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Amazon Bypassing Publishers By Signing Authors Directly

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the it-was-the-spring-of-hope,-it-was-the-winter-of-despair dept.

Books 461

Hugh Pickens writes "David Streitfeld reports that Amazon is aggressively wooing top authors, gnawing away at the services publishers, critics and agents used to provide. 'Everyone's afraid of Amazon,' says Richard Curtis, a longtime agent who is also an e-book publisher. 'The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader,' adds Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon's top executives. 'Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.' But publishers are fighting back at writers who publish with Amazon. In 2010 Kiana Davenport signed with a division of Penguin for The Chinese Soldier's Daughter, a Civil War love story, and received a $20,000 advance. In the meantime Davenport packaged several award-winning short stories she had written 20 years ago and packaged them in an e-book, Cannibal Nights, available on Amazon. When Penguin found out, it went 'ballistic,' accusing her of breaking her contractual promise to avoid competition, canceling her novel, and suing Davenport to recover her advance. Davenport knows her crime: 'Sleeping with the enemy? Perhaps. But now I know who the enemy is.'"

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461 comments

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One company (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742630)

One Company to rule them all, One Click to find them,
One Company to contract with them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Profit where the Bezos lies.

Re:One company (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742700)

Why do police dogs keep licking their asses? To get the taste of nigger out of their mouths!

Re:One company (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743054)

I thought it was to lick your face but any old asshole was close enough...

Amazon is just another publisher. (2)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742638)

If the contract gave exclusive distribution rights to Penguin then the author is in breach of contract. Seems simple to me.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (3, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742672)

Amazon is a retailer; it's only recently become a publisher as well. From what they've said, one of the reasons why established authors have been signing up with Amazon as a publisher is that their contracts are far more author-friendly than trade publishers.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742686)

Which is fine, but of they had an existing contract they would be in breach of it. If the penalties do not out weight the benefits, more power to them. But they dont get to complain about breaking the contract when they are willingly doing so.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742878)

According to the author they were two entirely different works, and even different subject matter, and she doesn't believe she was in breach of contract...

Now if she signed some sort of "I'll publish everything through you" exclusive contract, or right to first sale of all her works, or some similar contract, she may well have been in breach, but that's not what it sounds like here.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742944)

We don't know because none of us has seen the contract she signed. She may well have signed one with stipulations in it that she would not publish with any other author until... paperback of the work in question was finished, any new forwards/revisions/etc were done, who knows what.

If her contract didn't stipulate any of that then they are blowing smoke and she's free to ignore them till she shows them up in court. But if those are in the contract, she's gonna have to pay $$$ for breaking a deal she signed.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (3, Informative)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742936)

Depends how the contract is worded. The author seems to think she gave Penguin exclusivity on her new book, not her old stuff. I've never heard of a publishing company having a fit when you publish old stuff (previously published no less, just bound up in a new collection), while working on a book for them. It's possible that Penguin writes their contacts that way and the author simply misunderstood or didn't read carefully enough, but it seems really odd to me. It sounds like Penguin is interpreting a non-compete clause rather more liberally than is traditional in order to punish the author for going through Amazon. I don't have all the facts of course, she may have legitimately broken faith with them, but from what we have that doesn't appear to be that case.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (3, Insightful)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742776)

Of course. If the whole chain is in-house they'll be able to eliminate a lot of unnecessary overhead, making it more efficient and profitable than having to deal with external business partners stuck in the 19th century.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (4, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742868)

The question is, do you really want Amazon to be the only place you can get books?

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (1)

Joehonkie (665142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742946)

You can self-publish to other e-bookstores as well, and most people seem to do at least B&N.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742984)

The question is, do you really want Amazon, thepiratebay, 1000 private trackers, rapidshare, hotfile, fileserve, and use^H^H^Hfightclub to be the only places you can get books?

FTFY

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743076)

Yes

Re:The Question is (1)

openfrog (897716) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743130)

Spot on: the question whether we want Amazon to be the only place to get book is THE question, which is neatly illustrated by this fine piece of Newspeak uttered by the Amazon's top executives mentioned in the summary:

The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader

Meaning: The only necessary part of the book publishing process (as demonstrated in the music and the film industries) is distribution and we are now going to take care of that.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743164)

Amazon is the only place I do get books, so ...

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742684)

The contract gave Penguin exclusive rights to The Chinese Soldier's Daughter, not every single piece ever written by the author.

