Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Lessons Learned From TV Land Which Every Writer Should Know!

Hi Guys,


As a writer I am an avid tv watcher - usually when I should be writing! And in point of fact as I sit and struggle with the endless continuity problems involved in writing Mage, I have found myself watching a lot of the idiot box lately. There comes a point at which the thought of going back to a book I closed four years ago and promptly forgot about, just to fact check one tiny piece of information, becomes unbearable. A point at which I would rather hit the remote control and watch anything other than write another line.
 
There is a lesson here to be learned my fellow writers. Or actually two. The first is obviously don't start writing a sequel four years later - the pain of maintaining continuity between the old book which you've completely forgotten about and the new one, is not worth it. The second lesson for those who like me keep a companion document with all the facts and details about the book I'm writing, is of course, don't lose that damned document. It is so much easier to go through a companion document than to do endless word searches through an entire novel.
 
However, that's my pain at the moment, and completely a problem of my own making. I accept that, just as I accept that by the time Mage is completed I will in all probability have pulled out all my hair and may well have started on the cat!
 
But on the positive side, all this tv watching lately, has been useful. It has reminded me that there is wisdom in tv land. Great wisdom - and some of it even affects authors. So here - also in part because I can't stand the thought of doing any more word searches through Maverick tonight - I have pulled together a few of the most important lessons I've learned lately. Lessons that I believe we should all take to heart!

 
Lessons Learned From TV Land:
 
 
1 Never piss off a serial killer! Enough said I think. Not sure if this has any relevance to writers save of course for the obvious - don't write unflattering things about these people!
 
2 There is a subset of human beings who are literally too stupid to live. We call them reporters. These people will literally go out at night, unarmed and without any allies to meet strangers in dark parking garages when they know the people they are supposedly going to meet could be dangerous. And even within this subset there is another subset who are not only too stupid to live, but think its a virtue. We call them plucky female reporters! So the lesson for writers? Don't take up reporting as it's clear it will have a detrimental effect upon both your IQ and your life expectancy!
 
 
3 Writers are cursed. I call this Greg's law of Sodding Synchronicity. But whatever you want to call it it is a fact that in any tv series where there is a writer he will always end up at some point being attacked by whatever he writes about. If he writes about vampires, he will suffer a vampire attack. If he writes about werewolves, werewolves will attack him. Crime writers will always end up at some point embroiled in some sort of true crime – often a murder. And so on. The lesson for writers? Either write about pink fluffy bunnies or brace yourself for the consequences!
 
 
4 Never stand near the captain or other important members of a cast or crew. If possible don't even be in the same episode. The chances of suffering a horrible death increase exponentially as your rank decreases. And if you don't have a full name, you're doomed. The chances are crewman number five that you're going to die. The lesson for writers? Yeah I don't think there is one – it's just fascinating!
 
 
5 Time travel always happens. In any series once it passes a certain number of seasons, you will encounter a time traveller. It cannot be avoided. And said traveller will of course vanish leaving the main characters without evidence and scratching their heads. At much the same time Father Christmas will also appear and then vanish. So the lesson for writers? Expect strange visitors!

 
6 There are certain people in the world who thanks to their advanced hacking skills will be able to build a neutron bomb from duct tape and paper clips or carry out brain surgery by reading a few books. The lesson for writers? Get to know them – they may also be clever enough to be able to programme the damned dvd player!
 
Anyway, those are just a few of the lessons I've gleaned lately from the idiot box. No doubt more will follow in time as my hair thins and the cat heads for the hills!
 
Cheers, Greg.
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Maverick to Mage - The Pain of Sequels

Hi Guys,





New topic this time, and the title says it all. Yes Maverick, three years after I published and put it away, is getting a sequel - Mage.
 
It's a long way from anywhere at the moment, with maybe 40k written. And as yet I don't know where it will end up. I've only got to the beginning which is set up five years after the events in Maverick ended. But I am excited about it. So excited that as you can see I've done a rough draft of a cover for it.
 
