Home » Amazon, Mike Shatzkin » Mike Shatzkin Encounters Socially-Aware Indie Authors, is Confused

Mike Shatzkin Encounters Socially-Aware Indie Authors, is Confused

2 October 2014

From Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader

…A couple days ago Mike posted a new screed in which he questions the motivations of indie authors who bash the legacy publishing industry. While Mike can see how advocates of the legacy industry are fighting for their jobs, he thinks indies are arguing against their own interests:

While there is a symmetry to the two sides’ dismay about what is appreciated or understood, there is a massive asymmetry here that is hardly, if ever, mentioned. And that asymmetry makes the motivation of the legacy defenders very clear — they’re fighting for their lives — but actually suggests that the “side” fighting them (to the extent that it consists of indie authors) is at least sometimes simultaneously fighting against their own interests.

. . .

If publishers accepted the suggestions, of course, perhaps Amazon would be pushed to improve author terms too, but that seems a pretty indirect and distant reward to explain all the time and energy some people expend on this.

I found the entire 2,300 word piece to be immensely frustrating. It’s not that Mike can’t see or connect motivations, actions, and arguments from A to B to C to D; he has all the points to answer his own question in his own post and yet he doesn’t see them.


More at The Digital Reader

Posted by Bridget McKenna

Amazon, Mike Shatzkin

22 Comments to “Mike Shatzkin Encounters Socially-Aware Indie Authors, is Confused”

  1. The Emperor’s New Clothes. It is easy to decieve yourself, especially with your supporters cheering you on.

    • I don’t know how you put up with all these people Joe. Being right out there in front.

      I read your blog and TPV when I am tired and want to get my blood up. It’s not healthy. 🙂

      • “Amazon won’t destroy Legacy Publishing. Writer’s will.” – JAK

        Of all your predictions I think that one’s going to go down as the most accurate and pertinent.

        The Shatz is confused about the anti-BPH rhetoric coming our of Indie World? All he has to do is come here once a day and read. The new post with 100+ comments on the AG/AU asking for the DOJ to attack the “Amazon Monopoly” is a good (and hilarious) place to start.

  2. As I said over at Nate’s:

    Other professions like Doctors and lawyers and engineers and what-not police their professions so why shouldn’t authors strive to ensure theirs receives proper respect?

    Especially since the organization that should be doing it isn’t.

    It helps nobody when predatory contracts and sleazy vanity presses drive away talented writers.

    • Other professions like Doctors and lawyers and engineers and what-not police their professions so why shouldn’t authors strive to ensure theirs receives proper respect?

      Doctors, lawyers, and engineers poilce their professions by granting and revoking licences. Do you really want the Authors’ Guild having the power to tell you that you are not allowed to work as a writer?

      • Their are other ways they police. Lobbying, whistleblowing, setting standards. Think of the Engineering professional associations like ASME OR AIChE.


        Licensing isn’t required to do proper advocacy and support and police bad apples. They are things the AG should be doing instead of carrying water for the BPHs and the 1-percenters.

  3. I’m a broken record on this, but the clear implication is that self-published authors are not really publishing and have nothing to contribute to the conversation.

    • I keep getting that impression as well.

    • Which makes me wonder what they think of the self-published authors who started in traditional publishing. Particularly the ones who say or demonstrate that their editor, cover artist, and/or formatter that they’ve found for themselves does better work than what the publisher provided.

      I suspect they insist that such authors don’t exist or are extremely rare exceptions, but I know of two off the top of my head. And then those are just the two who have volunteered that opinion point-blank (that their editor/cover artist/formatter is better than the one provided by the publisher). Others have expressed sentiments to that effect without saying it point-blank.

      I’m sure people like Mike who read my comment will believe I know a freakishly high percentage of self-publishers who have found the handful of contractors providing better service than the publishers provide, but that’s statistically unlikely. (P.S. None of the folks I speak of charge what folks in the “Self-publishing is so expensive!” camp claim it costs. We aren’t the cheapest out there, but we’re far from most expensive.)

      • Oh, it’s simple. Self-published authors who started in traditional publishing are obviously failures. They couldn’t stand the heat, so they skedaddled out of the kitchen.

