Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Scott Turow

Making Certain Authors Eat Their Own Words . . .


Can over 900 authors all be wrong about the same thing?

Authors Eat Their Own Words

Image courtesy of Ry Young ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/ryasaurus

Well, I think most authors can be dead wrong about many things.

Take this Amazon-Hachette tussle.

Huge publisher, Huge retailer—a fight over pricing—some authors feeling they’re caught in the middle.

I started gathering material about this business fracas weeks ago—started getting fed up with all the childish behavior—told my Best Friend I wasn’t going to blog about it…

Then, I spotted an article from Publisher’s WeeklyOver 900 Authors Sign Open Letter to Amazon—read a bit of it and immediately went off to see what Joe Konrath had to say about it.

Joe is an author who fought his way out of the trenches of traditional publishing and has become a bestselling self-published author—he knows what he’s talking about—he’s been-there-done-that…

So…

His response to those over-900 authors who are complaining about their treatment by Amazon is amazingly straightforward and will probably force a few of them to eat their own words…

Joe’s article—Authors Behaving Badly and Authors Who Aren’t—is fascinating reading—here are just a few excerpts:

“So a bunch of legacy authors–many of them smart and who should know better–just signed a letter accusing Amazon of things that simply make no sense.”

“Preston [the author who wrote the letter other authors have signed-on to] recently said:

‘If I were Jeff Bezos, the one thing I would fear most is if authors organized themselves and took broad, concerted, sustained, and dignified public action.’

“Konrath replies:

‘If I were Jeff Bezos, I would know that legacy authors have no power, because they signed away their rights to their publishers. Patterson, Turow, and Preston couldn’t remove their books from Amazon even if they wanted to. But, strangely, I don’t hear any of them demanding it, or even mentioning it.'”

[Preston] “…in this case, Amazon has done something unusual. It has directly targeted Hachette’s authors in an effort to force their publisher to agree to its terms.

“Joe sez: Amazon is engaged in blatant acts of capitalism. It hasn’t ‘targeted authors’. Last I checked, Jeff Bezos isn’t sending authors hate mail, or hiring people to follow authors around and push them into puddles, or making public statements about how Hachette authors are boycotting common sense.

“What Amazon is doing is not allowing Hachette to control ebook prices, because Hachette wants to raise them.”

[Preston] “As writers—some but not all published by Hachette—we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation.

“Joe sez: Again, look at the purposely provocative, incendiary choice of words. ‘block the sale of books’ and ‘discourage customers’ and ‘signal out a group of authors’.

“Amazon doesn’t sell beer. Are they blocking the sale of beer? Amazon doesn’t sell Glocks. Are they discouraging customers from buying Glocks? Amazon isn’t signaling out a group of authors. They are in a business negotiation with the authors’ publisher.”

[Preston] “Our books started Amazon on the road to selling everything and becoming one of the world’s largest corporations.

[Joe] “You didn’t form Amazon from the ground up. You didn’t innovate the world’s best online shopping experience. You didn’t invent the Kindle.

“Amazon has made YOU millions of dollars. Customers have chosen where and how they want to shop, and savvy writers have run with the advantages Amazon has offered us.”

There ya have it—a bunch of screaming authors and another guy who tells it like it is :-)

If you really want to understand what’s going on with the Amazon-Hachette dispute, do go read Joe’s full article…

In the meantime, any Comments?

And, don’t forget, Today’s the Last Day to take our Latest Poll…
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The U. S. Authors Guild President vs Reality


If you read the recent New York Times op-ed piece by Scott Turow, Authors Guild president, entitled The Slow Death of the American Author, you might think he’d made some valid points

First let me refer you back to a previous post on this blog, Authors/Readers vs Publishers vs the U.S. Dept. of Justice, and some comments of Joe Konrath about Turow’s comments concerning the Big Six lawsuit:

[italics are Scott Turow, Joe is Joe Konrath]

Yesterday’s report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

“Joe: Translation: It will be grim news for bestselling authors and billion-dollar publishers.”

The Justice Department has been investigating whether those publishers colluded in adopting a new model, pioneered by Apple for its sale of iTunes and apps, for selling e-books. Under that model, Apple simply acts as the publisher’s sales agent, with no authority to discount prices.

“Joe: Translation: Under the Apple model, publishers can set their own prices. That isn’t Amazon’s model, but if enough of us band together (i.e. collusion), publishers can force Amazon to accept the prices publishers set.

“Look, a retailer should be able to sell whatever they want to sell, for however much they want to charge.

“Imagine going to a car dealer and being told, ‘We have to sell this Mazda for $19,999, and you can’t bargain.’ Imagine owning a store and not being able to put anything on sale.”

Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

“Joe: Translation: Amazon was using free enterprise to gain market share, something that worries inferior competition.”

There’s more but I want to save some room for Kristen Lamb‘s comments about Turow’s recent NY Times piece, from her article, Let Them Eat Cake—The Slow Death of The Old Paradigm Author:

“The American Author, as Turow understands it, writes books, relies on an agent and publisher, and trusts to earn as many royalties as possible from as many sources as possible. FREE! is anathema and social media is too plebeian…and yes, these types of authors are slowly dying.”

“While Turow wails that authors are dying, he seems to be forgetting about Barry Eisler who famously turned down a half million dollar deal with his publisher to go on his own. Turow is also apparently unaware of the many successful self-published authors who’ve translated successful e-book sales into favorable print deals with traditional houses. He looks all too unaware of the astonishing success of publishers who’ve passed up the old business model and innovated to keep pace with a new culture.”

