and Data Guy are correct, but the situation is worse than they allow. They make it seem like they’re doing an apples-to-apples comparison for writers whose work released in the past three years, but the comparison isn’t apples-to-apples.

What’s the difference? Traditional publishing does not (yet) allow for a writer to release more than four books a year under the same name and in the same series. Yeah, there are a handful of exceptions, writers who release more than four books per year traditionally, all in romance. There are also exceptions who are forced to publish only one book per year traditionally, mostly in mystery or literary mainstream. So it balances out. That four books per year is me being generous.

Assume, though, that the debut traditional writer is “fast” and working in a genre other than romance. He’ll publish one book per year, no matter what his genre. So at the end of three years, he has at bestthree books. In many cases, because of the vagaries of a publishing schedule, he’ll publish two at the end of three years, with a third coming “real soon now.”

A debut indie author can publish as many books as he wants in that period of time. If he’s really fast, he can publish a book per month. But let’s give him two books per year. Not really a huge advantage, but still, he’ll have six books out (or five with a sixth coming out) in three years.

Readers like it when an author has a lot of books to choose from. That indie author will double his e-book money simply by doubling the books published.

. . . .

But if you add in what I just mentioned above, that the indie writer who debuted in 2012 will already have a career while the traditional writer is still finding her sea legs, you can extrapolate forward. For writers who debuted in 2010 or 2012 or 2015, indie is the way to go.

Indie writers earn significantly more money. They’ll publish more books. They’ll have a career much faster, and one that is sustainable. A traditional publishing career requires the writer to be flexible and write under many names–if the writer signs the proper contract. Most don’t.

. . . .

But if you want a career as a writer, if you don’t want to have a day job, if you only want to write, then it seems to me the safest path to take is the indie path. You’ll have more opportunity. You can work hard and publish a lot and make money doing so.

Will every indie writer make six-figures per year? Hell, no. Nor will every traditionally published writer. But what this particular Author Earnings report shows is that if you want the chance of making six-figures or more per year with your writing, the best publishing path is indie.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

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

PG says Kris has, as usual, focused on the key point for most authors – Do you want to make a career as an author? If so, the rational choice is to go indie.

Yes, it is still possible to make a career as an author by being traditionally-published, but it’s much less likely you will succeed. It’s not the safest route. It’s the riskiest route. In the first place, you have to run the find-an-agent then find-a-publisher gamut and most people get shut out there.

Then, you’re in the slow lane for getting your books to readers – one per year. Five books in five years (if everything goes perfectly because you’re not in control of the publishing process).

You have to hope the readers who bought your first book remember you one year later. Most won’t, particularly enthusiastic readers who read lots of books. If I read one book per week, I don’t remember the names of all 52 authors I’ve read in a year. Absent huge, huge sales (which very few traditionally-published first novels or second, third, etc., generate), promoting a traditionally-published author’s second book is almost as much work as promoting their first.

Plus the large majority of the sales revenue generated by tradpub books goes to support the publishing/distribution/retail sales structure. You have to sell many, many more books as a tradpubbed author to make the same money an indie author does.

PG did some math (always a dangerous thing) to compare indie vs. tradpub earnings based upon the concepts Kris discussed.

Basic assumptions for the comparison:

  1. Ebooks Only
  2. Indie Ebook is $2.99, Tradpub Ebook is $8.99
  3. Both books sell 10,000 copies per book in the first year and 2,000 per book per year thereafter as backlist
  4. Both books are in the 70% royalty category on Amazon
  5. Indie author publishes 3 books per year, tradpub author publishes one
  6. The comparison covers a five-year period, beginning with the first year an indie author and a tradpub author publish their first book
Ebooks Sold Price Royalty % Earnings
Indie (per book) 10,000 $2.99 70% $20,930.00
Traditional (per book) 10,000 $8.99 17.5% $15,732.50
Five Year Earnings Total First Year Average Annual Earnings (first year only, no backlist)
Indie (3 books per year) $313,950.00 $62,790.00
Traditional (1 book per year) $78,662.50 $15,732.50


