“I stood for the union and walked in the line. I fought against the company.
I stood for the U. M. W. of A. Now, who’s gonna stand for me?”
The Coal Tattoo – Billy Edd Wheeler
I have been listening to the rising crescendo of anti-Amazon protests over the last few weeks, with that last line going through my head. Now there have been times and places where unions have stopped rampant greed and exploitation by those in power. I’ve been on the wrong end — had an employer rip me sixteen ways to breakfast (and that was BEFORE I started writing) when I would have loved some form of organization to turn to, to make someone with more money and influence and power in the industry than I could ever dream of at least pay me the wages they owed. At the end of the day, as a desperately poor fish-farm manager, I was cheated out of three months pay by a multi-millionaire and his lying lawyer-lackey (I was delighted to see that he went bust and lost the farm about five years later, but that’s another story). Unions can be bad news (as I think SFWA has been here) of course too, but when it comes to disparity of bargaining power some kind of collective action can be the only answer.
The flip-side of this is, of course ‘now who is gonna stand for me?’
Loyalty IS a two way street… or a two-edged sword. It’s something that idiots get confused about and African dictatorships (among others, including publishers) like them to stay that way… but if you have the brain to, for example, write novels… apply logic. It simply can’t begin to work as one way traffic indefinitely. For instance authors go to the barricades and take pain for… MacMillan, or IPG… as called by their ‘union’ (SFWA) and then find that well, despite this JA Konrath is dead right.
I’d be more than happy to support the publisher or the distributor who offers me 75% of the cover price, my own choice of that price, better terms and conditions than Amazon and gives me a nice payment for referring sales from my site to theirs. I’d guess that a LOT of authors with loyal followings would be happy to make them the beneficiaries of 3 month exclusive (with the option of 6 free days, AND a mailing list advertising books of ‘similar to’ type to sign-ups.
But to be cannon-fodder for… if I’m lucky, the same percentage as I’d get for a p-book (although their profit is substantially inflated)… thank you but no thanks. I’ll take 70% and my chances with the Company.
It was fascinating to read the very self-important ‘Anonymous’ poster on Joe’s Comments, claiming self-publishing was fine for the B-list and that s/he would always be outselling Joe, specifically, but any B-lister in general. It was an interesting conceit or piece of self delusion. Unfortunately, someone who claims to have money pouring out of every orifice ought to spend a little on a statistician to give her/him some advice before spouting. Firstly, post this little aberrant phase in history sales will assume a normal curve – which means a far broader spread. JK Potty might sell 10 times what her nearest rival does, and that rival might sell 10 times what I do. But the present situation of her selling 100 000 times more than the bottom (me) won’t. And secondly – It’s a crap-shoot not a measure of skill. Luck and connections play far more role in trad publishing than quality. And I say this as the author of one book that got bought out of 3000 subs. I was lucky. Any one of the top 300 might have been the one (the other 2700.. no). IF publishing were TRULY about quality, their follow on stats would be less dismal (let’s put it this way, if 1:4 gets to book 4, and if 1:4 of those makes a career of it, and 1:10 of those is a major success – what do you think Henry Rosenbloom’s chances of ‘The only solution is commercial success: you have to have a runaway bestseller now, and the next month, and the month after that.’
Rosenbloom seems to think you can get best-sellers by paying a lot of money. Alas I suspect the evidence doesn’t bear the ‘Big bet’ out at all. It’s still near religion in publishing. But then this is the guy who reckoned the answer to pricing and royalties on e-books is to make sure the author gets the same even if his book is sold as an e-book.
He seemed to think we’d take this as a good deal. (Blink).
Oddly PW doesn’t agree about his book sales being in trouble — they seem to be proving my dictum about reading being a habit and the more people do it… the more they want.
I was mildly wry to see Baen following normal publishing trends and advertising to those who don’t need to be advertised to (the book trade) something that needs no advertising (David Weber’s latest. I like Dave Weber, but it’s like spending on advertising heroin to addicts).
As a thought on what e-book pricing is going to do… this was worth reading (with thanks to Charlie Martin for the Link on facebook).
And that’s about it for Monday.
It’s not my funday. But after the nagging from friends (Sarah, Amanda I am looking at you.) I have a donate button on my website… That too will be an interesting thing to watch, as I will permit myself to be insulted with a suitable bribe for stories (those of you who know G&S will get it, the rest of you… I have a little list) 🙂