Planners and Searchers and Amazon-Christopher Nuttall

Planners and Searchers and Amazon-Christopher Nuttall

“There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit.”

-Robert A. Heinlein (Life-Line, 1939)

Authors United does not speak for me.

I don’t believe, either, that it speaks for the vast majority of authors. I’d be astonished, really, if people who are self-publishing success stories view Authors United as anything other than a possible threat to their livelihoods.   For us, Authors United is the Old Guard, trying desperately to hold back the tidal wave of inevitable change rather than adapt to it. They see Amazon as an all-destroying force, while we thank Amazon daily for giving us our chance.

Let me see if I can explain.

There are really two sorts of organisations in the world; planners and searchers. (I took the term from The White Man’s Burden, but I don’t know if it came from there originally.) Planners plan; they try to account for all the variables, they determine how things should go and they have real problems coping with unexpected change. Searchers, on the other hand, are continuously trying to find new ways to do things. They take advantage of new technology, push the limits as far as they can and never stop.

Government bureaucracies are largely composed of planners; governments dominated by planners tend to look very much like the Soviet Union (and eventually go the same way.) Militaries, ideally, want planners in the planning department and searchers at the tip of the spear, as no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. Foreign aid agencies, as The White Man’s Burden makes clear, have spent billions of dollars on brilliant plans to end world hunger … which have failed completely, because the plans take no account of the human factor.

In short, planners lose because the world doesn’t always do what it is supposed to do – and when it does, the planner is unable to comprehend that there is something wrong with the plan.

Big Publishing, like Big Music, is composed of Planners. (Baen Books is about the only major exception to this rule, as far as I know.) They publish a limited number of books per year and try, very hard, to plan out how those books are going to be launched, marketed and sold. The recent agreement between Tor Books and John Scalzi to pay a colossal advance ($3.4 million) for 13 books, delivered over a 10-year period, is a hallmark of Planners at work. Tor is gambling that Scalzi will continue to bring in the money, allowing them to recoup their investment and actually make a profit. Now, I don’t know the specifics of the deal – I doubt Tor is going to pay out $3.4million in a single payment – but that is serious cash. If Tor’s planners get it wrong, Tor is going to be in deep trouble.

This has happened before, of course. Hilary Clinton’s Hard Choices has been a flop; Simon & Schuster paid her a colossal advance and (I suspect) doesn’t have a hope of recouping the money. (If this wasn’t anything other than a disguised campaign contribution, heads need to start rolling.)

In short, Big Publishing simply doesn’t plan very well.

Now, one of the problems facing Big Publishing came in with the electronic revolution. EBooks changed everything. No one really doubted that Big Publishing needed to make a major investment in an author to publish their books. Hardcover books are more expensive than paperbacks because they cost more to produce. However, this isn’t true for eBooks. Everyone who’s used a computer knows how easy it is to duplicate a file. Big Publishing ran into trouble because purchasers were unwilling to pay hardcover prices for eBooks – and DRM, that scourge of decent readers everywhere, simply couldn’t keep up with the pirates. People resent being cheated – and, as Big Publishing was being seen as cheaters, buyers grew less reluctant to download pirate copies. The problems surrounding the release of A Memory of Light illustrate the brave new world quite nicely.

This is, of course, the same problem that faced Big Music. As long as the producers had a stranglehold on the means of production, they could charge customers pretty much what they liked and the customers had to suck it up. But when it became possible to produce homemade CDs – and to copy store-bought CDs, despite the DRM – it was no longer possible for them to hide behind their standard excuses. How could you justify charging $15 or whatever for a CD when buyers knew it cost less than $1 to produce? Trying to gorge one’s customers eventually led to a revolution.

Amazon, by contrast, is a Searcher. (So is Baen Books.) Amazon relentlessly searches for new ways to service its customers. Amazon provides a global shopping mall for everyone; currently, I can buy pretty much anything I want on Amazon without leaving the comfort of my home. But that isn’t all – Amazon also offers customer reviews that are more accurate, as a general rule, than the blurb you happen to read from Big Publishing (or the reviews written by people who are given advance copies in exchange for favourable mentions). This is a colossal expansion of the word of mouth system that introduced me to my favourite authors.

