That term doesn’t mean what you seem to think it does.

Pull up a chair, grab your favorite drink and snack and settle back for your next installment of Authors United vs. the evil that is Amazon (sorry if the sarcasm meter just broke). In yet another attempt to convince the Department of Justice that Amazon is the worst of all monopolies to ever exist, Authors Unlimited hosted an event entitled “Amazon’s Book Monopoly—A Threat to Freedom of Expression?”

To begin with, there is no attempt here to be fair or unbiased by Authors Unlimited. The very title of their event proves that. They start from the assumption that Amazon is a monopoly. As you can expect, it goes downhill from there.

If you go to the announcement of the event, you can find this description: Amazon dominates the U.S. book market to a degree never before seen in America. This corporation dominates every key segment of the market. And this immense size gives Amazon unprecedented power to manipulate the flow of books – hence of information and ideas – between author and reader. 

Now, let’s see how that simple statement isn’t exactly accurate.

  1. Amazon dominates the U. S. book market to a degree never before seen in America. Hmm. How is it doing so? Does it sell the most books in the U. S.? I think we are probably safe in saying that it does. However, is it accurate to say it dominates the market to a degree never before seen? That is a bit hazier. After all, before Amazon, the publishers dominated the market because they had no competition. In more recent years, the big box booksellers dominated that aspect of the market by running the smaller, locally owned stores out of business. So is it accurate to say that Amazon’s actions rank that high? Nope, at least not in my mind. Why? Because the publishers are still in existence and still publishing the books that they choose to. But let’s move on.
  2. This corporation dominates every key segment of the market. That’s one of those statements I hate because it is an absolute without enough definition to really counter. What are these key segments and how is Amazon dominating them? Is it allowing more writers to find their voices, so to speak, and put there work out there for the reading public to find? Yep. But how many of those authors had tried going the traditional route and were turned away? How is that taking away from publishers? Did it become the leader in e-book distribution? Yes, but that again is one of those things that the publishers could have explored long ago and didn’t. Instead of following the example of Jim Baen and creating their own webstores and selling e-books, they ridiculed Baen and said e-books were a passing fancy. Amazon recognized a new market and ran with it. Do you punish it for looking forward instead of looking back?
  3. And this immense size gives Amazon unprecedented power to manipulate the flow of books – hence of information and ideas – between author and reader. Ah, there’s the rub. They don’t want anyone but their members and traditional publishing to have control over the flow of information and ideas between the author and reader. It doesn’t matter what the reading public might want. It doesn’t matter that traditional publishing doesn’t have enough slots to publish every book that is well-written. No, as far as these folks are concerned, they want to step back into the previous century and not allow those of us who have proven that we can write and make more than many of those traditionally published do to have an outlet for our work.

So, how about if we change the wording just a little bit. Substitute The Big 5 for Amazon. Now you tell me which one wants to dominate the market, which one actually controls all the key segments of the market and which one wants to dominate the flow of information and ideas between author and reader.

But let’s continue.

In one of those instances where you look at the speaker and ask yourself if there isn’t just a hint of conflict of interest, Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, said that Amazon’s practices, if left unchecked, could lead to a “nuclear winter” for book publishing. So, let’s see. The CEO of one of Amazon’s competitors thinks Amazon is bad. Funny that. And again, how is Amazon going to do this? By allowing publishers to set their own prices for books being sold? By showing readers that they have alternatives to traditionally published books by allowing authors and small presses to offer their work at prices they, the author or small press sets? Or is it by allowing those same authors and small presses sell their digital work without extra DRM being applied?

Where I really had to sit back and wonder WTF was when Scott Turow commented that, while Amazon has been good to him, he is in the fight against it because he believes in “an independent authorial class.”

Go back and read that again. Apparently Turow believes that Amazon has been hobbling authors. And I repeat, WTF?!?

