Home » Dean Wesley Smith, The Business of Writing » Why I Haven’t Been Writing Many Publishing Blogs Lately

Why I Haven’t Been Writing Many Publishing Blogs Lately

20 September 2014

From Dean Wesley Smith:

I’ve gotten a few e-mails wondering when I was going to resume writing some of my different publishing blogs.

. . . .

But here’s why there hasn’t been many lately.

1… Most of publishing news has been focused on the fight between a bookstore and a publisher. There must be a thousand blogs on the topic now, and not a person knows what exactly the two major companies are fighting over. At least no one talking and blogging knows. I hate uninformed opinions. I love opinions and good discussions, but when pure idiocy goes on this long on both sides, I just get bored. So nothing for me to write about.

2… Writers are fighting and that just makes me sad. I think all writers should just help each other. This business is tough enough without writers going at one another for no logical reason that I can find. Yet indie writers go after traditional writers and traditional writers jab at indie writers. And respect of long-term writers by baby writers seems to be a thing of the past, from what I have witnessed on some blogs and in person. Just sad and not something I’m going to write about. However, I will say that most writers I know just keep our heads down in this fight and keep writing. That’s what I’ve been doing.

. . . .

6… I am sick to death of all the articles about how paper books are going away, yet all data shows exactly the opposite. And I am sick to death of all the articles about how B&N is going to go away, all written by people who couldn’t read a stock report if they tried, let alone understand the health of a major corporation. So nothing there for me to write about lately. Belief that all paper books are vanishing has reached religion status, where proof and data no longer matter. Time, meaning a decade or two, will tell.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to Colleen for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books

Dean Wesley Smith, The Business of Writing

115 Comments to “Why I Haven’t Been Writing Many Publishing Blogs Lately”

  1. I will look forward to his publishing blogs when he gets back to them. I enjoy them and take what is useful to me. There is a lot of noise out there right now and it’s getting annoying. I’m tired of hearing about the dispute and about elite authors. I need to focus on the writing and trying to make a go of it for myself.

  2. “And I am sick to death of all the articles about how B&N is going to go away, all written by people who couldn’t read a stock report if they tried, let alone understand the health of a major corporation.”

    I can read a stock earning report and I STILL think B&N, and particularly their Nook division, is dying so maybe cut back on the “kumbiya you morons”condescension, just a little.

    • B&N going away is going to mean different things to different people.
      To many of us out here it has already gone away either through downright closure, reduced book shelf space/inventory making them irrelevant, or never being anywhere near us (my current case).

      B&N, the company, has a lot of shrinkage ahead of them, by their own planning, and likely faces even more shrinkage they’re not planning on just yet. I see them as a Sears/KMART, walking wounded, that will keep on shrinking as far as the eye can see simply because their existing model has no growth in it and they show no interest in changing models. Until they change, it might take them fifty years to go, but go they will.

    • I can also read a stock report. What I see for B&N is not encouraging. I look forward to his analysis of B&N.

    • You’ll find Dean has a lot more faith in paper than some of the other major voices in the indie scene. His math cannot be denied.

      The death of B&N has been predicted for years now. I’m kind of fed up with hearing about how they are going away too. It might happen, but people are just way too sure about it.

      • Well, for years now, B&N has been fulfilling that prediction.

        If we look at the sector, Borders demise was a big reduction in paper retailing. B&N then spun off the Nook, and it has done poorly ever since. At the same time, B&N has been reducing the number of stores and the shelf space dedicated to paper books. Liberty withdrew its bid, and little came of the MS potential.

        B&N may transition into something other than a bookstore, and I wish them luck. But if they did, I would say that would be a brilliant preservation of capital, and the demise of the book business.

  3. I don’t think we’re anywhere near paper books being a niche. I do think if the trend toward digitizing our entertainment continues, and ebooks grow in popularity, and the young folks (new grade schoolers) become used to reading and entertainment on electronic devices continues (the young folks in my family still read both on devices and print), the trend will be toward fewer paper books. How long the transition? Who knows.

    And all it takes is some event to make us majorly distrust the cloud with our reads to make paper super attractive again.

    Paper books won’t disappear. Especially not while older generations used to paper still purchase their reads.

    He’s right that the acrimony of the A/vs/H has gotten kinda distressing. I wish it would resolve already….

    Oh, and if store closings are anything to go by, B&N seems in deep shit trouble. If the NOOK issue is anything to go by, that’s not going well. But maybe they can do something great online–I keep the hope they fix their crappy site, their lousy search, and their often irritating reading app. (I cannot tell you how frustrating it can be with B&N online, omg, so bad.) I want them to grow and learn and be competitive since I have a lot of NookBooks and don’t want to lose the ability to use them or have to go through the annoyance of transferring and transferring and transferring (like I had to do with Fictionwise and with Sony ebooks.)

    • It’ll be a slow death. Just like CDs and DVDs. But it will eventually happen. Never to the point of extinction, I don’t think, but print will be an afterthought. A sideline.

      I don’t care what the current data says. I’m sure the current data at one time said that we’d be buying CDs and using MySpace and AOL forever. Then it didn’t.

  4. It’s sad to have the exacting clarity Dean Wesley Smith shares about this profession obscured by battle smoke. Following that above link to his site will provide many valuable insights.

  5. I normally agree with most of what DWS says, which is mostly the case here.

    However #2 needs some work. Who are these indie writers who are “going after” traditional writers? I see indie writers reacting to instance upon instance of trad writers saying really stupid stuff, that’s about it. He may have seen differently.

    Also, a writer’s tenure/sales doesn’t entitle them to respect (or make their opinion gospel), any more than inexperience/lack of sales means a writer should necessarily kowtow to them. Does Douglas Preston’s bank account mean he can just keep lying, and the peons should leave it unchallenged until they reach a certain sales milestone? Come on, man.

