This article came up in my Twitter feed this morning, and it points out exactly the thing that was bouncing around in my head on Sunday, but couldn’t quite nail down.
Hachette is a huge company that also has a publishing business, and a win for them is probably not good news.
Amazon is an enormous company that carries the Silicon Valley ethos, and that is: make something awesome until everyone is using it, and once your competitors are dead, lock the the doors and start raking in the money because your customers can’t go anywhere else.
I can’t say that I know very much about the production of books, but from what I understand a lot of the labor comes before the book is printed and shipped to bookstores. Cutting out printing, storage, shipping, and buy-backs might not make a large dent in the price of an e-book, especially if you consider that in its place you have to pay for the servers to store those books, and the bandwidth to let people buy them. (Bandwidth isn’t cheap, and neither are data centers.)
I’ve started about half a dozen blog posts about the Amazon/Hachette dispute. My reasons for trashcanning those drafts run the gamut from: Who cares what you have to say about it? to Everyone you’ve RT’d on Twitter has already said what you’re going to say, and they’ve said it better and They have actual experience with these things, and you don’t And those are all true, but I’m still gonna hit the big Publish button on this post.
I don’t have a book for sale through Amazon. I’m not published by Hachette. If you want to read something I wrote, you have to buy a game on Steam. I don’t even have a finished first draft on my first novel, for the love of all that is coffee. I’m a beginner, trying to break into a new field. But I read. I read a hell of a lot, thanks to my local public library.
With those qualifications, I can say without equivocation that Amazon’s post on ReadersUnited.com is disingenuous bullshit.
Amazon are not crusaders seeking to free customers from the tyrrany of high ebook prices, or to lavish starving writers with a larger percentage of sales. Hachette are not knights in shining armor, protecting their authors from the slavering barbarian hordes. Amazon wants ebook prices to top out at $9.99 because it benefits them and their position in the marketplace. It gives them leverage to squeeze the life out of their competitors. Hachette doesn’t want Amazon to do that, for obvious reasons.
Both Hachette and Amazon have put out propaganda to support their positions. But the nonsense Amazon has posted on ReadersUnited.com is an insult to my intelligence as a reader. I buy books at Barnes & Noble, my local comics shop, and on various online realtors. I read a lot more of them by borrowing from my library. A multitude of outlets makes for a healthy market. It gives me options to get the books that I want, which is nice, because sometimes a retailer does something I consider thoroughly dumb and I want to go elsewhere. The fewer outlets, the fewer options I have.
Amazon has had that domain in their pocket since January 17th, 2013 – months before the court case against Apple and the big publishers concerning their e-book pricing was decided. (This has since been debunked — see the update below.) Amazon has had this move in mind for a long time. They’re playing a long game, and they are attempting to use me to further their agenda – which pisses me off.
I am not their footsoldier. This is not a war. This is two corporate enties fighting over profits in a contract negotiation. Amazon is one of, if not the, biggest retailer in the world. Why does Amazon need to beg little old me to throw rocks at Hachette?
I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t buy your books from Amazon. If that’s what toots your fruit, then go forth and read. But don’t confuse your favorite retailer’s motives — or Hachette’s, for that matter. They are fighting over the ability to set the price for e-books. I’ve got my eye on the fight because it affects one of my favorite pastimes.
This is going to affect the authors you love to read, one way or the other. If that bothers you, then pay attention, and don’t take one party’s word on it.
Update: Over on Whatever, John Scalzi has posted a great piece on the current round of Amazon vs. Hachette. He also links to this article concerning Amazon’s ownership of ReadersUnited.com. (Short version: Amazon has only owned the domain for 8 days, and the information provided by the whois I did yesterday to get the info is out of date.) As Mr. Scalzi says in the linked article: Amazon and Hachette are not your friend.
Ann Leckie won the Best Novel Nebula Award for Ancillary Justice last night. I’m very excited about this, for a number of reasons.
This is the first time that I’ve read a Nebula Award winner before it won the award. (I spent a lot of time during high school reading science fiction and fantasy as if I’m going to catch up with the entirety of the published genre and finally be able to read the new ones as they come out with a full understanding of everything that has come before. I was not, in fact, able to read ALL OF SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY THAT HAS BEEN PUBLISHED, EVER, but the tendency to pick up an older book before I pick up a new one has stuck with me.) That is a very cool feeling.