Assuming so is treading in dangerous waters.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742768)

Have you read the contract she signed? Thought not.
You are assuming things as well.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742782)

Have you? Thought not.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742980)

useless post is useless.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743074)

No, but I'm not claiming that she didn't give rights up for additional works/time in the contract because I haven't read it.. CanHasYIY is.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (4, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742758)

That depends. They got a deal for the novel "The Chinese Soldier's Daughter". She repackaged a collection short stories and sold them on Amazon.
Did the publisher have any rights to those short stories? She did sign a non-compete but does a collection of short stories compete with a novel?
At this point we are into lawyer land where logic and reason do not apply.
Kind of like the Twilight Zone except without the almost universal just outcome.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (5, Interesting)

haystor (102186) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742840)

There is significant case law on the matter. Further, an advance of $20k to not work in the entire field of writing for 2 years won't get any traction in court.

Non compete in this sense means those characters/story/universe don't get presented somewhere else. That the publisher gets first release of not just the book, but anything to do with the book.

This is bullying an author, plain and simple. (if the story is as the author has written)

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742908)

Since the universe is the civil war isn't the idea of exclusiveness a bit silly I mean since the author is working in historical time and not a fictional creation of her own?

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743208)

It's still a fictional creation of her own. It's just that parts of the background were researched instead of created. She could write another Civil War book to be published somewhere else, but she couldn't write another Civil War book featuring these characters or the fictional elements of the background and publish it somewhere else.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743050)

Ah, I wonder if that is the problem - the short stories (or one of them) had the same characters? It would not be the first time an author based a novel on characters that author had previously created in a short story format.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743124)

Sorry, but all that doesn't matter a whit. Just ask Prince.

He was signed up with a label and wasn't allowed to record any music except with them for a certain period of time/number of albums. It doesn't matter if the music was of the same type/(roughly equivalent to characters/story/universe). They essentially owned the name 'Prince' at that point, which is the major reason he was known as 'the symbol' for quite a while.

Knowing what the contract specified is important. Neither she or Penguin have shown the contract, so we are all just guessing at what it actually did say.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (4, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742808)

One can easily make up "if this, then that" scenarios. But, they're all worthless.

The author says she didn't violate the contract. The publisher's actions imply that they think she did. From the author's description, it sounds like a "no compete" clause, not an "exclusivity" one. The author says one of the e-published works was actually published prior to their contract. The e-published works were short story collections, which according to the author, contained subject matter different than the contracted novel.

She says that the works were previously rejected by the "big six" publishers, which includes Penguin. From that, it seems to me that Penguin, by their prior rejection of the work, had already determined that it wasn't competitive.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743044)

Eh, big publishers almost always have abusive clauses like this in their contracts. Authors have been griping for years about it, but what can they do, the publishers hold all of the cards.

Except now there's an alternative, and the publishers must be shitting bricks if they realize that they're going to have real competition for the first time ever. At least they can be pretty sure that this author won't fight them in court, $20k isn't enough to pay for a lawyer of any merit for a case that is likely to drag on for years if she fights it. The only monkey wrench Penguin has to worry about is if some lawyer takes up the case pro-bono.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743212)

The rights to the author's work might be worth more than $20k. Especially to the author.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743196)

If the publisher thought she had they'd be sueing, surely? Espeically considering they seem to want to punish the author.

Seems more likely (without ever having seen the contract or even the "normal" version of one) that they are pissed and using some "right to cancel" clause to say she has to return the advance and they give her back the rights. Or even just deciding to eat the sunk cost and sit on the work for the length of their contract without publishing it - and offering to cancel the deal if she returns the deposit as a separate item.

But it's all guesswork without seeing the contract and communications, which isn't going to happen.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742828)

And if you bothered to RTFA you'll see that the contract covered a book, not past collections which she had sold multiple times.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742844)

But was the publisher gaining exclusive rights to the civil war love story, or exclusive rights to "the author herself"?

Was the publisher asserting that it had contracted *all* intellectualy proprty from the author for a paltry 20k? Surely only in our radical world of absurd intellectual property law could such a moronic position gain any traction.

As pointed out, the author published a totally different body of work, totally unrelated to the civil war love story she signed the advance contract for.

This would be like apple buying a software package meant to change themes on an ipad, then aggressively suing the author of that software for daring to release a fart app under the gpl.

