Authors Guild Shuts Itself Off From Public Criticism, As People Realize It Represents Publishers, Not Authors

from the front-group dept

We’ve written numerous times about Scott Turow during his time as head of the Author’s Guild, and the amazing thing to me is that despite the fact he’s been getting blistering criticism from a variety of people — including tons of authors — he never, ever seems to even acknowledge the points of his critics, but continues to just say the same debunked crap over and over again. Last week, for example, we did a point-by-point debunking of his error-laden, factually inaccurate and totally misleading op-ed in which he argued that pretty much everything on the internet was harming authors. I was gratified to see our debunking picked up widely — with many of the tweets in support of our response coming from authors (including a few best selling authors). It made me wonder what sort of organization Turow is running.

Best selling author Barry Eisler penned an interesting response to Turow on JA Konrath’s blog, in which he pointed out that Turow’s position has consistently been in favor of “Legacy Publishing,” (i.e., the big five publishers in NY) rather than authors. A similar reply from author David Gaughran pointed out that Turow seems to be so focused on propping up the legacy publishers that he directly called for an antitrust investigation into price-fixing by those publishers to be dropped, regardless of the facts of the case. Yes, even though such price fixing would harm authors, Turow immediately sided with the publishers. Incredible.

But, perhaps more telling is how the Authors Guild has now completely shut itself off from the outside world. Gaughrin also notes that right before Turow’s NYT op-ed, he had also published a silly blog post about Amazon buying Goodreads, and got torn apart in the comments for the post. But if you look at the Author’s Guild blog post about the NYT’s oped, you’ll see there are no comments and that “comments for this thread are now closed.” Eisler notes that it was not always this way. In fact, he had submitted a comment to the blog post, apparently with a link to my piece, saying:

“That Scott Turow refuses to respond to this demolition of his facts, his knowledge of the law, and even his baseline logic tells you all you need to know about his integrity. And about the true function of the “Authors Guild” of which he is president.”

Eisler received notification that his comment was “awaiting moderation,” but obviously that comment never ran, and instead, the Authors Guild shut down comments entirely. It appears that not only are they unwilling to respond to the large number of authors who are complaining about how ridiculous Turow’s position is, they also want to stick their hands over their eyes and ears to pretend it’s not even happening. That’s not leadership. That’s cowardice.

In the meantime, even the libraries are punching back. The American Library Association responded to Turow, “taking issue” with his op-ed and pointing out how Turow is wrong about libraries and about the law.

The failure to respond speaks volumes. And it says that the Authors Guild does not represent authors at all, but rather the legacy publishers, and a very small number of authors who succeeded under the old system. Turow’s actions have done massive damage to the perception and credibility of the Authors Guild. And the Guild’s decision to stop hearing from critics, especially authors, is quite telling about how it views the world. It’s amazing any modern author thinks it’s worthwhile to be a member of such an organization.

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Comments on “Authors Guild Shuts Itself Off From Public Criticism, As People Realize It Represents Publishers, Not Authors”

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Scote (profile) says:

Is the "Author's Guild" the NRA of IP rights groups?

Turow’s bizarre overreaction to libraries, which have existed for millennia without destroying either books or authors, reminds me of the over reaching positions of the NRA. They’ll Take Turow’s DRM away from his cold dead hands…

(Just for those who don’t get allusions, that is a reference to the gun supporter’s slogan that they won’t give up their guns unless dead. It is not a threat against Turow, and it is ridiculous that I feel I have to point that obvious fact out preemptively.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: OT

3 days in a row… some fishy shit is going on

Totally off-topic, yes, but if this gets declared as a terrorist act, I think we’re nearing a major event.

With the government passing a law under the radar allowing them to make major financial transactions without public disclosure, and now 3 sequential days of “terrorism” scares, I can’t help but feel like someone’s cooking some shit up.

Combine that with the shortage in ammunition due to DHS stockpiling it, and one might even suspect there’s about to be a revolutionary war.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: OT

  1. it is a fact that it is difficult to procure MANY types of ammo… was just at the local superwalmart, and the locked display cases for ammo which took up half an aisle, were empty for all but a couple of calibers…
    you can’t buy 22LR ammo (THE most popular/used in the world) for love nor money…

    (i managed to score some from a pawn shop, so the bob-tailed rats (rabbits), and bushy-tailed rats (squirrels), have quite a surprise in store for them when they come to visit my garden… Eat Lead, rat-bastards !
    protip for squirrel hunting: don’t shoot into their nests, as the bodies will stay there and stink up the place… yep, i learned that the stinky way…)

