The corporate heel crushing poor publishers (who prefer to do the crushing)

The outrage on a largely Trad published writer’s list I belong to on reading Matthew Yglesias putting forward this article was… so thick you could cut it with a knife. That was more than I could say about the response from one of the pampered intersectional dahlings – she’s of course entitled to restitution because she’s been oppressed twice (or so you ought to know and suitably grovel) which (I paraphrase) was that Amazon is an evil giant corporation and just interested in making money, and didn’t people understand the psychology of it?

Ain’t no knife tough enough to cut that.

It’s quite difficult, and I say this as a largely self-sufficient nutbar, to be ‘free’ of corporates. They certainly are involved in everything – from her bank account, her food, her internet, her cell phone, her mortgage, and yes, her sainted publisher. And as far as I can work out, any bits that aren’t corporate in the average urban dweller’s life are most probably run on taxes, which, um you’ll find corporates (including her sainted publisher holding corporate,) do their best to let someone else – like a working stiff, pay. Private individuals or small or family companies… get shafted. But as someone once said power corrupts, but we need electricity, and yes, everyone – including her, including me, would prefer to pay as little tax as possible.

For us it’s just less possible.

Corporates, in theory at least, do try to make money. That’s understandable, and something one can work with. Of course, they’re also bureaucracies – or, unless severely an constantly pruned by their shareholders, develop into that. And bureaucracies (of which governments are subset) only make money (or anything else) for others as a bare minimum part of their survival strategy. If they can survive and perpetuate themselves, as much of what they harvest as they possibly can will stay with themselves, and of course their loyalists will get the crumbs.

You see, making money may be a corporate strategy – which doesn’t mean the loyalists are favored, but those make most money for them, but for bureaucrats… it’s about control, power and a personally comfortable (and lucrative) fief. The can work hand-in-hand, and you can design your corporate so that in theory HR will not quietly filter for their own kind (their purpose, they are the genitals of the corporate beast) in at the expense of making money – but it is a constant struggle (and yes, I see it in Amazon too). The key of course is making their survival dependent on keeping customers and suppliers happy for a long time.

They think the best way of doing this is to have them entrapped, and fungible.

Oddly, very strange, that’s good for bureaucrats, bad for customers, suppliers, and yes, the long term future of the business. Because neither customers nor suppliers are really that fungible. In reading and writing, much, much more so. I’m sorry, Ms PC Blossom’s Grey Goo book of Bad Western Men will not replace the latest Sarah Hoyt, or David Weber without my blinking an eyelid, or withholding my money.

If Corporates want to enslave me… as a writer, they need provide something I need, and do a better job than I can myself (two things come first to my mind here: firstly impeccable record-keeping and accounting; and secondly effective retail marketing. Both are things that evil coroporate Amazon does well. Both are things all Trad publishers do for varying degrees of bad. Yglesais is right. They need to up their game, instead of hoping authors will do it for them, for free, and without noticing that Amazon allows up to the minute accounting transparency and rapid (by comparison) regular monthly payment. And as a reader, they need to give me something I can’t get easier, cheaper and better elsewhere.

My psychology, which I am sure is vastly inferior, says I kind of like both sides of that deal, as reader and as a writer. I hope they make some money out of it, as a reward for not feeding bureaucracy.

I hope I do too. I’m kind of sick of being delicate about the weight of the crushing heel.


  1. Oh, Dave. Don’t be silly. It’s vitally important that the Big Whatever control who gets to publish and who doesn’t. If they don’t, they can never guarantee quality of product, and every wannabe with pretensions of literary grandeur will self-publish a book, and we’ll all be drowned in a tsunami of badthink grammar. Whereas – it is self-evident, I shouldn’t have to tell you – as long as the right people can gently guide the tastes of the hoi polloi, books will be fungible: you can buy any of the Latest Epic Fantasies or Latest Space Opera, and you’re guaranteed of the same (or agreeably similar) quality of strong female characters, dastardly capitalist villains, and humble bureaucrat heroes discovering cabals of heartless, conservative powerbrokers making life hard on the poor unions and downtrodden, oppressed minorities. See how important their jobs are? Important, I say, VITALLY IMPORTANT!!