Only an IP lawyer could even begin to conflate the two works as being the same, and therefor as breach of contract, unless the publisher had willfully engaged in disequitable practices to force the contract to be over all works created by the author, be it past, present, or future. Last I checked, disequitable and one sided contracts were of dubious legality.

I see this as little more than barratry from the publisher.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742910)

If the contract gave exclusive distribution rights to Penguin then the author is in breach of contract. Seems simple to me.

It is extremely common for publishing contracts to feature a reversion clause where, once the book goes out of print(for a generally agreed-upon definition of 'out of print', which, incidentally, is a concept being shaken up a bit by the fact that many of these contracts were written before it was economic to keep a book 'in print' by listing it basically for free in some electronic database at a relatively stiff sticker price and print-on-demand-ing it if anybody actually bites) the rights revert to the author.

For a bunch of short stories, published 20 years ago, and unrelated to the book being written for publication today, it is quite likely that they had reverted, if their had ever been exclusive rights in the first place.

What makes me suspect that one or the other of these is so is that Penguin resorted to indirect threats and retaliation against an unrelated project, rather than just hitting the author for copyright infringement or breach of contract RE: the short story collection. If they actually had a case(either by having purchased the copyright, or by having purchased exclusive right to publication), they would have had very strong ground to crush the author for publishing elsewhere. They didn't...

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742938)

If the contract gave exclusive distribution rights to Penguin then the author is in breach of contract. Seems simple to me.

You must not have read the article at all. She sold a new book through Penguin. She then took a bunch of her other, older stories -- stories that Penguin likely turned down publishing -- and offered them for sale through Amazon. This was an entirely separate book, and Penguin dumped her for that. Penguin never had exclusive distribution rights for everything that she'd ever produced in her life, but they threw all of their toys out of the param anyway. How can they claim that a no-compete agreement covers that?

Given how Penguin is interpreting this, no author should ever sign with them again -- unless you like life on The Plantation.

Re:Amazon is just another publisher. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743100)

to *new* stories possibly, but these were written 20 years before said contract... thereby the contract does not apply... or at least that would be my take.
Poor penguin... gonna go belly up.

Publisher Pricing (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742660)

Maybe they got tired of having to qualify every eBook price with "This price was set by the publisher".

Want to know what's wrong with the eBook market? Just check out this [amazon.com] page; $15 for a poorly scanned version of a book that was written more than 40 years ago, that's available new in paperback and even hardcover for less. Seriously? Who the hell comes up with these pricing models? Even as a huge eBook fan there's been plenty of books that I've passed on because I just can't justify the cost for a digital copy, even ignoring the fact that the digital copy is DRM'd to Amazon's tool set.

Re:Publisher Pricing (3, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742682)

Who the hell comes up with these pricing models?

Publishers who don't want people buying ebooks and destroying their dead tree book market.

Re:Publisher Pricing (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743000)

Customers who buy them not knowing or caring they're being fleeced, because Kindle 2/3/4 is so in.

Re:Publisher Pricing (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742814)

Buy a new paperbvack copy and download a epub from piratebay.

Honestly, if the ebook version is a joke, then sidestep them.

Re:Publisher Pricing (1)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743198)

Hey, I have a patent on that method of moral piracy!

Tho I'm purchasing more epub titles directly now that it's so easy to strip the DRM from them. But only if the price is reasonable.

Re:Publisher Pricing (1)

sesshomaru (173381) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742846)

Yes, eBook readers are great... for reading stuff from Project Gutenberg.

I recommend The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers and Moon-Face and Other Stories by Jack London.

Re:Publisher Pricing (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743156)

I couldn't stop reading "The Road" on my Xoom. $Free

Re:Publisher Pricing (1)

swan5566 (1771176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742848)

Maybe they got tired of having to qualify every eBook price with "This price was set by the publisher".

Want to know what's wrong with the eBook market? Just check out this [amazon.com] page; $15 for a poorly scanned version of a book that was written more than 40 years ago, that's available new in paperback and even hardcover for less. Seriously? Who the hell comes up with these pricing models? Even as a huge eBook fan there's been plenty of books that I've passed on because I just can't justify the cost for a digital copy, even ignoring the fact that the digital copy is DRM'd to Amazon's tool set.

Then go buy the hardcover version, and leave the free market to correct itself.

If Amazon is smart... (3, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742666)

They'd offer her $40k + legal expenses. This is a pissing match, plain and simple.

