Why Does The Author's Guild Refuse To Even Acknowledge Views Of Authors Who Disagree With It?

from the they're-not-representing-authors dept

Could the organization calling itself the “Authors Guild” (from its behavior, better understood as a lobbying arm for big publishing houses) get more fearful and brittle? In response to a typically lopsided AG blog post yesterday, in which the Author’s Guild mentioned, but failed to link to, a petition in favor of low ebook prices and fair wages for authors, I left the following comment:

For anyone inclined to consider thoughts a bit less hidebound than those of the “Authors Guild,” here are a few good posts:

Not for the first time, my comment didn’t make it past the censor moderator. Why? Did I use obscene language? Insult anyone? Engage in unacceptably trollish behavior? Or did I simply link to a few posts that offer opposing viewpoints? It’s funny, I write about the AG, and former president Scott Turow, and AG pitchman Richard Russo, and Douglas Preston’s self-serving anti-Amazon efforts fairly regularly. And I always link to, and extensively quote from, anything I’m discussing. Not just because I want my readers to be able to make up their own minds. Not just because I have some integrity. But also because I want people to see exactly what the AG and its legacy-publishing shills are saying. Their positions are so illogical, so self-contradictory, and so self-serving that I believe the more light I can shine on them, the better people will understand what the AG and its people are really about.

But when an organization tries to conceal what its critics are saying, it’s fair to surmise that something else is driving its behavior. And I don’t know what that thing could be other than fear of contrary opinions the organization senses are more compelling than the organization’s propaganda. Because really, what can you say about an organization so brittle, so insular, so fearful… that it won’t even permit a few contrary links in a comment section? What can you say about an organization calling itself an “Authors Guild”… that censors the voices of authors whose opinions it doesn’t like?

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: amazon, authors guild, hachette

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Why Does The Author's Guild Refuse To Even Acknowledge Views Of Authors Who Disagree With It?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
59 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Bargaining power. As long as they can maintain the image of speaking for the whole (or at least vast majority) of the profession in question, they have a much larger influence in shaping Policies.

Also, tied into that, corruption. As long as their influence is maintained, the people in charge can get lucrative “donations” by certain interests to help shape policies in their “contributors” favor, even if it means screwing over the people they claim to represent.

What used to be a good idea support a certain group of people became a corrupted, twisted mirror image used to subdue the very people they originally supported.

Anonymous Coward says:

Corporations as a whole are starting to find that there are public backlashes for their self-serving proclamations for better business. The real problem is that most of these actions are seen for just what they are. BS.

They are afraid that if the public gets it’s dander up, then their influence and hence money making opportunities diminish. The era of the guilded age starts with corporations having it all their own way. It ends with the public denouncing them loudly enough their voices can not be silenced. The process is now starting to make itself known to them and they are afraid, very afraid they are losing control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That is exactly how propaganda works. If you want your opinion to hold more weight, give your site with nearly only positive opinions on your pieces to politicians indepted to your gifts and wait for them to take the fight for you. Instead of representing AG you are now representing a unanimous opinion of all authors.

Capt ICE Enforcer says:

Special

Just pretend that your comments were vital to national security and a deep layered multinational task force designed to keep our planet safe from aliens riding unicorns underneath a rainbow. Then it is not censorship or moderated but instead a Level 217 Classified document that even the word Classified is Classified. You are SO IMPORTANT.

Joseph Ratliff (profile) says:

A suggestion for Mr. Masnick...

When you create an article, use “post slugs” that are shorter, but get your article’s point across (as best as it can).

Because when I try to share via Twitter, the post slugs in current use, plus the longer titles … equal exceeding the character limit on Twitter in some cases.

Just a suggestion, nothing more.

For example, this post slug might be:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140723/17420627984/authors-guild-refuse-to-debate

Or something like that.

Anonymous Coward says:

self-publishing

More and more people are self-publishing. It is incredibly easy.

If you can fix a manuscript for print-on-demand online, then you can likewise fix a file for a local printer. Just save it to PDF and take it over to them. Even if you have only one website advertising it, or one online vendor, then you can compete with any publishing house. A good product will sell itself.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, and when did we expect that an author and an editor were one and the same? I try and fail all the time. So do others. Editing is a task that requires some understanding or where the subject is going, as well as grammar and spelling.