    Also, B&N is in trouble. I don’t know what he’s going on about there, either.

    • Yeah, I had the same reaction. I’ve mostly seen corporate folks (authors, agents, publishers, et al.) taking pot shots at “self-publishing.” Usually the most they’ll acknowledge is that it’s “viable”; rarely do they cite it as a great choice.

      The “long-term writers” and “baby writers” bit threw me, too. Smacks to me of condescension, or maybe just has a distinct “If you’re not going to get off my lawn you better acknowledge how green it is” vibe to it, or maybe I’m just reading too much into it.

      As far as B&N . . . they’re not doing as successfully as they were before, and the real problem is that the stocks and earnings reports and whatever else are one thing and the long-term strategy of the company is quite another besides, and the latter is where the biggest issue is. Last week their strategy was to partner with Samsung because the whole Microsoft thing didn’t work out. This week their strategy was to lock down DRM and side-loading. Who knows what next week will hold?

      • I get tired of ‘baby’ writers, too, so that part of his commentary did NOT bother me. One or two books out, blasting away at how they did it, telling those around them what they are doing wrong or how they need to do things like them to be successful…

        Uh, yeah.

        Okay, maybe some of that the ‘baby’ new writers are doing is working… for that one book in this moment of time. Keep repeating that success. Keep moving forward and getting better in the storytelling and publishing. Keep going through the hard times. Stop the yelling or being the know-it-all. THEN I’ll listen more.

        Until then, I get tired of those loud voices (maybe this comes from the finish/publish a book ‘high’?). I prefer the ones that come with experience that they gained through time. Because those lessons learned will carry a writer through good and bad times, through the changes in the industry, and keep them going for years. This is why I have loved that Kris and Dean have been so willing to share what they have learned over the years, even if I don’t agree with all of it. At the very least it’s going to make me think.

        But, that’s just me.

        • Given the way corporate publishing works, one can’t really correlate experience writing to books out, unfortunately.

          I get what you’re saying, though. I get tired of know-it-alls in general, regardless of how much experience they have. Personally, I don’t care how many books any given someone has sold if I don’t think they’ve written a good one–though that of course hits the objective v subjective debate and all that stuff, so it may not be useful in general. Probably just me.

        • A lot of those experienced people signed the Preston letter.

    • I agree, Dan. Where I depart from DWS’s concerns is here: “I hate uninformed opinions. I love opinions and good discussions, but when pure idiocy goes on this long on both sides, I just get bored.”

      I’m not even close to being bored by the Amazon/Hachette drama. Nor do I hate uninformed opinions. It’s called discussion based on what is now known — though our discussions are apparently not “good discussions” in DWS’s view. I don’t think anyone here or elsewhere on the net is claiming to know the facts that are, so far, hidden from us. It’s speculation and fun.

      Also, I fail to see the idiocy on “both” sides, though I do see it on one side (of course, that’s just my uninformed opinion).

      • They aren’t uninformed opinions at all. People are expressing opinions based on the best information they have. That’s all any of us EVER do.

        But when people continue to express the same opinion in the face of clear evidence to the contrary, that’s when the problems start.

      • I wouldn’t assume that he was talking about “our discussions” specifically. If the shoes don’t fit, toss them aside and go on with life. 😉

        • I didn’t think he was talking about our discussions specifically — but I was making the point that some of our discussions would probably fall into the group he doesn’t care for.

      • I’m not bored either, Patricia, but I also regard the Amazon/Hatchette show the same way I do Big Brother or The Voice. 😀

    • Actually I admit, I am also sick and tired of indies beating a whole herd of dead horses about traditional publishing. So there are a few whiners who will never learn because they haven’t noticed that the world has changed.

      MOST of the complaining I hear from indies these days sounds pretty much like that. They are complaining about how things were several years ago. And the result is this strange echo chamber: it’s beginning to sound like the new cool kids just ganging up on the new not cool kids. It may have been fun for a little bit, but now it starts to look exactly like it did before. (“Four legs good, two legs better!”)

      The truth is, the indies won. We won a while ago. It just takes a while (to paraphrase Hugh) for the sinking ships to go down or turn around.

      As for B&N — um, yeah, I can read stock reports (and I also can read the between the lines stuff) and I don’t like the look of B&N. But I admit I don’t know enough about things like their debts and how much cash they have on hand.

      • I’m with you about beating the dead horses, Camille. I pass up the comments on certain posts here regularly, because I know it’s just going to be another round of the same things being said.

        I don’t have the energy to be angry about legacy publishing. I’m too busy trying to get my books out there.

  6. Dean’s posts on the basics of self-publishing were what opened my eyes a few years ago. I studied every one carefully as they came out and they helped me immeasurably. I still check his blog every day for publishing insights, even though they are less frequent. I don’t agree with everything he says – I don’t agree with everything anyone says – but he definitely has a wealth of experience to share. New self-publishers can benefit greatly by going over some of his archived posts.

  7. Amen to all Dean said. I’ve said more or less the same from time to time and been shouted down.

    • Many of us will ‘shout you up” IJ. Hang in there. I noticed too, that disagreeing can bring on ad hominem attacks for some kind of imagined ‘disloyalty’ to the whatever/whomever. But I think, if it’s really the big tent of indie publishing, there has to be room also to ‘agree to disagree’ in with civility. And still be valued cohort in getting actual-factual things done that are helpful to all. I’d hate to see a closed clique at the top of anything that is just like the closed clique at the top of trad pub or trad agenting, only indie pub-ing.

      One area, not covered most anywhere, is/are religious indie authors/ or maybe better said– help me with this– would it be ‘indie authors who write religious novels and books’? What I hear from distant thunder, is they have a huge stake in indie authoring/pub, but are turned off by the attacks from all sides, and are moving forward nonetheless. In numbers alone, they would have been a huge aid to the ’cause.’ But, it would appear, that will not be forthcoming. YA authors by the many, also have their own ideas about indie pub and I hope they can join us too.

