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but not at Amazon. Oh no. This time they are striking back at those subversive institutions called libraries. You remember them? Libraries were those buildings your mother warned you against going into. They had — gasp — books in them. Books are bad. They make you think. They let you imagine what like might be like on another planet or in another country. So now Random House is working to make sure you can’t bring those awful institutions into your home via your e-book reader.

Yes, the above is written with my tongue very firmly planted in my cheek. Well, not all of it. Random House has struck against libraries and, frankly, it stinks and is just another reason why I have to wonder about all those authors and others who are so quick to jump to publishers’ defense against Amazon.

In the continuing saga of Random House and OverDrive, the publisher has announced its new pricing for ebooks to libraries. In short, prices for Random House titles have been increased as much as 300%.

From The Digital Shift, e-book prices for RH titles through OverDrive will be:

  • Titles available in print as new hardcovers: $65- $85
  • Titles available for several months, or generally timed to paperback release: $25-$50
  • New children’s titles available in print as hardcovers: $35-$85
  • Older children’s titles and children’s paperbacks: $25-$45

Now, that’s a bit deceptive when you look at this example, also from The Digital Shift. Eisenhower in War and Peace went from $40 before the new pricing scheme went into effect to $120. Blessings by Quindlen went from $15 to $45. That’s not exactly what the RH price list shows, is it?

In all fairness, I will admit that RH is the only one of the big six (to my knowledge) that hasn’t imposed restrictions like an e-book can only be loaned 20 times before the library has to “buy” a new copy. But this is just as bad, in my opinion, especially in this day and age when libraries are fighting for their very existence due to decreased city and county budgets.

Now, the supposed reason RH raised the prices for their e-books this much was to align them with the price of RH audiobooks available for download. On the surface, that almost makes sense. However, if you scratch that surface just a little, you’d know how wrong that is. It doesn’t cost nearly as much to make an e-book as it does and audiobook. So there is no huge financial expense RH is trying to offset.

No, it all comes down to the fact that RH, like so many legacy publishers, hate e-books. They failed to embrace the new technology early on and now they are running scared. Why? Because more and more people are moving to e-books from paper books. The ease of carrying around your entire library with you wherever you go, space, environmental concerns, and economic concerns are all reasons why people are changing. But it is more fundamental that that. We are a technological society. Our kids are raised using computers more than pen and paper. Those kids are now young adults. They buy what they are comfortable with and that, friends, is digital.

So libraries, in an attempt to remain relevant to the next generation, as well as to their aging patrons who can’t get out of the house as much as they could and who have been given e-readers by their families, have to make the transition to digital as well. But the big six publishers, and the smaller publishers trying to act like their larger counterparts, are making it next to impossible for them to do so.

PublishersLunch sums it up very well: Random House announced their library ebook pricing, effective as of March 1, which will dampen some of the enthusiasm for the house’s commitment to the “unrestricted and perpetual availability of our complete frontlist and backlist of Random House, Inc.” in ebook form.

Don’t be fooled by the language in RH’s statement that they are open to input from libraries. The data they are supposedly asking for was there before the new pricing scheme was put into place. But RH either didn’t ask for it or chose to ignore it. What they are proposing is to let the libraries suffer for who knows how long before they have sufficient data to change the prices. And that assumes they ever have sufficient data to change things. Of course, I could be wrong.

Now, let’s see how long it takes for authors to take up the cry against these publishers for screwing libraries. Wait, what is that? Is that the sound of crickets? Of course it is. Those same authors who rail against Amazon as being evil won’t stir themselves to fight for survival of our libraries or for these same libraries to have these authors’ titles available for download. Instead, they’ll beat their chests and pump their fists all in support of the publishers that really aren’t looking after their best interests.

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The past 10 days or so have seen lots of chest beating and crying unto the heavens by some members of the publishing community. Oh the gnashing of teeth and the blind leaping onto bandwagons as they roll off the cliff of reason. How easy it has been for these writers to cry against the evil that is Amazon, all the while refusing to look beyond the headlines or even read the headlines to see what is really happening.

