F%$K me, SFWA, One More Time

*eyeroll* SFWA’s getting involved? On the side of Hachette, obvs. 


Nothing like supporting the pimp and dissing the girls.


What? I give you pleasure, you give me money. What does that make me? 


Only… I don’t have a middleman over my head taking most of my money. I’m a free girl. 


I’ve blogged before at length about the whole Hachette-Amazon thing, here, and here, and here. It’s business, folks, nothing personal. Amazon is in the process of renegotiating, which comes after Hachette settled over a price-fixing dispute. If you’ve been living under a rock, this comes as a surprise to you. Otherwise, it’s everywhere.

And now, SFWA has come out in support of Hachette. “Author Don Sakers has posted an essay to his blog complaining that the SFWA has endorsed Douglas Preston’s letter. Sakers, an independent author who makes most of his sales through Amazon, is annoyed that SFWA’s leadership did not make any attempt to consult or discuss the matter with its members before acting, and points out that this comes only a week after SFWA asked its members to comment on a proposal for allowing self-published authors to join.” Chris Meadows does a good job reporting on industry news over at Teleread, and covers this one.

So here we have an organization that still claims it supports authors and helps them get the best deal, but now they are in bed with one of the biggest publishing businesses. Their cover story is getting thinner than a streetwalker’s top.

Fortunately, I don’t need them. Even if they deign to ‘let in’ Indie Authors, I wouldn’t join. For one thing, they are sure to put all sorts of qualifications on membership for Indies. But I don’t need them, I repeat myself. For sure, they aren’t fighting for authors to get the best deal. They just came out in support of the guys who pays 12.5% on a book sale, over the guy who pays 70% on a book sale. Even the least mathematically able among us can see where the “bend over and spread, dear’ side is.

But enough about panderers. I’m sick of them. I’m sick of this whole mess, and the Stockholm Syndrome it has revealed in so many authors. I just want to write, and see my books sell. I’m not trying to put out the “Great American Novel,” I’m a mercenary wench who wants to give pleasure to as many readers as possible. Which is how I set my pricing.

See, here’s the thing. For Amazon, and Hachette, it’s cold, hard business. They are almost reptilian in their lack of warm-blooded feelings. But for me, the creator, I do get a buzz out of feedback. When I hear about people enjoying my work, and the pleasure I see on their faces when they thank me for my books, I get a rush. I want more of that. And I know it’s hard out there. So I balance my costs, which are low, with what I think people can pay for some entertainment to brighten their life.

Hachette just wants to milk the consumer for all they have. They try to skim the cream of the authorial crop (or whatever is floating to the surface, anyway) and push some, while others are left adrift without a paddle. But the prices… why price an ebook at $9.99? Think about that, and we’ll discuss it in comments.

Because me, I have a book to send off to an editor, so when it’s released in less than a month now, I can feel that rush all over again. And it’ll be less than $5, so you, my beloved readers, can afford to indulge, over and over again.

Oh, and because I love you guys, I have a novella up for free over on Amazon this weekend. Grab it before Monday, and be sure to give me a little something when you’re done…

A review! What did you think I was asking for? LOL


165 thoughts on “F%$K me, SFWA, One More Time

  1. But, but, Editors are so WORTH giving up so much of your money, I mean, we can’t possibly be trusted to edit our own words (proof: I JUST found a typo in my Baen entry). Besides, what would we do with all that money? Surely it would go to our pointy little heads and we might start thinking we’re somehow important to the literary world. They need that money to publish the books that SHOULD be published, that just don’t get the kind of sales they deserve because the dirty morons in middle America are too stupid to buy poetry about vaginas. If they didn’t subsidize that important work with the proceeds from you so-called “famous” authors, who would? NEA grants take too much paperwork.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go beat myself up over typing downing instead of drowning, and blame that for my inevitable loss.

    1. See me, I hire my editors. They work for me, not the other way around. And typos? Well, they happen. You really shouldn’t worry (unless it was in the first paragraph, then you should worry).

      Tip, though. Read your story aloud to yourself or someone else, and you will catch most if not all the typos. It’s not really possible with a novel, but a short is doable. Also, when I’m proofing school papers, I print them out and read them upside down. It slows my brain down enough to catch errors.

      1. One of my favorite techniques, actually. It also helps a lot with awkward phrasing. On Kiwi, I put it on my Kindle and let the text to speech read it, which was also a fresh look, but it totally massacred the pronunciation of Al-natiri. I tried to use Windows’ text to speech this time, but it was AWFUL! It was the verbal equivalent of a ransom note made from cut out words from magazines. Plus it was difficult to access, and wanted to read all the dialog windows, like the one to turn it back off.

          1. It’s much, much better. At least when I last tried it in OS 8.6. I mean, the voice was clearly more synthesized, but the Windows version just mixed up random tones and speeds.

