Friday, September 26, 2014

Is Conflict Bad for Publishing?



I’m a member of a list serv peopled by various prominent voices in publishing, and this morning I had an exchange with one person I thought was so illustrative of some of the worldviews at work in the revolution in the industry I wanted to reprint it here. The discussion started because of something Nate Hoffelder wrote about Authors United over at The Digital Reader:

So after not taking sides in taking out a $104,000 advert in the NYTimes, and after not taking sides in sending a letter to Amazon’s board of directors (and then revising it so it was even more insulting), Authors United is now going to not take sides by calling for Amazon to be investigated for antitrust violations... Tell me, does anyone else think it’s time to simply come out and call AU for what it is, a publishing industry astroturfing group?

Which led to this exchange. My thoughts in regular font; the other person’s in italics.

I think Authors United are just trying to do what they think is best for them, and I don’t really see why they should be blamed for that.

I’d like to substitute a few new subjects in that sentence to test the validity of its underlying principle:

“I think Goldman Sachs is just trying to do what they think is best for them, and I don’t really see why they should be blamed for that.”

“I think defense contractors are just trying to do what they think is best for them, and I don’t really see why they should be blamed for that.”

“I think gerrymandering politicians are just trying to do what they think is best for them, and I don’t really see why they should be blamed for that.”

So unless you are arguing that “just trying to do what they think is best for them” is an automatic shield against criticism, I think you have to modify what you said above. Something else is causing you to sympathize with Authors United (which is obviously fine), but I don’t think it makes sense to suggest that thing is merely “they’re just trying to do what they think is best for them.”

My own belief is that a group that’s trying to do what’s best for them at the expense of the wider society of which they’re part is indeed deserving of criticism, and this is precisely the root of my criticism of Authors United (well, that and the embarrassing disingenuousness).

It’s no more disingenuous than what various self-publishers are doing, taking the side that feels most beneficial to future careers.

I imagine you could find individual instances of various self-published authors who’ve said disingenuous things. If you can find anything as consequential and prominent as a group like Authors United claiming not to take sides even as it urges the DOJ to investigate Amazon, I’d be curious to hear about it. Certainly I have my own biases, and it’s possible I’m missing something, but I just can’t imagine what you’re referring to here. 

Astroturfing is a very specific thing, and as an accusation it can only be stood up if there’s evidence that the group is being funded by, manipulated by, or organised by someone within the industry. The fact that their aims fit in neatly with the publisher’s aims is not, by itself, enough to make the accusation of astroturfing stick. It just means they happen to have similar aims - and afaik, for Authors United, that aim is to get Amazon to stop penalising authors for Hachette’s actions.

As I’ve said before, I agree with all of the above -- except for the notion that Amazon is “penalizing” authors. More on this below.

Personally, I think the sanctions are a shitty thing for Amazon to do. Whether Amazon or Hachette are “right” is anyone’s guess - I’ve no idea of the details of their negotiation, pretty much like everyone else, so it’s very hard to make a call. But deliberately damaging someone’s sales is a nasty tactic...

If anyone has a suggestion for how a retailer could exercise any negotiating leverage against a supplier without at some point reducing or refusing to stock the supplier’s inventory, I’d like to know what that thing could be. I’ve asked this question many times and no one at Authors United has proposed anything. And if Amazon is deliberately damaging Hachette author sales, why has Amazon proposed three different ways to fully compensate those authors for any damage they incur as a result of the Amazon/Hachette impasse? Three different ways that were all immediately dismissed by Authors United and Hachette with no counterproposal other than “capitulate to whatever Hachette is asking of you.”

