Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Scott Turow And The Politics of Cowardice by Barry Eisler

Joe sez: Here's an essay from bestselling author Barry Eisler, which I'm pleased to post here.

Barry: There are a lot of substantively interesting aspects of "Authors Guild" president Scott Turow's April 7 New York Times op-ed, "The Slow Death of the American Author." Indeed, you could write a long article debunking all the factual mistakes, legal errors, misleading claims, and failures of logic that comprise Turow's screed. Happily, Mike Masnick of TechDirt has done so, in a devastatingly well-argued and empirically based piece called "Authors Guild's Scott Turow: The Supreme Court, Google, Ebooks, Libraries and Amazon Are All Destroying Authors." I won't repeat what Masnick has already so ably pointed out, and will instead add just a few observations of my own.

First, look at the titles of Turow's and Masnick's pieces, and ask yourself which is the more accurate encapsulation of Turow's argument. Ask yourself, in fact, whether Turow's latest cri de coeur might more accurately have been called, "The Slow Death of Legacy Publishing."

In fairness, in misleading readers right from the title, Turow is doing no more than following the lead of the organization he represents, which given its consistent advocacy for the interests of legacy publishing has no business pretending it fundamentally concerns itself with what might be best for authors. But choosing a name that disguises your true purpose can confer certain tactical advantages. The "National Organization for Marriage," for example, isn't for marriage; it's against gay marriage. It doesn't want more marriage; it wants less, and they've cleverly chosen a name designed to sanitize their actual agenda. The advantages of a wholly misleading title are why in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the organization charged with torture and brainwashing was called the Ministry of Love; the organization charged with shortage and famine was called the Ministry of Plenty; and the organization charged with propaganda and historical revisionism was called the Ministry of Truth.

And it's why an organization primarily dedicated to protecting the interests of big publishing calls itself The Authors Guild.

Here's another one I like -- a small but a nice example. When a neighborhood near mine decided they wanted less car traffic on their streets, they campaigned to have the streets closed during rush hour. They called this campaign, "Traffic Calming." Brilliant! Who could argue against calmer traffic? But if you think about it, the more accurate name would have been "Traffic Diversion."  After all, that traffic didn't disappear, it was simply diverted to someone else's neighborhood. But, as is often the case in such matters, the honest title would have been a harder sell. Think about how much less effective the Authors Guild would be if it called itself something more accurate -- say, The Society for the Preservation of Legacy Publishing.

There are countless other examples (who wants to vote against The Patriot Act?), and I won't try to list them all. The point is, when you see a title -- whether for an organization, an article, or a concept -- that's at variance with underlying reality, you should recognize you are being bullshitted.

Another thing that interested me about Turow's piece was his reliance on theory and his refusal to consider real-world data. In fact, part of what makes Masnick's piece such satisfying reading is the way he cites actual studies, real-world evidence, and even the text of the Constitution (which Harvard-trained lawyer Turow gets wrong) to debunk Turow's theoretical claims. Now, don't get me wrong -- there's nothing wrong with theory, and in fact I have theories for all sorts of things (I even have one or two for what could motivate someone like Turow to continue to write such embarrassingly ignorant articles no matter how many times he gets publicly spanked for his sloppiness, but that's a separate topic). But once you have data you can use to test a theory, you have to use it. To argue exclusively in the realm of theory when there is abundant data you could use, too, isn't just lazy. It's fundamentally a repudiation of science itself.

So this is another thing to watch for. When someone tries to sell you on a theory but refuses to discuss available evidence that could support or repudiate the theory, it's another classic sign that you are being bullshitted.

A final thought.

Once upon a time, technology was such that the Great Guardians of Rich Culture and All That Is Good (AKA, the Establishment) could pontificate to the unwashed masses and there was no effective way for the masses to respond. In those days, anyone with access to a platform like, say, the New York Times had tremendous asymmetrical communication power. It's hard to argue that this kind of one-way communication was a good thing -- unless you believe that a lack of accountability, a lack of peer-review, and a lack of diverse pressure-checking is good for society.

Obviously, the Internet has in many ways leveled the communications playing field, and now, when the high and mighty speak down to the masses, the masses can -- and do -- respond. What's fascinating is watching the reaction of people like Scott Turow, who act as though we're still living in a world where two-way communication isn't a real possibility and the masses can be safely ignored. But what are we to make of this supercilious behavior? Read Masnick's article, then ask yourself why you should have any confidence in someone like Turow, who refuses to engage such a devastating rejoinder? Why you should respect someone who lacks the courage and even the minimal integrity to defend his own public arguments? Why you should trust someone who can't even back up his own claims?

Amusingly, twenty-four hours ago, I posted this, with a link to Masnick's piece, in the comments section to the Authors Guild link to Turow's New York Times article:

"That Scott Turow refuses to respond to this demolition of his facts, his knowledge of the law, and even his baseline logic tells you all you need to know about his integrity. And about the true function of the "Authors Guild" of which he is president."

I received a message that my comment was awaiting moderation. And not only did the moderators not run the comment -- they then closed the comments section entirely! Ah, the "Authors Guild," such a wonderful forum, where authors can freely express diverse opinions on all the important authorial matters of the day…

In fact, there were no comments at all on Turow's piece on the Authors Guild site. Anyone want to take any bets about how many critical comments the moderators deep-sixed before stepping in to censor debate? Think mine was the only one? Again, what can we conclude about an organization that purports to represent authors, but which is in fact afraid to allow authors to express themselves?

So: bullshit tell #3. When someone tries to pontificate to the masses, actively shuts down commentary, and refuses to respond to his critics, you can be confident you are being bullshitted.

What's so satisfying about all this is that you can't successfully ignore technology. Or facts. Or ideas. Denial has no survival value. When you stick your head in the sand, if you're lucky, the world will just pass you by. More likely, you'll get eaten. And that's what's happening to Scott Turow and the "Authors Guild." All the bullshit in the world can't change it.

Of course, Turow could easily prove me at least partially wrong about his lack of balls and integrity. Are you there, Scott? All you need to do is respond to Masnick's piece. His comment section is still open. So is mine. We don't censor debate. Why do you?


Joe sez: I don't have much to add to Mike or Barry's posts, other than to be grateful that they did such  good jobs, (as did David Gaughran here http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/a-list-of-things-scott-turow-doesnt-care-about/) because Turow's NYT piece was gnawing at me, begging for a response.

Turow, like many bestsellers, lives in a gilded cage. He doesn't seem to understand anything about his fellow authors, and doesn't seem to want to learn.

So rather than comment on his piece, I'm going to address Turow directly, and try to help him out.