What company is imagining affordable editorial and/or proofreading, and while we are at it marketing and graphic services for the written word? No copyright exchange involved.

Seems to me it might be a pretty big market. Micro-payments for proofing my posts kinda thing. Or your new novel, and maybe a couple of competing services that focus on the non-fiction, or scientific (they sure need it) area. Market segmentation galore. The Internet would be their oyster.

MrTroy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Indeed, authors often make terrible editors, and vice versa. The tasks just require thinking with the opposite side of the brain… Obviously, with exceptions.

I’ve played with the idea for the last few years of taking an editing course and trying out the freelance market. All my brilliant plan needs is a bit of spare time with which to pursue…

Whatever (profile) says:

While I think the authors do have a point, Hachette appears to be woefully out of touch on this one, I think that there are a few things that they are not getting.

Yes, Amazon has created a more level playing field. However, they have done that not by filling in the valleys and low spots of the industry but rather by trying to plow the high spots down. Essentially, Amazon will not be content until the entire industry is at or below sea level 😉

Seriously though, what Amazon is trying to do is go against human nature. We reward what is popular and we ignore what is not. A low price point for retail does not cause this by itself, but adding in a single price “all you can read” option certainly seems to be removing some of the reward factors.

Writing, like being a musician, artist, or any other creative work doesn’t come with a guarantee of riches and wealth. It’s not a living wage job unless you work for someone else at a fixed rate (and they own your work). I can understand writers who want to make a living wage on a consistent basis, but that just isn’t productive.

One of the greatest science fiction writers of our time is Philip K Dick. Understanding the motivations that made him hone his craft (fear of starvation, perhaps) is to understand the nature of the risk / reward system that is being an artist.

Want a living wage as a writer? Go work for Huffington Post… oh wait, do they pay?

MrTroy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’ll bite.

Yes, Amazon has created a more level playing field. However, they have done that not by filling in the valleys and low spots of the industry but rather by trying to plow the high spots down. Essentially, Amazon will not be content until the entire industry is at or below sea level 😉

How is Amazon stopping anyone else from trying to sell at “high spots”? If Amazon is capable of making a profit from selling at a lower point (and is presumably not using unfair tactics that would prevent others from doing the same) then it’s up to each consumer to decide whether to pay the lower or higher price.

Case in point, one of the Australian supermarket chains cut the price of their in-house brand of milk to just $2 for a 2-litre bottle – previously milk would sell at $3-6 for a 2-litre bottle, depending on the brand. There was a lot of uproar about undermining the independent grocers, and taking money out of the farmers’ pockets… but it turns out that the farmers were selling the milk at the same price, the discount came mostly out of the retailer’s pocket (and slightly out of the distributors’), and the retailer is still even making a profit from each bottle.

And personally, as a consumer I still buy the $3.50 milk, because I know it’s local and I can afford to do so. I’m grateful for the choice, but then I make my own decision for my own reasons.

Amazon doesn’t appear to be removing any choices from the market, they look to me more like they are adding choices to the market. Legacy publishers don’t like the new choices that consumers have, but they are welcome to continue in the vein they are used to, and let customers decide who they want to reward. Unfortunately for the customer (and for the author) authors aren’t quite as exchangeable as brands of milk, but across the market consumer trend certainly becomes apparent.

Seriously though, what Amazon is trying to do is go against human nature. We reward what is popular and we ignore what is not. A low price point for retail does not cause this by itself, but adding in a single price “all you can read” option certainly seems to be removing some of the reward factors.

What exactly is Amazon doing here that is going against human nature? Bezos started a business in a market segment that he thought was underserved by the incumbents, and through a more-or-less successful combination of experiments (which include a variety of tactics that upset quite a few different groups of people) he has grown Amazon into the popular choice which is rewarded by the people.

Note that Amazon is largely rewarded by the people because it gives them what they want (books) in a convenient fashion and at a good (competitive?) price. I guess it’s possible that Amazon is only appearing to act in the consumers’ (and self-published authors’) interests until it corners the whole market, then it will about-face and screw everyone over… but we already knew that the legacy publishing industry has done that for a long time, so we (authors and readers) probably won’t be any worse off than before Amazon started.

Writing, like being a musician, artist, or any other creative work doesn’t come with a guarantee of riches and wealth. It’s not a living wage job unless you work for someone else at a fixed rate (and they own your work).

