A few days ago, I saw a blog post titled Harlequin Screws Authors. In recent months, that's been the mantra. Boycott Dorchester. MWA Delists Harlequin.
We all know I could go on and on, but that isn't the point.
To be honest, it means shit to me if a publisher gets delisted. Why? Because if I'm already in a contract with them, all the delisting does is hurt me. To break a publishing contract - even with a publisher that's fallen into disrepute - will pretty much kill your career as an author, if you're trying to get signed the traditional way.
It's not a good idea.
The reality is that if you're an author who finds your publisher suddenly falling out of favor and making some shifty moves, you're really just screwed. Like so many Dorchester authors who were first screwed out of their royalties, what followed was being screwed out of legitimacy. No longer eligible for memberships in some organizations, or eligible for award consideration.
And I don't see anyone hiring a lawyer for the authors who still don't have their rights back, or lobbying for better contract terms being mandated in the boilerplate contracts about reversion of rights to authors when publishers stop paying them.
Somehow, the books I wrote that were completely 'legitimate' award contenders and reputable at the time they were published stopped being 'legit' and reputable. And the call to boycott a publisher hurts me, because the end result is that I lose readers.
Now, I'm not saying this because I want to pick a fight with anyone. That isn't my intent. It just that sometimes, it seems like people don't comprehend that the authors aren't the ones who are being helped by these actions. They're being hurt more than anyone.
Enter Amazon, the new favored friend of authors. Particularly unpublished authors who were tired of getting rejection letter after rejection letter, and found an easy, affordable shortcut to being "published".
Don't get me wrong. I was so concerned about the stigma of self-publishing I was resistant, even when long-standing opponents of self-publishing started putting their backlists on Amazon.
And then I took the plunge myself. I got my rights to my first published novel back, and after a few tweaks, put the book up on Amazon.
And you know what? In early August, I will have sold enough copies to earn more than I did for my advance from a New York publisher for WHAT BURNS WITHIN. It's entirely possible that within the first year of being on Amazon, if the sales maintain, SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES will earn more than WHAT BURNS WITHIN, THE FRAILTY OF FLESH and LULLABY FOR THE NAMELESS did from NY publishing deals.
The success of SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES motivated me to put HARVEST OF RUINS on Amazon as well.
I'm thankful for Amazon and the e-publishing revolution. It's enabled me to reach a wider audience and gain new readers, while at the same time actually seeing some return for my work.
But that doesn't mean I think Amazon is perfect.
Consider this. If you price your book at 99 cents on Amazon, you get 35% royalties. Or $0.35 per book you sell.
And Amazon covers the 'delivery' charge for the book out of the $0.64 they take.
What that means is that Amazon covers their costs, including delivery, for $0.64 per book.
However, they don't allow authors to take a bigger royalty unless they price their book at $2.99. At $2.99, the 70% royalty to authors is $2.09 per copy sold.
Which means Amazon is getting $0.90 per book.
More than they got off the 99 cent book.
And they do charge a delivery charge now. So they're getting even more.
But what really gets me is the fact that all the books priced between $0.99 and $2.98 are left at the 35% royalty rate.
That means when I sell a book for $1.99, I get 70 cents. Amazon gets $1.29, which is more than double the amount they need to cover their costs.
It isn't fair to compare Amazon to a publisher, either. Publishers invest in editing, handle the formatting, printing, uploading, distribution arrangements, accounting and cover design, and theoretically should help promote your book.
All Amazon does is let your book be sold, and pay you your cut.
And when I had a publisher, I had an editor. Hell, I also had an agent in the mix. If there was a problem with a book, I had people I could contact. You know, I knew their names. I had phone numbers.
Amazon? It's a machine. I'm a number in their system, and that's all.
Authors are screwed by publishers every day. I won't deny that, and I won't downplay it, either. However, I have to admit I find it annoying when people praise Amazon like it's treating authors so wonderfully, and contrast Amazon to the publishers they're thumbing their noses at.
Amazon has enabled me to reach new readers, a much wider audience, and to earn a respectable amount of money for my books. I am grateful for that, and excited about this option, but that's all it is, and it's always been clear to me that Amazon is in business to make money, not for the love of books. If it was to their advantage to stop self-publishing authors tomorrow, I'd be back to square 1, searching for a new publisher.
We need to stop comparing apples and pancakes when we talk about publishing. And we also need to be more pragmatic, and understand the business side of the equation.
And readers? If you really want to see prices kept reasonable, you need to hope that Amazon creates a new royalty bracket, one that lets authors earn 50% royalties for e-books priced between $1.19 and $2.98. Anyone with an e-book in that price range might not be getting screwed by a publisher, but they are still being screwed by their vendor.
It isn't a perfect world, and I know that change won't happen overnight, but the organization that will push for these types of changes that actually help authors is the one worth joining.
It's easy to strike a name off a list when they don't measure up; it's much harder to actually lobby and bring about constructive change.