Culture

Who is the Real Monster in Publishing? A Halloween Tale

Amazon -- BOO! Scared now?

Amazon — BOO!
Scared now?

Hi, this is Sarah.  Today we have a guest post by my friend Amanda Green.

Who is the Real Monster in Publishing?

I don’t have time and I don’t have the spare brain cells to move away from final edits into blogging. Unfortunately, the idiots just won’t let me alone. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have gone to Facebook to check out what was going on. But, really, is that so bad as I have my last cup of coffee of the morning?

Anyway, I wander innocently — quit snickering — into one of the groups I belong to and find this waiting for me. Now, I know the Telegraph isn’t the most unbiased reporting site on the net. But it tops even the Guardian with this piece.

Let’s start from the beginning. . . .

Amazon is like Isis, says literary agent.

Wow, nothing like hitting a butt-ton of hot buttons right off the bat. Funny, you’d think with all the media coverage of the evil that is Amazon (yes, I’m being sarcastic), someone would have picked up the stories of the corporate troubleshooters going around beheading folks who it saw as being wrong. Hell, they’d have started with more than a few publishers and agents long ago. Funny, but I haven’t seen anything about that. Have you?

The online retailer has long been accused of making it nearly impossible for authors to earn a living.

What?!? Uh, not only no, but HELL NO.

Before Amazon started the KDP program, there was very little an author could do to get their work into the hands of the reading public. We vied for a very few slots available for new authors, sending our work out first to agents. Why first to agents? Because the vast majority of “real” publishers wouldn’t look at anything that didn’t come via that route. Then, if you were lucky enough to find an agent — who would take at least 15% of anything you earned plus expenses — your work was submitted to publishers. There was never any guarantee that you would be picked up by a publishing house and, if you were, you’d get your advance and probably never see another penny from your book.

Why? Because publishers, even after the Digital Age began, continued to follow the same business plan they had had since the invention of the printing press. For every book sold, the publisher received anywhere from 70% or more of the monies made plus expenses. The rest was divvied up between the author and his agent. Oh, one other little accounting anomaly they don’t talk about in mixed company — they use the figures from BookScan to determine how many books were sold. In case you don’t know what what BookScan is, it is the Nelson ratings for books. You know Neilson. That’s the company that puts little boxes in a small number of homes across the nation and the networks use hand-wavium to determine, based on that small number of “randomly selected” homes, what shows are popular and what are not.

But Amazon, the company that gave authors the first viable avenue to get our work directly into the hands of the public and that pays us up to 70% of monies earned, keeps us from making a living writing.

Riiight.

American agent Andrew Wylie “condemned the ‘brutality’ of Amazon’s tactics. . . .”

Sigh. Amazon is so brutal it offered to pay Hachette authors for sales made during the contract negotiation period. Hachette is the side in the dispute who declined. Even when Amazon said it would solely be responsible for payments to the authors, the publishers stepped in and, citing how evil Amazon was, declined this offer of help for their authors. But Amazon is brutal.

Oh, I know. Amazon is brutal for taking away the pre-order button on Hachette titles. Hmm, titles it may not be allowed to sell when they are published. Titles Hachette may decline to send to Amazon because they are still in contract negotiations. But Amazon is brutal.

“I believe with the restored health of the publishing industry and having some sense of where this sort of Isis-like distribution channel, Amazon, is going to be buried and in which plot of sand they will be stuck, publishers will be able to raise the author’s digital royalty to forty or fifty percent.”

Say what?

Hmm, why can’t they pay that sort of royalty on e-books now? Major publishers don’t have to re-edit, have new art done, store, transport, etc., e-books. All they have to do, if they know their jobs, is convert the file for digital release, resize the cover image and then save it in the appropriate format. Then they hit a button and upload it to the appropriate stores. They don’t even have to change the listings for the books because, duh, they have already set the listings up for the print version. The only thing that costs extra in the digital conversion is their idiotic belief that they have to include DRM.

So tell me again why authors aren’t making 40 – 50% royalties on e-books right now? Especially when mid to small size presses are already paying their authors up to that much?

