Publishing Is Rotten To The Core

"Rotten apple" by Kulmalukko. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Rotten apple” by Kulmalukko. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Exhibit C: LA Times Festival of Books

The biggest controversy in the publishing world this year, before the Hachette mess, was Amazon’s involvement with the LA Times Festival of Books. Amazon wasn’t sponsoring the event, or even appearing at it. The deal was an affiliate arrangement where the LA Times Festival of Books would make a percentage on any Amazon transactions that occurred via its own site. The anger subsided when the organizers also struck an affiliate deal with IndieBound – an umbrella group for independent booksellers.

However, there has been no such controversy over Author Solutions’ partnership with the LA Times Festival of Books. Not a peep of protest over the $900,000 that Author Solutions scammed out of writers at last year’s event alone. Author Solutions has been appearing at the LA Times Festival of Books for years without encountering any opposition from indie booksellers, or howls of protest from publishing professionals.

Maybe I’m nuts, but I think partnering with a company famous for scamming authors, who is currently facing a class action for deceptive business practices, is a little bit worse than agreeing an affiliate deal with Amazon to make a percentage from transactions that were likely to occur anyway.

Exhibit D: Publishers Weekly

The crusade against the affiliate deal with Amazon was led by Publishers Weekly – who whipped up a moral panic among booksellers and industry professionals which, in turn, led to calls for a boycott of the event.

Despite numerous requests from me, Publishers Weekly refused to cover the Author Solutions story, or comment on the record about my article regarding same. Of course, Publishers Weekly has a business relationship with Author Solutions, permitting the vanity press to sell six different Publishers Weekly advertising packages (costing up to $16,499) to its customers victims. The high-pressure sales tactics used by Author Solutions to sell such packages were explicitly mentioned in the papers filed in the class action suit.

But exploiting authors isn’t important. Let’s get mad about an Amazon affiliate deal instead.

Rotten To The Core

Publishing likes to think of itself as a “moral” business with strong “values” but I think that’s complete bullshit. No industry with the smallest amount of ethics would permit a giant scam like Author Solutions to happen under its nose.

No industry with the tiniest modicum of respect for writers would keep quiet about Penguin Random House owning the biggest vanity press in the world. No industry with any sense of decency would look the other way when Simon & Schuster partners with Author Solutions, or when Harlequin and HarperCollins happily profit from the exploitation of writers with their own white-label vanity imprints.

The moral compass of publishing is completely broken and we can’t look to the media to hold them to account, because the media is parroting talking points from the major publishers.

We are the only ones who can push back against this crap, so the next time The Guardian publishes an Amazon hit piece, ask them why they have never covered the Author Solutions story.

The next time the Wall Street Journal runs an article claiming the judge in the price-fixing trial was biased and calling her “a disgrace to the judiciary“, ask them why they didn’t disclose that the Wall Street Journal is owned by NewsCorp, which also owns HarperCollins – one of the five major publishers who illegally colluded to fix the price of e-books.

The next time the New York Times acts as an uncritical mouthpiece for a pro-publisher organization which has just spent $104,000 on a full-page spread, ask them why they don’t direct similar moral outrage towards publishers who are cheating writers out of contractually agreed royalties. Ask them why the only time they mention Author Solutions is in an uncritical or even glowing manner (like here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Ask them if it’s anything to do with the amount of money that publishers (and Author Solutions) spend on advertising.

The next time Publishers Weekly leads a crusade against Amazon, claiming to defend the values of this business, ask them how much money they make from Author Solutions advertising. Ask them if this is the reason why they never subject the most successful author scamming operation in the world to any level of scrutiny, and instead print puff pieces like this, this, this this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

And ask them what those values are, exactly. Because this business is rotten to the core.

About David Gaughran

David Gaughran is Irish, living in Prague, and the author of Mercenary, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, Let's Get Digital, Let's Get Visible, and this here blog.
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157 Responses to Publishing Is Rotten To The Core

  1. dorothyanneb says:

    Reblogged this on DA's Ephemera and Etceteras and commented:
    Definitely worth a read…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So David, tell us what you really think.🙂
    An excellent and to-the-point post, as usual. Keep up the good work and truth will win out (eventually).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. J.M. Porup says:

    Humanity is rotten to the core. Not just publishing.

    You may like to (re-)read the end of Part IV of GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, in which Gulliver is no longer able to stomach the revolting stench of corrupt humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s interesting that the name “Gulliver” is so similar to “ghallaibh,” the Irish word for “foreigners.” Who was the true foreigner in Swift’s story? Who are the true foreigners, in the world of publishing? To what are they foreign?

      Like

  4. It’s amazing how similarly these media conglomerates function to the institutions of high finance. Both seem to operate on the understanding that the best way to succeed within a market is simply to buy up the market itself, the result of which is invariably a degenerating orgy of self-serving mischief. I’m no champion of Amazon – it may well be on a similar path, albeit in the early stages – but for now it appears to be the only bully big enough to take on the entire yard, and for that we must be at least thankful, if not enthusiastic. It’s also not lost on me that Amazon, whatever else it may be, is also the biggest champion of self-published authors in the history of publishing, and I dread to think what would be happening now if it wasn’t a juggernaut in its own right. I guess the thing I worry about most is what happens when Amazon prevails and no longer has any political need to placate the little guy. Sometimes I feel like I’m cheering on the Red Army at Kursk. Perhaps that’s a little harsh, but history is replete with proof that monopolies tend to warp as they grow despite the best of intentions. But I also believe that for now, Amazon is the best thing we have, and perhaps if we keep our shit together, the self-publishing community can maintain a stand within it significant enough to keep the wolves at bay. Time will tell.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I have a relatively positive disposition towards Amazon because of how it treats my peers. If I was a bookseller, I might feel differently. But the point is this: I’m not against Amazon being subjected to scrutiny. It should be subjected to scrutiny. What I’m against is the major publishers not being subjected to any level of scrutiny at all – even though publishers have committed far more egregious acts than anything Amazon stands accused of. And what I can’t abide is the media blindly repeating publishers’ talking points about “values” when those publishers have no values whatsoever.

      Liked by 2 people

    • To me, it’s all “pot, meet kettle,” but then, I may be one of the early Indie “little guy[s]” that Amazon decided was disposable. We shall see.

      Like

    • rickchapman says:

      +++ is also the biggest champion of self-published authors in the history of publishing, and I dread to think what would be happening now if it wasn’t a juggernaut in its own right.+++

      It would be someone else. Amazon did not lead the charge to kickstart E-books. The first major attempt was made in the early 2000s by Adobe, Sony, Panasonic, etc.

      Wrote about it in 2005 in “In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters.”

      Rick Chapman
      Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.” Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

      Like

      • You’ll get no argument from me on that score. I wrote a post myself a while back in which I was pretty adamant that the eBook was as inevitable as the iPhone. But like Apple, Amazon, for better or worse, came out on top. I would be a lot happier if the eBook/reader market was shared evenly between three or four players. Alas, no such luck.

        Like

      • Rick, if you have been watching the e-book market for that long, you should know that e-books have been around since the 1970s. E-readers have been around since the 1990s. But the market didn’t exist in any meaningful form until the launch of the first Kindle. Amazon essentially created the present-day e-book market. E-book market penetration was negligible until the Kindle was launched, and grew rapidly since then.

        Liked by 1 person

      • rickchapman says:

        +++ Rick, if you have been watching the e-book market for that long, you should know that e-books have been around since the 1970s. E-readers have been around since the 1990s.+++

        Not really. I was once the product manager for WordStar and WordStar 2000 and know all about it. Yeah, there were a few “books” distributed on floppies and via Fidonet and the BBS systems, but no market and no revenue.

        I know about the E-readers and discuss them in detail in “In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters.”

        Heck, Jehovah’s Witnesses were walking around in the 30s and 40s with portable record players and spinning 78s with speeches by “Judge” Rutherford. The first audible books!

        Let’s focus on real and growing markets and technologies, not historical oddities.

        +++ But the market didn’t exist in any meaningful form until the launch of the first Kindle. Amazon essentially created the present-day e-book market. E-book market penetration was negligible until the Kindle was launched, and grew rapidly since then. +++

        That is quite true and I give them full credit. But if they hadn’t, it would have been someone else. I wrote about the failure of the 1999-2001 efforts by Adobe and others to kickstart the market. In the second edition of “In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters” I analyzed the failure and predicted when the market would develop. (I was off by several years, though. I thought it would happen in the 2010 time frame and Amazon fooled me!)

