Monday, September 22, 2014

The Name Game

Elsewhere on the Internets, David Gaughran gives the publishing industry a spanking, Dan Meadows gives Douglas Preston a spanking, and Hugh Howey gives Authors United a spanking.

I'm finding this highly amusing. The Hachette/Amazon situation has become a true comedy of errors. It's like watching Groucho Marx lead Freedonia into war by intentionally being greedy, dishonest, and self-serving.

I'm not sure if Authors United is a bunch of elitists who know they're full of shit and are trying to make the best argument they can to sway public opinion because they don't want the gravy train to end, or if they're truly as stupid as they appear.
I go back and forth. Think-tank forced to defend an unwinnable debate, or self-deluded pinheads?
What I'm really enjoying is the Law of Unintended Consequences. They're in a large hole, and they keep on digging. The situation has become a farce. And even though AU has the media in its pocket, the ridiculousness of their stance is becoming impossible to hide.

The same silly things are being repeated, over and over. Preston, Colbert, Russo, Patterson, Turow, Robinson, are attempting to use buzzwords and terms in order to evoke fear and sympathy, and failing spectacularly.

Collectively, they feel threatened, and there really aren't any good ways to defend their sense of entitlement, so they have to zero in on the same nonsense they've been preaching for years; protectors of culture, nurturers of writers, champions of indie bookstores, and defenders of fair business practices. Amazon is using "sanctions" and "boycotts", Amazon is a "monopoly" that is "targeting" authors.
This is all very specific language that the status quo has collectively adopted in order to spin the real story.

Barry Eisler wrote a hilarious piece on this kind of thing back in 2010, and it applies perfectly.

When waging the battle for public opinion, word choice matters. As Barry said in the above article, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, erupting 60,000 barrels of oil into the ocean per day, the media, government, and oil companies called it a "leak" and a "spill." It was actually an "ecological disaster". But describing it accurately would alarm the masses, so the language was tailored to put everyone at ease.

Authors United can't win on logic, facts, or even common sense, so they are appealing to emotion to sway public opinion, and the language they're using is tailored to that. So the same lies keep getting trotted out, with Authors United hoping that the public will start repeating them and public opinion will side with them.

I'm going to put the buzz words that are being repeated in italics, and explain why they're fallacious.

Amazon is not a monopoly. But people know monopolies are bad and illegal, so the term keeps getting used.

Publishers don't create culture. They don't create anything; authors do. But Authors United wants you to believe publishers are indispensable. And they aren't.

Books aren’t commodities. Well, yes, they are. They’re bought and sold, after all. AU wants to say they aren't, that people recognize the importance of literature and are above crass, plebian capitalism. But publishers print prices directly on book covers -- if that’s not a product, what is?  

Writing is a job. It isn't some special calling for the elite. It isn't some form of magic where the shaman practitioners must be deified. I'm a writer, and damn lucky to be one, but I'm no better than someone who makes toasters on an assembly line.

Authors aren't being targeted. Amazon's goal isn't to put books in their crosshairs for systematic termination. In fact, Amazon has tried, three times, to compensate authors for the duration of the negotiations. Hachette no longer has a contract with Amazon, but Amazon is still graciously selling Hachette’s titles. If Amazon truly wanted to leverage Hachette into signing a new contract, it could stop selling all Hachette titles. But it hasn't done that.

Amazon isn't delaying Hachette titles. It simply isn't stocking Hachette books, and why should it when there is no contract in place?

There isn't any boycott or sanction. Hachette books are available elsewhere. Amazon isn't blocking any sales.

Amazon isn't reducing book discounts. They're pricing books according to the prices Hachette itself stamps on books. They aren't refusing preorders, either. Is it a smart practice to sell titles that haven't been released yet when there is no surety that they'll ever be able to fulfill those orders if they can't come to terms with Hachette?

Amazon isn’t punishing writers who are helpless. Writers are only helpless in that they signed a contract with a publisher who refuses to negotiate with Amazon because the publisher wants to protect its paper oligopoly by keeping ebook prices high. Amazon isn't negotiating with writers, it is negotiating with Hachette. Writers are collateral damage--and writers put themselves in harm’s way by signing with a member of a cartel with a specific agenda.

Look at these words again: reducing, refusing, boycott, sanction, blocking, delaying, targeted, commodities, culture, democracy, monopoly, punishing, helpless. They’re all being used to deliberately mislead.

Writers, who in the past were afraid to speak out against publishing nonsense like this because they didn't want to be blacklisted, are now actively pointing out how asinine publishers, and authors, are acting. Authors United, in its effort to win public support, has become a laughingstock. The publishing industry, and status quo authors, despise the term "legacy" to describe them. But it is an apt term, and is becoming widespread.

Authors United and their allies (I'm looking at you, NYT publishing apologist pinhead David Steitfeld) are not only failing to get their buzzwords accepted by the public, they're introducing derogatory terms that are eventually going to be adopted the same way "legacy publishing" has been.

"Whale math", which is attributed to Streitfeld in one of the most hilariously inept analogies in modern journalism, is a term coined to describe a ridiculous comparison in order to bolster one number while downplaying another. To quote Hugh Howey:

"the opinion of 900 authors is worth a fawning article (complete with Douglas Preston hanging out by his writing shack on his 300 acre summer estate), while the opinion of 8,000+ authors is meaningless . . . because far more people care about saving whales."

"Special snowflake" has been applied to Authors United because of their insistence that books, and authors, must have different rules applied to them because this is Important Art and Culture. Writers aren't assembly workers, they're better than that. Books aren't disposable razor blades, they're better than that. Elitist, self-important bullshit. Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson insisted she isn't a special snowflake. I agree, Roxana. You aren't special at all. So stop asking for special treatment.

"Typocrite" is someone in the publishing industry (someone who should know the value and meaning of words) who repeatedly claims they aren't doing something, then does it. Authors United says they aren't taking sides, while repeatedly chastising Amazon and not placing any blame at all on Hachette. AFAIK, they haven't even contacted Hachette. Roxana Robinson states readers are buying books from places other than Amazon, but that Amazon is still hurting authors. Authors United pens a letter praising the importance of editors, and then doesn't have anyone edit all of the typos and nonsense out of their own letter. Believing 900 signatures is somehow greater than 8000. Stating Amazon's reputation is at stake, when Amazon customer approval since the Hachette dispute went public has actually gone up. Publicly whining that Amazon is hurting authors, which is the equivalent of saying that "Your negotiation tactics are hurting us so your method is working." This is all typocritcal behavior, and something the legacy industry does a lot.