Last week IPG (Independent Publishers Group, a book distribution company) announced that Amazon failed to accept new contract terms that would have been so much better for IPG’s clients than the current contract. We were told how Amazon was being the big bully and wanting better terms for itself to the detriment to IPG, its clients (publishers) and therefore writers. Without knowing what these wonderful new terms would be, writers hit social media sites condemning Amazon. How dare Amazon refuse to accept terms that would be better for the other party, for writers?!?

But let’s look at this. First of all, at the time of the announcement, we didn’t know what those so-called wonderful terms were. IPG all-too-conveniently didn’t say what they were. Nor did IPG detail what terms Amazon proposed and it turned down. Then there’s the fact that IPG is the middle-man. Just because terms are better for it, that doesn’t mean they will be better for the publishers using them, much less for the authors. Remember, authors may create the product but we get the smallest amount of the sales price of anyone else in the chain. But I can understand why writers were up in arms after reading the IPG announcement. Amazon was once again trying to screw the publishing industry. Evil Amazon! (yes, the sarcasm meter is on here.)

Then came the announcement that Amazon had removed IPG distributed e-books from its catalog. Oh the cries of outrage became howls. Authors’ fists pumped in the air like workers of old as they marched against the evil regime. How dare Amazon remove their titles! Didn’t Amazon know it was hurting authors by doing so? It had a duty to keep those titles in the catalog and for sale. Bad, Amazon, bad.Facebook was ablaze with authors rallying around the cause. Blogs flogged Amazon for being an evil capitalist machine out for no one but itself. And then SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) entered the fray.

SFWA leadership decided to stand by the few authors who had titles distributed by IPG. They would show their solidarity with the common man, er writer, and take action. They’d show evil Amazon that it can’t push people around. So, without consulting the member-at-large, SWFA leadership decided to redirect all product links on its pages from Amazon to other online stores. The only caveat to that was that if the book was only available through Amazon. In that case, the link would remain.

Solidarity! Solidarity! Solidarity! SWFA and others march unerringly toward the cliffs with the other lemmings.

What everyone seems to have forgotten in all this is that Amazon is not the big evil when it comes to publishing. The problems the industry faces now have their roots in practices that were outdated before Amazon was founded. Business plans have failed to evolve with changing times, changing technologies and changing consumer demands. How quickly these same authors have forgotten how the big box stores like Barnes & Noble came in and wiped out the majority of our neighborhood bookstores. How quickly they then over-expanded until they flooded the market. And now that practice, as well as other poor business decisions, have these big box stores in trouble.

Don’t believe me? Where’s Borders? Where’s Bookstop? Barnes & Noble has been trying to spin off Sterling to become more financially stable. That hasn’t worked so Sterling is no longer on the market. Instead, B&N is once more considering spinning off the Nook division.

But let’s continue. IPG presented Amazon with these wonderful terms for itself and its clients and Amazon had the audacity to decline to sign on the dotted line. Then, gasp, it removed those e-book titles. How dare it?

My question is how dare it not? Amazon no longer had a contractual right to sell the titles. It did the correct thing in removing them. After all, whether you like it or not, Amazon is a company. It has shareholders it has a duty to. That duty is to make money in return for their investment. I know that’s awful in the minds of some, but it is the truth. Just as it is true that IPG is in the business to make money.Even SFWA admits that Amazon has the right to decide who to do business with. But what is telling is that, while admitting that only 4,000 e-book titles or so were involved in the IPG dispute, SFWA was redirecting all links away from Amazon as long as the books weren’t exclusive to Amazon. There is nothing in the SFWA letter to say this is applying to just e-books. No, ALL BOOKS are involved.

But the authors who are beating their breasts and pumping their firsts have no problem with this. You must protect the few at the expense of the many.

The double-standard about this hatred so many in publishing have for Amazon continually amazes me. None of these authors cried “FOUL” when Barnes & Noble, and then other bookstores, announced it wouldn’t sell books published by Amazon. No, they actually applauded the move. After all, how dare Amazon have its own publishing arm. It’s out to kill traditional publishers. It is only enticing authors away and then it will turn on them because Amazon is evil.