Amazon has opened the doors for authors to connect with readers over and over again. Their KDP program allows authors and small presses to bring their digital work to readers in a way they never before had been able to. Unlike Smashwords and other sites like it, this is a direct to public route where the author doesn’t have to pay an intermediary for putting them on a site. With the increasing number of devices which allow for the reading of e-books, this has opened the market even more to authors. Oh, and the author or small press isn’t limited to just Amazon sales unless they elect to go that route.

If they do, the KDP Select program gives them a number of perks that are all designed to increase royalties. We can do countdown deals where we have an stair-stepped promotion. You can set your sales prices at several different levels during the course of the countdown until the price returns to normal. The product page notes that it is a countdown deal and how long the reader has to buy the e-book before the price goes up.

If that isn’t enough, the authors taking part in this program can offer their work for free for up to 5 days every quarter. That, too, can help drive sales by giving readers exposure to you work without costing them anything for that initial taste.

The Kindle Unlimited program works in much the same way. Readers can subscribe to the program for a monthly fee. Eligible books can be downloaded for free. It is a win for authors, especially those of longer work, because we get paid for each “normalized page” read. In some instances, that means we get paid more for a book that is read in the KU program than we do for a sale. Unfortunately, shorter works no longer make as much as they did under the previous “borrow” program but it is much more fair for long works.

Then there is Createspace where you can design, set up and publish print versions of your work — at little to no cost — and Audible where you can create audio versions of your work.

But Amazon isn’t supporting an independent authorial class.

Riiight.

What Amazon has done is allowed authors from all walks of life, in all genres and sub-genres, no matter what their “message” to have an outlet to the public. It has given the power of what books to read to the readers. Has it impacted publishers? You bet. But the publishers, instead of adapting, continue to cry “foul!” and demand that things go back to how they once were. The claims that Amazon put booksellers out of business are skewed at best. Long before Amazon came onto the scene, big box stores put the mom and pop stores out of business. Then, as Amazon was getting its foothold, the big box stores continued an unrestrained growth, often putting huge stores right across the street from one another. Instead of looking at what the market could support, it ignored the lessons from earlier business failures — who remembers Skillern Drugs or Eckards or any number of grocery stores or department stores that thought going into the same mall or on the same corner as the competition meant they would automatically make money?

At one point, there were at least a dozen big box bookstores within 20 miles of my house. Often you would find a B&N within half a mile — or less — of a Borders. The economy simply couldn’t support that sort of thing. But it is so much easier to blame Amazon for the failure of Borders and the problems B&N finds itself in right now than to admit that the suits and bean counters made a mistake and failed to read the ledger sheets and future business analysis.

It is more of the same old, same old. It is another indication of what is wrong with so much of the publishing industry. Today is the first day of the future. Isn’t it time for the industry to not only recognize that but to admit it and embrace it?

64 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

64 responses to “That term doesn’t mean what you seem to think it does.

  1. Laura M

    What makes their logic work is a single assumption: independent authors don’t count. If we don’t exist, we aren’t creating an independent authorial class. That’s all.

  2. What was that about “interprets as damage and routes around it”? Oh, Dear Gatekeepers, Bug-bye!

  3. I keep encountering this weird sort of disconnect from authors regarding Amazon. One the one hand they bemoan Amazon having a “monopoly” on e-books (which they don’t).

    Then when you point out that there are other ways to get an e-book to market–B&N, Kobo, Apple, Google, not to mention putting together your own on-line store and selling directly to the public–they respond by saying that those outlets don’t sell as well as Amazon.

    And why don’t those outlets sell as well as Amazon? That’s where the disconnect comes in. They seem to think that market share is something that is randomly assigned by some giant roulette wheel, and Jeff Bezos just got lucky.

    The suggestion that Amazon sells more e-books than anyone else might be because they have a website that is professional and easy to navigate, that they sell low cost and high quality e-readers, that they offer the most attractive terms to authors, and that have excellent customer support, is met with a blank stare.

    The further suggestion that anyone else in the e-book market could step up their game and begin earning a bigger piece of the pie is treated as heresy.

