Are you ready?

Edited to add note on Apple losing its appeal. Scroll to bottom of post for more.

Obviously, I’m not. It is Tuesday morning and I haven’t clue one for a blog topic this morning. So, I let my google-fu do the walking and found several posts of interest. Well, to be honest, I let my fingers virtually walk over to The Passive Voice and, as always, PG was a trove of interesting posts and I’ve pulled a couple of them for discussion. If you aren’t already following PG, I highly recommend you do so. It is, in my opinion, the best site for gathering news and information about the publishing industry out there. You can find the Passive Guy here.

The first post that caught my eye was an excerpt from The New Yorker. In A Book Buyer’s Lamet, the author discusses how difficult it is to know where to go to buy a book these days. The stores are almost identical in how they look and in what they stock. The author looks at the decision of where to buy a book as an “ethical” decision. In other words, where would it do the most good since literary culture is “under threat from several directions,” and “every opportunity to come to its relief should be seized”? In short, the article is a love letter to independently owned bookstores.

I’ll admit, I love the indie bookstores and miss those that fell victim when Borders and Barnes & Noble came into the area and drove them out of business. I applaud those that have cropped up in recent years, finding their niche market and building a clientele to keep their doors open. These stores have, as I said, found a niche market and cater to it. They have employees who love books and love working with their customers. That is something that is all too often lacking in the big box bookstores.

However, as much as I love the local indie bookstores, I will not jump onto the Amazon is evil bandwagon that the New Yorker’s columnist dances around. As Passive Guy points out, “[t]he exquisite moral balancing described seems to ignore one big reality – most bookstore employees are working at minimum wage with little hope of being able earn enough from their employment to live in a pleasant residence, support a family or enjoy the even the most modest trappings of a middle-class life. They are the ultimate wage slaves.”  As Colonel Klink from the old Hogan’s Heroes TV show would say, “Very interesting”.

Another post that caught my eye was this one from Patricia Wrede. In it, Ms. Wrede relates an incident at a book signing when she admitted to the person behind her in line that she was working on her next book. That person, also a writer, proceeded to want to know what conferences Wrede had been to, if she was on Facebook, blogging, etc. Everything the other person was asking about were things she thought Wrede should be doing to promote herself.

Gather a group of writers in a room and ask them about promotion and you will get as many different answers as there are writers and then some. That becomes especially true if you have a mix of traditionally published authors and indie authors. As Wrede points out in her post, there are some authors who make as much, if not more, from their blogs and lectures and courses as they do from their writing. There is nothing wrong with that. Absolutely nothing at all.

The post is interesting in the questions Ms. Wrede asks. “What, exactly, is it that you hope to sell? Yourself? Or your books?” But the bottom line is simple and she wastes no time in pointing it out. No matter what you are hoping to sell, if you are a writer, you need to remember this. “[F]undamentally, the only thing that every writer has to do is write.” Everything else is a tool to make your work more visible. It is up to you to decide what you are going to do and how much. No one besides yourself can make that decision for you.

Elizabeth Hunter has a great post about the upcoming changes to Amazon’s payment policy for borrows/loans under the Kindle Select/Unlimited programs. Much as I said last week, there is no reason to panic yet about these changes. For one, we don’t know how these changes will impact anyone. We can speculate, especially where shorter works are concerned. But that’s about it. As she points out, no one is making you take part in the program. You can opt out, and Amazon has made it easy to do so, if you are currently enrolled in KDP Select. Or you can stay in. The decision is yours. Don’t let yourself be swept up in the panicked reactions that we are seeing from some folks about these changes. As Ms. Hunter says:

You are the one who controls your books.

You’re it. You’re the boss of your work. You.

So please stop bitching and just take the reins.

Read the post. Not only is it spot on, in my opinion, it has a GIf of Beaker. Anyone who uses Beaker in their post is all right in my book.  😉

Finally, there is this article. At some point, Amazon took down “A Gronking to Remember”. Now, the title alone is enough for me to raise an eyebrow but, well, I guess even Patriots fans need their erotica. Anyway. . . .

The issues with the book basically come down to this. First, the cover had an image of NE Patriots player Ron Gronkowski on it, in uniform. Needless to say, the Pats weren’t happy. So the author removed that “offending” part from the cover and republished. What the author apparently didn’t do was get permission to use the image of the couple seen embracing on the cover. Folks, this is why you always make sure you have the rights to all elements of your cover and any other images you use BEFORE you hit the publish button. I haven’t had a chance to read the court filings but, if the cover story is correct, the plaintiff is suing Amazon, saying Amazon should use facial recognition programming or something similar to check covers before allowing a book to go live.