I’m not going to say there won’t come a day when Amazon changes the royalty structure for self-published authors or small presses. It very well may. But the responsibility falls to us to be prepared for that day. In the meantime, we’re foolish not to take advantage of the tools available to us and, like it or not, Amazon is one of them.

Another example of the double standard is the deafening silence in the wake of Barclay’s announcement that it will not distribute one of its titles to any online bookseller. Their reasoning, to protest Amazon’s “unfair practices”. So, they don’t like Amazon but will “punish” all online stores.  I’m sure Amazon is quaking in its boots at the removal of one title and will soon capitulate. Yes, I’m rolling my eyes as I type this. But the point is, Barclay is removing the title from a number of venues and yet the authors pounding their chests and pumping their fists are silent. I can only guess their reason is because the evil one was mentioned so they didn’t read any further.

Nor have I heard these same authors condemning Apple for refusing to carry an e-book in iTunes/iBooks because, gasp, it had a link in the back of the book in the references section to an Amazon page. GASP. It linked to a book Apple didn’t carry. Not an e-book, if I remember correctly, but a hard copy. Guess what, boys and girls, Apple doesn’t sell hard copy. Not yet, at any rate. But no one is up in arms about this because, sigh, Amazon is involved.

As I sit here writing this blog this morning, I have the news on. A commercial just aired for a live show later this month at the American Airlines Center. The music in the background is “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserables. How appropriate. I see these authors in my mind’s eye marching shoulder to shoulder, fists pumping as they call for solidarity against Amazon. But they aren’t marching toward the guns of their oppressors. No, they are marching toward the edge of the cliff, blindly supporting an industry that, if it doesn’t quickly change its operating model, will soon fall.

And, like it or not, these authors are playing a role in the decline of the industry. How? By doing exactly what they are right now. By getting on their facebook accounts and alienating a very large part of their readership by saying not to buy from Amazon. Guess what, authors, the Kindle still holds a major market share when it comes to e-readers. As long as your publishers continue to insist on putting DRM on your titles, most readers won’t jump through the hoops, hoops that are technically illegal around much of the world, to convert that title bought from B&N or Kobo, etc., to be able to read it on their Kindle.

Guess what else–the reading public doesn’t understand why an e-book should cost as much as a hard copy of the book. No, don’t go spouting the tripe about how it costs the same to make an e-book as it does a hard copy. That dog don’t hunt, especially not when there is a hard copy being produced. You don’t edit the book twice, once for the hard copy and once for the digital version. You don’t make two different covers for it.  I could go on, but I won’t. Why? Because you have dug your heels in, put your head in the sand and are going “lalalalalalalalala” until it’s over.

The time has come for writers to take control of their careers. I’m not saying every writer should self–publish. Why? Because not every writer wants that. Not every writer is capable of doing everything that is needed to self-publish, either because of time constraints, personal preferences, etc. But now is the time for writers to demand accountability from their publishers. That includes demanding to know why publishers are using distributors for e-books to sites like Amazon and B&N where it is simple to publish on your own. Middlemen add costs that publishers will take out of the whole before paying the author. But even more than that, it is time for authors to demand their fair share of royalties on a book. Remember, without the writer, there would be no book.

Wake up and realize that while Amazon isn’t pure, it is still the 800 pound gorilla we need to work with–at least until there is a viable alternative. It is not the beginning and end of all that wrong with the publishing industry. If you want to rail against something, writers, read your contracts and your royalty statements. Ask yourself why publishers are trying to claim digital rights to books when contracts were signed long before e-books were even thought of. Ask yourself how your books can still be on the shelves of physical bookstores more than two years after publication and yet your publisher tells you “it just didn’t catch on with the readers” and declines to pick up your option. Ask yourself why you haven’t earned out more royalties than your advance. Ask yourself why the quality of editing, copy editing and proofreading from your legacy publisher has been declining over the years.

Or, continue gnashing your teeth, beating your chest and pumping your fists in the air as you walk off the cliff, alienating readers and cutting yourself off from what most likely is your largest online market.