"Bookholm Syndrome" is when authors fight to protect the publishers that are exploiting them, even though they can't do so well because publishers actions are selfish, harmful, and indefensible. This applies to midlist authors yearning to become bestsellers, or newbie authors yearning for a publisher deal.

So what does all this mean?

It means the legacy industry has lost control. In the past, it was the only game in town. It controlled the only kind of book distribution--paper distribution. If you wanted to get onto bookstore shelves, you had to deal with a legacy publisher because they had a lock on it. You also had to accept unconscionable contract terms as a writer, because it was that or nothing.

Amazon has given authors a choice. We no longer have to bow to the cartel. And because of that, coupled with the rise of the Internet and the ability for everyone to seek out information and voice their opinion, we have a whole group of writers who aren't going to kowtow to legacy publishers. Once afraid to speak out, we can now freely criticize the stupidity and unfairness of the business. We can be honest without fear of reprisal. We have access and means to discredit bullshit when we hear it.

Legacy publishers, and their special snowflake authors, can be easily discredited. It doesn't matter that they can get all the press coverage they want by contacting media outlets. It doesn't matter that they can waste money on $100k ads in the NYT. Their message isn't being accepted by the largely uninterested public, but it is being widely vilified within the author community.

Years ago, I likened the legacy industry to dinosaurs after the asteroid hit. They still think they're relevant, but it is only a matter of time before they die off.

In the last Authors United letter, they mentioned the term dinosaurs and tried to dismiss it typocritically:

"But what these commentators and Amazon itself may not realize is that traditional publishing houses perform a vital role in our society."

In reality, legacy publishers have no vital role. In fact, they’re being the opposite of vital; they're actually harmful. Through their actions--price fixing, collusion, refusing to negotiate with Amazon, treating most authors like shit--they are disintermediating themselves. They are the living definition of shooting themselves in the foot.

What I didn't know, years ago, was that watching an extinction-level event would be so damn funny.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nonsense United

And Authors United confirms that a group can indeed be less than the sum of its parts when it acts in such a blatantly stupid way. But, like any group of likeminded people bonded together by mutual ignorance, they can persuade the legacy media tools at the NYT and The Bookseller to run their biased propaganda without any counterpoints.

Fails all around.

Their recent letter almost isn't worth fisking. Really. It's so poorly done, such a flimsy, whiny argument, that a child could deconstruct it.

But I didn't have a child available, so I did it.

If you want a refresher on the nonsense, start reading my blog from May 24 to present.

Now let's get to fisking. Lies and hyperbole in bold, my responses in common sense plain font.

Letter to Amazon.com, Inc. board of directors

The letter, with the list of signatories attached, will sent by Federal Express to each of the ten board members of Amazon.com. They are:

(A list of ten names and addresses)

Hmm. I wonder if Douglas Preston would like it if his address was put online.

Is that the point of using snail mail locations rather than email? A bit of the old "we know where to find you" intimidation technique?

Why not also show the board members pictures of their houses via Google Earth? Isn't that how the Facebook trolls do it?

Dear [name],

We are writing to you in your capacity as a director of Amazon.com, Inc. As we all know, Amazon is involved in contract negotiations with several media and publishing companies, including Hachette. About six months ago, to enhance its bargaining position, Amazon began sanctioning Hachette authors' books. These sanctions included refusing preorders, delaying shipping, reducing discounting, and using pop-up windows to cover authors' pages and redirect buyers to non-Hachette books.

Didn't take long for the BS to begin.

This began in January, not six months ago, because Hachette refused to negotiate with Amazon prior to their contract with Amazon expiring.

Amazon has had no contract with Hachette for several months. And yet it still sells Hachette titles, while under no obligation to do so.

Refusing preorders - Why should Amazon sell advanced copies of work when they might not be selling any Hachette titles in the future if an agreement can't be reached?

Delaying shipping - Amazon has said they aren't delaying shipping, they simply aren't stocking Hachette titles. If Hachette wants faster shipping, they should get their titles to Amazon faster.

Reducing discounting - Oh noes! Amazon is selling books for the prices that Hachette sets!

Using pop-up windows - First I've heard of this, and the few minutes I took clicking on Hachette titles on Amazon failed to produce any results. But if it is true, let's look at the big picture:

1. Should Amazon be allowed to do whatever it wants to on its own website? Sell what it wants to, for prices it wants to? Sell ad space if it wants to? Stock what it wants to? Ship how it wants to?

2. If a retailer isn't behaving like the supplier wants it to behave, should the supplier fight for better terms? Leave? Negotiate in good faith? Capitulate?

For some reason, Authors United believes that publishers have the right to tell Amazon, Bezos, and the board of directors, how to run their store.

Now, the US has a history of third parties trying to intimidate retailers. But at least the mob did it effectively. Authors United seems to be using the intimidation tool of shame.

Shame doesn't work. I know this for a fact, because I've repeatedly shamed Authors United signatories to stop their nonsense, and they haven't.

But I'll keep trying. And I won't have to try very hard. Seriously, read on, it gets extremely humiliating.

These sanctions have driven down Hachette authors' sales at Amazon.com by at least 50 percent and in some cases as much as 90 percent. These sales drops are occurring across the board: in hardcovers, paperbacks, and e-books. 

Sanctions? AU called it a "boycott" before, apparently because not one of the many great, wise, prestigious, bestselling, award-winning authors who signed the last letter knew the correct definition of "boycott".

What is a sanction?

Trade sanctions are trade penalties imposed by a country or group of countries on another country or group of countries. Typically the sanctions take the form of import tariffs (duties), licensing or other administrative regulations. 

Oops. They don't know what a "sanction" is, either. Amazon isn't a country, last I checked. And they aren't enforcing tariffs.

What Amazon is doing, as I've mentioned before, is engaging in the nefarious act of capitalism. Capitalism often involves negotiation.

Is Douglas Preston imposing a sanction on Hachette during contract negotiations when he holds out for more money? Is he boycotting Penguin Random House because he signed with Hachette? Does he think he's fooling anyone by misappropriating fear words while engaging in an emotional appeal fallacy?

And why isn't my shaming making him stop? Do I have to post his address?

Because of Amazon's immense market share and its proprietary Kindle platform, other retailers have not made up the difference. Several thousand Hachette authors have watched their readership decline, or, in the case of new authors, have seen their books sink out of sight without finding an adequate readership. These men and women are deeply concerned about what this means for their future careers.