Are you reading this, Scott? Here are some things you need to know to get you up to speed:

1. The vast majority of authors have gotten screwed by legacy publishing. The legacy system has treated authors like you well, but most of us have been taken advantage of. This includes most of the members of the Guild you represent. Listen to their stories of rejection, poor royalties, broken promises, unconscionable contracts, rights grabs, terrible covers, orphaned books, undereported sales, shrinking advances, and how the legacy system you endorse is treating them worse than ever.

2. Digital media is here to stay, and it will eventually make analogue obsolete, or at best, niche. This has happened repeatedly, in various industries, and bemoaning it won't change anything.

3. For the first time ever, authors have the chance to control their careers. They can make money, many more than ever before, while also retaining their rights. The American Author (and World Author) is finally able to thrive without requiring the thumbs up or down from middlemen who take a huge cut.

4. There is no conclusive study that shows piracy hurts sales. My own experiments have shown it helps sales. I'm widely pirated (search any bit torrent site or file locker for my name), but I still made $137k in the last six weeks. That may not come close to what you're making, but it beats the hell out of the $40k a book I made when I was being legacy pubbed. As I've said, ad nauseum, the way to compete with piracy is with cost and convenience. I knew this years ago, and have been proving my point with my continued earnings since then.

5. Readers matter. They don't like to buy the same book over and over again in different formats. They don't like DRM. They don't like high prices. They don't like windowing. They like libraries. They like used books. They like lending books to friends and family. And, in some cases, they like piracy. Instead of treating readers as the enemy, listen to their needs and treat them as what the are: the ONLY ESSENTIAL component to any author's success.

6. The war against drugs failed, because it is contrary to what people want. The war for copyright is also failing for the same reason. You can't police a digital world. People will always file share.

And yet you're still making money.

So is your publisher. So is Hollywood. So are app developers. So are videogame creators. So are musicians. So are networks.

With all of this worldwide piracy and sharing, IP holders can still make money. Some, more than ever before.

The Internet was created to share data, and human beings are genetically wired to share information. Accept it, and what those irrefutable facts mean for copyright. Because copyright law will have to change according to what people want to do, not the other way around.

Change is scary, Scott. I know. But it comes anyway, no matter how much you want to argue with it, deny it, ignore it, or cling to the past.

Also, while I certainly understand and respect rushing to the defense of those who have done you a solid (in this case, the publishing industry that helped you earn a lot of money), that should be your agenda as Scott Turow NYT Bestselling Author, not Scott Turow President of the Authors Guild.

The Guild purportedly exists to help authors. For over a year, I've seen you do the opposite, spreading BS that hurts those very authors you and the Guild are supposed to be championing.

I don't expect you to change. Nor do I expect you to step down. But this blog gets more traffic than the Authors Guild website, so my next request is to all Guild members reading this.

Quit the Authors Guild.

Quit right now, with an email explaining that the organization is not looking out for your best interests.

That's the only way to effect change.

94 comments:

Bob said...

Gee, I thought it might have been my comment over on the Authors Guild sight where someone told me "shut your mouth" and said I had no right to speak unless I was at Scott Turow's level of publishing. Then they shut down the comments, which I guess got me to shut my mouth.

When I was first published I naively joined the Authors Guild. Then WEB Griffin, aka Bill Butterworth, told me that was akin to joining the enemy as an author.

Turow has not responded anywhere to any of his proclamations. Apparently he's above it all. Then I kindly suggest he do what the commenter told me to do on his organization's web site.

The Authors Guild is so deep in the pocket of the Big 6, and looks out only for the interests of those authors the Big 6 look out for, which is their top 5%.

I get it. I don't care. But someone who has no clue what my livelihood as an author is like, needs to stop telling me he knows what's best for me.

My theory is every traditionally published author is a big fan of traditional publishing until the day their contract doesn't get renewed. Then their tune changes.

I came up with term 'hybrid author' in June 2011 and NY now acts like they invented it. Here's a new term: 'urban flight'. It's the sound of trad authors leaving NY behind and branching out on their own. Cool Gus is already talking to some-- the ones who can do math and apply math to their royalty statements.

Anonymous said...

People who claim to exist only to 'protect' your rights are always liars. They are protecting their own asses, period.

Similarly, the new group of 'fact-checkers' lie more than the liars they are supposedly exposing.

Not coincidentally, the NYT is the King of the Lying Fact Checkers, so it's not surprising that they allow Turow to peddle his drivel unchallenged.

EGP said...

I found this interesting from Turow's article:

"Take e-books. They are much less expensive for publishers to produce: there are no printing, warehousing or transportation costs, and unlike physical books, there is no risk that the retailer will return the book for full credit.

But instead of using the savings to be more generous to authors, the six major publishing houses — five of which were sued last year by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division for fixing e-book prices — all rigidly insist on clauses limiting e-book royalties to 25 percent of net receipts. That is roughly half of a traditional hardcover royalty."

He actually correctly identified a really major problem, then didn't follow it up and moved on to largely bullshit the rest of the article. It reminds me of the quote attributed to Churchill:

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."

Joe Konrath said...

He identified the royalty problem before he took office.

Yet the problem persists.

EGP said...

It certainly does still exist. I would assume that addressing it is not as high a priority for him as bashing Amazon and fighting the great white whale of piracy.

Jude Hardin said...

What amazed me was how many authors on Facebook linked to Scott's article and said how depressing and true it all was. They devoured his BS hook line and sinker. Of course these are authors with big NY contracts, fearing, I guess, that the goose that lays their golden eggs is facing extinction. Which it is, of course. But what they don't seem to realize is that for every one of THEM there are dozens of other authors, just as talented and just as hard-working, who got totally screwed by traditional publishing.

It's almost like some of these successful traditionally-published authors have their own little clique or something. They plug their ears and put their blinders on and ignore what's really happening around them. They ignore the truth.

Jude Hardin said...

But instead of using the savings to be more generous to authors, the six major publishing houses — five of which were sued last year by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division for fixing e-book prices — all rigidly insist on clauses limiting e-book royalties to 25 percent of net receipts. That is roughly half of a traditional hardcover royalty.

I read that when the article first came out, and my first thought was that it's either extremely poor writing or intentionally misleading. He makes it sound as though traditional hardcover royalties are 50% of net receipts, which we all know isn't true.

Rick Schworer said...

BOOM!

Loved it.

TK Kenyon said...

Awesomeness.

Yeah, I've stopped reading Turow, both his fiction-fiction and his non-fiction fiction.

TK Kenyon

Natalie said...

Thanks for posting this – I really needed to hear it. I'm new to the whole publishing world (I'm still working on my first novel!) and Turow's editorial really scared me. I feel much better after reading this. Moral of the story: I need to stop freaking out so much. :)

Barry Eisler said...

David Gaughran has a typically excellent piece on the scam that calls itself The Authors Guild:

http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/a-list-of-things-scott-turow-doesnt-care-about/

I would have left them along time ago, had I ever bothered joining in the first place.

Vincent Zandri, Noir Author said...