        But everyone in high-tech knew it was coming.

        Rick Chapman
        Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.” J
        Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

        Like

  5. daleamidei says:

    The likelihood of money becoming the dominant value in a given situation increases with the amount of money on the table. That’s the bait of mammon.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s about time somebody said all these things! This industry needs some serious house-cleaning!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. In his book “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator” Ryan Holiday clearly explains why the media — old and new — are so rotten. The emperor has no clothes.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. mnmarcus says:

    Excellent!

    We should also rremember sleazy self-pubcos sponsoring writing contests, as Outskirts Press did with Writers Digest; and Simon & Schuster offering to bribe bloggers for promoting Archway.

    http://www.bookmakingblog.com/2014/01/simon-schuster-tried-to-bribe-me-should.html.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, the above is the tip of this corrupt iceberg. So much dodgy stuff in this business. So many conferences partnering with vanity presses. So many publishers with vanity imprints. It’s shameful.

      Like

  9. Kevin Finley says:

    You give authors a lot of great information and I hope you continue to write posts that are informative, but this just sounds bitter. Traditional publishing has it’s issues, but give me a business that does not have issues. The New York Times is not a perfect paper, but are you ripping them because they don’t cover you and other indie authors? Because they do say things about traditional publishers. This post sounds like sour grapes toward the traditional world that didn’t want to publish your work.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I honestly don’t care if the New York Times covers me or other indie authors (and they have covered indie authors, btw). I do care when the publish uncritical puff pieces about scammers. Did you read any of the links above?

      Btw, I’ve never actually been rejected by a publisher, so I’m not sure how bitterness is a motivation. And my “bitterness” is so strong that I wrote this celebratory post when an indie author got a deal with a traditional publisher: https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/from-pizza-hut-to-easy-street-the-david-dalglish-story/

      (I can give plenty more examples if you like.)

      Like

    • To answer you in a more positive sense, I’ll tell you what I am motivated by. I’ve been campaigning against Author Solutions and similar scams for a few years. Every time I post on the subject I get heartbreaking emails and comments from victims of the scam.

      I hate seeing cheats and scammers prosper, and seeing people losing their life savings to these assholes, or giving up on writing as a result of being swindled. And I can’t abide the fact that this is being done under the auspices of the largest traditional publisher in the world. Or that they are getting away with it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jim Self says:

      The NYT prints hit pieces on Amazon multiple times a month, sometimes a few per week. They do not print critical stories about big publishers or Author Solutions… and “coincidentally” there’s money changing hands between NYT and these other companies. That ought to be enough to raise your suspicions.

      Author Solutions is one of David’s pet topics. That’s fine, this is his blog. Are you aware of AS’s history? If not, check older posts at this blog and also Writer Beware.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Man, you missed the entire point David was making, Kevin.

      This piece wasn’t bitter at all, it was a lucid, point-by-point explanation of the media landscape surrounding the publishing industry. Sure, it could have been more complete, but it is a blog post.

      David, I hope you (someday) write or assemble a collection of this writing into a book “What You Should Know About The Book Publishing Industry” etc…

      This stuff (everything you linked to above) represents solid journalism, and needs to reach further outside the “publishing echo chamber.”

      Keep it up David.

      Like

  10. Hahahaha, word minions, great line. Thank you for this important information!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Pingback: Publishing Is Rotten To The Core | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing

  12. It seems only common sense that writers should want to understand truths behind the business of publishing because that’s the bread & butter. Why anyone would want to give away their publishing rights is beyond me, and to be left hanging in the wind while they promote the favorites only because they guarantee big returns – with this business model new authors have a better chance at the lottery. Doing business with ‘dodgy’ companies is not in a writer’s best interest, unfortunately young writers are still brainwashed in college by their professors to stay away from self-publishing. The joke is you are on your own even if you go the traditional route so why give away your profit? And why support companies whose goal is only about the dollar and too willing to fleece writers and aspiring authors. Publishing houses are not looking for new talent, encourage you to pay for your own editing, and support these over priced service companies. They finagle discount deals and sign off on any liability – and they wonder why newbies are flocking away? And why mid listers are jumping overboard? It’s too bad it took a company like Amazon to expose the in unbalanced scales – every writer should try to understand where their paycheck comes from because you worked too hard not to.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. For the record, here’s a (partial) list of Author Solutions’ links to traditional publishing:

    Vanity Presses Powered by Author Solutions: Archway (for Simon & Schuster), Partridge (for Penguin), Westbow (for Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins), Balboa Press (Hay House), Dellarte Press (Harlequin).

    Customer Service/Marketing Packages by Author Solutions: BookCountry, Lulu.

    Publishers with vanity presses run by Author Solutions: Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins, Hay House, Harlequin.

    Conferences/Festivals that allow Author Solutions scams: Toronto Word on the Street, Miami Book Fair International, LA Times Book Fair, Tucson Festival of Books.

    Companies which run Author Solutions ads: London Review of Books, Guardian Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, New York Review of Books, Readers’ Digest, ForeWord, Clarion, Ingram, and the New York Times.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. As the rest of the country goes, so goes publishing. In other words, this doesn’t surprise me in the least as many huge corporations are screwing employees and customers as they chase huge profits. It’s everyone out for themselves these days, sad to say. “Morals” and “ethics” seem to be a thing of the past if their behavior, and that of the majority of our politicians, is anything to go by.😦

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Don Odom says:

    Great article (as usual), David! Will be sharing far and wide …

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Loved your post. It’s amazing how publishing houses and some printed media have double standards when it comes to their business. When Amazon protects its interests, they suddenly react as if Amazon should be a charitable foundation rather than a profitable company. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Very well said, David! I’m going to scamper off and tweet this now.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thirty-five years ago when I started out as a journalist, the profession did have a great deal of integrity. When i covered a story I was directed to give both sides of the issue equal play, so that the reader could make up their own mind. In those days, it was “just the facts.” No opinions. If I expressed any type of opinion in a news story, it was quickly struck out. My editors told me if I felt strongly about something, write an editorial.

    Sadly our news media has become corrupted by the political and financial agenda of their owners. We as readers, have to search between the lines to uncover the real truth.

    Thank you David, for giving us the other side of the story, and trying to keep the media “honest.” It’s a tall order.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agreed on every point, Stephen. What’s happened to the news business is sad.

      And David, great post, as always. I agree with the poster upthread who suggested that you collect these posts into an expose. I’d buy it.🙂

      Like

  19. Little confused; you said Bertelsmann “refused to apologize” but the article you link says that as soon as the commission issued its report:

    “The company immediately issued a statement apologising for its wartime activities and false corporate history.”

    What’s up there?

    Liked by 1 person

    • SpringfieldMH says:

      Perhaps David did other additional research….

      “Still, Bertelsmann’s management, with its expression of regret for its activities and the misrepresentations, stopped short of apologizing for the company’s wartime record.”
      http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/08/world/bertelsmann-offers-regret-for-its-nazi-era-conduct.html

      “When an independent commission set up by Bertelsmann AG to investigate the company’s Nazi past issued its report this fall, the results were damning — but they didn’t tell the full story.”
      and
      “Yet the report doesn’t discuss the behind-the-scenes efforts the company made to silence the freelance historian who first unearthed the evidence that led to the investigation. And it made no mention of a revealing document that shows how Reinhard Mohn, who still controls Bertelsmann, helped cover up the company’s Nazi links at a crucial time after the war when it was trying to gain a British publishing license”
      http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB1040604506118389713

      Like

  20. A great and articulate article as always David🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Pingback: Not Far Off | Tales and Such

  22. Nancy Miller says:

    Reblogged this on California Muse and commented:
    It’s always all about the $$

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Vicky Loebel says:

    Well reasoned and to the poin,t as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. well well MR DAVID.. every post you surprise me ..( to be honest for good)..
    i don’t know exact but i can gess a little what your prothesiss .
    i have to thank you and say all most what you write are right (true) ..I know what happening in GLOBAL MEDIA ..and $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ where go ..
    i wanted to follow by LAW ..but i left .
    i find my very good way to do something
    of course international (LAW ) and i don’t care who is be hind EVEN BIG BOSS’S (maybe they smile now ) power is for artificial show not real show
    – Now for book i am not sure is intristing so let stay in (commodine)..
    about you i don’t know nothing ( i don’t have chance ) to read something your’s (book’s) i will
    i am not intristing about no money .( is very true )
    i don’t have money too (is very true )
    Q. for what you are intristing in your life ?accept your writing)
    because ME ..DONNA i am intristing for the encyclopedia.. what i mean every thing every philosophy sciense too
    i like to see film in tv i like to see forex too i like docomentar historic geographic
    i read a lot .
    i use my mind a lot too
    maybe all this make me some stupid but not ” IDIOT”
    thank you DAVID ..you what to help me

    Like

  25. Jim Self says:

    Great stuff, David. the NYT is being especially awful these days. I pity anyone who wants to start a writing career these days who takes them seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. This blog post offers a more complete explanation of the issue than most major articles I’ve read.
    It’s hardly surprising to me that the traditional publishing media conglomerates would put forth as deceptive an explanation of their practices…as their practices.
    Nice work David!