Which is why we, Authors United, are writing to our publisher, Hachette, urging them to come to an agreement with Amazon.

Oh, wait...

We urge you to review our names at the bottom of this letter. No group of authors as diverse or prominent as this has ever come together before in support of a single cause. 

Except, you know, for that petition Howey and Konrath did, with eight times as many signatures.

We are literary novelists and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists; thriller writers and debut and midlist authors. We are science fiction and travel writers; historians and newspaper reporters; textbook authors and biographers and mystery writers. We have written many of your children's favorite stories. Collectively, we have sold billions of books. Amazon's tactics have caused us profound anguish and outrage.

This is a business negotiation. If you're serious about making Amazon do your bidding, don't sell your billions of books on Amazon, and maybe Amazon will be threatened by that and cave.

Otherwise, you're repeatedly stating how powerful you are, then not using any of that power as leverage. Way to influence. Way to show how much you care about this issue.

Translation: Way to cop out.

Russell Grandinetti of Amazon has stated that the company was "forced to take this step because Hachette refused to come to the table." He has also claimed that "authors are the only leverage we have." As one of the world's largest corporations, Amazon was not "forced" to do anything.

And no one is currently forcing Amazon to continue to sell any Hachette titles. Because Amazon and Hachette currently have no contract.

But Amazon is still selling them.

This is an obvious fact. We all have choices. Amazon chose to involve 2,500 Hachette authors and their books. It could end these sanctions tomorrow while continuing to negotiate. Amazon is undermining the ability of authors to support their families, pay their mortgages, and provide for their kids' college educations. We'd like to emphasize that most of us are not Hachette authors, and our concern is founded on principle, rather than self-interest.

So now Amazon owes authors a living?

I'm amazed by the permeating sense of entitlement in this letter. These authors believe the system owes them. And I say this as someone who was at the mercy of legacy publishers for a decade. I know what it's like to have my dreams, hopes, and finances screwed by the whims of a giant corporation.

But here's the thing: I signed those one-sided, unconscionable publishing contracts. I went into them willingly. And when something better came along, I got the hell out.

Authors United, your gripe isn't with Amazon. You didn't sign a deal with Amazon. You can self-publish with Amazon right now and get preorders and fast shipping and price your books as you wish.

Your problem should be with Hachette. Hachette, who wants to keep ebook prices high, even as you lament Amazon's lack of discounting. Hachette, who cares more about its part of the paper distribution oligopoly than it does about its authors. Hachette, who you HAVEN'T CONTACTED YET.

We find it hard to believe that all members of the Amazon board approve of these actions. We would like to ask you a question: Do you as an Amazon director approve of this policy of sanctioning books?

Do you, Authors United, approve with the policy of encouraging straw men?

The straw man fallacy is brought up a lot on the Internet. You'd think that all of those smart Authors United signatories with their assloads of awards would know what it means.

A straw man is a common type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on the misrepresentation of an opponent's argument. To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument.

Amazon isn't sanctioning books. This is a misrepresentation of what is happening, and it requires ignorance for people to believe it. Classic strawman. I know that, and I don't have a single Pulitzer.

Efforts to impede or block the sale of books have a long and ugly history. Would you, personally, want to be associated with this? We feel strongly that such actions have no place in a common commercial dispute. Amazon has other negotiating tools at its disposal; it does not need to inflict harm on the very authors who helped it become one of the largest retailers in the world.

More appeals to emotion. More strawmen.

Amazon doesn't have an armada surrounding Hachette's warehouse, preventing it from selling titles. There is no flotilla blockade preventing Hachette's books from reaching readers. Their books are available elsewhere... including on Amazon.

Repeat after me: It's not a boycott, it's not a sanction, it's all fallacious, it's not a boycott, it's not a sanction, it's all fallacious...

Our position has been consistent. We have made a great effort not to take sides.

A great effort that includes not contacting Hachette. Ever. Because that's the real definition of how you don't take sides, by petitioning one side and not the other.

And they've sold billions of books. Really.

And really, see how shame doesn't stop stupidity?

But, to be fair, Authors United and I are using shame differently.

Authors United is trying to use shame to control Amazon. It's ineffective, and embarrassing, and transparent, and has no facts or logic to back it up.

I'm using shame to inform people about this issue. The Authors United signatories won't listen to me (though it would be a step in the right direction if they actually began to read the nonsense they signed). But other writers, and readers, who want to know the real core of this issue (since the legacy media won't tell them) can read about it here. Backed up with facts and logic.

We are not against Amazon. We appreciate that Amazon sells half the books in the United States. But Amazon has repeatedly tried to dismiss us as "rich" bestselling authors who are advocating higher ebook prices—a false and unfair characterization, as most of us are in fact midlist authors struggling to make a living. 

Then stop signing with publishers. Hachette has failed you. Hire a lawyer and go solo.

And we have not made any statements whatsoever on book pricing. 

If I join Greenpeace, is there an obvious understanding that I care about the planet and want to save endangered species, even if I never made a statement about saving whales?

And, just to be nit-picky, Authors United made a statement on book pricing just a few paragraphs previously when they accused Amazon of reducing discounting.

Even if I hated Amazon and spent my vacations happily gripping my socks for Hachette execs, I wouldn't sign a letter this sloppy. It's embarrassing.

Our point is simple: we believe it is unacceptable for Amazon to impede or block the sale of books as a negotiating tactic.

Amazon has every right to refuse to sell consumer goods in response to a pricing disagreement with a wholesaler. 

Uh... wha?

So it is unacceptable for Amazon to use negotiating tactics such as impeding book sales, but Amazon has every right to refuse to sell consumer goods as a negotiating tactic?

Did I even need to fisk this? Authors United just fisked themselves.

Jesus, did any signatory ACTUALLY READ THIS?

We all appreciate discounted razor blades and cheaper shoes. But books are not consumer goods. 

Books are not consumer goods.

Hmm. Kinda makes me wonder why publishers print the prices on the cover.

Books cannot be written more cheaply, nor can authors be outsourced to China. 

Books can't be written cheaply? I believe I wrote my first nine novels for free. And since leaving my publishers, every book I've written is for free. I don't get an advance.

As for outsourcing, I don't believe I'm owed a living, or that what I do is particularly important.

I'm not curing cancer. I'm not even saving whales.

In fact, I'm a damn lucky son of a bitch who gets to make a living doing what I love, which is more than most people can say.

