David Gaughran discusses what kind of competition Big Publishing wants, specifically the kind where they’re guaranteed to win. They want the industry that is completely controlled by them, where they can control supply (authors) and distribution (bookstores) and set their prices and policies to benefit them to the maximum. They want a perfectly controlled, inbred, little biodome where they set the gatekeepers and milk everyone of as much money as they possibly can. They want $30 hardbacks and $15 ebooks. They want authors to take all the risk and then lock them into ironclad contracts that control everything about their creative endeavors in case they succeed. For those authors question this and want to go it alone, they hire AuthorSolutions to bilk them out of more money (as Gaughran covers here).
These are businesses that dug their own graves. There was a time when Tor, Spectre, and DelRay meant something, when they were a brand that readers looked for because they specialized in finding the type of fiction certain readers wanted. My mom has a chest of drawers in their attic filled with their books and can tell you who published what. These days it hardly matters, that is what massive consolidation does.
Their biggest mistake was in how they chose their customers, when they made bookstores their end consumer and forgot all about the people who buy from bookstores. Indies Unlimited recounts an experience at a writer’s festival, pointing out one of the major differences between self published professionals and traditionally published professionals is the focus on readers. That should tell you everything right there, as some authors seem to have gone down that path as well. James Patterson sure does worry about literature but he never, ever talks about his customer’s ability to afford his hardbacks.
Joe Konrath has made a hashtag for James Patterson, #JamesPatterssonSTS, asking him to Stop the Stupid. He’s actually really nice about it, giving him the credit of caring about books but pointing out that Publishers aren’t the ones who make books, authors are. I would have said Patterson doesn’t give a shit about new authors, just those that line his pocket, but I guess I’m just more cynical.
Sorry, that was a pretty long editorial on publishing. We have a few news items this week as well.
Simon & Schuster has launched a new internal networking site, InkedIn. A great idea, but how long, I wonder, until we hear reports of authors getting banned or censored for trying to find information on payments, terms, etc.?
Barnes & Noble and Samsung are making a tablet together. On the one hand, I feel like they’ve totally given up on their own manufactured brand of Nook. On the other, Samsung definitely makes an awesome product. That said, the problem really isn’t the hardware and I think most would agree the Nook is probably a better reader, maybe even a better tablet, than the Kindle. The problem with the Nook platform has always been the software, and more importantly, the market behind it.
Random Penguin has a new logo. No one cares, and more importantly, no one likes it. They really set themselves up for disappointment too, because they show you a video full of logos from hundreds of imprints…then show you the most boring one out there. I actually though I’d missed it.
Now, onto the whole Amazon VS Hachette thing.
Last week, I posted about Jeremey Greenfield over at DBW discussing what Hachette has to do to win against Amazon. It was BS then and remains so now. PG has his rebuttal which articulates the many reasons why. TeleRead has a response too, addressing as well many others making similar arguments.
The Watershed Chronicle discusses why what the publishers are trying to do still amounts to agency pricing. It won’t get treated like that, but then that’s probably a good thing. If they each, independently, compete the same way against their suppliers, it’s not collusion.
Hugh Howey discusses why he is willing to trust Amazon VS publishers and how that affects his outlook. I’m a bit of a cynic so I’m not entirely in line with this, but I spelled that out in my post on Amazon’s “Evil” nature.
Michael J. Sullivan has a guest post on Konrath’s blog. He takes a very even keel to the whole Amazon/Hachette deal and it’s very well done. The great thing about Sullivan is he has one of the truest, most balanced experiences of many authors out there. He started as a self-published author, sold his work to Orbit (a Hachette imprint) and has had a very good experience. Since then he has sold them some work while still self publishing other work, making a dynamic portfolio.
Barry Eisler (who so often assists in Joe Konrath’s fisking) has a post up on The Guardian (brought to us by PG). He editorializes on why Amazon is being labeled the issues when really the issue is technology, and asks why it is Amazon is evil when it plays hard but publishers (who threatened to pull their books, in collusion, from Amazon) don’t get the same type of publicity when they play just as hard.
Mike Shatzkin goes on and on and on about why no one really gets it about Amazon and Hachette, while also pointing out that “Amazon pays amateur authors, often unedited, who upload files not yet ebook-ready to them and don’t know anything about marketing or metadata, as much as 70 percent of retail if they meet certain exclusivity and price stipulations.” Thanks Mike, way to play it straight. I’ve linked to PG’s post because he has a great rebuttal. I’d also like to point out that treating authors right is what is making a lot of this swing Amazon’s way. Just like print distribution, those who have grown up in traditional publishing, and were able to take advantage of its successes, will frankly die. They will need to be replaced by new authors and Publishers will have a harder and harder time doing that if they continue down this path.
This really came as a surprise, but Stephen Colbert has come out against Amazon on his show. I like Colbert and enjoy his humor, so I find it especially odd that he, a man who mocks news people for editorializing about things they have a biased personal and financial stake in, is now doing the exact same thing because his publisher is involved. Joe Konrath has a response…which might be a bit too far so I’m not going to post it. Let’s just say he was angry.
I end the week with this. After two solid weeks of Amazon VS Hachette, four or five posts compiling various opinions from many different sources, with it crowding out at least two of my Sharing the Wealth posts, to see that the publisher is now laying people off just made me giggle. Not because people are losing jobs, which is horrible, but because there are people who have said that Hachette could take on Amazon and win. Really? Because a few months of lukewarm heat led them to lay off 28 staffers, a move that only happens when a company is in a crunch. Amazon could give them the heave ho and it still probably not even put a dent in their earnings statement.
Just remember this.
One of these two wants lower prices.
One of these two treats authors better.
One of these is used millions of times a day by consumers and has a brand that is recognized worldround.
One of these two, if plied to people, would probably be confused with a woodworking tool.
I’ll let you figure out which of those applies to who.