Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Precedent (or why Traditional Publishers are [still] Awesome)

This week's episode is a look at Amazon's new payment policy for self-published authors. People have been talking about this for a while, and I'm aware that we're "late" to the game. However, the nature of how we're required to prepare for the show means we can't stay "up to date" on all of the topics we discuss.

I did some digging around on this topic when we recorded, and one of the thing I discovered is that, if I were a self-published author with a massive novel on Kindle Unlimited, and I heard that the person who wrote a 5k-word project got paid the same per copy that I did, I might be upset (I'm not in that situation, so I can't say for sure, of course). If I'm getting paid a dollar and change for my 100k+ word novel, and the other person is getting a dollar and change for their 5k word short story, why should I bother with the long piece when I could punch out twenty pieces and make twenty times more? Or split up my book into installments.

So, I can see where author complaints came from, and why Amazon chose to respond the way they did. In my opinion, this policy COULD encourage an increase in quality (the better a book is, the more likely a reader is to finish it), but, like the abandoned payment scheme, the end-result will tend to push toward quantity. Longer books with (possibly) more unnecessary descriptions, subplots, and overarching storylines.

HOWEVER!

That is speculation, and the GREAT thing about new technology is that AMAZING authors have the freedom to self-publish their books if they want to. I will not trash the METHOD used to get books into the world. I will only comment on QUALITY of the finished product, and when (yes I said WHEN) I find a self-published book with the same quality as my favorite traditionally published book, I'll tell as many people about it as I can. Because great books deserve to be shared.

No, the problem I have with this new author-payment scheme is the precedent it sets for the industry overall. I don't believe in conspiracies, but that's really what makes this disconcerting. Amazon already made the change. It's done, over-with, and probably not going anywhere. If people still decide to self-publish through them, ostensibly accepting the policy, and it turns out that Amazon can still be profitable, what's to stop other publishers from doing the same thing? Or something similar, anyway?

Business as a whole are still trying to figure out how to remain profitable in this economy, especially on a global scale, and EXTRA ESPECIALLY in industries that are not considered "vital" for survival (like food and housing). The publishing industry, much like music, got smacked in the face with new technology. Like most multi-national organizations with shareholders they're obligated to pay who ALSO have a say in how the business can be run, they're slow to react to changes. Even if they could adapt more quickly, the changes seem to be happening so fast that another change is JUST around the corner. A real "problem" with technology.

So we have businesses with employees and shareholders and assets they're looking to acquire (stories). One company is changing the "value" of those assets AND renegotiating how those assets are paid for. The businesses that have been around the longest don't want to put their employees on unemployment. Because of the way investment laws work and are regulated by the federal government, the people running these companies also have to make sure that the people who invested money in those businesses get their investment returned. If the assets can suddenly be acquired and paid for in a method that guarantees that the mail-room guy, receptionist, editor, typesetter, and all the shareholders continue to get their money, why should they ignore that? Because of some "moral" obligation to the asset-creator?

I am NOT saying that publishers are out there to take advantage of authors for the sake of a few bucks. Editors and publishing houses have treated most authors better over the years than many readers have. More importantly, most editors I've seen on the web very much dislike Amazon's new policy. Every editor I've known LOVES to read. And they LOVE to make sure that the authors they work with get taken care of.

This is a complex issue, and over the course of the next few years, it's going to get more complicated. All of us need to eat. And so far, the traditional publishing world looks like they're trying to make sure that their employees are taken care of while also ensuring that their "assets" are well paid for. I APPLAUD the publishing industry for not jumping on the Amazon bandwagon.

I also implore them to stay strong. Take care of the authors, treat them well, and they will continue to produce quality work.

Giles BELIEVES in the traditional publishing world. It's his goal to reach professional publication through the traditional method. Roadblocks keep getting in his way, but it's less of a struggle than having to just "live" with payment changes that come from Amazon without notice.

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