And Amazon is willing to share. Big booksellers dislike Amazon because they believe the giant is undercutting them. Smaller booksellers, I suspect, enjoy the chance to list their wares on Amazon and wait for an order, rather than pray someone will come into their shop. (I love poking through small bookshops, but I can’t visit every bookshop in the world.) And Kindle Authors like me are over the moon about the chance to publish our works on Amazon – for free!

But wait! This wasn’t part of the plan!

Of course it wasn’t. Big Music didn’t expect CD rippers, file-sharing and so on. Big Publishing didn’t anticipate eBooks, or Amazon, or competition from lowly upstarts such as myself. Nor did they really expect to see shifts in the market caused by sudden unexpected success stories like Harry Potter or Twilight. Big Publishing expected to continue to serve as the gatekeepers to writing for years to come; they didn’t realise they were going to be blindsided by Amazon. They were once the only way for a would-be writer to enter the market. Now, writers are realising that they don’t need Big Publishing to reach a wide audience.

And so they have been doing everything they can to undermine Amazon, rather than entering into a genuine competition.

Many of the charges thrown at Amazon are spurious. Amazon cannot offer to sell books it doesn’t have, ergo when there was an ongoing dispute between Amazon and Hachette, Amazon had no choice but to refrain from offering pre-order services for their books. If Amazon is not included in the publishing pipeline, how are they meant to sell the books? They might as well offer to sell the White House! The bottom line is that Amazon is affecting Big Publishing’s bottom line and they hate it.

And that is a pity, because there are no shortage of opportunities for genuine Searchers. Smaller presses are offering eBook-only releases, supplying the editors, artists and suchlike that Big Publishing did, once upon a time. Big Publishing could have put together their own version of Amazon Kindle and tried to attract eBook writers, perhaps by offering more favourable terms than Amazon. As the line goes, “what part of 70% royalties don’t you understand?”

Amazon is simply more adapted to this brave new world than Big Publishing. Authors United is embarked on nothing more than a futile attempt to put the genie back in the bottle.

The ultimate irony of this, of course, is that competition – genuine competition – is the one thing that might keep their Amazon-related nightmares from coming to pass. But they’re too busy trying to hamstring Amazon to adapt to a whole new world.


  1. The amazing thing to me is how consistently this pattern has played out again and again over the past century. VCRs and cable television were going to destroy movies. Before that drive-in theaters were going to destroy movies. Go back another generation and paperback books were going to destroy the publishing industry. Heck, the technology to press records was seen as the end of the music business.

    All of these things did change the industries involved. Some companies adapted to the change and some refused to change and died, which allowed new companies to take their market share.

    And now these traditionally published authors are starting to sound like Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”, railing against talking pictures and trying to relive her glory days.

    1. > Norma Desmond

      [clicky…] Nora Desmond
      [returns] Norma Desmond

      So *that’s* where Carol Burnett’s “Nora Desmond” character came from!

      btw, Nora’s factotum “Max” appears as “Kleingunther” in L. Neil Smith’s “The Probability Broach.”

  2. The idea of ‘competition’ to acquire authors frightens and angers Trad Pub. Mark my words, they will turn to the government and law rather than try to compete. They could, very effectively, by paying authors a competitive rate and by using (and paying) authors to promote their sales outlet. As most authors already do 99% of the marketing (for free) Publishers hate the idea of paying for it.

    1. As a reader it kind of worries me that Amazon is such a behemoth. I’d prefer healthy competition but it’s clearly not going to come from the old guard. As a writer? Knowing that I no longer have to win big by having one of maybe a couple dozen editors pick up my book, that I can instead win small by getting hundreds (or more) of actual readers to pick my book instead? Is scary, but exciting at the same time.

      1. Amazon wasn’t the first ebook provider, or even the first to try to tue their customers into a walled garden via hardware. And they’ve thoroughly mapped the way and shown how profitable it can be.