I'd be happy to nominate myself president of the author's guild if I wasn't so busy writing novels and making a very nice living as an indie author...Nice work Barry and Joe..

Shaun Horton said...

What gets to me is how little research it takes to find all this obvious information out there about what direction publishing is headed in, and yet, on sites like goodreads, you still see a lot of authors and prospective authors talk about their efforts to get agents and big publishing deals. I just self-published my first book last monday and I can't offer enough thanks to my editor and Mr. Konrath for giving me the information to choose to go the route I did.

Anonymous said...

Who cares? The NY publishers will be gone soon, and there's no longer any possibility of stopping the digital change. If Turow wants to keep writing in the future, he'll be self publishing.

G. M. Frazier said...

Let me preface what I'm about to say with this: I have the utmost respect for Barry Eisler as a novelist and storyteller. Now, with that out of the way, I'll say this: I think I would pass out if Barry didn't find some way to work his gay-rights agenda into almost everything he writes nowadays. With that little hiccup noted, what he has to say here is spot on. Turrow is a boob.

Barry Eisler said...

Not gay rights, GM. Equal rights.

G. M. Frazier said...

Barry: You say tomato, I say to-mah-to, but both are out of place in a discussion about bananas.

Enjoyed London Twist, BTW.

Joe Konrath said...

I know what would make Barry quit mentioning it: When this country treated everyone equally.

Barry Eisler said...

Were my references to Nineteen Eighty-Four, traffic calming, and the Patriot Act also out of place? Or is it only The Gay that's forbidden as an analogy?

Thanks for giving London Twist a try and glad you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, I don't see Mr. Turow running around the internet call people bullshitters and squarely questioning their "integrity."

What happened to "attack the issue, not the speaker?"

G. M. Frazier said...

Yes, oranges and apples are out of place, too. I hope you realize I'm just having a little good-natured fun here. I, personally, don't think the government should be in the marriage business one way or the other. I was kicked of Michelle Bachman's FB page for asking her to explain to me how DOMA is constitutional. (I'm a lawyer as well as a writer.)

BTW, any truth to the rumor that you wanted to title London Twist "Going Down in Bora Bora" but Amazon rejected it. ;-)

Barry Eisler said...

I don't see Turow responding to *anything* on the Internet. That's what makes him a bullshitter.

Anonymous said...

Using the National Organization for Marriage in this way is specious, because it allows you to score PC points without actually interacting with their arguments. They (and I mean they — I'm not associated with them) believe that marriage has a particular definition that has remained fairly constant for 6,000 years of recorded history. You may disagree with their definition, with the basis of their definition, with whether the outcomes they are promoting are worthwhile, with any of a number of additional features of their agenda. But if you aren't interested in a meaningful discussion, then by all means go on winning with sound bites fed to an audience that (mostly) agrees with you.

Joshua James said...

referring to the right for all consenting adults to marry regardless of their sexual orientation seemed more than apt, and it's more than a bit surprising that it would bother anyone... even if it's played off as a "I'm just having fun" while complaining that someone referenced equal rights for gays...

just having fun with homophobia?

I don't think anyone finds it funny... I don't...

G. M. Frazier said...

I wondered how long it would take someone to go down the "I'm offended" road. *yawn*

Joe Konrath said...

What happened to "attack the issue, not the speaker?"

What happened to standing behind your words? Which Turow won't do.

And, coincidentally, neither will you...

Jim Crigler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry Eisler said...

GM, I understand that you're being at least half facetious, but I still don't really understand your point. You keep talking about fruits and vegetables -- as you put it, not just tomatoes, but apples and oranges are out of place in a discussion about bananas. Is your point that all analogies are impermissible? I'd have a hard time agreeing with a proposition like that. Or are you saying that some analogies are okay, but that the four I used (1984, NOM, traffic calming, the Patriot Act) were all inapposite? If the latter, I'd be grateful if you could offer a few analogies you feel would not be "out of place," as you put it, in a discussion about misleadingly named organizations.

Anon, I maintain that my reference to NOM was on point. If you knew nothing about the organization and I asked you -- based solely on its name -- to divine its agenda, you really wouldn't know. Maybe it's about prohibiting gays from marrying. Maybe it's about extending marriage rights to gays. Maybe it's about encouraging young people to marry before having sex. Who could really say from such a vague moniker? The more straightforward name, the one that would immediately signify what the organization fundamentally stands for, would be the National Organization to Prevent Gay Marriage. Or, if we want to be more charitable and as you yourself suggest, The National Organization to Preserve Marriage in Its Current Form. Yet the organization eschewed these obvious and accurate titles in favor of a vague one. They did this deliberately, and that's why I call bullshit.

Lee Edward McIlmoyle said...

Thank you, gentlemen. I had read the Turow Op Ed with alarm, and thought to myself, 'obviously hasn't self-published, or he might actually know a little about whereof he speaks'. Now I'm self-pubbed, and I'm not making the money yet, but I'm still trying. It occurs to me that, if I didn't like the odds, I'd probably be one of those people still seeking validation from the dinosaurs legacy publishers. I've been thinking of trying to sell a trilogy I've been procrastinating on, just to see if I've missed something, but I haven't seen it through so far because the numbers I have read just don't jibe with what people like Scott want us to believe. I've been wibbling over the subject matter, thinking that, if I got the trad route, I'd need the story to be a lot less controversial than it is at present. I think the conclusion I'm arriving at is, I need to forget about it and just keep self-publishing until the cows come home.

Now if only someone would kindly pirate my books... ;)

G. M. Frazier said...

Barry, there is certainly nothing wrong with analogies. I just think the ones you are using in this discussion are a little forced. Your point with NOM is that it was intentionally named this to mislead (or am I misreading you?) Same with the Traffic Calming Campaign. And don't get me started on the Patriot Act. Your argument in the instant case, however, is with Scott Turow who, while president of the Author's Guild, did not name the organization. And while his actions may be deemed counter to the best interests of authors, I think your analogies would hold more illustrative weight if you were trying to show that that the founders in naming their organization the "Authors Guild" in 1921 did so for the express purpose of misleading authors about their real agenda. That is, after all, the point of your analogy with NOM, traffic, and the Patriot Act.

Anonymous said...

Gay used to mean happy.

Now it means something else. :(

Joe Konrath said...

trying to show that that the founders in naming their organization the "Authors Guild" in 1921 did so for the express purpose of misleading authors about their real agenda.

Maybe they did, GM. Did you read David Gaughran's blog?

The Guild makes millions of dollars per year and... does what with the money, other than act as a mouthpiece for legacy publishing?

I don't know how long they've been that mouthpiece, but what if it has always been that way?

And where is all the money going?

When organizations do things that don't make sense, follow the money.

