Various & Sundry, 2/14/10

Hope your Valentine’s Day is full of love & chocolates, in the proportions most pleasing to you. Here’s some stuff I’m thinking about today, mostly not relating to love and/or chocolates:

* Jay Lake explains why you shouldn’t listen to him (and by extension any established author) if you’re a new author, as relates to breaking into the science fiction publishing field. His line of reasoning here is that his experience of breaking into the field is a decade old now, and what worked for him then isn’t necessarily going to be what’s going to work now, just as the advice that he heard about breaking in from old pros wasn’t necessarily applicable when he was the new kid on the block.

I think Jay’s got it about half right here. He’s entirely correct that the field is changing — and that the field has always been changing — and that the experience of breaking into the field is different at different times, and that aspiring authors should factor that in while listening to the old farts go on about how to break into the field, based on their own now outdated experience. On the other hand, while certain specifics change, there’s lots of general advice that’s applicable year in and year out, much of it relating to learning how to value your time and your work, and avoiding the type of folks who prey on aspiring writers’ lack of knowledge of the field. Newer writers put themselves at a disadvantage if they discount advice on that simply because the person offering it debuted a decade or two (or three) previous.

In short (and I think this is what Jay was aiming to say), filter the advice you get about the science fiction market with your own knowledge and experience. Also — this is me, not Jay — recognize that the person whose specific advice on the market may be shaky may yet still give you good general advice on selling you work (or vice versa). No one person is a 100% accurate font of advice. As an aside, I do think it’s more useful to get advice from the people who realize this fact, than the people who don’t.

* Related to this, this bit has been going around the Internets recently (I was pointed to it by Toby Buckell): No One Knows What the F*** They’re Doing, which is an examination of why even (and especially) competent people feel like impostors who are just faking it. The irony of this is of course while competent people feel like this, there are piles of totally incompetent bastards who wander about the landscape alleging to know what they’re doing, and completely screwing things up as they do so.

I find what this fellow has to say relatively non-controversial and also within my own experience of things, although I am personally a little less neurotic about the phenomenon than he is; while I still more than occasionally have the “who thought it would be a good idea to let me do this?” thought, I also see the fact that I have it as a positive sign that I haven’t in fact crawled up my own asshole in terms of ego and self-regard. Also, at age 40, I’m finally comfortable with the fact in most situations someone has to be the grown-up, and sometimes it will have to be me. Fair enough.

What I think the smartest thing this fellow has to say, however, is on the subject of education, and how it serves not only to expand the category of Things You Know, but also serves to expand your awareness of the vastly larger category of Things You Don’t Know, and with the expansion of that awareness comes a commensurate drop in the chance you’ll do something dangerous (or stupid), because you’re not aware that you don’t know what you don’t know. I think this is exactly right, and it’s something I also see in my own experience — the older I get the more I realize a) just how much I don’t know and b) how much better my life is when there are competent people around who can handle “a)” for me so I can do the things I do know and am competent to do.

This not coincidentally goes back to earlier conversations here as to why publishers will not go away anytime soon, and why so many of us who are actual working writers eventually get exasperated and irritated with people who blithely vomit gouts of nonsense about publishers being inessential middlemen and aren’t we lucky that in the future we’ll be able to do all those silly publishing tasks ourselves. “Lucky” isn’t the word most of us would use for that.

* On the subject of author exasperation, Seanan McGuire has it, as regards people (primarily those with eBook readers) who in the wake of the Amazon/Macmillan thing are up in arms about “greedy authors,” as apparently all us authors are unspeakably rich jerks who like nothing better than to take money from the sort of people who will pay hundreds of dollars for an eBook reader but are then outraged if the cost of an eBook exceeds an arbitrary but low price point. McGuire reminds all and sundry that in fact the vast majority of authors aren’t rich (or even making a living off their writing), and that to many of us on the writing side of the equation, the hissy fits certain readers are having at the moment, much of it based on ignorance of the author’s role in publishing and pricing, are just plain frustrating.

To which, of course, those particular readers are perfectly entitled not to care, since at the end of the day their concerns aren’t the concerns of the authors’ — they want something to read at a price they’re willing to part with, and they don’t want to have to wait until the publisher drops the price to that level. It’s the difference between being a producer and a consumer. I think one of the really interesting things about the Amazon/Macmillan scuffle is that it exposed to the public not only the tensions between those two corporations, but also between authors and (at least some) readers.