      • I’ve seen this dichotomy between my work in the Christian fiction market and the general market. I can’t speak for every C-fic writer, but many of us are or act conservative when faced with the choice between trade publishing and indie. There is also a huge industry group who both overtly and implicitly support the idea that you’re not really published without a house and a contract. Maybe those ideas are why there had been comparatively little said by Christian novelists on the whole topic.

    • I don’t always agree with you, but I suspect that many of the times you feel “shouted down” are those when I do. However, they are also the times when I am so sick of the piling on that I don’t hang around at all. I’ll try to remember to at least drop an encouraging word in future.

      • Ah! Nice. I come here for the intelligent voices (and clearly there are those!), and to keep up with publishing news. Lately it’s been just about the only blog I visit and I have occasionally quailed even then. My God, somebody called me a troll recently. That almost did it.

        Thank you.

  8. Dean:

    Thanks for explaining why we’re not getting more of your wise words these days. We’ve already lost Kris and I’d hate to lose you too.

    • PH, I agree. It was a sad day when Kris stopped writing her SO needed factual pages about copyright /writing of wills/ the lay of the land in publishing… lengthy pieces that gave critical info and value on could put into ACTION right away. We all understood why she stopped, and it was beyond a gift that she wrote her articles so faithfully for so long. And yet, time. Time is all we have, and like a bank account, how to spend it. She chose to spend the time in other ways –essentially to write more books, read more, teach, be with family, and hopefully enjoy whatever… There was a donate button, still is, on the site[s] saying essentially, this takes time to do, donations appreciated to compensate our time. I thought it was truthtelling. And wise. And donated several times– with always a gracious letter back from Dean, thanking. Class act.

  9. DWS has a lot of wisdom and is very generous with it. But sometimes he gets a little cranky and is prone to hyperbole. For instance…

    “Belief that all paper books are vanishing has reached religion status…”

    I don’t read every blog out there, but I do read PV and Konrath, and Gaugrhan regularly. I don’t like to say words like ‘never’ or ‘always,’ but I’m pretty sure that I’ve never heard anyone say that “all paper books are going away.” Not even one time. That would be easily recognizable as silly.

    • I rarely see this either. He’s definitely exaggerating.

    • He’s exaggerating (something he does all the time) but here, I honestly feel he is matching hyperbole with hyperbole. I have seen people talking smack about paper books when I know for sure that they don’t really believe it.

      Although I don’t see as many comments about buggy-whips as I used to, nearly every time someone brings up the “buggy-whip” argument, they’re comparing that industry to paper publishing.

      It’s not an apt comparison anyway, AND there still are buggy whip manufacturers out there.

      • It’s not an apt comparison anyway, AND there still are buggy whip manufacturers out there.

        Buggy whips went from being mainstream items to a niche product. That, to me, sounds like exactly what’s going on with books, so I really don’t see how it’s not an apt comparison. A simple cost/benefit comparison all but guarantees that ebooks will overtake traditional printing in the fiction markets except for the gifts and collectors editions.

        That is, until the POD market matures enough that collector quality hardbacks are feasible. The cost of mass runs, warehousing, transport, and return/pulping isn’t sustainable in the face of competition that has none of those.

        • It’s not an apt comparison for many reasons, but the big one is: You don’t need a carriage and a horse to have a use for a book. And with a buggy whip, you don’t need more than one.

          The collectibles industry is definitely a more apt comparison, and that industry is not at all marginalized. Sure, not everybody has a Funko Bobble-head of Agent Coulson sitting next to their monitor along with a fast-food Mr. Peabody figurine — these will pass on to treasured out-of-print status some day and never be available again — but trust me, Funko and Taco Bell will continue to have the mid- and low- ends of the collectibles market with new “titles” all the time.

          And that is not to mention the high-end. From Gone With the Wind classic china dolls to Urban Underachiever Big Lebowski action figures complete with rug.

          If that’s what the publishing industry has to look forward to… well, they may not like it at first, but it will be far from the margins.

        • And I should add that POD doesn’t have to reach “Collector’s Quality” status to become collectable. All it needs is to be a physical object priced at the right range for a mid-level impulse buy.

        • In economic terms, buggy whips simply mean an obsolete technology that is being replaced by another. I would agree few really know the intricacies of their deployment, but I don’t really know what a widget is, either. But widgets are pretty useful little gizmos.

          We should probably apply buggy whips to paper fiction rather all paper books. Paper fiction is on a trajectory consistent material obsolescence. That doesn’t mean there will be no paper fiction, but it will be a small segment of the fiction market that really doesn’t matter much. Lower eBook production costs and a loss of paper efficiencies of scale are the drivers.

          Note how important it is to publishers of fiction that eBook prices do not fall. They recognize the power of the price competition between formats.

      • Camille, I thought you were the one who started all the buggy whip comments around here.

      • A lot of indies don’t even bother with making print versions of their books because it takes “too much time to format” and “no one’s interested in print anyway”.

        It doesn’t take that long and there are people who still want print.

  10. I’d agree with Dean’s reasons for not covering any more of the hachette/amazon/authors united or whatever they’re called. It has taken on parody status imo, similar to birthers vs obama, or global warming vs not.

    Just my .02. I agree that all should go their own ways, preferably in hard work and in peace, with as many opportunities offered, or pried open as possible– to publish their works. It has been shocking to see personal attacks, and generic attacks– so much so that most of the MSM [mainstream media] no longer covers what many of us see as the most important issue facing writers across the world.

    [Although Net Neutrality certainly trumps it, and in spades. Lose that, and we’ve lost the equiv of freedom of enterprise wherein only large corps will have the jazz, and small businesses like most of us can go pound sand.]