I said in a blog a while back that book writers have never had a union, or anyone to fight for them. Agents (as observed in the DOJ debacle where the AAR came out for publishers) certainly aren't on writers' sides. And why should they be? Legacy publishing pays them, legacy publishing wines and dines them, they know editors a lot better than they know the authors they rep. (Not all agents are like this, but that AAR post was shameful)

Screenwriters have the SGA, which actually wields power.

We've got an entity that, for as long as I've been keeping track, has been on the side of publishers. An entity that is making a whole bunch of money from writers, and... doing what with that money?

Barry Eisler said...

I'd go further -- I don't know that whether an organization's name was chosen for the express purpose of deception, or whether the name has organically come to serve the function of deception, really matters for purposes of my analogies. My point is the same either way -- that the name is misleading.

GM, one other thing that occurred to me. You say, "gay rights, equal rights... it's just tomato, to-mah-to." I wonder whether you would say the same about civil rights. Do you prefer to call them black rights? Tomato, to-mah-to?

Just something to consider.

Anyway, maybe my analogies were indeed unhelpful, because I'd prefer to talk about the substance of my arguments rather than my examples. On the other hand, at least we're no longer making analogies to various fruits and vegetables. I'm not sure that was leading anywhere productive, either.

Dan DeWitt said...

Sooo, Scott Turow doesn't like self-published gay tomatoes?

G. M. Frazier said...

I thought your point was that Turow is a "tool" of legacy publishers.

Joe Konrath said...

Sooo, Scott Turow doesn't like self-published gay tomatoes?

They're separate but equal. We just need to make sure they keep to themselves.

Also, they shouldn't be allowed to marry.

Joe Konrath said...

I thought your point was that Turow is a "tool" of legacy publishers.

I'd say both Turow, and the AG, are tools of legacy publishers.

And the name "Authors Guild" is certainly misleading.

A guild, according to Wiki, is a group of artisans that control the practice of their craft. That isn't what the AG is doing. It's taking money form authors, and siding with publishers--who, by their very existence, have agendas in direct conflict with authors.

Richard Brown said...

"You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it." - Morpheus

G. M. Frazier said...

"You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it." - Morpheus

Not that is an analogy that's right on. Bravo.

Jude Hardin said...

My theory is every traditionally published author is a big fan of traditional publishing until the day their contract doesn't get renewed. Then their tune changes.

Barry had a $500K offer and told them to stuff it. So there goes THAT theory. :)

I have a top agent, but I have chosen not to submit anything to traditional publishers at this time. I just can't imagine waiting six months for an offer to come through, and then another eighteen for the book to finally hit the shelves. All for what probably would amount to a low advance and crap royalties. No thanks. I can be making money on that book during those two years instead of waiting around on a yea or nay from NY.

At this point, the only thing I might want from a major publisher is a print only deal. It would be nice to be in bookstores while they're still around.

Joshua Simcox said...

"What happened to 'attack the issue, not the speaker?'"

He makes a reasonable point.

Turow can't scratch his ass these days without self-appointed members of The Scott Turow Task Force firing venom-tipped arrows in his direction. I've never met the man, never read a word of his fiction, nor do I particularly agree with the statements he's made in the articles dissected here. But the endless barrage of vitriol is becoming ridiculous and it's starting to feel personal.

One of the harshest criticisms leveled at Turow is his unwillingness to elaborate on his points or engage in a debate. But based on some of the statements made about him on this blog, can anyone blame him? Does anyone really believe he'd get a fair shake here?

From Joe and Barry, maybe. But even the most well-reasoned argument isn't going to sway some of the more sycophantic members of the "Self-Publish or Die" movement. I can't really fault the man for not engaging in a pissing-match that wouldn't benefit anyone.

If Turow's wrong, let him be wrong. It doesn't effect any of us. Nor will it take one dime out of Joe's or Barry's pockets. If legacy publishing collapses in the near-future, then Turow will rise or fall based on his willingness to adapt to the new realities of publishing.

Either way, it's not our problem.

We don't have to agree with Turow's opinions, but they are as valid as any of ours. Nor should we take him to task for refusing to engage in a debate that he doesn't owe anyone. We're veering dangerously close to a place where conflicting viewpoints and even the slightest bit of loyalty to legacy publishing are viewed with hostility, and that's not a healthy place for this blog to be.

The flame wars are growing tiresome. I'd rather just read "Haunted House" or a new Jack Daniels. Let Turow do his thing and stop wasting time giving a shit.

- Joshua

Joe Konrath said...

If Turow's wrong, let him be wrong. It doesn't effect any of us.

No. But it effects our peers. And it is seriously hurting them.

You don't get my email, Joshua. I've lost count of the "you've changed my life" emails, which I get because I helped steer someone down the right path.

Turow is steering them down the wrong path. And it's his position that allows him to do that.

In comments here, and elsewhere, authors are saying that some people are agreeing with Turow's bullshit, because they don't know any better.

Well, I know better. The earth ain't flat. And I'm going to call out the pinheads who insist it is.

If I offered bad advice, I sure hope someone would take me to task for it before I hurt somebody.

This isn't a flame war. This is being a good Samaritan, because it is taking me away from my work.

Haunted House is coming along nicely, thanks for mentioning it. :)

David Gaughran said...

@Joshua Simcox

1. You may not have noticed, but there was no comments section underneath the New York Times Op Ed. And there was no comments allowed under the relevant Authors Guild blog post. For authors wanting to respond to Scott Turow's argument, what is a more appropriate venue than their own blog?

2. Scott Turow has a massive platform as a celebrity, a bestselling author, president of the Authors Guild, and a regular at huge media venues like the New York Times. That platform lends him legitimacy, and inexperienced writers are quite likely to take his statements at face value.

3. He uses that platform to regularly advance positions that are damaging to writers. If you care about your fellow writers, and disagree with the positions he outlines, isn't responding the appropriate thing to do?

4. If you don't want to read about it, there's a *really* simple solution.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Re organizational names: How about "People for the American Way"? That could mean anything. In fact, it's a progressive group that probably decided to take a page from the conservative playbook and name itself something "patriotic." (And I saw a site that calls it "another radical left wing organization.") I think Barry's general point about the names of organizations sounding benign and being less so is apt in this discussion. He's pointing out that a group that gives itself a title that sounds like it would help you doesn't always actually do so.

And yes, Turow and his platform as head of the AG and in the NYTimes does hurt would-be authors who know nothing about self-publishing.

Barry, I enjoyed London Twist, and I read it because you mentioned the reaction to the relationship therein... which intrigued me. Myself, I like bananas. But it was nevertheless a really hot book.

Patrice Fitzgerald, another author making real money self-publishing

Joe Konrath said...

I like bananas

They certainly have appeal.

Anonymous said...

Joshua, extremely well said.

David L. Shutter said...

"Turow can't scratch his ass these days without self-appointed members of The Scott Turow Task Force firing venom-tipped arrows in his direction."