    Like

  27. A well argued post indeed. What people can get away with in this game is dispiriting

    Like

  28. mitziflyte says:

    Reblogged this on Mitzi Flyte and commented:
    Nail has been hit on the head!

    Like

  29. Kat G says:

    Reblogged this on Improvisations on Reality and commented:
    This is required reading. If you ever wanted to know what publishing is like – David Gaughran once again gets it exactly right.

    Again: it’s never about the authors.

    It should be.

    Like

  30. Excellent piece, David! The truth is getting out, thanks to the internet.

    The vicious exploitation of writers since Victorian times is about to come around and bite big smug publishing industry exploiters right in the ass!

    Most writers work for cents an hour. The promise of big bucks and fame kept the majority of writers in penury for life while publishers laughed all the way to the bank. The revolution is gathering pace. If you want to see what we are doing at the front line in Ireland visit BooksGoSocial.com.

    Like

  31. Maren Hayes says:

    Spot on, David. This is the sort of journalism not happening at the news outlets you cite in your post — written by someone who is smart enough to see a pattern and dig to reveal its complexity; articulate enough to communicate clearly and convincingly; and principled enough to stand on principle. Useful, objective and damning information. Keep that slingshot in working order.

    Like

  32. Absolutely loved this piece. If it hadn’t been already made up, my mind would’ve been fully swayed to go the independent route for my own writing.

    Like

  33. Jim Gibson says:

    Exactly. And you can play your NYT waiting-for-a-fair-story game with NPR, although I can’t quite figure out why. Their stories on the Amazon/Hatchette fight–or at least the several stories I’ve heard–have completely ignored Amazon’s side,and only interviewed authors who take the big-publisher side. I’ve even emailed NPR’s news editors a couple of times, wondering when we’d hear the other side of the story—but I’ve not received any answer. Puzzling, because I wouldn’t really think of NPR as part of the big-media conglomerate world, though it probably swims in the same water.

    David—thanks for the free update to your 2nd edition. Your books are so helpful that I’d have paid for the new version, but free is always appreciated!

    Like

  34. Ava Morgan says:

    I saw this on a link from PV. Good work, David. You gave an informative piece and supplied information that is very reliable. Another reason why I’m loving indie writer life every day. There’s far more transparency here and resources that writers need to make informed decisions. Why anyone would choose to be kept in the dark is beyond me.

    Like

  35. Kindle says:

    I’m a new author, new to the industry, but worked in business my entire adult life. I always say I’ve never seen a business industry that runs like this one and I’ve worked health care and worker’s comp – shady of the shadiest. I laughed at your moral and ethics comments. I’ve been called unethical more times than I can count since getting involved in publishing just based on other authors and publishers assumption. So, honestly, a lot of what you said went over my head, but your core message is clear and I completely agree.

    Like

  36. ggiammatteo says:

    David: I’m thrilled that you brought these injustices to the light of day, and I’m always thrilled when someone reminds all of us about the horrible practices of Author Solutions and its band of minions, especially the ties to big publishing.

    But I would also like to point out that Amazon is in no way free of guilt in how it treats authors. Especially indie authors.

    • They penalize authors for pricing books below 2.99
    • They take half of your royalties/commissions in many territories if an author isn’t in Select.
    • They ban you from KU, with the exception of some “special” authors, who they allow to be in KU without being exclusive.
    • They force authors to maintain the lowest price on Amazon or they’ll remove your books.
    • They randomly remove reviews from indie authors for reasons they won’t explain.
    • They restrict some categories from indie authors.
    • They show some print books from Lightning Source as “out of stock” or “available in 3-5 days.” And we all know those POD books are available.

    There are many other things Amazon does to authors that no one seems to want to talk about; I think it’s time we did.

    As indie authors, we need to stick together and work for changes that will make our future more secure, and that means pointing out injustices wherever they might occur—even if it happens to be Amazon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • SJArnott says:

      Really? This sound like a case of ‘Grandma beats me with a plank, but Grandpa’s breath smells, so he’s just as bad.’

      The inaccuracies aside (do Amazon really remove reviews ‘randomly’ – stick a pin in a list perhaps?) I’m struggling to see how any of the above falls outside of reasonable business constraints.

      If you don’t like the deal on offer, don’t sign up. You seem to be making the same mistake as the publishers. Amazon isn’t providing a public service, it’s a business. It doesn’t owe them, or you, anything.

      Like

      • ggiammatteo says:

        SJ, you mention inaccuracies—please be specific. Most of the items I mentioned are fact—written in Amazon’s own terms.
        • They penalize authors for pricing books below 2.99
• They take half of your royalties/commissions in many territories if an author isn’t in Select.
• They ban you from KU, with the exception of some “special” authors, who they allow to be in KU without being exclusive.
• They force authors to maintain the lowest price on Amazon or they’ll remove your books.
        None of the above are in question. If you sell your book below 2.99, you only receive 35% instead of 70%.
        If you are not in Select, you only receive 35% in India, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, etc.
        If you are not in Select, you cannot participate in KU—unless Amazon deems you as too valuable to ban, such as Hugh Howey and some others.
        Their own policies state you must maintain the lowest price on Amazon.
        ******
        So the only statements I made open to interpretation are the remaining three:
        • The reviews and categories comments are based on data obtained from many individuals, quite a few of whom are in Select.
        • And the categories comment—I have emails from Amazon to show it.
        • The LS comment can be seen on numerous books throughout Amazon, including the first one I ever printed using LS. I have since learned to use both CS and LS to avoid this. It still doesn’t make it right. It’s wrong and it’s deceiving on Amazon’s part. After numerous complaints from me they changed the “out of stock” to “in stock but may require and extra one or two days to process.” That’s on Amazon’s site, for all to see. And it’s still wrong.
        You said: “I’m struggling to see how any of the above falls outside of reasonable business constraints.”
        As to the above, I never said what Amazon does falls outside of reasonable business constraints. What I said was that Amazon was in no way free of guilt in how it treats authors. If you look before that I also commended David for bringing the injustices of the publishing companies to the light of day. I know David, and I have the greatest respect for all that he does. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything he says. I questioned his comment about “how Amazon treats his peers” (made in a reply).
        You said: “If you don’t like the deal on offer, don’t sign up. You seem to be making the same mistake as the publishers. Amazon isn’t providing a public service, it’s a business. It doesn’t owe them, or you, anything.”

        SJ, at this point, I have to wonder if you read my comment or just started typing a response at the first sign of an anti-Amazon statement. Why is the only option to “like the deal or don’t sign up?” Is it taboo to point out the injustice of a company’s policy?
        And I am fully aware that Amazon owes no one anything. I never said they did owe me or anyone else.

        I believe it’s important to point out what is wrong, just as important as it is to point out what is right. When Amazon does something good, I mention it and spread the word. When any company associated with publishing does good or bad, I report on it, whether it is traditional publishing, Amazon, Apple, Kirkus, distributors, etc. Authors need to hear all the news—not just the news that paints one side or another as good or bad.

        Far too many authors protect Amazon blindly—like parents who refuse to admit their child does anything wrong.
        I point out both sides. Recently I wrote a post commending Amazon for finally bringing pre-orders to indies. And I posted and Tweeted numerous places thanking them for promoting my pre-order, which helped make it a successful launch. That doesn’t mean I can’t also speak up when I see them do things wrong.