46 Comments on “Various & Sundry, 2/14/10”

  1. In short (and I think this is what Jay was aiming to say), filter the advice you get about the science fiction market with your own knowledge and experience

    Yep. I pretty much have long since given up on either offering or receiving canonical advice, with the sole exception of “write more”. But yes, stripped of the self-snark, “filter, filter, filter” was my real point. As usual, you hit the mark square on.

  2. ” I think one of the really interesting things about the Amazon/Macmillan scuffle is that it exposed to the public not only the tensions between those two corporations, but also between authors and (at least some) readers.”

    I was trying to get at this in the bit I wrote for SFSignal’s Mind Meld, because I found readers’ responses to the Kerfuffle very revealing, even as it exposed some (well-founded!) anxieties that writers have in the current publishing system. The sense of entitlement that some readers have did not surprise me, but what they thought that they were entitled to did. The NYT article on this trotted out a group of readers who felt that there was no reason on Terra that they should pay more than the artificial, psychologically-tweaked price of $9.99, dead stop. And as best I can tell, none of them were hurting for money. It was a price that they felt was merited, for no logical reason.

    That illogical position gets played upon by Amazon’s pricing scheme, and honestly I think that part of the reason the company has not said much officially is because they are sitting back and letting the readers do it for them. There is a sizable, vocal cohort of these folks crying for the blood of authors and the death of the publishing system. I wonder if Amazon is hoping that this sort of consumer outcry will serve their purposes better than direct spin control.

    As an unpublished writer, I really appreciated Jay’s perspective. I agree that you should not just discard advice out-of-hand, but not all advice is going to work for you. I think this ties into the idea of discerning between the the Do Know and Don’t Know quite nicely. I thought about Jay’s piece will reading some of Kristine Kathyrn Rusch’s columns in her Freelancer’s Guide. There is a lot of good advice there, but it has to be tailored to your own objectives and experience.

    And what is going on in publishing right now, especially with e-books, has a big impact on each new writer’s path. While the Kerfuffle does not impact me directly as a writer, it conditions the field and perhaps opens up some opportunities. Would a hybrid of self-publishing and “traditional” work better for me? Are coming changes in price structures and demand going to make it harder or easier for me to break in? I’m still pondering my own goals after watching this conflict unfold. But it tells me that “the reader” is a complex creature, and I have to keep that in mind, at least from the business end of things.

  3. Steve Schwartz is not original in his thinking. In academia, especially grad school and professional schools, it’s called the Imposter Syndrome ( That’s one of the things you realize the further along you get — you know so very little about a lot of things, but a lot about a very little thing (that may or may not be inconsequential to anyone else).

  4. dawn:

    “Steve Schwartz is not original in his thinking.”

    I don’t think he’s claiming to be; he’s just rephrasing this stuff in a readable, layman-ish way.

  5. Things I learned from the kerfluffle:

    1) Book customers don’t understand the difference between unit price and net receipts.

    2) Book customers don’t understand that the main conflict was over electronic rights licensing, specifically that Amazon was getting those rights for free and deducting production costs as an electronic publisher.

    3) Some book customers believe that the extra costs of doing electronic books — converter technicians for multiple formats, electronic proof-readers, administrators for management and distribution of electronic files — are non-existent because fairies who do it all with pixie dust and get paid in Brazil nuts.

    4) Some book customers believe that books are much more important in the world than they actually are, and that e-books are currently much more important in publishing than they actually are, and that this means prices should be rock bottom always.

    5) Some readers believe that authors are virtually enslaved to publishers and are cheated by them and need to be “freed.”

    6) Some readers are very angry with authors.

    The last one I sort of knew, along with the knowledge that the Hollywood view of authors and publishers tends to predominate, often fueling the anger. I don’t think there’s never a time when readers shouldn’t be angry with authors, but this reaction reached conspiracy theory proportions and has really surprised a lot of authors, who generally prefer not to have an antagonistic relationship with potential readers. But I don’t think it’s going to do any long term damage.

    As for Mr. Lake, ignore his advice that you ignore his advice, would be my advice.

  6. Youtube did not eliminate the big film industry, and I don’t think the e-readers will eliminate publishers. Anyone can publish something on Youtube, and perhaps there will be a site ( for anyone to publish their work on.