              1. In her panel on Through Fire, Sarah said she couldn’t listen to someone else reading her stuff. For a person like myself, do you know how hard it is not to record a section of something and send it to her now? Even though I know my voice is not good for such a thing, it’s like a challenge.

              2. I use Narrator for Mac to check all of my writing. “Alex” is the voice I listen to, but I don’t find him as close to a real person as you do, Cedar. After listening to him read my first novel (available on Amazon now!), I told a friend I now knew what my novel would sound like if it were read aloud by a Dalek. On the other hand, I found over 100 mistakes discovered by my Dalek Spell Checker.

                It can be painful to spend hours listening to Narrator, but it can be of immense value to the self-editing process. Not only will you find typos, but awkward sentences are more obvious. It also highlights each word as Narrator reads, which can help find homophones and punctuation problems. It takes a lot of concentration, but I have found it well worth the time and effort.

          1. It was built into Windows as an accessibility option, which means it tries to read EVERYTHING on the screen, but apparently only works with MS products, I think I had to enable it and paste the story into wordpad, and it started reading automatically, very badly.

      2. What I did for my latest book was to dedicate ten days to reading it from start to finish, every single day. Each time I did so I picked up one or two errors, plus one or two places where phrasing or word choice could be improved. By the end of the process I was satisfied that I’d found every error I could, and I went ahead and published it. So far I haven’t had a single reader comment or e-mail pointing out any errors.

        It’s a bit tiresome having to expend so much time on error-checking, but I suspect I’m going to do the same for future books. I take pride in putting out a product that’s as error-free as possible, and I don’t know any other way that will produce the same results.

        1. Yes, and I know I find errors everytime I read through it. I did hire FreeRange Oyster as a copy editor, which I do with all my books, so that helps too.

          When I publish, it does cost me something to have the editing done, and a minimal amount for print ISBN. But because I can handle my own covers and formatting, my costs are very low.

        2. I find it easier if I get away from it for about a week or so, then start going over it hard. Otherwise I’m still reading what I thought I wrote instead of what I actually wrote.

          This typo was actually in a climactic scene towards the end, and I was always so attached to that scene and excited about it that this one just slipped below my radar. And my betas were mostly silent, some I don’t think even read it.

          1. Checking it in a different format helps, too, at least for me. I always pick up thinks on a hard copy that I missed on the monitor, and vice versa.

            1. Changing/Increasing the font size can help make it look different enough to break your pattern recognition and let you see typos.

              1. I enlarge it (150%), then put it in that format where all you see is document – no toolbars, no wallpaper in the background. That helps (and gives my eyes a break).

        3. re: proofing: If you are very lucky, as I have been, you develop an OCD fan 😉 Who cheerfully proofs every book and reports back on missing spaces, extra spaces, inconsistent names, and other horrors. He finds stuff my editor misses! (although I dream of a cage match between the two concerning commas… they DON’T agree…) So I send the books to my fan before publishing, and revel in the reviews that report astonishment on how few errors an indie book has. It’s all about building a good support team.

          1. Yes, this. Cultivate your support team, treat them like the useful and wonderful people they are. Unlike trad pub, who usually use interns for these sorts of tasks (often unpaid).

      3. Gosh, Cedar has the Telegraphers’ Skill!
        Yup, an experienced telegrapher would read the customer’s Telegram upside down, as it was composed. Word Count, and Cost, was available, right away, by using the Trained Grey Jelly. Grin.
        Great writ, Cedar. I stopped paying those high hardback prices a while back, and watch the ebook prices carefully…

        1. One reason I buy almost all the books I review on my blog is that Indie books are inexpensive. Of course, I paid a lot more for MHN, but it was worth it!

          That’s interesting on the telegram thing, Neil. I have always been able to do it, and it’s really the only thing that I can slow my reading down with.

      4. Mark Twain used to read his day’s writing to his family (wife and daughters) every evening, for that precise purpose. Can’t argue with Twain…

        On the topic of editors: I am blessed because I have the peerless Jeff Hill to review my stuff (email me if you want to contact him — he’s very reasonable). Jeff never tells me nonsense like “this is racist/misogynist/ whateverist”: he just lets me write, and his crits are generally along the lines of “fewer words needed here, you’ve made your point” or “expand this passage; it deserves it” or “put this scene in the previous chapter where it makes more sense” — i.e. actual editing. Thanks to Jeff, I’m in no need of some Noo Yawkah to tinker with my stuff and fill my ears with what HE wants to read.

        And I’m luckier still that I write historical fiction so I don’t have to deal with the SFWA, which sounds like a dreadful organization.

          1. No-see-’em. Used to be you could get all kinds, like the classic moth, but now electronics are so small that only no-see-’ems can get in and fry it.

      5. My worst mistakes usually sneak in during the late stages, when last-minute corrections to fix earlier errors introduce new errors and aren’t caught before baby goes to press. In my recently self-published epic, I had characters walking through a forest and as a late thought, had them marking trees as they go so they could find their way back. Somehow that came out as “making trees as they went.” Oh! the jokes my few but faithful readers have made! Ranging from “pretty good trick” to “does Joyce Kilmer know about this?”