  2. it is also a fact that DHS is stockpiling ammo, and has a huge continuing contract to continue to do so…
  3. it is also a fact that ‘our’ (sic) gummint is NOT ‘ours’ any longer, but the plutokrats’ and korporatocracy’s… guess what, 99% of us ain’t either one…
  4. it is also a fact that i am kreeped out by recent navy recruiting commercials (which -orwellian enough- show the navy as just being a high-tech peace corps, ain’t no murderin’ goin’ on here, boss !); where -towards the end of the propaganda, er, commercial- the voiceover says something like ‘and i will obey all commands by the duly appointed authority over me’…
    say wha ? ? ?
    how ’bout you swear to UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, swabby…

    fear of an increasingly fascistic Empire is NOT irrational, it is prudent…

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: OT

“You think the NRA folks and the Occupy Wall Street folks are going to unite to fight a common enemy?”

THAT is exactly what The They ™ are worried about; which is exactly why hot-button issues are CONTINUOUSLY foisted on us: The They ™ WANT US divided by stupid shit, so we don’t unite to string them up…

based on a true story…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Anonymous Coward says:

Combine that with the shortage in ammunition due to DHS stockpiling it, and one might even suspect there’s about to be a revolutionary war.

I’ve often wondered if this were not the case as there are always brain trusts that are off trying to predict the future or near future events.

There has also been the suspicion that this was some how a way to prevent the gun owning public from purchasing more ammunition until they could get legislation passed.

Worse, it’s been in part blamed for why the bombs got the chance to go off in Boston as it has now been claimed that DHS got the money by redirection of funds to bomb handling functions. True or not I have no clue.

Sorry this is so off topic to the topic.

For the Author’s Guild to be a puppet of publishing instead of looking out for the authors, I guess it is in line with all the other crap we read day after day showing money changes minds over what the job responsibilities are. So how long before the authors themselves see Mr. Turow replaced for not doing his proper job?

special-interesting (profile) says:

Bwahahah. (wow. Something I really think is hilarious!)

Ever look on the wall of your local family physician for the certificates of membership or letters denoting good standing within? Or how about the certificate wall of your family lawyer or tax consultant? Were you impressed? Its OK to be so, as at this level, its always impressive to see documentation of industry commitment and recognition.

But what do they really mean? And. More importantly. Is this any benefit to the average citizen? Why do these industry groups exist and what is the definition of a special interest group?

An industry (special interest group) is created to further fulfill the specific interests/needs/profit of that exact group only. Even at the expense of other marginal (what a laugh) concerns. One might just as well say they are formed to totally and ruthlessly carry out the selfish profit desires of its members at others (usually the client/customer) expense entirely. Even if anyone (without money) dies in the gutter on a filthy street thats often an acceptable loss for a ‘successful’ industry group run for only profit motives.

There are exceptions to this of course but its classic that almost all public and private groups are eventually hijacked for profit or idealized religious reasons as noble or misguided as they might be.

Because of our cultural infantile state (most likely hampered by copyright laws inhibiting a healthy sharing of ideas through various formats in an eternal way) the effective intelligence level of a special interest industry group never raises above that of a three year old. A baby only wants and needs with no consideration for its environment.

Be it an Association, Guild, Union, Council, Chamber, Brain-trust, organization or whatever its all the same in regards that they all act in favor of the members. Despite whatever is written in their bylaws its classic human social nature that this/almost-every group does not act in favor of a non member. Of all the current organizations it might be conservative to say that 98% of special interest groups act against the average citizen.

An example of a benevolent public organization might be the EFF (Electronic Freedom Foundation) of which considering their current vision and standing should be viable for another 10 or so years. (after that its reevaluation time).

An example of a most likely hijacked public group might be MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) of which they seem hellbent on violating/trampling every constitutional value in pursuit of their seemingly religious like affair with Prohibitionist attitudes. (just an opinion)


OK. that was the build up for a brief discussion on the Authors Guild.

The comment ?,Turow seems to be so focused on propping up the legacy publishers,? leads on to believe that the Authors Guild seems to be in the process of being hijacked by publishers. In what way does the author’s book volume sales and the multiplicative effects of popularity (and ultimately profit either directly or from sequels, other works or whatever value can be added) benefit from price fixing?

The removal of public response to his blog post is the hilarious part. Think of it; A special interest group ignoring public opinion? Except in lip service does any industry organization care, except in terms of profit and prestige, for anyone else’s opinion? ROFL! Its that funny!

Even more hilarious are the weak attempts to phrase/word such obvious industry orientated behavior that is not in favor of public opinion in terms that sound like they are in favor of public opinion. (it only sounds redundant)

The Authors Guild is acting like a classic special interest group. The three monkeys skit seems appropriate; Monkey see (hands over eyes), monkey hear (hands cover ears), monkey do (just sits there). Carry on business as usual. Nothing interesting here move along.