        Barnes & Noble’s attempt to copy them was mostly an exercise in incompetence, but B&N was still a reseller. Penguin-Harper-Random-whatever their name is is sitting on piles of money; all they have to do is hire some IT, point at Amazon, and say “build us one of those.” Storefronts are long-established technology; if you don’t want to do all the back-end work yourself, there are probably hundreds of companies who would be thrilled to accept your IT business.

        It’s not like publishers haven’t sold directly before; every Ace paperback used to have one or more pages of listings and an order form in the back.

        And by selling direct, they cut out all the middlemen and keep ALL the money, other than the peanuts they flip to the authors and a bit to the printers, who are probably subsidiaries anyway.

        But no, their sales model is firmly stuck in the old, obsolete “retail” model, where a producer (they’re the producer, not the authors) sells to a distributor, who sells to a warehouser, who sells to a marketing association, who sells to stores, who then have to get customer cooties by dealing with the Great Unwashed. Every step the price went up 10% to 50%, and some of those intermediate steps never actually handled any product; they just shuffled some paper, took their profit, and passed the papers on to the next link in the chain.

        Hello? 21st century calling. Retail is stone dead. Well, except for the publishing industry, and a few similar buggy-whip holdouts.

        1. In a word, webscriptions. If an upstart like Baen can do it the only reason all of the tradpub biggies have not is their own reluctance.

          1. In fairness, part of the success of Webscriptions is the barflies. The Bar isn’t necessarily a trivial thing to duplicate. That said, it probably isn’t essential.

        2. Amazon wasn’t the first ebook provider, or even the first to try to tue their customers into a walled garden via hardware.

          Distinguo: Amazon has never tried to lock anybody into a walled garden via hardware. They have a Kindle app, available at no charge, for every kind of device that has the computational capacity to handle the app and a display fit for reading books on. They don’t give a damn whether you actually buy a Kindle device or not; they barely break even on the devices.

          1. They don’t give a damn whether you actually buy a Kindle device or not…

            Though they do restrict their “Kindle Owners’ Lending Library” program (part of Prime) to actual Kindle devices; Kindle app users need not apply. So it’s not 100% parity: to borrow books for free, you need to have given them money first, and the money you gave them for Amazon Prime isn’t enough.

            But if you just want to give them money for books and nothing else, they are quite happy to let you do so with any device you choose, so your larger point is entirely correct.

                1. And really not worth it, withal. ONE book, once a month? Pffft. That’s not a library.

                  I have Prime because I live in the boonies, and do most of my shopping online, so “free” (or at least, free to the tune of $100/year) shipping is worthwhile. (Because I would pay a heckuva lot more than $100 in shipping otherwise over the course of a year.) The Prime video service is nice, but the KOLL is useless.

                  I like Kindle Unlimited, though–gotten to try out a lot of books I would otherwise have given a pass to that way.

          2. When the Kindles first came out the only way to get any content onto them was, according to Amazon’s own web pages that I studied carefully was with wireless internet and an Amazon account, neither of which I had or was willing to pay for.

            I contacted their tech support people and asked how I could get my collection of Gutenberg texts onto a Kindle. They told me that was not possible.

            Amazon’s official stance was that the Kindle was just a terminal to access Amazon content.

            Later I read about “side-loading” non-Amazon content onto the Kindle, and then that there was a PC app, but that’s not how it started. And though they’ve loosened the noose a bit, I still hold a grudge and refuse to play the Kindle game. They didn’t want me or my money then, they’re not getting it now.

            1. Yeah, never ask tech support for help on Kindle stuff (or any company for any help) ‘Tech support’ rarely knows what they’re doing.

              I use Calibre to convert my non-kindle ebooks into mobi format, and from there have no trouble loading them up on my kindle. Most of the thousands of books on my kindle were originally digital files I got from places like Gutenberg, etc. 🙂 There’s actually very few restrictions I’ve found in using my Kindle. Though, admittedly, I didn’t get a kindle until they were three generations in or so?

              You don’t have to pay for an Amazon account, either. Just Amazon Prime. But I do understand holding a grudge. 😀

  3. By a pleasant coincidence, recently advertised Mr Nutall’s forthcoming Bookworm IV to me, leading me to immediately buy Bookworm III — a nice example of Amazon’s helpful innovations.