Re:If Amazon is smart... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742696)

Amazon is big enough to buy all the publishers.

Grandinetti is an idiot: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742678)

Firstly, his quote is entirely untrue. If there were noone between the writer and reader, you'd end up with lackluster works. Secondly, which one is Amazon then--the writer or the reader?

Re:Grandinetti is an idiot: (5, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742722)

Firstly, his quote is entirely untrue. If there were noone between the writer and reader, you'd end up with lackluster works.

Have you been to a bookstore lately?

Sparkly Vampire #16, Sparkly Werewolf #5, Oscar Wilde - Vampire Hunter (Ok, I might read that one), Zombies Vs Vampires #9, More Zombies #97.

There's a reason why I mostly buy self-published books these days; they may have more typos, but at least there's some variety in the stories for sale.

Re:Grandinetti is an idiot: (1)

mingot (665080) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742934)

So so true. There is now a huge section in bookstores (B&N) called "Teen paranormal romance." It's as large as other sections with names like "Fiction", "Reference", and "Non-fiction".

Re:Grandinetti is an idiot: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742968)

You should have gone to a bookstore that had more than 5 books.

Re:Grandinetti is an idiot: (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743178)

Oscar Wilde - Vampire Hunter

Stephen Fry already played Oscar Wilde once... can you imagine something that awesome?

Re:Grandinetti is an idiot: (1)

wmbetts (1306001) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742734)

I think what he was getting at is Amazon is a retailer (not a publisher) with an open market place that allows any author to be their own publisher. Meaning there's no need for an agent and publisher to bring books to the retailer and receive a wide audience of buyers.

Re:Grandinetti is an idiot: (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742790)

You are telling me that all writers are no talent hacks and the publisher makes their book fantastic?

So let me guess, the harry potter books direct from JK Rowling are full of profanity and nudity and the publisher fixed them into the books that sold like hotcakes and everyone wanted to read...

  Let me guess, you also have a nice bridge in Manhattan that you will sell me for a deal. I know several writers and all of them are looking forward to the day they can bypass the publisher. Most of them are angry that the publishers don't even supply the services they used to, like editors and reviewers to go over the books several times before publishing, they have to hire their own out of their own pocket.

Re:Grandinetti is an idiot: (1)

sesshomaru (173381) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742912)

A smart author hires an editor who he/she trusts. Robert Heinlein was driven nearly insane by his publisher when he was publishing his juvenile novels, because his editor was like an extreme version of TV's standards and practices.

He finally had to change Starship Troopers into an novel for adults to escape her.

Re:Grandinetti is an idiot: (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743048)

Actually I think he means that the publishers provide editors and copy-editors to make sure you spelled your main character's name the same way through the whole book. Any reasonable and honest author will tell you that the editing (and fact checking for books where they are appropriate) services provided by publishers are useful and valuable. That doesn't mean you couldn't get those services from somewhere other than a publisher, but it does kind of put lie to the idea that book should go from author to reader. You don't necessarily need a publisher in the middle, but having someone there doing quality control does tend to make the final product better.

Re:Grandinetti is an idiot: (1)

clodney (778910) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743176)

Actually I think he means that the publishers provide editors and copy-editors to make sure you spelled your main character's name the same way through the whole book. Any reasonable and honest author will tell you that the editing (and fact checking for books where they are appropriate) services provided by publishers are useful and valuable.

Amen. Ever flip through a 10 page dissertation on starting a fire, or aiming a torpedo, or any other historical/technical minutiae that an author was fascinated by but which bored you to tears? I have, and frequently it is something that was self published (which *may* mean no editor), or something where the author was so powerful (looking at you Tom Clancy) that he didn't have to listen to the editor anymore. Editors make books better. Marketing sells more books. Publishers provide both editors and (hopefully) marketing. I'm no fan of the publishers, but they do add value in most cases.

Re:Grandinetti is an idiot: (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743192)

Which is the point, they are NOT providing that. Most authors have to hire their own.

Are they that far behind the curve? (1)

axafg00b (398439) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742694)

You know, if her contract was specific to her new book, and she retained the rights to the short stories, then Penguin is indeed the enemy. But, really, hasn't Penguin been reading the papers lately? This Intertube thingy is catching on - you can get direct to user music and videos and shopping. Aren't they a little behind the curve here?

good publishers still have a role (1)

Snotman (767894) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742706)

So, not sure where the fear is. Good publishers refine author's works into something readable in many cases and they distribute and market. Amazon is a solution for distribution, but it doesn't quite cut the mustard for the other two. Sure, for authors that are professionals, they need less help. Those that are starting out most likely need some help. It would be interesting to see the opportunity cost of an author using a publisher versus DIY either way.