Carpenters, jewellers, tailors… are all creative jobs that don’t come with guarantees of riches and wealth, and they don’t get to own the work either – their customers comes and buy the goods, then they have to make more. Your point?

I can understand writers who want to make a living wage on a consistent basis, but that just isn’t productive.

I can’t tell what you mean here. Writers who make a living wage on a consistent basis… aren’t productive? Or wanting to make a living wage on a consistent basis isn’t productive… but writing is? Surely without either wanting to write or wanting to make a living, there wouldn’t be any writing?

One of the greatest science fiction writers of our time is Philip K Dick. Understanding the motivations that made him hone his craft (fear of starvation, perhaps) is to understand the nature of the risk / reward system that is being an artist.

There’s a large number of writers who were very successful in their own time, and a large number of writers who were not successful in their own time (some of whom became wildly popular after they died). I’m certain that the motivation of all of those writers varies greatly, and I’d be very surprised if their motivation wasn’t completely orthogonal to their level of success.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I can’t tell what you mean here. Writers who make a living wage on a consistent basis… aren’t productive? Or wanting to make a living wage on a consistent basis isn’t productive… but writing is? Surely without either wanting to write or wanting to make a living, there wouldn’t be any writing?

Were you expecting Whatever to be anything but contrary, convoluted and condescending?

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

How is Amazon stopping anyone else from trying to sell at “high spots”?

They aren’t stopping them from trying, but they pretty much making it impossible to do so. Amazon sure doesn’t mind other shops being their showrooms, but they will sell at the bottom dollar (and lost a pile of money, it turns out), and pretty much tank the marketplace. Consumers, given an equal product, accessibility, and store brand recognition will generally go with the lower price – unless they have some underlying personal reason to pay more. It’s pretty basic.

the retailer is still even making a profit from each bottle

Amazon’s current earnings don’t suggest that is the case, losing over 100 million in the latest report.

Amazon doesn’t appear to be removing any choices from the market

Yet almost all of the brick and mortar competition has disappeared – wonder why?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Amazon’s current earnings don’t suggest that is the case, losing over 100 million in the latest report.”

Do you have any evidence that this is due to the book side of the business you’re currently masturbating about? I doubt it, you just “forgot” that Amazon has a huge range of business markets outside of books, as well as huge R&D costs in their new product ranges that were included in the most recent report.

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-07-24/amazon-earnings-slowing-growth-at-aws-cloud-business-and-more

“Yet Amazon also reported a net loss of $126 million, the company’s biggest loss since 2012. This makes sense when you remember that Jeff Bezos is pouring money into everything from same-day grocery delivery to video-game development to Amazon’s own disastrously reviewed smartphones”

As ever, citations not pulled out of your arse, please.

“Yet almost all of the brick and mortar competition has disappeared – wonder why?”

Price collusion made it difficult for them to compete? Your town has crappy citizens that won’t support an independent bookstore? Media in general has moved digital and online, and those who fail to compete in any way can’t operate the same business model they had in 1992?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“I could give you the best stuff in the world, the perfect proof, and you would attack me personally anyway.”

I don’t believe you’ve ever given proof in any thread about what you claim, let alone “perfect” proof. Perhaps instead of assuming my reaction to citations, you might try providing one?

Here’s the thing: you made a demonstrably false claim – or at least one that is completely misleading at best.

“they will sell at the bottom dollar (and lost a pile of money, it turns out)”

Given the context of your comments, it appears you are making this in reference to yesterday’s earnings report. But, this earnings report included hardware, cloud services, software development, grocery delivery, and numerous other things that have nothing to do with the subject you’re commenting on.

Either you have evidence of the solo performance of the book divisions in Amazon, or you’re trying to pretend that the company’s entire bottom line is only affected by that one market. This is to my mind, deliberately obtuse and possibly a lie. My calling you out as such is not a personal attack. You’ve made a false claim – one of many you tend to make in every thread on this site – and I’ve asked you to support it.

So, here’s your choices:

1. You come up with evidence as to how the division directly related to the topic at hand is actually making massive losses, and continue the discussion based on those facts. Who knows, you might have facts and insight unknown to other commenters here that might bring them round to your point of view. You just need to support them.

2. You admit you were mistaken, that there is indeed no factual basis for your claim, and return the conversation to a sensible point of discussion (how about discussing the points in the article rather than trying to turn it into an attack on Amazon?).