Fair enough Joshua. Let's put the the content of Turow's statements aside for a second.

If I'm a pro-print, anti-indie pundit and I long for the good ole' days of 2011 when everything printed and posted about self-pub was snobbish vitriol and I start revisiting that on my blog, contrary to the industry sweeping changes since then, without allowing comment to my public statements, what does that make me?

I'm a cowardly "drive-by" artist.

If I have Turow's CV and do what amounts to the same thing, on some of publishing biggest forums, then what am I?

I'm a shill.

No one in a position of authority and influence such as his should be allowed to be a shill without being called to task for it.

Joshua Simcox said...

@David Gaughran

1. No, I didn't notice the lack of a comments section beneath the New York Times article or the banning of comments beneath the Author's Guild Blog post. Not that it would've convinced me to fashion a stake to burn Turow on at my earliest convenience had I noticed such things. Nor do I feel the need to write doctoral dissertations dissecting every word Turow types.

His behavior may be a bit suspect, but there's nothing in that op-ed piece that warrants the drubbing he's getting here.

2. "Scott Turow has a massive platform as a celebrity, a bestselling author, president of the Authors Guild, and a regular at huge media venues like the New York Times. That platform lends him legitimacy, and inexperienced writers are quite likely to take his statements at face value."

Eh, maybe, but I'm not convinced. Turow does well as a novelist, but to call him a celebrity with a "massive platform" is stretching it. He isn't exactly a household name, and I doubt that even many of his own readers would recognize him on the street. I think you're overestimating just how much pull Turow really has.

As for all the newbie writers he's leading Pied Piper-like off a cliff, give us some credit. Any inexperienced writer worth his salt can sufficiently collect data on both sides of the argument and make an informed decision about how best to get his work into the hands of readers. Attributing Svengali-like powers of persuasion to Turow is laughable.

3. Sure, if you disagree with Turow's positions, it's perfectly appropriate to respond. But he's already been taken to task once before by many others for statements he's made in the past. Turow's wrong. We get it. Now the appropriate thing to do is move on rather than to continue crouching in the weeds waiting to pounce on every statement he makes. After a certain point, belaboring the "Turow's a Tool" argument just isn't interesting anymore.

4. I'm assuming the "really simple" solution to my gripe that you choose not to elaborate on is something snarky along the lines of "Don't Read Joe's blog. Go elsewhere. Fuck off." And that's valid. But I like Joe's blog, and when everyone's behaving themselves and refraining from douchey behavior, I find the information here tremendously helpful. Yes, it would be "simple" for me to leave, but I choose not to do that. Doesn't mean I'm not going to speak up when I feel that certain individuals are engaging in less-than-classy behavior, though. And all the Turow bashing is a great example of that.

- Joshua

Regina Richards said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry Eisler said...

Joshua said:

"He makes a reasonable point [regarding 'What happened to 'attack the issue, not the speaker?']"

Reasonable, yes, though for me not a persuasive one. When someone makes public pronouncements and consistently refuses to back them up, or even to acknowledge public corrections of his mistakes of law and fact, I think we can draw reasonable inferences about that person's integrity and about the value of his pronouncements. As I said, Turow could easily prove me at least partly wrong simply by defending his own words.

"Turow can't scratch his ass these days without self-appointed members of The Scott Turow Task Force firing venom-tipped arrows in his direction."

This seems overblown to me, though I suppose you could say much the same about reactions to anyone who regularly uses his platform to opine on matters of importance to tens of thousands of people. Why is it a bad thing that such public figures are held publicly accountable for their own public utterances?

"One of the harshest criticisms leveled at Turow is his unwillingness to elaborate on his points or engage in a debate. But based on some of the statements made about him on this blog, can anyone blame him? Does anyone really believe he'd get a fair shake here?"

I don't know what you think a "fair shake" would consist of. I'm certain people would vigorously and substantively address the merits of his arguments, as they do the arguments of anyone who posts here. But this is the Internet, Josh. The digital public square. Turow enters it regularly with his posts, then runs away. I say, someone who's afraid of a little heat really has no business stepping into the kitchen.

"From Joe and Barry, maybe. But even the most well-reasoned argument isn't going to sway some of the more sycophantic members of the "Self-Publish or Die" movement."

If swaying the members of this movement you posit is the definition of success, success is probably impossible. Why, then, does Turow bother posting anything at all?

"I can't really fault the man for not engaging in a pissing-match that wouldn't benefit anyone."

Why do you assume it would be a "pissing match?" Why do you assume no one would benefit if Turow attempted to publicly defend his controversial claims?

"If Turow's wrong, let him be wrong. It doesn't effect any of us."

Joe and David have already addressed this.

"We don't have to agree with Turow's opinions, but they are as valid as any of ours."

Forgive me, but this is glib. All opinions are not equally valid. If I opined that the earth is flat, I doubt you would find my opinion worthwhile.

Opinions unsupported by evidence, or contradicted by evidence, are not as valid as opinions supported by evidence. Opinions defended with argument, facts and logic are more valid than ones debunked and left naked by their makers. We all know this. It's silly to suggest otherwise.

Barry Eisler said...

"Nor should we take him to task for refusing to engage in a debate that he doesn't owe anyone."

Why on earth not?

It's not a question of what Turow "owes" anyone. If he has the time and inclination to opine on matters he thinks are of importance to tens of thousands of authors, he ought to have the integrity to respond when people like David, Joe, Mike, and I prove him wrong. Doesn't he care that we might be misleading people? I certainly care that he is. Either he's embarrassingly thin-skinned and pusillanimous, or he doesn't much care about the welfare of other authors. Or both.

"We're veering dangerously close to a place where conflicting viewpoints and even the slightest bit of loyalty to legacy publishing are viewed with hostility, and that's not a healthy place for this blog to be."

Forgive me but again, this seems overblown. Turow has made a number of arguments that many people find inane and dangerously misleading. He's being criticized for it and doesn't have the balls or integrity to respond. I don't know how you get from there to the unhealthy place you imagine.

"The flame wars are growing tiresome."

Does this really seem like a flame war to you? Between who? Turow's not even here. Regardless, I don't see anyone flaming him, just inviting him to defend his own words and mocking him when he doesn't. I don't think mocking constitutes a flame war. In fact, I think mockery of pompous public figures is healthy for society and that lese majeste is disastrous.

"Not that [a lack of comments section in the NYT or on the AG blog] would've convinced me to fashion a stake to burn Turow on at my earliest convenience had I noticed such things. Nor do I feel the need to write doctoral dissertations dissecting every word Turow types."

Before you were just being overblown. Now you've escalated to silly straw men. No one is doing anything remotely like stake burning or dissertations. Turow, an influential figure given to making public pronouncements on matters of importance to tens of thousands of authors, is being taken to task. It's hard for me to understand why anyone except maybe Turow himself would have a problem with this, let alone describe what's happening here the way you're trying to.