    And you are right, there are some things that I will purchase full price for and won’t wait for it to be less expensive. I went to see the Wolfman, for example, last night. I did buy Bioshock 2, without waiting for a used copy. I won’t say what the last hardcover book was that I purchased.

    Gotta go bake a chocolate cake. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  7. Readers angry with authors? Which authors, and why? I’m pretty sure they’re not angry with me, although I’m not in a position to infuriate them, not yet, anyway. I suppose King or Patterson might piss them off if they agree to some publisher’s “sales and promotion strategy,” which might be a way to validate hefty prices while we wait impatiently for the books.

    I don’t believe in the tsumani theory of e-books taking over the world. It may happen eventually as the generations pass, but with nowhere near the speed most articles are claiming. Besides, like I always say, I haven’t seen many middle school kids with $300.00 Kindles or $500.00 i-Pads in their backpacks.

    However, the ability to self-publish books that are on par with traditional publishing quality has arrived. After slamming my head against the Literary Marketplace bible and the AAR website for two years, I followed my usual pig-headed Irish way and published my Y/A fantasy adventure series myself. After three years of visiting schools and wowing kids all over the country, my two cents worth of advice would be to wait for an agent to rep you and sell your book to a traditional publisher. They still have something no author/publisher has, the incredible sales network that everyone who wants their books to sell needs. It’s all about exposure, isn’t it, if you want sales?

    No matter how you get yourself out there, hard copy or e-book, it will be up to you to market and promote your masterpiece. That’s the real issue, and that’s where I’d like some solid, easy to follow advice.

  8. As someone who’s actually been paid to write, and is very, very appreciative of the people (3) who have paid me to write–and is fully in favor of other writers getting paid–I’m appalled by the whole “aaggh! Publishing is evil! Writers making money is evil!” mentality, and it’s leading me perilously close to xkcd-syndrome, or rather, WHY IS EVERYONE STUPID EXCEPT ME???

  9. Dawn @3

    Actually, I differ on the ‘know a lot about a very little thing’.

    I used to lead seminars covering quite a wide range of highly specialist subjects, and since you can’t actually cart that number of specialists around the country if you want them to do some work we would double or triple up on the presentations.

    So how do you tell whether the person you are listening to is the real deal or somebody working from a script carefully prepared by the real deal?

    You ask a question and grade the answer; do you receive a rounded, clear cut and authoritative response, or, instead, does the person you are questioning stare at the ceiling whilst whistling tunelessly for a few minutes and finally observe that s/he doesn’t know?

    The answer’s pretty obvious; the more specialist you become the less you *know* about your own specialist subject. It takes decades of hard work to achieve that degree of ignorance; I think of it as the equivalent of the martial artist who has got so many gold on his/her blackbelt that s/he returns at last to the white belt…

  10. I’m not surprised by the anger at authors by some readers. I remember well a common attitude during the Hollywood writers’ strike” “Shut up, take the pittance you’re given and keep writing; any moron can do it.”

    The identification with capital/the bosses is pretty constant across fields (which is really very crazy in Hollywood–the whole reason the market exists is because of appealing actors and writers).

  11. A year ago I read article about people who don’t realize the extent of their ignorance. It described a state where a person knew so little about a subject that they assumed they were an expert, and suggested that one of the first stages of learning was getting past this feeling of false expertise.

    That sense of false expertise has a name, but I can’t remember what it is. I had just come to terms with the idea that I would never remember it, when I read Steve Schwartz’s post. Now I’m wracking my brain all over again. Can anyone help me?

  12. Hhhmm, I guess I never really saw any of the reader entitlement, but then the only site I read relating to the Macmillan/Amazon kerfluffle was this one so my viewpoint may be skewed.

    People will always bitch about pricing. We can’t help it. We’ve come to expect nice things at a cheap price, or as I like to call it, The WalMart Syndrome. We can all agree to disagree on who was right and who was wrong in this battle and we can all have differing opinions on whether or not an ebook is worth the $15 price. In my opinion, it’s not. Especially when I can buy the hardback at that price or only a couple dollars more at any bookstore, including Amazon, B&N, Powell’s and many, many others.

