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Posts tagged ‘Kobo’


One early morning during my undergraduate days, I walked into a Russian History class to find TANSTAAFL written on the board. Our professor stood in one corner of the class, watching as we staggered and lurched to our chairs and prepared for the lecture. As the other students looked at what he’d written on the board, there were murmurs of confusion and a few wondering if the prof was trying to tell us something in Croatian or some other odd language no one in his right mind would bother learning. No one save myself recognized those strange letters for what they were: “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. That day, the prof gave us a lesson a number of people today would do well to learn. What you get for free does cost, whether you pay for it now or later. Plus, other people pay for it as well.

No, this is not a political discussion. I’ll save that for my personal blog. It does apply, yet again, to writing. Not that long ago, I came across a blog post by a writer of m/m novels talking about how she and others had been plagiarized by a person by the name of Addison Scott. It seems Scott took their books, changed the names of the characters but basically that was it. Then Scott put the books up for sale on Amazon, BN, Kobo, etc. I thought I had blogged about it but I’m darned if I can find it in my pre-caffeinated state. If I remember correctly, at that point Scott took f/m books, changed them to m/m and that was about it. In once instance, the book was almost verbatim from the source material with the exception of the last chapter where the male lead had sympathetic labor pains with his now-wife. That wouldn’t work in a m/m, so the chapter was omitted.

Anyway, this morning I was looking through my FB feed and found yet another author, this time Cat Grant, talking about how she, too, has been plagiarized by Scott. In this case, Grant’s book, Once a Marine, is the book in question. It seems Scott has published “Coming Undone” which is, from a quick look, a verbatim copy of Grant’s book — with the expected name changes. Now, it doesn’t surprise me to see Scott has done this. After all, she (he?) is already known as a plagiarist. What does surprise me is that, after being reported more than once to BN, Kobo and other outlets, I find books under that person’s name on and Kobo. Not surprising, to me at least, is the fact I found nothing on Amazon by Scott.

Here’s the thing. For all the bad mouthing you can find about Amazon online, it does take plagiarism very seriously. It also is very responsive to author concerns, at least it has been in my experience. If it thinks you are publishing something you don’t have the rights to, you get an email telling you that you have a period of days to prove you have those rights or the book will be taken down. If they suspect you of plagiarism, they will take your work down and then it is up to you to prove otherwise. Okay, the latter is more of a guilty until proven innocent but better than than having your work out there, selling and putting money into someone else’s pocket. You pay for that and so do your readers.

But it also shows something else I’ve come across when it comes to Kobo and BN. Both are slow, sometimes glacier slow, to respond to author concerns/requests. This is especially true when a third-party aggregator like Smashwords is involved. That adds one more layer into the communication mix and it gives BN, Kobo and others an out. They are contracted to work with that aggregator so they can and will wait for the aggregator to propagate the take down notice.

And that is if you are lucky.

As writers, we work hard to put out the best story we can. It is more than just writing what we hope is an engaging and entertaining book or shorter work. It is then editing it, formatting, finding the right cover, promoting, and all the other steps necessary to try to be successful in this business. When someone rips off our work, as it appears Scott is doing (look at the samples for Grant’s book and Scott’s and tell me then that there isn’t plagiarism involved), they are stealing from us and laughing at us as they take the money they earn off our work. Worse, they are stealing from our readers.

The response isn’t to add DRM. That is simply waving a red cape in front of the bull and someone will hack it before you can sign your name. The response is to be alert. To listen to your readers when they say they’ve seen something that looks an awful lot like your work. Then the response is to be swift and merciless in how you deal with the plagiarist. Report them to every outlet you find their work in. Show proof with your reports that they have plagiarized your work. Send cease and desist letters to them and, if necessary, file suit. This is your livelihood they are attacking.

It comes down to one simple premise, something a lot of writers tends to forget about. Writing is our work, our job and part of our livelihood. We should treat it just as seriously as we would any other job, any other profession, we might have. That also means letting other authors know if we suspect they have been plagiarized. Reporting to the sales outlet suspected plagiarism and making sure those responsible are dealt with.

Plagiarists are looking for that free lunch. The problem is, they don’t care that it isn’t really free. Someone — in this case, the author and her fans — are paying for it. That means it isn’t free. Perhaps, if the plagiarist is made to take responsibility for their actions, it is a lesson they will finally learn.

One can hope.

The Road to Indie

adjustment2It would be so easy to do anther post about Hugos this morning. In fact, I considered it, especially after seeing how one of the editors posted a diatribe of sorts on the Tor site. However, since I know Kate is fisking the situation Thursday and because Dave did such a great job looking at what’s happening yesterday — and the fact I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a lot more until the Awards are announced, I’ll leave off on it for now. Instead, I think I’ll discuss my foray into self-publishing and the reasons behind it.

Let me start by saying that I am still firmly behind Naked Reader Press, both as an employer and as my publisher. I thought long and hard about taking Vengeance from Ashes indie. But I’m a firm believer in the adage of not putting all your eggs in a basket and, since VfA is not related to anything I already had with NRP, I figured this was the book to strike out on my own with. That doesn’t mean NRP won’t get more of my books because it will. It just means this particular series will be under my own imprint, so to speak.

So, the process. Oh the process. Even though I can do the process of publishing an e-book in my sleep, it is very different when suddenly you’re doing it for yourself. Suddenly things I was used to just emailing to another member of NRP had to be figured out or farmed out to someone else. Then I had to decide the best way to get the novel out to the widest market. Despite doing this for years, I found myself fumbling some as I looked at new aggregators and tried to figure out if I wanted to go that route or upload directly to the different stores, etc.

But before I did that, I had to think about the novel itself. I knew I needed to build at least a little interest in it before it came out. So, as I finished the first draft, I began posting snippets of it on my blog. The response was positive and enough to convince me — with a few kicks and shoves from Sarah and the others — to keep at it. Then the unthinkable happened. I realized that there were a couple of major plot flaws with the book. So, I went back, did some major rewrites and prayed I was doing the right thing. I waffled and whimpered and whined and Sarah did some more kicking and shoving. She reminded me that I’ve gotten comfortable writing the urban fantasy and paranormal books. But science fiction was different, especially since it is my first love when it comes to reading.