      6. I’ve worked as a proofreader in the past. It was contract work for a few years with a small publisher in Pennsylvania, as well as with a short fiction publisher called Pocket Novels. If you’re interested in getting someone to proofreed for you, I’d love to talk.

    2. Oh, and don’t forget all the copy editors and proofreaders and the folks who convert our words into ebooks and make our covers. We surely can’t be expected to do that ourselves. And then who else but “real” publishers could give us the wonderful handwavium of royalty reports? We don’t really need to know exactly how many books we sell.

      1. No, of course not. Because you know that’s part of the “nurturing” and deep emotional support that publishers give all their writers. Great covers, good series support, encouraging new genre blends, all services and assistance that Big Publishing gives to writers.

        Hmmmm, there seems to be a puddle of sarcasm here. ‘Scuze me while I go get a mop.

  2. W.R.T. SFWA, I can only quote the Master, Robert A. Heinlein:

    “Never attempt to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

    (Of course, comparing pigs to those running SFWA might lead to charges of cruelty to animals . . . )

    1. A good quote for this situation. I can’t believe how long this whole situation is getting press. I had been blogging about it for mor than a month now, and it just won’t die. One thing is good: Amazon is holding out. Hopefully they won’t cave and let the Big 5 go back to their price-fixing ways.

      1. Amazon is a hell of a lot bigger than any one publishing house. When you sell everything under the sun, a few dozen, or maybe a hundred or two titles is nothing.

        1. especially when more and more folks like y’all are turning away from the houses and towards Amazon, the amount they stand to lose is miniscule compaired to the loss the houses would get not having one of the largest sellers (if not the largest) stop handling their goods.

      2. There is something riveting about watching a breed of noxious dinosaur in their death throes. Popcorn worthy.
        BTW do major publishers really claim to put out books error free? Really? Then better run and tell them real quick like that someone is putting out a bunch of cheap knockoffs under their logos. Personally, I’m seeing at least as many errors in mainstream published books as in indie, sometimes more so.

        1. Like I point out every time it comes up– I can hand them hard copies of books where plot points happen twice, in different ways, one chapter apart. It’s obvious that it was written as them doing it both before and after they went to sleep, but somehow the editor put both versions in.

          Plus the slightly less bad problems like consistent use of the one almost homophone, eye colors changing, random typos, voice-to-text mangles, etc.

        2. I myself find that while actual incidence can vary wildly, the average number and annoyance of typos increases the further one gets from traditional dead tree publishers. I think it is more of an issue of young/new writers, of which there are far fewer in traditional publishing.

          Be what may, I think that writers of any sort who claim to need no editing are wrong far more often than they are right. (See: every wildly successful bestselling author who has become successful enough to tell their publishing house editor to bugger off, and the general decline in storytelling quality which follows.)

          Having said that, it was of great amusement to me to be reading Charles Stross’s Hugo-nominated “Neptune’s Brood” this morning, (in hardcover) and finding a punctuation error on page 26 that threw me out of the story long enough to figure out what the sentence had been meant to mean.

  3. In terms of public perception, I think that traditionally published authors are doing themselves (and Hatchette) more harm than good. They don’t come across as working folks trying to earn an honest living, they come across as petulant rock stars.

    It’s like when big name artists make speeches about music piracy, the general public isn’t broken up about Dave Mustaine loosing royalties from a pirated mp3 of “Symphony Of Destruction.”

    Sure, there is always anti-capitalist kneejerk sentiment to be harvested, and some folks just want a chance to dump on Amazon because Amazon is successful. But trying to paint James Patterson as a plucky underdog fighting for the rights of the little guy strains the credulity of even the most gullible.

    1. Yes, and the concept that Hachette is an underdog just boggles the mind. But there are people/authors who enjoy being abused. We mustn’t deny them their pleasures. I just don’t choose to partake.

  4. Just to touch on the whole SFWA thing, I read the comments they were getting about indie published authors being able to join SFWA. It was amusing that several indie authors popped back with, “What’s in it for me?”

    SFWA is offering us nothing but prestige. I’m 40 years old. I’m not interested in a seat at the cool kid’s table, especially when I’m perfectly happy sitting on the other side of the lunch room.

    The fact that they’ve publicly come out for Hachette just adds yet another reason to not join, particularly if they didn’t bother to consult the membership.

    1. There was a time, I’m told, back when the likes of the great Jerry Pournelle were in charge, that it was a worthwhile endeavour to be accepted. Now? They don’t offer anything except endless discussion of how to set the tables with the right people seated next to each other, while the Titanic is sinking…

      1. I have little doubt.

        And, should they ever revert to those days, I may reconsider. As it stands right now? They’ve got absolutely nothing for me.

