There was a lot of gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over this expose.
I wanted to try and find a way to remove this question from the realm of ethics and morality and place it more firmly in the realm of reality. I asked the following question:
Devils advocate question for Snubnose Press authors (Keith Rawson, Eric Beetner, Nik Korpon, Les Edgerton, Patti Nase Abbott, R Thomas Brown, Noir Bar, Joe Clifford, Andrew Nette, and the others): If I (this is Brian) paid money for reviews and as a result your books were selling hundreds of thousands of copies would you care, and what would you do?
Non Snubnose authors please chime in too.
(I'm genuinely curious and not trying to be provocative.)
[Note: this is a direct quote. The authors that are named weren't singled out they were tagged.]
The conversation that followed was very interesting. The immediate responses were how wrong the idea was. Then a couple of hours later more authors really got into the meat of the question and it became more evident that the tone of the answers were changing.
At least one of the authors (and I've seen this sentiment expressed elsewhere) hoped this would finally encourage Amazon to change its algorithms. You see what happens is that once a certain threshold is crossed and a book receives a certain amount of reviews then Amazon automatically increases its visibility which then causes more sales.
It's well established that for a few months there you could make your book free for five days on Amazon, build up free downloads, have your book rise in the rankings, and see a strong level of sales after the original price had been reinstated. The success of the free period would have a greater impact on sales.
Then something happened. Amazon changed its algorithms and the gravy train was gone. This was widely talked about in author circles.
So the authors who once benefited from Amazon's algorithms now want them changed.
No no no Brian. Not the good algorithms. Just the bad one's.
This reminds me of when Jonathan Franzen came out against e-books. The obvious question then became are his titles available as e-books and if so what does he do with his royalties? They are of course available but Mr. Franzen didn't come out and say that he was so against e-books that he was donating all of his e-book royalties to charity (or whatever). In other words he was posturing.
But the system is filled with various types of gaming isn't it?
The end reader probably thinks that a book store is set up like a meritocracy and that the best books make it to the table tops and end caps. They don't know anything about co-op dollars and how publisher pay money to put those books there in high traffic places that readers will see.
Paying somebody to place a book before the public.
Wait that reminds me of something. Substitute the word "song" for "book" and you are describing payola. Even though payola laws eventually made their way in to law something interesting happened, a music company can still engage in payola practices as long as they disclose it.
Where do you think Dick Clark made his money? That's right, payola. I didn't see that in any of the obits. Entire fortunes and businesses have been built on dirty money and the years just make it all clean. How many people below a certain age know that the Kennedy fortune is based on bootlegging money?
Now, instead of payola, or co-op, dollars passing from one individual to another they pass from one corporation to another and they call it standard business practice. It's been formalized.
The town will never be the same. After the Tangiers, the big corporations took it all over. Today it looks like Disneyland. And while the kids play cardboard pirates, Mommy and Daddy drop the house payments and Junior's college money on the poker slots. In the old days, dealers knew your name, what you drank, what you played. Today, it's like checkin' into an airport. And if you order room service, you're lucky if you get it by Thursday. Today, it's all gone. You get a whale show up with four million in a suitcase, and some twenty-five-year-old hotel school kid is gonna want his Social Security Number. After the Teamsters got knocked out of the box, the corporations tore down practically every one of the old casinos. And where did the money come from to rebuild the pyramids? Junk bonds. -- Ace Rothstein
No business is entirely clean. As Andrew Nette said in the Facebook thread, it's all a matter of degrees.
At no point does an author turn down a deal because their agent knows the editor. Does the end reader realize that all of a books blurbs were written by authors who share an agent or a publisher?
I think that this debate is more nuanced then it appears at first blush. It's also a debate that I truly find fascinating.