        I believe the biggest problem we have in this self-publishing movement is that authors take sides on everything. This isn’t a we-against-them fight. We all need to remove blinders and point out what is right and what is wrong with ALL companies.

        Like

    • Hi Jim, It’s not totally relevant to the above post (particularly as these issues are discussed – here too), but I’ll have a stab at all of them:

      1. The rate used to be 35% across the board and Amazon brought in the higher rate ahead of Apple’s entry into the market (and mooted 70% rate). The point is to encourage authors not to price too cheaply. I don’t know if you remember, but before the 70% rate was introduced, the standard indie price was $1.99. After the 70% rate was introduced, the standard indie price moved to $2.99. Indies made more money, Amazon made more money. I don’t see the problem, but I do wish there was an exception for shorter work.

      2. Totally agree. Hate that policy.

      3. Who is banned from KU? Do you mean Amazon demands exclusivity? Also hate that policy, as I’ve mentioned here on numerous occasions (and to Amazon any chance I get). Re the “special” authors, they are only getting a pass on the exclusivity requirement for a short period to try and tempt them into the program. They will have the same decision to make as us soon enough. I have no real issue with authors who make Amazon millions a year getting special treatment. It would be a bit weird if they didn’t tbh.

      4. Another part of the ToS I’m not crazy about but does it really effect people in a major way?

      5. I think this effects all books, not just indies. I understand *why* they have a policy to remove reviews, but I think the way it’s executed is terrible. Again, feedback I’ve submitted to Amazon on multiple occasions (and blogged about here numerous times).

      6. Which categories? The only ones I’m aware of that we are restricted from are ones that everyone is restricted from like Kindle Singles, Kindle Worlds, Kindle Serials – specific programs for those cats. Do you mean something else?

      7. I don’t know much about this issue but could it be akin to the current Hachette delays? (i.e. something along the lines of Amazon saying they don’t want to pay for the warehousing of LS titles so they keep very low stock levels)

      Like

      • SJArnott says:

        Ggiammatteo, I think David’s reply covers the important points.

        On one hand you acknowledge that Amazon operates within reasonable business constraints, but on the other you seem to be personally offended by the fact that Amazon isn’t working day and night to create a corporate environment that’s perfectly tailored to your individual needs. (And even if that’s not the wording you use, it’s the impression you give.)

        The use of emotive language (penalize, force, guilt, injustice…) doesn’t do you any favours either. For example, how can you say it’s ‘wrong’ of Amazon to add a note that a POD book might require extra days to process. Were you expecting it to be instantaneous? (No doubt, you’ll say ‘no’, but, if so, what kind of turn-around would you find acceptable? Rhetorical question.)

        By all means campaign for better terms, but don’t expect anyone to take you seriously if this is how you present your arguments.

        Anyway, I think I’ll leave it there.

        Like

      • Carla Krae says:

        The one thing I would ding Amazon on right now is that since they implemented KU, non-KU titles for many on the mid-list/small-list have tanked hard because the algorithms are basically burying our books. It happened on Amazon US in July and it happened recently on Amazon UK now they have it, too, so it’s probably across all channels. Unless the non-KU author schedules a TON of advertising to bump numbers, they’re hurting bad right now.

        Like

      • I don’t think the algos are burying our books per se (I’m not in KU), but there’s no doubt that some KU books are getting huge visibility boosts from increased borrows, and that has a knock-on effect in squeezing other books out. It’s something we’ll all have to keep an eye on, and adjust if necessary. Too early to make any calls about how it’s affecting the market in general though.

        Like

  37. Grace says:

    Hi David thanks for this informed article – you pull no punches and it is great to see someone not afraid to expose the hypocrisy of mainstream publishers.

    Like

  38. USAF says:

    Thanks David stalwart person. I’d encourage the naming of names. I think keep using the actual names of those who unleash the frauds– then we have faces and people named who actually signed, wrote the letters, ordered the orders…. instead of just corporate walls. That knowledge of names is important, i think, as a long time activist, for there are the pressure points to call out and to negotiate. Not in the corp, but in the persons allowing/ordering/running/ignoring the disordered scams and skinning business practices re authors.

    The majority share holder of Bertelsmann, is the Mohn family out of Germany. For near 20 years they have attempted to dominate publishing in the US. THe also have Bertelsmann Music Group which bought Napster [ever hear of them again? No. Why? Big whale eats little whale to put it out of business. Founder of little whale makes a ton of money, leaves others high and dry.] The Mohn family has divided their vast assets into various trusts and foundations in order to manage their truckloads of money coming from the US and their other enterprises. They refuse to allow authors/shareholders from USA to buy stock in the company that governs the authors own books. They did finally acknowledge their tie to the third Reich [3rd Reich that lasted 12 long years with horrendous aftermath for decades] in publishing. I believe it may still be on their website. However, the persons the Mohn family has put in place in the US operation of Random House and now Penguin, are men who are not publishers in any way, but are accountants. The first two literally had Ph.D.s in Insurance and were reminiscent of old 1930 rich and gold necklace ladened burghers of the villages rather than in the fields with the workers. The current one at the top of Randy Penguin is Dohle. The letters from Dohle to staff and to authors are absurdist plays that —well, dont get me started. Under the Mohn family, its apointees and Dohle, Randy Penguin may look like it is still standing, but it has been gutted with downsizing after downsizing, recently letting go one of its most stellar 40 year old timers–but not the first. Actually, probably with the exception of Sonny Mehta, the last of the old guard who brought hoards of books through the gates contrary to what the ‘men at the top’ told them to do. {Yes there were outliers at RH for decades, and most all have been fired now.]

    NewsCorp is run/owned by Rupert Murdoch who also owns Harper Collins for many years now and has used the publishing company and his many acquisitions of Television cable to influence the US political system. His children who help him run it all, can be named. He also owns the Wall Street Journal, and as y ou know his newspapers have been under fire for gravely unethical practices in UK charging ‘reporters’ hacking the cell phones of citizens, in one egregious case if I recall right, the cell phone of a missing young girl– bec reporters made her cell phone ring in order to hack into her messages, the parents and family thought the child was still alive and calling in to retrieve her messages. It was beyond egregious.

    NPR… again,dont get me started. It is supposed to be the people’s radio. Look to see what they charge small community radio stations, say on the Navajo reservation or in the small towns across the US to carry their programs. It has come to the point where the OTHER public community stations cannot afford NPR’s huge high multi hundreds of thousands of dollars a year fees to carry their all things considered, etc. A whole other story re people at the top of NPR who have names and who live high off the hog and call the shots and squeeze the most creative of the community stations… taxpayer money, used for broadcast only for the few who can afford the big packages.

    THe New York Times and Publisher ‘Weakly’ –Kirkus, etc. the last two the wilted scions of anonymous reviews [often by grad students also in their same audio loop] and big and small pubs with their protectorate of one another is a very old tryst. But the ad revenue from the publishers dried up as the ‘accountants’ running the companies clamped down on expenses. Hence paid ads solicited from authors. There are names there too at nyt, of the small ground of authors who are held precious by nyt, in my opinion, at the now essentially gutted book review run by people with names; in their ‘review’ gaggle of aging reporters who themselves have pitiful creds re writing successful books/ theatre/plays/musical comps of their own, and in past huge failures in ethics in the historical messes of coverage of “Scooter’ Libby and their own reporter /liar Blair. PW too has people with names who order and dismiss at will. And all the actual persons, though well groomed and suited up in elegant whatever rags, still in their kingdoms and queendoms way of ordering others, remind me of Alien, wherein the subhuman ‘thing’ will do anything to protect itself including cannibalize other human beings to stay alive.

    I’ve gone on long enough. Just all my .02. Sorry. Really just to say David, keep on. And I bought your most recent digibook and thank you. It is no small feat, and it will help many.

    Like

  39. geraldine says:

    Reblogged this on geraldineevansbooks and commented:
    And still there comes silence from the publishers’ best buddies! What a surprise.

    David Gaughran hits the nail squarely on the head (yes, I know it’s a cliche, but it’s late, I’ve been working for thirteen hours straight, so blah). The propaganda machine of the publishing industry carries on as usual. Don’t be one of their victims. They’re ALL vanity publishers now.

    Like

  40. geraldine says:

    Great piece, David, as always. If you keep writing the truth about these corrupt businesses and the rest of us keep sharing and reblogging, newbies to the industry will begin to get a little of your wisdom. Well done. Reblogged on geraldineevansbooks.com

    Like

    • rickchapman says:

      And how do you feel about Amazon charging you a 30 point retail usage fee and claiming that the 70% left over is a “royalty?”