Backlist Sales (20% of first year sales)
Indie Backlist Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Total Backlist
Total Backlist Books 0 3 6 9 12
Backlist Earnings 0 $12,558 $25,116 $37,674 $50,232 $125,580
Traditional Backlist
Total Backlist Books 0 1 2 3 4
Backlist Earnings 0 $3,147 $6,293 $9,440 $12,586 $31,465
Five Year Earnings (First Year+Backlist) Total
Indie $439,530
Traditional $110,128


This isn’t perfect because the indie author won’t release three books at the beginning of each year, but as you move forward and the number of books in the backlist for the indie author grows so much more quickly than a tradpub author’s backlist, PG thinks those differences will be smoothed over.

An essential fact that Kris points out is that, so long as each author keeps writing at the assumed pace, the indie author is going to have many, many more titles in print than the traditionally-published author.

Additionally, it’s well-known that publishers ignore the large majority of their backlists and put no promotional effort at all into them while indie authors can and do promote their backlist books in a variety of ways.

This comparison is based on ebook sales only at Amazon royalty rates. It does not include any estimate of bookstore sales. PG will note that, for most fiction titles, bookstores are focused on new releases and a great many (most?) tradpubbed authors won’t find many of their backlist titles in most bookstores. If you’re a tradpub author, check your royalty statements for the number of hardcopy books sold for your titles that are three, four or five years old.

Obsession, Delusion, and Writing

8 September 2015

From Kristine Katherine Rusch:

I read Runner’s World religiously. I think I got my subscription in the previous century, when I toyed with participating in the local triathlon. I wasn’t running then; I was swimming and biking to stay in shape. I subscribed to some swimming and cycling magazines as well, but those magazines didn’t hold my attention.

Runner’s World did, partly because it’s an exceptionally well-written, well-edited magazine. It’s not just a collection of notes about a sport I’m peripherally involved in.

. . . .

I started walking. Then, I added in running. I can’t tell you why, exactly, especially since I used to tell people I would never do it. Now, I run five times per week—or, in reality, I’m working my way back to that after the car incident of a few weeks ago. (Injury recovery: such fun.)

There’s something about running that’s kinda cool. People cheer you on. From a very drunk woman who stood in the doorway of her house and cheered me on like I was leading a race (maybe she saw 3 of me) to the occasional tourist who gives me a thumbs-up, people generally support what I’m doing…which I find really weird. It’s taken a while to accept that this is part of the running experience. No one cheered me on when I swam or rode my bike. No one gave me a thumbs-up when I got on the treadmill at the gym. Instead, in those instances, other exercisers and I would pretend that others didn’t exist.

One particularly cloudy day a month ago, a runner—sweat-covered, going much faster than I do—ran toward me on a long sidewalk near the highway. Just before we reached each other, he switched his water bottle from his right hand to his left, and kept that right hand up. Fortunately, I had a second to realize that he wanted to high-five. We did, and both of us kept going.

. . . .

Writers support each other too. If you’re lucky, you end up with a great support system, not just from your writing peers, but from your friends and family. They help you clear time to write. They make sure you have the right equipment. They read your work and celebrate with you when you make a sale to a traditional market or post your indie book into all the various retail sites.

But there’s a big huge difference between runners and writers, and I didn’t realize what it was, exactly, until I read two articles back to back this week.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the first. Stephen King wrote one of his every-five-years or so essays defending the prolific writer. His essays are always a little defensive, because he’s writing for the literary crowd, and always a little perplexed, as if he’s not sure why people complain when someone writes fast. (I’m perplexed about that too.)

. . . .

[I]t strikes me that in no other art does anyone have to timidly propose this thesis that King does:

My thesis here is a modest one: that prolificacy is sometimes inevitable, and has its place. The accepted definition — “producing much fruit, or foliage, or many offspring” — has an optimistic ring, at least to my ear.

Pianists practice. Jazz pianists often practice in public, with improv sessions that become legendary. Artists learn their craft by copying old masters, and then, once they’ve done that enough, artists sketch, often daily, sometimes hourly, and eventually put those sketches into something solid. No one ever told Picasso that he painted too much (as far as I know, anyway). And we’re always reading about some new painting, some new sketch, by some famous artist being discovered in an attic somewhere.

