Conscious Asshat, Not Misguided Jerk

For the first time in my life, I need slippers. I’ve been wandering around barefoot most of my life. But I’ve lost a lot of insulation in the last year, and with the recent drop in temperatures…well, I’m always cold. I’m wearing four layers right now. Admittedly one of the layers is a tank top, because I’m heading out to the climbing wall later today, but still.

Good morning. There’s an interesting article on the lost women scientists of the Royal Society (well, not lost, just unacknowledged by their male peers, OH THE SURPRISE) and an article about James Frey that has “literary ethics” in the title. Here’s a clue: He doesn’t have any. I was willing to believe he got swept away and did a douchebag maneuver once with that whole “look it’s a memoir, oh wait, I’m LYING!” thing. People make mistakes, and if you don’t f!ck up huge at least once in life, you’re either incredibly lucky or not trying hard enough.

But this whole Full Fathom Five thing is not a mistake, and it moves him firmly into the category of conscious asshat instead of simply-misguided jerk. At bottom, Full Fathom Five is simply a scam. Frey feeding off aspiring writers is no different than the jerkwad vanity presses and nonagents often exposed by Writer Beware. He’s taking advantage of the persistent and seductive notion that there’s a secret handshake or something involved in getting published, that all you have to do is Know The Right Someone and your opus shall be published and Make You Rich. (Look, this is NOT TRUE. I can’t be any clearer: hard work and some luck; the harder you work the luckier you are, no guarantees, learn your craft, it takes WORK to do this. There is no magic pill, mmkay?) Instead of draining the aspiring writer’s bank account up front, he drains it on the back end by setting things up so he’s simply a packager, offering a contract no reputable packager would even dream of–a contract real agents or halfway-sensible business-savvy writers would look and and laugh at before unceremoniously tossing in the rubbish bin and rolling their eyes.

Sure, nobody forces these aspiring writers to sign the terrible contract Frey’s offering. Nobody forces people to hand over thousands to vanity presses or fake “agents” on the hope that they’ll be the next Shack. Nobody forces people to send cash to those companies running infomercials that promise you real estate riches, flatter abs, better pheromones, or what-have-you, either. It’s all legal, but that doesn’t mean it’s ethical, and it doesn’t mean it’s something I as a professional can just let wander by without pointing out it’s wrong. Incidentally, shame on the Hollywood people paying him, but that’s their right. I can vote with my pocketbook and not go to see the movies. I don’t think I’ll be missing much.

Also, Frey’s “I’m the bad boy of literature” refrain just rubs me the wrong way. If you have to say that out loud, dude, you’re NOT. Hemingway was a bad boy of literature. Oscar Wilde was a bad boy of literature. Charles Bukowski was a bad boy of literature. You, sir, are no Hemingway, Wilde, or Bukowski. You’re just a garden-variety grifter. Which, you know, go with what you’re good at, and as someone pointed out to me recently, that’s actually a lonely, high-stakes career that requires a lot of effort. So…yeah. Go you. But be prepared for me to point and laugh.

I also find it very interesting that Frey’s “defense” doesn’t contain specifics or documents (suitably blacked-out in certain bits for the privacy of the writers he’s “contracted” with, of course). If Frey really wants to prove his company’s not a huge scam, he should start offering some specifics. Transparency is his friend right now. Looking at his pattern of behavior, though, transparency is one thing we’re not going to get. The air of injured innocence he’s trying to float is pretty laughable. Once you’ve been caught in some whoppers, you need to work twice as hard and be twice as open to remain above reproach.

Anyway. The whole thing is just so…tacky. It must be terrible, living in a place so insecure you feel stealing other people’s work and scamming them is a viable strategy. It seems a lonely, stressful way to live, not to mention incredibly draining. One wonders why Frey bothers, when he could just stop the constant attention-seeking and misdirection and possibly use all that wasted energy to finish a few novels of his own–and maybe learn enough that he can get them published on their own merits, without lies.

‘Nuff said.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

The First Three Phases

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames. Check out our new shiny!