I'm also pulling my hair out over it! 2015 may be the year I finally go bald!
 
2014 has been a funny year so far. As those who read my posts or my books will know, I don't write series. I generally write stories with a simple beginning and an end. It's not for ideological reasons or because I have any particular objection to series. (Actually I'd quite like to write a series since they sell better!) It's simply the way my somewhat fossilized brain works. But this year I've started three follow up books. The first is to Doorways, a book which at this stage has only the working title - Doorways II. (Original I know!) Then a month or so ago I completed The Godlost Land, and immediately found myself starting its sequel - Pluto Rising. And now Mage has finally started to be written.
 
Where it will go I don't know. I never do. Nor do I have any idea how long it will take to write. As you may have gathered by now - I can never write just one book at a time.
 
Sadly this is the curse of being a pantster - a writer who writes by the seat of his pants rather than planning and plotting. I probably have more unfinished novels on my computer than any other writer in creation. And though it hurts to admit it, some of them are very close to completion. The Arcanist for example - my first venture into steampunk has forty something chapters written and only needs another five or six - essentially the end of the book. But unfortunately each time I return to it - and it is years old - I keep writing, rewriting, refining and revising those first forty some chapters and then can't work out how the book ends.
 
With Mage however, I have a different problem. I know the direction of the story. But the details elude me. It is one giant continuity puzzle. Last night for example I spent half an hour rereading Maverick, skimming through endless references to one character, just to find out what her hair colour is. Then I had to run through my old notes looking for distances in leagues between destinations. Let this be a warning to others - never simply start writing a sequel three years after finishing the first book! (If only I could listen to my own advice!)
 
But at least to all those who have sent me emails about when sequels will be written to various of my books, I can honestly say now that some are on the drawing board. And I'm hopeful that some will be finished next year.
 
Cheers, Greg,

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Cyber Bullying and Reviews

Hi Guys,






New topic this time, and one that veers a little from my previous posts about handling reviews. This one concerns cyber bullying, a scourge on the web, and a crime in my view that has been engaged in by one writer / reviewer according to sources.

A couple of days ago Laura J Mixon posted the results of her investigation into the activities of sci fi writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew who has been posting reviews of other authors' works under a variety of pseudonyms including; Requires Hate, Winterfox, pyrofennec, acrackedmoon and others. Reviews that if she is correct, have amounted to a campaign of cyber bullying, including insults, harassment and exortions of violence.

Now I have no knowledge of this author or any of the avatars mentioned. Nor have I personally been aware of any of these attacks. If you want details I would suggest (strongly) that you go to the source: http://laurajmixon.com/2014/11/a-report-on-damage-done-by-one-individual-under-several-names/

However this post is not about these incidents in particular, disgraceful as they are and shameful to the entire science fiction and fantasy community. It is about the more general issue of bullying, and in particular on line bullying.

Now as published authors we all are subject to receiving reviews that are not particularly flattering of our work. And that can be hurtful. I speak from experience. But it is not bullying and it is simply part and parcel of having put our work out there to be judged. It is the right of everyone who reads your work to have an opinion about it and publish that opinion. And it is the responsibility of authors to develop a thick skin as they say, and deal with it.

However there are lines which should not be crossed, and which when they are crossed should be responded to. And here I do not mean by engaging with the reviewer. That is still a no win situation at best, and in the case where cyber bullying has occurred, probably a lose, lose situation. (A basic rule of bullying of all forms is that the bullies get a kick out of seeing your fear. Ignore them and they usually go away.)

So what are those lines?

First, when the reviewer moves on from the review of the work to attacking the author personally, through insults etc. This may be serious or not. It may be taken to heart by those receiving the review or not. Everyone is different in how they will react to these sorts of things.

My general response will be to remember the golden rule. An insult reflects more upon the person giving it than the one receiving it. And my response to it will vary. Mostly it will be nothing - because lets be honest these things are usually minor and wasting a single second of my time worrying about someone who cannot control their fingers is basically wasting my time. I don't care about such people and I have more important things to waste my time on. But at the other end if the insults are particularly egregious, I may refer them to the moderators of whatever forum it's in and ask for the posts to be removed. I will not engage directly with the reviewer because I have no wish to reward him or her in any way.