    B&N did make a valiant effort, for a while, but they never got past the idea of the Nook as free money and weren’t willing to invest in a support infrastructure for their readers or a comprehensive e-book catalog.

    Smashwords still has a website that looks like it was put together in mom’s basement, and makes no effort to police their titles–all of Smashwords top sellers are erotica, and while that’s great for that market, their reputation as a porn site cuts down on their market. There are a lot of authors (myself included) who refuse to list their works on Smashwords because of that reputation. (Well, that and their wonky conversion utility.)

    Apple is only interested in selling to Apple customers, and not even all of them since the Kindle app for Apple is available for free and lets people buy books from Amazon instead of the iStore–and Amazon is consistently cheaper.

    Google Books policy of ignoring DCMA takedown notices has made it a de facto pirate site. I don’t know how many of my books have been downloaded from there, but I know that I’ve never made a dime from them.

    It wouldn’t take much for a serious competition to Amazon to start up and begin capturing the market–just someone who is willing to do what Amazon does. Offer a quality product to customers at a competitive price, and offer decent terms to authors. It’s not Amazon’s fault that no one has done that yet.

    • Exactly. Nobody’s stopping them from doing what Amazon does, and there are enough Amazon Derangement Syndrome sufferers (most of them, I suspect, are unironic users of the word “artisanal”) that if they could even approach the ease of use of AZ, they should be able to carve out a nice piece of the market. And plenty of indies, myself included, would be willing to give them a chance – if they were competitive with their terms. But that would mean undercutting the Big Five and their policy of protecting physical books by price-gouging their ebooks.

    • Paul Beard

      I would add one more reason I prefer Amazon is the process of actually reading Ebooks on your reader is foolproof. If your ebook is US only and the only way to read it in Australia is to buy it from a Australian Ebook store thats one less sale as far as I am concerned. Been there, done that two hour exercise in frustration.

      Even Ibooks spat the dummy and developed problems remembering my Baen epubs twice ,I didn’t give it a 4th! chance to fail

    • ravenshrike

      There’s a reason nexusmods has the adult content as a opt-in search filter. As for DMCA takedown notices, they’re worthless because of the sheer volume, and unlike youtube, there has been no concerted attempt to create an automatic takedown filter. Of course, the former issue could quickly be cleared up if there were increasing penalties for fraudulent DMCA takedown notices.

  4. TRX

    > Amazon dominates the U. S. book market to a degree never before seen in America.

    [cough] “Ingram Content Group.”

  5. TRX

    > This corporation dominates every key segment of the market

    translation: “Despite having an established hammerlock on selection, production, distribution, and marketing, our business model is so broken that some upstarts without any knowledge of our industry waltzed in and cleaned our clock.

    We’re not even going to try to change, improve, or compete; we’re just going to lobby to seek protection against the barbarians.”

    • What they don’t get is that … if they SUCCEED … Authors United will simply push the center of English-language publishing into some other English-speaking country. They won’t get their markets back, not unless they combine this with some sort of ban on buying e-books from foreign sources. That doesn’t even sound practical.

      • TRX

        Practical? Regional rights are part of most authors’ contracts. That’s why some customers have to jump through hoops depending on where Amazon thinks they live.

        Regional rights are a basic part of intellectual property laws, at least as applied to entertainment media.

  6. The only principled thing all those ADS sufferers can do is remove all their works from the Evil McEvil corporation and sell them only through virtuous megacorps like B&N, with maybe a couple of bones thrown at Smashwords so Coker & Co. don’t have to figure out how to improve their service and, well, compete.
    I keep hearing calls from people for indies to stop going exclusive with Amazon. Because, you know, we should impoverish ourselves to subsidize the poor service provided by other giant corporations, the poor darlings.
    I’d love to go “wide,” but the last time I tried I ended up making pennies on the dollar versus what I was earning via KDP Select. And since KU 2.0. went online, my income has grown to the point I’m finally out-earning my “day job.” I think indies will weather the “nuclear winter” just fine, thank you.
    Meanwhile, AU remains mum about decades of author abuse by the Big Five. The Authors’ Guild makes a few meaningless bleats about contracts, while retaining most of its vitriol for Bezos-el-zebub. And yet they all keep selling through the evil Z. Hypocrites.

