First, Remove Head from Fundamental Orifice

It would seem that the publishing industry is still trying to convince us plebs that they’re poor, hard-working, downtrodden critters scratching by with nary a penny to their name or something, at least if Passive Guy’s latest post is anything to go by. After reading the excerpted section, my masochistic inner self (at least, I presume so because there’s bugger-all else to explain why I’d inflict this on myself) hopped on over to the blog he linked and read the whole piece.

There are no words.

Seriously. I’d say the money quote is “At $9.99 for an e-book, publishers could no longer make their margins” except that there are so many more equally epic fail quotes in there it’s really cruel to only highlight just the one. So, those of you who feel brave, or wish to torture yourselves, read the whole thing. But don’t come whining to me about the stupid. Either this person is quietly snickering behind her screen about the latest one she just pulled on the rubes (unlikely) or she’s gone so far up the De Nile she passed the headwaters and she’s now sailing the uncharted waters… er… something… of her own fundamental orifice and is looking out of her own mouth.

So let’s have a look at this steaming pile of denial (or something). The author of the original post has been reading Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon and finds herself conflicted. Apparently the cause of this conflict is that as a reader she loves the convenience of Amazon, but as an agent she fears Amazon is… wait for it… a ruthless competitor. Gosh. Are you shocked? The dear thing seems to believe that ruthlessness in the pursuit of market share and profit is a bad thing in a business. Of course, she probably doesn’t think publisher are really businesses – they’re more like, you know, services to enlighten the public (horrible little plebs they are, don’t know what’s good for them) who’d never do anything so vulgar as chase a profit. At least, not officially….

She goes on to wail about how Amazon’s low low prices for ebooks ($9.99 – horrors!) caused those poor noble publishers extreme stress – conveniently neglecting the little fact that once created the cost of an ebook is somewhere in the order of… oh… zero. Now, when you consider that these same publishers have no issue making their margins on paperbacks at $7.99 to $9.99, half of which will be returned to them to be pulped at the publisher’s expense, well, the bullshit factor is somewhere off the charts. They pay to ship the books to the stores, to have their picks on special display, then pay to ship half of them back, pay even more for storage and warehousing, and pay again to pulp the things – and that’s before you factor in the cost of actually printing them. But generating a file in an ebook format is more expensive than this?

I guess the publishers must be doing what one of Passive Guy’s commenters suggested: maybe they think that ebooks are actually stored on punch cards. Not only that, they must be making the agents do all the punching, with special glittery punches for the works of the Feminist Glittery Hoo Haa crowd. Between the glitter storage (you need specially insulated warehouses, you know. You have to isolate each individual Feminist Glittery Hoo Haa otherwise you’ll come in the next morning to a pile of glitter and a few sad-looking hanging chads), you’d need massive trailers for each new epic fantasy punched out by G.R.R. Martin’s poor overworked agent. The things these poor people suffer.

There is, of course, more, including the mind-boggling assertion that Amazon somehow screwed the publishers by selling ebooks for less than they paid the publishers (I know all the definitions of “screw”, and this does not fit any of them), the flat out lie that Amazon forced those poor, poor publishers to go to the agency model (I have a DOJ lawsuit that says different), the convenient omission of the fact that since the agency model authors have been getting less than they were getting for ebooks when Amazon sold them for less than cost.

Just don’t tell the poor delusional female about this. If her head gets any further up where it is, she’s going to become a singularity and the suckage will destroy the universe.


  1. The publishers are the victims of fifty years of overhead creep. A small number of companies had a stranglehold on the means of distribution for so long and they forgot that genuine competition favors efficiency.

    As long as all of the “real” publishers wasted about the same amount of money on the same things–overpriced office space in Manhattan, multiple levels of administrative support, gratuitous perks for upper management, high prestige but ineffectual promotional events, ego building five star treatment of their top selling authors–they were able to maintain the illusion that they were running their businesses efficiently.

    The author of the original piece probably genuinely believes that her company cannot cut costs any further without going bankrupt because she lacks the ability to distinguish between the real costs of producing books and overhead costs that have become so familiar that she doesn’t realize that they are not necessary to the core business.

    1. It’s possible, barely, to argue the necessity of a Manhattan office back when manuscripts were hand-written, phones were rotary, and agents presumably hiked the mean streets from editor to editor with your five pounds of paper in a satchel.

    2. And of course, the agents were leeching quite handily off this so they too were wasting money on the overpriced office space and the like.

      About the only people who didn’t get a sniff were the rank and file authors.

  2. I still think what this woman has is a self-induced delusion that is all that enables her to keep her sanity doing her job. Which doesn’t make it any less stupid or willfully ignorant.

