There is something seriously askew with the supposed values of the publishing business.
The most egregious behavior continually gets overlooked, ignored, and swept under the carpet, in favor of pursuing pet targets.
As always, I’m conscious of whose agenda this serves and why writers allow themselves to be used as pawns in this game.
Exhibit A: Harlequin
Amazon is regularly slated for the way it manages its tax affairs. I have written extensively about this before, but, in short, Amazon is using extremely common methods for minimizing its tax bills that are used by every major tech company (and many other multinational corporations too).
You can argue these loopholes should be closed (and I would agree), but these actions are legal. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the major publishers, and the global media conglomerates which own them, are doing the exact same thing.
Take Harlequin, for example. Harlequin doesn’t just use these corporate structures to minimize its tax bill. It has also used them to reduce the 50% digital royalty rate agreed in some of its contracts to a paltry 3%. Harlequin is facing a class action suit because of this, but you won’t find coverage of that in the news media or outrage about Harlequin’s actions among publishing professionals.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I think exploiting authors in this manner is worse than legally minimizing your tax bill.
Exhibit B: The New York Times
I have a fun game you can play! Well, it’s more of a thought experiment and it goes something like this: try and construct a hypothetical scenario where the New York Times writes an article that is critical of a major publisher. Seriously, give it a shot. It’s probably harder than you think, as it would need to be something worse than price-fixing or exploiting authors on an industrial scale, subjects which the New York Times routinely ignores, or whitewashes.
It would also have to be worse than a publisher pretending it was a victim of the Nazis when, in reality, it secretly donated to the SS, used Jewish slave labor to publish hits like The Christmas Book of the Hitler Youth, and then refused to apologize in 2002 when caught lying about it!
That publisher is Bertelsmann, 51% owner of Penguin Random House. I guess being a global media conglomerate keeps the right stories on the front page and helps the wrong ones disappear. Continue reading