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Monday Melange…

“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) 🙂

13 Comments
  1. I don’t get crazy amounts from my donate button, but I get a few bucks. Enough for my coffee habit, when I go work in the coffee shop (Hey, no kids! Do you know the music my kids play? Also, they won’t get off my lawn.)
    Other than that, I agree with everything you say.

    March 5, 2012
  2. Kate Paulk #

    So what amounts to a suitable insult? I’m sure I could contrive to manage at least a smallish insult to your family pride.

    March 5, 2012
    • As publishing will tell you, I am very cheap. At their rates I think I work for about a dollar an hour… Actually it’s a precursor to putting SAVE THE DRAGONS up for download, as Baen have now sat on the book for a couple of years. I’ll operate that on an honesty box system – if you donated to the original appeal, it’s yours to download. If not, a couple of dollars in the donate box is good. I’ll work the same with the Cangelinomincon, as soon as I get my life back. Seriously, it worries me in a way. Authors shouldn’t actually need to panhandle unless they’re appallingly bad. I guess I just labelled myself 🙂

      March 5, 2012
      • Lin W #

        I would soooo much rather give money directly to an author whose stories and books I love (you, Sarah, Kate, Amanda, yes, even Weber) than pay the bloated publishers. Every time I buy a book through a publisher, I have a mental image of Jabba the Hut, with the author on the end of a chain (you do look *so* fetching in that metal bikini, Dave 😉 ).

        I mean, I like Baen, and Toni, and the books she publishes — but she’s still owned, in many ways, by Simon & Schuster, and I resent the heck out of making them even more bloated.

        So, please! Give me a place I can drop money in your jar! It’s worth every cent, to get you to write more stories!

        March 5, 2012
        • Oh gawd, Lin! Brain bleach, please! Our simian friend and metal bikini just does not a good image make.

          Although, it could be worse. It could be ME in the metal bikini.

          March 6, 2012
          • Lin W #

            Bwahahahahaha. The beard is a interesting accessory to that metal bikini, I must say… 😀

            March 6, 2012
        • The jar is up on davefreer.com – and yes, I am in favor of middlemen – no matter who they are, getting paid for the value they add.

          My metal bikini pulls my chest hairs out. Not only is that painful, but as I only had 4 (3 now) I have to be conservative about them 😉

          March 6, 2012
      • Melvyn Barker #

        I really enjoyed Save the Dragons and I’d love to be able to download it , but even though I donated to the original appeal I think you should publish it as an ebook on Amazon, Smashwords etc. for people who didn’t to buy. Its a great read and it should be earning you money.

        BTW thank you very much for Crawlspace and Bolg PI. I enjoyed those too.

        March 6, 2012
        • Lin W #

          Second the motion. Make money, write more. Repeat. 😀

          March 6, 2012
        • Melvyn, I can’t put it on Amazon and honor my commitment to those who contributed to the original appeal. (As far as i am concerned, they paid for it, it’s theirs. No I don’t rip people off or sell licenses. If i COULD deliver paper copies, I would, and then be free to put it on Amazon – But Amazon will price match. Therefore as it will be free to anyone who has donated from my site, Amazon would make it free for all – which is not OK. It would also be nice to have something available ONLY from Davefreer.com, and start selling all the work from there, over time. 1)I pay for the site, and some handling fees, but the rest of the income is mine. Not the ‘25% of net’ BS. Not Amazon’s70% (so long as the customer is in the US – not something I feel is fair. Different markets have different costs, not 35% for all of them) but 100% after my costs.
          2)If – as most of us expect – retail starts to squeeze us after knocking the publishers out… this is one area they can’t squeeze. I hope to set up a mailing list, and get my loyal fans to buy directly from me. It means output is NOT controlled by outside factors and should mean I can write easier.

          Glad you liked Bolg and Crawlspace… both I’d like to continue. Finances depending, of course ;-/

          March 6, 2012
          • Lin W #

            Could you put them up for sale, but do a coupon for those who donated earlier? They could have the same edition that others are buying, but you’d still honor their earlier contribution — and still be able to sell to those who either weren’t aware, or didn’t contribute originally. (I’m in the “unaware” category. Sorry 😦 )

            I’m thinking how many people complain that Baen books aren’t available as ebooks on Amazon, even though they’re readily availble on the Baen site. 75 percent of several hundred thousand might be better, in the long run, that 100 percent of several hundred?

            March 6, 2012
          • Melvyn Barker #

            I’m not sure having books available exclusively on your website is the best idea. I’d certainly agree that selling your ebooks on your website and having a mailing list of fans is a good idea, but I think you should also have them available in as many other places as possible to maximise the number of people who might see and try them and get hooked.

            March 7, 2012
  3. Pam Uphoff #

    Use it as an experiment. Those of us who contributed during the writing phase will download it, but seeing how many new people chip in will give you some idea of the kind of income your site could generate. If after something like six months it doesn’t look like it’ll work (right now), then take it down and put it on Amazon.

    March 9, 2012

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