I’ve often used sports metaphors when I discuss writing. No one tells LeBron James that he needs to shoot fewer baskets in practice, so that he can save his best work for a playoff game. We get betterat something the more we do it, not worse. That’s how human beings are made.

. . . .

Around those superstar athletes are average-joe runners. Well, not average-joe in some of those big races, because those runners had to qualify. But we’re still talking a crowd of people. I mentioned New York, which had 50,564 finishers in 2014, which made it the biggest marathon ever. Average “important” marathons usually have 35-40,000 finishers.

That’s a lot of runners, most of whom have no hope of crossing the finish line first.

Note I didn’t mention “winning,” because runners are very clear about the varied definitions of winning. Winning for a non-elite athlete might be a personal best. Or it might be—as it was for me in my first (and so far only) 5K—just showing up. It might be finishing (also a victory for me in that 5K).

Willey discusses that in his July editorial. But it was this paragraph that caught my eye:

In any race, the last finisher is no more a “loser” than one who finishes in the middle, and I have just as much respect for the runner who stops the clock as I have for the one who breaks the tape. First and last are very different achievements, but both require guts, ability, and dedication. A 2:03 marathon (the current world record is 2:02:57) is inconceivable to me. But I couldn’t run for seven or eight hours, either.

I went back and started reading more carefully, and found this nugget as the article’s lede:

I’ve heard a version of it uttered at almost every big race I’ve ever run, usually as a way to calm prerace nerves. I’ve said it myself: “I know two things for sure. I’m not going to win and I’m not going to lose.” In other words, relax, run your own race, and try to enjoy it.

I stopped, and thought about that in conjunction with the Stephen King essay, and had a tiny epiphany about writers.

Writers always expect to win. Because they’re not trained to work, because there are a handful of examples every few years or so of someone who becomes a million-seller with his first novel, writers believe that lightning will strike them as well.

Writers never examine the amount of work that “lucky” beginning novelist has done before the big sale. Often that “lucky” beginner had writing success elsewhere in writing—as a journalist, maybe or in one case I’m familiar with, as a regional playwright. I can’t think of anyone whose very first bits of writing became a megaseller.

. . . .

I honestly believe that the attitude comes from the myths. Myths like writers shouldn’t write a lot or they won’t produce quality. Writers should write slowly to produce art. I’ve traced those myths before, and they aren’t in existence for the writers. They exist for the overworked teachers of writing.

The fact that Stephen King feels the need every few years to defend his “rapid” pace which, in the annuals of writing, isn’t that fast at all, should tell you how pervasive those myths are.

So, now, review that Runner’s World attitude. Think of a novel instead of a race. And rather than trying to “win” by making that novel perfect, think of it the way that Willey does before his races.

Relax. Write your own novel. Enjoy it.

Pull the expectations of megasuccess off it. Because if you’re acting out of the myths, you’ll make all kinds of mistakes. To stretch the running metaphor almost to the breaking point, if you go out too fast and hot in a 26.2 mile race, you will burn out or get injured.

Writers won’t write too much, but their expectations could injure them. If everyone who writes a novel expects to be the next J.K. Rowling [insert your favorite highly successful writer here], then almost everyone who tries to write a novel will be disappointed when that novel is finished.

Link to the rest at Kristine Katherine Rusch

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

PG was raised on ranches and farms. (They call it a ranch in the American West and a farm in the American Midwest. Cattle are the same everywhere and the water heater for the stock tank always goes out on the coldest night of the year on both a ranch and a farm. When you have to break the ice with an axe, then reach down through the water to the bottom of the tank to fiddle with the heater for a few minutes, ranches and farms present identical experiences.)

Many years ago, PG was riding on a tractor while his father was mowing hay. (Yes, it may be dangerous to ride on a tractor when you’re not driving it, but it’s fun. Driving a tractor when you’re six years old is even more fun. Driving a big Caterpillar bulldozer when you’re eleven is heaven.)

The conversations PG had with his father while helping his father work or just hanging around while his father worked are some of PG’s best childhood memories.