Books are not toasters or televisions. Each book is the unique, quirky creation of a lonely, intense, and often expensive struggle on the part of a single individual, a person whose living depends on that book finding readers. This is the process Amazon is obstructing.

We, at Authors United, are better than people working in China. We're better than people who make toasters and televisions.

We're special snowflakes, unique and quirky, and the lonely, intense struggle we endure for the sake of ART is much more difficult than coal mining or waitressing or mechanical engineering or brain surgery or conservationism or rocket science.

If I ever reach this level of self-importance, I want someone to slap the shit out of me.

Seriously. Slap me until I shit all over myself. It would be less embarrassing than agreeing with the above Authors United paragraph.

When all you have to do to humiliate someone is hold up a mirror, it's time to stop making public statements.

There has been much talk on the Internet about how traditional publishers like Hachette are "dinosaurs" defending a moribund business model. There have been claims that Amazon is leading the way to a new publishing paradigm, one that that pays authors higher royalties, allows anyone to publish, and cuts out the elitist gatekeepers. We agree that Amazon has spurred important innovations in publishing, including a wonderful self-publishing model that has given many new writers a voice.

Hey, we found something to agree on!

But what these commentators and Amazon itself may not realize is that traditional publishing houses perform a vital role in our society.

So did outhouses. Then that pesky tech upstart, indoor plumbing, came along.

Publishers provide venture capital for ideas. They advance money to authors, giving them the time and freedom to write their books. This system is especially important for nonfiction writers, who must quit their jobs to travel, research and write. 

Those poor bastards! Forced to quit their jobs so instead they can travel, research, and write! Someone pass the Kleenex!

How does this hardship compare to working on a factory assembly line, making discount razor blades?

Without an advance, for example, many aspiring writers would never be able to leave their jobs to write their first books. 

(Headdesk) Seriously, by a show of hands, how many of you left your job to write your first book?

No one? You mean (gasp!) you were working on your first book while also holding down a job? And keeping your family happy? And you didn't complain, because you were doing what you loved?

Thousands of times every year, publishers take a chance on unknown authors and advance them money solely on the basis of an idea. By assuming the risk, publishers expect—and receive—a financial return. What will Amazon replace this process with? 

Hint: Amazon already did. It's called KDP. It's when authors write their books for free, and then sell them. While keeping all the rights and the majority of the monies earned.

This model is working for tens of thousands of authors.

How, in the Amazon model, will a young author get funding to pursue a promising idea? 

By, um, working and earning money? Like 99.99% of writers did?

Thank goodness you clarified earlier that you aren't entitled, rich, bestselling authors, because without that disclaimer everyone reading this would certainly be thinking that you are.

And what about the role of editors and copy editors, who ensure that what ultimately ends up on the shelf is both worthy and accurate?

This! Because there can be no editing without editors, and the only editors that exist work at publishing houses.

Just like the only books worthy to exist are on bookstore shelves.

You know, except for the 1.5 million ebooks I sold.

So other than the fact that anyone can hire an editor, and that bookstore shelf space is no longer required for an author to make money, it was a good point.*

*That's sarcasm. It wasn't a good point.

We are certain that you, as an Amazon board member, prize books and freedom of expression as much as we do. Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand. But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company's fine reputation last? We appeal to you, with hope and goodwill, to exercise your governance and put an end to the sanctioning of books, which are the very foundation of our culture and democracy.

Cue the Star Spangled Banner, unfurl the flags, throw the ticker tape, and let's all hope Konrath doesn't fisk this and reveal how stupid we're being. In public, no less.

Sincerely,

[Each one of us listed below has read, approved, and signed this letter]

Then each of you should be deeply, grossly, unabashedly ashamed.

Addendum:

Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader makes some points that I missed, including the misquoting of Russ Grandinetti.

Hugh Howey takes NYT "journalist" David Streitfeld rightfully to task.

Jen Rasmussen has a hilarious, spot-on take,
http://jenrasmussen.com/authors-united-vs-amazon-a-primer

Addendum Deux:

There are more obvious points I missed, that are being brought up in the comments here and on Passive Voice. I'm repeating them to make sure they're read.

Dazrin sez: No comment on the "will sent by Federal Express" in the first line? You would think a thousand professional authors would catch that.

Joe sez: Maybe they expected their editors to catch it.

Barbara Morgenroth sez: "And what about the role of editors and copy editors, who ensure that what ultimately ends up on the shelf is both worthy and accurate?"

Stated in a missive that is both unworthy and inaccurate.

Joe sez: I wonder if there were any editors that signed this. If so, let this be a cautionary tale for writers seeking editing help.

Marc Cabot sez: Mr. Konrath, if you will print a nice copy of this fisking and FedEx it to each of the board members of Amazon - whom Mr. Preston has kindly provided addresses for - I will compensate you for the FedEx charges.

Joe sez: Thanks, Marc. I could probably "sent by Federal Express" without needing compensation. But I don't think I need to bother the board. If they're on the board, they're smart, and no doubt already aware of all this.

Uncle Jo sez: Wait, this is the big event all the blowhards were yammering about? A stern letter? Yet another publicity push?

Joe sez: Yeah. On September 4 Publishers Weekly quoted Douglas Preston:

“we are forced to move on to our next initiative"

No one blames you for this bold, rash, unprecidented move, Mr. Preston. I just hope it doesn't escalate to you ringing Jeff Bezos's doorbell in the middle of the night and then running away. Or--even worse--placing a flaming bag of dog poo on the porch before you bolt.

I pray you aren't forced to go to those extremes.

Hugh Howey sez: In this latest letter to board members, he says that Amazon could employ some negotiation tool that does not impact authors. I’d love to hear his ideas. Or at least one idea. How can Amazon hurt Hachette without hurting its authors?

Joe sez: Well, if Amazon wanted to escalate, they could send a letter to Hachette's board of directors. Wait... that would be silly and serve no purpose. Well, maybe they could find out where the board members live, then ring their doorbells in the middle of the night...

William Ockham sez: I hate to give writing advice to these folks, but using "sanction" in this context is a terrible strategic move. The word is essentially its own antonym. It could mean "endorse" or "penalize". Moreover, it carries a connotation of the subject (Amazon) having official authority over the object (Hachette titles). The assistants of the letter's addressees are busy people and you wouldn't want to generate confusion on their part when they read your letter.