Part of the disingenuousness that so fundamentally characterizes Authors United is precisely this “targeting authors” and “sanctioning authors” line of rhetoric. You can make a good case that authors are collateral damage in the Amazon/Hachette dispute. In fact, I wouldn’t know how to argue otherwise. But to suggest that Amazon’s aim is to damage authors directly makes little sense (with all the media sympathy garnered by the plight of these authors, I think you’d be on firmer ground arguing that Hachette is deliberately using them as bargaining chips). You’ve imposed a quite stringent burden of proof for accusations of astroturfing; why are you so comfortable with your certainty that Amazon is “deliberately damaging someone’s sales,” when there are other -- and far more plausible -- explanations easily available? How could Amazon’s attempts to compensate those authors -- again, attempts all rebuffed by Authors United and Hachette -- coherently be said to be further evidence of Amazon’s desire to damage those authors’ sales?

I think what’s sad is that this has turned into a mess of identity politics, which is causing much more, and much uglier, conflict than there needs to be. It is a shame because there are some important issues that need broader discussion, but that discussion has now mostly been poisoned by ego.

To me, this feels like decrying the quality of online discourse generally. Sure, probably 99.9% of it is puerile, but that still leaves more great stuff than anyone will be able to follow in a lifetime. So sure, there’s a lot of ugly, ego-driven heat on this topic, but there’s still more than enough light. I like to think we’re enjoying a more-light-than-heat conversation right here, no? :)

Another of countless examples: there’s a terrific conversation going on right now between Lee Child and Joe Konrath over at Joe’s blog. Check it out.

What is also deeply disturbing to me is the marginalisation of dissent that has been slowly blossoming in self-publishing and which is now in full flower.

I’m not sure what this means.

Traditionally published and self-published authors should not be in conflict.

Why not? To me, this is like saying, “Democrats and Republicans shouldn’t be in conflict.” When two groups have two competing visions regarding how and for whose benefit a system or society should be designed, of course there should be conflict! In fact, my “Democrats and Republicans” example is really an opposite kind of proof, because so much of what ails America is the result of a lack of conflict between the two parties (which on most issues are really just wings of the same party). The whole country would be better off if Democrats and Republicans were in conflict. If they were, then for example right now Obamawouldn’t be bombing his seventh Muslim country (Bush only managed four). Perhaps bipartisanship and conflict avoidance isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

But I digress. I just don’t know why anyone would argue that conflict between competing visions is bad. I think the opposite is true.

You all write books. You all want readers to read and be happy. You just have a different methodology for achieving that. And that really is it. It’s a shame that the rhetoric has to get so heated. But then, identity politics does that.

I agree that it’s useful for competing groups to keep in mind the important things they have in common, as doing so helps keep perspective. But again, I’d like to substitute just a few words in the paragraph above to test the underlying principle:

“Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street, you all love your country. You all want people to be happy and prosperous. You just have a different methodology of achieving that. And that really is it...”

That really is it? I don’t think so. I think that taken too far, this “With all we have in common, can’t we just agree?” mindset is an artifact of an attachment to our own politics. Because of course my politics aren’t politics at all; they’re just common sense. So if you don’t agree with me, it must just be identify politics at work...

I will also add that as someone who’s dabbled in self-publishing, I’ve been really put off engaging further with the community because of the aggression, the identity politics, and the lack of impulse control shown by some of self-publishing’s louder voices.

LOL... I get it. I feel the same way whenever Doug Preston claims not to be taking sides, or when Hachette claims its all about “nurturing” authors...

But then I remember it’s exactly the most aggressive, the most identity-politics-driven, and the most impulse-control-challenged among legacy publishing’s louder voices who could benefit most from my thoughts and my example. So I continue to engage.

I made the active decision to stop blogging about it, because the shitstorm that comes down on anyone who doesn’t toe the self-publishing line is deeply unpleasant, not to mention entirely unnecessary.

Hey, at least those loud self publishers are engaging you! If you ever figure out a way to get Doug Preston, Roxana Robinson, Richard Russo, or Scott Turow to engage their critics, please tell me what it is. Personally, I think rough-and-tumble discussion is a hell of a lot better than no discussion at all, and it’s precisely that willingness to engage that’s one of the things I admire about indie culture, as its opposite is one of the things I decry about legacy culture.

If anything, I have become more sympathetic to publishers now than I was 4 or 5 years ago, not because my views have changed regarding how terribly they are coping (rather, failing to cope) with change, but because I understand how embattled they are probably feeling.

