I’m trying something a bit more with Sharing the Wealth. What I’ve always wanted this to be was a recap of everything I read or took in on publishing, whatever that may be. This is consistently my most popular series and has been one of my most favorite things to do. Still, I don’t want to make a habit of drawing people to me because I’m good at finding other people’s links. I’ve always tried to add my own input, but I’m going to try and make these posts a more coherent recap of the week.
That said, we will begin.
Hugh Howey rebuts the latest DBW post on reporting in our industry. What bothers me about DBW’s post is their dogged insistence that it’s up to retailers, and retailers alone, to share sales data. The publishers are the ones that control the source, they (should) know exactly how many books they’re selling and should be able to release accurate data on the ones they control. Passive Voice also comments, noting that self publishing has provided a way for midlist authors to make a living like never before with traditional publishing.
And really, what they’re willing to pay isn’t even the most egregious factor. As Passive Guy lays out perfectly, it’s the rights grabs that are such a problem. And if you don’t think the that’s a problem, check out Joanna Penn’s post about how many slices your particular pie can be divided into. This makes it difficult to maximize the utilization of your property, which is really the difference we’re seeing with self publishing. Authors are, for the first time, able to make a living as a writer without being a bestseller. It has created a middle class.
Novel Rocket has a post about how the current environment of social media undermines the authority of experts. This is an interesting read, and I don’t necessarily disagree, I just don’t think it’s a bad thing. It doesn’t reduce their level of knowledge, it increases everyone else’s. That’s nothing but a good thing. As far as writing skill, I’m really going to take some shit for this (and maybe it truly is arrogant) but I don’t think anyone can teach you how to write. Let me flip that around for better sense, I don’t think you’ll learn how to write reading blog posts on story structure, characterization, plotting, world building, foreshadowing, etc. You learn how to write…by writing…by reading…by knowing what you like from stories and trying to duplicate that experience. I don’t think the lesson is that this is diluting their authority, I think the lesson is in learning that we were always knowledgeable on a lot of this in the first place, it just takes practice to hone and grow that skill.
Barnes and Noble has had a topsy-turvy week. A bid was made for 51% of their stock. This is interesting, as B&N has been looking for someone to save their bacon for a year or so now (maybe because they’ve lost a billion dollars on the nook), but kind of unusual. For one, this asset management company doesn’t seem to have many assets and some are saying this could be bogus.
I still believe the best move they could have made would have been to go private, to streamline. Also, not sure if I’ve ever thrown this out there, maybe put a restaurant in your stores to get some more foot traffic and get those sales up? Maybe that sounds like a bandaid or I’m fully underestimating the difficulty of that endeavor, but wasn’t it coffee shops that saved bookstores in the nineties? The real reason I put this out there is the only non-used indie bookstore Memphis has, also has a restaurant. It’s a terrible, odd cabal of workers that serve mushroom sandwiches and cranberry sauce hamburgers, but it seems to be working.
Ideatrash wants to develop a litmus test for authors to prevent getting ripped off. He’s got a pretty good start though. This is something anyone and everyone needs to keep in mind, especially the more we see Big Publishing get in bed with outfits like Author Solutions.
Mike Shatzkin discusses a new upstart in bringing digital textbooks to schools. Honestly, I think publishers are a major harm to education. I don’t know how it works for grade school, but for college it is an abusive scam they put together with colleges. They publish new “editions” each year which the schools require students to have, which are charged $200-$400 a pop. It doesn’t surprise me that they’re incredibly paranoid about piracy, I’m sure it’s a problem, a problem they themselves made by ramming 12th editions books down struggling college kid’s throats.
James Patterson is now not only lamenting the fall of bookstores and literature, he is giving money to indie bookstores. I’m pretty much against bailouts in general. If a business fails, then it fails. New ones will replace them, unless there is no demand for such a business, which is probably a pretty good indicator for why they failed in the first place.
A little off the beat of news, just something I saw that is the most repugnant load of bullshit I’ve seen in a while. I wrote about J.K. Rowling a while back when the whole Galbraith thing broke. Rowling is a fantastic author, and even if she weren’t a massive success on merit alone, she owes nothing to any other author in existence. No author does. No one has the duty to step out of the limelight once they’ve made their mark. Ann Rice apparently agreed, she wasn’t as nice as I was. Neither were a lot of readers who stormed Amazon to pelt the blogger with bad reviews. That’s largely unfair, especially since they would have bullied anyone who criticized their Literary Goddess, but considering the envious, green eyed nature of the post, I can only say it was expected and earned.
Authors had a lot to say. I didn’t always follow David Farland, but he has quickly become one of my favorite bloggers to read. His recent post detailing his attitude toward publishing is a breath of fresh air. This is a refreshing contrast to A. Lee Martinez, whom I love, but also obviously considers self publishing just an excuse to feed the old ego. We’ve discussed several times that self publishing is filled with crap (and how much traditional publishing is too) but I know there are many who see it is an alternative business model, a better business model in fact.
I guess I shouldn’t criticize too much, and in all fairness the post is really about trying new things, it just rubs me the wrong way since just a few weeks ago he himself was concerned about his writing career and how best to take the next step.
I guess publishing his own work, faster, better, and with more control wasn’t what he meant.
It’s not just him talking about self publishing either. A bestselling author, Joe Konrath, and Barry Eisler debated on the things we are seeing in the industry. They’ve kept the author’s name anonymous (I want to say it’s either a thriller or a horror author, maybe Patterson or King but who knows) but it’s an intriguing insight. It also shows how bigger authors who get their stuff pushed so hard by publishers really don’t understand what it’s like to have to sell your book without a publisher’s help. The point about it being common for a traditionally published author to sell a million books is some of the most laughably outrageous bullshit I’ve ever read.
A few random tidbits,
Apple, also known as the sorest losers in the world, is appealing their ebook judgement. I covered it earlier, but as a recap, Authorearnings.com released its analysis of Barnes and Noble and TeleRead has also taken a look.
I’m going to end with this.
This is the biggest thing to occur this week. Digital Book World, which has steadily been playing Devil’s Advocate to self publishing as of late, and Author Earnings report, are actually in agreement on ACX lowering their royalty rate. For those that don’t know, Amazon lowered the rate on Audiobooks from a 50% if you’re exclusive to them that grows with sales, to a flat 40%. At first, I thought this would effect all previous titles published here, but by the looks of their announcement it will just be those published after March 12th.
I had this whole angry, ranty post ready to go until that point, but it’s not near as bad as I thought. Still, this is a worrisome precedent. They can do this with Createspace and even KDP as easily as they did it with ACX. It makes me think they’re seeing Audio as the next booming market and want to start tackling it with lower prices. That leads me down two paths of thought. On one hand, they’ve violated author’s trust in a way. I know, I know, they don’t owe us anything and they can change the royalty in their terms and conditions, still, it’s an expectation they set and many expected them to continue. On the other hand, this could be a preliminary move to start pushing Audio hard, which could be better for authors as volume makes up for this gap in royalty (as we saw when they started pushing digital). I can see why they didn’t want a growing rate, but this is incredibly conservative on their part and a bad PR move.
A relatively slow week, still tons of great information, advice, and news. Have a great weekend.