    No, publishing it not going away, but the way books are going to be purchased will slowly change. Maybe slower now that Macmillian is forcing this agency model on those selling ebooks, but it will change. If I can purchase a full color book and read it on something that will not cost me a paycheck and a half maybe I’ll make the switch. I never thought I’d have much use for audiobooks, but thanks to Audible and iPod/iPhone I actually listen to more books than I read. Maybe iPad/Nook/Kindle will do the same for ebooks.

  13. There is one thing Jay Lake does, that, if you can do it, you’ll do well as a writer – write blindingly fast, write well at the same time, and be able to keep to that pace going while working a second job.

    Once you’ve got that down pat, you’ll have it made as a writer.

  14. I’ve been pretty quiet about the whole Amazon/Macmillan thing. I don’t write, for the very simple reason that I can’t. (Not completely true – if you need a COBOL program written, I’m your girl, but fiction – nope!)

    So I want authors to write, and I want them paid reasonably well. Not so well that they can afford to move to a tropical island and be pampered for the rest of their lives, but well enough that they have the incentive to WRITE MORE!!!

    And although both authors and readers were affected by this, we were not what it was about. It was two great big corporations fighting about great big corporation stuff.

  15. I think that the Amazon/MacMillan thing is just an industry trying to adjust to new distribution and media systems. This too shall pass once publishers all start doing things the same way.

    Assuming that ebooks take off (still to be determined), in the end, I think publishers who want to stay in business will start changing their distribution schedules in order to maintain their profits. After all, they are business people as this whole thing points out. One way will be to do exactly what is done with DVD’s, delaying release of the DVD until the movie at least leaves theaters, and so, publishers will delay the release to ebook format until published book sales have reached a certain point.

    I know, there are people out there trashing books on Amazon because they aren’t out in ebook format because a publisher has done this, but that won’t last in my opinion. Why don’t we hear viewers trashing movies because it’s not available on DVD right away? Isn’t this exactly what is happening with ebooks and delayed release in that format?

    I think the reason is that no one really has considered ebooks anything other than a trend that would eventually die out, or have limited listener appeal, like audio books. There haven’t been enough potential buyers to matter. In fact, if it wasn’t for the iPad, it probably would still be thought of that way.

    And I know I’m going to hear a lot about this, but I don’t think the iPad is going to make a difference. I think the iPad will have sales closer to what happened with the Mac Air. Those that want it as a trendy piece of hardware will buy it, and everybody else will need to be convinced it offers something really special that a smart phone doesn’t. And a lot of potential buyers already have iPhones.

    All of that said, I do think this is going to take some time to work itself out. Hopefully for us writers who are still trying to break in, it won’t take long and kill our chances to get published and make enough money off it to make it all worthwhile. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can stop writing. It’s the curse of the thing, you know.

  16. @Jimmy (#12):

    […] we can all have differing opinions on whether or not an ebook is worth the $15 price. In my opinion, it’s not. Especially when I can buy the hardback at that price or only a couple dollars more at any bookstore, including Amazon, B&N, Powell’s and many, many others.

    You believe the e-book version is less valuable than the dead-tree version? Can you elaborate why you feel that way? Is it because you believe production costs are lower for an e-book than they are for a dead-tree book? If so, you’re probably making a number of unconscious assumptions based on what computer(s) and disk space cost to you.

    I refer you to this post which describes a few of the costs associated with the production, storage, and distribution of e-books. There may be industry-specific costs, as well, which aren’t enumerated.

    The point is: cheap(er) is not equal to free. Cheap(er), on the scale of a big publishing company like Macmillan, is still pretty expensive.

  17. I had a mildly frustrating exchange with a poster on the subject of “author entitlement” where their proposition was that authors, like many other artists who don’t make a lot of money, are basically hobbyists and should not expect to make big bucks. I ranted briefly about every author and book being unique, and that pushing book prices to the lowest possible point for reader convenience makes writing untenable to many authors and that I don’t want my favourite authors to be too busy with the bill-paying jobs to have time to write.

    That conversation turned circular, and I think that I failed to get my point across: why, just because most writers love writing, should they not expect to gain a moderate amount of money in return many many hours of work? Ebook (and book) prices from my simple outlook should aim at being ‘fair’ to all parties concerned.

    Obviously, if you don’t sell any books you’re not going to make a profit. But the argument that authors shouldn’t expect their books to be priced in a way that is ‘fair’ to them makes me more than a little bemused.