Uh, no. Not only no but hell no. It is not Amazon’s responsibility — or Apple’s or B&N’s or any other site where we can sell our books — to make sure we have done what we are supposed to do. It is our responsibility as authors to make sure we have the rights to use the images we’ve chosen for our cover. Not only the image but the fonts as well. If you want to call yourself a writer and you want to go the self-published route, then remember that you are also a businessman and act accordingly. This isn’t grade school where you can say you didn’t know better or no one told you you couldn’t use that image. Grow up and take responsibility for your actions.

Ms. Hunter put it best in discussing whether or not a writer should go with the changes at Amazon — and they apply to every aspect of being an indie author:

At the end of the day, I keep coming back to the concept of choice. Writers have more choices now than ever before. We can chart our own path. With all those choices comes a lot of confusion. Some people want a road map for how this is done. And the fact of the matter is, in this new publishing landscape there is no road map. We’re all stumbling along. But it’s not nearly as complicated as the hand-wringers want you to believe.

  • Write a good book.
  • Present it in a professional way.
  • Find places to sell it. (There are lots.)
  • Charge whatever price you want.

You are in control. You don’t like how a retailer is treating you? Don’t sell there. You don’t like the idea of subscription services and how they pay? Then don’t enroll your books. You don’t like giving books away to readers? Don’t.

I couldn’t have said it better.

So, what do you think?

Edited to add:

Word has come from Publishers Weekly that Apple has lost its latest appeal to overthrow the decision holding it responsible for price-fixing. “We conclude that the district court correctly decided that Apple orchestrated a conspiracy among the publishers to raise e-book prices, that the conspiracy unreasonably restrained trade in violation of the Sherman Act, and that the injunction is properly calibrated to protect the public from future anti-competitive harms,” wrote Debra Ann Livingston, for the court. “Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.” 

49 thoughts on “Are you ready?

  1. So, let me get this straight, numbnut uses some picture he found on the internet (most likely), got his hand smacked over it, and it’s all Amazon’s fault?

    It’s morons like that who give indie a bad name.

    1. Yep. Of course it also points out another issue I have. If you put a photo up on the internet, you have to realize it is out there for the world to use however they want unless you take steps to protect it — watermark it, add your copyright info, etc.

      1. Yep.

        As some folks know, I also write on a fitness blog I started. Part of that is following fitness bloggers and vloggers (video blogs for those who don’t know). One vlogger commented about how his weight loss pics are used to sell “miracle pills”, when he didn’t take anything like that.


        1. Yep. It reminds me of the teen who posted some selfies and then found out a company in Japan, iirc, was using them to sell their products.

          1. Yep.

            I’ll be honest, I haven’t watermarked most of mine, but right now, no one wants them.

            That’s going to be changing pretty soon though.

              1. Yeah, but if minimizes it.

                It’s like someone breaking into your house. You can’t keep them out if they really want in. All you can do is making it too much of a pain in the ass for them to mess with.

                1. Imagine you lock up your house so thoroughly that even you have trouble getting in and out of it. There are some artists who watermark their art SO strongly that they destroy it for the people they intend to enjoy it. They treat all their viewers like thieves, and wonder why they have so few fans. It’s the flip side of the argument against DRM in books.

              2. Wait until you get a “cease and desist” letter accusing you of stealing… your own work, that someone had ripped off and claimed as their own.

                That happened to me in 1991, over a programming guide I wrote and released as “shareware” back in the 1980s. Fortunately I had obtained an ISBN and filed a copyright before letting the sample out in the wild.

                I thoroughly enjoyed writing an answer to that lawyer’s letter. For some reason he didn’t see fit to write back…

        2. At least Google has a built in tool you can use to try and find the origin of a picture. If you are on the Google image search page drag the picture or a link of a picture to the little icon of a camera on the right side of the search line. That will invoke a hidden tool that scans for and tries to identify the origin of an image.

  2. Quibble: That was Artie Johnson on Laugh-In on NBC. His German soldier character would part foliage, stare at the camera, and say “Verrry interesting” except when Bob Hope guest stared. Then he parted the foliage, stared at Bob Hope, and said “I waited and waited every Christmas, but you never came.”