On the particular occasion that comes to mind, PG’s father was talking about how much he loved ranching. He said that he thought the best measure of whether a man was in the right line of work is if that is what he would do even if nobody paid him to do so (so long as his family’s needs were met). That was the way PG’s father felt about ranching. In the nature of ranching and farming, there were seasons when he didn’t make any money, but he kept on doing it and always loved the work.

With respect to writing, PG thinks his father’s rule applies. Most authors write because they pretty much have to write. During the first months or years of writing, a whole lot of authors don’t earn any money, but they keep on writing because they love doing it.

If you can get paid while doing something you love, that’s a great thing. If you can support yourself and your family doing something you love, you’re in pretty much the best situation available.

When you think of the millions of people who work at jobs they hate because they absolutely must earn the salaries they’re paid, a writer who can support him/herself by doing something they love is immensely blessed.

The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t

20 August 2015

From The New York Times Magazine:

On July 11, 2000, in one of the more unlikely moments in the history of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Orrin Hatch handed the microphone to Metallica’s drummer, Lars Ulrich, to hear his thoughts on art in the age of digital reproduction. Ulrich’s primary concern was a new online service called Napster, which had debuted a little more than a year before. As Ulrich explained in his statement, the band began investigating Napster after unreleased versions of one of their songs began playing on radio stations around the country. They discovered that their entire catalog of music was available there for free.

Ulrich’s trip to Washington coincided with a lawsuit that Metallica had just filed against Napster — a suit that would ultimately play a role in the company’s bankruptcy filing. But in retrospect, we can also see Ulrich’s appearance as an intellectual milestone of sorts, in that he articulated a critique of the Internet-­era creative economy that became increasingly commonplace over time. ‘‘We typically employ a record producer, recording engineers, programmers, assistants and, occasionally, other musicians,’’ Ulrich told the Senate committee. ‘‘We rent time for months at recording studios, which are owned by small-­business men who have risked their own capital to buy, maintain and constantly upgrade very expensive equipment and facilities. Our record releases are supported by hundreds of record companies’ employees and provide programming for numerous radio and television stations. … It’s clear, then, that if music is free for downloading, the music industry is not viable. All the jobs I just talked about will be lost, and the diverse voices of the artists will disappear.’’

The intersection between commerce, technology and culture has long been a place of anxiety and foreboding. Marxist critics in the 1940s denounced the assembly-line approach to filmmaking that Hollywood had pioneered; in the ’60s, we feared the rise of television’s ‘‘vast wasteland’’; the ’80s demonized the record executives who were making money off violent rap lyrics and ‘‘Darling Nikki’’; in the ’90s, critics accused bookstore chains and Walmart of undermining the subtle curations of independent bookshops and record stores.

. . . .

 But starting with Ulrich’s testimony, a new complaint has taken center stage, one that flips those older objections on their heads. The problem with the culture industry is no longer its rapacious pursuit of consumer dollars. The problem with the culture industry is that it’s not profitable enough. Thanks to its legal troubles, Napster itself ended up being much less important as a business than as an omen, a preview of coming destructions. Its short, troubled life signaled a fundamental rearrangement in the way we discover, consume and (most importantly) pay for creative work. In the 15 years since, many artists and commentators have come to believe that Ulrich’s promised apocalypse is now upon us — that the digital economy, in which information not only wants to be free but for all practical purposes is free, ultimately means that ‘‘the diverse voices of the artists will disappear,’’ because musicians and writers and filmmakers can no longer make a living.

. . . .

And even when you do manage to pull out a credit card, the amounts are shrinking: $9 for an e-book that used to be a $20 hardcover. If the prices of traditional media keep falling, then it seems logical to critics that we will end up in a world in which no one has an economic incentive to follow creative passions. The thrust of this argument is simple and bleak: that the digital economy creates a kind of structural impossibility that art will make money in the future. The world of professional creativity, the critics fear, will soon be swallowed by the profusion of amateurs, or the collapse of prices in an age of infinite and instant reproduction will cheapen art so that no one will be able to quit their day jobs to make it — or both.

. . . .