"His behavior may be a bit suspect, but there's nothing in that op-ed piece that warrants the drubbing he's getting here."

Did you read Masnick's piece?

"Now the appropriate thing to do is move on rather than to continue crouching in the weeds waiting to pounce on every statement he makes."

Do you really imagine it all the way you describe it? People crouching in the weeds, waiting for Turow to speak?

"After a certain point, belaboring the "Turow's a Tool" argument just isn't interesting anymore."

I think David already alluded to an excellent approach to dealing with uninteresting arguments.

"I'm assuming the "really simple" solution to my gripe that you choose not to elaborate on is something snarky along the lines of 'Don't Read Joe's blog. Go elsewhere. Fuck off.'"

Or maybe just, "Skip this uninteresting post."

"Doesn't mean I'm not going to speak up when I feel that certain individuals are engaging in less-than-classy behavior, though."

On this, I think we can agree, though I'm far more concerned with substantive arguments than I am with classy or unclassy manners. But if you'll agree that substantive argument is at leas as important as classy manners, I hope you'll understand why I'm no more willing to offer Turow a pass than you are willing to give one to me.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

My theory is every traditionally published author is a big fan of traditional publishing until the day their contract doesn't get renewed. Then their tune changes.

I was in the middle of a big hard cover deal with Penguin (followed by a Signet Select paperback) when I seriously started thinking about self-publishing my next book. Why? Because my friends were all selling ebooks like crazy, making money like crazy and I had a hard cover coming out, which was the kiss of death.

I remember Barry and Brett Battles and Lee Goldberg feeling sorry for me at a conference because I had to wait to dip my toes in the water. The book wasn't coming out for another six or more months and I was just dying to self-publish.

So my tune changed long before I had to worry about contract renewals. It still took me a while to finally make the decision, but concern over a traditional publishing contract had nothing to do with it.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Okay, hands raised. After Barry's last comment, how many of you looked up pusillanimous?

I certainly did. Great word, Barry. :)

David L. Shutter said...

"Okay, hands raised. After Barry's last comment, how many of you looked up pusillanimous?"

Lol, raises hand. It's not a classic Barry post if you're not clicking over to Webster's.

Jude Hardin said...

You guys are kidding, right? Everyone knows what pusillanimous means. It means you're fascinated with cats.

Joshua Simcox said...

@Barry

Ah, the moment I've been dreading: when a few of my thoughts catch the attention of Mr. Eisler, the ninja lawyer extraordinaire moonlighting as a thriller writer. I'm obviously way outclassed here, so I'll only address a few of your questions and statements:


"Why do you assume it would be a 'pissing match?' Why do you assume no one would benefit if Turow attempted to publicly defend his controversial claims?"

I believe there is a disproportionate level of vehemence being directed at Turow. At this point, every statement he makes seems to fan the flames and I doubt that those who seem to get the biggest hard-on from Turow bashing would be receptive to anything he has to say in his defense. But I could be wrong.

I recall something you wrote earlier about the addictive quality of self-righteous anger (not your exact words; I'm only loosely paraphrasing), and I think that applies here. Turow hating has become the cool thing for a certain faction that regularly read this blog, and no, I'm not convinced the members of that faction would treat Turow respectfully and courteously in a debate.

"Forgive me, but this is glib. All opinions are not equally valid. If I opined that the earth is flat, I doubt you would find my opinion worthwhile."

I would agree...if Turow had made such a ludicrous statement as the one you used for an example. But he didn't. Note that I didn't say ALL opinions made by EVERY member of the human race are valid. I simply stated that the opinions Turow offered in the op-ed piece are as valid as any of ours on the subject of PUBLISHING. I forgive you, but there's nothing glib about that.


"Before you were just being overblown. Now you've escalated to silly straw men. No one is doing anything remotely like stake burning or dissertations. Turow, an influential figure given to making public pronouncements on matters of importance to tens of thousands of authors, is being taken to task. It's hard for me to understand why anyone except maybe Turow himself would have a problem with this, let alone describe what's happening here the way you're trying to."

You know, for as many times as I've heard the term "Straw Man" bandied about here, I can't remember just what the hell it means, so you'll have to elaborate.

As for being overblown, yes, I deliberately made over-the-top statements for comedic effect as a means of adding emphasis to my points. And I think you get that. You know very well that I'm aware of the fact there's no actual stake burning taking place. I'm not sure why you felt the need to spell that out.

"Turow has made a number of arguments that many people find inane and dangerously misleading."

Inane, maybe. But "dangerously misleading"? While we're on the topic of overblown statements, I'd say that one likely qualifies. Is Turow causing any actual harm? Is anyone's life, health, or livelihood threatened by anything he's said? I would say not, and that's why I'm having a hard time with all the vitriol.

It goes back to the statement I made earlier about how laughable it is to consider Turow a Svengali with a hypnotic hold on newbie writers. Do you really believe his words carry that much weight?

Joshua Simcox said...

"Does this really seem like a flame war to you? Between who? Turow's not even here. Regardless, I don't see anyone flaming him, just inviting him to defend his own words and mocking him when he doesn't. I don't think mocking constitutes a flame war. In fact, I think mockery of pompous public figures is healthy for society and that lese majeste is disastrous."

I'll concede this one. "Flame War" wasn't the best choice of words on my part.


"On this, I think we can agree, though I'm far more concerned with substantive arguments than I am with classy or unclassy manners. But if you'll agree that substantive argument is at leas as important as classy manners, I hope you'll understand why I'm no more willing to offer Turow a pass than you are willing to give one to me."

Why assume that I'm unwilling to give you a pass? I wasn't singling you out. I'm less concerned with specific statements you've made than the senseless smear campaign many seem to be waging against Turow.

And yes, I do agree that a substantive argument is as important as classy manners, but the substance of an argument is often smothered by a haughty, disrespectful attitude (not that I'm accusing you of such), so I'm one of the few here that does believe in the importance of tone.

- Joshua

Joshua Simcox said...

"Okay, hands raised. After Barry's last comment, how many of you looked up pusillanimous?"

In a previous post, Joe once described Barry's tone as "lofty."

He wasn't kidding. :)

David Gaughran said...

@Joshua Simcox

Thanks for replying. And no, me saying there's a simple solution to when a topic bores you is not me saying "fuck off." I'm merely saying that alternative reading material is always a click away on the internet. I like Joe's blog too, but not every post he has every written has captured my attention - nor do I expect it to or demand same - and in such cases I simply clicked away.