    1. Chris Nuttall’s The Oncoming Storm became available for purchase on the 15th. [Smile]

      1. And that was the featured new release (@ the top of the page) in Amazon’s Science Fiction & Fantasy newsletter … (Star Wars: Aftermath was on the third row down, forcing people to scroll down)

  4. Great post, Chris. Authors United is like SFWA and Authors Guild and so many other so-called professional organizations. Whether they want to admit it or not, they are more concerned with maintaining the status quo than they are in helping authors move into the next age of publishing. They buy into the argument that there are too many books on the market and that readers aren’t discerning enough to use the preview feature on Amazon and other online stores to decide if they want to spend their money or not. They see nothing wrong with, as you pointed out, condemning Amazon for no selling something (pre-orders) the company had no right to sell. Worse, they will continue to blame Amazon as their profit margins continue to shrink, not from the open market Amazon provides them but from their own antiquated business models.

    1. “They buy into the argument that there are too many books on the market and that readers aren’t discerning enough … ”

      I keep seeing this idea, and it just makes me laugh. I look for books online the same way I looked for paper books: I look at reviews, recommendations from trusted sources, book synopses, and finally go with my gut (does it sound interesting enough to part with $$$?).

      The presumption that there’s too much content for buyers to make decisions relegates us to the status of children, but even children are capable of picking out things they want (the favorite shirt/food/toy). Actually, I think this idea of too much content comes from the presumption that we’re consuming too much “inferior” content, wasting our time/$$$ on low-quality instead of the carefully curated “literature”. So, as customers, the choice is this: do we spend $$$ on 1-2 pieces of literature, or $$$ on dozens of “inferior” (and entertaining) titles? *shrug* My money goes to the entertainment.

      Years ago, a colleague asked if I’d read “current book”. I mentioned that I hadn’t even heard of it, and got a shocked/disapproving look. “It’s on the NYT best seller list,” to which I commented that I choose books based on whether they interest me, not on the NYT list (or any other). Amusingly enough, we haven’t discussed books since.

    2. It’s a guild.
      Limiting the supply of a service to directly benefit members is the entire point.

      Sure, their stance is directly against the interests of most authors. Teamsters and Longshoremen generally take stances directly against the interest of most labourers.
      Also, water remains wet.

    3. It’s the attitude that their customers are some kind of filthy barbarian with whom little to no contact should be had that irks me so much–and it’s an unfortunately prevalent attitude in the various entertainment industries.

      A few years ago there was an outcry by customers against the ending of the final installment of a very popular (and very well done) game trilogy. The ‘mother’ company (and maybe one or two folks belonging to the smaller company that actually did the game) got all rude and shirty and “you just don’t know good art when you see it, and stop whining you heathens” but no one sat down and shut up. Finally, when mother company realized this was not going to go away and this poor treatment of their customers might just affect their bottom line, the smaller company–which by and large had always had a friendly relationship with its customers–produced an extended version of the ending and released it for free. It still had its flaws, but for most of the customers, it was a sign of good faith. “We listened, and we understand” and more subtly from the smaller company “And we’re sorry about those jerks who treated you like filthy barbarians, please realize we were forced to follow orders from on high”

      A lot of the ‘big name’ game review sites were appalled, I tell you, *appalled* that a company had ‘caved’ like that. How *dare* the customers force a company to change their ‘art’??? (In the two years since, most of those sites have done an about face, and now laud it as a ‘victory for the customers’… >.>)

  5. You know who did see electronic books coming? Mark Twain. His wishes concerning copyright and electronic media was very clear in his last contract.

    1. His contract contains the word electric, not electronic. Indeed, the latter word was coined only in 1901, and meant only ‘pertaining to electrons’. It did not acquire its modern meaning, ‘pertaining to electronics’, until about 1930. So no, Mr. Clemens did not see electronic books coming. He was merely covering all his bases, and figured that somebody was bound to make an electric book machine of some kind sooner or later; they were making electric everything-elses.

      1. It was still the foresight to realize that putting ink onto paper would not last forever. (Which was pretty darn good prescience, since that had been essentially the method since replacement of clay tablet technology a thousand years or so earlier.)