I listened — she was making sense, even if I didn’t want to admit it — and finished the novel. I let it sit for a bit and then did my first round of edits. That’s when I realized I needed someone who could check the book for consistency and proof it for me. Hmmmm. Oh, and I needed a cover. Hmmmmmmmm. So, I thought and talked and everything got done. With a few hiccups along the way. There are always hiccups, whether you realize it at first or not. The edits turned up a couple of minor plot points that needed to be tied up. So, back to the keyboard I went. Yep, that helped. The story was stronger. The cover was done and I heaved a sigh of relief. Everything was ready to start the publishing process.

Or so I thought.

The Amazon account was set up. No problem there. Amazon has a very simple interface for setting up your KDP account. Quick, easy and no sweat. Whew. On to B&N and the rest. No real problem, although the banking confirmation on a couple of them seemed to take longer than necessary. But soon, the accounts were set up and I was ready to move on to the next stage.

Except there was a problem. Or at least there was something I had to ask myself — because Sarah asked me. Damn her 😉 — I use a pen name (Ellie Ferguson) for the paranormals and my own name for the urban fantasies. If I published Vengeance from Ashes under either of those names, would my readers buy it expecting shifters and/or romance? So, after some back and forth, a new pen name was born. Ashes would come out under the name Sam Schall. The name has family ties and has the added benefit of seeming to be male for those who still think women can’t write sf. But, as I pointed out to someone, it is also a name that can be seen as the shortening of Samantha. So, the reader can decide for themselves if the author is male or female. The only problem is that I hadn’t told folks ahead of time that the book would come out under a pen name — head meet desk. Desk, sorry for the dent, but this is my head.

So, title page changed.

Now, finally, I was ready to convert the manuscript for uploading to the different sales sites. I followed my usual process and took the DOC file and converted it to ePUB and then fro ePUB to MOBI. The MOBI file was uploaded to Amazon without any problem and all I had to do was wait as it went through the review process. So, on to B&N where everything came to a screeching stop. I uploaded the ePUB file and checked the converted file. WTF?!? There were formatting errors all over the place. Okay, maybe I mucked something up. Tried another ePUB file. More formatting errors, but not the same ones. Huh? Fine. I uploaded the DOC file. OMG, now the entire book was italicized. I started banging my head against the desk again.

Grumbling and grousing, I decided that I’d use an aggregator. That meant I had to look at Smashwords or one of its competitors. Since I hate Smashwords with a passion because of the meatgrinder and the lag in payments, I started looking around. After spending more time that I wanted to on the problem, I settled on Draft2Digtial. I liked several things I read about them. First, there was no arcane formatting required like there is with Smashwords. So I didn’t have to go back and make a different DOC file to get rid of section headings, replacing them with bookmarks. Nor did I have to add any odd legal language and disclaimers like Smashwords requires. Then there is the monthly payout and a much quicker post time to B&N, Kobo and — hopefully — iTunes.

So far, I’ve been very happy with the experience with D2D. It’s been extremely easy to use. I can see daily sales and updating the files is simple — or it was once I figured out where the “edit” button was on the page.

Which brings up the two problems I had after Ashes went live. The first happened when Sarah pointed out that I’d accidentally uploaded an earlier version of the cover. Okay, no biggie. I went through and uploaded a new cover image on each of the three sites — Amazon, Smashwords (for their site sales only, not as an aggregator) and D2D. I edited the book file to include the new image and uploaded those files as well. No harm, no foul. Then I sat back and waited, sure that was the last of the problems.

Nope. I’d jinxed myself. It turns out that I’d managed to mangle the names of two characters and it had been missed through all the edits and review process. Yes, the dent in my desk is now the size of a small crater. But, after my head quit hurting and my eyes could focus again, I went back to the manuscript, made the corrections and uploaded the new copies. And I thanked the kind reader who’d pointed out the problem to me instead of posting a scathing review.

Now, like so many other authors, indie and others, I’m watching my sales figures. And trying to figure out how to get the word about the book out to a wider audience. And hiding under the kitchen sink. And, well, being a writer with all the fears and neuroses that attach to it.

So, I guess what I need to do now is give you the links to the book and ask you to spread the word — and ask the if you’ve already read it, you leave a review on Amazon or wherever you purchased it.


Barnes & Noble



Of trains, publishers and agency pricing

(Apologies for the post being late. I’ve been fighting WordPress. For some reason, for the last couple of days, it has refused to play nice with Opera. I hate IE but had to resort — finally — to using it to get the post up this morning.)

Last night, I was talking to Sarah and I asked her what I should blog about today. Nothing was happening in the industry that really seemed to jump out at me and scream “Blog about me!”. I couldn’t find anything I thought needed to be fisked and, since I’d been busy ripping out drywall all day, I hadn’t had time to cruse the blogs and news sites I usually look at when I need inspiration to kickstart an idea. Even when I got up this morning, the well was dry. Then, as is often the case, two sites later, there were half a dozen different stories all wanting to have some additional “face time” on the internet. Here are a few of them, along with my thoughts.

First up is the Amtrack Residency Program. I’ll admit when I first heard about the program, I was excited. I have loved trains since I was a kid. I think it started when I was really little and my paternal grandmother would tell me about how she’d ride the train out to California to visit my aunt and cousins every year. I read everything I could about trains. There was just something about them that called to me. My fascination grew when I was able to spend time in Europe and ride the trains there. So, there was a spark of little girl-like glee when I read the initial posts about the residency program. After all, how cool would it be to be able to ride the rails and write?

Awesome coolness, right?

Then reality came crashing down as I started seeing posts on Facebook and elsewhere about the actual contract terms Amtrak wanted authors to agree upon.

6.   Grant of Rights: In submitting an Application, Applicant hereby grants Sponsor the absolute, worldwide, and irrevocable right to use, modify, publish, publicly display, distribute, and copy Applicant’s Application, in whole or in part, for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and marketing, and to sublicense such rights to any third parties.

That’s right, boys and girls, just by submitting your application, you are granting Amtrak the right to do whatever it wants to with your application. Now, I have no doubt the last thing Amtrak plans to do is publish someone’s name, address, phone number, etc. But you can’t go by supposed intent. You have to look at the actual contract language.

Another concern I have is that they can modify and publish the application, including the application essay. That means they can take part of your, edit it any way they want, and put it out there with your name attached to it as well as your picture. You have no say in the editing and they aren’t required to say that the original text might not be exactly — or even near — to what has just gone public.

