AAR (Association of Authors Representatives) Fail

This post, by JA Konrath, originally appeared on his A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing on 5/10/12.

I just read the letter the Association of Authors Representatives sent to the DOJ yesterday. 

Then I threw up in my mouth. Ack. 

The letter in plain text, my comments in bold. 

My comments will not be kind. 

May 8, 2012
John R. Read

Chief, Litigation III Section United States Department of Justice 450 5th St NW Suite 4000 Washington DC 20530

Dear Mr. Read,
I write to you as the President of the AAR, the largest organization of literary and dramatic agents in the United States, and on behalf of the unanimous AAR Board of Directors. Our more than four hundred seventy-five members represent writers who number in the tens of thousands. We want you to know in the strongest terms possible that we firmly oppose the proposed settlement between the Justice Department and three publishers with respect to e-book pricing.

Translation: We’re about to put our collective foot in our mouth. Stay tuned!

Joe sez: I count thirteen names on this letter. I don’t see the names of the other 462 AAR members, nor the names of the tens of thousands of authors they seem to be insinuating they speak for.

They DO NOT speak for me. And I hope the majority of the AAR who didn’t sign their name to this nonsense show some guts and leave an organization that erroneously claims to speak for them. Or at least fire the board members that sent this without getting a majority vote.

Readers, writers and the general public benefit when there is a healthy competitive literary marketplace. Two and a half years ago Amazon, with its proprietary Kindle devices and its willingness to discount e-book “bestsellers” to a level at which it sustained a significant loss on each copy sold, threatened the entire marketplace for books. 

Translation: Amazon invented a device that consumers wanted. That’s BAD. Readers were getting cheap ebooks. That’s BAD. It may not seem bad on the surface, and we don’t back-up our claim with any actual evidence, but boy oh boy trust us it really is because we say so.

Amazon’s practice of targeting the very titles that drive profitability of our entire industry and pricing them several dollars below cost was clearly leading to the demise of the independent bookstore, hastened the loss of Borders, and threatened the existence of Barnes & Noble, the one remaining large chain store that sells books. 

Translation: Customers were changing how and where they shopped because Amazon gave them a clearly better alternative; ebooks delivered instantly for less.

Joe sez: Apparently the AAR doesn’t remember that under the previous model, their authors were making more damn money.

Doesn’t AAR stand for Association of AUTHORS Representatives? Why are they suddenly spokesmen for Barnes and Noble?

And Borders? Weren’t they on the verge of bankruptcy (or at least in serious trouble) before Amazon even introduced the Kindle? Blaming Amazon for Borders’ woes is bullshit correlation. Or as a friend of mine calls it: causality magical thinking.

This was not healthy for competition or for authors or indeed for consumers in the long-term. 

Translation: Trying to outsell your competition, or attract customers with lower prices and better service, is bad.

And it’s bad when authors get paid more for each copy sold and sell more copies because of lower prices. 

And lower prices are bad for consumers, because maybe one day Amazon will again raise prices, possibly even up to the lofty heights publishers have them raised to now under the current Agency Model.

Retailers shouldn’t be allowed to set their own prices. That’s bad. It’s much better for the wholesaler to set both the wholesale and the retail price, because THAT and THAT ALONE encourages healthy competition. ESPECIALLY when there are several wholesalers in lockstep. 

Nothing is better for consumers than a group of companies who set wholesale and retail. And even though they set the SAME prices, it really still is competition! Really!

The steep discounting from Amazon was a practice of selling our clients’ work at a loss in order to make it impossible for other businesses to enter the e-book marketplace in a way that made financial sense for them.    

Translation: This predatory pricing is driving competitors out of business, like it did with… um… what’s that famous case where a company lowered prices, destroyed competition, and then became a monopoly and raised prices?

It must happen all the time, right?

Or if it doesn’t, it’s because the government steps in and stops it. Like in the case of… um…

Joe sez: Like in the case of the DOJ stepping in because 5 of the Big 6 were colluding to raise ebook prices?


Read the rest of the post on A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.

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