Cross-posted to The Naked Truth and Mad Genius Club.

Nocturnal Serenade, book 2 in the Nocturnal Lives series, is now available. You can find it on Amazon or through Naked Reader Press. It should soon be available through Barnes & Noble as well as Smashwords and other outlets. The first book, Nocturnal Serenade, is currently available through Amazon. It will return to other outlets in the near future.

Here’s a quick blurb about Nocturnal Serenade:

Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

To go with the release of Nocturnal Serenade, I have a great new cover for Nocturnal Origins. I liked the original cover — and you can still find it on the hard copy version of the book — but I think the new cover is more accurate to the novel. Many thanks to Sarah A. Hoyt for the design of both covers.

Next month, my short story Nocturnal Haunts will also be coming out from Naked Reader Press. It will be available for individual purchase as well as being included in the anthology Sisters in Blood (Kate Paulk, Sarah A. Hoyt and myself). As soon as I have a publication date, I’ll post it.

So, I guess that’s about it for now. Back to the keyboard to write some more.

Later!

Last week, I wrote about how publishers and agents were crying “FOUL” over news that Amazon would be publishing some 120 over the last few months and yet few were talking about how Perseus was going to “help” authors self-publish.  My basic points regarding these two pieces of news were that publishers wouldn’t have to worry about authors leaving them IF the publishers and agents were really doing the job they said they were.  I honestly thought that would be the end of the post and I’d move on to something different this week — of course, it is never that easy.  So, to continue from where I left off, sort of. . . .

Publishers were busy puffing out their chests and declaring that e-books were reaching a saturation point in the market when July’s sales figures were released.  After all, hard cover sales had increased 33%.  At the time those figures were made public, a number of people — yours truly included — wondered if that was an anomaly caused by the sell-off of stock held by Borders.  Well, confirmation, at least partial confirmation, of our suspicions came this week when the Association of American Publishers announced the sales figures through August.

From Publisher’s WeeklyFor the first eight months of 2011, e-book sales increased 144.4%, to $649.2 million, from 18 reporting publishers to the AAP monthly statistics program. Sales were off by double digits in all trade print segments in the January-August period, although sales in the religion category were up 9% in the year to date at the 22 reporting houses.

GalleyCat has the complete breakdown:

With regard to the August figures, for the month, hard cover sales declined 11% and adult paperback sales declined close to 6%.  According to the AAP (again from Galleycat), “Strong, continuing revenue gains from digital formats in the Trade market – both e-books and downloaded audiobooks – helped offset declines in revenue from physical formats, resulting in only nominal, near-identical decreases vs the previous year’s and YTD’s figures

So, for the first eight months of the year, e-book sales are up 144.4%.  It is this increase that kept the figures from looking truly abysmal.  The only other areas to post gains are religious books and downloaded audio books.  If you’ve been tracking the figures for the last year plus, this follows the trend.  Even I, who run far and fast in the opposite direction when someone tells me I need to do math, can see that the figures for July when hard covers posted a double digit increase were not the start of a new trend.  Instead, it was an artificial increase in sales caused by the discounting of merchandise during the Borders bankruptcy sale off.

And yet, even with the figures staring them in the face, legacy publishers refuse to admit that e-books are not only a viable part of the marketplace, but all that is keeping some of them afloat right now.  Just think how many more units they might be able to sell if they simply lowered the prices of their new releases below hard cover prices.  Oh, I know.  They tell you they have to price e-books at near hard cover prices in order to make a profit.  Bull!  Remove DRM, admit that once they have the final text, all they really have to pay for above cost of setting the book for print is the conversion price and then the cost of having someone do a check of the conversion files to make sure nothing got screwed up.  Lower the price to even $9.99 — a price point most e-book buyers will pay for a new “best seller” — and they will sell more copies and that, eventually, will lead to more profit.  Not to mention more good will for the publisher which will also lead to more sales.  More sales equal more money.  Makes sense to me.  But then, I’ve never been a bean counter, much less one in a rarified office in NYC.