I’d sympathize more if their solutions to feeling embattled weren’t always about higher prices for readers and lower royalties to authors.

Instead of being a force for change, self-publishing appears to be a force that creates conflict, makes people feel defensive or unwilling to speak publicly, and is, I believe, getting in the way of change. And that, too, is a shame.

This part is especially hard for me to understand. Because when there are no alternatives, of course there is no conflict! Up until recently, legacy publishing had all the leverage, made all the rules, and ran the entire industry with cartel-like power. Under those circumstances, where could conflict have come from? You know where else there’s no conflict? North Korea! Yes, I know this is an extreme example, but it illustrates the point. In human systems what might superficially resemble harmony is much more likely to be evidence of an extreme imbalance of power.

Reading through all your thoughts here, I’m getting the feeling that you almost feel conflict is inherently bad. I think that’s a hard position to support. You say conflict is getting in the way of change. No, it’s more than that -- you say that self-publishing isn’t a force for change because it’s causing conflict. But does that make sense? Can you tell me what change we ever saw in the publishing industry before there was conflict? That’s not a rhetorical question; if I’m missing something, I really want to know.

Is it possible you have things precisely backward? Is it possible conflict doesn’t obstruct change, but in entrenched situations is rather the only thing that causes change? At a minimum, can you identify any significant social or industry change that has ever occurred, if not by conflict, than at least while not being accompanied by it? Again, not a rhetorical question; your views are sharply different from mine and if I’m missing something, I want to know.

What I really think is a shame, as you put it, is that you would point to the very conflict that’s causing reform in publishing -- or that at a minimum is inherently accompanying that reform -- as something that “makes people unwilling to speak publicly.” Look, anyone who wants to speak up but doesn’t isn’t being “made” to do anything. That’s a choice, not a condition. Again, having to repeatedly point out embarrassingly remedial concepts to legacy propagandists isn’t the most fun I can imagine, but I choose to do it because in doing so I believe I’m doing my tiny part in making the world a better place. Of course we all have to make such decisions for ourselves and I don’t think there’s any one-size-fits-all answer, but nor do I think it’s useful to pretend that these decisions are somehow being made by self-publishing and not by we ourselves.

Change is always accompanied by conflict. To decry conflict is therefore to decry change. Which is why establishments purport to hate conflict. Let’s not unintentionally aid them in their propaganda.


Literary agent Ted Weinstein and I were going back and forth on this on the list serv, and Teds questions were (as usual) so interesting and provocative I wanted to reprint them here. As I say in the comments, if this is an example of conflict, I hope to see more of it!

Ted said:

How does anything that AU is saying or advocating affect any self-published author?

Hi Ted, Ive addressed this question a few times:

“All this power, and it doesn’t even occur to them to say to Hachette, You want us to back you up in your fight with Amazon? We want a press release from you promising to change the following policies for all authors by X date. No press release? No support. That’s the kind of behavior you’d expect to see from an Authors Guild even remotely worthy of the name.

“But you don't see that. Instead, a bunch of plutocrat authors are going to drop a hundred grand -- about the equivalent of anyone else buying a cup of coffee at 7-Eleven -- to take out a New York Times ad castigating Amazon. Thats how theyre using their power on behalf of all authors.”


“Like a Democrat effectively saying, Vote for me or I’ll turn the keys over to John McCain and Sarah Palin, the Big Five and their supporters are effectively saying, Support us and our cartel-like business practices because Amazon could become even worse than we’ve been. I don’t buy that bullshit when I hear it from Democrats, so why would I buy it from legacy publishing?  I’m willing to take that risk, recognizing the only way things might get better is if I’m willing to ignore self-interested threats to the effect that Without us, it might get even worse.

“To put it another way: the Big Five and its supporters in Authors United and the Authors Guild are playing a game of chicken with the 99% of authors who have been ill-served by the business practices the establishment refuses to reform. I’ll be damned if I blink first in the face of that.”