For those worried about the effect that such posts / reviews will have on their sales, my thought is that I trust most readers to be unswayed by such things. Readers are not stupid.

However, there comes a point where another line is crossed, and that is where threats are made. And here I cannot say this strongly enough, NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO THREATEN YOU!

In this case should it happen, my policy - and I would hope everyone else's policy - will be to report the poster to the police. I am an adult. I assume the poster is an adult. And every adult should know that threats of violence are both unacceptable and a crime. And the number one reason that people get away with crimes is that others don't report them. Bullies on line or in the real world, should not be allowed to get away with their behaviour.

But more than this, bullying is a scourge on society that should be wiped out. If I and everyone else in the on line community, stands behind this simple set of rules, cyber bullying will be if not wiped out then at least cut back.

The one thing I can say with certainty from having read Laura's blog, is that this particular cyber bully would have been stopped long ago if people had acted instead of doing nothing.

Because bullies are capable of learning. And the lesson they should be learning is that their behaviour will not be tolerated. They will get no emotional pay off for their actions. And if they go too far they will find themselves in trouble with the law. No reward, punishment for bad behaviour - this is classical operant conditioning at work. And if pigeons can learn from this sort of conditioning, so can bullies.

One last comment - and I know that some who have received this sort of abuse and threatening behaviour will find it hard to accept. Cyber bullies are toothless for the most part. They can threaten anything. But most of them can do nothing to back up their threats. So though it may be hard to do, stand up for yourselves. Laugh at them - not on line of course - and think of them instead of as being big and scary, as pathetic.

And report them.

In conclusion I'd also like to commend Laura J Mixon for carrying out this investigation and reporting it.

Cheers, Greg.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Authors Behaving Badly

Hi Guys,






OK this one tickled my funny bone a little. The story of an author so incensed by a bad review that she started stalking the reviewer! And the article is well written and suitably funny in places (by said author), which makes it a good read and lends sympathy to the author's point of view even when she agrees she's done wrong. But she has most definitely done wrong.


However my post here is not about this case specifically. It's more about the nature of reviews and how as authors we should deal with them.

Now first I wholeheartedly agree with the phrase that as an author "your book is your baby". It is. Speaking personally you as an author put everything you have into your work. You love it, agonise over it, hate it at times. And what you come out with at the end is absolutely your creation. It is impossible for most of us I would guess, not to feel a little emotional when you finally have that book in your hand. Not to feel a little like a parent who has just suffered through a difficult birth.

There's nothing wrong with that. It's natural and completely understandable. And as any new mother would tell you, you insult her baby you can expect a reaction. But in the case of authors and their books, that reaction is a problem. Here's why.
 
1 It's Not Your Review:
First, and this cannot be repeated often enough, reviews are not done for you the author. I know. It's your book, you feel possessive, but the reviewer was not writing to you. He was not writing to tell you how good or bad your book was. He's writing to other readers. Offering them his opinion. Whether his opinion is good or bad, it's not for you.
 
2 Publishing Is Not Writing:
In this sense a book is not at all like a baby. When a mother has a baby she does it for any number of reasons - but they are her own personal reasons. The same as when an author writes a book. He loves the story, he wants to enjoy the creation of it etc. But when you publish a book, you do it for an entirely different reason. You put it out there for others - readers - to read. Mothers do not publish their babies. (Of course I could say something here about those mothers who put their babies into pageants at such a young age - but that would be another story entirely.)

The point is that you - you sad sad fool - published it! You put it out there to be read. You might have wanted everyone who read it to love it, but that's not possible. Every book no matter how good, will be hated by some. And every author assuming they sell their book, must expect some bad reviews. And you put it out there. You said please read this. And then when someone comes back having read it and deciding that they don't like it says as much, you think you can truly get upset?
 