The dystopian scenario, after all, isn’t about the death of the record business or Hollywood; it’s about the death of music or movies. As a society, what we most want to ensure is that the artists can prosper — not the record labels or studios or publishing conglomerates, but the writers, musicians, directors and actors themselves.

Their financial fate turns out to be much harder to measure, but I endeavored to try. Taking 1999 as my starting point — the year both Napster and Google took off — I plumbed as many data sources as I could to answer this one question: How is today’s creative class faring compared with its predecessor a decade and a half ago? The answer isn’t simple, and the data provides ammunition for conflicting points of view. It turns out that Ulrich was incontrovertibly correct on one point: Napster did pose a grave threat to the economic value that consumers placed on recorded music. And yet the creative apocalypse he warned of has failed to arrive. Writers, performers, directors and even musicians report their economic fortunes to be similar to those of their counterparts 15 years ago, and in many cases they have improved. Against all odds, the voices of the artists seem to be louder than ever.

. . . .

From 2002 to 2012, the number of businesses that identify as or employ ‘‘independent artists, writers and performers’’ (which also includes some athletes) grew by almost 40 percent, while the total revenue generated by this group grew by 60 percent, far exceeding the rate of inflation.

What do these data sets have to tell us about musicians in particular? According to the O.E.S., in 1999 there were nearly 53,000 Americans who considered their primary occupation to be that of a musician, a music director or a composer; in 2014, more than 60,000 people were employed writing, singing or playing music. That’s a rise of 15 percent, compared with overall job-­market growth during that period of about 6 percent. The number of self-­employed musicians grew at an even faster rate: There were 45 percent more independent musicians in 2014 than in 2001. (Self-­employed writers, by contrast, grew by 20 percent over that period.)

Of course, Baudelaire would have filed his tax forms as self-­employed, too; that doesn’t mean he wasn’t also destitute. Could the surge in musicians be accompanied by a parallel expansion in the number of broke musicians? The income data suggests that this just isn’t true. According to the O.E.S., songwriters and music directors saw their average income rise by nearly 60 percent since 1999. The census version of the story, which includes self-­employed musicians, is less stellar: In 2012, musical groups and artists reported only 25 percent more in revenue than they did in 2002, which is basically treading water when you factor in inflation. And yet collectively, the figures seem to suggest that music, the creative field that has been most threatened by technological change, has become more profitable in the post-­Napster era — not for the music industry, of course, but for musicians themselves. Somehow the turbulence of the last 15 years seems to have created an economy in which more people than ever are writing and performing songs for a living.

. . . .

[T]he decline in recorded-­music revenue has been accompanied by an increase in revenues from live music. In 1999, when Britney Spears ruled the airwaves, the music business took in around $10 billion in live-­music revenue internationally; in 2014, live music generated almost $30 billion in revenue, according to data assembled from multiple sources by the live-music service Songkick. Starting in the early 1980s, average ticket prices for concerts closely followed the rise in overall consumer prices until the mid-1990s, when ticket prices suddenly took off: From 1997 to 2012, average ticket prices rose 150 percent, while consumer prices grew less than 100 percent. It’s elemental economics: As one good — recorded music — becomes ubiquitous, its price plummets, while another good that is by definition scarce (seeing a musician play a live performance) grows in value. Moreover, as file-­sharing and iTunes and Spotify have driven down the price of music, they have also made it far easier to envelop your life with a kind of permanent soundtrack, all of which drives awareness of the musicians and encourages fans to check them out in concert. Recorded music, then, becomes a kind of marketing expense for the main event of live shows.

. . . .

The vast machinery of promoters and shippers and manufacturers and A&R executives that sprouted in the middle of the 20th century, fueled by the profits of those high-­margin vinyl records and CDs, has largely withered away. What remains is a more direct relationship between the musicians and their fans. That new relationship has its own demands: the constant touring and self-­promotion, the Kickstarter campaigns that have raised $153 million dollars to date for music-­related projects, the drudgery that inevitably accompanies a life without handlers. But the economic trends suggest that the benefits are outweighing the costs. More people are choosing to make a career as a musician or a songwriter than they did in the glory days of Tower Records.