    1. Agreed. I guess if you get your head that far up, you kind of have to get delusional. The fumes, you know.

  3. I’ve been disappointed that Baen upped their initial ebook prices to $9.99. I understand that there were reasons they did that, but $9.99 is too much. For $9.99 I should get a mass market paper back *and* an ebook code.

    Once in a while I’ll see a new ebook release from someone for $12.99 when I’m shopping on my Nook. It seemed like the “fat romances” were going for that for a while… except that I suspect they didn’t *go* at all.

    1. Part of Baen’s issue is having to work through S&S to distribute – that made their negotiations complex.

      Personally, if the ebook is more or less at parity with paperback price I’m okay with it, but I will not buy an ebook priced above the paperback price.

      1. Personally I won’t buy an ebook AT paperback price, I’ll just buy the paperback. This does kinda screw indie authors (but then again I have yet to see and indie author price their ebook at or above their deadtree version*) but I prefer deadtree books, so all else being equal that is what I will buy. On the other hand if I can get a significantly better deal on an ebook, unless it is a book by an author I know I am going to reread several times I am liable to buy the ebook.

        *Indie authors tend to be able to do simple math, and balance a checkbook. Their pricing logarithim goes something like this: I want/need to make $X per copy, ebooks priced at $X. It costs Y per copy to print, so printed books cost $(X+Y) per copy.

    1. That was the pricing model instigated by Apple and 5 of the Big 6 publishers when Apple entered the e-book market. If you check a product page on Amazon and see “price set by publisher”, you know it’s still under the agency model, although that will soon disappear thanks to the DOJ price fixing suit. Basically, the publishers told Amazon they wouldn’t let their e-books be sold there unless Amazon let them set the prices and there would be no mark-down, etc. This is when the prices for best sellers went from 9.99 up to 12.99 and more a couple of years ago. You can find plenty written about it by various folks here at MGC.

      1. I knew I’d read a lot about it, but as a term stuck in an article without explanation, my brain couldn’t retrieve the info. 😉


        1. There was quite a stink when the publishers first tried to force Amazon into it, too. One publisher did withdraw their books from Amazon and others threatened the same (funnily enough, there was a very close correspondence between those publishers and the ones named in that DOJ lawsuit). Amazon caved, but hit back by making the Bookscan numbers available to authors.

          Things started getting really interesting after that…

  4. Don’t you love the order in which she said this:

    “Lawsuits were filed, the “agency model” was born, and Amazon has continued to use their leverage to convince publishers to toe the line.”

    Lawsuits were filed first? Excuse me, but how did that happen?

    1. Probably authors filing divorce papers to their publishers and agents, followed shortly by demands for rights reversions. Otherwise the poor, poor Moaning Minnie has sequencing problems that might (in part) explain the publishers’ financial woes.

  5. Good blog Kate. Spot on as usual. Now, I need to ask for your help on something related to your books.

    I recently purchased ConVent, ConFur and ConSensual from Naked Reader. All three stories rock, so no problem there. I also bought Born in Blood, but I haven’t quite gotten round to that one yet. Never fear, I will…

    Here’s my dilemma, which maybe you could mention to the powers that be…

    See, I read ConVent first because I thought it CAME first. Pretty good reason, right? But it turns out that ConFur comes first and anyone who reads the first like hundred words of ConFur after reading ConVent can tell that…

    Would you, pretty please, speak to someone there and ask them to mark their serieses (yup, that’s a word) so that it’ll say “First/Second/Third in the Con series…” etc. I just want to give them my money in the right order so that I can get maximum enjoyment with the books. I included this as a note with my order, but I’m not sure if anyone reads those. Could you mention this to them? Pweeeeeeeeeeeeeease?

    1. Actually, Jim, ConFur was written after ConVent and ConSensual – which makes it a prequel to the con series.

      I may have my moments of brilliance, but alas, reordering the time-space continuum to publish my books in the same order the story runs isn’t something I can do.

      The best I can offer is suggesting that ConFur be labeled as a prequel and the others given the official ordering.

      1. What I’d like to know is “when will the next Con story be available”? [Pleading Smile]

        1. FYI, she has published her first e-book. Guess what it’s about? “How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing (A Field Guide for Authors) ” And funny thing, for someone who is so worried about the state of traditional publishing because of evil Amazon, etc., she published it through ” RL Gardner Publishing”. Think there’s some relationship there?

          1. Well if she waited the lead time of a couple of years (if they were interested in publishing it at all) for a traditional publisher to publish it, it would be totally outdated. And the trad pubs would be in much worse shape than they are now, if they continue down the same road.

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