Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Authors Guild

Oh my. The Authors Guild sent out a long email citing the New York Times story on Barnes & Noble as great journalism and buying into the misguided notion that B&N is the great hope for book publishing's future.

The email came from "staff" and replies probably go into a dead-letter box, but I replied anyway. The original email is way too long to reproduce, but suffice to say it reflects the Big Six attitude of viewing Amazon as the enemy. (The text is available on the Authors Guild blog.) I shouldn't be surprised, since the AG board consists of big-name franchise authors who have a vested interest in the current system, even though they pretend to defend the little-guy author and a system that has served neither readers nor authors well.

Here is my reply, beginning with one particularly naive quote from the email:

Established authors, for the most part, do fine selling through online bookstores. It’s new authors who lose out if browsing in bookstores becomes a thing of the past. Advances for unproven and non-bestselling authors have already plummeted, by all accounts. Literary diversity is at risk.
What planet are you living on? What new authors are you talking about -- the lucky few that scrape through a series of middlemen to finally get into print?

Wake up Authors Guild! If you continue to betray a bias as representatives of established authors who have a vested interest in a flawed and doomed system, you will go down with that system. There is a whole new class of authors -- independent authors -- who will also need the kind of neutral assistance the Authors Guild can provide.

I published three books with mainstream publishers -- Doubleday and Dutton. I couldn't find a publisher for my latest novel so I self-published in POD and ebook. I listed for distribution everywhere and Amazon was the only outlet that sold any ebooks. So it was a no-brainer to sign up for KDP Select when Amazon offered it.

Amazon is the future of book publishing, so stop treating it like the enemy. It is the enemy only of legacy publishers and their franchised bestselling authors -- who of course dominate the Authors Guild board. Don't pretend to be representing me when you cling to B&N. Amazon will find competition, but not from an inefficient dinosaur like B&N, which has done more than any institution to narrow the midlist market by centralizing purchasing and often not buying a single copy of newly published books for any one of its 700 stores.

I'm astonished at the insouciance and naivete of this email. The Authors Guild has done a lot of good work for writers, and I've been happy to be a member. But I will need to see some evidence that you have a clue about where book publishing is going before I renew my membership the next time my dues are up.

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