3. You exit the conversation for which you no longer have any sensible input, and pledge not make the focus of your subsequent comments to distract, deflect, be contrarian or outright lie about the subject at hand.

Your choice, but if you choose something other than these 3 options, we will be having the same conversation again. But, if I again see you lie, distort or commit any of the other behaviours I’ve seen from you in other threads, I will not hesitate to call you out on it.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

nicely stated, mr t, more patience than me…

in this particular case, i won’t say i disagree with whatever’s assessment of amazon; BUT, given the his story of constantly making assertions with no real citation, AND running away when called out, it is not unreasonable to excoriate him/her for that…

as for his/her so-called aversion to ‘personal attacks’, that is bullshit on several levels; and almost ALWAYS an indication the poster is a bot who has NO INTEREST in debate, but only in being propaganda botz…
approximately 90-99% of the time…

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Sorry if I don’t fulfill your 99% rule. I am a person, but I don’t want to get in a fight with Paul (or anyone else). He seems to spend a lot of time stalking me and taunting me and not much else. Re-read his post carefully, he’s trying to lead me into an argument that I refuse to have. It frustrates him no end, and each time he gets angrier and more agressive about it – and claims I am “lying” because he doesn’t agree with my opinions.

It’s okay, one day he will get tired of it, and leave the rest of us to have level headed and open minded discussions without preconceived notions and without making it personal.

MikeP says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Yet almost all of the brick and mortar competition has disappeared – wonder why?”

why? because brick and mortar bookstores are outdated and serve a very narrow market. No different than record stores and video rental stores. So few people of the people castigating Amazon, blamed Apple for the disappearance of the music store (remember those?)

Of the extensive number of past and present books available to the consumer a brick and mortar store can only provide an inadequate portion to the consumer. Casual readers do readily find best sellers and large market books at brick and mortar stores so it works for high volume offerings (which publishers love). Avid readers struggle to find the more obscure books read by a minority.
Amazon has completely changed the consumer market for the avid reader with extensive availability of the most obscure titles and even a decent market for used and out-of-print books. This simply is not feasible in brick and mortar stores.
B&N recognized this 10 years ago and moved into coffee, toys, multi-media, and eventually the Nook.
Borders recognized this, tried to save themselves with multi-media and eventually were swept under, as where most of the other small footprint chain bookstores.
Small, niche bookstores still survive by provided a unique service and experience to a customer base. As long as they can maintain loyalty, they will be fine.

Amazon didn’t create this change and cause the destruction of brick and mortar stores. Technological advances created this change and Amazon took advantage of it. If it wasn’t Amazon, it would have been B&N. They just failed to innovate early enough and adapt to the changing market. Their webstore is better now, but was utterly laughable 5-10 years ago with limited title availability.

Publishers will lose. They are fighting against the tide of advancement to maintain an outdated business model and eventually they will be washed away. The world will move on, forget this whole kneejerk reaction to change, and the market will find a new balance that rewards authors for product consumers want. No different than any other market.

DonM says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I got a copy of Command Missions through Amazon. That is the WWII memoirs of Lucian Truscott Jr. a US Army cavalry officer, US observer at amphibious invasion at Dieppe, Assistant to Gen Patton during the amphibious invasion of North Africa, Commander of 3rd Infantry Division during amphibious invasion of Sicily, commander of 6th Corps during amphibious invasions of Italy and France, 5th and 3rd Army commander, and 15th Army commander.

Didn’t see it ever at any brick and mortar book store, and long out of print.Quite reasonably priced.

Can’t say enough good things about amazon service.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“One of the greatest science fiction writers of our time is Philip K Dick.”

Indeed he is. Although, it is amusing that your example here is of a man with severe mental issues who spent most of his working life in poverty. Do you perhaps see something of yourself in him, or are you just too blinkered to realise that this all could happen just as easily during the legacy industry as with the new business models?

“Want a living wage as a writer? Go work for Huffington Post… oh wait, do they pay?”

Another non sequitur piece of idiocy from our favourite moron. Yes, Huffington does pay – they just didn’t pay retroactively to those people who originally agreed to provide work for free when those people imagined they were entitled to it. Plus, even someone as deliberately obtuse as you can see the difference between professionally published novels (the subject of the article) and blog posts?