Then there’s this language in the contract: Applicant grants Sponsor the absolute, worldwide, and irrevocable right to use, modify, publish, publicly display, distribute, and copy the name, image, and/or likeness of Applicant and the names of any such persons identified in the Application for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and marketing.

I have several concerns with this as well. Let’s start with the fact that once you apply for the program, Amtrak has the right to use your application, essay AND your name, photo or likeness. More than that, they can do it for any reason they want to. Note that the language of the clause states that the use includes but is not limited to advertising and marketing. Worse, they can do this forever. Even publishing contracts have an end clause of some sort, vague though it might be (ask any author who is trying to get their rights back about how vague the language is and how hard it is to get a publisher to release rights now.)

Needless to say, much as I like trains, I’m not going to be applying for the program. Not with contract terms like this. For more, check out what Writer Beware has to say about it all.

One of my go-to sites to find out what’s happening in the publishing industry is The Passive Voice. If you haven’t bookmarked the site and visit it regularly, do so.

In a post about why publishers need to start thinking more like Amazon, PG made the following comment:  PG thinks if Big Publishing was going to pull off any sort of transformation in time to save itself, it would have begun before now. He further observes not the slightest indication that publishers have either the ability or the intention to think like Amazon. They would rather die first. And will.

While I’m not sure we will see the death of the major publishers, I do think we are going to see legacy publishers having to either merge or die. Smaller houses, those more responsive to not only their authors but their readers, will continue to spring up and do well. They may never have the market share of the Big Five publishers, they will be more economically viable.

I think we are also, at least for the near run, see more and more authors going indie or taking the hybrid route. Of course, major publishers hate both routes and have tried to limit an author’s ability to do either through contract terms requiring authors to submit their work to said publisher in a “right of first refusal”. Like the open-ended provisions of the Amtrak contract, there is often no limit on how long the publisher can sit on the submission before the author can then submit it elsewhere or go indie with it.

And we won’t get into where agents fall in this argument. They don’t make money on self-published work. Oh, wait, that’s why we’ve seen a spate of agencies opening their own publishing arms. They’re “helping” their clients self-publish. Just because they are also taking a piece of the pie has nothing to do with it.

Finally, in the whine of the week, I give you Kobo. I’ll admit right here that I have mixed feelings about Kobo. I cheered when it said it was opening its store up to indies and small presses. Not only does Kobo have a larger share of the Canadian EPUB market than Barnes & Noble but I’d heard good things about the company and its CEO. Then I started trying to use its interface and had slow approval times and a serious lack of help when it came to actually identifying why a book might be in perpetual limbo. After that came the whole “is it too explicit sexually” or not dust-up and, well, the shine started rubbing off of the company.

Now Kobo has filed an objection to the settlement announced by Canada’s Competition Bureau between CCB and four publishers that would end agency pricing. In its filing, Kobo says it lost its market share in the US due to the ending of agency pricing. It calls its market share and revenues here as “negligible” and says this will happen in Canada if agency pricing goes away. What gets me is that Kobo should have seen this coming. It’s not like the agency pricing issue happened overnight in the US and was done. It went on for a couple of years. Everyone except Apple and the publishers involved seemed to see the writing on the wall. So why didn’t Kobo start adapting when it became clear here and in England that the agency pricing model, as it existd, was going to be struck down?

A key thing to consider comes from The Digital Reader article linked above:

In short, Kobo is saying that when Amazon was allowed to discount ebooks in the US, Kobo was unable to compete effectively, not even by means other than price (marketing, CS, features, community). This is rather curious because other companies, including Zola Books, The Reading Room, Bilbary, Oyster, and Scribd all seem to be able to compete effectively against Amazon in the US ebook market. Also, (Barnes & Noble saw most of its growth in the pre-agency era, claiming a 20% market share by the end of April 2010. This only grew another 6% to 8% in the following years.)

I have a hard time buying Kobo’s argument. EPUB – the format Kobo sells – is potentially the largest market out there. It isn’t working under the failing business model of B&N. There is no real reason why it should have lost its market share here. There is certainly no reason why it would be hit that hard in Canada where, as I understand, it is the major e-book retailer of EPUB format.

It’s time for Kobo and legacy publishers to look around, listen to what their customers and suppliers are telling them and to adapt. Otherwise, they will continue to lose market shares and go belly up.

The howls of protest rise again

Yesterday I was trying to figure out what to blog about today. Between working hard to finish the latest work in progress, dealing with some personal stuff and the usual NRP stuff, blogging was most definitely not the most important thing on my mind. Add in an unusual amount of troll activity on by Facebook wall as well as on my friends’ Facebook walls and blogs I follow and I knew I needed to find something that didn’t send me over the edge. That’s when I saw a link on Facebook that had me alternately shaking my head and thinking about the “whys” of it.

In a post titled “Self-Published Erotica is Being Singled Out For Sweeping Deletions From Major eBookstores“, The Digital Reader wrote about what appears to be a trend to remove certain titles from the catalogs of Amazon, Kobo, B&N and WH Smith. I’ll let you read the article but the basic gist of it is that these e-book stores are removing certain erotica titles which are all either self-published or small press published and are doing so without notice. Over on the KBoards site, in a thread going back to September, there are howls of protest about this that range from condemning Amazon for changing its terms of service to censorship. I’m not going to get into the technical argument of whether or not a non-governmental entity can actually censor someone.

However, with regard to the changing of Amazon’s terms of service, that’s the company’s prerogative. It is why you should always read the changes when you get notice of it — something that is required to be given. So that is also a non-argument, in my opinion.

But there is a problem that has been presented in what happened and the reasons for these stores to start pulling these titles. (I’ll get into the argument some have put forth about how it is the prelude to them removing all self-published titles shortly.) This problem has been exacerbated by the explosion in the number of self-published titles coming through the various e-book stores over the last few years. As could be expected, some of these titles are erotica. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find that the number of erotica titles increased dramatically after the success of Fifty Shades of Gray. Nor would it surprise me to find out that these titles pushed the boundaries on a number of different levels, including being poorly written and being barely legal.

The real problem isn’t that these books exist. Nor is it that they may not be well-written or edited. The actual problem is two-fold. When you put an e-book up on most e-book platforms, you are asked for basic information: title, author, cover image, product description, copyright, pricing, territories where it is to be sold. What you aren’t asked is if it includes adult content. (Caveat here, Smashwords does ask this and does use that as a filter.)