Bottom line. If you didn't want to face the danger / hurt of bad reviews, you wouldn't have published it. If you published it well you just have to suck it up.
 
3 It's Opinion:
Yes I know it's hurtful. But the reality is that everyone has their own opinions and some are not flattering. I personally hate peanut butter. I consider it once step removed from sewage. So if someone produces a new peanut butter and asks for my opinion of it, my opinion will be that it's awful. I don't even need to taste it to know that. Does that make my opinion right? Only for me. But the important thing is that it's an honest opinion. You can't get upset with me for honestly hating something can you? The sad fact is that I'm entitled to my opinion and so is everyone else.
 
4 You Aren't Going To Win:
This is the often overlooked in anger and pain rule of life. Very few authors are ever going to win by responding to their reviewers. A reviewer loves or hates your book. It doesn't matter whether the review was unfair or not. You aren't going to change his mind. What you are going to do if you respond to a negative review, is create hostility. And there are very few cases where hostility will help. What you may well do is give other readers reason to dislike you as an author, and colour their view of your work.
 
5 It's Not The End Of The World:
A bad review may hurt your sales or not. It may make you feel miserable. But if you believe in your work then you have to believe the good reviews that will come in, will more than make up for the few bad ones. And strangely, sometimes a bad review can help your sales.
 
Decried as one of the world's worst authors, Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860 - 1939) was lampooned by critics and other authors alike. The Oxford Literary group the Inklings, used to hold contests to see who could read her work the longest without cracking up. One described her work as literary diarrhoea. And her work did not sell in huge volumes.
 
Yet here we are, over a hundred years after some of her books were published, discussing them and even holding retrospectives of them, while her works are held in the Belfast Public Library and one of her books is still in print. Why? Because of the negative reviews.
 
So bottom line when someone gives your precious baby a bad review - Do Not Engage!
 
Cheers, Greg
 
 
 

Monday, 22 September 2014

How to Script an Election

Hi Guys,



Well the big news this week from New Zealand is that we had our general elections on the weekend, and the National Party romped home while almost every other party lost ground. This despite the fact that the National Party has been in power for six years and this would be its third term - and the normal cycle is that parties in their third term lose support. In fact this surprising turn of events we are told by the people who take note of these sorts of things, has happened only once in the last century.
 
So how did this happen?
 
Well my take as an author is probably a little bit different to that of the media, who are busy portraying the left as having run a dismal election campaign - and I should at this point declare myself as a Green voter - which places me squarely on the left of the political spectrum. And to be fair I do think the campaign from Labour - the main opposition party - was on the boring side. Maybe they didn't have enough money to produce slick advertising, or maybe originality deserted them, but there is no doubt that their campaign was flat.
 
But there was far more at work here then just that in my view. This was an election that was completely overshadowed by a popularity contest. The Prime Minister versus a German Millionaire who doesn't want to be extradited to the US for trial. (I won't mention his name since he ran a website where people could pirate and post artistic creations and thus is far from my favourite person as an author.) And reading from the Castle playbook of crime solving (I love that show!) I looked for an answer by asking the question - what would make a good story?
 
Now so far what I've laid out is I think fairly uncontroversial. But it occurs to me that one way to boost your popularity if you're desperate to gain a third term and the numbers aren't looking so good, is to reframe the debate. Housing prices going through the roof? The gap between rich and poor growing greater? Don't have enough money to offer tax cuts as the right always seems to want to? Then don't run a debate on the issues. Your numbers will be hurt.
 
But instead when you have a popular Prime Minister - and I can take nothing away from John Key in terms of being a popular political figure - make it a battle for credibility. So bring an enemy (sort of) from out of left field. Let him build a political party and campaign out of a single political agenda - to get rid of John Key. Let him just before the election take a huge personal swing at the Prime Minister through a dubious email which he can't seem to back up. And then let him miss. Miss so horribly that it looks to the entire country as though he never had anything at all. Just hatred.
 