More here:

And here:

Ted said:

You haven't answered the question at all, here or in any of those links. How has what AU said or done DIRECTLY AFFECTED the ability of any self-published authors to continue to self-publish, via Amazon, Smashwords or any of the other self-publishing outlets?

Ted, before you asked, “How does anything that AU is saying or advocating affect any self-published authors?” That was a different question, and if you don't think I answered it in the quotes and links I provided, it's okay, we can just agree to disagree.

If, on the other hand, what you meant to ask was your new question, the answer is: I don't think it has.

But do you see the important differences in your two questions? The first asks about a global effect -- current and potential -- and on self-published authors generally, not just on their ability to self-publish. The second question focuses more on how what Authors United is doing affects self-published authors right now, and only with regard to their ability to self-publish. I think these are subtle but quite important differences.

It might be that we're not seeing eye-to-eye here because youre looking at legacy-published and self-published authors as discrete classes. In other words, right, for someone who would under no circumstances ever consider legacy publishing and is certain only to self-publish, groups like Authors United probably dont merit much more than an eye-roll (at least to the extent that such authors are motivated purely by self-interest and not by concern for authors generally). Bob Mayer, for example, often makes this case, and makes it well.

But for self-published authors who are hybrids, who are considering the legacy route, or who might consider the legacy route, of course what Authors United is doing matters a lot -- because, as Ive said many times including in the links I provided, Authors United is fundamentally trying to maintain the legacy system with all its flaws, rather than seizing a great opportunity to help improve it.

I might be misunderstanding you, but it seems like the basis for your questions is the assumption that self-published authors only care about the larger publishing ecosystem insofar as that ecosystem directly affects their bottom line. This hasnt been my experience. Certainly some people are motivated purely by self-interest, but people do also have larger concerns. Im reasonably active against torture, warrantless surveillance, and drone strikes, for example, and not because Im unduly concerned that I myself am likely to be tortured, droned, or surveilled. Im passionate about gay marriage, too, even though Im not gay and I am married and therefore unlikely, as you put it, to be directly affected by the ability or inability of gays to marry.

In fact, we could broaden things even further and ponder MLKs dictum that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” But I don't think we need to go that far to understand why a lot of self-published authors are unhappy with Authors United.

Anyway, even hewing closer to the “Wheres the self-interest?” assumption, I think the better way to understand the reactions of so many self-published authors to Authors United is to recognize authors as part of a larger, common ecosystem, rather than as inhabitants only of discrete segments with no existing or potential overlap with, and unaffected by events within, other segments. Does that make sense?

Ted said:

Every one of your points for why self-published authors might care about the larger publishing environment can be turned 180 degrees to explain why AU and any other traditionally-published author might care about (and not share all your views on) what Amazon is doing in their self-publishing offerings, let alone their larger book retail business.

I don’t doubt that when Doug Preston looks in the mirror, he sees someone who stands for the good of all authors looking back at him. But then I keep returning to my questions about why nothing about lockstep royalties, why nothing about twice-a-year payments, why nothing about life-of-contract terms, why nothing about draconian non-competes, why nothing about B&N and S&S and brick-and-mortar and Amazon-published authors, which unlike Amazon/Hachette was and are real boycotts... why nothing about any of the things that affect 99% of authors a great deal and Doug Preston not at all?

The most vocal members of the Axis of Indies (you, Howey, Konrath, etc.) are like Americans several generations after the Revolutionary War.

I prefer to think of us as more of a Galactic Empire than a mere axis, but... okay. :)

You won. The rest of us wonder why you can’t go and enjoy your independent country, instead of continually hollering “England is a Monarchy! The Magna Carta is not a real constitution! And the tax rates are too high there!”

I think it must be because self-published authors identify with and feel more affected by what’s going on in publishing at large than Americans do by what’s going on in England.