Also, avoid using absolutes like "no group of authors as diverse or prominent as this has ever come together before in support of a single cause". This just encourages people to think about other literary causes that likely generated more widespread support. For example, hundreds of writers signed petitions supporting Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Graham Greene, W. H. Auden, Arthur Miller, John Updike, Truman Capote, and Kurt Vonnegut. Are you folks really more prominent than those guys? Seriously?

Timothy Wilhoit sez: “Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand,” it says. “But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company’s fine reputation last?”

Classic concern trolling. I really feel their concern for Amazon’s fine reputation.

Joe sez: The carrot and the stick. They used the appeal to fear, and the appeal to patriotism, why not the appeal to flattery as well?

Meryl Yourish sez: That’s not how Boards of Directors work. A CEO has to screw up really badly for any BOD to take action against them.

This is really just another empty piece of symbolism that will fool people who don’t understand business practices.

That would include most of the authors of Authors United.

Joe sez: This letter isn't for the BOD. It's for the media. To the extent the public cares, those who really do will seek out more info and find blogs like mine and those I've linked to.

Do you know if you sound out the word "guillotine" really slowly it sounds exactly like the word "gullible"?

It was much easier to be gullible without Google.

David sez: I’m still waiting for the letter that begins,

“Dear Amazon, we know that Hachette’s agreement with you expired months ago, and we’d like to say thanks for continuing to sell our books on your site despite the lack of a distribution agreement. In doing so, you’ve allowed our income flow to continue…”

Not holding my breath.

Joe sez: Me, neither. We live in a culture that prays for rain, then bitches when their shoes get muddy. How about:

"Thank you for stopping alongside the road and giving me your spare tire to replace my flat, but you gave me a sucky temp spare and now I can only drive under the speed limit."

Evie Love sez:  I mean, they just told Amazon that they NEED them and will starve to death without them. I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure that's exactly the opposite of what you're supposed to do while negotiating...

Joe sez: The law of unintended consequences runs strong in this group.

S. Elliot Brandis sez: Sales of your books are down because your publisher has failed to negotiate a contract with their biggest retailer.

Do you:

a) Talk to your publisher to find out what they’re doing to resolve the conflict. Their business dealings are having an adverse effect on your career, and you’re keen to know what they’re doing to improve the situation.

b) Talk to your people (lawyer, agent, etc) to find out what alternative options you have, should your publisher be unable to resolve the conflict in a timely matter.

c) Write a series of rambling, self-important open letters complaining about the retailer, because… well, why not? Something about Chinese razor blades?

Joe sez: Think about if you're on the debate team, and you're chosen to defend an untenable position, one that is so stupid that there's no way you can possibly win.

Then imagine your future liveilhood depends on you winning the debate and convincing others.

In the case of midlisters, this situation will sting, a lot. But they have some options. This will force them to self-pub sooner than they would have otherwise, but survivor instinct will kick in and eventually they'll free themselves from their publishing oppressors and start reaping the benefits of keeping their own rights, controlling pricing, etc.

In the case of the Richie Rich authors, they're hemorrhaging unfathomable amounts of money. Even if they self-pub, they won't make the same amounts once B&N folds and the Big 5 vanish. Granted, going from 15 mil a year to only 4 mil doesn't qualify as a tragedy, but they aren't giving that up without a fight. Even though the fight, so far, has been alternately cringe-worthy and hilarious.

Mike Coville sez: The bottom line AU is not getting is that Amazon is not obligated by law to sell any book. There is no law that forces Amazon to discount, allow pre-orders or maintain advance stock in a warehouse. Amazon did all those things to benefit Amazon’s customers. If Amazon determines that someone is acting against what they want to provide their customers (i.e. over pricing ebooks) they have the legal right to stop providing those perks.

Selling your book on Amazon is not a right, it is a privilege!

Joe sez: This is a point that isn't brought up enough. At least this time there were no accusations of Amazon being a monopoly and using predatory pricing.

The DOJ doesn't EVER go after companies for being tough competitors, or for fighting to keep consumer prices low. Via an email train, some famous authors were wondering if Authors United's next move would be to bring a suit against Amazon. I don't think that's likely. If anything, if the DOJ start seriously poking around the history of publishing, they'd see ample evidence of a price-fixing cartel--the Big 6--that hurt both consumers and writers (via unconscionable contracts). If someone went after Amazon in this way, so much dirty laundry would come out in discovery that reader and writer class action suits would explode.

William Ockham sez: This letter will make a great case study in a Media Relations class. Call it “Start with every possible advantage and squander them all with an exercise in public bellybutton lint-picking”.

Could this letter be any more self-absorbed? Did anyone spend 30 minutes finding out who these people are? That “publishers are venture capitalists” may work on your NYC friends, but there are real VCs on the Amazon board. Good luck with them. And there are several current and former tech execs on the board. Do you really think your neo-Luddism will play well with them? Whatever you think of Jamie Gorelick, she will know about the ebook antitrust suit, so ignoring it won’t help you.

But my fondest hope would be for John Seely Brown to write back to you. I am sure he has better things to do, but that would be fun. Because you aren’t expecting any response. This is all just a cathartic exercise for you. It gives you a feeling of empowerment to “do something”, even if that something is an embarrassing display of ignorance. But the board of directors of Amazon is made up of real people who have worked hard to get where they are. They would make my list of favorite people, but they aren’t idiots.

Joe sez: Any veteran of schoolyard Nerf football knows the Hail Mary Pass, where as a last ditch effort to score before the bell ends recess, you just chuck the ball and hope your team catches it.

Sometimes this last-ditch effort scores a touchdown.

Sometimes it results in an interception.

Not knowing who the board members are, how they got there, and what their likely reaction will be, can result in an interception.

Dustin sez: And I have to say, as an actual PHYSICAL production worker, that there is little that could piss me off more than their remarks regarding blue collar labor. I try not to take it personal but their elitism, their belief that their million-dollar contracts and high class living standard makes them better than someone who works in a job that is, very likely, destroying their body for a paycheck makes it pretty hard not to start to hate them.

They’ve made it painfully obvious they think we’re peons and barbarians at the gate, so I’m done feeling an ounce of sympathy for the decline of their way of life. We tried to be nice. We offered advice. Now it’s time to move on and step over their corpses when their careers die. I won’t miss them.

Joe sez: I worked as a waiter, in retail sales (I was the guy in Sears taking baby pics), as a construction worker, for a few factories, telemarketing, and several other low paying blue collar (and white collar) jobs. Working a double shift on Mother's Day at Red Lobster was on par with brick laying in 100 degree heat and being on the line at an English Muffin factory at 4am--they were all hard, thankless jobs that didn't pay enough.