Going back to the cries of anguish last week caused by Amazon, there was a deafening silence this week when Kobo announced it would now start publishing books.  For those of you not familiar with Kobo, it’s an online presence, not unlike that for Amazon or B&N when it comes to e-books.  When Borders still existed, Kobo was associated with it for e-books.  This isn’t a self-publishing venture for authors.  No, according to the article, Kobo will do editing, design, marketing and the selling of the books.  Sound familiar?  So, why no hue and outcry by the publishers?  Simply put, they aren’t scared of Kobo because its name isn’t Amazon.  It doesn’t matter that Kobo is offering the same service as Amazon.  All that matters is that Kobo isn’t the 800 pound gorilla.  The publishers have forgotten about the tortoise moving slowly and surely toward the goal.

So, does all this mean the end of publishing as we know it?  Eventually.  Even if legacy publishers were to suddenly understand the importance of e-books and reasonable pricing, the snowball has already started rolling down the mountainside.  Publishers — and agents and authors — are going to have to adapt to the changing expectations and demands of the reading public.  Just as publishers had to change as technology and society changed in the early to mid 1900’s, they are going to have to do so again.  If not, the publishers will perish.  But, in their places will be new publishers, those flexible enough to adapt to the changes.  In other words, there will always been books and short stories.  It’s just the format and pricing that may change.

Cross-posted to the Naked Truth and Mad Genius Club.

I want to start by thanking Glenn Reynolds for the link to yesterday’s blog and welcome all his readers from Instapundit.  Pull up a chair, relax and enjoy your favorite virtual cup of coffee or other morning beverage.

It still amazes me how publishers and agents can cry foul when Amazon — or any other entity for that matter — encroaches on what they see as their territory.  It amazes me because it truly shows just how disconnected the legacy publishers and others are from the realities brought on by new technology and the change in reader demands.  Right now, these publishers are crying “foul!” because Amazon is trying to make them unnecessary in the road to publication.  They say they offer so many things of value to the writer, and the reading public, that Amazon and others can’t.  But, as I said yesterday, these very same benefits they tout are the ones they gave up on long ago:  quality editing and proofreading, formatting, promotion, etc.  This is especially true when it comes to e-books, the same e-books these publishers say cost as much to produce as the hard copy that is being released at the same time.  I could go one, but my friend Dave Freer has said it much more eloquently than I can over at Mad Genius Club.

What I do know is that legacy publishers are cutting their own throats, especially when it comes to the e-book market.  I’m not just talking price here, even though the majority of people don’t want to pay the same price for an e-book that they do for a hard cover and most of them don’t even want to pay the price of a paperback for an e-book.  Nor can I blame them, especially not when the legacy publishers view the e-book not as a book at all, but as a license.  They fill the e-book with DRM, which is expensive to the publisher and insulting to the reader/customer.  With DRM, you are limited to the type and number of devices you can read the book on.  Try to read it on an unsupported device and you can’t.  Want to break DRM, you’re called a pirate by the publishers.  Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy toward those publishers, doesn’t it?

These same publishers say they are paying extra, a lot extra if you believe them, to convert that next best seller into an e-book.  If that’s the case, I’d expect there to be no problems with the formatting or layout of the e-book and I’d sure as heck expect it to have been proofread so there are no misspellings, etc.  Guess what, it’s more than likely that you’ll find errors in the e-book.  For some reason, they seem to pop off the screen at you much more than they do off the printed page.  At least they do for me.  I’ve even checked printed versions of books when I’ve found errors in the kindle version and, yep, those errors are on the printed page as well.  I’m not talking indie books here.  I’m talking books printed by the big six publishers.  so where’s that wonderful quality control they’re talking about?

But it isn’t all gloom and doom in publishing.  I was pleased this morning to see the news that there will be two publishers focusing on books for middle grade kids.  The first is from Algonquin and will focus on the YA and middle grade markets and is expected to debut the end of next year.  While I wish it was happening soon, I’m thrilled to see anyone who knows there is a hole in the middle grade market and wants to fill it.  I just hope they fill it with books that are fun to read — and that therefore encourage kids to read them — instead of books that are all “socially relevant” and written in styles that send the kids running from them just as fast as they can.