I share your disdain for AU’s unconscionably illogical, ill-informed stances and sloppy use of language. And I share your frustrations with the traditional publishing world, who ill-serve many of the authors they publish. And I also think that Amazon putting a banner on top of an individual Hachette author’s individual book page saying “would you maybe like to buy a different book?” is fucking sleazy, as is “it won’t be available for 3-4 weeks” when it can be delivered from Ingram or B&T in 24-48 hours regardless of the status of Amazon’s contract w/Hachette. I don’t defend ANY of these parties. I’m surprised you do.

I don’t really think my stance is so hard to understand. Again, as I wrote just yesterday:

Which is why my attitude toward the legacy industry is, If you want a shot at my support, immediately double digital royalties to all authors; immediately begin paying all authors once a month instead of twice a year; immediately eliminate rights-of-first refusal, non-competes, and other draconian clauses from your contracts. Short of that, I’ll know the only thing you’ll respond to is pressure — and I’ll be sure to support the party that’s applying it.

If Authors United would adopt a similar attitude, I think it would benefit far more authors (and readers) than their current stance.

Agreed on all of that, as I have said frequently in many forums. But I’m still waiting to hear a word of public criticism for Amazon from you.
This is probably a good place to explain what I mean when I sometimes refer to “Amazon Derangement Syndrome.”  I’m not referring to all criticisms of Amazon, or even to most.  For example, I think Amazon’s cutting off Wikileaks from Amazon Web Services at Joe Lieberman’s request was pernicious, shameful, and cowardly.  I’m glad there’s media scrutiny of conditions in Amazon warehouses.  And while still far better than anything I’ve ever seen in the legacy world, Amazon Publishing’s contracts are showing increasing legacy-like lard and legacy-like author-unfriendly clauses.  Certainly I don’t think these criticisms are deranged — after all, I’ve made them myself...

Okay for now? I seriously have to get back to the new novel... :)

Second Update:

I was thinking more about this notion that conflict is bad because it impedes change... and the more I ponder it, the more I realize it's not just wrong, but pernicious.

Where do we see the most conflict in the world: within democracies, or within totalitarian systems? Again, I don't think there's much conflict at all in North Korea...

Indeed, America is actually built on the notion that conflict is inevitable. Look at Federalist 51. Did Madison say, "Let's eliminate all the factions but one so we'll have harmony"? Or did he say, "Let's empower all the factions so we'll have balance"? And we've had conflict ever since -- the very notion of a system of checks and balance is predicated on it.

Speaking of which: I would argue that America would be better off today if the systems in question would engage in *more* conflict, not less. If Congress protected its prerogatives, we'd have fewer undeclared wars. If the judiciary protected its prerogatives, we might have an actual investigation into torture and unconstitutional surveillance. If the Justice Department weren't in such harmony with Wall Street, we might have seen a banker or two prosecuted for global-economy-wrecking fraud.

Alas, things are very peaceful and civilized. Not much conflict at all.

In fact, has any significant social change in America *ever* been unaccompanied by conflict? Off the top of my head: ending slavery, women's suffrage, civil rights, gay equality. Which of these great changes was accomplished simply through civil dialogue?

Entrenched interests tend not to respond to reasoned discourse. It's one of the things that makes them entrenched. They tend not to listen and then say, "Golly, those are good points. You're right, we'll share." More often, you have to fight for change.

Which is why entrenched interests prefer to tsk-tsk at the noisy, angry barbarians demanding reforms. I get that. But why make it easier for them by parroting their self-interested, unsupportable rhetoric?


twliterary said...

How does anything that AU is saying or advocating affect any self-published author?

Barry Eisler said...

Ted, if you don't mind, I've answered by updating the post itself with our offline exchange, which I think is super interesting and useful. If this is an example of the kind of "conflict" decried by the other person I was engaging on the list serv, I hope we'll see lots more of it! :)

miden said...

Ted: "How has what AU said or done DIRECTLY AFFECTED the ability of any self-published authors to continue to self-publish, via Amazon, Smashwords or any of the other self-publishing outlets?"

I think the question misses a few points.