    I like what Dean says and his way of saying it about what has happened regarding not news of fact, but [imo] personalities and stagings and rages. Dean and his wife Kris are the reason we’re in ebooks. They’re the reason many, many other writers are in ebooks. He’s got heavy creds over the decades. He’s written huge numbers of books for Men in Black series, Star Trek series, and much much more– I think nearing 100+ published novels. He’s written a number of ‘here’s how I did it and you can too’ detailed books on the bones of self publishing, not just the mechanics of the publishing process, but meaning critical matters others dont cover, such as DWS brand of productivity how tos that are essential, and especially, the first reasoned books on the ‘myths of publishing.’

    He has a solid track record, and is not a ‘look at me, look at me’ ‘nor a whack a mole’ screech. Nor, an ‘us vs them’ for rantings’ sake, kind of guy. He stands and says his piece. Fiercely often. But doesnt draw energy from ranting or alienating others.

    Though he does have choice words for people who cheat authors, people who are egotists whether they write or not, and people who are wanting to climb over others in the selfpublishing or trad pub worlds – he is a humor-filled guy who with his wife Kris Rusch [Nebula award winning sci fi writer who has also published over 100 books] also teach writers by deconstructing genres and the writing process… and literally giving away the secrets of the house, the classes they teach, being stylized and imo, being FAR beyond what any other writer has ever offered to writers who are actually just talented people trying to find their ways with their stories. They also own a publishing house and specialize in ebooks out the kazoo.

    I know that sounds like St. Dean and St. Kris. Ok, ok. But frankly, most everyone I know wears a halo, and a few, sort of draped over little devil horns sometimes…lol. Yet, I’ve never seen a phenom by two hardworking folks who write their own books one after the other after the other –AND also give real time helps to other authors that are SO content rich. And with gracious and quirky aplomb.

    No one is everyone’s cup of tea. And it’d be hard to imagine a writer who is not hardheaded about something or many things. But there are a ton of writers who prefer learning to write, and write better, and find the pathways through to publishing… and one of the most endearing things about DWS& Co., is they feel they are, as writers, still learning too. Just right. And incidentally they are also strange, odd, and weird– [Dean used to earn his living as a champion poker player , serious] and i think, wondrous, just like most of us- kindred.

    Just my .02. Compassion fatigue has set in when I see any headline with Hachette, Patterson, AG, Amazon, and a few other keywords, that rile the same ideas over and over, essentially ‘look what they’re doing to us now/ look what theyre doing to themselves now’. Im waiting for headline[s] that say ‘have come to an agreement.’ Headlines that say ‘alliance between indie authors and trad pub authors.’ Headlines that say ‘new opportunities opened for indie authors through negotiations with X or Y.’ That, would be actual fact and news. I hope it will come.

    And, it is true, there has been a great deal of Sherman trying to in effect, ‘march to the sea’ laid down in the meantime on all sides, that even after the skirmish[s] are over, I hope the hot spots, as in a forest fire, will not still burn in some for years to come over ‘the secession’ times. Honestly, I’d rather we all write more good books. Here on Passive Voice, I dig the many articles PG runs on indie authors who have taken the leap. Especially loved the one about how epubbing actually increased productivity in writing. An important revelation, that others might do likewise.

  11. “I love opinions and good discussions, but when pure idiocy goes on this long on both sides, I just get bored.” –

    And there are omissions and skews on both sides: among them – signing with a publisher vs exclusivity to participate; and placement-buying in stores vs selective digital-placement online.

    Neither, on either side, is illegal or evil. They’re business practices.

    Claims by authors or reps from one side that the “other” side is doing one of the two, without mentioning the parallel (even if with some differences) situation on “their” side, is, for me, like bad politics. Not worth my vote.

    I also get bored, but I check in, see if anything’s changed, see what’s new, if anything. 🙂 Yeah, I know. I’m a sucker for it (smiles).

  12. When I followed the link to all the points Dean is making, I thought he sounded depressed — like someone who needs a break. Then I got to the part about what he’s been doing with his time and the mention that he’s having fun and I saw that I was wrong. I wish him well with his current endeavors.

    • I left his a comment on the post as well – I’ve been lurking there for years and love his advice and help on self-pubbing/building a small press.

      That said, and HE has said it!, he’s one guy with lots of knowledge and experience, sure, but one guy with hos own POV. It will ring true to some and fall flat for others.

      Does the ‘baby writer’ label sound good to me? Not at all, but I’m not going to get up in arms and assume he’s slagging on people either. I read everything Joe Konrath offers to us all too, but I tune him out when he calls people ‘retards’ because I find that offensive.

      It doesn’t make either of them horrible people – just makes them people with opinions and they share them (along with TONS of useful info) but they are posting on the internet and attracting thousands and when enough eyeballs are on you, you eventually ‘say’ something that doesn’t sit right with someone.

      It’s the way of the world. Best thing to do is take a deep breath, remember we are all human and have our own way of looking at things and keep going.

      Do I think DWS is right about Barnes and Noble? Yes, it is stabilizing and will be around. Will it matter in the long run? I’m not so sure. They sell fewer and fewer book outside of bestsellers and indie bookstores are growing every year. They have a horrible web presence and their stores have lost a lot of the atmosphere they used to have. Survival does not necessarily equal rebounding and growing at any appreciable rate. The Kmart analogy is not the worst I’ve heard.

      Do writers fight too much? WAYYYY too much. Is it tiring? To me it sure is.

      Do I care about Hatchette/Amazon? Not really. I get annoyed when rich bestsellers claim to speak for me and spout stupidity when they do so, but it’s not like anyone is listening to them anyway…

      I’m just trying to write the next book, build an audience and quit my day job (oh a boy can dream can’t he????)

      I’m thankful for Konrath, PG, DWS and every indie writer, pro writer and helpful commenter who shares a little something along the way to move that along.

  13. Does it peeve anyone else how some people use the word “blog” to mean individual blog posts? When people say “I’m going to write a blog,” I read that as “I’m going to start a new blog,” not “I’m going to post something to my blog.”