“Writers will begin to make enough money to live.”

Pardon me but Bullsh*t!

The way they have the system gamed, there is no way most writers will ever make enough money to live. I’ve seen too many statements from writers I know, I’ve talked to too many others who get what can only be called works of fiction when it comes to their royalty reports. If the publishers can’t present accurate sales reports now to their authors, why in the world would anyone believe they would do so after they managed to crush Amazon — hahahahahahahahaha! — and the authors no longer had a viable alternative to what is, at best, voluntary indenture?

[He] went on to urge publishers to form a united front to turn the tide against Amazon. Only then, he said, could authors begin to profit again from sales of their books.

No, only then would publishers convince themselves that they were once again profiting from the sales of their books. Look folks, publishers want to return to the agency pricing model that the courts threw out. There were plenty of contracts signed with authors during that time and I don’t recall the publishers touting how they were increasing royalties for authors because now the publishers were free to set their own e-book prices. Oh, there was a slight increase in what some authors made but no where near what this almighty agent who has been drinking his own Kool-Aid seems to suggest they will become. And why? Because the publishers didn’t have to increase royalties. If they get their way with regard to Amazon, I guarantee they won’t do so unless forced and who is going to force them?

According to Wylie, Hachette is the great hero for standing tall against the evil of Amazon. Why? Because Amazon no longer offered the deep discounts for Hachette books and slowed shipping times, etc. Well boo fracking hoo. They are in contract negotiations. Amazon is a company out to make a profit. Guess what, boys and girls, so is Hachette and it makes that profit on the backs of authors.

Let’s be real for a moment. Amazon is no angel. But it is the height of hypocrisy for an agent to get out there and proclaim that all it will take is for Amazon to go down for authors to start earning a living wage from their work. For one, Amazon is the main distributor of books, print and digital, to the reading public. For another, raising prices for books — which is what the publishers want to be able to do at their whim — will not lead to an increase in sales. At least not an increase in sales for their authors. It might lead to one for those of us who are either hybrid-authors or indie authors. Finally, Wylie needs to climb out of his ivory tower office, quit hobnobbing with the publishing elite and get down in the trenches. He needs to talk to all those authors who have been orphaned by their publishers or who have been on the receiving end of what are obviously fictitious royalty reports but who have been too scared to challenge them because their agents have said the author would never again get a contract with any publisher. Add to that the need to listen to the authors when they discuss just how much more — chuckle — they would make with the royalty increase on e-books. We are talking pennies per copy, not big bucks. And remember, all that is after Wylie and agents like him get their cut, which very likely would go up as well, and after the publishers take out their cut. Wylie also needs to talk to the reading public and, more importantly, he needs to listen to it.

So, on this All Hallows Eve, Amazon is not the big bad monster. It is, in fact, the gladiator that came in and opened the market for authors in a way it has never been opened before.

Amanda Green is older than 20 and younger than death and that’s all you’ll get from her about her age. After all, it’s not polite to ask a woman how old she is. She’s a mother, a daughter and was a wife. She’s spent most of my life in the South and loves to travel. She’s also a writer, among whose works can be counted Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade, and Nocturnal Interlude. When not writing under her own name, or under Ellie Ferguson or Sam Schall, she’s known to make trouble for the proponents of gynocracy, the defenders of the traditional system of publishing and other pesky critters online.


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The shared colony planet of Forge is at the crossroads of three great peoples: the Scotian Realm, the Xern Cluster, and the Tormin Accord. Only a few know that Forge is also in the crosshairs of imminent invasion.

On Forge, a mindblind and amnesic Scotian labors under the whip of his Tormin master. Tazhret wants to believe the beautiful dream woman who whispers hope to his harrowed heart. But is she real, a memory of his forgotten past? Or merely the single bright thread in the grim visions induced by the same hallucinogen that took his Elemental talents and put him in the chains of indentured servitude.

Real or vision, Tazhret loves her just the same, never dreaming they share a dark future pitting them against their Scotian high king, and the predatory psychics of the Khevox Dominion…with the fate of the three peoples hanging on the thread of their love. An Instapundit reader recommendation.


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