Of the big four creative industries (music, television, movies and books), music turns out to be the business that has seen the most conspicuous turmoil: None of the other three has seen anywhere near the cratering of recorded-­music revenues.

. . . .

 How have high-­quality books fared in the digital economy? If you write an exceptional novel or biography today, are you more or less likely to hit the best-­seller list than you might have in the pre-­Kindle age? Here the pessimists might have a case, based on my analysis. Every year, editors at The New York Times Book Review select the 100 notable books of the year. In 2004 and 2005, the years before the first Kindles were released, those books spent a combined 2,781 weeks on The Times’s best-­seller list and the American Booksellers Association’s IndieBound list, which tracks sales in independent bookstores. In 2013 and 2014, the notable books spent 2,531 weeks on the best-­seller lists — a decline of 9 percent. When you look at the two lists separately, the story becomes more complicated still. The critical successes of 2013 and 2014 actually spent 6 percent more weeks on the A.B.A. list, but 30 percent fewer weeks on the broader Times list. The numbers seem to suggest that the market for books may be evolving into two distinct systems. Critically successful works seem to be finding their audience more easily among indie-­bookstore shoppers, even as the mainstream market has been trending toward a winner-­takes-­all sweepstakes.

This would be even more troubling if independent bookstores — traditional champions of the literary novel and thoughtful nonfiction — were on life support. But contrary to all expectations, these stores have been thriving. After hitting a low in 2007, decimated not only by the Internet but also by the rise of big-box chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble, indie bookstores have been growing at a steady clip, with their number up 35 percent (from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,227 in 2015); by many reports, 2014 was their most financially successful year in recent memory. Indie bookstores account for only about 10 percent of overall book sales, but they have a vastly disproportionate impact on the sale of the creative midlist books that are so vital to the health of the culture.

. . . .

 To many of us, buying music in physical form is now simply an inconvenience: schlepping those CDs home and burning them and downloading the tracks to our mobile devices. But many of the most ardent Kindle converts — and I count myself among them — still enjoy browsing shelves of physical books, picking them up and sitting back on the couch with them. The trend might also reflect the social dimension of book culture: If you’re looking for literary community, you head out to the weekly reading series at the indie bookstore and buy something while you’re there.

. . . .

It has never been easier to start making money from creative work, for your passion to undertake that critical leap from pure hobby to part-time income source. Write a novel or record an album, and you can get it online and available for purchase right away, without persuading an editor or an A&R executive that your work is commercially viable. From the consumer’s perspective, blurring the boundaries has an obvious benefit: It widens the pool of potential talent. But it also has an important social merit. Widening the pool means that more people are earning income by doing what they love.

Link to the rest at The New York Times Magazine

This was an interesting read for PG. However, it suffers from the same problem that so many NYT articles do – a lack of understanding about how the rest of the nation (or even the outer boroughs of New York) operate.

The characteristic NYT blind spot was most telling in “If you’re looking for literary community, you head out to the weekly reading series at the indie bookstore and buy something while you’re there.”

PG suggests that for 99% of the US population, such an experience is not realistically possible and might not be utilized if it were. For the 99%, literary communities are online and a link in an online discussion can take you straight to Amazon, where you can make a purchase and start reading an ebook even faster than you can complete a purchase at an indie bookstore in Manhattan.

The NY-centrism reflected in the quote – I write for people who are just like me or who want to be just like me – is probably harmless at the NYT (although PG understands that circulation and profits continue to decline). However, the NY-centrism of the traditional publishing business is one of its greatest weaknesses. For one thing, most of the people reading the manuscripts and deciding which ones to publish for NY publishing are substantially disconnected from most of the book-reading public.

Because of its intellectual isolation, tradpub is poorly prepared to deal with Amazon. The denizens of tradpub are pretty much tech Cro-Magnons. Tradpub is a creature of large old-style corporate structures where the meaningful orders come from the top and meaningful information that can’t be expressed in numbers doesn’t flow upward. The customers tradpub understands aren’t readers, they’re distributors and bookstores.

If you reverse almost all tradpub characteristics, you describe Amazon – bottoms-up, consumer-focused, data-driven and technically sophisticated.