      Does that feel corrupt to you?

      Rick Chapman
      Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.”
      Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

      Like

      • I’m not sure what your problem is, exactly. Is it use of the word “royalty” or the number itself. Because I think you’re fighting a losing (and hair-splitting) battle with the first and I don’t know who offers a better deal on the second.

        Like

      • rickchapman says:

        +++ I’m not sure what your problem is, exactly. Is it use of the word “royalty” or the number itself. +++

        Both. The use of the word royalty is misleading and untrue. Amazon should stop using that word. The only people who receive royalties from AMZ are its house imprint authors.

        And saying AMZ does not pay indies royalties is not “hair splitting.” It is both factual and very significant financially.

        30 points retail usage fee is too high.

        Rick Chapman
        Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.” Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

        Like

  41. Thank you for all the comments, everyone. Can’t respond individually atm because I’m packing for a con in Italy (the horror!).

    Like

    • Have fun at the con. When you have a moment, I’d still like to know how Bertelsmann “refused to apologize” when the article you link to says they apologized right away.

      Like

      • Hi Chris, not ignoring your comment at all – I’ve been offline on an epic journey (which makes it sound far more exciting than it was).

        As the above comment from SpringfieldMH noted, Bertelsmann never actually apologized. It expressed “regret” and so forth, but never offered a full apology (the BBC reporter made a bit of a leap).

        I can’t double check if his sources are the same as mine as I have a ridiculously slow/tenuous connection, but the information wasn’t too hard to find if you fancy digging into it.

        It was a hot potato in 2002 because (IIRC off the top of my head) Bertelsmann made a big deal about suffering at the hands of the Nazis when purchasing Random House in 1998 to help the transaction go through smoothly.

        Like

  42. Mirtika says:

    Reblogged this on Mirtika Writes and commented:
    Please read the whole thing. All of it. I wish the AG and AU spent more time seeking reform of the traditional publishing tyrannies than jabbing at Amazon for….not giving special treatment to a publisher with whom it has no, yes NO, contract.

    Like

  43. Reblogged this on David VanDyke's Author Blog and commented:
    Fantastic post. All authors should read Gaughran.

    Like

  44. Pingback: Changing Times | Post Orbital Library

  45. nerualsivad says:

    Reblogged this on Lauren Davis and commented:
    Interesting piece about the dark side of major publishing houses…

    Like

  46. Jes says:

    Bravo! You’re in fine form as always.

    Like

  47. Pingback: Fantastic Post on the Rotten Publishing Industry Reblogged from David Gaughran | Grace Brannigan Romance Author

  48. Power to the people — right on!

    Like

  49. Pingback: WRITERS BEWARE at It's All Write

  50. A.J Sendall says:

    Reblogged this on A.J. Sendall and commented:
    Yet another incisive report from David Gaughran

    Like

  51. JJ Toner says:

    Your best post yet, David. I suspect the non-reporting phenomenon may not be just because the publishers are all in bed together, but for fear of litigation. Have a great trip to Italy. JJ

    Like

  52. John Castle says:

    Reblogged this on John Castle and commented:
    For writers, David Gaughran has just delivered a must-read one-two punch to the traditional publishing industry.

    Like

  53. Pingback: Boosting the Signal: These things I care about | Pilcrows & Cedillas

  54. Pingback: Publishing Is Rotten To The Core | Writing, Reading, Books, and Stuff

  55. Author Tamie Dearen says:

    Reblogged and shared on Facebook. Thanks for your words and your research!

    Like

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  58. Salome Jones says:

    I tweeted this and shared it on G+. Practices like these, and ones my partner and I have seen ourselves in our editing practice are the reason why we founded Ghostwoods Books, a fair-trade publishing company. We’re working on growing it. The principle is an even split of the profits, all expenses out of our side, and reasonable terms about rights. (Why would we take film rights when we don’t make films? Why would we take non-English rights? And so on.) We’re trying to set up a model that can be copies by other small presses. If you’re interested, we’d be happy to talk to you about it. Just drop us a note: ghostwoodsbooks at gmail Best, Salome

    Like

  59. K.L. Webber says:

    Making me happier and happier about going to Amazon.com to get my books published. Thanks for a great article (with informative links).

    Like

  60. What was said here about Publishing houses might well have been said about so-called freelance editors, who have scammed zillions out of writers perpetuating the fallacy that a novel cannot be self-edited with any degree of excellence. See Self-Editing Your Novel, just released.

    Liked by 1 person

  61. Pingback: David Gaughran catches the stench wafting from the publishing industry | Informit Bulletin

  62. Pingback: Morning Roundup: Publishing is rotten. Are Amazon exclusives the next big challenge? | Informit Bulletin

  63. Reblogged this on totiltwithwindmills and commented:
    This is a really great read with some solid points. Things that I have been vocal on a number of times when discussing publishing aspects with people I know. Seriously, give it a read if you haven’t yet.

    Like

  64. Pingback: Books are EXACTLY like razors | Hugh Howey

  65. Very good post… will be sharing!

    Like

  66. jatexier333 says:

    A very eye-opening article and shocking to any writer looking to get published by the “traditional route”. I didn’t realize the author exploitation was so rampant and essentially covert. I guess the choice becomes smaller publishing houses or self-publishing.

    Like

  67. daniheart21 says:

    Amazon actually contacted me about larger publishers trying to fix the price of ebooks and how they felt is was not fair to customers or authors. I have shared this. Thank you for bringing attention to it.🙂

    Like

    • rickchapman says:

      Did you ask them why if you wanted to price your book below $2.99 or above $9.99 they wanted a 65% retail usage fee?

      Please ask them this question and share the response with us.

      Rick Chapman
      Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.”
      Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

      Like

      • I can tell you because I’ve spoken with Amazon reps about this. It’s very simple. Amazon offers a higher percentage if you price between $2.99 and $9.99 because it wants to encourage indies to price where *everyone* makes more money. Before Amazon offered the higher percentage, indies tended to price at $1.99. Since they brought this in, indies have increased prices, readers have continued purchasing their books, and Amazon and indies make more money. I struggle to see the issue with something that has benefited all.

        Like

      • rickchapman says:

        +++ I can tell you because I’ve spoken with Amazon reps about this. It’s very simple. Amazon offers a higher percentage if you price between $2.99 and $9.99 because it wants to encourage indies to price where *everyone* makes more money. Before Amazon offered the higher percentage, indies tended to price at $1.99. Since they brought this in, indies have increased prices, readers have continued purchasing their books, and Amazon and indies make more money. I struggle to see the issue with something that has benefited all. +++

        David, I cannot believe you swallowed that big mess of median stew so uncritically. That statement is statistical junk.

        Here is the link to the post:

        http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle/ref=cm_cd_tfp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1D7SY3BVSESG&cdThread=Tx3J0JKSSUIRCMT

        First, there are many, many categories of books where you cannot make money by pricing at $9.99. I self publish in such a category. You must price higher because you are dealing with a limited or niche audience.

        Second, why doesn’t Amazon release information on books sales across such criteria such as:

        Author brand equity. (And yes, this can be done.)
        Length of time the book has been available.
        Book category.
        Review ratings.
        Book length.
        Genre and sub genre.
        Optimal revenue curves at different price points.
        Promotional programs participated in.
        MDF expenditures.

        That’s just a start. Amazon can do all that. They have the data.

        They will never do it. You know why? Because a close analysis of the numbers will show that a well known author will lose money at a book launch by pricing lower than X and more by pricing at Y. I think King’s doing just fine at $12.74 with Revival. Stefan Konig’s new opus on The Zombie Apocalypse?

        Not so well at that price.

        Third, Amazon again repeats this falsehood:

        +++ The author is getting a royalty check 16% larger +++

        The author gets no such thing. They get to give Amazon 30% of their income, pay transmission fees, and market and sell with what’s left over.

        Fourth, this entire post is based on the magical number fallacy. Charlatan’s pull this all the time. They lump all categories and types of items into a giant median surrounded by impressive jargon and pull a useless number out of the hat.

        That silly post by Amazon is the number 42 of publishing.

        Rick Chapman
        Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.”
        Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

        Like

  68. birdyspeaks5 says:

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely. When any person or industry can choose another’s future (meaning who can make money), the deepest pocket wins. This has become the norm.