First, does it really matter if AU has directly affected self-publishers? It’s their hypocrisy that should bear the most scrutiny. They have repeatedly represented themselves as not only speaking on behalf of all authors but as a bulwark against the dissolution of literature. That claim is a broad one, and shouldn’t just cover traditionally published authors or the literature they happen to like, but ALL authors. Otherwise, it’s time for them to change their name to LAU (the Legacy Authors Guild) and stop misrepresenting themselves.

Second, and putting that aside, however, they DO have direct effects on self- and alternatively published authors. For instance, when they attack one bookseller (Amazon) over another (B&N), it has a DIRECT effect on all Thomas & Mercer authors. When they support Big Publishing’s higher prices, it undermines the company that many of us rely on for the bulk of our income. Amazon is a commercial behemoth and I’m sure can take a beating in most negotiations, but that doesn’t mean as a self-published author that I’ll ignore its roots being poisoned. An attack on Amazon is an attack on me.

Third, you’re assuming that the self-publishing world is ignorant of the industry or doesn’t care about the ramifications of the acts of publishers. Many of us are angered by the misrepresentation of the issues and the unwillingness of AU and Big Publishing to compromise or debate the state of the industry simply because we are citizens of the literary community…and we don’t like what we see.

The future of literature isn’t only in the hands of the legacy authors and their publishers—self-pubbers are just as engaged and concerned as that crowd is in the direction and tenor of the written word…perhaps more so. We’re not all sitting at home checking our sales numbers—we’re exquisitely aware when a critical debate about publishing is taking place and are ready to expose hypocrisy and wrong-headedness when we see it.

Joe Konrath said...

Ted, one of the things I keep repeating is that Hachette authors should hire a lawyer and get out of their contracts, and then self-publish.

I feel that the more AU nonsense I expose, the more I'm helping authors reach this conclusion.

It's akin to once being homeless, imrpoving your situation, and then volunteering at a soup kitchen. Just because you're no longer starving doesn't mean you can't assist others who are.

My blog is responsible, to some degree, for thousands of authors trying self publishing. Many of these authors are making more money than ever before. Some are making money for the first time ever.

To put it another way, you don't turn off the lighthouse just because your ship passed it safely.

William Ockham said...

My initial response is that AU is making all authors (including self-published authors) look bad by coming across as self-absorbed assholes. The percentage of the population that understands the traditional/self published distinction rounds down to zero.

My next thought is that AU is so comically ineffective that the answer is none whatsoever.

But my final answer is that when "industry thought leaders" are spreading misinformation on an industrial scale, good folks have to do what they can to correct the record or this sort of nonsense becomes accepted fact.

Joe Konrath said...

FWIW, being aggressive in attacking the status quo is one of the earmarks of revolution. And this is a revolution.

When I insult, belittle, and attack Hachette, or AU, I take away their power in two ways. First, powerful people tend to think that everyone should agree with them, even when their motives are selfish and their opinions are foolish. Preston, Turow, Patterson, et al can get major media coverage by picking up a phone. When they get spanked in public because they acted badly, maybe they'll be less likely to act badly in the future. Or maybe they'll stop speaking in public altogether, which would be a win since they are spreading disingenuous and potentially harmful nonsense.

Second, those who deify these powerful figures stop doing so when their heroes get spanked in a fisk.

If I'm a loudmouth that people hate to listen to, why hasn't anyone fisked me? Wouldn't my detractors love to see me humiliated? Lee Child was kind enough to appear on my blog, but he didn't respond to a single point I brought up.

Methinks people blame me for my tone because that's the only thing they can use to attack me, and saying I'm rude lets them off the hook of having to engage me on the actual issues.

Joseph Ratliff said...

Ted, when you think deeply into the question you asked Barry (the "directly" version) ... that is a contributing factor to why our country has turned into the surveillance monster it has.

"Oh, you guys aren't getting interrupted, you can do 'anything' you want in a free country ... just trust us ... and let us keep watching you."


To ensure you get what you want out of this world, sometimes "direct effect" isn't the problem.

Sometimes the "global effect" is.

The gospel that AU is spreading right now, that could have a global effect on the publishing industry, not a "direct effect" on my ability to use the tools of publishing.