    1. It’s much the same logic as the Puritanical new school lunch program. Those bozos honestly believe If all the kids are allowed to have is whole wheat hockey pucks and broccoli, they suddenly (and magically) will prefer that. The presence of choice could make people think the wrong things!

      1. Actually i think banning broccoli and making possession a misdemeanor might (at least in my experience. I was a lovely child) make the consumption grow a lot. Mind you the School authorities do need to to make smoking or injecting it mainline perfectly OK, something the teacher/head’s pet does all the time (Liquidizing the broccoli before you inject it is for weenies, starchild. You only get the real hit from whole florets…

        1. Exactly 😉 I counseled a friend, worried about her children getting a tattoo, to express interest and say things like “we could get matching ones!” Instant zero-coolness value to tattoos, if Mom got one or if (HORROR) anyone the child knew saw them going to the tattoo parlor together.

          I actually like broccoli, and green beans, swiss chard, and the like. Beets and rutabegas, however, are Abominations Unto Nuggan. Moreover, ornamental kale will be a capital offense when I am supreme overlord. and the shrieking of hipster foodies will be loud in the land as I eradicate the entire kohlrabi genome. My parents had a …thing…about weird vegetables that warped my psyche.

      1. They’ll never see such a flaw. What we, and many other folks, see as clear signal (and subsequently throw money on to encourage the frequency) they still read as noise.

        Wrong amplitude, inadequately deep (into what I leave for the audience).

        Oh, and — what makes you think they use something as pedestrian as methodology??

  2. Wow I think that is the first article I’ve ever read on Vox that I agree with. Usually they are laughably wrong. This concerns me.

  3. The Yglesias article was well written, thoughtful, and said almost word for word what we’ve been saying for some time now.
    Go figure.

  4. Some people cannot or will not grasp the cold calculus of the marketplace, and others actively militate against it.
    It’s a shame really. Again, like so many times before, we’re working with the wrong kind of people.

  5. To be honest- I admit no one asked- I found the article to be well laid out and written. However, I think he could have been a lot clearer in less words and used the now open space to make some salient points in regard to how Hachette could actually word out a deal that would be of benefit to all. I looked at the Hugo winner on Amazon yesterday- Something Justice- eBook $9.99, and paperback $15 (plus 3 or 4 shipping I think) And $40+ for hardback. Publisher Hatchette. My wife and I can go out for a steak dinner for that for a paperback. I can usually get a paperback of Steve Coonts or WEB Griffin at Walmart for about 8 bucks. His comment about Hatchette thinking a 19 dollar paperback is cheap is ludicrous and why Better World Books is my paperback distributor, 4 or 5 bucks with free shipping worldwide. As a print publisher, they need to look at competing with Walmart. Yeah, I know Wally World has a shelf for Hatchette in the book section which probably isn’t discounted. I never bother with looking at it, I’m meaning being competitive.

  6. This part made me giggle, and I probably shouldn’t have been sipping my drink while reading.

    It is undeniably true that Amazon has a very large share of the market for e-books. What is not true is that Amazon faces a lack of competition in the digital book market. Barnes & Noble — a company that knows something about books — sells e-books, and does so in partnership with a small outfit called Microsoft. Apple sells e-books and so does Google.

    ‘Small outfit.’ Microsoft.

    (Yes, I’m very easily amused in the morning.)

  7. Strange, no mention whatsoever about another upstart small publishing company that seems to have absolutely no problem marketing e-books on their own and in partnership with Amazon.
    But then I suppose as with so many other aspects of reality the tradpub cliques hope that if they ignore Baen long enough they will simply go away.

    1. They believe something along the lines of “Of course, a RWNJ press selling RWNJ power fantasies to RWNJs can manage well enough for now – the low-sloping foreheads will be with us at least until The Singularity (“The Secular Rapture”) – but Baen will increasingly be marginalized. See how we’ve already made them toxic in the realm of Major Awards.”

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