Re:good publishers still have a role (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742920)

I'm not in publishing, but I think they look at it as... they make you into someone that people know. They make your early books readable and get them in peoples hands through costly promotion and distribution. Now you're someone famous with name recognition (because they did that for you), and so you cut them out entirely and sell books through Amazon.

In this case they were probably pissed that they're selling her all over the place, and she's reaping the immediate benefits by selling a unrelated, secondary work on Amazon. What's worse, is if it's lesser material, she's hurting their sales of the book they did contract so she can make a few bucks up front.

Though really, if the publishers were ACTUALLY that worried about self publishing, all of this should have been spelled out in her contract... and apparently it wasn't.

There is room for both. (5, Insightful)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742712)

I think some people are too quick to write off the publishing industry. They still provide things you won't find on Amazon, such as EDITORS. An early author may be able to put a book together, but sometimes they need a very experienced set of eyes to help them fix problems and eliminate some cruft. An experienced writer may not need one as much (although they generally still do), but starting authors almost certainly will. You also cannot get your ebook into nearly as many hands as a hardcopy. Any literate person with functional eyes can read a hardcopy, but you need a Kindle or similar device to read an ebook.

What I hope to see from this is two competing markets. Hopefully this will coax the publishing industry to give authors a better cut. Maybe that's a bit too pie-in-the-sky, but it's possible. Let's hope the publishing industry can adapt better than the goddamned RIAA.

Re:There is room for both. (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742778)

I think some people are too quick to write off the publishing industry. They still provide things you won't find on Amazon, such as EDITORS.

Editors are important, but you don't need to sign with a publishing house to get your book edited. There's nothing stopping you from hiring a freelance editor and publishing on Amazon if you think it's necessary.

In the end, I think the market will make the decision here. If publishers add value, then readers will stick with traditional publishers. If they don't, then Amazon will win.

Re:There is room for both. (5, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742960)

Editors are important, but you don't need to sign with a publishing house to get your book edited. There's nothing stopping you from hiring a freelance editor and publishing on Amazon if you think it's necessary.

Lack of money is. Ultimately a publisher these days is simply a one stop shop offering a loan, editing, typesetting, cover art, promotion, distribution and a selection of other tasks that are needed to make a book successful.

You could get all that yourself from other sources but I suspect few lenders would lend you money on the same terms - no requirement to pay it all back until your writing careers is a success.

Re:There is room for both. (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743160)

Amazon has editors that they can and do provide. They can in fact offer all that stuff. The article told me so.

Re:There is room for both. (2)

liquidweaver (1988660) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742860)

I'm pretty sure hiring an editor for $10k and then self publishing is a far better deal than handing a lion's share of your profit to a publisher over 20,40,80 years.

Re:There is room for both. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742870)

Indeed, although I will point out that there are freelance professional editors. If you self-publish and don't use one, you're either a god or a clueless hack, with the vast majority of those folks being the latter. (This is, of course, a broad brush... some people self-publish just for fun - more power to them.)

Re:There is room for both. (1)

molesdad (1003858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742890)

Ok I take that as there is still a market for editors to refine the product, what I fail to see is the "we still need to limit the choice and availability" of said product. This is essentially what publishers do, just like the record industry used to do; if you want this product you have to purchase it in this format at this time and then again later when we decide to publish in another format that suits our business model. Fuck em I say give me what I want when I want it or I will pirate your books and accept the consequence of driving authors away for the short term.

Re:There is room for both. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742898)

Any literate person with functional eyes can read a hardcopy, but you need a Kindle or similar device to read an ebook.

You don't need a dedicated device to read an ebook. Any computer (and most tablets, even some phones) with the appropriate reader program can do the job.

Re:There is room for both. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743188)

Yes, but it seems an astoundingly large majority of people will crank the brightness up to max, use black-on-white to maximize overall brightness, stare into the blazing white fury they've created for a few hours, then post online about how it's impossible to read from an emissive display without eyestrain. Odds are good you're replying to one of these fools, not someone who knows how to adjust a monitor properly.