Second, Ancillary Justice is amazing. You should go read it, post-haste. It’s a debut (!) novel, it’s solid science fiction of a kind that I thought had fallen out of favor (it is possible that I am just looking in the wrong places), and it’s amazing.
Thirdly, the Nebula Awards themselves: of all the nominees this year, only 10 of them were men. And all of the winners in the major categories — best novel, best novella, best novelette, best short story — were women. Which is amazing, wonderful, and many (many) other superlatives.
None of the winners know me from anyone, but congratulations to all of them nonetheless.
Sometimes you need to write a lot of words down just to figure out why none of them work.—
Sam Sykes (@SamSykesSwears) May 06, 2014
I didn’t read this tweet, and immediately shove my current draft in the dumpster. I did the dumpster-shoving two days ago. But it reinforces and partially validates the aforementioned trashcan action. And I’m all for validation in this case, becuase making the decision to ditch 70,000 wasn’t an easy one.
This is my first honest attempt at a novel, and the first project that I’ve worked on since Achron shipped, and the truth is that my writing muscles have atrophied. There was a year between Achron and the first inkling that I wanted to write this book, and another year of screwing around before I thought I got serious. (And another year after I actually got serious to get to this point.)
The really horrifying thing about this is the only writing I did during this “break” was for the dayjob. All of it was software documentation. Let me tell you, those muscles have firmed up nicely. I can whip out 1500 words on any subject in about an hour, and it will all make sense. It will be logical, and I’ll have hit my word count for the day. But it will also be blander than a bucket of beige paste. Scenes filled with cardboard cutouts, shifting from one awkward pose to the next. No life to be found. No spark. No momentum. A whole lot of backstory, though. (This is not a coincidence.)
I had this epiphany two days ago, while I was reading Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker. (It’s a marvelous book, and I couldn’t help but see what it was doing in the opening chapters in stark contrast to the cold, leftover Cinncinatti chili that is my opening chapters.) So I selected the whole mess in Scrivener, and moved it to the Slush folder. I started over with a blank page, and wrote a funeral.
The result didn’t look like documentation. It had characters, movement, and dialog. It was sad. Tonight, I’m going to write another thousand words.
I have a deadline for myself: August 31st. If I’m not done with the story by then, I’ll be close: I’ll have 100,000 words in the can. Then: a month off, writing short stories.
Then: edits, and draft two.
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Early this past September, my wife wanted to make a run to her friend’s yarn shop to pick up some new materials for a project she was working on. She asked if I wanted to come along. So I did. “Just to warn you,” she said, “Rabecca’s going to try and sell you a Tom […]
I generally don’t go for New Year’s resolutions. They feel like putting off a thing that I should be doing now. It’s one of the reasons that I’ve given up on NaNoWriMo as a useful tool; if I promise myself I’ll write a novel in November, I’m more likely to not write anything until November. All the excitement drains out of it in the meantime, and when the time comes all that’s left is the bones. I might gnaw on them for a bit, but in the end the Thing doesn’t get done.
In the last year, I’ve written 100k words of a novel, and promised to do things that will make my life better. I think they’re good things, and I’m going to keep doing them this year. And while I still view resolutions as a bit of a trap, the act of reminding myself, loudly, exactly what it is I’m up to is helpful.
So, in 2014:
- I’m going to finish this damn novel. And finish another.
- I’m going to read more, and more widely.
- I’m going to spend as much of my time with my friends and family as I possibly can. Those people are awesome.
- I’m going to blog a bit more often.
- I’m going to spend my money supporting the above goals, and not on shit I don’t need.
Because life is a performance art, and I need to art harder.
I went back to the Music Box Theater last Friday. I did not expect that I would be doing it so quickly after having met Neil Gaiman there at the beginning of June. But it was in order to see a double bill of my favorite(st) movies: Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz.
The tickets were free, and the event included a Q&A session with Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. It was an extremely good time. It’s been ages since I’d seen Shaun with an audience that loved the movie, and it was like watching it new. The Q&A session was loads of fun. The three were very kind, and answered lots of questions from the audience before saying goodbye, and introducing Hot Fuzz. Hot Fuzz is pretty much my favorite movie, full stop. Again, watching it with an enthusiastic crowd was wonderful, and the sound in the theater was great — I heard things in the background that I’ve never heard before.
The only downside to the trip was that, despite leaving the theater earlier than the Gaiman event, we got home right around the same time.
Still, entirely worth it.