    On acting like big boys and girls: This business is fraught with traps. Most people don’t think of things like photo rights. I like the information on Pixabay, where it points out that free for commercial use is not necessarily free and clear. There’s issues like using someone’s image without permission, or even an image of their property. Take a picture of McDonald’s golden arches and put it on your book without permission, and they will not be amused, and likely have their lawyers tell you.

    The problem is, how many think to look into this, or think to put a standard disclaimer in fiction, or a statement of copyright? And if you think Amazon or Barnes and Noble or anyone else is going to stick up for your, you haven’t read their contracts. When we publish our own works, we’re own our own. They don’t call this Indie for nothing.

    1. Quibble to your quibble. I was wrong about it being Klink but it did come from an episode of Hogan’s Heroes. It was Major Hans Khuen in episode 1.23. I had forgotten about the Artie Johnson version.

      And yes, the business is fraught with traps. But this is where you have to remember that it is a business and you have to treat it as such. That means, if you are going to go indie, you do your research. You find out what you have to do when.

      In this case, the author was at fault but the plaintiffs are also part of the problem. They are looking at the deep pockets and very well may find themselves out more money than they might eventually get from the author by trying to bring Amazon and the others into the suit. I actually hope that is the case and that the attorney who agreed to do so finds himself facing some rather pointed questions because there is nothing in the TOS for Amazon or the others that would make the liable for the use of the image.

      1. Quibble to your quibble. I was wrong about it being Klink but it did come from an episode of Hogan’s Heroes. It was Major Hans Khuen in episode 1.23. I had forgotten about the Artie Johnson version.

        “I know nothing! No-THING!”

  3. This is very much what Indie Publishing means to me. I have control. I don’t have to feel like a puppet with someone at the other end of the strings.

    1. And you aren’t paying that person most of what you make just so they can pull your strings — or just leave you hanging.

  4. You’re overlooking the obvious reason: sue unknown author with a possibly negative net worth, or sue Amazon with a net worth in the billions? Of course they’re going to find a way to blame Amazon. Facts and reason are irrelevant.

    1. IIRC, when a cartoon syndicate went after G. Harry Stein claiming infringement on a certain cartoon strip, they first went after the publisher before turning their attention to Stein.

      1. “Sue the wealthiest.” gharry had a long but modest writing career which very nearly tanked at the end. He had several books on space technology that had been in continuous print since forever. One day he sent in a text for a revised edition and got a response from some Sweet Young Thing telling him she wasn’t interested in anything “that advocated polluting space.”

        After narrowly missing an infarction Harry got on the phone to his publisher an found that his long-time editor had retired and he has been turned over to the freshly-graduated SYT, who basically wasn’t at all interested in anything a crusty old geek like Harry wrote, no matter what his track record was. So, after decades, he was on the street without a publisher.

        It wasn’t all bad, though. A while later he picked up a sweetheart contract with Pinnacle, writing two different mil-SF series. (“Warbots” and something about submarines) I’ve never seen a copy of either, but he claimed they were making the most money he’d ever seen as a writer.

        1. I have all of both sets. The other series is “Starsea Invaders.” I considered them well worth buying and have re-read them occasionally. Culture and technology have not been kind to them, but the basics are still good. My favorite of his is the ‘Lee Correy’ book “Star Driver,” the ‘what if the Dean Drive were real’ book. I wish it had been real. Life would have been much more interesting in a positive way.

    2. Yep. Of course, they are looking at having to pay Amazon’s — and the other companies’ — legal fees. Somehow, I hope they get hit with them. I am very tired of all the frivolous law suits in this country.

      1. You and me both. And as the legal business contracts, I expect to see more of them. Watching late night TV, I find that every third ad is a lawyer trying to find class action clients.

        1. I know around here the Judges are getting really tired of them, if our region is indicative. The Lawyers may find less receptive environments going forward.

  5. Fact of life, with control comes responsibility.
    Under traditional publishing you the author give control of your work over to that publisher in exchange for certain services, legal representation being one of many. With indie I cannot stress highly enough the simple fact that YOU ARE THE PUBLISHER! Amazon and any other mechanism you employ to sell your work are distributors, nothing more.

    1. So true. Obviously that is something the plaintiffs in the suit either don’t understand or their attorney doesn’t.

        1. I don’t doubt it. The problem is, this particular attorney apparently hasn’t done his homework into Amazon and Apple. Neither tend to settle and certainly not something that they can win on an easy dismissal — unless, of course, the judge is one of those who doesn’t know the law or follow it.

          1. A possibility. In that case it’ll go to appeals and Apple and Amazon can afford that much more than the plaintiff I would wager.