        FWIW, I’m working on a blog post for sometime next week comparing the different genre writers organizations and how they compare to SFWA. So far, it isn’t looking good.

        1. That sounds interesting. There is an alternative to SFWA< SASS, started by Lou Antonelli. I haven't looked at it, because I'm not sure what any organization could offer me that I don't already have.

          1. I heard about SASS through Brad Torgersen. An interesting concept, to say the least, and one I may include in the mix.

            As for the others, the disparity in both requirements and what you get for it is striking. I think it’ll be quite interesting for SFF writers to see what other writers get from their organization.

                1. I think you might want to go back over your post to make sure some information is correct! I swear you said one organization cost x dollars a month and then later it was x per year.

                  An awesome write-up, though. Thank you so much!

                  1. Yeah, I goofed on that. Was up late the night before finishing the first draft of my book up, and apparently wasn’t awake enough to catch that.

                    Thanks for pointing it out. 🙂

            1. A viable alternative to SFWA would likely do a great deal to focus SFWA’s attention on its chief mission. Competition will do that.

              (There are enough different povs in the SFF writing world that perhaps as many as 3-4 different organizations might find a viable niche, provided each pov ‘group’ had sufficent motivated volunteers to make that organization work.)

              Done properly – ie, with rotating alliances depending on topic – this might give all of us enough room to gather with like minded people after a specific goal (money, message, overall market, real world science advancement, socializing on the left, socializing on the right, etc) and still join with others after larger targets.

              1. I agree. Multiple organizations wouldn’t hurt in the least. At least, I don’t think it would.

                What’s funny is that, if structured like some of the other groups I’m looking at, I think they’d be a whole lot more successful in the long run.

                1. Something like the CAF might work, except instead of by geographic region, you have chapters based on topic as well (high fantasy, hard sci-fi) that all pull together for things like authors’ rights, emergency insurance, and sharing info on bad businesses (like Author Beware does).

                  1. The only issue with that is what about people who write in multiple sub-genres? I mean, I’m writing post apocalyptic now, but next up is dystopian, followed by straight SF.

                    It’s an interesting idea though. It might be worth exploring.

    2. There was a convo about that on Jordan179’s lj; one of the people talking from the indie-SWFA side is someone I respect a lot as an artist and writer (MC Hogarth) and she talked about trying to fix things from that side… but when I really think about it, especially as an author from outside of the US, I don’t see much of a benefit to join.

          1. They not only mostly lost my husband (a Warhammer fanatic), they flipped him from being dead set on opening one of their associated gaming shops to thinking only a fanatic would do so.

      1. Are you talking about trying to fix SFWA from within? Someone else mentioned that, and there is a certain amount of wisdom there, but…

        Why would I spend $90 per year to try and fix a dysfunctional organization that offers me absolutely nothing? I’m an indie author, so most of their “benefits” are useless to me. They just don’t have anything for me, and I’d rather keep that money in my pocket.

          1. Yeah, I don’t even collect figures but that one…well…um…I’ll be in my bunk.

            Seriously though, I applaud SFWA members who want to reform the organization from within. Best of luck with that. If they’re counting on people like me, the organization needs to offer us something. With all the talk about letting in indie authors, there’s been zero talk of why indie authors would want to join.

            Maybe it’s just me, but it smacks of arrogance. “Oh, we’re going to allow you to join our hallowed organization.”

            “Cool. Um…what’s in it for me? Why should I spend the money?”

            “Well, you get to be in our organization. What more could you ask for?”

            The thing is, I really don’t think this is a conscious decision that was made. However, there’s still an arrogance that no one has bothered to figure out what to offer those people. The kicker is, there are options out there that would benefit a lot of new members, aren’t political in any way, and are being done by other organizations right now for what I suspect is a minimal cost.

            1. (laughing) If you’re willing to scroll down for a bit, I kinda do posts about >my figurine collection now and again – a hobby my husband and I share. They’re part of my exercises in reviewing things (I’m starting off slowly so figurines instead of books for the moment.)

              And yeah, I agree with you that it’s likely not a conscious decision made; and perhaps only the higher ups made the decisions, not the organization as a group. But again, there’s no benefit for me to be represented thus; because politically and economically, I’m not what they want anyway – or at least, that’s the message that I’ve received because of the screaming about Larry Correia.

              1. And, the thing is, Larry could be a hell of an ally for them if they weren’t so big on trying to destroy him.

                Alas, for them, that ship has long set sail.

  5. I keep thinking that Sarah needs to found a new organization for Sci-Fi Writers. I mean, it’s not like she doesn’t know 95% of the indies or those in rebellion against the SFWA. Lead us Sarah Wan, you’re our only hope…

    On a serious note, this is “I just bought a pet viper and put him in my toddler’s playpen…”-crazy on the SFWA’s part. One, the not consulting members (and no, if you didn’t make a visible effort to contact every last one, it doesn’t count) should surely cause some consternation amongst the worker bees. To wit, if your professional organization is acting like the Politburo, then maybe it’s time to affect some change before the purges start.

