This post, by Bob Mayer, originally appeared on Write It Forward on 6/7/12.
I recently read the email where the Authors Guild is asking members to send to the DOJ to stop the legal action regarding the Agency Model. I found it quite strange. It felt as if the Authors Guild was defending bookstores, publishers, agents and others in the mistaken belief that in doing so they were helping authors. I can’t ever remember the Authors Guild taking such strong action defending authors against bookstores, publishers and agents. Demanding higher eBook royalty rates.
And even in the letter, the Guild admits publishers made a “mistake” in allowing Amazon to dominate the eBook market. I’m not sure it was a mistake as much as it was arrogance. I keep going back to one fact: Amazon didn’t exist except in Bezos’ mind in 1994. How much has publishing changed since then?
And then there are the authors. Scott Turow and Richard Russo and Malcolm Gladwell key among them. I love Richard Russo’s books, but I find his business stance quite hypocritical. Ditto with Turow and Gladwell. If Amazon is the evil empire as they quite clearly say, then why are their books still for sale on Amazon? Hey guys, if you hate it so much, immediately demand your publishers pull your books from Amazon. NOW! You don’t get to have your sales and sneer at them too. I’m sick of the top 5% of authors who get coddled by publishers defend[ing] a business that treats its other 95% of authors as replaceable parts that they can easily toss on the garbage pile and replace. You show me a traditional author defending legacy publishing whose contract doesn’t get renewed, and I’ll show you an author whose tune changes very fast.
Publishers, agents, editors, bookstores, here’s something you basically need to wrap your brain around: the physical book you hold so dear is NOT the product you are selling. The story that writers create is the product. That story can be bought by the consumer in the physical form of a book, but it can also be bought digitally to be read or listened to. And the latter is going to become dominant sooner, rather than later.
I spent a day this week at BEA. I did my first BEA about 10 years ago. This one wasn’t much different. I was walking the aisles with my business partner at Cool Gus, Jen Talty, and I told her: “Half these people are going to be looking for jobs in three years.” I’m not being mean, I’m being realistic. It’s pretty much business as usual, like the band playing on the Titanic and the passengers swapping deck chairs to listen to them. The ship is still going down people. I saw nary a computer screen at any of the booths displaying digital books. I saw not a single publisher giving away digital arcs (and wouldn’t it be so much cheaper and environmentally friendly to do so?).