(OTOH, there are some mobile devices with legitimate issues, where the manufacturer truncates the low end of the brightness adjustment, to make sure the screen is always bright enough to see the brightness controls. Unfortunately, "bright enough to see" in daylight is too damn bright for many indoor lighting levels -- but I've had two such devices, and patches were available to grant full range adjustment on both of them.)

Amazon has editors too (1)

sirwired (27582) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743010)

If you were to actually read TFA by the NYT, you would find that Amazon employs editors of their own, which edit books published by Amazon's publishing wing (and which has so far published 122 books.) I would assume they pay advances and edit, in return for exclusive rights to the work, just like any other publisher.

This is distinct from the platform on the website that allows anyone to sell any eBook on the website.

Create Value or die. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742716)

So... if the publisher provides enough value, they'll be fine (either editing, advertising, business advice, advances to allow the writer to eat while writing, etc etc). Publishers will die if they:
Don't provide value...
or
Don't provide enough Value to justify the cost...
or
Amazon provides good enough value relative to publishers and is just easier to work with, or the writer ends up making more money...

Publishers either need to reinvent themselves to stay abreast of the changing business landscape. Railroads diminished in power because they thought they were in the Railroad business. They're not; They were in the transportation business, and failed to adapt.

This is just more market myopia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marketing_myopia [wikipedia.org]

"The Myopic culture, Levitt postulated, would pave the way for a business to fail, due to the short-sighted mindset and illusion that a firm is in a so-called 'growth industry'. This belief leads to complacency and a loss of sight of what your customers want."

Good! (5, Insightful)

drunkennewfiemidget (712572) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742720)

The more of these middle man made-up positions we can remove, the better.

Next up: record executives, realtors, and oil prospectors.

Good... (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742728)

Publishers typically have been leeches. Sucking 98% of the profit out of a book.

It's high time that writers were able to sell to a reader and keep most of the sale, they did 90% of the work, they deserve 90% of the sale price.

Will iTunes follow? (1)

mveloso (325617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742886)

Traditionally, media companies charge more because they do the marketing. They're the distribution arm, after all.

Amazon can market authors much better than traditional publishers can. Good idea for everyone involved.

The problem in music is that people who try to do it alone don't have the marketing muscle. iTunes could be that marketeer, but it isn't. But if amazon succeeds, maybe iTunes will follow.

That would be a horrifying endgame for the labels.

I suspect that iTunes isn't doing that because, well, it doesn't want to be the music publisher for the world.

Re:Will iTunes follow? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743042)

Amazon can market authors much better than traditional publishers can.

They can, but will they? If their costs are kept low, then there's no incentive to market. Just get as many books out there as possible.

Amazon's rates may be good now..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742992)

But wait until they have squeezed out the competition, and then everything will begin to look much differently.

They take profit from successful books (4, Insightful)

sirwired (27582) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743066)

Publishers take a lot of the profit from successful books. They also end up paying a lot of advances on complete duds on which they lost money. (Same thing with music labels.) Vanity publishing has always been available to authors that think they can make more money by cutting out the middleman. (If you could convince a bookstore to carry the things... most booksellers have better things to do than wade through self-published crap.)

I agree that the traditional publishing model is now becoming outdated with the advent of e-books, but it had it's purpose at the time.

Editors (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742732)

It's not just writers and readers...any successful writer will tell you that editors are also an essential part of the process. Amazon will either have to provide authors with editors or come up with a situation where editors can work on projects as independent contractors.

Amazon... (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742736)

I didn't RTFA- [I don't read any articles that require me to log in first] so if I'm misunderstanding the synopsis- apologies in advance.

I've often considered writing a novel, there is an idea I've been burning to write for years. My terrible grammer has always held me back from writing.

IF I were to write though, I would not trust Amazon to publish for me. IF I write- I'd want my work to be available to as many people as possible- I wouldn't want to be limited by one vendor (as I suspect signing for Amazon would ultimately do).

Signing for Amazon would be the ultimate statement of "I've grown as much as I can, now I'll sell-out".

Re:Amazon... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742888)

Of course, the flip-side to that is that you as a new author are quite likely to languish as nobody is interested in your work because nobody has heard of you.

What we've been seeing with iTunes and people who self-publish these things through Amazon, is that you can potentially make vastly more by selling it cheaply and having a large number of people download it and you get paid directly than you would otherwise. If you're getting 75% or so of each $0.99 download, versus the few pennies (or less) you'd make otherwise, you get much more cash.