    In addition, echoing everyone here, why would I pay fees to an organization in order to have them pick sides in a fight _they don’t need to_? I mean, will siding with the publishers in this and subsequent (there will be at least one more, just until Amazon proves it’s dead serious) fights get all SFWA authors an extra 5% of their royalties? No? Then show me the upside of earning Amazon’s indemnity? Use small words, it helps when one is explaining the stupid.

    I’m genuinely befuddled at this turn of events. I had an ops sergeant major tell me once, “Sir, sometimes the best thing you can do is put the hand mike down and let the elephants finish dancing.” Either someone in the SFWA leadership got some huge perk from Hachette or there’s no one in the head shed attempting to preach similar wisdom.

    1. Well, this won’t help, but… I doubt anyone is getting a tangible ‘perk’ here. I think they truly believe what they say. And THAT is frightening.

      1. well, never ascribe to malice what can be atributed to stupidity (to likely butcher the quote … which of the millions of versions is the original?)

  6. I am myself somewhat befuddled at what the various sorts think that “picking a side” will do…we are talking about huge sums of money for Amazon and Hatchette both. They are not going to be swayed by public opinion polls.

    Can someone help me understand what the “shows of support” are designed to do, except serve as tribal markers?

  7. Cedar, what you said isn’t the letter Steve Barnes sent me and I signed as a member of SFWA. The stand taken by SFWA is to ask Hachette and Amazon to stop having their argument on the backs of the authors. I saw nowhere in the letter where Doug Preston said he, or SFWA, supported Hachette. _I_ don’t support Hachette. But I think Amazon’s tactics are aimed at hurting authors…and _that_ I can’t support either.

    If we don’t like SFWA, we can do any of three things. Ignore it and hope it goes away. Start another organization (new boss, just like the old boss) or change what we have from within. I’m still doing that one. I may give up, like so many have and quit, but for now, it is what we have. As a member I have a vote…

    1. What I said is a quote from Chris Meadows and Don Sakers, when it comes to the letter having been sent without consulting the membership.

      I usually ignore SFWA. For one thing, there’s only one traditional publisher I’d ever allow to have a book of mine. So I’m not eligible, no matter what my real sales are. I’m looking into SASS as an alternative if I feel like I need to belong to something, which right now I don’t.

      Sadly, being a member of SFWA isn’t really a useful thing any longer, especially when they don’t seem to care about the things that publishers do to authors. I have the ability to be nimble, diverse, and not have to give up my rights and royalties. I’m happy with that, and sad about the authors who are caught in a trap with Hachette.

    2. Walt, they sent a “stop that” letter to Amazon. They didn’t send one to Hachette. That’s taking sides.

      Amazon’s “tactics” are not tactics at all. If they and Hachette cannot reach agreement, Amazon legally cannot sell Hachette books any more. Would you take preorders for books you might not legally be able to sell? Would you stock inventory of books you might not legally be able to sell? This is not “having their argument on the backs of authors”, it is a rational response to Hachette’s position.

      1. Charlie Martin: “I wanted to correct something from my piece last week. Since it was published, I was contacted by a source, an industry insider with some knowledge of the big publisher contracts with Amazon. It appears that the big publishers do indeed manage to get the 70 percent royalty from Amazon, even when their books are outside the Kindle Direct guidelines.

        Here’s the kicker, though: they pay the same royalty to the author (assuming they report ebook sales honestly, which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.) So, if a publisher sells a book for $30 in hardcover, they get something like $15 for it, out of which they have to pay for the printing, shipping, warehousing, and so on. Then they pay the author something like $3.

        If they sell the ebook for $13, they get $9.10 from Amazon. It costs them effectively nothing on the margin to “print” or “warehouse” the book. They still pay the author $3.”http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/07/05/the-declaration-of-independents/

    3. “Dear Walmart and Acme Toy Company, stop having your negotiations on the backs of the workers at the Chinese injection molding plant!”

      No. Real life, and negotiations between companies, don’t work that way. I understand the injection molding workers are getting the short end of the stick here, but when their company signed exclusive contracts with all rights to sell their plastic army men and rubber duckies locked to Acme Toy Company, they have absolutely no say or place in the middle of the corporate negotiations. Walmart is free to hike the price of Acme’s rubber ducks versus Ace #1’s rubber ducks, put them on the very bottom shelf in the toy aisle instead of on a special stand in the middle of the bath accessories, at checkout, and in the kid toys… or stop carrying them altogether. Acme is also free to pull its plastic army men from Walmart’s shelves when the contract-mandated supply period is over.

      Acme can even, when a typhoon diverts their container loads of rubber duckies, publicly blame Walmart for not stocking their duckies and having them always available.