New York, cheered on by the NYT, loves to think of itself as the most intelligent, forward-looking, sophisticated, etc., etc. place in the universe. This viewpoint is one of the compensating factors for living in tiny apartments, riding dirty subways and paying exorbitant prices for every purchase. Living at the center of everything is worth the cost.

Unfortunately for tradpub and its cheerleaders, the future of books, publishing and bookselling is being invented in Seattle, not New York. Seattle is moving too fast for New York to catch up, so demonizing Bezozebub and indie authors may be best understood as some sort of compensating emotional and behavioral disorder.

Let’s Talk (John Scalzi’s) Numbers! The State of the Genre Title 2015

15 August 2015

From Pretentious Title:

The other day, best selling SF author John Scalzi posted an article called “The State of the Genre Title in 2015” in which he revealed some fascinating sales data for his latest release, Lock In.

The fact that this got posted at all is extraordinary. You almost never see traditionally published authors posting real sales numbers of any sort, especially not a big bestseller like Scalzi. He’s giving us a rare glimpse of what the top of the trad/NY world looks like here, and for that reason alone you should definitely check the post out.

But fascinating as all the numbers are, Scalzi uses them to draw some conclusions about modern book selling that we, with all respect to John Scalzi, don’t think are correct for the majority of authors. Specifically, when he’s talking about the percent of his sales that came from hardcover and audio, he says:

“This continues to be my major concern with digital-only self-publishing, incidentally: there’s money being left on the table if you can’t address all these sales channels. Most self-publishers (or micro publishers) don’t have access to bookstores, nearly all of which continue to operate on a “returns” basis. This is not about the ability to create a physical copy of a book; at this point that can easily be done with print-on-demand options. It’s about having the book already on the shelves, attractively packaged and ready to buy, when the customer walks into the store. If you don’t have that, you’ve largely lost out in that sales avenue. Likewise audio if you’re not there.

(emphasis mine)

What Scalzi is essentially saying here is that, by not having their book in bookstores, the self-published author is leaving money on the table. But I professionally think that he has left a lot more money on the table by signing with a NY publishing house, and that’s what I’d like to talk about today.

. . . .

By going NY with this book, Scalzi certainly got a LOT of promotional oomph. He has celebrity audiobook narration for one, and I’m sure that Tor put in a lot of other marketing, PR, and general promo as well. The ability of NY publishers to promote books is very considerable and not to be discounted.

That said, Scalzi himself has 86k twitter followers, his blog (by my est) gets hundreds of thousands of views per month easy, and he has massive followings on other social networks as well. He has all the megaphone he needs to sell lots of books before the publisher even steps in, never mind all the good old Amazon recommendations he’s certainly getting.

Looking at that set up, any author who’s had even modest success selling books on their own will tell you that John Scalzi doesn’t need NY’s help to move a lotof units. Further more, he might have given up a staggering amount of money to his publisher for the privilege.

Would Scalzi have sold as many books without Tor? Probably not. Tor put in a ton of marketing with a hardcover release and buying bookstore co-op (I know I saw Lock In on the front tables at my local B&N), plus the celebrity connection with getting Wil Wheaton to narrate the audio books. But the question here isn’t did Tor do a good job. It’s did all of Tor’s promotions increase sales enough to justify Scalzi earning 60% less on the books he did sell?

. . . .

In his post, Scalzi is offering advice to other authors based on his experiences. He’s saying don’t ignore NY Publishers because they bring in these other channels that indies can’t really get into, and by losing that access, authors are cutting themselves off from potential money waiting to be earned.

I’ll agree that he has a point on hardcovers. It’s hard to POD or direct-sell hardcovers without a publisher or a lot of money and risk-tolerance. I also agree that Audio is a huge emerging sales channel, but it’s one that’s now very open to indies through Audible’s ACX program and Audible’s own headhunting efforts to get successful indie authors into audio contracts.

. . . .

However, what we are really comparing here is the opportunity cost of chasing all these extra channels (especially print) via an NY publishing contract, or going it alone as an indie and focusing primarily on ebooks. Again, here’s Scalzi’s view on the matter:

“A writing career is not at all unlike a stock portfolio — diversify for long-term success.”