The second part of the problem comes with how the author classifies and then tags the title. There is no guarantee an author is going to tag their erotica as erotica. Also, as with anything, there are varying degrees of erotica. Some can be well-written and hot but in a sensual way — not in a way that sends you running from the room screaming “EWWW!”. It can be nothing but “vanilla” sex or it can include BDSM. It can be consensual or non-consensual. I think you get my meaning. The problem is, the reader doesn’t know this if it isn’t classified and described very specifically.

But there is an underlying problem that goes beyond just the classification of a title. It is the tagging. You know what I’m talking about: those pesky words or phrases you are asked to put in that will be used as search terms for your title. For example, my novel Nocturnal Origins (an urban fantasy/police procedural) has tags of Dallas, murder, shapeshifter, police, werewolf, and a couple of others. So, if you were to type in “Dallas”, it would come up somewhere in a long list of other books with Dallas as a search term.

That’s all very innocent and no problem. But think about sitting down with your child and typing in the word “Daddy” and the search bringing up a list of titles that include books about underage sex, incest, etc. Add in then the cover images that would go with such titles and, well, you get some upset parents — especially if they discover these are the sorts of titles their kids are seeing when they aren’t around to supervise.

Now, does this justify removing en masse a bunch of titles that can be classed as erotica and only doing them with self-published titles? No, at least not in my opinion. However, I really think this is a tempest in a teacup. Historically, this has been the way Amazon, Kobo and the others have reacted when they’ve received a number of complaints (unfortunately, we don’t know what that magical number is). They react by pulling everything that might be “offensive” or against their terms of service and then they go back through and start returning titles for sale. It’s happened with everything from works that included parts of other works to other issues with erotica titles and more. Each and every time, the problem has been clarified and new procedures put into place.

And I think it will happen exactly this way again.

However, these different e-book stores have to do something to make sure these potentially objectionable titles aren’t available for easy access to minors. I say that not because I think we need to protect our little babies but because it will make life a lot easier for the retailers. A simple question about whether or not your book contains adult content — with that term clearly defined, including a list you can check to show what sort of content is included — like Smashwords currently has in place would help. Then those titles could be put behind a filter so their tags wouldn’t necessarily show up in a search for common terms like “daddy”.

And, no, that isn’t censorship. We so aren’t going to have that conversation here.

That said, the different e-book stores do have to worry about what they sell and the legality of it. This is especially true for those selling in multiple countries. Because of that, we may see periodic glitches as titles are pulled either by accident from all countries instead of just one or two countries due to legal issues or through a bit of overzealous precaution. But, it is more likely to happen because these stores use software “spiders” to search for certain words and terms and pull potentially questionable titles until real eyes can look them over. It is far from perfect but instead of taking to the internet to whine and gnash your teeth, contact the e-book retailer and find out what is going on and then find out what you can do to correct the situation. Don’t just rely on the e-mail you get telling you your title has been pulled for some none-too-specific reason.

On the KBoards and elsewhere, there is the renewed accusation that this is all part of some big conspiracy by Amazon, mainly, and the other retailers, to pull all self-published books from their virtual shelves. All I can say to that is, “get real”. I’m sorry, but Amazon and Jeff Bezos is anything but foolish. The KDP platform is a moneymaker for Amazon and it isn’t going to do away with an income stream that basically costs them nothing more than the price of transmission fees and hosting web pages. Okay, it is a little more than that, but not much.

Is it a problem when our titles are removed, even for a few days? Yes. Of course. Those titles are our income. So keep an eye on your titles, all of them, and make sure there are no problems. If there are, go to the source and keep pushing until you find out why they have been taken down. There are ways to contact Amazon and the others that don’t end with the generic notes you get in e-mail. With only one exception, NRP has never had any problem getting resolution within a few days of what the problem happens to be. That one exception is still taking place on a non-Amazon platform but I think I have an idea of what it might be and it is something to discuss with the bosses.

Finally, if you are an author of erotica titles that push the envelope, look for other platforms to sell you titles on besides the major players. I know of a number of erotica and m/m titles who sell much more on platforms like AllRomance than they do on Amazon or Kobo or B&N. Watch what you use as tags and be very careful that your cover images do not violate the terms of service for the various platforms.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my eye on what happens with this latest problem and, hopefully, by the time next week rolls around, solutions will be in place and this will be just another bad memory for those who have been affected.

A new outlet, more haters and other thoughts

In case you guys haven’t figured it out over the last couple of years, I’m not a morning person. I do my best to write my posts the night before they are due to go live but don’t always manage it. That’s exactly the situation I find myself in this morning. No post, not nearly enough coffee to start thinking, and my self-imposed deadline rapidly approaching. So bear with me as I try to find the zombie that took my brain overnight — and I really hope he didn’t chew too much on it — and then type one-handed, the other hand holding the mug of hot coffee that is all that stands between me and unconsciousness.

There’s a new player on the block in the self-publishing/small press publishing front. KOBO has opened its new self-publishing platform, Writing Life, live. I received my e-mail about it last night. I’ll admit that, while I welcome another player in the field, I have concerns as well. To find out what formats you can upload, what possible royalties you can earn, etc., you have to go ahead and sign up for an account with Writing Life. If you read the terms of service, you aren’t supposed to reveal what the royalty terms, etc., are without getting written permission from KOBO. That’s all troublesome to me.

However, what I do like about it is that KOBO is offering writers and small presses the chance to get directly onto their platform instead of having to go through a third party repackager or site like Smashwords. That takes one step out of the process and means you can get your book or short story up much quicker than before.

It also means that, unlike publishing through Barnes & Noble’s PubIt platform, you have another site that offers you international sales opportunities. This is very important, at least in my mind. The more avenues I have to sell my books, or to makes ure NRP’s books are available, the better.

There’s another reason I am cautiously optimistic about this news. With the international outlets and with KOBO’s e-book experience, it does look like it can position itself as a true competitor for Amazon’s KDP program. This is a good thing for authors, not that I expect it to quiet the Amazon haters. But look at it this way — as long as there is another platform out there offering similar royalty terms, offering international sales opportunities and that has a proven e-book store presence, Amazon can’t do too much to put the screws to authors or they will flee to the other platform. Of course, only time will tell.

For more information, you can check out the Writing Life FAQs here.