And there you have an election won and lost in my view.
 
The voters on the centre and right side of the electorate are incensed. Their hero / everyman has been maligned for all to see. So he and by extension his party gets a massive protest vote. Not because of a massive swing to the right - though that's effectively what it looks like. But because John Key has been made out to be an innocent under unfair attack. So he has to be supported. The left are tarred with the failure and perceived malicious attacks on the person of John Key, while at the same time their campaigns on the issues have been completely overshadowed by personal politics. So many of them stay home instead of voting for what they believe in and the left vote collapses.
 
Is this what happened? More or less in my view. But the real question is, was it planned? I personally don't know. I'm not privy to the secrets of the various political machines. But it feels right. Horribly right. It feels as though we - by which I mean the New Zealand voting public - have been played.
 
And as I sit here with the taste of bile in my mouth - yes I freely admit it -  I look to some of the other things that happened that shaped this election and wonder. For example another right leaning political party, the Conservatives, who were trending towards the five percent threshold and had they crossed it would have been in parliament and would have prevented National from being able to govern alone, had a melt down two days before the election. The leader's press secretary resigned declaring that the leader was manipulative. And immediately the Conservatives who National would not have wanted in parliament, lost votes. Instead of five percent and maybe six or seven seats, they got four point one percent of the vote, and no seats. Coincidence? Again I don't know. But from the Castle school of investigation it looks damned convenient.
 
So how do we find out? I don't know. I'd guess we could look at the futures of the two players who seem to have delivered an election between them to National. Do things coincidentally come up rosy for them? And maybe someone will investigate - it won't be me. I'll just sit in my home and write my books and feel as though I've been played like everyone else.
 
But maybe Nicky Hager you have your next book waiting for you here. Dirty Politics Two. A book of which even Machiavelli would be proud. At least one author seems to have done well out of this campaign.
 
Cheers, Greg.
 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Self-confidence, Fear and Writers

Hi Guys,
 
 
Bit of a delay between my last post and this one - apologies for that, but I simply didn't really have much to write about.
 
However, yesterday I was responding to a post on a writing forum and realised that I did have something to blog about. The importance of self-confidence to writers, and particularly writers who haven't yet published.
 
You will recall that I have previously talked how important it is to a writer to actually publish. It is what will turn a writer not just into an author, but also a better writer. And a lack of confidence is what will turn a writer into a never was. Sorry for the harshness of that - but I believe it to be true. As a writer these days, the single biggest barrier to becoming a better writer you face in these days of self publishing, is yourself.
 
Too many authors - and a lot of you will recall that I have previously harped on about the lies author's tell themselves as they go through the submissions process - allow themselves to be held back by insecurity. All those lies writers tell themselves about why their work was never picked up by an agent, are a form of insecurity. And they are destructive to a writing career - even more so than rejection.
 
You can get over rejection. You can survive bad reviews. You can improve your writing by receiving harsh criticism. And in fact these things are all in their own way, a part of growth of an author. But if you can't get past the fear of these things, you are doomed. You will never become the writer you could be. And it is fear that I believe holds so many back.
 
Fear comes in many forms. It lives in doubt - about you, your writing ability, the quality of your work. It lives in the trade publishing world of submissions to agents and publishers. And it absolutely thrives in the self criticism authors constantly subject their own work to. And while yes - it can be a valuable tool in improving your work - if you let it become your master it will destroy any chance you have of becoming an author.
 
This is why I say the trade publishing route to writing success is so limited. It's not just in the lies writers tell themselves about why they never heard back from an agent. It's in the process itself. It is a trap for so many. An endless trap. A cycle of fear and inadequacy that will cripple many. And the cycle runs like this:
 
You write your book, you submit it, you hear nothing back, and you assume that you heard nothing back because the work was not up to standard. So then you rewrite, you improve out of sight so you believe, and you submit again, and you hear nothing back. Which means that your work is not up to standard. So you rewrite and submit. Endlessly. And then some day, five years, ten years down the track, you just give up.
 