    Like

  69. A sincere thank you for the education and for taking a stand, especially for those that don’t have the courage or wisdom to do so. I love that you aren’t afraid to rattle big cages. Cheers!

    Like

    • rickchapman says:

      Ask Amazon why if you want to price your book below $2.99 or above $9.99 they want a 65% retail usage fee?

      Amazon is a $75B company that one day wants to be bigger than Wal-Mart at $500B. It’s a big cage to rattle and I’d like to see what the Daddy Parrot says.

      Rick Chapman
      Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.”
      Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

      Like

  70. Epic Wynn says:

    Reblogged this on revelations of a life half lived and commented:
    I was just talking with some friends about ‘what to do when my book is done and I need to publish’ its kinda scarey. I want people to read my books but I kinda wanna get paid too. I definitely don’t want to get scammed!
    Anyway self publishing seems to be the right way to go these days anyway.

    Like

  71. EMMAYI says:

    It’s happening here too. The press is greatly influenced if not controlled by those with enough power and money to do so. It’s tough to distinguish the truth from the lies because we’ve been taught to swallow their bs without question. Good job for taking the time to make a stand and in your own way, getting your word out there.

    Like

  72. Reblogged this on Seán Maguire Writer and commented:
    The publishing world is generally elitist and engages in self protection. Most publishers frown upon new writer’s blocking access unless one hires a literary agent. The majority of publishers adopt a snobbish attitude towards new writers especially those who have used self publishing. They could learn a lot from the music industry which for years has welcomed independent approaches particularly with multimedia.

    Like

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  74. gvkbj says:

    I retweeted this. As a long-term and faithful reader of the NYT I am indeed very disappointed all this is not exposed. Authors end up as the victims, and who comes to their defense? Thanks David again for this.

    Like

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  76. Reblogged this on The Writers' Workshop Blog and commented:
    Once again, David Gaughran hits the nail on the head. Food for thought here.

    Like

  77. rickchapman says:

    I think that you and other Amazon supporters need to provide a far more balanced perspective. Accusing a print publication of taking bribes, which is what you are doing, is a serious accusation. Papers make money by running ads and lots of companies that aren’t in political agreement with the NYT run ads in the paper and on its website. Are they attempting to bribe the NYT? Who on the editorial board is receiving these funds?

    Furthermore, Amazon’s behavior towards indie authors is not much better than the publisher’s. They have placed indies in the agency pricing box without anyone realizing it. A 30 point retail usage fee is a margin to print money in channels. Amazon head fakes everyone by calling the 70% leftover a “royalty” and need to be told by people like to stop it.

    And imposing a 65/35 split on indies is simply another form of price fixing. Not that I’ve heard anyone here or Hugh Howey’s blog ever say that.

    Rick Chapman
    Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.”
    ust Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

    Like

    • Hi Rick. First of all, I reject the characterization of myself as an “Amazon supporter.” As I have explained before on numerous occasions, I have a relatively positive disposition towards Amazon as a supplier/author and a very positive disposition towards Amazon as a customer/reader. That doesn’t make me a supporter, But I still keep a close eye on Amazon and don’t blindly cheer every move it makes.

      I think there is a misconception here. I’m not saying Amazon shouldn’t be subjected to scrutiny. It *should* be subjected to scrutiny. My issue is with the complete lack of scrutiny that other players in this business are subjected to, and I’ve given several examples in the above post (which I note you haven’t addressed at all).

      Let’s be clear about this: there are actions which publishers have taken which are far, far worse than anything Amazon has been accused of (or is feared doing at some future point). I’m trying to understand why, and my theory is that at least part of the reason for that is because many of the media companies involved have direct links to major publishers.

      The Wall Street Journal is owned by NewsCorp. The majority owner of Penguin Random House (Bertelsmann) is one of the largest media companies in the world. CBS owns Simon & Schuster. The NYT is independent, but it has long-standing advertising relationships with all the major publishers (and Author Solutions). And if you think that doesn’t effect the editorial side of the business, then I have to disagree with you. Explain how the NYT can give glowing, uncritical coverage to a despicable company like Author Solutions? If you have an alternative theory, I’d like to hear it. The same goes for Publishers Weekly. I’m open to your suggestions, so let’s hear them.

      As for Amazon’s take of 30%, what’s your problem exactly? Point me to a non-tiny retailer that offers a better deal. I’m pretty happy with 70%. I’d like it to be more, but then I’d also like a pony. I know Amazon’s 30% take doesn’t just cover handling the transactions but also allows me to access the huge global marketplace of customers that it has spent billions building up.

      And if you don’t like that deal yourself, you have plenty of alternatives (with the same 70/30 split, btw).

      Like

      • rickchapman says:

        +++ Hi Rick. First of all, I reject the characterization of myself as an “Amazon supporter.” +++

        Hi, David. Hmmm. I’m sorry, but that seems to be logically inconsistent. When you say you:

        +++ As I have explained before on numerous occasions, I have a relatively positive disposition towards Amazon as a supplier/author and a very positive disposition towards Amazon as a customer/reader. +++

        That seems to be a statement of support. But let’s just say you like them very, very much without supporting them.

        +++ My issue is with the complete lack of scrutiny that other players in this business are subjected to, and I’ve given several examples in the above post (which I note you haven’t addressed at all). +++

        Don’t worry about it! I will.

        +++ Let’s be clear about this: there are actions which publishers have taken which are far, far worse than anything Amazon has been accused of (or is feared doing at some future point). +++

        Nah. I’m formally published and have worked for publishers. I’m also self published. Yes, authors and publishers are always fighting about royalties. Contract terms. Extended rights. Yes, sometimes the publishers try to screw the authors, though from a % standpoint the occurrence of such attempts is low. Every author is sure their novel is a best seller but the reality is most can’t be.

        The system is old and ossified and is being disrupted. It is not “rotten to the core.” Not having your book published in paper is not rotten: it’s disappointing. Yes, the publishers were gatekeepers (and still are) but that was inevitable. There was a physical limitation on how many books a market could support and market.

        +++ Explain how the NYT can give glowing, uncritical coverage to a despicable company like Author Solutions? +++

        First, please tell us if you have stopped beating your wife? Should we accept the pronouncements of someone who wife beats?

        Oh! I’m sorry. That question integrated the answer into its structure, didn’t it. It’s an invalid question.

        So is your question. You say AS is “despicable.” Does EVERYONE say this? Is the NYT not supposed to provide viewpoints that disagree with yours?

        Now, the rest of your question seems to imply that the NYT’s publishing/editorial wall is not in place. Are you claiming, like Hugh Howey did, that reporters are being bribed to provide favorable coverage of one side of the argument?

        http://www.rule-set.com/ricks-blog/the-silo-blows-its-stack-hugh-howey-sends-new-york-times-reporter-david-streitfeld-sky-high

        That’s a serious charge. If you’re going to make it, I think you should provide some evidence. Also, I read the article Howey referred to. It was not glowing on either side. It certainly provided the viewpoint of the Hachette authors but did not endorse it. Are you saying these authors have no right to be heard and their opinion muzzled?

        Are you also claiming that there aren’t two sides to the argument?

        Well, there is. Here it is:

        What Hugh Howey Won’t Talk About (but Should). The Book Channel, Part VI of Several Parts. The Resellers and Agency vs Wholesale Pricing and MDF, Oh My!

        This article explains what the two sides are fighting about. And it’s not for the authors. They’re fighting for control of the E-book market category. Howey has consistently only provided one side of the story and has made numerous mistakes and misstatement in his advocacy. And he should know better:

        http://www.rule-set.com/ricks-blog/august-24th-2014

        More examples of his mistakes and misstatements are up there. And I always link back to his site when I make my points.

        +++ As for Amazon’s take of 30%, what’s your problem exactly? +++

        My problem is is that people who should know better aren’t calling out Amazon on this misleading claim. Amazon pays you zero royalties. Zilch. Nada. Nothing.

        They provide zero publishing services. For most indies, they are simply a channel.

        What they do do is impose a form of agency pricing on indie publishers. They take an amazingly high retail usage fee out of your hide, leaving you with less money to market and sell your book. Then they put you in a destructive $7 dollar pricing box.

        +++ I know Amazon’s 30% take doesn’t just cover handling the transactions +++

        I’m sorry, but Amazon charges you a transmission fee for every E-book you sell. Amazon also extracts all credit card fees before you receive any money.

