04-18-2019 07:46:35 AM -0700
04-18-2019 07:18:40 AM -0700
04-15-2019 06:20:33 PM -0700
04-11-2019 03:17:31 PM -0700
04-08-2019 01:57:34 PM -0700
It looks like you've previously blocked notifications. If you'd like to receive them, please update your browser permissions.
Desktop Notifications are  | 
Get instant alerts on your desktop.
Turn on desktop notifications?
Remind me later.
PJ Media encourages you to read our updated PRIVACY POLICY and COOKIE POLICY.
X


Publishing in Cloud-CooCoo Land

Years ago, when I was a raw beginner, I lived in a small mountain town where most of the inhabitants were artists or potters or the like.

At the time, I was struggling to sell a few short stories a year, and I remember repining against fate, and getting very upset because all these beginning potters and artists could sell their learning product directly to the public at street fairs and arts and crafts shows. Meanwhile, my net was zero or worse, as I sent stuff out and it came back rejected.

Well, old me is jealous of new me. Nowadays a lot of the young writers I advise are getting paid for learning. Sure, most don’t make a lot, but most didn’t make a lot under traditional publishing. And a lot of them make more than I ever did, not just as a beginner.

So imagine my surprise at coming across this article, in which someone calling himself an author laments the inability to make a living from writing.

His post is so full of fallacies that it demands, nay, begs a thorough fisking.

I have no doubt that almost all of you in this room struggle with a central question in your lives: Why is it so goddamned hard to make a living as a writer today?

No, Doug, actually we don’t. Oh, maybe the people you were talking to, who probably think of writing as a vaguely romantic calling in which you struggle and live in a garret and write deeply meaningful stuff that is “too advanced for our time,” but definitely not most writers.

Indie seems to have provided an answer to that question: write a lot, improve your writing, write what customers want to read.  In other words, run your business like a business and not like a lecture hall. I confess I haven’t done very well since my career is still mostly traditional and health and other issues have prevented me from doing the full indie.  But I’ve seen my fledglings live very well indeed at a point in their careers where traditionally they should be making a few hundred dollars.

A recent study by the Authors Guild showed that from 2009 to 2015, the average income of a full-time author decreased 30 percent, from $25,000 a year to $17,500 a year. For part-time authors, the average income decreased 38 percent, from $7,250 a year to $4,500. Full-time authors with more than 25 years of experience saw the greatest drop — a 67 percent decrease from $28,750 to $9,500.

Do keep in mind that the Authors Guild is an attempt at a writers’ union. I did join it briefly on the promise of health insurance.  They didn’t deliver. Instead, they delivered things like this article and agitated for prestige and recognition on behalf of “authors.”  For us, working writers, they were about as useless as tits on a boar and twice as dumb.

Yes, if you are working only for traditionals, particularly the traditional publishers who are mostly embracing social justice and progressive ideals. Hey, guy, that advance for Hillary Clinton has to come from someone’s income. Also, the traditional publishers are losing sales. Any halfway decent businessman would wonder to whom they were losing sales, but you might be incapable of rational thought.

The collapse of authors’ incomes is not a problem. It’s not even a crisis. It’s a catastrophe. And not just for us, but for our nation as a whole. Writing is the lifeblood of American culture, of democracy, and of freedom. It is under assault as never before in the history of the Republic.

It’s a WHAT?  I don’t think that word means what you think it means. And really, if you’re going to complain about the falling incomes of writers… let me see, under traditional publishing in the 1950s a novel to a midlist pro paid around $10,000. In this day and age, the average novel for the average midlist pro pays about $10,000. The difference is in those days it would buy a house and a car and feed your family if not in luxury at least in comfort.  Nowadays it might support one person if someone else is paying for electricity and housing.

If falling authors’ incomes were a catastrophe, it was fully realized in the last seventy years. The final dead cat bounce won’t make much difference.

As a nation, we’ve always been on high alert against censorship. When a book is banned from a school library, when a journalist is arrested covering a protest or sued for libel, we pay attention. These events make the newspapers.

But what about the even more serious problem — when an important book isn’t even written? Not written because the author couldn’t get a decent advance or was rejected — not because the idea was bad, but because the publisher was unable to take the financial risk.

Good Lord. Where have you been the last 20 years since I’ve been a pro? I argue long before that, but the last twenty years, 90 percent of the pros are either married women whose husband supports the family or people who have enough money to be able to pursue their “bliss.” Twenty years ago the average income for science fiction writers was $5000 a year. No one lives on that.  Fifteen years ago I interviewed an agent who told me I should get a college teaching job to support my writing habit. I did not hire him, and instead wrote six books that year.