The second is the one that really excites me because it is aimed at boys.  I’ve gotten so tired of hearing that boys don’t read.  They do.  These people who are supposedly in the know might be surprised if they climbed down from their ivory towers and actually looked at what middle grade boys.  The problem hasn’t been that they don’t read.  It’s that they haven’t had nearly enough well-written and FUN books to read.  It’s my hope that this new venture will provide just that.  At least Move Books’ slogan is encouraging: “Moving Boys to Read”.  Eileen Robinson, publisher of Move Books, gets it, in my opinion.  Here’s what she had to say about how her nine year old son was inspiration for this new venture: “He struggled as a reader, and it was difficult to find books that would grab his attention, make him laugh, and make him want to read on his own. . . He and his friends seem to be drawn more to nonfiction, and like a lot of boys, they tend to read for information more than for pleasure. I am hoping that the novels Move Books publishes will provide that pleasure, and will encourage boys to pick them up rather than turn to a video game.” Well said, Ms. Robinson.  Well said.

So, here’s a hat tip to those who recognize the need to encourage our middle schoolers, especially the boys, to read.  And here’s a swift kick in the pants to those publishers and agents who seem to think we can put the genie back in the bottle and go back to publishing like it was fifty years ago.

Another Nail in the Coffin

I’m a little late posting this morning and I apologize.  I’d really planned on putting up an open thread today, but a couple of articles caught my eye during the wee hours of the morning as I was trying to convince the scaredy dog (yes, that is a word and the nicest I could call the drooler at the time) that we weren’t about to be tossed into the air only to land in Oz.  In other words, the big, bad dog is scared of rain and kept the household up during the night because we had storms.

Any way, a couple of articles caught my eye.  One has been in the news for a week or so.  There have been the typical knee-jerk reaction from the legacy publishers and those who still believe they are the only hope for the publishing industry.  Another has been sort of ignored because it doesn’t deal with Amazon even though it is yet another example of how some agents are potentially getting into a conflict of interest, or at least a very grey and murky area of fiduciary duty to their clients.

But the Amazon story first.  On the 16th of this month, the New York Times published an article about Amazon bypassing publishers and signing authors to contracts to publish through Amazon.  For some months now, Amazon has been introducing “imprints”.  Several well-known authors signed exclusive publishing contracts with Amazon.  There were a few ripples when that happened, but nothing like the response to the Times’ article last week.  The specifics are pretty simple.  This fall, Amazon will publish 122 titles.  These titles will be across a variety of genres and some will be digital and some hard copy.  Among the authors will be self-help guru Tim Ferrias and actor/director Penny Marshall.And the cries of foul were heard far and wide from legacy publishers.

According to the Times, “Publishers say Amazon is aggressively wooing some of their top authors. And the company is gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.”

So let’s look at that statement.  While I can’t speak to whether or not Amazon is “aggressively wooing” top authors, it would be a fool not to.  The same publishers who are crying foul are the ones who backed the agency pricing plan for e-books.  This is the plan that lets the publishers set the price for their e-books so there is no competition across the different e-book retailers.  Worse, the general reading public doesn’t understand that Amazon can’t control the prices for those books from the agency model publishers, and it is the one on the receiving end of the bad customer feelings.

But more telling is that these same publishers are crying because Amazon is “gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.”  Used to provide is the key phrase here.  Past tense.  As in, these are services that were once provided by publishers, critics and agents and are no longer.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  And, frankly, can you blame an author for signing with Amazon if it does offer the editing, copy editing and proofreading, promotion and placement legacy publishers used to and no longer do?  I can’t.

I also think it’s rather disingenuous to have an agent, who also happens to be a publisher, complaining about Amazon taking money out of the hands of agents.  What about putting money into the hands of writers, especially when so many agents these days are either turning into publishers themselves (which brings up the question of just how hard they are going to work to place their clients’ work with another publisher when the agency could be the publisher)?  I’ll be honest, those who are crying “foul” the loudest are those who have enjoyed telling the writer to bend over and cough, forgetting that, without the writer, they wouldn’t have a business.