    • Joe, the word itself is hard one to like the sound of. Some of my friends call it the blogadao, bloga, or blogadado, and those who write blogistos, and those who… lol

      But alot of us, privately call it diario.

      • I have literally never seen, read, or heard any of those words before, and the typo in your first sentence is making question whether they’re even English.

        • Well joe, its not a typo, it’s a syntax issue. English is not my first language. Sorry to have made you stumble on my inadequacy. In Spanish, as in my other two natal languages, we, like other language groups, incorporate new words in English into our languages. Thus the word ‘yard’ for people who used to have nothing resembling such… when through econ moving up, they coined the word ‘yarda’… just putting our own brand of music into English here in the Wild West.

        • Sorry Joe, English is not my first language.

    • Yeah — blog is also a verb, so making it singular and collective just ads to the confusion. I suspect they do it because “post” is also used as both a verb and a noun, and can be even more confusing in a discussion. So maybe they have settled on using “post” as only a verb, and “blog” as only noun.

    • I’ve always said that the word “blog” makes it sound like the internet got drunk and threw up somewhere, and I think the vast majority read that way, too.

    • Anyone interested in reviving the fight against the word “blog”? We can all go back to using the word “weblog”.

      It being Tuesday, I prepared myself to append another article to my weblog.

      Classy, huh?

      If no one else is interested, I’ll go back to my desperate attempt to defend the subjunctive. And “whom”.

  14. I am going to take umbrage at point number one. If DWS doesn’t want to blog about Hachette’s fight with Amazon, that’s fine. To say that everyone else’s opinion is uninformed is false, insulting, and ultimately the coward’s way out of facing the most important issue in publishing today. If he limited his blogging to the things he has exact knowledge of, he would never blog. That there have been a thousand blogs and pure idiocy has taken over is all the more reason to blog about the situation with intelligence and logical analysis. When there is an organized effort to spread falsehoods and propaganda, I think it is foolish to remain silent. DWS can blog or not blog about Hachette-Amazon, but I won’t stop and, frankly, I can do without people who affect the world-weary “nothing to see here, everybody is in the dark” attitude. Just because you can’t figure it out doesn’t mean the rest of us have to be in the dark.

    • Well…. I see your point, but I admit that I feel the same way he does.

      I honestly believe this is a complete tempest in a teapot. It’s not the most important issue in publishing today. It’s just a contract negotiation in which one side is in complete denial over the changes that have occurred in the world. And they are screaming and howling, and should be ignored.

      • The issues being publicly discussed are extremely important to the publishing industry. They revolve around a retailer’s right to set retail price. While we don’t know the exact issues under contract negotiation, it is clear that negotiations have prompted a great deal of discussion about agency pricing.

        • But I think, in the end, this negotiation isn’t going to change much. With the forces that are in play, we’re going to end up with the same thing in, say, five years no matter what path this particular negotiation takes.

      • Really, Camille? A tempest in a teapot? I think that is a short-sighted view. What do you think will happen when it is Penguin Random House on the other side of the negotiating table? The way this one plays out will affect that. In the long run, only the long view matters. Amazon is looking that far, you should be too.

        • I don’t think Amazon is overly concerned either.

          No matter what happens now… Amazon will win in the long run.

          This whole hullabaloo is just the squealing of a panicked industry which is caught between a rock and a hard place.

          I would compare it to Edison’s efforts to shut down early film productions. He didn’t particularly want to exploit his patents himself, but he sent Pinkertons in to break the knees of anyone who violated his patents. At the time it seemed like he was hampering the development of the industry, but really he was just shifting a lot of his own money to the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

          Meanwhile, a million shop girls with nickels were not to be denied.

          I have always thought, in any big fight like this, the key is to watch the shop girls, not the combatants. The combatants will individually do all sorts of things to each other. The wrong side may sometimes win, temporarily, but the shop girls will just find another champion.

        • It isn’t just books.
          Plenty of other suppliers wish they could limit discounting at Amazon (and WalMart, and Best Buy, etc), starting with the Big Japanese/Korean HDTV manufacturers.
          So Amazon fighting for its ability to control their retail prices is much more important to them than their entire book sector, not just Hachette’s piddly portion.

          • So those other fights are actually the important ones. Hachette is just a “piddly” but noisy side fight.

            But even then… I don’t see that Amazon is really fighting for the right to discount with those other goods. Most manufacturers are delighted to partner with Amazon. (And with Walmart and the BuyMore…)

            Sure, even a little thing (like a court decision over a tool company’s taxes) can have a long term effect on an industry. But honestly, this particular negotiation, from what we know (and Dean is right, we don’t really know), is only of major importance to one side. It’s only that important because that one side is not flexible enough to handle the rapid change Amazon pushes.

            But Amazon could deal with losing here. (Not that they will, because often the side that doesn’t have to win, does win.) Unlike Walmart, people don’t go to Amazon just for the discounts, or even primarily for the discounts.

            The only thing that would really hurt Amazon would be if the publishers removed their books altogether — which would hurt them too. (Especially if they all did it together and got the attention of the Justice Department.)

      • It depends. Is this another S&S/B&N fight which didn’t change much, or is it MacMillan/Amazon which ended with the pricing conspiracy. How Hatchette reacts isn’t going to change much even if they pulled their books. How the other publishers react to this fight is what will matter.

        • IMHO, it will just mean a longer fight. Long term, it still won’t matter. Eventually, the customers will get what they want.

          • Lol, long term I’m looking for the day when publishers are nostalgic about Amazon when complaining about Alibaba being mean to them. The veneration of B&N only a decade after their destruction of indies, literature, and culture as the world knew it, has been amusing at points.