  6. JA Konrath and Barry Eisler do a lot of fisks of both Authors Guild and Authors United concerning their opposition to Amazon. Worth a look if you have the time.

  7. I ran into tradpubs blinkers myself in just the past couple of weeks. Amazon showed me that the first 3 books of the Diana Tregarde series were available as a Kindle bundle. I had read book 3 back in the late 80’s when they were first published, but never saw the other 2 in my area. I happily grabbed the bundle and renewed my acquaintance with the characters. Then came the link to buy book 4 for $9.99 at the end of book 3. Since the bundle price was about 3 or 4 dollars per book, that jump in price stopped me cold. I’m back to reading my Baen Webscriptions books, and my Kindle copy of Dave Freer’s Stardogs.

    1. Wait, there is a book four? I thought she swore never to write another due to really weird fans. I loved those books in the 90s.

        1. Much as I like Misty Lackey herself in many ways (despite being on opposite ends of the political spectrum), having met her at a con, I have not been impressed with her books over the last decade or so…

      1. I went back and checked. The $9.99 book is actually a collection of 3 novellas, one of which is a Diana story. That is a bit high per novella, but not as bad as I first thought. There are also some other Diana Tregarde stories available in Kindle format that I may go scoop up next payday.

  8. Tor is also gambling that one of the three planned TV series based on Scalzi’s work (Old Man’s War/Redshirts/Lock-In) will pan out and help drive sales. In short, they’re hoping for a Game of Thrones/True Blood sales effect. It remains to be seen if they’ll get one.

  9. I wonder how many Kindle Unlimited subscriptions are sold? Amazon has to like those for budgetary reasons; it’s a guaranteed $120 per year, and doesn’t cost them an additional dime to provide books to the subscribers. It also has the benefit for them of getting authors to release their works on Amazon exclusively. Heck, that may be the true model of the future; I MUCH prefer to have my ebooks as loaners, because the icons don’t clutter up my library page long after I’ve read the book. If I decide I want a re-read, it’s a matter of seconds to re-borrow it.

    1. Which is spelling the end of another traditional thing – the library. Another “industry” that will either adapt, or die.

          1. I’m sure the first city to shut down a library will be sued by a homeless porn viewer and find out there is a constitutional right to combined center for that via a Justice Kennedy ruling about the nature of pursuing your personal version of the perfect life.

    2. I wonder how many Kindle Unlimited subscriptions are sold? Amazon has to like those for budgetary reasons; it’s a guaranteed $120 per year, and doesn’t cost them an additional dime to provide books to the subscribers.

      Amazon pays authors per page read by KU subscribers. At the rate they are paying, it doesn’t take very many pages to add up to a dime.

  10. I have to admit the self-publishing world seems almost overwhelming. I did all sorts of research to learn the “rules” for traditional publishing (query letters, magazine subs, etc). Now I have to do it again with self-publishing. The articles here have been very helpful but where else does one look? There are so many resources – which are good? Or is it a case of “every single one of them is right”?

    1. It’s still an industry in its infancy and we’re making it up as we go. I found my best sources of information to be checking out the blogs of self-published authors that I like. Indies, as a general rule, are very generous about sharing their personal experiences and what they have learned from them.

    2. As a general rule, any site where they say “for a mere x thousand dollars, look what we can do for you!” should be deleted from your browser history 😉 Also any sites that hint they have an edge with a publisher if you get accepted–for a fee. Money Flows To The Author. (This of course does not apply to fee-for-service things like cover art and editors. Alas.)

      1. Oh, that rule of thumb has been well established in my head. 🙂 I’m willing to invest in my success, but that means cover art, conferences, etc. Not paying PublishAmerica to kill my book…

    3. Joe Konrath is a good place to start; which is why he calls his site “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.”

      Beyond that, it is the case (other than the ones that want your money) that “every single one of them is right.” They are right – for some particular group of writers, in some particular phase of their career.

      It is even right for some to go traditional publishing. A few thousand dollars advance, and a few cents per book in royalties, can be more than some will ever see from indie sales, when it is with a publisher that “owns” a particular niche.