There was a way to make a living in publishing, and that was to write a lot. Unfortunately, you were blocked at every turn by people who thought you should write no more than a book a year or it would be bad. At least now with indie we can do what we want to.

And who defines “an important book” Kemo Sabe? The buying public, or the voices in your head? Because if you’ve found a way to make the voices in your head pay, you should share.

Self-publishing is a fine thing, but it doesn’t work for most nonfiction writers and journalists, who need advances in order to do reporting and research. It also doesn’t work for many serious novelists, who need time, space, and quietude to write, which, if you’re struggling to earn a living waiting on tables, are often impossible to achieve.

You know, Doug – may I call you Doug? – there are workarounds for all this. If the writers and journalists are writing books people want to read, they can do many things to achieve the funding for research. They can, for instance, run a Go Fund Me. You should meet this guy named Michael Totten sometime. Traveled to the strangest places and reported on them. I contributed to a few of his adventures because I wanted to read his fascinating reports.

And then there’s the “serious” novelists who need time, space and quietude to write. You’re absolutely right. That Jane Austen, writing in her room early morning, before engaging in the busy social round of the Regency? Well, she was a total hack, quite unlike you. And you know, those of us who managed to write quite serious enough novels with toddlers around our feet?  Mere amateurs.

I’d like to know how many of those “serious” authors will be remembered ten seconds after their deaths.

As for waiting on tables? It can provide great perspective for writing people who aren’t like yourself and your fellow ivory tower dwellers. I’ve done it. I’ve also worked retail, worked as a professional clothes presser, cleaned hotel rooms and worked as a professional translator.

Money for nothing and your chicks for free is a great thing, but you’re not entitled to it. And until you make enough from writing, there is no shame in dirtying your hands.

When a writer can’t make a living and switches to working in another field, an entire lifetime of books is never written. They are, in a way, censored. Not by active censorship, but by the far more insidious thing I call the censorship of the marketplace.

Which is, in fact, not even remotely censorship, just the creation of a product no one wants. I mean, I kind of give you that, in the days when ONLY traditional publishing was available, it was possible to create a great product that the public would love, and no one ever even saw it because the publishers disagreed with it. But now with indie – what you persist in describing as self-publishing  — I don’t understand how anyone can be “censored.”

(It’s not really self-publishing, or not in the sense of vanity publishing of the past. It’s more like putting your work up at the local fair.)

Real writers write. Sure, maybe they write after work, but they still write. My friend Larry Correia wrote his first bestseller while working two full-time jobs. I’m sure you don’t consider him a serious novelist, Doug, but you know, he’s being read by millions of people and there’s a good chance he’ll be remembered. You know why, Doug? Because he sells.

No one is censoring makers of three-bootie sets for three-legged babies, Doug.  The market just fails to be there.

I know that most of you in this room are smart enough that you could be making a lot more money doing something other than writing. The temptation is always there.

Given the content of your speech and your obvious ploy of flattering them, I don’t think anyone who willingly sat through this is smart enough to pour piss out of a boot with the instructions written on the heel.

I say this: The grim economic reality of the writing marketplace and the inability of many writers to make a decent wage are a far greater threat to freedom of expression than active censorship by political and religious groups. And the censorship of the marketplace is only getting worse.

“But mom, they don’t want to buy my politically correct cr*p” is not “the censorship of the marketplace,” it’s people choosing how to spend their money. Writing is neither a priesthood nor a lecture hall. It is commerce. At which a lot of people fail, yes. But no one is entitled to success.

But this kind of censorship is invisible. How do you measure the value of something that might have existed but doesn’t? Will we ever see a headline in The New York Times like this?

CENSORSHIP SCANDAL:

Groundbreaking book by James McGrath Morris cannot be read 
because it wasn’t written.

This kind of censorship is invisible because it doesn’t exist.  Other things that don’t exist: pink Martians who wash windows.  Will no one care for the plight of the pink Martian window washers.

Which brings us to the main question: Why are writers’ incomes dropping so precipitously?

I thought the main question was “when is he going to prove writers’ incomes are dropping precipitously?” I mean, you’re going on a survey directed at the self-selected members of a union. Have you ever talked to indie writers, Doug? Or even to traditionally published authors like me whose careers are flourishing? No? Larry Correia, who came out of nowhere seven years ago? No? Face it, Doug, you have no proof of this.