This childish behavior, placed under the light of adult real world concerns, would be quickly followed by a thorough intellectual spanking if not complete discrediting.

It seems that publisher contributions eclipse author membership fees so its hard to even justify the use of ?Author? in this special interest groups name. (is this correct? Or is there corruption involved? Hard to tell but it does not look good from this viewpoint.) Although its normal for a special interest group to choose a name that is misleading when the group faces significant public criticism it hardly makes it nice or polite. In this case it seems like a special interest hijacking.

There are so many issues with copyright law being abused for whatever industry profit or bureaucratic information gathering rationalizations its hard to elaborate in this already wordy essay. (read some of my earlier posts or more of TechDirt in general)

The root of the problem is that there is a perception crisis, outside more informed forums like TD, about what the public thinks of such industry organizations and who or how they derive their profits (from).


There is nothing ‘conspiracy’ about a rational analysis based on normal human behavior. Its the reverse thats possible when anyone/organization tries to dampen public discussion.

bob (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

And how is he hurting the little guy? Just because he loves DRM doesn’t mean anyone else has to use it. And whether you like it or not, his defense of copyright helps the little guy and gives them a better chance to make some money.

And he’s not insisting that people charge money. He’s okay with giving anything away or not copyrighting something.


Re: Re: Re: The Wealth of Nations and whatnot...

He’s hurting the little guy by propping up a cartel. Such gatekeepers control who can get published. They often require the talent to sell their soul in the process. They frequently also don’t even bother helping market the authors they abuse.

DRM is just a minor distraction.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I was wondering when Mr. I-hate-libraries-with-a-feverish-passion would show up.

I have never seen the enforcement of copyright by a large organisation result in the direct increase of money given to a “little guy”. If you have an example proving so by all means show it. Won’t hold my breath, though. You couldn’t cite a source out of a paper bag.

Anonymous Coward says:

can someone please tell me the difference between the way this guy is acting, the way the ‘Authors Guild’ is acting, compared to the entertainment industries? there is no concern or consideration here for authors which is exactly the same situation put out by the movie and music industries. they continuously spout about how they are fighting ‘piracy’ on behalf of artists, but no artist is ever reimbursed from the fines the industries ‘win’ in cases. all the money is always kept by the companies and the execs. the authors have realised that they are not being represented and that they are not being reimbursed (in fact, there are numerous cases each year where artists take the labels and studios to court for failing to pay the artists what they should!). what needs to happen now is for the music and movie artists to realise that their interests are not being represented by their labels etc and all monies are going anywhere and everywhere except where it is said to be going and to whom it is supposed to be going. wake up and smell the coffee guys and gals. as per usual, you are being filled with lies and bullshit. stop trusting these arse holes and go the right way, not the execs way. you will be better off, better thought of and i doubt if you will ever regret it!

out_of_the_blue says:

As usual, Misleading Mike reads only what fits his template.

Yes, are some persistent trolls on the Turow blog repeatedly contradicting. Big deal. As they claim to be writers, it’s just easy gainsaying blather. But here’s a somewhat typical thoughtful comment (emphasis added):

Charlotte Vale-Allen

Scott Turow?s thinking mirrors my own exactly since the moment I read of Amazon?s acquisition of Goodreads. Amazon is well on its way to becoming the only game in town, making ever smaller the arena in which people are able to voice their opinions on the books they read. It?s a nightmare.

Amazon is in the consolidating rapid-growth stage: it’ll soon be the Wal-Mart of publishing, without competition, wreaking damage all through the realm it controls. So while authors are certainly making out NOW, the future is certain to be just a replacement of monopoly, not any lasting change. And since Amazon is doing monopoly right in an era without DOJ anti-trust enforcement, it’ll be the most tightly controlling monopoly yet seen. — Now, why can’t you kids see that merely replacing monopolies is a bad idea, that what’s needed is a ferment kept up by constant regulation. Action should be taken NOW to limit Amazon’s (monopolistic, buying up a book review site) growth, before like banks it’s “too big to punish”.

Now, talk about totally un-self-aware! This fits Mike EXACTLY: “he never, ever seems to even acknowledge the points of his critics, but continues to just say the same debunked crap over and over again.” — I’ve been chasing Mike around for a couple years now, but he’s responded to me about twice with easy contradictions since his epic fail in this item where I made him eat crow:

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: As usual, Misleading Mike reads only what fits his template.

Reducing copyright terms would go a long way towards monopoly busting.

