(MASSIVE APOLOGY TO ALYSON - Just realized I'd misspelled her name in the title of the post. Copy/paste cut off the last two letters of her name, and I seriously can't apologize enough!)
I know it means a ton to her, and frankly I think it's (supporting authors) one of the most important things we can do.
In the digital age, it's far too easy for authors to get swept away in the tsunami of content that hits the Web every second. Word of mouth has always been, and will continue to be, the best way to sell books.
So the next time a friend on Facebook asks for a book recommendation (I see at least three a week on my personal Facebook feed), I hope you'll consider offering up a new author/name instead of (or along with) James Patterson, Steve King, Steph Meyer, etc.
Speaking of the digital age, I kept thinking the kerfuffle over e-book price fixing would die down. I was wrong.
It's only building steam as publishers, agents, authors--well, everyone really--are beginning to take sides.
Seriously, this is shaping up to be a veritable Holy War within the world of publishing. We've had skirmishes before. Border disputes, if you will. But this could be the BIG ONE.
Why? Reading between the lines, I'm guessing this is one last big stab at keeping the book industry at least partially anchored in the traditional system. A system in which a few large publishers are responsible for the majority of the content and profit generated by the book industry.
Look, I'm not saying it's bad--I leave that kind of opinion to folks who've had direct dealings with all of it. I'm saying it's the way it is. 6 major publishers are responsible for most of the books you see at Barnes & Noble, and virtually all of the books that pop up on traditional bestseller lists.
Former literary agent, current author and eternal blogger, Nathan Bransford, had this to say on his blog this week: "In the old era, only major publishers had the infrastructure to get books to readers. You had to go through them to reach readers in large numbers."
He spoke in the past tense for a reason.
Like an invasive species, Amazon and e-books are taking over the ecosystem. Like with any invasive species, the existing species must eventually make the decision to fight or assimilate.
Big publishers and the folks who work for them (authors, agents, etc.) are lacing up their boxing gloves as I type.
Earlier this week, the Association of Authors Representatives (AAR) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice voicing their support of the agency pricing model which lead to the collusion charges levied against the big publishers (among others) linked to above.
Essentially, that means the AAR, its supporting members and the "tens of thousands of authors they represent" are in favor of allowing the major publishing entities the right to force retailers into a uniform pricing model. (To be clear, that doesn't mean the price a retailer has to pay for the rights to distribute--or wholesale price. It means the sticker price the customer pays.)
Not all of the authors represented by the group are terribly excited about the letter. Seems some of these authors are perfectly happy with Amazon, the company the agency model was aimed at attacking, and the company with the most to gain by a successful DOJ anti-trust suit. CLICK THE PRECEDING LINK TO READ SOME OF THE REASONS.
Furthermore, it seems not even everyone within the traditional publishing system can agree that anit-Amazon is best for books and readers. Today, traditional-gone-independent author J.A. Konrath shared an anonymous response to the mess courtesy of someone within one of the big publishing houses. YOU CAN READ IT HERE, but to suffice to say their Christmas bonus might be on hold if their name ever gets out.
There are compelling arguments on both sides.
Sadly, we might have to make a decision between two potential evils: an Amazon monopoly or the exclusivity and high e-book prices of big publishing.
Which brings me to the question: Do you care?
As a reader, does it matter to you that the newest Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) book by Charlaine Harris will cost you $15.15 for a hardcover/paper copy or $14.99 for the e-book?
As an author/writer, would you be okay with getting the same revenue share (or cut) from either purchase, knowing the cost to produce the two on the publishing side aren't remotely similar? (Don't listen to anyone who says otherwise; Amazon doesn't charge XYZ publisher any more than they do you or me to upload a digital book.) As unusual as it sounds, I am afraid they're connected.
As an author/writer, are you more comfortable with the fate of our industry in the hands of a giant retailer (what Amazon is), or a publishing business that has done nothing but books forever and ever? A publishing industry FULL of people who love books, readers and the folks who write them.
These questions are not posed lightly, and I've got no answers. Just opinions, which I'll gladly share if you supply the beverages and a comfy chair.