You may feel that this argument has been overdone, and was unnecessary, but I fundamentally disagree. I think new ground has been covered here. TechDirt's piece had a great takedown of his piracy fears (my favorite bit was when they showed that no-one was actually searching for free Scott Turow e-books). My big takeaway from Joe and Barry's piece was how the Authors Guild was now censoring debate (ironically engaging in the same "Soviet-style repression" that Turow feared at the end of his Op Ed). And in my own blog post, I revealed that the Executive Director of the Authors Guild (Paul Aiken) is earning $180,000 grand a year.

As for the latter point, you might ask why that's important. Well, aside from noting that salary is over seven times what the average AG member makes, and one quarter of the TOTAL membership dues, when you follow the money interesting things come to light. For example, the AG spends $1.4m on lobbying each year, but their total income from membership dues is around half that - $800,000.

How do they make up the shortfall? Donations. Who is donating the money? That's not disclosed, but wouldn't it be interesting to know?

Of course, if you feel that none of the above issues are worth raising, that's your prerogative, but I respectfully disagree.

P.S. I don't think Turow has Svengali like powers, but I do think he's status as a bestseller and prez of the AG means that his comments will be widely shared and disseminated both through traditional media and social media - which was exactly the case after his Op Ed. I get emails from writers considering self-publishing all the time, and the content of those proves the old quote that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.

Joe Konrath said...

Turow hating has become the cool thing for a certain faction

I pride myself in my ability to change my mind as contrary and compelling data comes in.

Hate Turow? If he actually made some sense and started helping the people in the organization he's president of, I'd be the first to publicly applaud him.

I don't hate. Too much energy, all of it negative.

I teach. And often teaching involves eviscerating contrary arguments. Especially those accepted and perpetuated as fact.

Turow is causing actual harm. He's repeatedly tried make a scapegoat of Amazon, a company that has actually done more for authors than--well, anyone ever.

And you're confused about Barry. He's a fiction writer who moonlights as a ronin lawyer. He's also one of only a handful of people I've ever met who, like myself, can change his opinion.

He doesn't do it often, because he isn't wrong often. And he isn't wrong here.

Societal norms lean toward burning effigies. Turow qualifies in spades. But we don't need to burn his likeness when we can explicate his words and reveal them as bullshit on the public forum known as the Internet.

How much bullshit does a man have to continually spew--as the figurehead of an organization purportedly created to help its members--before one is allowed to question that man's intent and integrity?

I have my detractors. But you might notice how none of them fisk me. People don't like things I say, but I've yet to encounter anyone who brings up smart, logical points backed by facts to refute me.

We've been refuting Turow for over a year. We've used logic, facts, and smart arguments.

He doesn't respond. Worse, he shuts off comments on the Guild blog.

Failsies.

If this aspect of my blog doesn't interest you, I understand.

But I think a big part of teaching the right way of doing things is examining the wrong way of doing things, and calling those pinheads out.

It's a part of who I am and what I do. And not a part I want to change.

Joe Konrath said...

the senseless smear campaign many seem to be waging against Turow.

Senseless? I'd call it carefully thought out and warranted.

Smear campaign? I'm not making stuff up to discredit Turow. I'm using his own words. If anything, he's smearing himself.

Never met him, may have read him at some point but can't recall. I have no opinions about him whatsoever.

But I do have strong opinions about what the President of the Authors Guild tells my peers. Because if no one informs the Emperor he's naked, it's all a bunch of people lying. Which ain't good.

Dan DeWitt said...

@Joshua Simcox I get your point, and in some instances I would agree with you, but I don't think it necessarily applies to Turow for a simple reason: he keeps saying dumb things, and he's doing it as the head of the AG.

It's not like he's still getting beat up for a slip of the tongue last year. He continues to use his AG platform to mislead. He's publicly stated his support for illegal behavior. He's turned a blind eye to very shady dealings by traditional publishing. Worst of all, he does it merely to support his own self-interests, and not the interests of those he represents.

Everytime he says something new, he should expect to get called on it. I, for one, would love to never hear his name again, but he just won't stop being wrong.

Paolo Amoroso said...

When Mr. Turow performs web searches related to digital books, such as the ones looking for pirate sources he mentioned in his op-ed, he might consider using a slightly more popular and current spelling, such as ebooks instead of e-books. Here is a useful Google Trends chart comparing the different spellings.

Terri Reid said...

Gosh! I want to join the Authors Guild just so I can quit it! Excellent column!!!!

Barry Eisler said...

Joshua, thanks for the long and substantive reply to my comments. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to have someone quote me and respond to what I actually said! We don't see eye to eye, but I appreciate the way you've argued your points. Dave, Joe, and Dan have already said pretty much what I would have, so I'll just add that for those who enjoyed "pusillanimous," I'm glad. Months can go by before you get a chance to deploy a word like that. :D

STH said...

Anon said "What happened to "attack the issue, not the speaker?”

That’s an odd question because this essay, and all of the essays linked within it, illuminate and explain the issue in great detail, thus demonstrating the level of bullshit in Turow’s piece.

Barry Eisler said "I don't see Turow responding to *anything* on the Internet. That's what makes him a bullshitter.”

Well… that, and all the bullshit.

Anonymous said...

I'm amused by this idea that we should simply move on and let this go. He published this nonsense in the New York Freaking Times. You don't do that unless you want attention, and you aren't *able* to do it if you don't appear to represent a significant public interest.

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the damned kitchen.

John Barlow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Barlow said...

Turow's novels are set in the fictional Kindle County.

Jude Hardin said...

Turow's novels are set in the fictional Kindle County.

Talk about irony!

Dan DeWitt said...

John, I thought you were joking, but then I looked it up. The universe is awesome.

Anonymous said...

Intelligent discourse, panty-imploding adjectives and bananas. My particular flavor of kink.

I'll be in my bunk.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering is someone could clear up this part of Turow's statement:

"But instead of using the savings to be more generous to authors, the six major publishing houses — five of which were sued last year by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division for fixing e-book prices — all rigidly insist on clauses limiting e-book royalties to 25 percent of net receipts. That is roughly half of a traditional hardcover royalty. "

So is he saying authors usually get 50 percent royalty rates on hardcovers? Obviously they don't, but I'm trying to understand what he's saying here.

Jude Hardin said...

So is he saying authors usually get 50 percent royalty rates on hardcovers? Obviously they don't, but I'm trying to understand what he's saying here.

I think he's saying that the crappy $1.25 that traditionally-published authors earn per $12.99 ebook is half of the crappy $2.50 they earn on a $25.00 hardcover.

It's worded very poorly, as I noted before.

David L. Shutter said...

"...25 percent of net receipts. That is roughly half of a traditional hardcover royalty."

Yeah, that's being discussed in more places than any of his other comments it seems. No one can figure out what he's talking about. We'll never find out, cuz there no response from him anywhere, but with so much fail in one article it's hard to imagine it matters much.

Joshua Simcox said...

I've enjoyed the spirited debate, guys. Thanks for arguing your points respectfully and intelligently.