Speaking of Amazon haters, Facebook was alive with a number of them the last few days. Seems a fellow had put up a number of e-books that he claimed to have written but hadn’t. These books — by authors such as Heinlein, Cherryh, Clark and Scalzi, among others — had titles changed slightly but were not books written by this guy. Scalzi posted a quick blog about it, suggesting we all take part in some public shaming of the man. I’ve got no problem with that. In fact, it was a great way to get the word out about what this crook was doing.

But that wasn’t enough for some folks. No, while they decried what this supposed “author” had done, the fault, according to some of the comments on Scalzi’s blog and a lot of them on Facebook, lay with Amazon. It should do a better job of making sure this doesn’t happen. Every books published through the KDP platform should be checked against the “real” books published by “real” publishers. You see, according to these folks, plagiarism never happened under the old publishing model. Blah, blah, blah.

Let me take a moment to remind these folks that this isn’t anything new and most certainly didn’t begin with Amazon and the KDP platform. I wrote previously about how Little Brown had to pull Assassin of Secrets when it was revealed that the author had plagiarized from a number of spy novels. Then there was How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life in 2006 and the controversy around it. Whole chunks of it were lifted from other books and the howls of plagiarism began within weeks of it hitting the store shelves.

These are just two examples. You can find many others just by googling the topic. So, to all those who want to blame Amazon, get over yourselves. It was happening before Amazon began the KDP program and it happens to “real” publishers too. What’s next? Are you going to demand Amazon fact check everything that comes through the KDP program as well?

I get that there are those who just don’t trust Amazon. They have bought into the “Amazon is evil” argument set out by their publishers or, like me, they are skeptics. I don’t trust Amazon not to try to change the KDP terms to their benefit at some point down the road. Nor would I blame Amazon if it did. Look, Amazon is a company. It’s first priority is making money for its investors. But that doesn’t make it the enemy. What it does is make me remember to keep checking the terms of service for any updates and it leaves the responsibility to me to decide when, if, I move from KDP to another platform.

It is the same responsibility I have to read the Writing Life terms of service and decide if I want to use that new platform to get my books out to a wider audience. I have to ask myself if the ToS is beneficial enough to move away from Smashwords and word directly with KOBO. Remember, you have to look at more than just the financial aspects of the agreement. You have to look at where KOBO will be selling your books, will there be DRM, how much more time will it take to prepare and upload a file to Writing Life as opposed to just uploading to Smashwords and letting them distribute to KOBO for you.

Will I be trying the new platform? Absolutely. I’ll report on it, within the terms of the ToS, later.





You know, them ancient Greek fellers knew a thing or two. (So I put in a picture of my Amazon link to book I wrote about their ‘knowledge’. )

Well, they knew everyone who wasn’t a fellow Greek was a barbarian. And they invented this stuff called democracy, which meant one man one vote, unless you were a woman or a slave… All right, all right. This was three thousand years ago, and both those ideas probably seemed way too clever back then. Things have changed a bit, not always as much as we like to imagine. Human nature hasn’t a lot, even if the framework of mores we operate in has. One of the recurring themes of the stories from those high and far off days, was that hubris came before the certain fall.

It’s curious how it seems to be recurring now. It probably never went away, but we’re seeing hitherto overweening demi-gods in their little kingdoms tumble and fall. And amazingly whether we speak of Dick Fuld or the CEO’s of the big three US automakers, or countless other examples, warnings that they stood on the brink were always there. And they almost always ignored them (the CEO of Ford appears to be one who didn’t – and surviving as a result). The GFC started in the banks – they were bailed out, and their leading executives… learned nothing. Looking at Bob Diamond’s fall from grace and the steady creep of criminal proceedings towards bankers (and likely, asset forfeiture) this too could be story set in ancient Greece, where the gods punished arrogant men (and a few women) for thinking they were too big and powerful and central to fail.

In our own little firmament, the book world, the bigger (and quite a lot of the littler) publishers had become tin gods, whose whims and fancies had long been life or death to authors, and not exactly the comfort zone for readers. But they could take it or leave it. They did not have to please either producers or consumers, as without the publishers writers and readers could not meet. They were nice to the big book chains, and cozy and comfortable in their little world, which was slowly eroding under their feet. Shrinking sales and needs for the essentials of life like a fat CEO salary and a large office in NY meant that they outsourced many of the parts of the business. When you own the keys to gates to the city of the read, there is no need to work at maintaining the road, or providing food or water or pissoirs for travelers, let alone cleaning them. Editing, proof reading… someone else can do that sh!t. And then along came the Internet, and with it e-books and Internet shopping… and suddenly the cozy little world of gate-keeping became one of watching the planes fly above the wall, and a bunch of writers ignoring the rutted track and flying in. Instead of cleaning up the track, putting up ‘welcome’ signs on the gates, putting up water fountains and nice clean bathrooms, firing the surly guards and investing in airports and planes of their own, we had ‘business-as-usual’, and a lot of bad-mouthing in sweet-heart or allied bits of media. As some wag put it, trying to Tinkerbell Amazon out of existence. And then colluding to try to raise the wall. I see they’re at both again. Judging by the comments, they’re not doing very well at Tinkerbell, and I’d guess their wall raising won’t work too well either. However maybe they hope John Scalzi will come riding to their rescue again. He doesn’t appear very worried that a lot of SFWA members might be losing money because B&N and a bunch of independents were taking actions that identical or worse than those that got a flurry of furious Amazon take-downs from the SFWA site. But it’s all different when it is big bad Amazon, eh?

However there DOES seem some real hope of hope of competition. It’s always a good thing, and let’s face it, the other ‘competitors’ – the big 6 as the embodiment of traditional publishing, have as yet to do any competing at all for readers or writers. All they wanted was the status quo restored, which meant building higher walls and making smaller gates and co-operating to keep that situation. They weren’t interested in roadwork, or even the sort of support Salon’s writer is so bitter about Amazon handing out – handouts they’ve made from long before they big or profitable. Apple showed its colors by choosing to ally with them. Google so far hasn’t done anything effective except roundly infuriate authors with its little out of copyright grab. B&N’s Pubit is distressing parochial and really not competing in meaningful ways – like making things better for authors or indeed, readers. It would be nice if this changed, but B&N seem still far too busy playing reindeer games with their old ‘friends’ in traditional publishing and their old paper business. Competition instead my be emerging from the ashes of Borders… In the shape of Kobo. I would have said – a little while back – that this was not terribly likely, but here it is: it turns out that while B&N are entirely US-centric, and Amazon has slowly been spreading into other places… The rest of the world has been fertile fallow ground, and Kobo has been growing and has a similar e-retailer (to the rest of Amazon’s business) involved.