I don't think AU is going to succeed, because quite frankly they each sound like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but I'm still going to keep my finger on the "pulse" of it.

All while minimizing any future "direct effect" that their rather idiotic actions might have for the future of publishing.

Jm Cornwell said...

One thing is glaringly missing from this exchange, as it has been from all the exchanges from AU and from Hachette in their underhanded way. Amazon is not forced to sell anything in their store they do not want to sell. It's called capitalism. Hachette needs Amazon and so do the authors. Time and again Amazon has said that readers are welcome to go elsewhere to find books by authors that Amazon does not sell, which is the opposite of trying to create a monopoly. Yes, Hachette authors, and indeed the authors who signed with the rest of the Big-5/6 publishers when it is their turn at bat. Hachette cannot afford to lose Amazon as a distributor. Bottom line, this is about money (isn't it always) and not about anything else, just as it was about money when the Big-5/6 publishers colluded with Apple to keep prices high.

Publishers do not want to support ebooks because it would take away from their print runs and print runs is what have kept publishers in business for all these centuries. If Hachette and the rest of the Legacy Publishers can find a way to continue making money without Amazon, I say let them do it.

Publishers, afraid that bookstores would close during the Great Depression, created a deal whereby bookstores could send back a book at any time, even years later, and get their money back. Publishers needed bookstores to continue doing business. Publishers need Amazon to keep doing business while shafting their midlist writers and continuing their stranglehold on print. Amazon is willing to walk away, but is Legacy Publishing?

In the end, capitalism will out.

Paolo Amoroso said...

In this post Hugh Howey discussed why self-published authors should care about ebook pricing, a major issue of the Amazon-Hachette dispute: Why Should We Care?.

As a reader I'm also deeply and directly affected by the outcome of the dispute. I guess many self-published authors are also readers and may be affected enough to have a stake.

But I think self-published author may have an even more important way of being affected by Author United’s actions. Their call to regulators for an antitrust investigation of Amazon, even based on bogus or dubious claims, may directly impact also the self-publishing business, e.g. with restrictions on pricing.

antares said...


If the Justice Department weren't in such harmony with Wall Street, we might have seen a banker or two prosecuted for global-economy-wrecking fraud.

Not quite prosecution but an affirmative defense:

Worth the read. Note that the defendants' lawyers were court appointed. That they pursued this defense is amazing.

What are the chances that the DOJ will go after the big bankers instead of the little borrowers? You wanna believe in JUSTICE? Good. I got other fairy tales to sell ya.

Douglas Bornemann said...

How has AU directly hurt indies? I'll tackle that one: Their smear campaign against Amazon has caused some book customers to declare they will buy their books elsewhere. For those indie authors who rely primarily on Amazon for their livelihoods, their tactics likely don't hurt Amazon much, but can be devastating for a new author trying to make it on Amazon's platform. Sure, those authors can sell on other platforms, but when you're just starting out, rankings (rather than an established fan base) are critical for driving new sales, so the incentive to choose a single platform is high. As I see it, AU's propaganda negatively targets new indie authors in a more direct way than they are claiming Amazon targets them. After all, at least they have print sales in brick and mortar stores to fall back on. I'm still waiting on an offer from Hachette or AU to compensate indies for the damage they're causing...

Aba Cab said...

I thought the Revolutionary War analogy was clever. But in the second generation after that war we had the War of 1812, and in the interim, harassment on the frontiers and costly trade blockades. If traditional publishers are the British, and self-publishers are the Americans--and I think the analogy is apt--then we should expect the former, if they win this battle against Amazon, to continue to encroach on the self-publishing world. They have a history of acting in bad faith: treating authors like serfs and colluding illegally. Their disdain for their authors continues, as evidenced by their rejecting out of hand Amazon's temporary author compensation plans. That's what it looks like from the cheap seats, so the trads have at least a serious perception problem.

Nirmala said...

Barry, you left out a good one:

“I think ISIS is just trying to do what they think is best for them, and I don’t really see why they should be blamed for that.”