Roger L. Simon

Amazon vs. Apple = Happy Days for Writers?

I put a question mark on the title of this post because I’m a writer and we’re not used to happy days. And even if we have them, most of us grump around anyway like the self-pitying louts we are.

NEVERTHELESS… there is a potential bonanza for book writers (or authors, as we pretentious types prefer to call ourselves) in the news that Amazon has gone into competition with the expected Apple tablet and, as of June 30, is offering authors and publishers a 70% royalty for their copyrighted work to be published on the Kindle.

The devil is hugely in the details on this, but this is something of a revolution and could be very good news for writers indeed, but not such good news for publishers. As a relatively established – and suddenly greedy – writer I’m thinking, what do I need a publisher for? Why should I split the 70% with those thieves? For what? Cover art? I can hire someone myself for peanuts (well, large size peanuts anyway). Publicity? I can bribe my fellow bloggers with a flat beer to promote the damn thing. And, okay, a few of those publishers are or have pretty good editors, but there’s always spellcheck and that weird grammar helper on Microsoft Word. (Does anyone know how to use that?) And now Amazon (and Apple) provide the distribution. I don’t even have to lick envelopes. Or pay my daughter to do it.

All right, I’m joking around a bit, but I’m still digesting this. When I was young, I aspired to have my books published by fancy names like Random House and Simon & Schuster and succeeded on occasion, but they only paid a ten percent royalty. The lure was they gave me an advance against those royalties, which sometimes earned out and sometimes didn’t, but that lure is seeming much less appealing at a seven-to-one ratio. It doesn’t even take a scratch pad to do the simple math. Sell fifty thousand downloads of a book for $8 a pop on Amazon and you just made yourself $280,000. This would have been an amazing bonanza for Georges Simenon who wrote his crime novels in eleven days. I’m lazy. It usually takes me six months to write a book. Of course, it could be I won’t sell anywhere near fifty thousand downloads, but the risk involved has suddenly gotten a lot more attractive, just as it has, I assume, for many other authors and would be authors. If publishers wish to succeed in this brave new e-world, they are going to have to drastically alter their royalty schedules. Massachusetts wasn’t the only revolution this week.

UPDATE: I haven’t had time to write about it, but the new POLIWOOD is up – about Oliver Stone and his new “Empathy for Hitler” Showtime series.