This is cheerful news – as a quick look at the article will tell you, because they’re competing where it matters (at least to writers) and I have to agree with Iden, it will stop Amazon squeezing us, and keep them squeezing softer targets where there is less competition. It may even make Amazon’s offers to Indies sweeter and wider. It’s the kind of competition we could use. (B&N is offering less, Kobo… more).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch it would appear hubris continues unabated in the Antipodes, spreading to elsewhere. Now I’m always pleased when an author does well, and I haven’t seen the book, and it may really turn out brilliant and vastly popular. But that’s the third very large – around $1 000 000 new author deal I’ve head of since I’ve been here. All the books have been by young attractive appearing women (under 35, and probably under 30), all massively politically correct (I quote here from this one – “She was represented in unequivocal terms as a monster or a witch, the Lady Macbeth behind the murder, a very manipulative, scheming woman,” Kent said. “It didn’t take into consideration her experiences or the struggles that she probably suffered.”). Sounds like yet another miserable, man-bad / woman- victim story… What an un-guessable surprise that the traditional publishing establishment might fall over themselves to buy it, despite the dismal track record of sales of same. The other two – despite vast expenditure (for instance tours of Europe and the US to meet and dine with the book-store buyers) – largely vanished without a trace. Now this book may prove the winner that pays for all. May. But there are no metrics to prove this. Just gut feel and whim. To put it in automaker terms, it proves that the publishers are still flying to beg for money in their corporate jets, paying the CEO’s tens of millions, and have not read the writing on the wall at all. It’s still the strategy to gamble big, assuming that as you control access, you can influence the odds. In a world where a $4K advance is the norm… this is very big bet on something where the numbers do not exist, and the track record for getting ‘runaway best-seller’ even with all the push in the world, right, is not good. Assuming that in a normal book, it is costing them the $100 000 they claim to bring the book to market, that’s 11 bets they could have made. If you add the amount they’ll probably spend on publicity as being equal to the advance… 21. Taking a more realistic $20K (which is generous, but does not allow for the essentials of publishing. You know… not nonsense like editing, covers and proof-reading. We get freelancers to do that for a pittance. Important stuff) that’s 105 chances to get the market right, as opposed to 1. Or — taking the money and paying a reasonable advance — they’d have had enough money to update their accounting system, and pay monthly and compete with Amazon. Or set up a system which keeps track of sales properly and transparently and allow them to do some kind of proper statistical analysis to work out what and where they’re failing and succeeding in their marketing, which would make them competitive. Or to set up to sell off their own platforms… and that’s just the start of better uses for the money.
But no. We approve of the books so it will be good for you.
We shall see.

The Glamour’s Worn Thin

by Amanda S. Green

I’m a little late posting this morning because I’ve been going round and round about what to write. Dave did such a wonderful job yesterday discussing his thoughts on Mike Shatzkin’s blog about what he thinks will happen if the Department of Justice’s possible antitrust investigation into Apple and five of the big six publishers causes the agency pricing model to disappear. I’ve already covered my thoughts on Scott Turow’s letter about the issue. Then I made the mistake of reading some of the comments from the “enlightened” on it and, well, you guessed it. I’m weighing in again on the issue.

I’ll admit, part of the reason for this post is a thread started by what I can only term a publishing troll on one of the boards I read every morning. This person posted a defense of big publishing comment that included a statement that the people “attacking” legacy publishing are doing so because they don’t have the talent to be published by a “real” publisher.

I beg your pardon? Oh, and that grinding sound you hear is the sound of the teeth of innumerable mid-listers who have suddenly been cut loose by their publishers because, even though their books are still on the shelves more than a year after publication and even though there are continued demands from their fans for more in a series, the publisher claims they just didn’t connect with the public. And that evil laugh you hear is me as I contemplate what will happen when these same mid-listers, free of the fear of upsetting their publishing masters, finally demand full audits and the publishers are caught between a rock and a hard place because of their “creative” bookkeeping methods.

So, yeah, I’m in a pissy mood this morning. I’m tired of legacy publishers thinking they can pull the wool over the eyes of authors who should know better. I’m tired of them also thinking readers, those good folks who buy their products, as so dumb they can’t see what is happening. With that in mind, I’m going to revisit Shatzkin’s blog and some of the sources it cites.

From the opening paragraph:  But if this does mean the end of the agency model, it would seem to be a cause for celebrating at Amazon and a catalyst for some deep contemplation by all the other big players in the book business.

Duh. Of course it will be “a catalyst for some deep contemplation”. The problem is, they should have been doing this “deep contemplation” years ago. Market trends and technology have been changing for the last three plus decades and yet the publishing industry hasn’t really embraced these changes. The publishers should have been concerned when the big box stores came onto the scene and forced the smaller, locally owned bookstores out of the market. But publishers weren’t. Oh no, not at all. They embraced these new stores, loving the fact they could do larger orders and write bigger checks. But now, with the economy and other trends causing these large stores to close down, publishing is running scared and blaming Amazon for the problems faced by these brick and mortar stores. But the truth of the matter is, Amazon is only one small part of the whole equation. Unfortunately, neither the big box stores nor publishers did any “deep contemplation” before things became so bad their entire companies are in danger of failing.

Agency pricing, for those who have not been following the most important development in the growth of the book market, enabled the publishers to enforce a uniform price for each ebook title across all retail outlets

Okay, pardon me while I laugh for a bit. Is he really saying agency pricing is the most important development in the growth of the book market? Sorry, but no. E-books are the most important development in the growth of the book market. If you’ve followed the sales numbers over the last few years, the only segment of the market to consistently grow, usually in triple digit percentage points, has been e-books. The only thing agency pricing has done is artificially inflate the price of certain e-books and that, in turn, has opened the market to small press published and self-published e-books.

This was Apple’s desired way to do business, and it addressed deep concerns the big publishers had about the effect of Amazon’s loss-leader discounting.