      If he injection molding workers are fearing they’ll be laid off because the companies can’t agree on a contract, or if they’re getting their hours cut because Walmart isn’t buying as many toys, telling Walmart is must carry all the toys it used to and give them all the special placements it can so the company they’re negotiating with has no financial impact to insisting they get everything they want changed on the next contract…

      Well, that’s too bad. They better start looking for other work. Or trying to negotiate their own contract with Walmart, outside of their contract with Acme. But life isn’t fair, and even if it was, fair doesn’t mean “I get everything I want, regardless of cost or consequences to others.”

      1. Duckies???

        Well, since there’s fowl play going on, I suppose that’s an appropriate analogy . . . it’s enough to drive one quackers!


  8. I sent President Gould this message: “As Hachette is as culpable as Amazon in this affair, if not more so, will there also be a letter to them?” So far, he has not responded; so I followed his advice, sending a message to Jeff Bezos. Of course, my message might not have been to Gould’s liking, since it said that SFWA does not speak for me in this matter.

  9. This morning the “Evil” Amazon told me I’d likely aught to buy some books from a few folks … among them a Cedar Sanderson, a Pam Uphoff and a while back a Sam Schall.

  10. As I understand it, Amazon want to get the flexibility so they can sell ebooks for less. As a reader I’m in favor of that. I personally have not to my knowledge ever bought a hachette brand ebook because every single one of them is over $10. I have bought I think a handful of Hachette paperbacks – partly becuase the paperback was CHEAPER than the ebook. I have bought very many ebooks from amazon by indie authors and I have bought many Baen ebooks (including eARCs which are the only ebook I’ll buy for >$10). I do not believe I am an outlier here. If Hachette authors want more sales thenthey need to convine Hachette to get serious on pricing not bash amazon.

    And the SFWA are clearly idiots here. If they had a clue they would do a survey of READERS to find out whether the readers agree with Amazon or Hachette and then come up with a strategy based on actual data. As far as I can see the only one in here with actual data is Amazon, which shouldn’t be too surprising since they are the ones actually selling books.

      1. Cedar, it goes beyond that. The book I’m reading right now — the one you and I have been discussing — has a quote in it from one of the Big 5 publishers regarding e-book pricing. To paraphrase, one of the reasons they hated the $9.99 price point Amazon had put on the new releases and best sellers was that it just wasn’t right to put such a low value on a writer’s work because it didn’t take into account how long he spent writing the book or even how much research was put into it. Needless to say, my reaction was to wonder why, if they were that worried about the writer’s work being undervalued, they (the publisher) wasn’t paying the author a higher royalty rate based on how much time was spent writing the book and researching it. Of course, that sort of logic slips right past the publishers. In other words, there is only one entity the publishers are worried about — themselves.

        1. One author (leaving nameless) once gripped about not being paid more for a book that she had done loads of research for than for a book she didn’t need loads of research.

          My problem with that idea was that even with the “best intentions” of the publisher, how does the publisher “know” how much the author spent on research? For that matter, there’s the question of how does the publisher “reimburse” the author when the “cost” of the research was time spent not money spent?

          On the other hand, as a fiction reader I’m reading for enjoyment not education (the author was a fiction writer). I’m not sure I’d want to pay a higher amount of money for something (if done right) is transparent to me. Most readers don’t notice if the author “had his/her facts right”, we just notice when he/she goofs. [Grin]

          1. Oh, I agree. I’m just finding all the documented excuses the publishers gave for going with the agency pricing model to be so disingenuous as to be insane. It’s like they didn’t even think about what they were saying, either in emails or in their court depositions. Another example is one of them saying there was no way they could compete with Amazon at the $9.99 price point and that no publisher could and be successful. Now, I know they have never admitted that Baen is a “real” publisher nor that Jim Baen knew what he was doing when he pioneered Baen ebooks. But still. . . .

            1. I love Baen Books to pieces but they’re really small. Dinking around a bit, it looks like their revenues are in the $1 – $2 M range (job site indeed.com was the best I could find). PW’s top 60 ranking ended at $194 M (a Russian company). First was Pearson (UK) with $9158 M.

          2. A book is worth what the public is willing to pay for it, regardless of how much effort you put into it, although the more effort you put into it, the more likely it is the public will be willing to pay for it at all.

            Unless it’s dinosaur porn. That’s like printing money.

        2. right, and they have shown that they won’t give the author more money – they just use the author as a pawn to garner sympathy in their media games.

        3. “…it just wasn’t right to put such a low value on a writer’s work because it didn’t take into account how long he spent writing the book or even how much research was put into it.”

          In case you’re not familiar with this attitude, it’s classic Marxism, where input is judged to be as important as output. (If the worker puts in 8 hours, and the owner puts in 8 hours, it’s not “fair” that the owner earns x times more than the worker.)

          Of course, that’s total nonsense. In a capitalist system, it’s the output that counts — i.e. that which is valued by the market. If you’re not prepared to do lots of research, then you’ll have to write contemporary fiction (use Bret Easton Ellis as your model). Otherwise, research is just part of the deal — but it’s not reimbursable.

          Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to continue earning basic Hungarian so that my novel about 1900 Budapest sounds realistic…

          1. Pardon me for asking, but how much work does it require to earn a basic Hungarian? How much extra is it for one with all the bells and whistles?

            1. As I understand it, the price depends on if the Hungarian comes with a horse (the complete Magyar action set) or you just get the basic starter version.

    1. If Hachette authors want more sales then they need to convin[c]e Hachette to get serious on pricing not bash amazon.

      Itty-bitty epiphany: What if the authors are buying the publishers nonsense about decreasing readership? What if they (like so many other misguided souls) buy into the finite pie idea? Then, they don’t want “more sales” because such is impossible.

      They want to get as much per individual sale as they can, because those are all the sales available to them. Considering the accounting (criminal, from all I’ve heard) they see from their publisher, it may make perfect sense to believe everybody’s gotta fight over a little piece of pie (if your head is firmly buried up…um…in the sand).

      Compound this with the publishers practice of evaluating sales by velocity (because, near as I can tell, they’re idiots) and it’s reinforced. During the release week, at the height of the idiotic velocity assessment period, they’re right: It’s a finite pie. I, and everybody else, has x dollars to spend on books this week. Once x dollars are spent, I’m not buying any more books. This week. Next week I’ll have x dollars…

      All of the information they receive from the “Professional Publishers” encourages them to believe (in fact requires them to believe, as their career depends on it) that they must grab as many of the ‘limited pool’ of readers as they can in the opening salvo. And if I’m going to have a limited number of sales, I need to squeeze every dollar from those sales that I can. Every last cent.

      In professional publishing, there is no slow build. Sales after the velocity assessment period (I’m not certain how long, nor if it’s consistent) don’t count toward an author’s success. Somebody who takes a year to build word of mouth and ultimately out-sells the best-seller — doesn’t count. The velocity period was dismal, and their treatment from the publisher (to include being dumped) will reflect that.

      If you’re an author, and this is what you see, this is what you believe — then I guess you support Hachette over Amazon.

      I said it was an itty-bitty epiphany, not an itty-bitty comment.


    2. As a reader, not an author, I concur. I hesitate to spend, not only $10 on an ebook, but indeed $5 makes me look long and hard at that book. For trad pub books that I feel I “need” to read, there’s always the public library.

      1. Which makes me think I need to pay attention to getting my books in the library. I’m not going to drop my ebook prices for a novel below $4.99 except for occasional sales. Frankly, the idea of giving away my books at 0.99 gives me a pain in my tummy. I love my readers, but if I’m not making money on this endeavour, I’m wasting my time. And right now I have no time to waste.

        1. I can understand your reasoning, but may I suggest that a lower price point while you’re building an audience has a significant value in terms of making your books more attractive to those who don’t know you? That’s why I priced my first two at $2.99, and the three since then at $3.99. I’ll stay at the latter price point for at least the next two books, until I know I can sell 3,000 books within the first 30 days after launch of a new title. When I can do that consistently (and I’m getting close), I’ll probably look at the $4.99 price point; but I suspect I won’t go higher than that. It’s a fine balance between affordability for the market, and income for the writer.

          1. when competing with “a beer and a burger”, ya gotta watch the cost and flavor of your writing, carefully…

    1. No, not surprised at all. SFWA has once again shown what side their on, and it isn’t ours.

      1. It’s Stockholm Syndrome. SFWA writers are held hostage by tradPub, and after all, to them, the PUBLISHERS are their customers, not the reading public. (<- key point) So of course they are going to side with the people who put food in their mouths, even if it's just table scraps.

        And SFWA probably doesn't realize that Hachette is bigger than just their SF subsidiary.

  11. Re the Amazon/Hatchette Kerfluffle – Didn’t Amazon offer to put money in a pot for the authors that were being shorted, in a very public manner? Didn’t Hatchette ignore this offer in a very public manner?

    As to the SFWA – meh. Years ago I thought it would be cool to be a member. Now? I’d rather set my hair on fire and put it out with a hammer.

  12. Someone pointed out that the SFWA membership rules not taking into account indy authors had been a point of contention for a few years. Yet they have decided to change this recently. Why? Are they seeing independent publishing as a wave of the future? The decision to back Hatchette says probably not. Do they want to expand the organization with new members? While they pay lip service to diversity they really don’t want the outside the box thinking that comes with the sort of people that won’t wait for a big name publisher to deign to call on them. Do they need new members? Maybe. There are signs of disgruntlement among the members but I cannot say if it is enough to spur them to expand. Do they want or need the funds new members would bring? Duh? I’ve never heard of any organization that said, “Hey, we just have too much money.” My thinking is they may be seeing a slow drop off of members with an accompanied drop off in revenue which has brought about this potential change in membership requirements. Just a few thoughts.