Good afternoon, my dears. A couple things, then a small Friday post, then off into the wild blue yonder.

* If you look at my events calendar, you’ll see I’m at the Auburn, WA, public library tomorrow (Saturday), and on Sunday I’m at the Cedar Hills Crossing Powell’s for the SF/F Authorfest. I’ll gladly sign books at both events, though there will be no books for sale at the Auburn library. I’m beginning to get pre-event nerves (nobody will show up, my heart will stop from sheer terror, someone will throw rotten fruit, etc., etc.) so I will just content myself with saying, if you’re in the area, both events promise to be a lot of fun.

* Want to know what makes me feel really, really unclean, and not in a good way? This article about James Frey preying on creative writing graduates.

This is the essence of the terms being offered by Frey’s company Full Fathom Five: In exchange for delivering a finished book within a set number of months, the writer would receive $250 (some contracts allowed for another $250 upon completion), along with a percentage of all revenue generated by the project, including television, film, and merchandise rights—30 percent if the idea was originally Frey’s, 40 percent if it was originally the writer’s. The writer would be financially responsible for any legal action brought against the book but would not own its copyright. Full Fathom Five could use the writer’s name or a pseudonym without his or her permission, even if the writer was no longer involved with the series, and the company could substitute the writer’s full name for a pseudonym at any point in the future. The writer was forbidden from signing contracts that would “conflict” with the project; what that might be wasn’t specified. The writer would not have approval over his or her publicity, pictures, or biographical materials. There was a $50,000 penalty if the writer publicly admitted to working with Full Fathom Five without permission. (Inside Full Fathom Five, p. 3)

In case you’re wondering, these are bad, bad terms. They’re the sort of terms Guy Pearce’s Warhol offered Sienna Miller’s Edie Sedgwick, only without the initial friendship. Or the sort of terms Lord Ruthven might have offered one of his victims. I’ll just content myself with noting that Frey’s earlier hijinks make me feel filthy about this in a way that James Patterson’s or VC Andrews’s ghostwriters don’t. Also, dude, if you’re a rebel, you don’t need to go around saying what a rebel you are. Henry Miller would kick Frey’s ass for presumption.

“But wait!” you might say. “Nobody’s forcing these people to sign with Frey’s company! He’s not holding a gun to their heads or anything!”

True. But Bernie Madoff didn’t hold a gun to anyone’s head either; scam artists don’t have to and we still prosecute them–or at least, evince some distaste for their methods. As a professional, I cannot condone Frey’s behavior and I hope one or two aspiring writers might decide in light of that article not to lend themselves to this nastiness. ‘Nuff said.

* Also, while I’m in take no prisoners mode, there’s the same kerfluffle there is every year over NaNoWriMo. (No, I’m not linking to the kerfluffles. They make me tired.) NaNo is great for one thing: teaching aspiring writers to shut up, sit down, and make writing a priority. That’s great, and it’s just the sort of lesson a lot of people who want to write often need. But writing only one month out of the year is not a good way to maximize your chances of producing quality, publishable work. That’s like saying a two-hour class can teach you to safely be a trapeze acrobat. I’m not knocking NaNo–I’ve participated several times, and plan to participate next year. It’s a good thing, but it’s not the sole means of becoming a writer or of learning to consistently produce publishable work.

Anyway. I promised another process post, didn’t I?

Read the rest of this entry »

Winners, But No Bitter Screed

The winners of the Heaven’s Spite contest are now posted.

I know I promised a Friday writing post about process, but I’m afraid you wouldn’t get much of any use out of me yesterday or today. I’m having one of those weeks where I question my chosen career pretty hard. If it’s not piracy (Heaven’s Spite hasn’t been officially out for more than a week and the torrents are popping up like mushrooms) or plagiarism it’s someone implying NaNoWriMo is a waste because it encourages the plebes to write. Plus I just paid some taxes, and had a dentist appointment last week and other Life Shit piling up, so…yeah. I’m not an uber-happy little camper right now, and if you asked me to write about writing, what you’d get would be a pile of bitterness.