Assuming you got past your terrible "grammer" and spelling, you might find you could make more by cutting out the middle-men and letting Amazon do the selling.

That's likely what they're banking on, and if they could get some exclusive content from successful authors, they could potentially make a truckload of money by not having to pay the publishers.

She was debt-ridden (0)

future assassin (639396) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742788)

From http://kianadavenportdialogues.blogspot.com/2011/08/sleeping-with-enemy-cautionary-tale.html [blogspot.com] But I was debt-ridden and needed upfront money that an advance would provide.

Maybe going off topic and I don't know if writing is all she does(http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/03/depression-and-writers.html) but wouldn't having a full time job be a solution to your debt problems instead of leading an "artists" life and if you can't find work locally its time to move on.

Writers ahoy! Self-publish! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742806)

Cut the middle men away. Self-publish!

There's plenty of services, like lulu.com. Google for more.

Self-publish. You know how it's done, so what do you need Amazon for?

Re:Writers ahoy! Self-publish! (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742838)

You know how it's done, so what do you need Amazon for?

Marketing.

Self-publishing through Amazon or other e-book retailers is fine, but for many authors having Amazon push your book through their marketing capabilities (e.g. 'You bought 'An Ideal Husband', so you might like 'An Ideal Husband And Zombies') is worth a percentage of royalties and potential restrictions on other e-book retailers who might not want to sell Amazon-published books.

Re:Writers ahoy! Self-publish! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743166)

Marketing

Use Facebook, Twitter, make a new service, whatever. Make people know you as a writer... Get recognized by your readers.

It's a trade-off. How big a percentage would you gain with self-publishing, where you keep basically all the income, vs. hooking up with Amazon?

Sure, Amazon has a massive marketing apparatus, but no writer is there by themselves. Amazon doesn't care if the sale will be the "you the writer" or someone else, as long as it's a sale.

The consumers are oversaturated with "buy now" and "you liked X you might like Y". They cannot buy everything and do not want to drown in meaningless volley of product push.

There's a high chance that someone who likes a book from a writer will look for more. In that case it's almost a sure-fire sell, regardless of Amazon.

What a maroon! (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742852)

'The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader,' adds Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon's top executives

A good editor is the critical difference between a hack and a best seller. Very, very few writers produce a polished work right out of the gate.

But if Amazon wants to go this way, why not take it a step further and eliminate the distributor entirely?

Re:What a maroon! (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742928)

A good editor is the critical difference between a hack and a best seller.

Putting two dozen copies of the book in a prominent place in every airport bookstore and Walmart in the country is the critical difference between a hack and a best seller.

Note to Authors (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742882)

Note to Authors: The old-line Big 6 publishing houses (you know who they are) still intend to own you. You are not an independent contractor working on an individual book basis in their eyes. They will lose this battle, but inflict a lot of pain on a lot of people in the process of this losing. Welcome to the 21st century -- all you books belong to us.

Has anyone ever....TRIED...getting signed... (1)

raydobbs (99133) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742884)

...by a traditional publisher? Not going to happen. Unless you happen to personally know a best selling author already in their stable, or one they are looking to help jump ship to them; they wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire. They are -so- risk adverse they will not publish new authors, and if you self-publish, your on a blacklist - no one will touch you. Is it any surprise that there is a market Amazon has seen, and has decided to exploit? Basically, the publishing industry is in the middle of the largest death-spiral they've ever seen, and they won't pull out of it because they are afraid of books bombing.

Guess what geniuses? You need to promote your authors and books for them to sell, otherwise they will most likely bomb.

Re:Has anyone ever....TRIED...getting signed... (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742916)

Trade publishers publish tons of new authors every year. Most don't last beyond two or three books, but that's a different matter.

Nor is there a 'self-publishing blacklist', though before the rise of e-books most people who self-published fiction did so because they couldn't write well enough to interest a publisher.

Re:Has anyone ever....TRIED...getting signed... (1)

madmark1 (1946846) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743102)

Guess what genius? The article says they are aggressively wooing SUCCESSFUL authors. Not a place in there does it say anything about taking on any new writer able to toss a manuscript through their front window. What Amazon wants to do is take writers that publishers already paid marketing for, who have already hit it big, and grab them for a song, reaping the profits from someone else's expense. It has nothing to do with providing a bigger market for new authors, or being less 'risk averse". In fact, quite the opposite. This is nothing but attempting to bank money off a known hot commodity, that someone else already paid to polish and push.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a fan of the 'middlemen' such as record labels and publishing houses. What I don't see, however, is Amazon stepping up to provide any services at all, but merely waiting to bring in the windfall of selling their new hot writer, without having to pay for ads in the NYT, trade publications, on TV, or anywhere else, or having paid an editor to deal with prepping the book. If they aren't providing any of that, how are they any more than new middlemen, that provide even less service than the old ones?

