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?