I’m not up to a bitter screed right now. (For once, yeah, I know. Call the press.)

So I’m just going to say this.

If you love to read stories, great. Don’t pirate them, because the end result of pirating is less stories for you. Write if you want to. Understand that making a living by writing is not easy and calls for professionalism and hard work. If you’re gonna do it, do it, and let me be the first to congratulate and support you. If you’re not, that’s okay, I wish you luck. Either way, brush your teeth, get enough sleep, hug the people you love and tell them what they mean to you. Watch out for ninja terminator squirrels.

And have a great weekend. See you Monday.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Cleaning Up

Well, we found out how many people it takes to pack up a bookstore in under 24 hours. The fire was Thursday evening, serious packing started at about 3pm on Friday, and by 2pm on Saturday the owner and I had locked up the empty store. There’s still things there that have to be counted and inventoried for loss, but everything that could possibly be salvaged–around 14 tons of books, shelves, furniture, counters, even Shirley the plastic penguin–is gone. Oh, the espresso machine and pump is still there; a servicing by regular company should clean both of those. Also, I’ll be taking the plants and seeing if I can’t rehabilitate them.

But, yeah. The darling Scupperlout came out and worked her buns off, the owner’s husband is a Mason so plenty of his buddies came by and worked their buns off, and a group of very nice boys from Servicemaster came out. They had no buns to work off–I wanted to feed them, they were all the rangy type. I settled for giving them doughnuts. BUT, they worked hard and in about 24 hours, the entire place was stripped.

“It’s kind of terrifying,” the owner said to me as we headed for our cars in the parking lot, breathing deep.

“At least we know now what happens after a fire. It’s all material,” I replied.

I think she probably wanted to hit me before she saw my tired grin and realized I was messing with her.

The most annoying thing was the vultures and lookie-lous. People would just wander in past the yellow fire tape. “Oh, are you guys closed?” I mean, there’s no electricity. The place is being torn apart. There are signs up front saying “THERE WAS A FIRE. DON’T COME IN.” But in they came. Oh, and people trying to take stuff from the pile out back while the Servicemaster guys were loading. What is wrong with people? Jeez.

Anyway, I’ve been smelling smoke since, even though I immediately washed up when I got home and got what I’d been wearing into the laundry posthaste. It’s weird that smoke-reek lingers so long; we kept having to bug people to take breaks and stand outside to clear themselves out. (My snot’s been gray all weekend. Yeah, TMI. I know.)

It’s weird, but I was too busy to even realize the emotional impact until the Servicemaster guys were carrying out the very last pile of stuff–water heater for the espresso machine, whiteboard I use for my writing classes, miscellaneous things–and I suddenly felt like crying. The store’s been a Safe Place and a home away from home for years now. It’s where I go to give good news and celebrate, and where I go when I don’t want to go home but I need to sit and collect myself in a friendly environment. The books in there are all friends, and I know every inch of the place. To see it all empty and dark because the power’s off, ceiling tiles crumbling onto the floor, everything reeking of fire and the carpeting swelling from water still seeping through, already looking sad and abandoned…that was rough.

Still is.

I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. So much depends on the insurance and if there’s a viable way to get the shop up and running again. The owner and I are already talking about the reshelving party–beer, pizza, and a whole ton of people to get the cleaned and revivified books back up on the shelves. “Careful,” I warned her. “I’m hell on wheels when it comes to inventory, reshelving, the whole deal.”

“You be bad cop,” she said with a grin. “I’ll be good cop.”

Which is pretty much the way it works out anyway. At least some things are eternal.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

That Dreaded Syllable: Saying No

Recently I’ve been asked about writing advice that isn’t geared specifically toward new writers or those looking to “break into” print. It’s not often I write about those further along–because careers, like people, are pretty unique, mostly, and any advice I’d be able to give might backfire terribly in someone else’s arena. But I figure what I’m about to say is Reasonable Life Advice as well as Publishing Advice.