    • “…remove all their works from the Evil McEvil corporation…” That would be the principled thing to do, but the AU mob has proven themselves as unprincipled. I use the names on their original petition as a ‘do not buy’ list. I scrubbed them off my bookshelves and gave the books to the local thrift store. There are too many awesome and principled writers out there to spend my money on and populate my bookshelves with to waste dollars or space on those people.

    • “I keep hearing calls from people for indies to stop going exclusive with Amazon.”

      I didn’t start out exclusive with Amazon. I am now because I didn’t sell a blasted thing anywhere else and Amazon was willing to do more for me if I did.

      Like you said, why should I impoverish myself because of stupid reasons?I’d rather sell books.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        As an ebook buyer, I had purchased ebooks from B&N (and Kobo) more than from the Kindle store.

        Then, B&N screwed up the Nook store and the Kobo store isn’t that good.

        So I’m now purchasing most of my non-Baen ebooks from the Kindle store.

        If Amazon does the job better, then of course they’ll get most of the business.

        • Understood. My own experiences were probably after they point they screwed up the store.

          But yeah, if Amazon does the job better, that’s where people will go.

        • Yep. There was no reason why B&N or others shouldn’t have competed successfully with AZ. The Big Five had (and still have) plenty of opportunities to offer alternatives. Instead, they keep clinging to outdated business models and making things worse for themselves.

          • You mean like charging $17.99 for an ebook but just a few dollars more for the hardback?

            Then claiming the lack of ebook sales is because the market has peaked?

            • Pretty much that. That sort of idiocy certainly changed my buying habits. Now I only buy Baen, one other publisher’s author, and anything else I read I get from KU. That’s a good 15-20 books I bought a year, gone. I figure they lost a lot of costumers that way.

              • Honestly, I went to the library so I could read Seveneves, which was the book at that price point. I refused to pay that kind of money for an ebook.

                And there are others I’d like to read, but they’re stupid about the prices. Like fantasy novels that have been out for a few years still priced like a brand new novel, etc.

                • Nods. I’m heading there to see if they have Murder on the Orient Express, which I want to read for writing study*. Need to also see if they have Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I won’t lay out that kind of money for an e-book, either.

                  *Last weeks’ study on mysteries caused me to break out one set around 1870 that just didn’t work. Different premise than Murder on the Orient Express, but I want to see how Agatha Christie handled two issues, and the clock ticking thing. Also need to add The Maltese Falcon to that list. So many books; so little time.

            • TRX

              That’s a form of demand or zero-sum pricing. (economists or marketers probably have a specific term for it) If your market prefers one format, then you work that one for the maximum profit margin. When your unfaithful customers scuttle off to a better deal, so you follow along and squat on that one.

              It works just fine in captive markets too. A few years ago when gasoline prices spiked people drove less. This led several states to raise their fuel taxes to compensate for the loss of revenue. Or your local power utilitiy campaigns for people to “save energy”, then raises their rates to compensate for the shortfall.

      • Yep. In KDP Select, I have several promotional tools I’ve used to increase my audience over the years. And KU’s $130-150 million a year in *payouts* to writers would be equivalent to 1+ billion dollars of mainstream publisher sales ( assuming a payout to writers of 10-15%), and it comprises a submarket that is far more willing to give indies a try because of the low cost (time, basically) involved. It would take a lot for me to turn my back on that.

        And then there is the tired old argument: when Amazon rules the world, it will turn on indies! Okay, let’s say it happens: this year or the next or five years from now, Bezos rubs his hands, and cackling in demonic glee, cuts our royalties down to 35% or 10% or whatever. Guess what: we’ll still be better off than we were when the Big Five controlled publishing. 35% (or 10%) of something is still better than the zero you got 99.9% of the time with trad publishing. Not to mention many of us who built a fan base through AZ will be in a far better position to find alternatives than if we’d stuck with the 15% of the non-Amazon market.

