Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ball of Confusion

Even though the horse is still dead, I'm continuing to beat the hell out of it.  I'll keep this short, (or maybe not, come to think of it) because it's just a minor variation on the theme that J.A. Konrath, (in fact, he posted on this same subject this morning) Kristen Lamb, and a host of others have been bleating for a while: not only are legacy publishers getting hammered by the wave of change sweeping the book publishing industry, the best-selling name authors who are their bread and butter are clueless as well--panicked  and out of touch with the reality that the midlist and Indie writers experience down in the trenches. They are more concerned with protecting themselves and the publishers that feed them than they are in helping or supporting their fellow authors.  They're well-fed and fattened, and what they want most desperately is to turn back the clock to the status quo that existed for so long, a return to the days where the Big Six were the gatekeepers and books existed only on paper.  And maybe getting rid of that Internet thing that seems to be causing everyone a lot of trouble too.  Where did the god damned cheese go?  I want it back.

In Salon yesterday morning, best-selling author James Patterson was interviewed about his call for a government bailout of the book industry.  He doesn't seem to understand the issues; more than anything, he appears completely dazed and confused over what is  going on.  I'll let the article, which centers around the desperate ads Patterson placed in the New York Times Book Review and Publisher's Weekly last weekend, speak for itself.

What struck me was the sheer desperation of his plea.  But what struck me the most was this: he has no idea of what to ask for.  He has absolutely no solution, and he admits this several times in his post.

Dig this: "E-books are fine and dandy, but it’s all happening so quickly, and I don’t think anyone thought through the consequences of having many fewer bookstores, of libraries being shut down or limited, of publishers going out of business — possibly in the future, many publishers going out of business."

"I haven’t thought about it but I’m sure there are things that can be done. There might be tax breaks, there might be limitations on the monopolies in the book business. We haven’t gotten into laws that should or shouldn’t be done in terms of the internet. I’m not sure what needs to happen, but right now, nothing’s happening."

And the most pathetic piece: "My solutions to this point are the other things i’m doing, and it’s a lot. In terms of the big picture, yeah, if I’m gonna see Obama tomorrow — if i could see the president, I’m not sure what I’d say — because he’d say what do you want me to do? I think that’s the stage we’re at. The stage we need to get to, something needs to get done. Let’s go the next stage."

He states he believes it's the publishing industry that produces "enduring classics," (ironically forgetting the author), and says that "its power will be gravely foreshortened, and the number of classics limited, by  attenuated publishing and bookselling industries . . . I don’t think we can be the country we’d like to be without literature."

My gut reaction to all this isn't anger, but embarrassment and pity.  The poor Luddite somehow equates technology advance and the publishing industry paradigm shift to the end of literature of we know it.

The numbers show otherwise.  More people are reading today than ever before, and the recent best-selling successes of self-published authors shows what can happen when self-imposed gatekeepers get out of the way and let authors write what they want and connect to audiences that embrace what they have to say.

Coming on the heels of Authors' Guild president Scott Turow's idiotic and widely-panned Op-Ed article in the New York Times last week, it simply shows how insulated from reality the authors at the top of the food chain are.

I'll say it again: all the noise coming from the industry Big Names are in defense of the status quo that has taken care of them for so long; there isn't a single sincere note sounded anywhere by any of them supporting the authors outside of their exclusive country club.

Wanna take a guess on how much Jimmy-boy earned last year from his buddies in the ivory tower?

Try $94 million.  You think he has skin in the game?  Yo, James: why don't you fork up some dough to bailout your bed partners?

A government bailout?  Please.  James, you want to bail out a short-sighted, greedy self-serving industry that shows not only a history of myopic behavior, but one that still refuses to get its head out of its ass?

Maybe the problem is that there are too many heads stuck in that ass to remove, without some serious surgery.

Dude, get an Internet connection, will ya?


  1. When the recording industry went after Napster and others 10-15 years ago, they thought they had crushed music swapping on the internet. Minutes later iTunes took over, Amazon and Sony MP3's were online. And who buys CD's anymore?

    Why the publishing industry didn't pay attention and take the lead with e-books is anyone's guess. Now they're struggling to get traction, and I don't know if they'll survive.

    You can stand in the way of progress and change, but you tend to get run over for your efforts.

    1. Tim, a lot of people have been comparing the iTunes music paradigm shift to the recent publishing industry changes; there are parallels on every level. And yes, it's *flabbergasting* that the execs of six big money established publishing companies failed to learn the lessons from the music industry shift; I mean, come on: at the heart you have an artist creating a product that needs some refinement and distribution. Technology changed the medium and distribution channel. You listen instead of read. *How can they not see this?*

      To paraphrase Joe Konrath, it's like they said: "Hey, look at what iTunes did. They killed the music industry. No one's recording or buying music anymore."

  2. Lots of people record music. Making a living off it is another issue.