My Friday the 13th started about 24 hours early. The 12th was one of the more bizarre days I’ve ever had in my life, and that’s saying something. I’ve found myself today having to say no, in both personal and professional (albeit completely unrelated) situations.

This is not easy.

In the first place, I was raised not to say no when someone pressed an emotional hot button–something like “I need you now.” My only value was how compliant I was, and I was trained well and thoroughly that compliant was what I needed to be to survive. For years it has been extraordinarily easy for anyone I cared about to get pretty much anything they wanted out of me, just by appearing needy or in-crisis enough. Now, taking care of your friends isn’t a bad thing–but you need to be cautious who you call “friend” if that’s a commitment you want to make.

If it’s very distressing for you to say no, you can bet a certain type of person will sense that. And a series of painful games may begin, with you trying to make this type of person happy and avoid saying no. And it can’t be done. You will be sucked dry like an orange slice, and they, flush with stolen vitality, will find another victim. It’s wreckage waiting to happen, and it happens every day.

As a female, too, it’s presumed that I don’t say no. It’s difficult for me to outright refuse someone, especially in high-stress situations. There’s a huge weight of cultural disapprobation involved in a woman saying “No.” Over and over, in many implicit and explicit ways, women are told that it’s necessary to play along, be gentle, be nice, spare everyone’s feelings. And God forbid you should say “No!” and stick to it, or listen to the inner voice that warns you of danger. Then you’re a bitch.

When it comes to working in publishing, another layer of uncertainty and pressure is added. If you say no, there’s always a chance you won’t be invited back. To be a writer is to be a freelancer, and to be a freelancer is profoundly unstable. Every “no” must be weighed against the damage it could do down the road.

You’re beginning to see why a “No!”, whether diplomatic or not, is an act sometimes fraught with danger.

Most often, my “no”s are part of a long process that involves me taking several barometric readings. In the case of a personal no, I usually discuss things with a friend I can trust. I tend to “chew it until the flavor’s gone” and agonize over how hurt someone will be if I say that dreaded single syllable. It takes a lot to make me close up and stop giving.

When it comes to saying no in the writing world, I have to balance the prospect of possibly not getting paid against the trouble the job will take, and how I interact with the editor, and a whole host of other issues before I even get close to saying no. I also often run a prospective “no” past my agent, partly to check in with the longer-term plan for my career and also to get her opinion on the best and most diplomatic way to refuse. It takes a while.

A great deal of my life lately has been saying no in small ways with people I trust. Just to check out what happens when I do so.

And you know, I’m discovering the damndest thing: most of the time, a no given in those situations isn’t really a big deal. The person you say that dreaded single syllable to shrugs and goes on to star in their own life movie. It doesn’t make the sun go out or the world end.

But in the last twenty-four hours, I’ve had to say no in a personal situation where I’ve felt unsafe to refuse, and yet compelled to do so. All my emotional hot buttons have been pushed, and the fact that I was also agonizing over saying no in a professional situation just made it worse. (I should stress again, the two events were in no way related. Except temporally. Bad luck, that.)

It’s been incredibly difficult. I’m fighting against my conditioning, my upbringing, and fighting in the face of a very real fear to say “no” and stick with it. My friends–those I can trust, those who I’ve practiced the little tiny “no”s with–have closed around me like a protective wall, each in their own warm way. I am told over and over again that it’s OK for me to draw my boundaries, that I am not, in fact, crazy, that I have a right to protect myself, and that they love me just as much as ever.

But it’s still tremendously difficult. And the fact that I care for and want to protect the person I’m having to refuse is extraordinarily painful.

Saying no professionally has consequently been more upsetting than usual. It may mean I don’t work with a particular editor again, but it’s a chance I have to take. I pride myself on giving my editors what they need, and I try very hard to be reasonable to work with. Having to refuse, especially when it’s really nobody’s fault and just a mess-up, is utterly crazymaking, and contributes to a round of professional second-guessing and doubt that makes a hurricane look like a teapot tempest.