“It all boils down to this. The world has changed. There is a new paradigm and it’s birthing a very new type of reader who has very different expectations. This, in turn, has altered our job requirements if we hope to be successful.

“Yes, it is more work, but the odds of success are far higher. The Old World had 172,000 books published in a year and 160,000 of those sold less than 1,000 copies…”

So, obviously, no one should make any judgement of Scott Turow until they read his full article then, perhaps, read Joe Konraths’s and Kristen Lamb’s.

If you happen to do that, do come back and leave your thoughts in our Comments.

Of course, you can not read them all and still leave a comment :-)
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Authors/Readers vs Publishers vs the U.S. Dept. of Justice


It appears that Apple plus five of the Big Six publishers are being threatened by a lawsuit.

It seems to be revolving around the “Agency Model” of pricing

Personally, I have no rock-solid opinion, though I am leaning in a certain direction—which should be obvious when I include a few excerpts from the last reference-link below—in fact, even if you read all the referenced articles, I encourage you to read the last one first then go back and judge the others

Let me introduce you to a few published opinions:

From The Atlantic: How Cheap Should Books Be?

From the independent publisher, Melville House: Authors Guild head (and attorney) Scott Turow warns DOJ about the effects of law suit.

From The Guardian: Ebooks: defending the agency model.

From The Christian Science Monitor: Right pricing e-books: Is the government actually discouraging competition?

From TechDirt: Author’s Guild Boss On E-Book Price Fixing Allegations: But… But… Brick-And-Mortar!

And, From A Newbie’s Guide To Publishing: Barry, Joe, & Scott Turow.

Just a few excerpts from that last one [italics are Scott Turow, President of the Author’s Guild; Joe is Joe Konrath; Barry is Barry Eisler]:

Yesterday’s report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

“Joe: Translation: It will be grim news for bestselling authors and billion-dollar publishers.

“Barry: I always wonder what people mean by these vague references to ‘rich literary culture’ (and when I see the same phrase crop up in more than one place, it really sets my bullshit detector tingling). Ordinarily, these buzzwords sound appealing in the abstract, but dissolve like an urban legend when subjected to a bit of thought.”

The Justice Department has been investigating whether those publishers colluded in adopting a new model, pioneered by Apple for its sale of iTunes and apps, for selling e-books. Under that model, Apple simply acts as the publisher’s sales agent, with no authority to discount prices.

“Joe: Translation: Under the Apple model, publishers can set their own prices. That isn’t Amazon’s model, but if enough of us band together (i.e. collusion), publishers can force Amazon to accept the prices publishers set.

“Look, a retailer should be able to sell whatever they want to sell, for however much they want to charge.

“Imagine going to a car dealer and being told, ‘We have to sell this Mazda for $19,999, and you can’t bargain.’ Imagine owning a store and not being able to put anything on sale.”

Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

“Joe: Translation: Amazon was using free enterprise to gain market share, something that worries inferior competition.

“Barry: Oh, come on. Amazon’s lower prices were intended to ‘destroy bookselling’? Not to sell more books and gain market share? It’s ipso facto evil to compete via lower prices?

“I really wish all companies would collude to charge higher prices. The world would be a better place.

“Joe: The Big Publishing Cartel monopolizes distribution for decades and that’s fine, but some upstart comes in and starts treating authors and readers with consideration, and it is a call to arms.

“Barry: This argument is just bizarre. I mean, Amazon, which sells more books than anyone, is destroying bookselling? Amazon is destroying bookselling by selling tons of books?”

So, what do you think about all this?

Are Apple and the Big Five right?

Is the President of the Author’s Guild in the pockets of the Big Five and Apple?

Is Amazon evil?

Are Joe and Barry crazy??
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Do You Steal Books? ~and~ Do Authors Care?


Back in the dim fringes of my always-right, exuberant, ill-informed past, I did steal a book or three.

That was well before the commonality of digital books. Now, folks can steal a book with three mouse-clicks.

I’ve written before about book piracy: Ebook Piracy ~ Not A Bad Thing?? and Free Books, Pirated Books, & Our Digital Age…, to name two.

I just read a letter from Brian O’Leary, publishing consultant, to the President of the Author’s Guild, author and lawyer, Scott Turow.

It’s called The Walls We Build Up and I’ll put a few excerpts here to encourage you to read the whole letter:

“Dear Mr. Turow,
Congratulations and best wishes on your election as president of the Authors Guild.”

“…the claims you make about piracy aren’t based on any real evidence.  I’d like to offer some data that argue for a different point of view.”

“…the greater threat to many authors is obscurity, not piracy.”

“There are no reliable studies of the impact of piracy in the book business.”

“The Government Accounting Office recently ‘assessed the assessments’ of digital piracy and found them all lacking.”

“So, here’s what I think you should do: ….work with authors to distinguish between the instance of piracy and its impact. A pirated file is not necessarily equivalent to a lost sale. Most authors want to make money, but I’d wager that all authors would like to be read.”

“We can do as the music industry did, presuming a single answer and defending an existing model.  Or, we can choose a data-driven, more flexible path.  I prefer the latter, and I hope I can convince you that you should, too.  Even with the best of intentions, the walls we build up can lock us in.”

Do you know an author who’s suffered from piracy?

Are you an author who’s experienced this?

What are your thoughts and feelings on the issue??
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