  18. That’s a useful link, Jim, thanks. There’s also an interesting book out, The Price of a Bargain: The Quest for Cheap and the Death of Globalization by Gordon Laird which talks about the bargaineers industry — dollar stores, volume wholesale that also goes retail — and how this has effected world economies. Part of the book — I got to read an excerpt — deals with how customers now believe bargain prices should be the retail price and that prices should be cheaper and cheaper. It’s a rather interesting development, given how often we’re told that we’re a consumer society obsessed with buying things.

  19. I am a reader. My involvement with the e-book situation only effects my entertainment and not my livelihood so I see no reason to take any author to task on this topic. That would be disingenuous at best or just self-involved to an absurd degree. I want to point out to authors and reader that we are not adversaries, and neither of our groups is in fact in charge of or responsible for the current mess.

    A reader’s relationship with the authors they read is intimate. We let a person we do not know insinuate their world view into our heads. They become like friends. And so when it appears that friends are on opposite sides of an argument, feelings can run very high.

    Speaking as a reader who needs authors for one of the significant pleasures of life, I am not now, nor have I ever been, annoyed with authors. I do not know the various contractual arrangements that publishers make with authors or with book sellers and I’m fairly sure I never really will. I wish to find authors whose work I enjoy and purchase their writing regularly.

    I happen to be very fond of the Kindle because it solved a problem for me, actually, several problems, and I have reached a stage where I don’t want to purchase paper books anymore if I can avoid it. This is a personal choice that is important to me. I just want books to read, please.

    I am not a fan of large corporations and do not expect that any of them can be regarded as innocents. I do, however, fear that publishers have been foolish in their view of their customer and in their business strategy. I could be wrong as prescience does not run in my family, and for that, at least, I am grateful.

  20. Jim & KatG:

    Huh, so was Baudrillard right, it’s all perceived affluence and anomie? :-) Lower prices are the consumer’s right, essentially, is what I heard from one of the more vocal reader constituencies, and to buttress their argument they deploy ideas such as the Pixie Dust Mode of Production for e-books. I guess that makes the Dunning-Kruger Effect some sort of defense mechanism. . . .

  21. Lots of people had gut-level reactions to the Macmillan/Amazon kerfuffle. Each side believed that their reaction was rational and well-reasoned and obvious, and not at all gut-level, and that the other side was just being “greedy” or “entitled.” As a big consumer of ebooks, I don’t feel entitled to cheap ebooks, nor do I feel that authors are greedy. I think two corporations were fighting over some money in the middle that will go to neither authors nor consumers for the most part.

  22. Greedy authors my ass.

    Red Smith was right. “It’s easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

    The technology has improved. The bloodletting, however, remains the same.

  23. illukaron@19:
    And don’t forget that poverty and exploitation is enobling and authentic for artists, but not for the entitled consumer who really need to get a grip on the fact that Rent is a second-rate musical not a viable career path for sane people.

    I’ll also commit heresy and suggest that the Macmillan Publishing Group (and most other publishers out there) are publicly held companies with 1) employees for whom perfumed unicorn farts and fairy dust aren’t legal tender, and, 2) shareholders who aren’t all evil fat cats and have a reasonable expectation of an occasional return on their investments. I’d certainly like it if my retirement plan stopped bleeding red ink sooner rather than later…

  24. I would pay “going rate” ($10, $15, whatever) book prices for an ebook if I was getting the same package as I get with a dead tree book. If Amazon and their ilk are going to sell licenses to read a book (which is essentially the current model), then I would expect to pay fees similar to renting the product. I have a Kindle and an iPhone. I make the eBook versus paper decision every time I make a purchase.

  25. Liked the McGuire stuff about rich authors living abroad (cabana boys etc). Now I’m one of those who does, so many would assume that I’m some super rich author. The reality is somewhat different. I don’t earn much more than the average office guy, but I can live in sunny climes simply because I don’t have to go to the office. Maybe the biggest thing about being an author is the freedom, not money – all I need is a laptop or pen and paper to do my job.

  26. People are saying the same negative things about publishers and writers now that they said about record companies and musicians a decade ago. A good chunk of it was just a way for people who weren’t paying for music to justify their position and release some anxiety. I don’t see how this situation is really different.

  27. “who thought it would be a good idea to let me do this?”