Which leads me, in a roundabout way, to my advice. If you want to make a career of writing, sooner or later you will have to say “no” to something. Spend some time thinking about saying no. What it means to you to refuse, if you can do so with little angst or if it’s a hot-button issue with you. Figure out how to do it gracefully, figure out if you need backstops and people to talk to before you actually utter the dreaded syllable. Cultivate those habits and the comfort with that one little word now. Being unprepared when the time comes to say it is very uncomfortable. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I can only imagine how badly I’d feel if I hadn’t been working on this very issue for months.

Now I’m going to go do some deep breathing. And, my dear Readers, if you can, help me out here. What helps you say no? Have you found a trick to it? Do you agonize over it, or is it no big deal to you?

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

“Artist” Is Not A Dirty Word

Just a few thoughts today, since true to form, the feast part of “feast or famine” has just hit and I’ve more work than even I know what to do with. This is a happy state of affairs, however, and one I wish to continue. So it’s time to put my head down and chew away at the problems one at a time.

* Slushpile.net on Outdated, Stodgy Ivory-Tower Attitudes That Cripple Writers:

But, if you’re a writer who wants to be taken seriously by your peers? Then you’d better not do a damn thing other than put words on paper. And you certainly better not expect to earn any income from it. And in some ways, we hinder our own profession with that antiquated notion.

Yes, you have the choice to maintain complete focus on your writing if that is what you choose to do with your career. Take the Cormac McCarthy or JD Salinger route. Be “pure” and “unsullied.” That is a perfectly reasonable and respectable decision.

But don’t criticize another writer for diversification. (Slushpile.net)

I wrote my Hack Manifesto partly in response to this. I also wrote the Speshul Snowflake Bedtime Story partly in response to this dynamic. We have this ongoing assumption that writers don’t deserve to get paid for what they do, maybe because every fricking celebrity or chef can “write a book.” There is very little understanding of the hard cold fact that bringing an actual book (as opposed to a celebrity PR exercise) from original idea/inception to finished product is WORK. Lots of work, plenty of it thankless and drudging.

I’ve grown to hate it when people say, after finding out I write for a living, “Oh, that’s neat. I’ve always wanted to write a book. When I have time someday.” The assumption is that all they have to do is sit down and vomit up a few thousand unconnected letters, sentences, and paragraphs, and fame and fortune will inevitably result. I know they mean well, and I know they have no bloody idea. But I often want to reply, “What do you do? Oh, you’re a dentist? I’ve always wanted to come to a dentist’s office one day when I have time and mess around with the drills. How hard can it be?” I almost always restrain myself, and content myself with quietly pointing out that it’s hard work and I’ve been doing it for years, and only recently (by the grace of Steve, no doubt) have reached a place where it provides a decent, if not terribly steady, income.

The Slushpile’s point is slightly different, of course; I’ve yet to attend a group of writers where the implicit assumption that if you make money you’re not very good or dedicated or truly deserving to be called an artist doesn’t rear its ugly head at least once in some way. This assumption, that artists don’t deserve and shouldn’t sully themselves with cold hard cash, is endemic in our society. Personally, I blame the Puritans and their “anything that is a luxury is SINFUL, and writing is a LUXURY so it is SINFUL FRIPPERY” attitude.

Perhaps it’s just knowing what side my bread is buttered on, but I agree with Mario Vargas Llosa that writing, literature, etc., is not a luxury:

They earn my pity not only because they are unaware of the pleasure that they are missing, but also because I am convinced that a society without literature, or a society in which literature has been relegated–like some hidden vice–to the margins of social and personal life, and transformed into something like a sectarian cult, is a society condemned to become spiritually barbaric, and even to jeopardize its freedom. I wish to offer a few arguments against the idea of literature as a luxury pastime, and in favor of viewing it as one of the most primary and necessary undertakings of the mind, an irreplaceable activity for the formation of citizens in a modern and democratic society, a society of free individuals. (Mario Vargas Llosa)

I’m not saying I’m George Orwell or anything. But a vibrant literature holds a place for me to make a living, and my refusal to give anything less than my best to any project I sign a contract for is my implicit and explicit agreement with my Readers. From that agreement we both draw strength and sustenance. It’s bloody hard work that I do with a song in my heart because I believe it’s important.