This isn’t bad advice. Diversification is generally a good strategy in all businesses. But while I definitely think Scalzi’s heart is in the right place, I don’t think that his experience (ie, that of a popular bestseller) is one that the average NY published author has. This is especially true when you consider what the average author with an average publishing contract gives up in potential income when they sign an average NY contract.

. . . .

One of the main endorsements Scalzi makes for going after these extra sales channels is diversity, and I get his point. It’s risky to have all your eggs in one (ebook) basket. Many authors, like Joan Penn, who have been at the self-pub thing for years now have learned to diversify their income for this same reason. Those of us who rely entirely on Amazon for revenue and book sales are definitely taking a risk.

BUT…giving up such a huge amount of potential earning power by taking a NY contract is, I feel, a much greater risk. Cash in hand is security. $270,000 represents 4-5 years of operations for Rachel and I. If the Amazon eBook market crashed tomorrow because Amazon turned evil, was busted up by the DoJ, or a new amazing competitor arose, we would definitely be in a jam. But while we don’t make Scalzi money, the incredible-by-publishing-industry-standards earnings Amazon’s current high royalty rates provide has let us build the cash reserve we need to weather any crisis long enough to change strategies accordingly.

So while I feel Scalzi’s advice of “diversify” is solid on its own, I don’t think trying for an NY contract purely for the sake reaching the print bookstore market or pursuing a diversified sales strategy is a good idea. This is especially true for midlist authors who don’t get the celebrity-read audio books, big hardcover releases, in store co-op, and multi-platform marketing push that bestsellers like Scalzi enjoy.

. . . .

New York publishing contracts are great for many things–fame, industry recognition, winning prestigious awards, meeting other famous authors, getting the attention of Hollywood–but earning money through book sales is not one of them. It used to be that authors went indie because they couldn’t get the interest of a New York house and had no other choice if they wanted to be published. Now, though, more and more authors–debut novelists and established mid-listers–are going to ebook first indie publishing because the money is simply too good to ignore.

Link to the rest at Pretentious Title and thanks to Mike for the tip.

PG says that Scalzi’s “diversification” is not his diversification as an author, but rather his publisher’s diversification in selling books through a variety of channels

Given the nature of publishing contracts and the ways publishers traditionally operate with most authors, a traditionally-published author is extremely undiversified.

Most of such authors deal with a single publisher, sometimes by choice and sometimes pressured to do so by noncompete provisions in their contracts.

Further, most traditionally-published authors deal personally only with a single person at their publisher – the editor responsible for acquiring the author’s books.

A single point of failure is a part of a system that, if it fails, stops the entire system. A system with a single point of failure is the obverse of diversification.

Traditionally-published authors are endangered by multiple points of catastrophic failure.

1. The Editor

If the editor quits or is fired, the author’s only meaningful connection with his/her publisher is gone. Theoretically, another editor will take over responsibility for the author’s books.

However, an experienced editor working for the publisher will already have a lot of other authors and books to deal with, authors and books which that editor selected. The experienced editor was almost certainly very busy with those authors and books prior to receiving new responsibilities.

At best, the author who was working with a departed editor is now a stepchild. At worst, an orphan.

Another possibility is that the author is assigned to a newly-hired editor with a fresh creative writing or world literature or anthropology or gender studies diploma.

PG will not elaborate on what may happen under these circumstances.

2. The Publisher

A second point of failure for a tradpubbed author is the publisher itself. A large publisher may be acquired by an even larger publisher. The owner of a small publisher may die or go a little nuts. Publishers go bankrupt, either officially or unofficially, on a regular basis.

The merger of a publisher may carry all its publishing contracts and their hapless authors to a different place altogether. The new big boss is in Europe somewhere and the only person who ever communicates with the author is 15 levels down from the top. And, of course, the author’s editor got kicked upstairs or was fired.

3. The Agent

If all of the author’s royalties flow through an agent’s bank account and cocaine enters an agent’s life, the author’s books may still be selling, but the author’s rewards are going up the agent’s nose.

You can substitute any number of words for cocaine and reach the same result.


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