      • I lean toward the view that Camille has just expressed. I think publishers didn’t want to deal in an intelligent, businesslike, and proactive way with the market changes already taking place in 2009, and so they entered into illegal collusive price-fixing in a doomed attempt to avoid having to keep up with the market at a time of disruptive technology.

        They got caught almost immediately (the Attorney General’s offices of several different states started investigating the collusive price-fixing scheme within weeks of it being implemented, and then the DoJ started investigating), they’ve been fined collectively in the estimated of $200,000,000 (and Apple has been fined separately and much more $), they’ve had to spend two years negotiating under restrictions imposed as part of their court settlement, they’ve ALSO been sued by 30+ states and by other entities and interests for their price-fixing scheme, which was always aimed at fighting the future instead of figuring out how to make the future work for them…

        And now here we are, 5 years later… and that’s STILL where they are! Hachette is engaging in this absurdly long, counter-productive, and (Hachette, the AG, the media, AU, etc. keep braying) costly dispute with Amazon, all because (it has been leaked over and over by now) Hachette wants to artificially raise ebook prices in order to protect the hardcover market.

        FIVE YEARS LATER, that is STILL where their focus and their “business” position is.

        This is pathetic. I do think the DoJ should be paying close attention, but I’m leaning toward the rest of us ignoring it, because this ludicrous idiocy has eaten up far more of our time and attention than it deserves, in a market where there is a lot of LEGITIMATE news to pay attention to and learn from.

    • Just how “informed” can all those opinions be from people who are clearly not sitting in both boardrooms?
      Dean is right!

      • ditto that!

      • Many of the opinions deal with general commercial issues that may be part of discussions. Those issues deserve attention regardless of the Hachette situation. One does not need inside knowledge to discuss agency pricing and its effect on producers and consumer prices.

        Nor does one need inside knowledge to apply that knowledge to the boook industry.

        So, the opinions can run from completely uninformed to very informed.

  15. Paper books aren’t vanishing, but they are diminishing in importance, and will continue to do so. The big bookstore chains haven’t gone out of business, but they have rung up losses for the past three years and it is hard to see that pattern turning around. To think otherwise on either subject is to ignore a large body of evidence.

    Those are not uninformed opinions. I am a statistician by profession and I pay a great deal of attention to evidence. And I can read a financial statement well enough to know when a publicly traded company is sustaining continuing losses.

    • Thank you. DWS’s post was unnecessarily insulting, but whatever. It’s his blog. I only occasionally read it for a reason. He’s a smart guy, but he’s not on my top list of people to pay attention to in this industry. His wife was when she had her blog though.

  16. I’m a DWS fanboy. His page pops up as my homepage. His career arc is exactly what I want for myself.

    He might be right or he might be wrong about B&N. His guess is as good as anyone else’s. The doomsayers seem pretty goddamn sure of themselves, and have been for years, so let us not be too harsh when he seems just as sure.

    I was more alarmed by him talking about new people crapping on the old hands. As a baby writer I will make up my own mind, sure, but I won’t for a second ignore the more experienced people.

    Maybe he was talking about how we tend to crap on the AU guys. Well…those guys are just being dumb. Hopefully he wasn’t talking about that.

    • It seems to me that people crap on them (and actually more of their spokespeople than them) when they do dumb things that affect writers. Otherwise, they’re largely ignored since most writers who are embracing going indie are pretty busy actually trying to run their businesses. I guess now we’re just not supposed to say anything negative about them.

  17. I usually enjoy DWS’s commentary and advice, but I was disappointed he had to resort to the old “A plague a’both your houses!” in regard to Amazon/Hachette. Fine if he doesn’t want to write about it, but it’s so clearly the Preston gang who is desperate to keep this dead topic alive.

    He is correct that no one knows the full story about the dispute between these two giant companies. But that makes it all the more absurd that “Authors United” demands the public join them in condemning Amazon. I think most Indie writers would prefer to talk about something else, but when Preston continually gets huge and one-sided write ups in the NYTimes, New Yorker and other mainstream media, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for people from the Indy side to want to point out their illogic, snobbery and outright lies.

    I am very thankful that strong voices in the Indy community, like HH and JK, do take the time to provide an intelligent opposing opinion to this orchestrated smear campaign against not only Amazon, but independent writing in general.

    • Ditto.

      I get being tired of the subject. I agree the level of animosity that has sometimes been on display has been regrettable, especially between authors. Don’t believe DWS’ post really adds much of a grace note to the discussions.

  18. This whole ‘nobody knows the whole story’ crap drives me nuts. Nobody knows the whole story behind the negotiations after WWI either, but if you don’t try to understand what happened to the Kurds then, you won’t understand what is happening now.

    We must make decisions in the face of uncertainty every day.

    • William,

      You just made my wife’s entire week with your comment about the Kurds. She is now your new BFF, whether you know it (and whether you like it) or not.

      PS she teaches AP US History and AP Human Geography, which is info more for anyone else who doesn’t understand why she would enjoy your comment so much. I mean, I did too, but I’m more subdued since I just love history but don’t actually teach it.

      Or teach a proper, factual version of it, anyway. According to some of the neighborhood kids, their teachers weren’t happy to hear that Columbus landed in Charlotte, NC, in 1849 with his racing yacht (dual 300hp engines) and brought beer and cigarettes to the natives here in America.

      They weren’t amused to hear the children tell of how Ben Franklin beat the British in a 1-on-1 Grudge Ladder-Chair-Iron Cage match vs. Benedict Cumberbatch to see which country would end up with the Constitution and which one ended up a smelly, cold monarchy.

      But anyway, history rules. And if it helps, when Konrath and PG kept referring to you for insight, I started paying attention. You’re always full of good insight and measured responses.

      This is the biggest moment in publishing, and it seems there are still those that are denying what’s about to happen. To which I say… go look and see what the internet has done to almost every other similar business model.

      Okay, fanboi (and girl) slobbering complete.