* Stacia Kane approaches this from a slightly different direction in a wonderful essay:

But I do think there’s a weird kind of pressure on genre fiction writers to not let on that they see themselves or think of themselves as artists. There’s a definite pressure to act like their art means nothing to them, like it’s an entity completely separate from them.

Think of it this way. If a painter has a gallery show, and a critic ravages his work, does anyone frown and kick up a fuss if the artist gets upset about it? Does anyone remind him that reviews don’t exist to make him feel better, but to inform art lovers whether or not his work is worth their time? Not as far as I know. People expect the artist to be upset about terrible reviews. They expect him to be temperamental; hell, we all know what the phrase “artistic temperament” means, don’t we?

Now, I am NOT, absolutely NOT, implying in any way that reviewers don’t have the right to say whatever they want about books, or that reviews aren’t for readers and not writers–they absolutely are–or that writers should be allowed to freak out all over the internet and threaten people or name crack whore characters after people who gave them bad reviews or whatever. No, no, no, I’m not saying that at all, not one bit; you all know how I feel about that. This post isn’t about reviewers or reviews, except insomuch as they can be another example of what I feel is the expectation that genre fiction writers not consider themselves artists, not think or talk about themselves as artists, and not act as though their art is important to them. Like caring about your work has become synonymous somehow with freak-out rants and threats, instead of just…caring about your work. I’m not implying in any way that this sort of pressure comes solely from reviewers or readers, either; it comes from other writers just as much if not more. (Stacia Kane)

The implicit assumption that genre is filthy, “disposable”, and that only the idiotic hoi polloi read it as escapism is just as damaging as the assumption that artists don’t deserve to get paid. And you can tell just where I like to suggest people stick both those assumptions.

Later in the essay, Kane asks “We’re all so worried about being professional, about being easy to work with and seeing our work as a commodity and ourselves as commodities and all of that…have we become so focused on publishing as a business that we’ve forgotten about the magic of it?”

Which I think hits the nail squarely on the head. There is magic. The writer’s job is to show up consistently to help that magic birth itself, in a variety of ways. The reader plonks down hard cold cash because they like, want, and need the magic. Both invest time (in the form of money or effort) in the magic, and both get a reward from it. The difference is the writer’s reward is often implicitly denigrated, or it’s even suggested that the writer deserves no reward at all because they should be Just Doin’ It For The Arte And The Luv.

I don’t like this. For obvious reasons, I think it’s unfair. I’m not going to lose a lot of sleep or cry into my coffee over it, but neither do I have to put up with any shit over it. It’s about the best one can do in this situation.

* Which is why I love Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and think it’s so valuable. Cameron unpacks this dynamic and the various ways the stereotype of the self-destructive artist and the idea that art is a useless frippery are both used, by artists and against them. And if you want a productive long-term career in the arts you could do a lot worse than the exercises she suggests for catching that dynamic and kicking it in the balls before it messes up your head, your workspace, or your life.

That’s pretty much all I have today. Now I’ve got to turn my attention to Perry and Jill and some very interesting implications of gifts and imputed obligation. Plus there’s the structure of the Essay of DOOOOOM to rip apart and put back together, and a couple edit letters to plug into and start thinking about. Never rains but it pours.

All else aside, I’m very happy about that.

Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

I’m Not The Jerk In E-book Pricing, And Trunk Novels

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about some things, so I might as well do a blog post.

* Every time I say “trunk novel”, someone asks what that is. A trunk novel is a term for a novel that won’t ever escape the inside of a trunk. It’s a piece a writer works on solely for his/her own gratification, one that stands little chance of every being published, mostly because the writer understands it’s horrible. It’s the writing version of junk food. I love my trunk novels. (Yes. That’s plural.) Often I work on them during breaks from other books. They’re sort of dry runs, practice to keep me in the game. It can also mean a trunk novel that gets published after a writer is famous, or famous and dead.