I’ve been mulling this over for a while now. It seems like a complex economic problem on the surface, but it actually arises from a simple, appealing, and widespread idea. That is the concept you’ve all heard of: “information wants to be free.” This is not just an idea, but a movement. One of the founders of the movement, Richard Stallman, in 1990 explained what this phrase means: “I believe that all generally useful information should be free . . . the freedom to copy the information and to adapt it to one’s own uses. . . . When information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving.”

Oh, that. Doug, listen, there is a colleague of mine, a bonafide communist, who has an actual CPUSA card and everything.

Do you know the only thing this gentleman and I agree about? Piracy and the “information wants to be free movement” haven’t cost you a dime.

Your problem, Doug, is not piracy, it’s obscurity. No one is pirating you – sure, your books are probably offered for sale on pirate sites from China, like whose aren't, but I bet they aren’t selling any – because no one wants your books.

The bestsellers lose some small amount of income to the pirates. Maybe. The thing is, Doug, the thinking wonder. If you think about it you’ll realize fans want to support their writers. If I had a dime for every time I try to give a fan a free book and they insist on paying me by buying it… wait, I do. It’s called royalties.

The “information wants to be free community” is small, specific and mostly devoted to raw data. They’re also in many ways misguided. But they are certainly not looking to read your books or “serious novelists” for free or not.

Information, that is, creative content (like the books we write) should be available to everyone either for free or at the lowest possible price, and should be freely copied and distributed to everyone. This view implies that there is something unseemly, and even unethical, for writers, artists, composers, musicians, moviemakers, and other creative people to want to make good money from their work. As a corollary, the movement encouraged piracy as a socially enlightened response to the greed of copyright owners, who were trying to make money from their intellectual property.

This brave new philosophy, which grew out of the scruffy hacktivist-cyberpunk-hipster coding community, has now fully entered our mainstream culture. And it has been marvelously and brilliantly exploited by gigantic digital corporations such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, and so forth. These companies are all in the business of providing creative content to their customers at no charge and making Billions on the associated advertising.

Facepalm. You know what? Movie companies are suffering from crappy movies and lack of creativity, not from YouTube. Just like the traditional publishing companies are losing to indie publishing, not to pirates. You’re barking so far up the wrong tree, you’re not even wrong.

The problem is perfectly illustrated by a story about a giant corporation whose motto is Don’t Be Evil.

In 2004, Google announced a wonderful new program: it was going to create a searchable database of every book in existence. It enlisted several great libraries, including Harvard’s, to provide it with books to scan. But there was a glitch. Four million of those books were still under copyright.

Let me just pause to dwell on that word. Copyright. Right to copy. It was a right so important to our Founding Fathers, so central to their vision of the country they wished to build, that they enshrined it in Article 1 of the Constitution.

Google went ahead anyway, copying those four million books without getting permission from the copyright owners — that is, you and me. Google created a database, Google Books, that would generate Billions of dollars from books we had written. Without paying us a thin dime.

How did Google justify this? The corporation argued that its copying was “fair use” because searches only turned up snippets of text. Even though it had copied the entire book, ignoring the very meaning of the word “copyright,” it wasn’t going to display all of it.

Doug, have you used this search? I have. You know what I use it for? Mainly to determine what research book I need to buy. It’s very hard online to figure out if a book about, say, the Duchesse de Chevreuse will mention details of her affairs, and for the older books, it’s even hard to tell if it’s a novel or a research book. Google books allow me to know this. It ISN’T something that allows you to read the whole book. You’d need to have the patience of Job to do that. Much easier to pick up a used copy on Amazon. Oh, wait, used copies also pay writers nothing, but you don’t have your underwear in a bunch over them. Or perhaps you do. It wouldn’t be the stupidest thing you believe.

And Google further argued that what it was doing was so important to education and American culture that it constituted a so-called “transformative use” — that is, it had transformed our four million books into something else entirely, something so new and wonderful that Google should own it outright and we should cede all economic interest in the words that we ourselves had written.

Google is full of … hubris. And you’re completely deluded.

The Authors Guild sued

Tits on a boar. Of all the battles they could fight, this is the one they picked. Yeah.

arguing that, yes, this Google Books database was a fine idea, but that authors should get a piece of the action. It was only fair that we should share in the Billions Google was going to make.