    • “You just made my wife’s entire week with your comment about the Kurds. She is now your new BFF, whether you know it (and whether you like it) or not.”

      Mine too.

  19. Not trying to speak for Dean, but I remember asking him some questions about a year ago. His positions haven’t changed since then.

    I asked Dean about his position on B&N’s survival, and he basically said that the numbers and information he’s seen speak of a business going through a restructuring, the kind that has happened over and over, and nothing more. I disagreed then and now on the basis that B&N is being seriously disrupted, not merely facing tough competition. I guess he still feels the same way he did then.

    I agree with Felix that B&N “going away” will mean different things to different people. I think for most of us, it means that they will cease to be a dominant nationwide player in book retailing. This Christmas will be very telling about their future.

    Dean also subscribed to the 30% plateau theory. I don’t think it was correct back then, and I know for a fact it won’t be true in 5 and 10 years. Younger generations will have a strong preference for digital, and older people are still shifting towards digital. And, as I said some time ago, I don’t think ebooks will follow a normal adoption curve. All the necessary hardware is already heavily adopted. The barrier to adoption is very low.

    For #1, the theories I’ve heard from indies are pretty consistent with what Amazon has stated publicly. Hard to argue with someone who only says “You don’t know anything” though.

    For #2, I don’t think I can blame indie writers as a community at all. Yeah, there’s an ocean of snark in nearly every post here at TPV, but it only seems aimed at tradpub writers when A) they say something so condescending it becomes offensive, or B) they say something so factually wrong that it becomes harmful. Very rarely do I see anyone say “I hate your personality and your clothes are ugly” or anything to that extent. On the other hand, there are countless examples of people saying offensive things about indies (as a group!) without provocation.

    As for respecting my elders, I do. I respect DWS and KKR when they aren’t talking about how new writers don’t know what they’re doing and that their marketing is stupid and doesn’t work. I respect Lawrence Block, who has a very live-and-let-live attitude. I respect Laura Resnick and her long experience. I lose respect when people say that my books are crap because I’m not good enough to get a contract, or that I’m harming culture with my swill, or the like. I lose respect for people when they show painful ignorance. Those might be the sources of the disrespect Mr. Smith is noticing.

    I think DWS ought not paint with such wide brushes. He’s offending a lot of people that he probably doesn’t mean to.

    • My 62 year old mother got a kindle paperwhite a couple of months ago and she’s been able to pick up reading again. She had to give up physical books due to arthritis in her fingers & wrists and now she’s back devouring books like she did when I was young. So I can see that segment of the market picking up over time as the advantages become more obvious.

      • Exactly! Imagine a little old lady in a nursing home who has full retention of her faculties, but because of a bad hip can’t live on her own anymore. How often is she going to a bookstore?

        Anyone that lives in a small- to medium-sized town has probably seen their large bookstores vanish over the past 10-15 years. Add on gas prices, and a $7 paperback can cost $15 and three hours of your time.

        Children are growing up in a world where digital ALREADY EXISTS. And digital is going to develop more before they’re teens and adults spending money on books. Whether or not they adopt digital media over traditional formats isn’t even a question.

    • I totally agree with this post, but I especially agree with your #2. I think most of the indies here take issue with some trad pub authors who have definitely showed such willful ignorance that it had to be called out. Otherwise though, who cares what they do. They kind of live in a different universe than most writers anyway. And that’s fine. But when they start to affect our universe, yeah, I think we should call them out on it, especially when they’re trying to criticize Amazon for things that are sometimes their own fault or their publisher’s fault. I find that especially annoying. Amazon has its own issues that writers can be criticized for, but other companies should take responsibility for their problems and stop trying to blame Amazon for stupid things.

      • Agreed. I have never, ever seen a tradpub writer show up at an indie community and say “Hey what’s this whole indie publishing thing about?” and meet any response besides people happily, enthusiastically sharing their knowledge. In fact, indie communities have ALL grown up around sharing and learning. It’s their purpose.

        That’s very different from people who assume they know all there is to know, and/or look down on people trying something new.

  20. Thanks, folks, for the kind comments, and the discussion. Never expected this post to be picked up by PG. I was just writing to the folks following me about some of my frustrations and why a few series posts had not been out lately.

    As for the fight between the bookstore and the publisher, I still have not seen accurate reports on the terms being fought over. If they are out there, someone please point me to them. But my understanding is that the terms and discussions are very secret. So nothing to really talk about. No real information.

    As far as writers fighting, I saw a bunch of it in these comments about how “the other side” is the bad side. I’m a reformed traditional publishing writer now gone completely indie. Many of my best friends are hybrid writers on both sides, many others are only traditional. The sniping and backstabbing and lack of respect from both sides doesn’t seem to serve much purpose IN MY OPINION. That’s all I said, and I think it’s sad. Writers are always better working together when we can, IN MY OPINION.

    As far as paper books going away, or losing ground, in many genres that is totally the case. But across the board this last year in trade books, electronic books have become a steady segment of books, mostly taking away mass market numbers. I love what Hugh and Data guy have done to show the size and scope of indie in electronic on one bookstore. Stunning and great stuff to bring the shadow industry in books out into the light.

    So I guess only time will tell if this trend of electronic just becoming a steady 28-32% segment of all trade books will hold, or even if it will go to as high as mass market once was at 50%. In some genres, such as romance, my gut sense is that it will be hard to ever find a paper book into the future. But don’t tell a mystery or cozy reader that. (grin)

    Again, thanks for the kind comments and the discussion. Always fun.

    • “The sniping and backstabbing and lack of respect from both sides doesn’t seem to serve much purpose IN MY OPINION. That’s all I said, and I think it’s sad. Writers are always better working together when we can, IN MY OPINION.” –

      And that’s still being ignored, lol!

      But am very glad PG did pick your post up, had lost touch with your blog etc; good to hear a moderating voice for balance from both sides. Thanks!