* OK, guys, let’s get serious. Lots of you are emailing me telling me that various e-book distributors are protesting publishers’ move to agency pricing by pulling my books. You invariably ask me to “talk to the publishers” and solve this problem.

I cannot do that. Furthermore, I will not even consider it and the very thought makes me cranky.

First, the publishers have little control over whether the distributors carry their books. Publishers and distributors are two separate companies and make their own decisions. Second, I would not dream of coming down on the side of the distributors on this issue, for the simple fact that the publishers’ interests in this case align with my own. The agency pricing model gives writers a better deal, and it keeps the books around for longer. The distributors want to profit at the expense of the writers (who produce the content) and the publishers (who invest in quality control and on the chance that the content will made the money back for them).

In short, THE PUBLISHERS ARE NOT THE ENEMY HERE, AND THE WRITERS ARE NOT THE ENEMY EITHER.

It is perfectly natural for the distributors to want to maximize their profits, or to keep going with business models that benefit them at the expense of the writers or publishers. They’re businesses, maximizing their profits is what they DO. But neither I nor the publishers should take the rap for it. Because it is also well within publishers’ rights to say, “We invest in bringing this content to the marketplace. We pay the advance, we provide the editing and quality control, we provide the art and marketing, and we will set the price for it as we see fit.” And in this one case, the publishers’ views align nicely with the rights and views of the writers producing the books in the first damn place. Professional writers are OF COURSE going to support their publishers in seeking the pricing and policies that grant them a living wage (or a close approximation of one). Or, to be more precise, that maximize the chances that a writer can afford to continue writing because the financial rewards are enough to let them scrape by. (This is where I go off on my “just because you’re published doesn’t mean you’re rich” rant. I’ll save that for another day.)

The distributors’ response–yanking certain publishers’ goods in order to pressure them into dropping the agency pricing model–is greedy and short-sighted in the extreme. Brick and mortar stores, e-book sites like Fictionwise, other sites like Amazon, are DISTRIBUTORS. The whole purpose of these companies is to distribute the goods that people want to buy, in this case, books. If they do not distribute, people should get annoyed and find somewhere else to shop. Distributors shoot themselves in the foot in these kinds of situations, despite their PR working overtime (usually through their customer platforms) to convince customers that someone else (the big bad publishers, the writers) are to blame.

I understand people contact the writers because we are the “face” of our books. People write to me about all sorts of things I have zero control over, like cover prices or font sizes or distribution to foreign countries or or or…you get the idea. It irks me that there are problems I can’t solve for the readers or to facilitate their enjoyment, but that’s life.

But please, please, dear Readers, don’t jump on me because a distributor is kicking and screaming over the e-book pricing model that may very well make or break an author’s chances to keep bringing these books to you. (Although, really, e-books are such a small part of total book sales…even though it doesn’t seem like it to people on the Internet.) Don’t jump on my publisher, or THE publishers, either. The publisher wants me to keep writing as much as you do; the publisher wants you to have the books as much as I do and you do. It’s the distributor who doesn’t want agency pricing because it gives the publisher and writer a bigger slice of the profits (profits that distributors have grown accustomed to in the last five-ten years or so) that deserves your ire. They are the ones you should be demanding an answer from–an honest answer, not “the big bad publishers are picking on poor little us, waaaah!”

Honestly, if it was the publisher being an asshole, I’d tell you. If it was me being an asshole, I’d admit it.

In this case, it’s neither. We’re not the assholes here, and filling up my email inbox with rants about how I need to get on the publisher and yell at them do not help. I know you’re frustrated. I’m frustrated too, as you can probably tell. I have no choice but to sit tight and wait for it to all shake out, since there is literally nothing I can do. In this case, the publishers are going into battle on behalf of writers. Well, it’s on behalf of their own profits, but it’s benefiting writers. Fair enough.

Now I’ve got to go hop on the treadmill and work all this adrenaline anger off.

See you around.

PS: Behave in the comments, please. Thanks.

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