        • Yeah, I’ve made that argument myself. Oh, we may only get 10%, but that’s more than I’d get without Amazon…

          And if it’s bad enough, someone will figure out how to compete with Amazon and destroy them while treating indies better. It’s just how things go.

        • The main point is that if Amazon changes their terms so that I’m no longer getting a good deal from them, I can leave. I have no contract. I own the rights to my works. I don’t have to trust in their good intentions because I am my own publisher, and I can use whomever I choose to distribute my work.

      • Tangential question… is there a way to offer more than Kindle format from Amazon? I looked at their site and couldn’t find anything (but my search skills may just be failing me.)

        • Yes. Amazon owns both Create Space, which is a POD service, and Audible.com, which distributes audiobooks. If you make a POD edition it will be automatically offered along side the kindle version. The same with an audiobook.

          • I meant things such as ePub rather than audio or paperback.

            • No, Amazon only supports the .mobi format for e-books. There are a number of utilities for converting e-book formats–I personally recommend Calibre.

              • FWIW, I hand roll mine into epub format, then convert that through kindlegen for upload. There’s only a very slight difference in epub structure for what Amazon wants, but would have to see what that it – and I might be doing it the epub way, anyway, for validation purposes. Tend to boiler plate things, so I’m not sure.

            • If you post it as DRM free then your readers can convert it to an ePub, though they need to be a little computer savvy to do so.

        • For ebooks? I don’t think so.

          • Good to know. A little frustrating, but good to know.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              IMO it is easy to convert Kindle eBooks into ePub eBooks using Calibre. Mind for some Kindle eBooks you have to know how to de-DRMed the eBooks.

              • I’d rather be able to offer any customers I should have the pre-made ePub as an option. I know too many people who have other brands of e-readers and don’t want a kindle and will walk away rather than convert the file. While anecdote are not data. I would rather have things more accessible not less. Even if it’s going to be a year before I get anything out. (Planning… Planning is my friend when it comes to getting things out.)

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Quite understandable. [Smile]

                • freddie_mac

                  “I know too many people who have other brands of e-readers and don’t want a kindle and will walk away rather than convert the file. ”

                  I was one of those people, but I’ve changed my tune over the past few months. I certainly won’t give up my Nook (memory card!), but I’ve come to appreciate AZM’s selection, convenience & lower prices.

                  Aside from offering ePub files on your own site, I’m not sure how to get around the movie file limitations.

                • I have a note on my “buy my books” page that I will send out a free .epub copy on request, since it is easier for me to do that than to maintain a separate outlet just for Nook/Kobo users. To date I have had two requests.

  7. The Other Sean

    Somebody should have a similar meeting regarding those who held the meeting. It could have a nice, simple, unbiased name like “Authors United – Threat or Menace?”

  8. “Where I really had to sit back and wonder WTF was when Scott Turow commented that, while Amazon has been good to him, he is in the fight against it because he believes in “an independent authorial class.””

    Um…I’m about as independent an author as you can get. No editor orders me to change anything in my books. No publisher tells me I can use certain themes in my books.

    Amazon only cares that I hold the copyright on the book, and if that’s in the clear — and any other applicable laws — then they’ll publish it.

    How is that not independent?

    Then, look at all the indies who can support themselves exclusively on their writing now that the Big Five either wouldn’t give the time of day or screwed over at some point. Now, that’s pretty independent too.

    By almost every method of determining “independent authorial class” I can figure out, Amazon doesn’t stifle it. It creates it.

    • ACK!

      I hate it when I forget to close a tag. :/

    • TRX

      > “an independent authorial class.”

      I saw that and had a vision of the Union of Soviet Writers.

      From Wikipedia:
      “The aim of the Union was to achieve Party and State control in the field of literature. For professional writers, membership of the Union became effectively obligatory, and non-members had much more limited opportunities for publication. The result was that exclusion from the Union meant a virtual ban on publication.”