What is this "blacklist"? (1)

sirwired (27582) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743118)

There is no self-publishing "blacklist." What IS blacklisted is individual works that have already been "published" by a vanity house like PublishAmerica.

And they "will not publish new authors?" What kind of crock is this? There are plenty of new authors that get published every year. Yes, most of the publicity, and sales, goes to proven authors, but that is to be expected.

The Internet: Death of the Middleman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742918)

The broad availability the internet enables means middlemen left and right are going out of business. Either that or scrambling to find relevancy in today's modern world (RIAA, MPAA, lookin' at you).

I'm alright with that... (1)

QuebecNerd (924754) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742922)

As the world changes, it's perfectly normal that people/company/organisation/language/laws/product/... will become irrelevant. The real crime is not adapting and artificially insisting on remaining relevant. The record companies have been doing that for years, the book publishers as well and at a later time, the movie studios will to. The only reason it hasn't happened yet to the movie studios is the relatively high budget of movies as opposed to the one of books and music.

That being said, the internet is providing a direct pathway from the authors to the reader. Amazon is a publisher in this picture but it is selling directly to the reader so there one (or more) person to feed down the line. Everybody wins except the superfluous people who are not relevant and became greedy to compensate for a loss of revenues instead of adapting. Apple and Google will probably do the same and some artist/writers will try to sell directly to listeners/readers. It's all good and I'm alright with that.

Now just one point of failure (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37742954)

This makes a nice business opportunity as long as ebook readers can read plain PDFs.

1. Make an open, DRM-free ebook store that can undercut Amazon significantly (easy to do). Remember it's mostly the publishers that want DRM, not the authors.
2. Amazon fails
3. Profit! And you made the world a better place by doing it, a twofer!

Yep no ??? step here!

Re:Now just one point of failure (2)

jandrese (485) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743128)

Isn't Step 2: Find some content to put on your network? I mean if you have no authors from any major publisher on your store, how do you expect to attract people to it? It's sort of like those MP3 stores that existed before iTunes where your choice was "horrible overpriced mess with obnoxious DRM and scant handful songs from one label" or "Indie crap that appeals to maybe a few dozen people worldwide, and then mostly so they can be more indie than you." Both models were terrible failures for obvious reasons.

The difficulty isn't in setting up a DRM free marketplace, it is getting content on that marketplace. If it's good people will buy it, but good luck getting anything good when you have to work completely outside of the publishers. You'll get a few titles from authors willing (or desperate) enough to take the chance, but you're competing with publishers that will put out literally thousands of quality titles (and tens of thousands of crap titles).

Re:Now just one point of failure (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743174)

Good point, once Amazon has enough market power they'll probably start requiring exclusivity in their contracts :-(

Forget all of this nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37742982)

She's pretty hot [kianadavenport.com]

Change or die (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743086)

Amazon was able to get into the publishing business because of the publishers unwillingness to change. It is a big shift for the industry and the publishers that are willing to embrace it will survive and that ones that aren't will die.

Self-publishing=Good; Amazon as a publisher=Bad (1)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743168)

If Amazon is both the largest seller of books and then uses that position to shove it's way into controlling the publishing space, that is a very bad thing. I hope they are found to be in violation of anti-trust laws. It is just as bad as MS using Windows to push IE.

I was looking forward to the Internet leading to self-publishing replacing publishing companies. But it now seems like Amazon is going to subvert that. Instead of self-publishing, authors will be forced to enter into exclusive contracts with Amazon, and they will control books. Through Amazon Silk, they will also control the very content of the Internet itself. Going to Amazon to buy the books they like will be fast an easy. Going to an alternative book-seller, or a blog of someone who gives their writings away for free, won't be so easy.

Vote with your money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743200)

I don't know about anyone else; but I now know what MY next ebook purchase [amazon.com] will be - if only to spite the publishing racket's more vengeful flavor of dinosaur (even if I hate the rigmarole I have to go through to convert Kindle books to epubs: Bleh).

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