The Guild suggested that Google should set up something like ASCAP [American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers] or BMI [Broadcast Music, Inc.], which collect money from radio stations to pay musicians whose music they broadcast. Google said it couldn’t do that because it would be too hard to keep track of all those authors and their books. This giant corporation was defended by many activists in the “information wants to be free” lobby, who deliberately mischaracterized the Guild’s objections by claiming the Guild’s members were a bunch of Luddites opposed to the creation of the Google Books database. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Guild was always in favor of Google Books, because its primary users would, in fact, be authors! All the Guild wanted was for authors to receive a share of the income.

All the Guild wanted was to pose as a defender of writers. It would amount to pennies for each writer, but glory for the Guild.  And you, of course, fell for it.

To make a long story short, ten years and a million dollars later, the Authors Guild lost the case. Judge Denny Chin, then of the district court, ruled for Google. In his ruling, which was later upheld by the court of appeals, Chin wrote that he was persuaded by Google’s argument that its use of our copyrighted books was “transformative.”

So the judge doesn’t know much about technology. But you know even less about copyright – which has always allowed de-minimis use — and even less about economics.

What Chin wrote in his opinion is extremely revealing. “Words in books are being used in a way they have not been used before.” Let’s pause a moment to consider that phrase, words in books. These are, of course, our words, the words we so lovingly struggled and wrestled with. But Chin’s phrasing seems to remove the writer entirely from these disembodied “words in books,” as if these words were some sort of natural resource to be exploited, like a seam of coal or timber in a forest. Judge Chin added, “Even assuming Google’s principal motivation is profit, the fact is that Google Books serves several important educational purposes” — so important, and so transformative, that Google shouldn’t have to pay authors anything at all for the use of their work.

The words you so lovingly struggled and wrestled with? I hope you washed your hands afterward.

Here is proof that the “information wants to be free” philosophy has percolated so deeply into our culture that it has infected even our judiciary.

No. Here is proof that quoting small snippets of a book not only harms no one but might make you a sale or three. Not that you care, I’m sure. You’re too fine to be sullied with vile lucre.

If the courts had found against Google, we authors — all of us — would now be receiving a yearly income from the Google Books database, just like composers and musicians do from ASCAP and BMI. Our economic situation might not be so dire. This “information wants to be free” philosophy is like Communism — appealing in the abstract, destructive in practice.

Dear Lord! At least you’re smart enough not to like communism. But you’re still an idiot. Do you know about the income we theoretically – at least those who are members of writers’ organizations – receive for photocopying in Europe which is far more prevalent than Google book searches? Cents. Cents a year, Doug! You could maybe buy a cup of coffee in ten years. Your wish to have the government force people to pay you so you can be a “serious” novelist is what approaches communist philosophy.

At the consumer level, the idea finds embodiment most clearly in the business practices of Amazon. Amazon has been a leader in the relentless deflation of the value of books.

Has it, now? Amazing! I thought writers who went the KDP route got to set their own prices?

A quick history: When Amazon launched itself as a bookseller, it wasn’t to sell books; its plan was to acquire customers in target demographics to sell them other stuff. So it sold — and continues to sell — books at a loss. Year in and year out. A customer acquisition strategy.

This makes… perfect sense. Do you know why? Because Amazon sold ONLY BOOKS for years. At a loss? You’re out of your little raving mind. Amazon sells books at the same price the big box stores sold books. Publishers, believe it or not, are still making money from these books.

Bookstores couldn’t compete, because none of them could sell books at a loss forever. Almost half the independent bookstores in America went out of business.

Is your world made of cheese? Is the sky green? I’m so old I remember when all this happened. More than half the independent bookstores of America were put out of business by Borders and Barnes and Noble, who already sold books at a massive discount.  And then they went out of business because of their own stupid (Google push-model marketing, Doug) business practices.  Amazon just walked into the vacuum.

And then Amazon introduced the e-book.

While Bezelbezus twisted his mustache and laughed, the deep laugh of the devil who is going to put poor Doug out of business, no doubt.

It didn’t invent it,

How dastardly of them! Each and every traditional publisher and bookstore invented the printing press, after all.

 but it created an excellent and consumer-friendly platform with the Kindle. Publishers were all for it — until Amazon surprised and horrified them with the announcement that the price of new e-books henceforth would be $9.99.

No, Amazon didn’t “horrify them” with this, and also, btw, the publishers were never for e-books. Their entire system is designed for hardcovers, and therefore they tried to price e-books above hardcovers because that way people would be forced to buy hardcovers. In their minds. Instead, people bought indie. It was a stupid game, and it won stupid prizes.

That e-book price would compete with and devastate the hardcover market. It simply wasn’t possible for a publisher to make a profit on a $9.99 e-book.

