Amazon has been shafting KDP Select authors, and even if this is by accident, writers need to push for swift remedies. David VanDyke’s post in TeleRead masterfully chronicled the mess.
But blogging can go only so far in righting this wrong.
The need will remain for advocacy groups for writers regardless of the changing publishing scene—or maybe because of it.
So I would challenge Nate Hoffelder’s recent headline in The Digital Reader: The Authors Guild Now Recruiting Writers Before They Know Better Than to Join TAG.
“Emerging writers” can now join for the Authors Guild for $100 a year, under a new arrangement. Here’s the form. The cost is $25 less than the $125 for full and associate members, and you don’t have to earned such-and-such an amount for your work.
Newbies will be able to enjoy such benefits as “publishing industry updates and advice; marketing and social media advice; website building and hosting; access to members-only workshops, seminars, and events, digital access to the Authors Guild Bulletin; discounted media liability insurance; listing in our member profiles; exclusive discounts on services and goods designed to help you with your writing business, as well as discounts on hotels, car rentals, and more. If you have a contract you would like us to review or require other legal services, please apply at the full membership level.” Here’s more on the benefits of various kinds of membership.
“For those who fret about legal issues, the legal services and the option for media liability insurance might be worth the cost,” Mike Perry, a frequent TeleRead commenter, said in urging me to write on the new membership class. I agree.
I know: questions have arisen about the Guild’s past deals with providers of publishing services—about whether they were optimal for writers. But the Guild offers plenty else, as shown by the items above.
Granted, I have disagreed with the Guild on some copyright-related issues. But whether it’s the Guild vs. Google, writers’ groups vs. libraries, authors vs. publishers, or anything else, the big question isn’t how the pie is sliced. It’s the pathetic size of the pie. American households are spending just a pittance on books compared to the thousands lavished on other forms of entertainment.
I’m not the only one concerned about those numbers. So is Mary Rasenberger (photo), the Guild’s executive director, who I found to be most open minded on the topic of a national digital library endowment, one way to grow the pie for writers, publishers, and everyone else. She is also eager to reach out to libraries.
So let’s give her and the Guild a chance, and meanwhile if you can benefit from the organization’s services, why not join? Besides, whether you’re a voting or nonvoting member, you can speak up and help the Guild with your feedback.
If you’re counting on TAG to save the literary world, I’m thinking that the war has already been lost.
There is a reason that (almost) everyone is ignoring this sad organization and the advertorial here makes this group even sadder. John Oliver has some words for you and, Dude, you really should take the time to watch and listen
Oh, come on, BDR. The Guild didn’t pay me a penny for the post, and in fact, Mike Perry suggested the topic based on the very real benefits that the organization has provided. Don’t agree with all the alliances the Guild has made? Fine. I’d wonder about some myself. But let’s look ahead to the future. Writers receive crumbs. Instead of knocking what advocacy groups exist, let’s encourage them to change for the better.
TeleRead, by the way, is now noncommercial. We don’t accept either ads or sponsored posts (with one exception—some posts we may run for the Digital Book World conference as a media partner). In the past when we ran the latter, we identified them as such.
Dude, you really should get your facts straight.
Wow, striking data from your “pathetic piece of the pie” link. Here’s more data. In that same year (2013), http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2015/consumer-spending-on-entertainment-by-household-income-in-2013.htm overall entertainment expenses per household was $2482 (it increased to $2842 in 2015). http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cesan.htm That means books are less than 5% of overall entertainment expenses. Among younger generations, I would like to see a comparison between spending on videogames vs. books/ebooks over time…. I understand that books are old-fashioned, but for certain tasks — technology/business books, hobby books, schoolbooks, biographies and history, books are still the preferred medium.
@Robert: Thanks for the elaboration. For all kinds of recreational reading, not just books, U.S. households are now spending only around $100 a year. Sorry I don’t have the link handy, but if anyone wants it, I can get it.
You see why I’m keen on a national digital library endowment? It wouldn’t just help libraries. It would also help writers and publishers. With money from the endowment, local and national libraries could promote individual books by name in well-targeted media spots–not just libraries and reading in general. That would help the commercial side along the way. Of course, the endowment would also pay for content.
Just one example of what I hope the Guild can help push for. The status quo massively sucks, and especially in the the wake of Mary Rasenberger’s open-mindedness, I hope TeleRead community members will give the Guild a chance.
It might surprise you, David, but I am now a member of TAG. I joined after I wrote that post.
My goal is to change it from within. If TAG is going to claim to speak for authors then I plan to have a say in its positions.
Excellent, Nate, excellent. I’ve got some legal fees and other expenses of the moment and want to watch my cashflow, but I’ll be joining as well, probably by the end of the year.
Don’t forget that there’s a number of ways authors and organizations of author’s could put pressure on Amazon to pay better. It’s dreadful that the largest distributor of ebooks and the one with the best economy of scale pays authors the poorest. Do some comparisons to see for yourself.