    Simple. Someone obviously recognized you have the ability to figure things out and trusted you to , as always, get to what needed to be done, learn how to get that expertise (either by learning it or “renting” it) and then proceeding to get it done.

    You see, there are few people born competent. Competent people are created by carefully tasking capable people. Many are born capable and are raised to “competent” by the work they take on. Confident people often are merely capable people that have eventually realized they have the capability to become competent. And wise people realize when they might be overstepping their capabilities.

    Heinlein would have field day with this :-)

  28. Craig Ranapia:

    In fact Macmillan is privately held. Which I suspect made it easier for it to be the one to step on the Amazon land mine, since it couldn’t be punished in the stock market.

  29. Well, I prefer the old paper books , with caps, pages and letters readable. In fact, I think the technology has a bad vice of blow up in your face in the most delicate moments of your life, for example:

    -Save your computer pictures of events that delete from the camera to take more photos … a glitch in the PC requires you to restart, and lose all data.

    -You have two chapters of a novel written, and when you will copy to a CD, corrupt or invalid file.

    -You’re going to make a copy of your hard disk … and an alien race launches an electromagnetic pulse on your planet (well, that last one was a dream, but seemed very real)

    In, short, leaving aside the jokes nothing like having your books on a shelf, taking for years the smell of old books, and the only device you need to read it is a comfortable chair.

  30. Good point re. the “$9.99 or less” pricing. Just about anything I might want would — at less than $10 — come under my “think carefully and doubtfully about spending this much” radar. (It used to be, even when I had a full-time job, $1, then jumped to $5.00; there are indications that it’ll soon be $20.00, but I’m a Certified Old Geezer with a pretty good memory, and happen to wind up every year with a little more money in the bank.)

    This says, practically, nothing about Publishers, or Authors — it’s all about Me, might possibly be useful as a statistic, but really contributes almost nothing to the conversation/disputation.

  31. John Ginsberg-Stevens: “Huh, so was Baudrillard right, it’s all perceived affluence and anomie?”

    No, I don’t think so. I think we’re dealing with a lot of different factions who are operating from different belief systems. There is the faction that thinks authors are well-off and are trying to screw customers. There’s a faction that thinks authors are oppressed and need to be free from the greed of publishers. There’s a faction that feel that e-books should be cheap because purchasing e-books is “renting” because they aren’t transferable, e-books can be easily wiped out and because suppliers like Amazon can remove them, which is wrong because the purchase of a print book is not the physical object but of the data inside it, same as an e-book, and if you accidentally set your print book on fire, it’s not the bookstore’s problem. Length of use is not guaranteed in any purchase that does not come with a warranty. There’s a contingent who feels everything on the Web must be cheap or free (except their electronics equipment) as part of a great revolution that is coming to those well off enough to participate in the great revolution. There is a large faction who don’t usually buy print books but are now interested in e-books because they bought new toys, and so are coming in with a lot of unrealistic demands. There is another faction that feels anything electronic should always have prices decrease, not start at one point, then possibly rise on some products for initial release, and don’t understand that the entire book industry, including Amazon, had very little idea what they were doing when they launched into e-books in a bigger way and that these sort of adjustments are going to happen for the next couple years. There’s a libertarian section that believes retailers should be able to do whatever they like with their inventory including setting prices, and felt that Macmillan, which got their money from Amazon, shouldn’t take that right away. These people don’t understand that Amazon was also acting as the electronic publisher, not just the retailer, was deducting production costs and expanding licensing rights for free, and that this was the main issue of the dispute. There’s a group that thinks all e-books are going to be $14.99. And so on and so on.

    Basically, e-books is a small, growing market that slowly merges the electronics industry, the Web industry and the book publishing industry, which causes a great deal of confusion. Book publishing has spent a lot of time trying to make authors look glamorous as a PR strategy, and now that’s coming back to bite a bit in this new market, which is really just a tiny side market for the smart phone/netbooks/tablet computer/e-reader/future octopus device that mates with your t.v. market. And in a way, it’s kind of nice that it’s books that is provoking such passion.

    But no, it isn’t fair that authors are getting the ire thrown at them. I think it’s partly that a lot of authors on the Web complained about Amazon’s actions, and that a lot of people have a Hollywood image of authors, especially fiction ones, not in touch with reality.