Barry, because you've been such a classy sparring partner, I'm going to buy something of yours and give it a read.

Jude Hardin said...

I've decided to write a historical novel, a fictional account of the battles fought by the Roman emperor Pusillanimous. I'm looking for a collaborator if anyone's interested.

Barry Eisler said...

Joshua: "Because you've been such a classy sparring partner, I'm going to buy something of yours and give it a read."

Back at you, Joshua, and thank you again. And hope you enjoy that read. :)

Jude: "I've decided to write a historical novel, a fictional account of the battles fought by the Roman emperor Pusillanimous. I'm looking for a collaborator if anyone's interested."

If we can name his sidekick Testescules, I'm in.

Jude Hardin said...

If we can name his sidekick Testescules, I'm in.

Perfect!

R.A. Mathis said...

Fun fact: Today is Scott Turow's birthday.

Jacob Chastain said...

As a person who researches widely, I’ve been back and forth on the issue of if Self-Publishing is truly the best option, or if a hybrid model (with the big five or Amazon) is better… I’ve read every post on this blog and their comments. I’ve read all the blog posts from Dean Wesley, Ruche, Hugh Howey, Lindsay Brouker, and listened to every episode of the self-publishing podcast…But I have also read the opposing views laid out clearly by Chuck Wendig, Andrew Shaffer, Tiffany Resiz, and tons of lit agents.

And yet, there really is no answer. Rarely, I find, are things as dramatic as they seem. Joe hates legacy publishing because they didn’t know how to manage his books better than he could and they seem to screw authors…Ok. Fine. However, for every argument Barry and Joe have, there are hundreds of agents and authors saying the model is still alive and well. Every day I see passionate agents selling and acquiring new books and NOT ignoring truths about self-publishing.

So I wonder, who are the ones who are wrong? If anyone? Have you, Joe, just simply created an echo chamber based on your own opinions and evidence, while the rest of the world is still just rolling on? Or is it the other way around?

I understand I am new to publishing, and that works against my own analysis of the data, but it appears as if the “divide” between what is the reality of publishing is caused by something else other than a difference in views. But what?

Jude Hardin said...

However, for every argument Barry and Joe have, there are hundreds of agents and authors saying the model is still alive and well.

That's like saying that the American bison is alive and well. They're around, but the numbers will never be what they once were.

For a hundred or so bestselling fiction authors, traditional publishing is still the best choice. They get big advances, their hardcovers and paperbacks sell well in brick and mortar stores, and their ebooks sell well in all formats.

But there's really no midlist to speak of anymore. So if you're not one of those lucky hundred, or if your first couple of titles don't strike gold, traditional publishing is a dead end. You either make it big, or you’re sent home with an F.

With self-publishing, you can keep experimenting until you find something that works. Plus, you get to keep your rights, and you get to make four times the royalties on ebooks. All while maintaining complete control over the entire process.

So it seems pretty clear to me that in 2013 (and in the foreseeable future) self-publishing is the best choice for the vast majority of authors.

Anonymous said...


Jacob Chastain said...
"but it appears as if the “divide” between what is the reality of publishing is caused by something else other than a difference in views. But what?"


It's all about money.

If you can't make decent money with the trad publisher's, then you might (and I emphasize might) have a chance to make decent money by being an indie author.

Midlist authors don't last forever with the trad publishers. They gotta make room for the hot new up-and-comers that pop up. So some of the older midlisters gotta be let go like a bad habit. It sucks, but that's life--survival of the fittest.

Frankly, if I was getting million dollar advances from the trad publishers, I wouldn't leave either.

Jude Hardin said...

They gotta make room for the hot new up-and-comers that pop up.

And guess where they're popping up.

Self-publishing.

Tracy Sharp said...

Well said, Mr. Eisler, and as always, Joe!

Pale Rambler said...

As a newbie to this game, I appreciate the fervor running through the original post and the comments (in particular those that stay on point). Truth might be found more to one side than another in any debate, but without considering all available points of view it's difficult for any sensible person to reach a well-considered conclusion.

That said, there's validity to the argument that a man unwilling to engage in unfiltered dialogue on a topic does so because he realizes either his basic argument is flawed or he lacks the support of his peers.

Walter Knight said...

Kindlel is the only reason I'm allowed to be a money making author. I'm not rich, but I got a lot farther than anyone thought I would.

L.L. Muir said...

I spare myself a lot of false panic by checking this blog first before I let someone convince me the sky is falling.
NOW, I'll go read the other pieces.
Thanks, Joe!

Anonymous said...

Joe,

I had some problem working out where you were, yourself, going. Turow's piece was messy, and I'd not defend him or his organisation. But he touched on many points of interest and importance as well as the focus of your attack.

Legacy publishing itself may or may not be defensible - the worst of it obviously isn't. But the whole publishing industry is varied, complex and wide-spread. I tend to doubt anyone who suggests any one form is *the* future.

I note you example yourself as part of the response. But you are already very successful; many writers remain struggling and what you claim for yourself is not true for them.

Underpinning these discussions is the issue of copyright; without it there is no industry. Praising piracy might suit you, but other authors *do* suffer badly from it. Piracy itself does undermine copyright. As does multiple distribution copying.

Attacking Turow in itself doesn't particularly interest me. But as I said, I found your own article confused, with a plethora of examples which submerged your points. And, however much legacy publishing may concern you, it didn't seem to me that you did more than vent.

I often come across your name highly praised; I hope your normal style is tighter and better argued.

jcr (Joseph)Harris in the UK

Neil said...

The playing field is leveling rapidly much to the consternation of "traditionalists". The 'bottom up' change to individual exercise of freedom of expression (and publishing) is a threat to the "traditional". Good thing. Recommended reading from a great thinker..Butler Shaffer at Lewrockwell.com I add the poem found in his writings as it's descriptive of what's happening.

"Perhaps in one of my favorite poems — one I often recite and which serves as the title of this E-Book — can be found the fate of a political system that the members of CNN's self-styled "best political team" will never fathom. It is Shelley's poem, Ozymandias:

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

regards,
Nils

Joe Konrath said...

But he touched on many points of interest and importance

Many? I saw one: publishers offering 17.5% ebook royalties.

But I haven't seen him do anything in his capacity as AG prez to change that. OTOH, he's certainly vocal in his disapproval of Amazon, piracy, etc.

it didn't seem to me that you did more than vent.

I explained to Turow what he needs to know. This isn't venting. It is teaching.

Ed Renehan said...

Turow = Lear ranting futilely and impotently against the [liberating] facts of the new agile publishing paradigm.

Stephen M Holak said...

Fist pump; I posted on the same thing this morning

gw2 gold said...

I read that when the article first came out, and my first thought was that it's either extremely poor writing or intentionally misleading. He makes it sound as though traditional hardcover royalties are 50% of net receipts, which we all know isn't true.