      1. Expanding… The scary thing about indie is that you are the success or failure. It’s all on you to get things right, and there is absolutely nobody to blame for things going wrong.

        I have a short story in development, one that precedes the novel I am working on; it had to be clipped off as being far too telegraphic. When and if I wrestle it into shape, I’ll submit it to the new “There Will Be War” volume. Assuming it sells there – whee, I can maybe take the wife out to a nice dinner (or alternatively pay the water bill and take the family to the local fried chicken place). I had to look at the details of the deal for myself, weigh them in relation to where my career is right now, not just trust an agent or a publisher to do what is best for me.

        OK, non-exclusive, I have control afterwards. Whether it sells there or not, I might be able to include it as a “bonus” in a later bundle when I have a back list. Or if I am wildly successful (see the MGC post about “dreams” vs. “goals”) I might sell it for $0.99 on Amazon and reap far more than the $100 that is offered right now. Or do something else with it.

        I’m making this business decision now. I’ll be making those business decisions later. Whether I see anything from the hours it will take me to write it (I am not a short writer right now, so it is a learning experience, much more than the couple of hours investment it would take many of the writers here) is entirely dependent on my decisions.

        Scary, yes. Also exhilarating, empowering, all kinds of other feelings. For me. For others, the phrase “Your Mileage Will Almost Certainly Vary” is the appropriate one.

    4. I recommend checking out JA Konrath’s blog and/or the guide to self-publishing book he’s got on Amazon (which is, however, made up largely of his blog posts on the subject–so it’s up to you whether it’s worth paying for the posts, or if you’ve got the time/willingness to wade through the blog itself and read them for free–he does a LOT of fisking of tradpub, so there’s a lot to wade through, albeit entertaining stuff). It has a lot of useful advice on how to get your stuff self-published. 🙂

      1. D’oh, somebody already beat me to the recommendation. That’s what I get for not reading down far enough. 😉

      2. Most appreciated, it’s going on the list for when I’m done reading Kristine Rusch’s stuff (since I’m going to a workshop with her next year I should probably read her blog first!)

  11. The iconic comparison is to state “What will happen to the buggy whip manufacturers?” when horseless carriages become popular. Well, it turns out that, as always, the adaptable survive—the short version is that the U.S. Whip Company got into high-test braided fishing line, changed their name to the U.S. Line Company, and are still banging around a century later.

    Newspapers still haven’t figured out the newer way to make money. I’d adore a subscription that let me bop around a whole bunch of papers, instead of each one wanting their own cut. If you design it right, so that unique links get a bigger cut of the subscription money, that would drive newspapers into actually, perhaps, committing acts of journalism again.

      1. FWIW, much of that movie is actually based on real-life corporate raider Sam Zell, who is a major player in Chicago real estate. I understand the original writer used to work for him.

  12. So are they still in the ‘denial’ stage or did they move to ‘anger’ yet? And how long before they get to ‘reconstruction’, when they claim self-publishing was their idea all along? ‘Cause that is the only way they will work things through to ‘acceptance’.

  13. I must have forgotten to check the comments box earlier.
    I’m going to do that now, in the hope that it won’t make my inbox explode. I had 144 emails this morning, mostly due to Amanda’s post about more advice, and some from Dave’s post about revisiting the dog’s breakfast.
    Sometimes having friends who write interesting columns takes up too much time. I’ve got three books that aren’t going to get reviewed by themselves, and a blog post that may need a mercy killing.

    1. Pat, I read the blogs first thing in the morning, then unless I have something to say for the very first few comments, I leave it until the brain is dead at the end of the day (almost ten PM right now).

      Fortunately, most people here do realize that caffeine only lasts so long…

  14. And lets not forget how Amazon and eBay have changed the used book market.

    It used to be that if you wanted to find a copy of an out of print book, you had to go hunting for it at used books stores. Sometimes it’d take years to put together a complete run of a particular series. Thus, writers could rely on reprinting their older works to keep a steady cash flow going, because it was easier for consumers to buy a reprint at JB Dalton than it was to go hunting for it at Ma & Pa Used Books.