Doug, Doug, Doug, Doug. Good Lord, man, get out of your ivory tower and talk to someone who has self-published, even just their backlist.

Not only is it possible to make a profit on a $9.99 e-book, but that money would be basically free money. The typesetting and all the other work done for the hardback translates immediately and for no cost to an e-book, which, don’t tell idiots like you, can be produced in about half an hour on my computer, from a clean-edited manuscript. Atlantis, otherwise a crappy word processor, does an excellent job of generating clean e-books in minutes.

And yeah, the e-book price would compete with the hardcover market. And?  E-books are clean, easier to transport and far more practical for a lot of us. I don’t understand why you think this is a problem.

All this eventually climaxed in the Amazon-Hachette dispute of several years ago, in which Amazon demanded two things: (1) a much bigger cut from the sale of each book, and (2) for publishers to sell e-books at lower prices.

To pressure Hachette, Amazon slowed or stopped the sale of eight thousand titles by three thousand Hachette authors for seven months. I formed Authors United to push back, and we achieved a partial victory. But the long-term problem of price deflation in books hasn’t gone away and, in fact, has been getting worse.

That’s not how this works. That’s not how ANY of this works. Hatchette and a bunch of other publishers got caught conspiring to raise the price of e-books. They claimed Amazon could not discount them, even when paying them the same. They lost that lawsuit, Doug. It wasn’t Amazon. It was the book publishers using unfair market practices.

Think how this devaluation has affected our own consumer mind-set.

If by devaluation you mean cheaper e-books, it has allowed me to read new authors with abandon for the first time since Doug Clinton’s decree that each book include 50 percent recycled paper raised the price of paperbacks to above $5 a piece.

Not so long ago, when I went to a bookstore, I was satisfied to get a 10 percent discount off the retail price of a hardcover. Now, when I go into a bookstore and get only a 10 percent discount, I feel disgruntled. Cheated. I should have bought it on Amazon, damn it. Or at Walmart. Amazon and its ilk have trained me to think that a hardcover book is really worth only 15 bucks. And trained me to think that an e-book should cost less than a bad margarita at Chipotle. I’ve been turned into my own enemy!

Or, you know, you could be buying indie authors on Amazon, giving the writer way more money. Because the writer gets maybe $2 of that hardcover price, while on Amazon, indie authors get at least $2 per book, and more if they price new books (as most of us do) at $4.99. If you’re all for money for the writers…

You know what, Doug, Heinlein said that a book should be about the cost of a six-pack of beer. He was smarter than you, and beer is cheaper than that. Even microbrews.

Now, when the profit received by the publisher of a book is cut, and cut, and cut again, how does the publisher maintain its margins? It takes money out of the author’s income, of course!

Honey child, for publishers EVERYTHING takes money out of a writer's income. They were paying us less and less long before Amazon was a glimmer in Bezos’ eye.

Here is what publishers are, in fact, doing:

cutting advances across the board.

focusing more on bestselling authors and celebrity authors.

dropping many midlist authors.

rejecting many books they once would have published.

spending less on promoting midlist authors and putting their promotional dollars into sure-fire bestsellers.

publishing fewer risky books, books with minority voices, books that might be controversial, books that might not appeal to a wide audience.

no longer taking risks with experimental fiction.

no longer publishing many first novels, no matter how good they are.

no longer investing in authors’ careers; if your book doesn’t sell, you get dropped —
no second chances.

All of that – everything you listed – has been going on for the thirty years I’ve been aware of the publishing business. And from what my friends who are older say, long before that. There was no Amazon then. No e-books. What did they blame? TV, movies, computer games. Heard them with my own ears.

Doug, they’re lying to you. It’s what they do. And you let them.

All that is why it is so hard today to make a living as a writer.

It was always hard. You work, and you work, and if you’re lucky maybe you make a living. No one promised you a rose garden. Or even a small plot with a rose bush.

This is not really the fault of publishers.

Yes, yes, it is. Their refusal to understand technology, their clinging to push marketing, their outright lies and disrespect for those who produce what they sell, their idiotic idea that they should “educate” the public, instead of selling to them? It is all their fault. And they’re lying to you.

It is absolutely the fault of the “information wants to be free” lobby, the giant digital corporations, the content aggregators, the Silicon Valley hacktivist pirates and their fellow travelers. It is the fault of Judge Denny Chin and the Department of Justice, which brought an antitrust suit against Apple and the Big Five publishers for colluding to stand up to Amazon’s price gouging. They all drank the Kool-Aid idea that information wants to be free, to hell with the people who actually create it.