This is what's called a vicious cycle, and each repeat of it destroys self-confidence. But worse than that it's also a strangely comforting process. A rut a writer can find a place to call home in. Because in going through this cycle a writer learns that - yes - he can survive not hearing back from agents. Yes, he can survive getting the occasional rejection letter. But he never has to expose himself to the even harsher world of publishing and reviews etc. You can learn to like your rut.
 
This is why I say to all of you who have yet to publish - you must publish. You can choose to self publish, or you can throw your hat into the ring and hope to be picked up by an agent. But in the latter case you must set yourself a deadline. It may be a period of time - say a year. Or a set number of submissions to agents. But whatever it is, stick to it. And then at the end if you have not been picked up, bite the bullet and publish your work yourself.
 
Yes it's scary, and it's hard. Yes there is a lot to learn. Yes it can be brutal. Yes you will make mistakes and be picked up on them. And yes those first few one star reviews will make you wish you'd chopped your fingers off instead of letting them touch a keyboard. But if you do it, you will discover that you can get through this. And you can write. And you can become an author. And you can become the best writer you can be.
 
Cheers, Greg.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Amazon versus Hachette - I Don't Have a Pony in This Fight!

Hi Guys,
 
 
 
Well the big news today - at least for us indies on KDP, is that Amazon sent us an email asking us to get involved in their dispute with Hachette - if only by sending the CEO a letter.
 
I have to admit that when I saw the email from Amazon I was shocked. It was something completely out of the blue, and equally unlike anything they've sent before. For a while I did actually wonder if it was a hack. However, after reading fourteen pages of comments about this same letter on Kindle Boards from other KDP authors, and also having waited a day without a retraction from Amazon, I have to assume that it is genuine.
 
So here it is in all its unvarnished glory:
 
Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99.. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read). A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch:
Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

- We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
- Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
- Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
- Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

 
Sorry for the lengthy cut and paste but I didn't want to be unfair to anyone by cherry picking sections.
 
And my response? I will not be sending an email to Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch.
 
It's not that I don't agree with Amazon's stand on the issue. I actually do for the most part. It's that as the title says - I don't have a dog in this race or a pony in this fight.
 
Look, my view is that I am both an author and a publisher - indie of course. And as such I am deeply grateful for what Amazon has done for me in making it possible for me to publish and sell my work. I owe them for that. But at the same time I recognise that this was not done out of charity. It was a business decision and Amazon expects to make money out of it too.
 
As an author I naturally feel some sympathy for some of the other trade published authors being given poor returns through their work. However, I remind myself that they signed the contracts, and they accepted upfront lower royalties in return for other services such as marketing and exposure. It may have been a good deal or a poor one for them, I don't know. But it is their choice.
 
I also have some annoyance at being used in this way. Especially when one of the things Amazon asks for from Hachette is for them to stop using their authors as leverage and to leave them out of the dispute, and then does exactly the same thing.
 
I'm also a reader, and as a reader maybe I do have a dog in this race - a small terrier perhaps. Certainly not a big dog! As a reader I would like to see lower prices on some of the books I love. And it seems unreasonable to charge such high prices for ebooks. But at the same time as a competing publisher I have another terrier - running the opposite way. It's good for me as a publisher that some companies do appear to be over-charging since it makes the market less competitive for me.
 
So perhaps I do have two small dogs in this race, running in opposite directions. And as any student of modern math knows, two dogs running, one positive and one negative, adds up to one very confused hamster running around in his wheel going nowhere fast!
 
Which leads me to my position. I have no vested interest in this battle. I think on balance I prefer Amazon's side from a principled perspective. But at the same time I don't think it's right for Amazon to try and force publisher's prices down through coercive tactics. It is a free market after all, and if Hachette thinks they can sell lots of books at higher prices, that's their business decision.
 
So I will not be writing a letter to anyone on this matter - just blogging about it ad nauseum! My advice to other authors and indies is to do the same (plus or minus the blogging!).
 
Cheers, Greg.