      1. Without commenting in detail, I know of non-publishing instances where attorneys went for those with the deepest pockets, and unfortunately, a case where they won on nothing more than sympathy.

        1. Oh, I know those cases as well. But neither Amazon or Apple have the reputation of settling anything. This is a case where the attorney should have said not only “no” but “hell no”.

      2. After catching a random minutes of Handel on the Law while cruising town on weekend evening I suspect it is more that the attorney is simply going to try and milk it for as much as he can from the plaintiffs. Understanding perfectly that the suit has no hope.

        This is something that unscrupulous attorney’s will sometimes do.

  6. RE. bookstores and the eeeevils of the current State of the Sales. I would love to know what the bookstore employees in Austria were earning. Aside from a few clearance books in the remainder bins, the cheapest books I found were church guides (little illustrated booklets about what’s what, how old, historical and architectural info and so on) for three to five Euro. Most of the book books were between fifteen and twenty-five Euro (VAT included of course). As you can imagine, I did a lot of thinking about 1) can I get it used, 2) can I get it in English or electronically cheaper, 3) is there any English-language equivalent that I might find and borrow back home? A bunch of fascinating-looking stuff is still on the shelves because of the cost. OK, and the airline excess weight fees. Granted, we’re talking about non-fiction books, not popular novels, but I saw a cool-looking alt-history sci-fi I almost got . . . but not for 12 Euro for 250 or so pages.

    OTOH I did spot my first religious stuff vending machines. Put in your coins and out comes your booklet or candle (small, medium, and even good-sized pillar candles.) The units reminded me of the old cigarette vending machines with the pull knobs.

    1. About ten years ago I saw an Indie book in the US for about $99 in a museum gift shop. The author had interviewed me several weeks in a row, so I picked it up and leafed through it. Would have bought it save for the price, though I considered it because I thought my father wanted it, and he did the same because he thought I wanted it. When we realized both of us thought it was overpriced, back on the shelf it went, and as far as I know it sits there to this day.

      Why that book was around $99 is a good question. I suspect it had to do with the printer.

    2. Though I’m aware of the different market sizes and economies of scale, I’m still annoyed when I’m at X-Mart and the price for a paperback is $7.99 but DVD movies are two for $8.

  7. Wow, Patricia Wrede. I last read her back in the 80’s, looking at Amazon I remember The Seven Towers and The Harp of Imach Thyssel or something like that. Really good books, but back then, if Waldenbooks or the local independent didn’t carry it, you didn’t read it cause you could never find it even if you heard about it. Going to try some of her books from Amazon, I had forgotten she existed. Someone should tell her she NEEDS to get some publicity, she can write, she just needs to sell.

    1. Wrede is making the big bucks over in the children’s lit/YA segment of the market. Many multi-book series. I highly recommend walking over to the kids’ side of your local library and checking them out.

      And of course, the media-tie-in YA/kids’ novelizations of the Star Wars prequel movies made her a ton, IIRC, and were better than the actual movies too.

  8. Yeah well, Apple buyers say Microsoft is evil.

    I contend that Apple is also evil, and that buying Apple is merely buying a different evil.

      1. I don’t know, Dave. But I get tired of the Cult of Jobs, especially in my industry.

            1. Well, Draven it depends on which one. Some are evil, some are ignorant, others have too many first cousins in their ancestry…

          1. “Chaotic Good for ten points, Alex!”

            Kids today, they don’t even compile their own kernels any more…

  9. Heh. I read “Apple is losing its appeal” and I thought: darn straight and it’s a about time those supercilious, irritating, cheesy “ooh, I’ll get the gummint to make modifying and adapting the iPad people bought thinking it was actually their property a ***federal crime***!” jokers lost some of that fake shine…

    And I scroll down to find it’s just a court case 🙂

    1. Hear, hear! “Licensing” I ask you. Seriously? You *”licensed “* this physical object to me? I paid that amount of money…for a freaking license? Don’t even get me started on software “licensing agreements” and so on. Gah! A pox on the bureaucrats who defecated that legal concept, and a pox on the judiciary and legislature that helped them turn those defecations into law!

      1. What’s funny is that that’s exactly what helped the PC take off. IBM had a loose license, which meant there were all sorts of mods and knock-offs. Apple kept a hammerlock on their equipment. Back when Computer Shopper was the size of a metropolitan phone book every month, there was a article on building an Apple clone. Best as I can recall, Apple was not amused. Meanwhile, there were PC clones everywhere.

        If they want to make the same mistake twice. Shrug.

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