Read the article and let me know what you think.

Then there’s the second article, which sort of falls in with my last set of comments.  The Perseus Books Group has announced a new venture to “help” authors who want to self-publish.  The catch:  these authors have to be represented by certain agents who have signed agreements with Perseus.  So, that’s how some agents are getting around the somewhat murky ethical issue of literary agents also being publishers.  They don’t.  They just sign agreements with companies like Perseus to “publish” and “distribute” the books.

The article notes that one of the “benefits” of doing it this way is the breakdown of authors getting 70% while Perseus will only get 30%.  Guess what, boys and girls, an author can get that from Amazon now by self-publishing through them.  More than that, any author is capable of putting their e-books into the outlets mentioned in the article.  Even if the author doesn’t have the required Mac computer for iBooks/iTunes, it can be easily done through Smashwords.  Again, quick and easy and without the middleman.

But there’s more.  At least I have more concerns.  Question one, if Author A is represented by one of the agencies that has an agreement with Perseus, does Author A owe a commission to Agent B if he goes through Perseus?  Question two, if so, how does the agency build the proverbial Chinese wall (no insult intended here.  It’s a phrase learned in law school.) to make sure there is no undue pressure put on the author/client to go this route instead of the traditional publishing route?  Conversely, what sort of pressure would the agent put on Author A if the author came to him and said he wanted to self-publish and Agent B really wants to take the book through the traditional route?

I know legacy publishers and agents are scared about where the industry is going.  Or they should be.  Heck, anyone in the business, including authors, should be at least a little scared.  But it really is those who have made their livelihoods on the backs of authors who are the most scared and who are doing their best to find new and imaginative ways to maintain the status quo.  My advice, whether you are shopping a book around right now or thinking about doing so in the near future, decide what route is best for you.  Most of all, if you are offered a contract by either an agent or a legacy publisher, hie thee to an intellectual property attorney forthwith.  Do NOT sign it without first having someone very familiar with the industry looking it over first.  And please, note I said legacy publisher AND agent.

(Edited to add:  Welcome to everyone coming over from Instapundit.  Thanks to Insty for the mention and link.)

(Cross-posted to Mad Genius Club and Naked Truth)

I didn’t get up this morning wanting to rant.  No, I’d planned to write about the NYT article yesterday about Amazon’s latest foray into publishing and how it has legacy publishers quaking in their boots because they can’t figure out how to adapt to new technologies, pricing and product demands from their customers.  But that’s going to have to wait.  I have to rant.

As you’ve probably figured out from some of my earlier posts, my morning routine consists of feeding the animals before they start eating my ankles, pouring as much coffee down me as quickly as possible and reading the news and checking a few blogs and discussion boards before starting work.  Call it my way of making sure the world still exists and I haven’t, somehow, managed to get myself sent to Wonderland or Oz or the Twilight Zone while sleeping.

Well, this morning was no different.  Except one topic on the Kindle boards sent me into full-blown rant mode.  I can grit my teeth and ignore — sort of — those authors and editors and agents who put their political beliefs out there on facebook and condemn everyone else who doesn’t agree with them.  I think they’re foolish for doing so because they don’t know who they might be needing to deal with tomorrow or the next day or the day after that.  So why risk making an enemy when you don’t have to?  If you have to talk politics or religion using social media, at least limit who can see it.  Remember your mother telling you there are two things you never talk about at the dinner table: politics and religion.  That really is a good rule to remember, especially when it comes to social media.  But that’s not what today’s post is about.

No, today’s post is thanks to the fellow who thinks we ought to outlaw trade paperbacks.  Now, when I saw the subject line of the thread, I figured he was like so many others, myself included, who don’t particularly like TPBs because they aren’t quite the size of hard covers and definitely larger than mass market paperbacks and, therefore, difficult to store.  But no.  It wasn’t that simple, or that reasonable.  He wants to ban them because they are bad for the environment.