I don't understand elitism. I busted my ass to make a living, busted my ass to get published, continue to bust my ass to write and sell books, and I consider myself fortunate. Straining over sentence structure or plotting in a WIP, or facing a pub deadline, is a thousand times better and easier than cleaning a grease trap at Burger King.

Having your publisher fight with Amazon is the very definition of a First World Problem. I've worked very hard for my entire adult life, and I understand how lucky I am.

Eric Welch sez: I’m curious as to how the AU organization actually works. Have they incorporated? Do they meet or communicate to discuss the next course of action? How much unanimity is there really? I have a suspicion that they may not be as united as some of them would like to appear.

Joe sez: After reading the letter a few times, I don't see how anyone with half a brain would sign it.

My face would be so red right now if I had. Really. I've made mistakes before, and wanted to just disappear, and I can't imaging the AU authors feeling any less humiliated to be associated with this drivel.

Unless they didn't read carefully.

We've all signed things we didn't read. Every time we click a User Agreement, we're just trusting it's the same old gobbeldy-goop.

Preston has repeatedly said that this is about Amazon hurting authors. Who would be for authors being harmed? I mean, if you were asked to sign a petition to help stop the spread of dihydrogen monoxide, which kills thousands of people per year and is found in acid rain as well as every every lake, river, and ocean, you might sign it without thinking too much.

I hope that was the case here. The signatories saw Hachette authors being hurt, and signed something to protest that.

It doesn't matter that the letter is nonsense, or that they're backing the wrong team. It just feels good to do something. Especially when your name is among so many prominent, award-winning, bestselling authors.

These bestselling authors have no agenda, because they said they don't. They just want to help the poor little struggling midlisters out.

It doesn't matter that they never helped out midlisters before, by petitioning publishers to give better royalties, or petitioning bookstores who actually do boycott authors.

This isn't about rich, entitled authors advocating high priced ebooks, even though they are supporting Hachette, which is probably delaying negotiations by demanding to control ebook prices.

This isn't about protecting the status quo paper oligopoly.

It's all about the little guy.

And if my argument sucked this poorly, and I couldn't win based on facts, that's what I'd try to do, too. To sway public opinion with sentiment and hope to effect change before anyone looked too closely.

Good luck with that.

BTW-Authors United, do you see what I did with my addendums? I took smart things that other people said, and used them to make my own argument stronger. They caught things I missed. You had over 1000 signatories. Why the hell didn't you do that?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Author Conference of the Future

If it ever does happen, this is how I'd picture it:

One giant room, similar to ComiCon, with a stage and microphones.

Authors sit at tables, which are set up everywhere. For table space at the 3 day conference, authors pay $25 a day.

Attendees get in for free.

Authors bring their own paper books to sell. They can accept cash, or credit cards via PayPal Here.

Authors can bring cardboards stands, giveaways, whatever they'd like to make people come to their tables. I suggest having QR codes on promo material, so attendees can instantly buy ebooks.

Conference fees pay for the room space, advertising, and maps that show where the authors are on a numbered seating chart (also name plates and name tags for authors) and the schedule for the author talks.

Use Autography as the ebook vendor. Each author can autograph and personalize ebooks for anyone who stops by their table and buys one, and the ebook will be sent directly to the buyer's email address. Autography will collect payment then pay writers 70% of the ebook price after the conference.

Any author who wants to appear on the main stage in book room to talk for 15 minutes can, for an additional $50. Authors who want to appear on panels can book a block of time together (for example, 3 authors on stage at the same time would get 45 minutes and it would cost a total of $150).

In addition to the main room, there will be additional side rooms available as needed. If an author (or group of authors) want to appear in a side room to speak, it is $25 for 15 minutes per author.

Author speaking fees include a "we'll be back by" sign for when they are speaking or taking a break.

Joe sez: There are a lot of benefits to a conference as I've described it.

All authors are welcome. You are guaranteed signing time and speaking time as long as you sign up for it.

Fans get in for free, which will allow them to spend more money on books.

All authors can sign for as long as they want to.

All authors can speak for as long as they want to, on whatever topic they choose.

Even if an author has a table every day, and talks every day, the max they'll spend is $175. This is cheaper than most conferences, with a lot more visibility.

These fees pay for the hotel space, advertising, and paper programs for the con (these programs will also be available online, since many people will have tablets). If there is extra money left over, food for the green room.

With no booksellers, authors make 100% of the price they sell their paper books for, and 70% of the signed ebooks they sell through Autography. Authors can also sell whatever they want on their tables, like Cafe Press swag.

Free attendance would encourage walk-ins.

I can envision some sort of self-pub awards going on after hours. Sort of like an Indie Oscars. With a bar, of course.

Legacy authors would be welcome, but would probably need permission from their publishers to sell their legacy titles. I know Autography has deals in place with many big publishers already.

It seems to be doable. And if it got enough buzz and attracted some big authors, I could see it being successful. Money would need to be spent on advertising, and every author who attended would really need to get the message out to their fans.

Also, I want to be clear that I am NOT organizing, running, or will in any way be involved in an event like this. I'm simply musing about what such an event would entail, and maybe someone will run with the idea.

Am I missing anything? What would make you want to attend, both as a writer and as a reader?

Monday, September 08, 2014

Ebook Sales Down? Here Are 15 Tips!

It happens to everyone.

Sales slump. Riding high in April, shot down in May.

No one knows why some titles sell and others don't, or why some sell for a while and then taper off. My own experience defies any long tail explanations. Sales tend to fluctuate, and I'll see spikes on titles I released back in 2009. Some of my ebooks have broken the Top 100 many times over many years, proof that there is no such thing as "backlist" when ebooks are forever. Your title is brand new to someone who has never seen it before.

A decline in sales is natural. So natural that I wrote about it back in 2010.

But what can a writer do when sales begin to flounder, other than panic, get depressed, and curse the universe?

1. Write more. The more titles you have, the more you'll sell. Even if you only managed to accrue 1 fan, a new title means 1 sale.

2. Advertise. I still use BookBub, BookSends, and EbookBooster. If anyone has other suggestions, list them in the comments.

3. Sales. Kindle Countdowns and free periods always seem to goose sales in a title/series.

4. Increase prices. Huh? But you just said to try sales! I know. Try both. Amazon's new KDP Pricing Support Beta has suggestions. Try following them and see what happens (when I switched to suggested sales prices, my profit went up).