      Yeah, I could see certain people would totally support that…

      • richardmcenroe

        I believe the Israelites were an “independent pyramid-crafting class” by the same standards.

  9. It seems to me that this all comes down to a prospective loss of status amongst the complainants. No longer able to dominate as the only game in town, they complain. People look at them, look at Amazon, and see that Amazon can offer better prices and a wider variety. *shrug* The market is speaking but only some are listening.

    • sabrinachase

      Completely true about the loss of status–and only compounded last year, as the INDIE PUBLISHED book The Martian was made into a highly successful, widely publicized movie with a big name actor. Oh, the wailing and gnashing of the teeth, oh the sharp jabs of new peptic ulcers from all the “one true path” authors who wanted that glory. They certainly deserved it more than some upstart indie!

      I bought my copy of the book before the big wave of notice. Back when it was a mere 99 cents. From Amazon. Of course these people are terrified and frantic. The peasants have stormed the castle and are eating the pastries and fingering the drapes! And it is all Amazon’s fault! All hail Beelzebezos! 😀

  10. It’s interesting they fail to mention the Dept of Justice’s attack on Amazon’s main rival for e-books, Apple’s iBooks. By claiming iBook’s pricing model violated anti-trust, the government created the Amazon “monopoly” and allowed publishers to keep ebook prices artificially high.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      HUH? Apple got together with the major publishers to fix prices and to force Amazon to follow Apple’s prices.

      The Feds slapped down Apple & the Major Publisher’s attempt to make Amazon go along with their scheme.

      Amazon was the victim of a price fixing scheme but you want to make them the Bully?

      That’s moronic.

      • “That’s moronic.”
        We’re drowning in them.

      • Moronic? Yeah, that’s a good way to convince someone they’re wrong. Good job, you.

        And no , my point was Authors United attack on Amazon was misplaced because of the DOJ’s attack on Apple. Because the DOJ decided that Apple had no business offering a business model where the publisher had to agree to sell books up to a certain point (Wholesale model), the only alternative became Amazon. And the Amazon system lets the publishers decide how much to charge regardless of whether the market in e-books can sustain it. That’s why there are e-books selling for more than the paperback.
        Had the DOJ not gotten involved, the market would have decided which system was better.

        • Well, no one has power over what another thinks, and some of us don’t care. Your analysis is lacking because of a key point: Apple had already earned the ire of e-book readers and authors, and by then the market had already shook out with Amazon’s business model coming out on top. For in addition to Amazon and Apple, there was Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords, Borders, and others. And unless I’m terribly mistaken, Kobo had already way outpaced Apple by the time of the DOJ investigation on price fixing.

          Now consider something else: Walmart. How does Walmart enter into this? By dropping Kindles. Walmart once sold both Kindles and Nooks, but a few years ago dropped Amazon. Before that, Amazon did a big Doorbuster sale, IIRC, on the Sony Reader. Walmart is a pretty big retailer, so that it’s weight behind a ebook reader should have made a difference simply by having it readily available and that, in turn, sending business to the vendors of that format. Yet this wasn’t enough. Sony ereaders failed, and B&N isn’t doing so hot. Nor did it help when, a few years ago, Dollar General sold an EPub ereader at Christmas. Amazon doesn’t sell EPub, so this should have diverted e-reader business. And yet Amazon came out on top.

          The bottom line is that customers made a choice based on where it was easiest to buy the ebooks they wanted, and authors made a choice based on what they saw as the best deal. And that happened to be with Amazon. No DOJ price fixing investigation needed.

          You are, of course, free to discount part or all of this. You can look into it and see what I got right and what I didn’t. Or not. The choice is yours.

          • By and large, I agree with your points here, though I will say that Amazon has done well with Kindle in part because they sell not just the product, but also the package. You don’t have to go to Walmart or Dollar General to pick up your Kindle, you order it from Amazon online and then order your ebooks there at the same time. Just as you go to a gun store and buy the firearm and then a couple boxes of ammo to get you started. If you could buy ebooks from Walmart.com then it might have changed the paradigm a bit. Great business strategy on the part of Bezos and Amazon.