    Amazon and eBay shattered the illusion of scarcity. Nowadays, finding a used copy is just a few clicks away. If you want a copy of a best seller, chances are you only have to wait a few months and you can get a used one for $0.01 plus shipping on Amazon. Want a complete run of a particular trilogy? Go on eBay, and chances are you can find the whole thing bundled together at a very reasonable price. The ease at which older books can now be obtained has made reprinting many older works a money losing proposition for publishers. It used to be that a moderately successful author could make a living purely on sales of their reprinted backlist; that’s now changed, which is why older authors like Ursula K. LeGuin (who hasn’t produced anything new in close to a decade) find Amazon so annoying — their checks are getting smaller, because there are a million copies of the Dispossessed or Earthsea within easy reach of consumers on Amazon, and all priced for a penny. And Authors do not get royalties from used book sales (at least, not in the US).

    (Yes, some of these authors are getting some uptick in sales as ebooks of their work becomes available and readers decide they want copies in new formats. But I’m not sure how long that will last, and I’m willing to bet its still less than what they might have gotten under the old system. The more popular the author, the more likely there is a huge glut of used copies of their work available.)

    1. Yes, but that’s not a stable situation either.

      The chains and independent book stores all pulled out of this end of my county years ago. Now, for lack of new material, the nearest used book store is thirty miles away in an area I seldom have cause to visit otherwise. Even if they have what I’m looking for in stock, it’s still cheaper to buy from an online vendor.

  15. The concept of “used book” is going to be out of date, soon. I love the ebook “boxed sets” that let you grab the entire series in one click (yay for Amanda’s Nocturnal set; boo for David’s missing Unquiet Gods set). No scrounging – online or off – required. The price of Pam’s (not-existing) Wine of the Gods boxed set would probably be a bit off-putting – but worth it!

    I wonder if Amazon would consider a $/normalized-page (probably as normalized-pages/$) price calculation. It’s great at the grocery store when they have $/ounce so one doesn’t need to figure it out on the fly to compare products.

    I should probably cancel Netflix and join KU, instead. I usually buy more than $10 in books per month. It’s odd that I still want to “own” books, when there is nothing there. They are all in the cloud, anyway, so I might as well just borrow them. Just old, I guess.

    1. It’s not missing! It’s vaporware “in development!” It’s not a bug: it’s a feature! Honest… I ran out of gas. I… I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!
      *hangs head*

    2. I really hate the fact that some authors–though I suspect it’s the publishers doing it–have only ONE book in a trilogy/series available in eformat. I was soooo excited when I spotted Doug Niles’ Breach in the Watershed for kindle…but they only have the first book. (And the trilogy itself is out of print >.<)

      1. The worst example I’ve seen is Jennifer Roberson’s “Chronicles of the Cheysuli”. Long out of print, I was delighted to find this 8 book series available as ebooks. Except, books 1 & 5 are only available in paper … Not sure how exactly new readers are supposed to start a series when two books are missing, and I’m rather curious about why the publisher decided to undermine the sales like that (& stick it to the author).

  16. I am constantly amazed by the people over at Kboards, who are continually ascribing all sorts of evil intent and conspiracy plans to Amazon.
    It really is quite amazing.
    I’ve noticed that many of these people do not tell us what their sales are (or even what their real name is), and from what I can glean, they are all selling poorly, either because they have overpriced their books (because, they ‘deserve’ it) or they just can engage an audience.

    It seems that they all had a ‘plan’ to get rich, and for a good deal of them it revolved around KU, and now that KU2 has knocked the legs out from under them, they’re upset. Yet, if anyone should be upset, it should be me! Why? I sold one third less books this month, than my biggest month this year, yet I made twice as much money! Why? Because all of those scammers took the income from KU down from what had been OK, to crap.

    But, I didn’t complain, I just realize it’s the cost of doing business, and it’s not Amazon who is to blame for their problems, it is their own actions, their constant planning, based on what the other people, the searchers fine. The problem of course, is that things change, and the searchers move on, but the planners are stuck, crying about just how unfair it is that their scams no longer bear fruit.

    And I still need to write ‘Eat at Joe’s’.

  17. “Planners lose because the world doesn’t always do what it is supposed to do”
    This explains my life. Oh, well.

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