5. Collaborate. It never hurts to cross-pollinate with other writers' fans.

6. Try a new genre. The road to success is littered with folks who shifted gears, tried something different, and finally succeeded.

7. Change covers and book descriptions. Can't hurt. Or maybe it can. But you won't know until you try.

8. Try other retail outlets. If you're KDP Select, opt out and try other platforms. If you're on other platforms, try KDP Select.

9. More formats. Are you in audio yet? Do you have paper versions? Foreign languages? I'm currently #47 in Germany.

10. Billboards. I was talking about these back in 2008. A billboard is anyplace that points people to your work. Besides the obvious social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon), you should have a website that links to your books, allows readers to sign up for your newsletter, and announces what is coming soon.

11. Pre-orders. Amazon now allows this for KDP authors. I've used it to decent success (I was the very first self-pubbed author who had a pre-order page, back in 2010).

12. Pen names. Your name isn't selling? Invent a new one.

Now here are some things to avoid:

13. Don't whine in public. To quote Stephen Lynch, Charlie Brown will never get laid. No one likes a loser, and those who wallow in self-pity tend to bring more bad luck their way. Complain to your spouse over a beer, not online where you'll develop a bad rep. Always stay upbeat. And remember that the Internet is Permanent. Don't post shit that could come back to haunt you later.

14. Don't spam. Tweeting your ebook link twice a day is the limit, and don't do it more than two days in a row. People want information and entertainment, not sales pitches.

15. Don't quit. I've posted previously that if you can quit, you should. This is something I've been saying on this blog since 2005. (Damn, I'm old.) The fact is, no one knows when success (whatever your definition of success is) will come. I don't truly know if you'll ever get what you want out of this biz, but I do know that you won't get anything if you don't keep trying.

Like much in life, it all comes down to luck. Keep expectations low (no one owes you a living), keep working hard, keep learning, keep experimenting, keep at it, and you will improve your odds.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Opposite of Legacy

So I just read the latest drivel from The Guardian which completely misrepresents self-publishing. There's no need for me to fisk it--Howey, Eisler, Gaughran, and others already shredded the stupid in the comments. And there was a lot of stupid. It makes me ponder how the mainstream media keeps getting so much wrong.

It also makes me ponder why self-pubbed authors care.

As far as mainstream media, I can point to lazy reporting, willful ignorance, nepotism, and not-so-hidden agendas. This blog has a long history of pointing out why legacy publishers do what they do, and their priorities often coincide with those of the legacy media.

Legacy media.

Years ago, Eisler used "legacy" to describe traditional publishing, and I've played a small part in popularizing the term on this blog. Indeed, the paper publishing industry is a legacy system. There are now faster, cheaper, and less-restrictive ways to get words to consumers than the antiquated method of acquiring, printing, and shipping.

The legacy publishing world knows this, and they have been putting up a continuous, united front to preserve this status quo while doing their best to inhibit the widespread adoption of ebooks. They're so single-minded in this pursuit, that they are missing opportunities to capitalize as much as they can on this new tech, instead trading potentially higher profits to retain a paper oligopoly.

I call self-publishing a shadow industry because the mainstream has steadfastly refused to understand its scope and power. Self-publishing is the most serious threat that legacy publishers must face, but legacy publishers don't realize it is a threat. They don't see the money being generated. They don't see the scale of authors adopting it. They haven't been hurt enough to acknowledge that a revolution is even taking place.

I believe the same thing is happening in the media.

I've found--and I'm sure I'm not alone--that when something newsworthy is happening, I first hear about it via Twitter or Facebook. Often, from people reporting what's occurring in real time.

I don't want to get off track here (and it is particularly easy to when we have so many examples of reporters and news outlets behaving badly), so I'll focus on The Guardian piece. Eisler, Howey, et al disemboweled that piece, which is a good thing because that piece is potentially harmful. New authors who want to take a crack at self-publishing could be dissuaded from trying it because of the disinformation it is stating as fact.

But is that really true? Why are self-published authors the self-appointed crusaders against stupid?

I do a lot of fisking on this blog, and I take the industry and the media to task when they spout nonsense, and my rationale is to provide counterpoints to the unsupportable legacy bias that gets all the media attention. I use facts and logic to dismantle the arguments, and while doing so I hopefully mitigate the harm that might be caused. I consider this activism, a public service for authors. The legacy publishing industry wants authors to still believe they are the only way to publish, and the legacy industry gets all the media attention, so I do my best to take away some of that thunder.

For the past year, I've been asking myself why I do this.

If the mainstream news is just as antiquated, biased, self-interested, and increasingly obsolete as mainstream publishing, isn't it also a legacy system? Hachette isn't reading my posts and admitting I'm right, then following my advice. Why would The Guardian or the NYT or PW listen to me or any other self-pubbed author? The legacy media are facing the same problems as legacy publishing; digital replacing paper, readers going elsewhere for information and entertainment, talent creating content without them and building their own followings and fanbases.

As a writer, I once craved the validation that came with a legacy publishing contract. I felt it legitimized me. Once I was accepted, I experienced a sense of fulfillment. Getting a PW starred review was a victory. Seeing my book on a library shelf was its own reward.

Now I realize how empty those feelings were. Getting paid well and being treated fairly is much more fulfilling that the approval of a clique. Having power and control over my career trumps seeing my book in Wal-Mart. I don't care what the legacy publishing industry thinks of me, or of self-publishing. We're going to outlast them.

I realized, after reading The Guardian piece, that I feel the same was about legacy media. I don't need to make The Guardian understand how stupid that article is. I don't need to make the NYT understand how stupid their support letter for Authors United is.

And I don't need to protect writers from this stupidity. They can figure it out themselves after a little digging. Or they can figure it out after they've gotten reamed by the system.

I can't help the willfully ignorant, whether it is a publishing house, a newspaper, or a newbie writer who is seeking the same validation I once did.

What is happening is an echo chamber on both sides. Legacy authors, and those who want a chance to be legacy authors, continue to defend the status quo. Indie authors continue to point out the stupidity exhibited by legacy authors, publishers, and media. The only time anyone will change their mind is when they have direct experience of one, the other, or both.

But, ultimately, nothing that either side says or does (or doesn't say or do) will stop the inevitable migration to new ways of reading and publishing.

I don't believe there is an antonym for "legacy system" because everything eventually becomes a legacy system. Technology transforms systems, and people and data migrate along with the tech. It isn't Us vs Them or Old Way vs New Way. It has, and always will be, constant transformation and migration vs stagnation and obsolescence.

