Last week there was some publishing news so big that I’ve been wondering ever since why we haven’t been talking about it here. But it’s like that classic left-wing admonition: “I looked around me at what was happening and wondered why somebody wasn’t DOING anything about it… and then I realized I WAS somebody.”
Oh, that’s right.
So, unqualified as I am to write this post, today I’m posting about it. I’m going to keep it short and mostly link to more qualified sources so that you all can use your Murderati time today to catch up, if you haven’t been following along. The news, of course, is that the Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five of the Big Six publishers, alleging collusion in e-book prices and sales models.
If you haven’t read about it, do that first, here.
So what does this mean for us as authors, exactly?
I have no idea.
I can’t imagine it’s going to be good for advances for traditional book contracts, which have been dropping steadily over the last few years even before this. Damages are being claimed for consumers of e books and not for the authors who have suffered from publishers fixing prices far too high for e books, so there’s no restitution coming there.
What I do know is that it’s going to mean SOMETHING.
Joe Konrath tends to be right about these kinds of things, so I’d highly recommend reading this blog of his and subsequent ones as this case progresses. And April Hamilton has summed up quite a few of the arguments going on in the publishing world over all this.
What I DON’T recommend is ignoring it as if it’s some esoteric business thing that has nothing to do with you.
Writing a book is so hard all on its own that it’s very distracting and anxiety-provoking to have to speculate on how something like this lawsuit may affect your own ability to make a living. I know.
When I was a screenwriter, the life was so 24/7 crazy that I adopted the head-in-the-sand attitude of most screenwriters: “Oh, I don’t have time to keep up with union issues, I am Too Busy with Very Important Writing.”
That is, until an assault by some highly-paid screenwriters on the WGA credits rules so floored and angered me that I got politically involved, so involved that I ended up running for and winning a seat on the WGA Board of Directors.
Now, that wasn’t the brightest career move I could have made, because in truth NO ONE has the time to write and serve on a union Board of Directors at the same time. But being on the board did put the reality of the business changes that were going on in the film industry right in my face. Unignorable.
And what I realized was – I’ve got to get out of this. It’s not sustainable. If the film business model is going to keep changing in this direction, I personally won’t be able to make a living as a screenwriter in five or six years. Which were remarkably coherent thoughts for such a right-brained person as I am, actually. Absolutely not anything I wanted to think about, much less have to act on, but I knew I couldn’t not act.
And I started putting my eggs in other baskets and writing novels while I watched things steadily get worse for screenwriters.
Now I’m making a comfortable living as an author, while a lot of my screenwriter friends have lost their houses and/or haven’t had a film job in years.
I’m not trying to sound dire, especially when I’m being so vague about what all this will mean for us. And of course the news that the publishing industry is undergoing a massive sea change is no news at all for anyone who’s been paying any attention over the last few years. But I do find some authors’ reactions to all of this perplexing, and the idea of silence on the issue alarming. I may not be an expert, but I know this is not a good time to stick my head in the sand.
So I urge you to click through some links, do your own Googling, and be informed. It IS our business.