Yep, you heard me.  Trade paperbacks are bad for the environment and should, therefore, be banned.  After all, we have e-books now and they are so much more environmentally friendly.  Apparently, now that we have such easy accessibility to e-books, there’s no reason to keep killing trees, using fossil fuels to make and transport trade paperbacks, etc.  Oh, we can continue to have POD books, but let’s get rid of TPBs.

Okay, I get the environmental concerns.  Of course, the original poster doesn’t take into account the environmental impact of making and then discarding of e-book readers.  But I’m not going to get into that.  What sent me over the edge were two basic issues I see with his statement.  The first is that it assumes everyone wants to read e-books.  They don’t.  It is going to be years before we see a saturation of the market with e-readers the way we see with cell phones or computers or TVs.  Until then, alternatives are going to have to be offered.  It just makes business sense to.  More than that, I honestly believe there is always going to be niche markets for printed books.

But what really got to me was the fact that the original poster suggested banning ONLY trade paperbacks.  He didn’t say ban printed books.  He didn’t mention hard covers or mass market paperbacks.  ONLY trade paperbacks.  They are not the majority of books printed, not by a long shot.  So, why target them as the segment that needs to be banned to save the environment?  It makes no sense.

And don’t say it’s because he didn’t know any better.  The guy’s an author.  If he doesn’t know there’s more than one format of books, he’s been living under a rock and has never been to a bookstore or browsed one online.  No, I can’t help but think this was his way of trying to garner interest in his own books without violating Amazon’s rules against self-promotion on the Kindle boards.  How, you ask.  That’s simple.  People tend to click on a poster’s name when that poster says something that either interests them or has them asking ‘WTF?”.  By doing so, you are taken to the poster’s profile and, from there, you can click on the OP’s weblink.  Which, gee, advertises his books.  Books that are, I’m sure, also listed on Amazon.

But there’s something else that bothers me about his post.  Whether he actually believes what he suggests or was trying to get a discussion started or just wanted to be a troll and get folks upset, I don’t know.  But when someone, anyone, starts suggesting we “ban” any form — or format — of a book, I start looking over my shoulder.  Paranoid?  Possibly.  But it is such a hot button word, I can’t help it.  It is a knee-jerk reaction.  If we “ban” one format of a book, what’s to stop us from doing it to others?  Say we did decide to save the environment by banning TPBs, that wouldn’t really impact the carbon footprint of the publishing industry.  It wouldn’t take long before the reports to say so.  Then we’d ban the other printed books.  After all, people don’t read that much any more.  All the studies show it.  Besides, fi they want to read, they can read e-books.  Right?  Oh, wait, Joe doesn’t want to.  No problem.  He can go to the library.  We’ll continue to let books be printed for libraries.

Picture me rolling my eyes and gagging right now.  There’s a simple economic truth that this argument forgets.  Libraries have to pay for their books.  Some they buy outright.  Others they lease.  That takes money and, whether you know it or not, libraries are strapped for cash.  Communities are cutting library budgets which often results in fewer hours of operation, fewer employees, fewer new books on the shelves.  Sometimes, it even means closing libraries.  So now we’ve banned the printed book except as POD for libraries.  The problem with this is that it wouldn’t be a money-making proposition for the publisher or author if they priced the book low enough for most libraries to be able to afford it.  If they price the book high enough for a reasonable profit, the libraries won’t be able to buy it.  So, no new books.

But, taking the original poster’s argument the next step, one he didn’t take.  If we are going to ban trade paperbacks and, presumably, all other printed books, shouldn’t we also ban printed newspapers and magazines?  What about all the printed junk mail we get through the mail?  Oh, and if we’re banning printed books, does that include textbooks?  What about prayer books, bibles and hymnals for churches, etc?  I can see it now.  Sunday morning mass and the priest turns to the congregation and tells them to get out their e-book readers or cell phones and go to the hymnal app for Hymn No. 32.

Rolling my eyes again.

Will there come a time when we will see e-book production outpacing the printing of hard copy books?  Sure.  But to argue that we should ban the printing of just one format of books to save the environment is not only ridiculous but short sighted as well.  Okay, no more ranting…at least for a little while.

(Cross-posted to The Naked Truth)