        I mean, if J. K. Rowling had been capable of writing books that actually sold, then she wouldn’t have had to give up her writing career and start selling books out of the boot of her car Pottermore. Right?

    • Chris, I had a completely different reaction to Shatzkin’s essay.

      I thought the clear implication was that he’s a very poor businessman, and that he’s commenting publicly as an expert on some something he’s self-evidently ignorant and uninformed about: the writing profession. This includes him evidently being being entirely unaware of how many writers in the “commentariat” are both traditionally published -and- self-published (i.e. “hybrid”) these days.

      Discussing the problems in traditional publishing is as relevant to writers as discussing the problems in the US health care system is to doctors and nurses.

      • Yes, it’s like he’s specifically telling them not to listen to the most-successful writers that are doing things differently.

  4. shat (shat) vt. [Vulgar] alt. pt. of s*** 1. To defecate on or attempt to deceive 2. Anything that comes out of Mike Shatzkin’s mouth.

  5. I’m not saying Shatzkin is a Luddite, but every time he opens Word he types “The quick brown dog jumped over the lazy dog”.

  6. I posted over at The Digital Reader — I took Shatkin out of my feed reader ages ago because he can’t see beyond legacy publishing. It’s amazing that he realizes that indies exist.

    Key words in his post: “two sides.”

    It’s nonsense. What two sides? Indies are on their own side. It’s a real shame that Authors United can’t be on their own side too, and stand up for themselves. Their contracts are with Hachette, no one else.

    If they weren’t writers, and had a clue about how business works, they’d be holding Hachette’s feet to the fire instead of whining. They should have spent $106K hiring lawyers to fight Hachette, instead of on a NYT ad.


  7. I would suspect that all indie authors were at one time (and many maybe still) rah-rah enthusiasts for trad publishing and had it in our sights for our work (done or to be done). They were the Towers of Glory.

    Then we hit the internet and saw what contracts contained and saw authors speaking up about the outrageous way they were being treated. You never heard this stuff said openly before. You do now. We see screenshots of disgusting clauses. We hear about mangled covers and editors-go-rounds that leave authors facing whiplash and delayed books. A lack of promo or adequate marketing. And on it goes.

    I’m still shaking my head that everyone in publishing gets regular check and benefits while authors may get paid 2x a year and have tiny royalties and are, basically, getting ripped off left and right in a multitude of ways.

    Honestly, before indies and hybrids started talking about what publishers REALLY were doing with newbies and midlists and non-bestselling authors, publishing seemed like some really glowy, lovely, lalaland.

    Color me no longer blinded by the light from NY.

    • I was never a rah-rah enthusiast for traditional publishing. Even in my teens I could see far too many things that were just blatantly wrong with their business practices – and even at that age, I had enough experience of the world to know that most other industries did not commit the same obvious mistakes and abuses.

    • I try to be careful in limiting my snark to the Manhattan Syndicate. Some of the smaller tradpubs seem to earn their keep and go about their business like actual pros.

      They may be flying under the radar but there are at least a few that don’t deserve to be tarred and feathered.

    • I used to be Rah Rah for the Towers of Glory in NY, too. I wanted so badly to be able to say that I was flying to NY to meet my agent. You know how you do? You daydream, and put in those details of what it would look like when you had arrived at success. “Yes, I’m flying to NY to meet my agent, we’re going to talk about a book tour, you know.”

      That was in the days before you could easily do conference calls, so of course, you had to fly to New York!

      But as time went on and I heard the stories about how little Trad Pub gave to the folks who actually created the stories, and while NY does have the best pizza ever (sorry Chicago!), I realized that I didn’t have to look any further than my own back yard in order to measure my own success.

      • Well, I lived in NY for 12 years, and after moving developed flying phobia. So, flying to NY has no allure at all. 🙂

        The NY Pizza is glorious and some places in NY must have gotten their recipe from Italian angels revealing heavenly secrets. Gosh, I miss it. (Well, I’m gluten free, but for authentic quality NY pizza, I’d break my no gluten rule for a week.)

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.