There is no vast lobby of “information wants to be free.” Not for fiction. There are a few, mostly radical libertarians, some of them my friends. Even those people make a point of paying artists they enjoy. You’re putting the blame on entirely the wrong people.  Baen Books publishes non-DRM books and has a “Baen Free Library.” Of the traditional publishers, they’re the only ones thriving in my field. Also, pretty decent to work for.

Well, if information is free and authors can’t make a living writing books, they’ll make a living doing something else. This is the censorship of the marketplace in a nutshell.

It is no such thing. No matter how often you repeat it, it doesn’t make it so.

Again, I have to emphasize that this crisis isn’t just terrible for writers, but terrible for America. Books not written mean ideas never expressed and voices never heard. This is a threat to the Republic.

Okay, now you’re just being silly.

It used to be that serious, educated, and reasonably talented people who wished to write could get published and, if they worked hard, make a living doing it.

When? When was this true? Also define your terms: serious? Educated? Reasonably talented? I begin to think your problem is that you don’t understand that words have meanings and the ones you’re bandying about have no precise ones.

Not anymore. Here we have a room full of amazing talent, great ideas, wonderful stories, and beautiful poetry, written and yet to be written. And I bet that almost all of you are worried financially, and that many of you are forced to work in supporting jobs that cut into the time you would otherwise spend writing.

Um…. I’ve talked to beginning indie writers making half a million a year. The marketplace is enormous and wide open. Okay, I grant you, maybe not for poets. After all, to quote Heinlein, “a poet who reads his poetry aloud might have other bad habits”…  I think they might even publish them. But you know what? I suggest you take the time around your supporting jobs and try it.  Maybe if you’re so amazing and talented you’ll make money too.

This is not right. We authors need to do something about this.

Yes, you do. I suggest writing and making a living.

The problem is, writers are terrible at organizing. We’re loners. We live in our heads. We’re not joiners or rah-rah team players. We can’t stand meetings, and we don’t like group activities.

Certainly not if we’re exposed to the kind of rambling nonsense you’ve been spouting, no.

Which makes this dinner here in Santa Fe, where most of the working writers in the state of New Mexico have come together, all the more remarkable. I believe this event will be a watershed in New Mexico literary history. What a force we have right here in this room! We’re enormously powerful when we come together and speak as one voice. The writing life is threatened as never before, on so many levels — and please note, I haven’t even mentioned a certain name beginning with T.

Mostly threatened by people getting their butts out of their writing chair to hear outright lies and things so wrong they’re not even false.We can no longer hole up in our writing lairs and hope things will get better.

As for the name beginning with a T, we fail to get your meaning. There is no one with a name beginning with T even remotely threatening writers or any other artist. Oh, you mean someone with a name beginning with O, as in when the Obama administration put some schmuck in jail for youtube movie on which they chose to blame their dereliction of duty in Benghazi.  Don’t worry, Hillary didn’t win. Trump is nothing like those people. You’re safe.

So what should we do? Well, if you would kindly allow me a bit of shameless promotion here, I’d like to mention the Authors Guild. I’m on the board, and I just love this great organization. If you’re not a member of the Guild, you really should be. This is the oldest writing association in our country. The Guild has been fighting for over a hundred years, very effectively, to preserve writing as a livelihood, to protect copyright, and to defend authors against publishers, filmmakers, television producers, websites, and others who would rip them off.

The Guild lobbies in Washington and litigates for authors. Talk is cheap — everyone claims to support literary culture — but the Guild puts its money where its mouth is. The Guild sued Google and took the case all the way to the Supreme Court at a cost of a million dollars. Yes, it lost — but the battle had to be fought. And even in losing, the lawsuit strictly circumscribed what digital corporations could do under the copyright laws.

Blah, blah, blah, blah. Give money to my union. It will prevent all these wildcat independents from stealing our business.

Are you sure you’re not a communist, Doug?

At nine thousand strong, including the country’s most influential writers and journalists, the Authors Guild has enormous power, but only if we authors join — and then pay attention, get involved, write letters, support the Guild’s efforts, and push back against the many forces eroding our livelihoods.

Thank you, all of you, and a very special thanks to the author James McGrath Morris for so brilliantly organizing this event.

Or, you know, Doug, writers could ignore you and your organization, and your efforts to make the marketplace less free, and instead go our way, write a lot, write stuff people want to read and get paid.

It’s an idea so crazy, it might just work.