Okay, whether he meant to or not, he just admitted that agency pricing is something dreamed up by Steve Jobs and agreed to by five of the big six publishers. And, if you read the link included in the quote above, you will see this wonderful piece of logic from Macmillan: The agency model would allow Amazon to make more money selling our books, not less. We would make less money in our dealings with Amazon under the new model. Our disagreement is not about short term profitability but rather about the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market. Am I the only one to see all sorts of wrong in this statement? How in the world is lower profits for the publisher–which would mean less money for authors under most contracts–be good for the publisher? How is this sort of an agreement going to safeguard the “long-term viability and stability of the digital book”? It makes absolutely no sense. My opinion is that they went along with this because they wanted into iBooks/iTunes and the only way to do so was to accept Steve Jobs’ terms and that meant forcing Amazon, B&N and other e-book retailers to adopt the agency pricing model. Remember, the key to the agreement with Apple was that these publishers would not allow their e-books to be sold for less anywhere else. So Amazon isn’t the only market where these publishers would be making less money. Funny how folks seem to overlook this little item.

Back to Shatzkin: Although the WSJ article and Michael Cader’s follow up in Publishers Lunch make no “agency is dead” declaration and there are quotes from publishers and others indicating that there are a range of possible outcomes, including a version of agency that is modified to allow some discounting, everybody in the industry now has to contemplate what it would mean if the agency model is legally upended.

Again, why weren’t they already considering this? For one thing, the contracts signed with Amazon, B&N, etc., weren’t for perpetuity. There would soon be a time when they came up for renegotiation. For another, The European Union, not to mention more than a few states’ attorneys general, were already looking into the legalities of agency pricing. The fact that the industry hasn’t been considering “what ifs” simply shows how out of touch it is with the reality of the market these days.

To Amazon, it would mean they would be free to set prices on all books again, including the most high-profile and attractive ones that come from the big trade houses. That is an opportunity they are likely to seize with loss-leader discounting of the biggest marquee titles.

Ah, evil Amazon. Conducting its business as, gasp, a business. The ability to sell a product wanted by the public at a lower price has been an age-old tactic of shop owners and merchants. It gets folks through the doors, be they physical doors or cyber doors. And isn’t this basically what the brick and mortar stores did when they burst onto the market? They were able to price hard covers much less than the mom and pop bookstore could. That’s why the public initially loved these larger stores. It’s also why publishers loved them. These lower prices meant more units being sold. Funny how the publishers have forgotten that.

To Barnes & Noble, it would mean they have to devote cash resources to ebook discounting that they might have preferred to dedicate to further development of the Nook platform, maintaining the most robust possible brick-and-mortar presence, and improving the user experience at 

This very well may be true. The problem with this statement is that it omits the part about BN waiting too long to enter the e-book market. It forgets that BN spent too much time selling third-party e-book readers instead of developing and putting on the market its own e-book reader. It also ignores the fact that the BN online presence is not user friendly, especially not when it comes to e-books. It also lacks the vibrant online community Amazon has built.

Unconfirmed stories abound that B&N is about to announce an international expansion. Whether that will produce cash flow immediately or require it for a while is not yet known. For B&N’s sake, it would always better if it were the former, but if they’re about to fight discounting wars, it might be critical.

I seem to be saying, or at least thinking, “too little too late” a lot as I re-read Shatzkin’s post. BN needed this international expansion long ago. The fact that it may, finally, occur probably is too little too late. I’ll note here that this possible expansion is for e-books, not brick and mortar stores. Again, why has it taken this long? I’ll also note that the source Shatzkin cites is from August of last year. So far, to the best of my knowledge, that expansion has yet to occur.

To Kobo, it would mean that they also will need to devote cash resources to subsidizing price cuts to match Amazon. With their new ownership by Rakuten, they should have the capital they need to fight this battle. They must be glad that deal got done before agency was upended.

Nope, sorry. For those of you familiar with Kobo, you know they don’t always match Amazon prices. There are a number of titles Kobo offers for substantially higher prices than the same title is offered for on Amazon. And, before you ask, I’m talking about legacy published e-book titles. So I don’t see them trying to match prices with Amazon except on certain titles.

To Google, it would mean that the bookstore service piece of their ebook business will suddenly be highly challenged. Many independent stores might be pushed out of the ebook game completely; it certainly would be extremely difficult for them to support competition with Amazon’s prices. To Google itself, with their new Google Play configuration, it means they will have to both spend more margin and more management energy to be a serious competitor in the retail marketplace. There’s no clear evidence that they have the interest at the top to do that, although they certainly would have the resources.

Yes, I’m laughing again. Google’s e-book business is already highly challenged. They’ve dropped the number of stores able to take part in their program. Their interface for authors and small presses leaves a lot to be desired. As for Google Play, why is Amazon the only reason they would have problems? Doesn’t Shatzkin remember a little company called Apple and its iTunes store? Or does he not see the parallels between Google Play and iTunes?

To Apple, it would mean that their entire iBookstore model is in question. They apparently didn’t want to take on all the normal responsibilities of a merchant, which would include setting prices. Now they may have to.

Oh, cry me a river. If Steve Jobs hadn’t presented the agency model to publishers and said “accept or else”, we’d not be having this discussion. But then, I’m just a bitter small publisher employee who can’t put our e-books directly onto iTunes/iBooks because we use PCs and not Macs, something required to use their interface. And, btw, they are the only storefront for e-books that we’ve come across that requires a certain computing platform in order to upload a file.

To all the big publishers, including Random House (the one of the Big Six not being sued, because they stayed out of agency for the first year and therefore were not considered part of the “collusion”) it would mean that they will have to painfully reverse the re-pricing and systems adjustments they went through to implement agency in the first place.

“Painfully”? How can it be painful if they can return to a pricing model where they made more money? Remember the quote from the Macmillan post above. It was admitted then that agency model pricing meant less money for publishers.

Smaller publishers and distributors might be beneficiaries if agency is eliminated, but they might not. The agency model is a great advantage for those publishers who are able to fully implement it. But that is only six publishers — the Big Six — because Amazon has simply refused to let anybody else sell to them that way.

I ask again, how is ia great advantage for publishers when these same publishers admit they don’t make as much money from agency pricing as they did before? As for Amazon refusing to let anyone else use agency pricing, good for them. It means Amazon is looking out for the economic well-being of the company and making sure it keeps its shareholders happy. It also means Amazon is looking out for its customers. But that’s a bad thing I guess because, gasp, it isn’t saving legacy publishing from the follies of the boardrooms in NYC.