            Now, if Walmart had produced their own eReader and gone into ebooks, they might have had more of an effect. Where B&N has gone wrong is they view ebooks as a ‘side product’ and paper books as the main product. It’s that way on their website, it’s that way in their stores. Amazon put the effort into truly supporting their product while B&N said, “Oh, hey, here’s an eReader in case you’re into that sort of thing.”

            At this point all my new series going forward are going to be Amazon exclusive. I’ve continued one on Smashwords because I started it there and have a tiny readership, but I spend more time setting up a book on Smashwords and then doing administrative paperwork (taxes, money transfer since they pay through Paypal, etc), than the time spent is worth in earned royalties.

  11. Uncle Lar

    In my mind’s eye I keep envisioning this hulking ogre standing in front of a massive iron gate but oblivious to the fact that there is no longer either a wall or even a fence attached, so streams of peasants flow past unimpeded.
    Wish I had the artistic talent to draw it out. I think I’d call it Gatekeeper No Longer.
    It really is nuclear winter, just for the big 5, and they brought it on themselves. They had the perfect model in Baen Webscriptions, but refused to even consider taking that path. Instead they continue to double down on policies that once lined their pockets, but are now no longer valid.
    My favorite poster boy for indie is a gentleman I met last year at LIbertyCon. He spent ten years beating his head on that gate. Never even got as far as the publishers, he dead ended with the first line of gatekeepers, the literary agents. It wasn’t that he was a bad writer, you see, they just did not think they could sell what he wrote. Too different, too unusual.
    So he took his body of work and went indie three years ago. And he has been earning a six figure income from those books each and every year since. Of course it’s easy to make grandious claims at a con, so I did some digging only to find that from what I could tell he was being modest.
    By their refusal to accept the new reality the big five have doomed themselves to a gradual and quite painful demise. I suppose we ought to feel pity, but given the abusive relationship they’ve consistently shown to their bread and butter midlist authors I just cannot find it in me.

    • You talking about Dandridge?

    • In my mind’s eye I keep envisioning this hulking ogre standing in front of a massive iron gate but oblivious to the fact that there is no longer either a wall or even a fence attached, so streams of peasants flow past unimpeded.
      Wish I had the artistic talent to draw it out. I think I’d call it Gatekeeper No Longer.

      Heh. That reminds me of the time I had to inspect a CT hook-up on a meter mounted on a pole on a fence between two houses. The dog on the other side of the fence barked and growled and snarled the entire time I was there. It never occurred to him to run less than a hundred feet to his left and around the end of the fence, for there was no gate at either house. I guess it’s just easier to bark and growl than to actually do something.

    • TRX

      > They had the perfect model in Baen Webscriptions, but refused to even consider taking that path.

      “We’re in the publishing business, not in the web site business.”

      I once worked for a company that was a newish and wholly-owned subsiduary of a large hospital. We did IT and billing. All of the execs were people who had moved over from the hospital’s old IT and billing departments.

      We got weekly lectures on “our customers”, how to deal with patients, important of health care, etc.

      Because I was That Guy, I felt it was necessary to point out that we only had one customer, which was the hospital’s board, and we never saw them anyway.

      The execs were working the same jobs they always had; they had entirely overlooked that they had changed both employers and industries…

  12. richardmcenroe

    The one thing about Amazon that worries me is that Jeff Bezos ain’t gonna live forever. None of the Big Five started out as the smug, provincial, insular little clubs they have become, and when the day comes that Bezos and his corporate ethos are gone, Amazon will be headed up by the products of the same cultural, educational and business machines that gave us the mess at TOR. Look at what happened at Apple when it decided to play cultural arbiter rather than producer of quality products.

  13. richardmcenroe

    I believe the Israelites were an “independent pyramid-crafting class” by the same standards.