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In case you missed it, the National Book Foundation exhibited an epic fail today in the Young People's category which resulted in Lauren Myracle being asked to "withdraw herself", lots of media outlets (and the NBF) saying she was a class act all the way and then author Libba Bray sending out a blog post that called bullshit on the whole situation and reminding everyone that class has nothing to do with this and the awards have been reduced to a farce of Shakespearian levels.

Go - read Libba's post and revel in its wonderfulness.

In other literary news, the NYT had a fawning article this weekend all about how Amazon has got the traditional publishers quaking in their boots as they remove all the boundaries between writers and readers and publish authors without agents, editors, etc. Somehow this is Amazon "writing publishers out of the deal" because somehow when Amazon signs authors it is not as a publisher but as a bookseller that is just helping the world by getting that problematic publishing industry out of the way:

"The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader," he [Amazon executive Russell Grandinetti] said. "Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity."

Really? REALLY? You don't need an agent to navigate the contracts for you? Here's what an amazon contract looks like per the article:

Her contract has a clause that forbids her from discussing the details, which is not traditional in publishing. The publicity plans for the book are also secret.

Hmm. So you don't need an agent because the average writer is just fine on negotiating sales and rights and really, Amazon will take care of all that. Promise. Plus you don't need an editor because they just slow down the process of getting the book out to readers. Seriously. Writers do just a fine job of editing themselves or you can always hire a freelance editor on your own and they can do those editing bits for you. (Of course if you signed with a traditional publisher you would be paid for your book and an editor, who wants to publish your book in the first place, would edit it with you. You wouldn't have to pay him/her for their work - the publisher would pay you for yours.)

But apparently that all just slows you down and is unnecessary.

And yes, there are 122 books being published by Amazon this fall in a "striking amount of genres". I assume these special 122 are the ones that will actually be edited by folks at Amazon although whether or not any of those authors have received advances is unknown (other than the $800,000 to Penny Marshall - proving that Amazon has a lot more in common with traditional publishers than not when it comes to celebrity authors & big payouts). But how many thousands, no tens of thousands, of authors is Amazon publishing that are not edited? How many just sign up and publish their e-books on Amazon sharing the profits of their 99 cent or $2.99 or $5.99 titles for the privilege of being downloadable off the site?

And more importantly how many of those titles does Amazon have to publish before we get to say that this is a vanity publisher we are dealing with? Am I the only one who wonders why the media keeps touting Amazon as a terrifying upstart that has publishers and agents quaking in their boots when really they are doing the same thing vanity publishers have been doing for decades?

Is there anything so different about you splitting the profits of your e-book paranormal romance with Amazon as opposed to paying up front for someone to print your grandmother's recipes? (My family actually did this with an online photo store and we love it.) I know it is hard to get published these days (do I ever know) and I know publishers are not always right and I know good books fall between the cracks. But none of that is new. And writers publishing their books on their own is not a new idea either. But we didn't call them "indies" before and we didn't suggest they were going rogue against the cruel establishment either.

What is striking about all of the recent press on Amazon is the notion that somehow what they are selling to desperate writers is better than any other deal that has come down the pike - that they are the ones who really care about writers and readers and all those traditional industry folk are just out to use and abuse the rest of us. The fact that Amazon is making money off all these writerly hopes is rarely mentioned but it's time folks started doing the math and really thinking about just what Amazon is selling. Is it all about books or more the dream of being published, no matter how much you have to pay for it?

comments

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Yeaaah, I'm not keen on this Amazon thing. Too many people seem to be afraid of them, because they're this ginormous company, but I just don't see them really and truly doing anything for the future of books and quality literature. This is all about profit, and authors who get caught up into this, "Oh, you don't need editors, let US take care of you," thing are inevitably going to get burned.

...and then there will be those whose work won't be edited, and as good as they are for Amazon is as good as they'll ever be. Which is depressing. Being edited and critiqued and rewriting helps a person grow as a writer. Who wants to be with a publisher who condemns you to stay as you are????


This article is so right on. When one entity controls production, fabrication, purchase, distribution and profiteering, we call it vertical integration, and it is generally frowned upon. Not only is it a silly way of doing business (has anything good ever come from a community of "yes men"?) but it is bad for books. And it cheapens the process.

Also, Amazon gives me the willies. And just thinking about it makes me want to go out and spend an obscene amount of money at a local bookstore.

Maybe I'll pick up a second copy of SHINE. Just because.

Amazon is really just a vanity publisher in this situation. End of story. They might have a bigger name, but it's still up to the writer using them to be responsible for their own work and business decisions.

Off to read the articles now...

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