I’ve pointed out more than once that, while Apple pays 70% of retail at all price levels, Amazon only pays 35% outside a narrow $2.99 to $9.99 window. Here are illustrations of how Amazon’s royalty scheme hurts authors.
* Want to sell the first volume in your series for $0.99 to create new readers? Amazon will let you do that but it ony give you $0.35, while Apple will be paying you twice that for the same sale.
* Want to merge your seven volume series into one mega-volume for $20? Amazon will let you do that but will only pay you $7. Apple will pay you $14. To paraphrase a sixties politician, pretty soon paying half as much adds up to “real money.”
* There’s also Amazon’s strange selection of countries where, unless an author goes KDP, Amazon will only pay 35% again. Is Amazon losing money there? No, it’s perfectly happy paying other authors 70% and presumably profiting from them. It’s just Amazon shorting authors again.
* There is one final cheat I just discovered a few days ago looking at Amazon’s pay schedule. Amazon will only pay 35% for books that are substantially public doman works, say a version of Huck Finn. While I certainly understand why someone who’s just applied a little formatting to a Gutenberg Project text doesn’t deserve much, I fail to see why that editor who has done some work only gets 35% while Amazon, who’s done nothing at all, gets to pocket 70%. If Amazon wants to keep people from exploiting public domain texts, it could simply set a maximum price, even making it a mere $0.99 if they want. But there’s something unseemingly about Amazon sneering at someone publishing a public domain text but taking twice as much of that ‘tainted’ money for itself.
* Since Amazon does not release sales numbers, we can’t know the actual numbers. But if you add up the difference in incomes between what authors are getting from Apple’s 70% flat rate and Amazon convuluted scheme and inflated download fees (for ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99) my hunch is that Amazon is underpaying author by quite a bit. If Amazon simply paid what Apple pays, the income of many authors would probably jump by at least 25%. And most are earning so little, that 25% would do them a lot more good that making Jeff Bezos an even bigger billionaire or allowing Amazon to flood the market with subsized Kindles.
For the last, while I have no problem with Amazon subsidizing their ebook reading products, I do get rather ticked off that authors, who don’t benefit from that subsidy, are being forced to fund it.
Any aggressive and smart tort lawyers out there? Perhaps a civil suit can argue that, as the market-dominant retailer with about twice the sales of all other retailers combined, Amazon is exploiting that dominance to not only grossly under pay author and publishers, but to do so in ways that make no business sense. Does a $10.99 cost twice as much for Amazon to distribute as a $9.99 one? Of course not.
You say, “Amazon has been shafting KDP Select authors, and even if this is by accident, writers need to push for swift remedies.”
Then I read comments by Mike Perry about why Amazon is so bad and ripping off authors.
Here is my advice: Take responsibility for your life. And show some integrity when you speak: If Amazon is so bad, don’t use Amazon at all. Stick to Apple totally. Let me know how this all turns out for you.
This I can say: Amazon has been a big factor in my success as a self-published author whose books have sold over 940,000 copies worldwide. To be clear, Amazon is not the only factor in my success given that I have come up with 75 to 100 of my own unique marketing techniques that 99 percent of authors and book marketing experts are not creative or smart enough to come up with.
Here is the bottom line: Jeff Bezos with Amazon has created much wealth for many self-published authors such as myself. Sure, I at times find myself criticizing some of Amazon practices. I have to clear my mind when this happens and give credit where credit is due. Just the other day I totaled all the pretax profits that I have made from eBooks alone in the last four or five years. The total was around $162,000. Amazon’s Kindle sales were responsible for $145,000, Apple’s iBooks were responsible for $15,000, and Kobo’s ebook sales were responsible for around $2,000.
My advice to authors who spend so much time criticizing organizations such as Amazon is to put your energy in writing a great book (as Mark Coker says, “Good isn’t good enough.”) and then be truly creative in marketing the book. This involves what the majority is NOT doing — instead of what the majority is doing. Forget about all the crap about “social media” and “branding”. Instead, come up with at least 50 of your own truly creative marketing techniques that other authors are not smart enough to come up with. Once you start selling a large quantity of your books at a price much higher than your competition’s, you won’t have to complain that Amazon’s royalties are too low.
One more note: I used to belong to the Author’s Guild. I canceled my membership after a year or two. Although there may be some benefits to certain authors, in the end I would have been wasting my money by paying the Author’s Guild a yearly membership for many years. As my favorite marketing guru Seth Godin recently stated, “It pays to have big dreams but low overhead.”
Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog.
@Ernie: Congrats on all the success you’ve enjoyed at Amazon. Still, the question to ask Jeff is, “What have you done for me lately?” If you’re a writer with under-counted page reads, the answer is, “Not much.” As for writer’s groups, we need them more than ever to make sure writers get their fair share.