    • As for the fight between the bookstore and the publisher, I still have not seen accurate reports on the terms being fought over. If they are out there, someone please point me to them. But my understanding is that the terms and discussions are very secret. So nothing to really talk about. No real information.

      Nope, not secret at all. Hachette announced back in May that they were trying gain control of the retail price of their ebook titles. The investor presentation that had that information was covered on this blog. Arnaud Nourry (CEO of Hachette’s parent company) confirmed this to the press in Europe. All of the Big 5 commented on the proposed Apple judgment by saying they intended to go back to agency pricing with retail price maintenance as soon as their settlement agreements expired (which is this month for Hachette, HarperCollins, and S&S).

      Amazon has stated publicly that they want Hachette to price most of their ebooks below $9.99, but their main goal is to retain control over the retail price. Many of the details about the course of the negotiations can be deduced from the things not said by the two companies. I explained that in detail over at Konrath’s blog on July 13th.

      The idea that these negogiations are a mystery is itself a mystery to me. Rarely has this sort of conflict been played out more publicly.

      As to print books, that format is so inefficient as a distribution mechanism for narrative (both fiction and non-fiction) that it will become a luxury good for that purpose. The timing is uncertain, but winter is coming for narrative in print. The challenge for the rest of trade publishing will not come from ebooks as we know them. That side is being eaten away now by a variety of different business models, none of them big enough yet to show up on the Big 5 radar.

      What has really happened is that the business that the “publishing industry” is really in (the mass distribution of narratives, ideas, and knowledge) has exploded and book publishing has stagnated economically and intellectually. The leaders of the industry have been so concerned with protecting their current business they cut themselves off from the future.

    • Dean, I think you’re being overly simplistic when you complain that people on the Indy side are saying the other side is “bad.” People simply don’t agree with what AU is arguing, which is that Amazon is evil.

      I think it’s also reasonable to be concerned when the writers attacking Amazon keep hinting that government action is necessary to control the market. Government action in favor of traditional publishing can’t be good for Indies.

      Supporters of Hachette had a very logical alternative to attacking Amazon, and indirectly self-publishing. They could have simply asked people to buy their books elsewhere. It would be hard to argue with that.

      If they had taken that approach then I am sure Indies would have either stayed out of it, or actively supported their efforts. But I don’t think it’s a sign of disrespect to point out that what they are arguing for is wrong. And that their arguments are full of holes.

      As far as the “special snowflakes” criticisms (and, yes, out and out mocking), I think Preston and company brought that upon themselves by trying to suggest they are special and deserve special treatment.

      From what I’ve seen, the Indy community is very much in favor of writers helping writers and open to sharing information and arguing that high tides lift all boats.

      I have yet to see much of that from the NY literary scene, which seems desperate to make it clear that they are owed special consideration to shield them from a changing marketplace.

      The debate has also done a lot to expose some of the dirty underbelly of the traditional publishing world. Details of the big 5’s illegal conspiracy to fix prices, stories of writers being pressured by publishers to remain silent, details of unfair deals with writers, the willingness of the New York Times to print misleading stories in favor of specific corporate interests, etc.

      Amidst the sniping, there are very serious issues being debated. Which companies treat writers well and which don’t? Who should be controlling what is printed and what is read? What is the future of writing?

      I am happy to give any successful traditionally published writer my respect for their significant accomplishments. I respect the writers signing the AU letters enough to feel that this debate, that they are asking the public to have, is serious and important.

      I just don’t think they’re right. When they demand the government step in and negotiate favorable deals for them, the burden is on them to make a logical argument. If they can’t make it, they should be prepared for opposing opinions.

    • Opinions carry ideas. The fact that an idea is carried in an opinion does not insulate that idea from challenge.

      Ideas are fair game, and there is no reason to give them special treatment because they are packaged as opinions.

  21. I think perhaps that is a good possibility that romance goes into ebks exclusively– and perhaps not that far down the road. The market in ‘clean-used’ romance/mystery/suspense/ books is already huge; people pass their books around without buying new. The remainder tables are heavy with the genres on sale for 4.99-6.99 for HB. Goodwill is bursting with castoff HB and PB in genres at .49 cents and up. With piracy giving away books for free [with the exception of their murkiness about where the yearly ‘membership fees’ go and to what uses the loot is put], romance and other ‘read 3-4 books of whatever genre a week’ might be— well within reach of everyone who wants them in whatever form, digital, HB or PB.

    • I agree. Romance has always traded most heavily in the used market. There is a very large audience, but they will not pay anything above mmpb, and those are being phased out. So e-books will take their place.

  22. I was trying not to smile last week as I listened to a Hungarian historian (and writer) lamenting the decline of paper books and of good antiquarian book stores. Given the number of antiquarian book stores and sidewalk dealers I saw, I suspect she meant “used book stores where I can scarf up the titles I need/want for a song.”

    From what I saw, more people were reading on their iThings (e-readers, smart phones, tablets) than holding paper books, but big cities are probably not the best survey sites. (And I glimpsed that most rare of things, a person so engrossed in her book [print] that she almost walked into the side of a [parked] street car. The cover looked romance.)

  23. I looked at review of Naomi Klein’s latest book, in the Globe and Mail, this Saturday. It was listed at 37 bucks Canadian, for the hard cover. Then, I dropped by Chapters, where it was prominently displayed at 40% off, though there was no suggested price on the book cover and no price listed on the front table, where it had been placed, either. So, I still don’t know what Chapters was asking for it.

    Amazon had the print book at about 22 bucks, and the ebook at about 16 bucks. Kobo had the ebook at 14 bucks.

    I bought from Kobo. It was the cheapest. I make pretty good money, but I couldn’t see spending an extra ten or twenty bucks, just to have part of a dead tree take up shelf space on my wall.

    And that’s the story of my comparison shopping between hardcover and ebook. I can’t see too many people making a different decision, especially as time goes on.

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