Evolution isn't about choosing sides. It's about slowly adapting to new environments. The Guardian doesn't want to adapt? They'll be forced to deal with the consequences of their actions. Click bait and concern trolling isn't going to pay their shareholders. Like the Big 5, the days of Big Media in its current form are numbered. There is still some money to be squeezed out of it, but status quo bias is an indicator of desperation, not growth.

Self-publishing may always be a shadow industry. The media may not ever discuss it. The Big 5 will continue to ignore it. And that's okay.

As writers, we can continue to inform one another, share data, and point out stupidity. This is helpful.

But it isn't vital. Change will come even if we all remain silent.

I wonder if my blog isn't just another form of validation. Have I traded my desire for acceptance by the legacy system for acceptance by the shadow industry? Has the thrill I once got from a PW review been replaced by the thrill of reading my blog comments, or being retweeted? Am I an activist for the same reasons I spent ten years trying to break into legacy publishing, because it makes me feel legitimate?

Maybe, just maybe, our time is better spent writing. By being the change, rather than bemoaning how others aren't seeing the change.

We no longer need gatekeepers. Not legacy publishing gatekeepers. Not legacy media gatekeepers.

And we no longer need to keep telling them we don't need them.

They don't care. Neither should we.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Publishing Advice I'd Give My Younger Self

Never sign any deal for more than a ten year term.

Have zero expectations.

Experiment with different prices and platforms.

Diversify.

Put more money away for taxes.

Write more.

Don't throw good money or more time at something that isn't working. Change direction and move on.

Never Google yourself.

Don't read your reviews.

Celebrate milestones and victories, no matter how small.

Study failures.

Tweet less.

Try not to spread yourself so thin.

Turn off the Internet when you're working.

Accept that you can't help everybody.

Ignore haters.

Don't hate anyone, even those who attack you. Haters are pitiable.

Talk things over with people you trust.

Don't be so impetuous. But don't dwell too long on anything.

Less booze, drugs, and junk food, more sex, exercise, and sensible eating.

Be nicer.

Make time for things other than this business.

Understand that you are not your career.

Know when to quit.

Don't do interviews. Media attention doesn't lead to sales.

Go to conventions to network and have fun, not to sell books.

Before you do anything, consider all the alternatives you can think of.

Maintain confidence, even if you have to fake it.

Define yourself, and live up to that definition.

Admit mistakes.

Accept who you are, but don't let that inhibit beneficial growth or change.

Understand how important luck is, but still work hard.

Have fun. Have as much fucking fun as you can.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Amazon vs. Hachette

I had a thought.

Right now, publishers want Amazon to discount paper books, but they don't want Amazon to discount ebooks.

There is a very easy fix that will force publishers to lower their prices.

All Amazon needs to do is stop discounting paper books.

By discounting paper, Amazon has essentially been subsidizing publishers. Publishers have become so accustomed to this, they've taken it for granted. They maintain their margins while Amazon's profits are slim, or Amazon takes a loss.

What's actually happened is publishers have handed Amazon ammunition which can be used against them.

Publishers want $14.99 ebooks? Fine. Amazon will then also price the hardcover at list price, $30, and the paperback at $9.99, which are the prices printed on the books.

Right now, Hachette titles are full price on Amazon, and it is hurting Hachette. This is compounded by the lack of pre-order buttons and long shipping times, but I think even if those went back to normal, Hachette's high list prices would still hurt their sales.

During the agency model days, Amazon had a disclaimer on the book's page that said, "This price was set by the publisher."

They should add that disclaimer to all of a publisher's titles, and let the publisher price however it wants to. This would also silence all the misguided critics who maintain the wrongheaded belief that Amazon is a monopoly using predatory pricing.

All Amazon has to do is stop all discounting, and publishers will be forced to lower their prices on their own. Remember that Amazon isn't just the largest seller of ebooks, it is also the largest seller of paper. If they stopped subsidizing paper, paper sales would plummet. Publishers would depend on ebooks to make up that profit, and the only way they could do this is to lower ebook prices.

Now this may run counter to Amazon's insistence on being customer-centric, and wanting to offer the lowest prices on everything. But right now, Amazon is doing this very thing to Hachette, so they're obviously comfortable with it. Some bestselling Hachette titles will still be bestsellers, but sales will drop across the entire catalog, and the market will even itself out. Hachette will have to lower prices in order to makes sales, because it doesn't have an oligopoly on Amazon as long as KDP and A-Pub exist.

Let me break this down into bullet points.

  • Publishers want Amazon to discount paper books. Amazon does, which is subsidizing paper sales. Discounting is artificially keeping a legacy technology afloat.
  • Publishers don't want Amazon to discount ebooks. This is because publishers control the paper sales market, and they all price their books comparably, like a cartel. When a company is part of an oligopoly that controls a market, they dictate pricing and do not compete on price.
  • If Amazon sells both paper books and ebooks at a publisher's list price, sales of both will diminish because KDP, Amazon imprints, and other publishers are selling books for less.  Many readers look for lower prices. Amazon became the biggest paper bookseller in the world by selling for less.
  • Because publishers don't have control over Amazon's customers like they do over customers who go to brick and mortar bookstores (and who are forced to pay the publisher's list price), they can only match prices with other publishers. These prices will be unfavorable to customers who are able to buy indie, and other, ebooks for less.
  • High paper prices will make even more customers switch to ebooks. Hardcovers at $30 and ebooks at $15 will make customers choose ebooks. In the past, publishers tried windowing (releasing the ebook after the hardcover) and customers balked.
  • Only bestselling authors will sign with a publisher who charges $14.99 for ebooks. Even diehard legacy Stockholm Syndrome authors with group narcissism are comparing their Amazon rankings to those with cheaper prices and seeing the sales they're losing. No matter how dependent on the system you are, when you watch it fail while watching others succeed, you eventually abandon ship.
  • Amazon would no longer be competing on price with other retailers, but it would still win on customer service and wide selection.
Publishers' mistaken belief that they can slow the growth of ebooks by controlling price depends upon on Amazon discounting their paper books.

Going forward, Amazon is going to face this same issue with the other four major publishers. Kindle Unlimited, and KDP benefits such as offering self-pubbed authors pre-order pages, are going to continue to attract readers and authors, while the high prices dictated by publishers will continue to repulse readers and authors.

If publishers want to still be around in a few years, they should heed my advice. They're alienating readers, their biggest retailer, and the majority of authors. When the only people on your side are those wedded to the past, you aren't going to come out on top.