            1. If the proles in flyover country like it, it’s not real Literature. But it does serve to finance the publication of vagina poetry. (or it would if Larry worked with a REAL Publisher.)

              1. Not just vagina poetry, but “important” works in general. Because really, the publishing business is really all about printing stuff no one really wants to read.

                1. Sir Humphrey Appleby, in Yes, Minister:

                  ‘Subsidy isn’t for what the people want. It’s for what they don’t want but ought to have!’

                2. “Vagina Poetry” is my catchphrase for “Real literature” that MUST be subsidized because nobody in his right mind would pay for it, let alone read it.

                    1. That’s why it’s perfectly emblematic.Given how the left likes to portray “The Vagina Monologues” as the greatest work ever in the English language and the written word, and the the Gutenberg Bible was just a warm-up exercise for the glory of printing it.

                    2. Bu don’t you know, when the V(illian) starts monologuing, that’s when you can make your move and achieve victory!

                      Unless you’re talking about actual speech, and what that implies (Vagina dentata) then I’m outta here right behind you.

                    3. Yeah, I’m being quite literal.

                      If a literal vagina starts monologuing, that’s just something I don’t want to be part of and I’m GONE!

                  1. … *mournful expression* you weren’t required to attend feminist artsy bullshit for Women’s Studies class, were you? I had to. Lots of ‘vagina’ poetry and power speeches, very little about the uterus and the responsibilities inherent in being the childbearing gender of the human race. Fortunately I’ve purged most of that from memory…

                    1. I’m old enough to have missed most of that. But what you say captures perfectly the idea behind liberalism, it’s all about Enabling Hedonism (sex) while eliminating consequences (babies). Celebrating the vagina and ignoring the rest of the reproductive system is a classic example.

                      (Kinda like how they talk about “Freedom FROM Religion”, “Reproductive Freedom” is Freedom FROM Reproducing.)

  13. Back in the Dark ages, when I belonged to SFWA, they had a ‘take down Amazon buy buttons’ on their site and urging members to likewise, to punish wicked wicked Amazon for failing to agree with publishers to screw authors. I wrote my objection to this, pointing out that it was the card of most value SFWA had to play, and to use it for minor reason, with no tangible guarantee of any reward, was just… prodigal. What would they do if there was real need next time? Did they put it to the vote. Needless to say John Scalzi found telling everyone about his lawn more important than a reply. But this is simply it: No return of support for authors has EVER come from the publishing houses. Authors literally saved Macmillan.Authors turned the tide with some other minor distributor/publisher-Amazon fight. Never mind reward – the authors did not get as much as a ‘thank you for your support.’ Acknowledging it, let alone that it was all they had in their arsenal, would have made the authors uppity. Show the the snots their place so… If anything they got screwed worse.

    So… with impeccable logic, SFWA are doing it again.
    Anyone who believes they’re acting in the author’s best interest here, well: As we used to say back in the old country: ‘Lelik is niks, maar fokken stupid!’

  14. Just to make sure I have the nomenclature right:

    Writers: working girls and boys
    Agents: procurors
    Publishers: pimps

    Seems to be a bit of a blur between agents and publishers.

      1. “The Agent works for the Writer” is a lie right up there with “I won’t *** in your mouth.” (trying to keep it slightly less crude…).

  15. Great post and comments, and I do need to find a better editor… My problem is 30+ years of technical writing… In other words I suck at punctuation… 🙂 And I’m glad I’m in a totally different genre and don’t have to deal with those people.

    1. There are freelance editors who poke their heads in from time to time… we really need to create a list of recommended folks, I suppose. For editing, and cover design, and what-not.

      1. That would be incredibly helpful for new indie authors. It’s way too easy to be taken advantage of when you don’t know anything. 🙂

        1. Thank you for the review! We are discussing the list, it will be an invitation-only so we can refer people we trust to do a good job. I run into this with my other business, if I refer someone who performs poorly, the client’s trust in me is destroyed. We want you guys to be able to find the best possible help, at reasonable prices (why no, we don’t ask much, do we? LOL).

  16. Hachette just wants to milk the consumer for all they have. They try to skim the cream of the authorial crop (or whatever is floating to the surface, anyway) and push some, while others are left adrift without a paddle. But the prices… why price an ebook at $9.99?

    You have fingered the key reasons for the emergence of the independent writers’ movement. The great irony therein is that the powers in conventional publication, a.k.a. “Pub World,” have attempted to co-opt the rise of electronic publication without otherwise altering their policies or overall attitude toward writers, thus further angering those who create their products and helping to solidify the indie movement. Which causes me to wonder whether they’ll ever learn, or whether Pub World-style publication and distribution will become a backwater populated near to exclusively by reference texts and novelists on the verge of retirement.

    Apropos of which, has anyone recently spoken to a large-caliber literary agent about his industry and how he’s faring? My guess is that the agenting industry is under as much pressure as Pub World, but without acquaintances in that field it’s hard to be sure.

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