  32. Oran Sands @ 30:

    Confident people often are merely capable people that have eventually realized they have the capability to become competent. And wise people realize when they might be overstepping their capabilities.

    “Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.”

  33. Bruce A: “Jeez, if e-book readers want cheap e-books, why don’t they just go down to the used e-book store?

    Oh, wait….”

    Or they can just buy the large number of e-books that will continue to be cheap, not to mention all the free ones, and wait on the ones that are higher priced to come down in price, as they will do. Just like they do in the print book market. :)

  34. John Scalzi@31:

    Oh, don’t put your dirty facts on my argument. :) You’re quite right that MPG is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Holtzbrinck Group. I’ve still seen little evidence that the Holtzbrinck family are particularly sentimental about the fact they own a very big media company in troubled times.

  35. Being a frequent purchaser of Apple products, I read your multiple posts on the Amazon/Macmillan kerfuffle – and how your income as a writer suffered, and how Amazon did not even care. To my mind the biggest value in this huge supply chain of getting an author’s work in front of a reader is the Author! To add something to the scales of justice, I did buy a copy of Old Man’s War and loved it from the University Bookstore in Seattle. Loved it. I’m going back to buy the next two in the series.

    I will be very wary of buying from Amazon in the future. Their temper tantrum was tasteless!

  36. I went to law school so I could buy what I wanted at the grocery store, buy hardcover books and have an excuse to avoid housework. It also turned out handy to be able to pay for good health care and a good education for my family. I buy hardcovers, paperbacks, ebooks, magazines and newspapers. I read online. I read the back of cereal boxes, all the signs at the doctor’s office and all the warnings in the elevator. I love to read. It is my only hobby. I am very dull. If you (and other authors I like) don’t write, I am toast. I will pay whatever you charge and be thrilled. Ignore the complainers.

  37. An interesting post, as always. I myself opined in recent days on my blog about “What This All Means”, especially for new and unpublished authors (of which I am in the latter category). Jay’s advice about advice is particularly interesting in these changing times, illuminated as we now are by the radioactive fallout of the Kerfuffle.

    Frankly, when you get right down to it, though, the changes in the industry being wrought before our eyes will have, I think, very little impact on the path to publication for such new/unpublished writers. The form and content may change (online venues versus traditional print venues, e-books versus traditional books, etc), but the formula is still the same: write a lot and work your butt off. It’s clear, though, that what the traditional publishers do is a necessary step in the book publishing process. But if their business models are admittedly broken, that leaves me with a few questions. What aspects of their model are broken (the symptoms of tightening revenue and thinning margins say that they are, in fact, broken, but if this is the case, there must be an underlying cause). And if this is the case, how will this be fixed?

    I’m actually posting a blog tomorrow ( about a fictive “successor” model to the current business model. It’s by no means anything I would consider ideal, but a thought experiment on what the problems with the current business model might be and how those problems will exert pressures to force change in the future.

    Ultimately, however, I’m personally interested in what this means (if anything) for others like me, who are just beginning to feel out what it will take to get published.

  38. Related to all this, I think one reason that consumers price e-books for less than physical books has more to do with the psychology of “owning” a physical object versus of “having a license” to a non-physical (and by extension, non-real) object. That’s my personal take, anyway. I personally would value an e-book less for that particular reason: not because the content is worth less but because I put some value in owning a physical copy of the book over only having the right to read the words of the book.

  39. ‘Apple is dusting off FairPlay – the digital rights management used by iTunes – to protect electronic copies of books sold to iPad users.

    FairPlay irritated some iTunes users and was dropped for most music content last year.

    But when the iPad launches next month, along with the iBook store, copyrighted content will have some restrictions on its use, the LA Times reports.’

    Nice to see that Apple cares enough about the content owner to make certain that the content buyer gets less for their money. Which luckily for the content provider, comes attached with a likely higher price tag than previously for a digital copy.

    A brave new world is again struggling to be born – one where the privilege of renting content will be available to all, instead of the horrible world we currently live in, where the owner of a book can do with it as they please – lend it, write in it, or even sell it. All without paying a penny to the publisher for those privileges.

  40. Is this a good time for a redneck joke (which may even be topical)? Is there ever a bad time for a redneck joke?

    What are a redneck’s last words?

    “Hey, y’all, watch this.”

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