        +++ And if you don’t like that deal yourself, you have plenty of alternatives (with the same 70/30 split, btw) +++

        No, I don’t. Amazon currently controls about 65% to 80% of the market (depending on who you read). And since you must exist in their $7 dollar pricing box, tens of thousands of authors cannot use the system as paying 65% of your revenue to a channel is insane and financially impossible for many classes of books.

        And since Amazon wants to IMPOSE a modified agency pricing model on indies, I think it only fair they ACCEPT an agency pricing model from publishers. If the publishers are wrong in their assumptions, the market will quickly punish them.

        But, they aren’t wrong. I don’t think Stephen King is being hurt by his publisher pricing Mr. Mercedes at $11.99 and Revival at 12.74. That pricing is calculated to optimize his book’s revenue curve. And I KNOW his publisher isn’t handing over 65 points to Amazon.

        Seems very, very unfair to me.

        Rick Chapman
        Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.” Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

        Like

      • First of all, Rick, I’m sure we can find enough to disagree on without you ascribing opinions to me that I do not hold. Second, I’m not hear to defend the statements of any other person. I speak for myself only.

        As to your points:

        1. I’m not an Amazon “supporter” and it doesn’t matter how many times you repeat the charge, it remains equally untrue. I’ve blogged at length about why I have a positive disposition towards them as a supplier/author, and I’ve also highlighted on numerous occasions the issues I have with Amazon on various points. I’m not going through it again just because you have a bee in your bonnet for whatever reason. FWIW, I’ve worked for Google and seen how the tech sausage is made and I’m always watching Amazon and keeping an eye on them. As anyone should. But I don’t buy into the hysterical nonsense.

        2. You are missing the key point of my issue with publishing: the exploitation of authors – whether that’s through the outright scamming of the vanity presses being operated by several large publishers (and plenty of small ones too), or unconscionable contract terms. It is nothing to do with their role as gatekeepers, and everything to do with exploiting authors (especially the most inexperienced). You are totally silent on that score. And I’m not going to lay out the entire argument again. I’ve linked above to my posts on the issue. You can read them or not. But we aren’t talking about a small percentage of authors. We’re talking about 190,000 authors and counting. But dismiss it if you like.

        3. You think Amazon’s cut of 30% is too creamy. I don’t. I can’t see how we are going to convince each other otherwise, but I will once more note that it’s the best deal in town. Yes, traditional publishers get access to some stuff we don’t, but we get a far more level playing field at Amazon than anywhere else. As I already said above, I would prefer an exception to short stories priced below $2.99, and I can see a similar argument for certain kinds of content above $9.99. However, the reason *why* Amazon has that pricing/payment structure in place makes sense to me. If you don’t like it, email them and ask them to change it. I’ve found them pretty responsive to feature requests/rule changes… once you can make a cogent argument for same.

        Like

      • rickchapman says:

        +++ I’m not an Amazon “supporter” and it doesn’t matter how many times you repeat the charge, it remains equally untrue. +++

        As I said, you really really like them but don’t support them.

        OK by me!

        +++ But I don’t buy into the hysterical nonsense. +++

        Avoiding hysteria is good! Avoiding facts such as AMZ pays you no royalties is not so good.

        +++ You are missing the key point of my issue with publishing: the exploitation of authors – whether that’s through the outright scamming of the vanity presses being operated by several large publishers (and plenty of small ones too),+++

        You know, I’m sure that some scamming is going on out there. But, this isn’t 1975. And even back then, there was plenty of info on the issues with VPs. But today, anyone who self publishes can read reviews of every service. Read this blog, Read Howey’s. Read reviews and complaints. It’s all out there.Your statement just doesn’t ring true to me. I think people are using different services, getting different results, making different choices, finding out they’re not the next Tolstoy, succeeding, failing, and so on.

        Now, I think you make a very valid point about, for example, Harlequin screwing the authors and they’re being sued and I hope they lose.

        Is this a worse thing to do than Amazon sticking it to niche publishers because it wants to gain control of the E-book market? Or the way it’s kicked people out of Kindle Select because someone posted up segments of their book on another website, charged, and didn’t give the author the chance to fix the problem? And provides no warning and has NO ONE to talk to when the issue arises?

        I’ll let people make up their own minds on that. Both don’t feel very kosher to me.

        BTW, I have attempted to read more about Author Solutions via your links, but I followed two links back and while you say they are scammy, in neither of the articles do you specifically say WHAT they’re doing wrong. I would appreciate it if you could provide an original link because I do think analyzing ineffective marketing programs is a good thing to do.

        +++ You think Amazon’s cut of 30% is too creamy. I don’t. +++

        You are entitled to your opinion! Amazon is currently generating close to 30 points NET margin on indie publishers in the $7 box. In channels, that’s a license to print money. Close to 65 points net is a license to print gold bars.

        I, myself, feel I’m being milked.

        +++ I will once more note that it’s the best deal in town. +++

        Errrr, I grew up in the Bronx and I’m aware of certain reseller channels, particularly in the pizza business, where store owners were told the exact same thing by guys named Vinnie Four Eyes and Eddie the Snake and Bobbie the Golden Mick and similar colorful appellations.

        For many indie publishers, it’s the only deal in town. That doesn’t make it a good deal.

        +++ However, the reason *why* Amazon has that pricing/payment structure in place makes sense to me. +++

        And it makes sense to me, too. I explain exactly what the motivations of both sides are in the fight over agency vs. wholesale. I’ve written, researches, and worked in software channels extensively and this is a fight I’ve seen before. I do it here:

        http://www.rule-set.com/ricks-blog/what-hugh-howey-wont-talk-about-but-should-the-book-channel-part-v-of-several-parts-the-resellers-and-agency-vs-wholesale-pricing-and-mdf-oh-my

        Provides both perspectives without ankle grabbing on behalf of either side.

        Let me assure you the best interests of authors aren’t the top priority of AMZ or the publishers.

        +++ If you don’t like it, email them and ask them to change it. I’ve found them pretty responsive to feature requests/rule changes… once you can make a cogent argument for same +++

        Yes, that sounds like an excellent idea. I wonder how the authors who were summarily thrown out of K Select did with that approach?

        Hmmm. You might write an article on that topic and ask your community to comment. After all, keeping an eye on Amazon is a good thing, is it not?

        Rick Chapman
        Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.”
        Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

        Like

      • I don’t really see the point in continuing the conversation. We seem to be talking past each other.

        We’ve both stated our case and people can evaluate our arguments. Good luck.

        Like

      • rickchapman says:

        The point for me was to help writers understand the games channel entities play and provide them with some hard info and facts to help them plan their future activities intelligently. It’s an area I happen to be very knowledgeable in and think the info I’ve provided is useful and not as well understood as it should be. Also, reading some of the blogs that discuss this topic, I’ve been disturbed to read far too much AMZ advocacy that misstates facts and ignores others and I think the corrective useful.

        You, OTOH, like to focus on the games that publishers like to play and that’s a very valuable service as well.

        Best of luck!
        Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.”
        Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

        Like

  78. I don’t consider myself a supporter of Amazon per se, although as an author I am an Amazon customer. To me – and 99.9% of other Indie authors – the question of whether or not we would receive equal treatment from a print publisher is like asking if Goldman Sachs would be as good at investing our millions as CitiGroup; an entirely hypothetical question. As for the newspapers, I don’t think it’s bribes they are taking, but instructions. I have no doubt that most major papers are happy to take money from those whose views they don’t necessarily share. That said, when was the last time the Wall Street Journal ran a hatchet piece on Rupert Murdoch?

    Like

    • Exactly. I suppose that Salon, the NYT, and the Globe and Mail all decided to publish stories on this dispute at the exact same time (after several days of silence) by pure fluke.

      If anyone can’t see an orchestrated PR campaign here, I respectfully suggest they re-examine events with a little more skepticism towards the media.

      Like

      • rickchapman says:

        No, it wasn’t a pure fluke. It was because something new had happened and news organizations compete with one another to provide fresh content. And the silence was because this wasn’t a breaking news story but something they queued up.

        And while I don’t follow the G&M, both Salon and the NYT have published stories that provide both viewpoints.

        Rick Chapman
        Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.” Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

        Like

      • Can I come out now? Is he gone?