That creates problems for the smaller publishers but an even more threatening one for distributors. All but the Big Six, if they want to sell to both Amazon and Apple, must operate a “hybrid” model, selling Apple on agency terms and Amazon on wholesale terms. The two are inherently in conflict. What is ultimately a threat to the distributors is that distributees that desire agency terms, and many would. might seek distribution deals from one of the Big Six. (It might be coincidental, but it is worth noting that IPG, the company having a fight with Amazon at the moment over terms, is a distributor.)

Okay, here is where I have to watch myself. It doesn’t create a problem for small publishers. We set our own prices both with Amazon and with Apple. If one lowers the price for promo reasons, the other can and does the same. As for the two being inherently in conflict, thank Apple. As noted before, Jobs required the first five of the big six to accept agency pricing or not sell in iBooks. Blaming Amazon for something it had no control over is ridiculous.

As for the threat to distributors, get real. I’ll admit distributors have a role in publishing, but not when it comes to e-books. Sorry, but there is no reason a small press has to use a distributor to get into Amazon or BN. The process is simple and relatively pain free to upload titles to either of these stores. Given the proper Apple computer, I assume it is for iTunes/iBooks as well. So I have no sympathy for IPG or other distributors moaning the fact Amazon won’t let them go to agency pricing. As an author I have even less sympathy because I know publishers take out the cost of distribution before figuring royalties. Why would I want to lower my already too small royalty payments?

Of course, we don’t know how the Big Publishers will respond if they’re forced off agency. It’s long been my opinion that the 50% discount for ebooks is unworkable. It leads to ridiculous and unrealistic retail prices. (Publishers operating on the hybrid model have to have two retail prices: one on which to base the wholesale discount and another at Apple operating agency-style. It’s crazy.) Would the big publishers, if they couldn’t do agency, keep the 30% discount and their current prices? Would they go back to the 50% discount and jack the suggested retail prices back up? If they did the former and nothing else changed, the smaller publishers could be at a much greater disadvantage than they are now.

Ah, the economic double-speak. First of all, small publishers won’t be at a “much greater disadvantage” because we will still be pricing below major publishers. Why? Because our overhead is much smaller. Also, for those of us with a limited paper-side publishing, we aren’t trying to artificially prop up the hard copy publishing arm with the digital arm. And that is exactly what the legacy publishers are doing. They are trying to use their e-book sales to keep the print side alive.

The other thing Shatzkin keeps overlooking is the fact that publishers aren’t making as much per sale under agency pricing as they did before. So, going back to the previous pricing method would actually give them more money in their pockets. How that is a bad thing, I don’t know.

Over time, the biggest losers here will be the authors. The independent authors will feel the pain first. Agency pricing creates a zone of pricing they can occupy without much competition from branded merchandise. When the known authors are only available at $9.99 and up, the fledgling at $0.99-$2.99 looks very attractive and worth a try. Ending agency will have the “desired” effect of bringing all ebook prices down. As the big book prices are reduced, the ability of the unknowns to use price as a discovery tool will diminish as well. In the short run, it will be the independent authors who will pay the biggest price of all.

This guy really should try his hand as a comedian because he’s killing me here. First of all, do any of us really see legacy publishers pricing their books under $5.99, much less as low as $2.99? And let’s forget about the fact that they already have e-books in the $7.99 range.  The loss of agency pricing will simply allow best sellers and new releases to come down in price to something more readers will be willing to pay. This will be, in my opinion, back in the $9.99 range and there simply aren’t that many self-published or small press published titles that are in that range.

With regard to his comment that the lower prices will make it harder for “unknowns” to price their titles low enough to be discovered by the average reader, wrong again. I would be very surprised if legacy publishers will price any book, much less a new release, at less than $7.99. Remember, they are using e-books to prop up their print divisions. If they price low enough to shut out these so-called “unknowns”, they will have to do some major cost cutting somewhere and that isn’t going to happen. They like their plush offices and they’ve already cut out or outsourced so much of the editorial process that it isn’t funny.

But, in the long run, all authors will just get less. They will join the legion of suppliers beholden to a retailer whose mission is to deliver the lowest possible price to the consumer.

Authors already get less. Most authors are not paid royalties based no cover price, not really. Publishers take out expenses. So, if an e-book has a price of $12.99 and the publisher gets 30% of that under agency pricing, that starts the share of the pie the author gets to look at at $3.90. Believe me, the author is not getting much of that at all. Once more, I remind you of what the Macmillan post said. Agency pricing means less money for publishers than the previous pricing plan paid. Less money for publishers means less money for authors.

Seth Godin has recently made the argument that this is simply inevitable. Perhaps it is. The laws of supply and demand would support that contention. But from my personal perspective, I don’t like seeing the government hasten the process along.

Could this be because he works with/for publishers? I am not, and never have been, one to want our government interfering in business. However, we do have laws and the Department of Justice is tasked with upholding these laws. If there has been collusion between the publishers and Apple — and I think it is pretty clear there has been — then those laws need to be applied to them.

The truth of the matter is simple. Agency pricing has hurt publishers and hasn’t done what they wanted–it hasn’t saved their print divisions. Those sales continue to fall while e-book sales continue to rise. Amazon is not the only reason for the problems publishers face. Despite what one commenter on the thread that got me started on this this morning said about publishing’s business model not being broken, it is. Until legacy publishers address ALL the issues facing them and not just try to save things by artificially inflating e-book prices, the industry will continue to flounder. Just a few of the issues they need to address are:

1. the failure of agency pricing to do as they wanted

2. low royalty rates to authors

3. cutting of mid-list authors, traditionally the work horses of the industry, as a cost-cutting means to allow them to continue paying higher advances to their so-called best sellers (note here that those advances have fallen just as have the advances to mid-listers)

4. lack of push or promotion for books

5. decline of physical bookstores (yes, Amazon has had a hand here, but so has the economy, over-expansion of the big box stores after pushing the locally owned stores out of the market, mismanagement of the big box stores, etc.)

6. decline in the quality of their product (publishers have cut their editorial staffs, often use interns to do copy edits and proofreading, lower quality bindings and paper, etc)

7. economic downturns that have people unable or unwilling to pay $10 for a paperback or $30 for a hard cover

There are a number of others as well. But agency pricing is not the savior of the industry. Amazon is not the big bad that a few outspoken publishers and authors would have us believe. Publishing is plagued by what could almost be termed a perfect storm, a combination of factors that it failed to see coming and that it has failed to effectively deal with once those factors could no longer be denied.


(cross-posted to The Naked Truth and here)