Thursday, May 29, 2014

James Patterson BEA Fail

James Patterson just spoke at Book Expo America.

He's trotting out the same old nonsense. So I'm going to expose it for nonsense it is. Again.

Patterson: Hello, I'm Jeff Bezos.

Joe sez: No, you're not. Bezos is smarter and richer than you are.

Patterson: No, I'm not, but I'm sorry, I can't do that maniacal laugh ...

Joe sez: I'm guessing it's a laugh that shows the publishing world he's right and going to triumph, and they're wrong and going to lose.

Patterson: I'm trying to get people to focus on the perilous future of books in this country. And that future is happening right now, this year.

Joe sez: The perilous future is apparently more authors than ever making money, and major publishers posting record profits.

Sounds awful.

Patterson: There is an evolution/revolution going on and it affects everybody who reads, everybody who writes, everybody who publishes books.

Joe sez: I agree. But for many writers and readers, it affects them for the better.

Patterson: Small bookstores are being shuttered, book chains are closing, libraries are having serious trouble getting funding, especially school libraries.

Joe sez: Bookstores are closing because people are buying their books online.

That's like saying, "all the laundromats are going out of business!" which implies people aren't washing their clothes, but ignores that every home now has a washer and dryer.

Patterson: Every publisher and the people who work in these publishing houses is feeling a great deal of pain and stress.

Joe sez: So? We don't need publishers. We need authors, readers, and a way to get books to those readers. Publishers are a value added service, not a necessity.

Patterson: If we don't fix those problems, the quality of American literature is going to suffer. Fewer or no more Infinite Jests, Blood Meridians, or Book Thiefs, less of a chance for young writers, like James Patterson back in 1976, to be published — or maybe that would have been a good thing?

Joe sez: Why do you think writers will stop writing if publishers disappear? If anything, there are more writers than ever before. And these books can reach readers directly. They won't risk being passed up by the gatekeepers, like many great books have been. And they'll never go out of print because publishers did a poor job promoting them.

And why did you pick those particular titles, all bestsellers? Surely you know not every book that publishers deign worthy enough to release is a masterpiece, or a huge hit. With publishers as vanguards of American literature, I argue we can use some new vanguards.

I have a wacky idea. How about letting readers decide for themselves what is worthy?

Patterson: I'd like you to think about this, and I'd like the press to think about this: Publishers are not terribly profitable. If those profits are further diminished, publishers will produce less serious literature. It's just a fact of life.

Joe sez: Publishers don't produce literature. They release it. Writers produce it.

Patterson: And that's one of the reasons why right now, the future of our literature is in danger. I will say that there are no clear-cut villains —  yet — but there are no heroes either,

Joe sez: I can point to plenty of heroes.

  • H.M. Ward 
  • Hugh Howey 
  • Data Guy
  • Barry Eisler 
  • Bob Mayer 
  • Kris Rusch
  • David Gaughran 
  • Passive Guy
  • Dean Wesley Smith 
  • Joanna Penn
  • Amanda Hocking 
  • Bella Andre
  • Selena Kitt
  • Blake Crouch
  • Mark Coker
  • Darcie Chan
  • C.J. Lyons
  • L.J. Sellers
  • Marie Force
  • Liliana Hart
  • Courtney Milan
  • Russell Blake
  • Michael J. Sullivan
  • Theresa Ragan
  • Jeff Bezos and Amazon

And villains? I'm not going to be so mean as to name names, but you can spot many of them within these groups:

  • Legacy publishing
  • The Authors Guild

Patterson: and I think it's important that major players involved in publishing, as well as the press, and our government, step up and take responsibility for the future of our literature and the part it plays in our culture.
[Big applause.]

Joe sez: Rah rah rah. Cue the Star Spangled Banner.

I'm not sure what hurts more, a smart guy like Patterson sporting bullshit, or the crowd eating it up like it's free brownies.

Yes, let's get the press and the government involved in saving the publishers. Publishers, those philanthropic innovators who spent the last fifty years screwing authors, trying to stall technology, and charging readers too much. Because publishers are so inept, so clueless, so greedy and stupid, that only a government bail-out can save them.

Because only a few enlightened people in NY can safeguard our culture.

Ack.

Patterson: Right now bookstores, libraries, authors, publishers, and books themselves are caught in the crossfire of an economic war between publishers and online providers.

Joe sez: Pretend there's a humorous cartoon here of a novel dodging bullets in a battlefield. The novel says "Cultural American Literature" on it. The people firing guns are labeled "Amazon".

I like how Jim said publishers are caught in a war between... publishers. That implies they're shooting themselves, which metaphorically they are. But I'm guessing Jim just screwed up his speech there.

Patterson: To be a teeny, tiny bit more specific, Amazon seems to be out to control shopping in this country. This will ultimately have an effect on every grocery- and department-store chain, on every big-box store, and ultimately it will put thousands of Mom-and-Pop stores out of business.

Joe sez: Because Amazon is forcing everyone to shop with them.

Oh, wait... people are shopping at Amazon willingly. Because they prefer to.

So that would mean Amazon isn't putting anyone out of business. CUSTOMERS are putting people out of business.

Patterson: It just will, and I don't see anybody writing about it, but that certainly sounds like the beginning of a monopoly to me.

Joe sez: Which is why Jim demanded all of his books be pulled off of Amazon.com immediately.

On the off chance that Jeff Bezos is reading this, please take Patterson's books down right now. We don't want Patterson to look like a hypocrite, do we?

Patterson: Amazon also, as you know, wants to control book selling, book buying, and even book publishing, and that is a national tragedy.

Joe sez: A national tragedy that includes more choices, lower prices, and more people reading.

I can almost hear "Taps" playing in the background. It's heartbreaking.

Patterson: If this is to be the new American way, then maybe it has to be changed, by law if necessary, immediately, if not sooner.

Joe sez: Apparently Jim didn't read my prior fisk, or he would have gotten rid of the monumentally stupid line "immediately, if not sooner." And stopped the patriotic culture nonsense.

Patterson: I think that might have been a worthy subject for this BEA. I think it's a subject that Indie Bound, the PEN American Center, the National Book Foundation, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Huffington, and NPR should latch onto with vigor, with passion, with urgency.

Joe sez: What subject, Jim? You didn't actually say anything substantive. And what you did say was either false or made no sense.

Patterson: Thank you for this generous honor. It means a lot to me, it really does. I'm pretty emotional about it, more than I ever am at speaking engagements. It means a lot to my wife Sue who's here, and to our son Jack, who has become a big reader primarily because of independent bookstores pushing books at them. Thank you very much.

Joe sez: Patterson got the Indie Champion Award for pledging $1,000,000 to help indie bookstores. So I can understand his speech being slanted to his audience.

But he could have focused on what indies can do to compete with Amazon. Blake Crouch and I had plenty of ideas.

Instead, he went the lazy route for easy applause, spouted a lot of nonsense, and offered no solutions other than let's get the press and the government against Amazon.

I'm getting tired of calling out Patterson on his bullshit. But he keeps spreading it around, and people cheer and get all patriotic and riled up, and common sense flies out the window.

We can't allow that. Not as authors. Not as readers.

Please retweet, comment, and link to this. Let's spread a little sanity and common sense to make up for the silliness.