        Like

      • rickchapman says:

        +++ I am also getting tired about your misreading what David is saying. +++

        If you can just point to the gun being held to your head, I’ll ask someone to remove it.

        Also, I think the word you’re looking for is “misquoted?” I’ve not misquoted him. And in defense of my statements, I’ve provided facts, not speculation.

        I do disagree with his belief that publishing is “rotten to the core” because a self publishing service sucks. There are many self publishing services that suck and, I’ll assume, some that are good. I was recently approached by an indie service that wanted me to advertise in their publication even though when I said I would only consider doing that if they agreed to review my book (I didn’t ask for a good review, just a review) they told me they thought the book was too “vulgar” for their audience.

        Which didn’t stop them from asking for advertising dollars. Twice!

        Is indie publishing “corrupt to the core” because there are companies out there that will take advertising dollars for books they don’t think their audience will want to read?

        Obviously not.

        Is Amazon any better than AS when it misleads you and everyone else by claiming a huge retail usage fee of 30% is a “royalty” when it is no such thing?

        I believe that is a valid, and debatable, question.

        I also think his belief that papers and online entities such as Salon are coordinating to provide negative editorial coverage to Amazon because they’re being paid off is just silly, but you believe whatever you want.

        +++And while nobody ever said anything about “bribing”+++

        Hugh Howey said precisely that. It’s on his website. He accused a NYT writer, after he posted a story that looked at what a pro-Hachette organization was doing in respect to the tussle between the Froggies and Amazon, of being on the take. I believe he said “in the pocket of monied interests.” Another way of saying “bribed.”

        And David has certainly implied that the periodicals are writing articles, or not writing articles, because they receive advertising. I think that’s silly. The NYT editorial board and the reporters are not on the take. Ditto the WSJ. Ditto Salon. And they’re not taking instructions from any outside entity.

        Now, I don’t think anyone will argue that political and social ideology may lead to a periodical having an internal world view that leads to certain types of stories being written. The NYT tends to write nice things about liberals and bad things about conservatives. But not even The Weekly Standard, which does the opposite, has ever accused the NYT of asking for its palms to be greased nor has the Times ever accused the Standard of such behavior.

        +++ AS scams, David has given ample information and so did I on my blog (call me another victim). +++

        What did they do to you? I would be interested in hearing more.

        Rick Chapman
        Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.”
        Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

        Like

      • Alright Chapman, that will do. You’ve made your point. Now scoot along and find somewhere else to put down your soapbox. Although you may want to polish up your act a little if you actually want people to listen to you. Sound like a plan?

        Like

      • rickchapman says:

        +++ Now scoot along and find somewhere else to put down your soapbox. +++

        I’m a rather manly fellow and don’t scoot. I sort of stride, like a lumberjack!

        Also, I guess some people like the interchange because quite a few read the articles I’ve up on my site on how the book channels work . And two people asked me to review their tomes, which I agreed to do.

        Now, if you’re done being rude, why not scoot over to my website and read the new article I’ve just posted up on how marketing development funds (MDF) programs work in book channels and how indies can expect to interact with them in the future. I don’t think much coverage has been given to the topic and it’s one writers need to start educating themselves on.

        http://www.rule-set.com/ricks-blog/what-hugh-howey-wont-talk-about-but-should-the-book-channel-part-vii-of-several-parts-mdf-and-the-big-slurp

        And with that, I AM out of this thread for good because I have my own stuff to write and books to read and some reviews to get ready!

        Best of luck.

        Rick Chapman
        Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.”
        Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

        Like

    • rickchapman says:

      Yup. I FIRMLY believe in the right of people to believe whatever best suits them! If you wish to believe the press is engaged in a big massive conspiracy to hate large Amazon and love large publishers or vice versa and that palms are being greased with filthy lucre and that the WSJ and the NYT and Salon, entities with very different ideologies, are in cahoots to make poor Jeff Bezos miserable, please, don’t let ME stop you. You may carry on.

      I do warn you I may giggle a bit when I read about these various plots and conspiracies, but you won’t hear me.

      Rick Chapman
      Author “Rule-Set: A Novel of a Quantum Future.”
      Just Released. More info at http://www.rule-set.com

      Like

      • gvkbj says:

        I am also getting tired about your misreading what David is saying. And if you have any so-called “doubts” about AS scams, David has given ample information and so did I on my blog (call me another victim). And while nobody ever said anything about “bribing” in shutting up most of the press on the scams and related, I think David has made his point. Your continuous counter-arguments are diverting us here from what me and others want to read. A waste of our time and space.

        Like

  79. Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [09.29.14]

  80. No mystery or crime thriller is likely to be as full of twists and turns as the plot hatched between some of the biggest names in publishing. I had a quick brush with it 12 years ago and have steered clear ever since. I would rather sell 1000 books with 70% of my cover price intact than sell 10,000 and receive 10% of the retail price at best. I also have ownership of the published work and all rights to sell for any purpose. Today with a worldwide marketing machine available to all of us with some experience, why would we hand over our hard work to companies that only have their best interests at heart.

    Like

  81. thorsaurus says:

    I wonder how these issues will evolve in China with Ali Baba now going public. It will be interesting to see if dissenters on the mainland attempt to release self-published works through Amazon in Taiwan and Hong Kong to be circulated back within China by Ali Baba.

    Like

  82. Amen, brother. Completely agree.

    Like

  83. Reblogged this on and commented:
    A must -read for all you Indie authors out there. You no doubt know much of this, but David does a great job of getting to the heart of the matter and summing it up.

    Like

  84. Pingback: Citizen Publishing | Sonja Hakala

  85. caroleparkes says:

    “I guess being a global media conglomerate keeps the right stories on the front page and helps the wrong ones disappear.”

    You said it all with this one statement. Thank you for this information.

    Like

  86. caroleparkes says:

    I’m reblogging!

    Like

  87. caroleparkes says:

    Reblogged this on Author -Carole Parkes and commented:
    I’m reblogging this because I believe every writer should be aware of the conflict within publishing.

    Like

  88. Pingback: Building A Better Industry | David Gaughran

  89. Penticular says:

    The Core can be heaven to the rodent, ants and particularly to the earth, because of all new turns to all old and it travels back to the beginning road. Everything and everybody. Good writing here David G and good luck.

    Like

  90. Penticular says:

    Oh one other thing that keeps the greedy thinking about this or shall we say think about that : the rats ass – money$$$$$$$$$$$.

    Like

  91. Well, now, this is interesting. The NYT’s public editor criticizes the uncritical pro-publisher coverage of the Amazon-Hachette dispute http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/public-editor/publishing-battle-should-be-covered-not-joined.html

    Like

  92. rwrivers says:

    Reblogged this on Rw Rivers Blog and commented:
    That’s why I’ve joined Pubslush and if I can get my book edited? I’m going with Lightening Source.

    Like

  93. Credit to the NYT where it’s due:

    Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor of the NYT, has used her column to criticize the NYT’s slanted coverage of the Amazon-Hachette dispute. The money quote:

    “It’s important to remember that this is a tale of digital disruption, not good and evil. The establishment figures The Times has quoted on this issue, respected and renowned though they are, should have their statements subjected to critical analysis, just as Amazon’s actions should be. The Times has given a lot of ink to one side and — in story choice, tone and display — helped to portray the retailer as a literature-killing bully instead of a hard-nosed business.

    I would like to see more unemotional exploration of the economic issues; more critical questioning of the statements of big-name publishing players; and greater representation of those who think Amazon may be a boon to a book-loving culture, not its killer.”

    While I welcome this acknowledgement, we’ll see if that translates into more even-handed coverage. I’m skeptical, but I’ve been wrong before…

    You can read the whole thing here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/public-editor/publishing-battle-should-be-covered-not-joined.html

    Like

  94. SirPattalot says:

    Interesting and honest article. Thanks!

    Like

  95. unsaintly says:

    Well written and thought provoking. I’m going to read more into this. Thank you.

    Like

  96. Pingback: Conference Notes, For All To See…. | Pen & Cup Book Tour, Spring 2015

  97. Pingback: Why should any successful self-published author turn to traditional publishing? | Agent Hunter |

  98. Ralph Rotten says:

    If you cant beat em, then join em by creating your own rotten publishing company:
    http://Www.RottenApplePublishing.com

    Like

  99. Pingback: Fisking Michael Kozlowskis ‘How Readers can Avoid Buying Bad E-books’ | Pilcrows & Cedillas

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