Not only could they not just sit around with amazon getting fatter of years old works it improves access of works for the poor while still letting authors/publishers remain competitive

bob (profile) says:

Re: Re: As usual, Misleading Mike reads only what fits his template.

Wrong. They go toward supporting the network’s monopoly. Destroying copyright only helps Big Search and the shopping monoliths.

Copyright is only a monopoly over one person’s work. It’s like saying that a person is given a monopoly over their workproduct by the anti-slavery laws.

People can and do produce competing products all of the time.


Re: Re: Re: As usual, Misleading Mike reads only what fits his template.

Expansive copyright gives companies standing to sue new artists. It interferes with the creation of new works and even gives people the wrongful idea that they can own a genre or a trope.

Expansive copyright gives people like Harlan Ellison the idea they have standing to sue over simple ideas poorly executed decades ago.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 As usual, Misleading Mike reads only what fits his template.

used to like his work when i was a sci fi wonk as a kid…
now, he is just another entitled legacy-leech who wants to lockdown the world…

same with jimmy buffet, had more than a few of his albums (more or less mandatory in florida), but when he went trademark apeshit on anyone using ‘his’ parrotheads crap, margaritaville crap, etc, i said goombye to his muzak…

fucker, not enough he is nephew of The warren buffet, but also a former drug-smuggling drunkard and thief, NOW gets all pseudo-moral on people when he is being ‘cheated’ out of pennies BY FANS ? ? ?
fuck him, too…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: As usual, Misleading Mike reads only what fits his template.

I’ve been chasing Mike around for a couple years now,…

No you haven’t been. You’ve been yapping at his ankles (as a guest of the blog Mike pays for, no less) for years.

Seriously, Blue, you come off like the football coach filling in as a substitute teacher for the Advanced Placement Calculus class really.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: As usual, Misleading Mike reads only what fits his template.

Monopolies in and of themselves do not constitute antitrust, only when the monopoly situation is abused. Also short of competing there is nothing anyone can do about Amazon growing growing their business, its not illegal.

So tell us Professor Blue what is the maximum size businesses should be allowed to be? How do you measure, square footage, number of employees, estimated worth, profit margins, total profits some convoluted combination of multiple factors?

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: As usual, Misleading Mike reads only what fits his template.

…but he’s responded to me about twice with easy contradictions since his epic fail in this item where I made him eat crow: s-stop-zero.shtml

Lol. Back on article you linked to Mike says this to you:

…you really should recalibrate your reading comprehension sensors.

This is true now as it was then, because when I looked back through those threads, it looked like Mike wiped the floor with you. Just sayin’

special-interesting (profile) says:

For the second time I (mostly) agree with OOTB. (Ring the bells. Not a pun.)

?Amazon is in the consolidating rapid-growth stage? Correct IMHO! What other on-line firm has this same vision and growth potential? Few if none! In a way they deserve profits from their insight and investment. In other ways its pointless to stop competitors from entering same marketplace.

?Wal-Mart of publishing? Very insightful. Furthermore your comment on economic advantage (of such) is good. Monopolies are bad. Stomp on them.

?an era without DOJ anti-trust enforcement? Yes. The DoJ has absconded from its obvious judiciary duties of removing monopoly from consumer worry. Historically this is normal (read as judicial ignorance/corruption?) in that every 40-50 years the public intervenes with reason and constitutionality.

?it’ll be the most tightly controlling monopoly yet seen.? Of which I quote (from the Humphrey Bogart movie Key Largo);

Johnny Rocco (a famous fictional Chicago mobster, in a movie, with Humphrey Bogart as Frank McCloud and crew weathering out a hurricane on Key Largo) speaks;


?I bet you two or three years, we get Prohibition back. This time we make it stick.,?

?The trouble was, before,… too many guys wanted to be top dog.?

?That was the trouble. One mob gets to massacring another. The papers play it up? big. Big, see??

-?So what happens? -So what??

?The papers play it up big, and the public. . . . . .gets the idea that Prohibition’s no good. That if they can get rid of it. . . .?

?Next time, it’ll be different. We learned our lesson, all right. Next time, the mobs’ll get together.?

(end of quote)

Corruption is always a legitimate worry and monopoly is a justifiable fear while conspiracy is a real economic horror. The rest might be conjecture.

tqk says:

Just gotta say ...

Turow’s a writer. Writers sell publishing rights to publishers. Writers’ competition is other writers.

Why’s the Writers Guild not named the Publishers Guild, and why is Turow (a writer) the president of the Publishers Guild?

Conflict of interest much?

Why do ca. 92,000 USA writers not want to be members of the Publishers Guild, and what’s wrong with the 8,000 writers who are?

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