Who pays you to work as much as you posting here, if that’s your only conceivable motivation?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think there can be any denying PK Dick was poor for most of his life and he basically didn’t make a living because of him being a writer as much as despite. His fame started with the film Blade Runner in the 80’s based on several of his stories, but mostly the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”. He died 4 month before the film was released. The people benefitting from Dick have thus never truely included Dick himself as much as his estate post-mortem…

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The point is that Dick and many other writers of the mid 20th century made their living writing short stories and pieces for the true pulp fiction books of the day. They didn’t get rich doing it, but their need to make a living pushed many to write truly amazing stories which today are regarded as classics of their gendre. Science Fiction particularly was one of those areas, from the pulp monthly short story books to Omni magazine, it was all there and many cut their teeth and developed their ideas on $100 and $200 stories.

They didn’t get a living wage (or a decent wage) they made money when they wrote, and when they wrote something good enough for publication. Nobody owned them a living, they had to work for it.

even someone as deliberately obtuse as you

hi there personal attack. How are you? Hopefully the Techdirt staff will come to realize who is trolling here. Hint, it’s not me.

the difference between professionally published novels (the subject of the article) and blog posts?

Yes, they are the opposite ends of the risk spectrum when it comes to writing. Those who write novels generally do it by investing a term of their life with no contract and no assurance of payment, with the hope of it working out in the end. Blog post writers (modern day equivalent to magazine staff writers take little risk for the hope of a weekly paycheck or more consistent income. If you want more consistent income, you work for someone producing X amount of work per week and get paid. If you want risk, you write novels. If you decided to take that risk, don’t go prattling on about living wages or decent wages – you took the risk.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“The point is that Dick and many other writers of the mid 20th century made their living writing short stories and pieces for the true pulp fiction books of the day.”

…as can authors today. Amazon will even help them self-publish if they wish. Competitors also exist who do the same, or publishers exist who can carry out the traditional roles without the dated business practices the Authors’ Guild is trying to defend.

So?

” Science Fiction particularly was one of those areas, from the pulp monthly short story books to Omni magazine, it was all there and many cut their teeth and developed their ideas on $100 and $200 stories.”

…and do to this day, including those who self-publish through their own websites or even via Amazon or one of its competitors. Many also did this back in the day and found themselves rewarded with publishing contracts that were well paid. What the hell is the point you think you’re making?

“They didn’t get a living wage (or a decent wage) they made money when they wrote, and when they wrote something good enough for publication.”

So, you’re completely ignorant of things like advances, contracts, etc.? The publishing industry worked in a number of different ways depending on the author. Many authors benefited from this in a positive way, but for whatever reason Dick’s career didn’t. Maybe he’d have been better off in a world where he had more control over his work, like the one modern businesses are offering to new authors today?

Nothing you’ve written is in any way counter to the points others are making, except that maybe you have a pathological need to oppose something that Techdirt writes positively about. Your actual argument is a little hard to determine, but it’s not logically consistent if you’re trying to get at the points I think you are.

“Hint, it’s not me.”

Calling you an idiot when you’re acting like an idiot is not a personal attack. Being a mardy little tosser won’t change the fact that you’re deliberately obtuse in every thread. Grow up, and start addressing the actual discussion with whatever you think your point is.

“don’t go prattling on about living wages or decent wages”

Erm, I’m not the one doing that. But, you are the one making faulty comparisons in order to make your point, so who knows what you think.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Erm, I’m not the one doing that.

It’s why I have a hard time having a discussion with you. I wasn’t commenting about your views, the living wage / decent wage thing is in the original post and the original source material.

Perhaps you can learn that not everything I say (or anything for that matter) is a personal attack on you?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Seriously though, what Amazon is trying to do is go against human nature. We reward what is popular and we ignore what is not. A low price point for retail does not cause this by itself, but adding in a single price “all you can read” option certainly seems to be removing some of the reward factors.”

I don’t follow this at all. We reward what is popular not by increasing the price on the popular stuff, but by paying more attention to the popular stuff. A single “all you can read” price doesn’t counter that.

Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Authors Guild Form 990s

I happen to have the Authors Guild 2009 thru 2011 form 990 tax returns handy, after having done some related research. A quick look shows that less than half their annual revenue came from member dues. “Royalties” were listed as the largest source of income in 2009 and 2010. In 2011 they were $0.00, but it seems someone generously ponied up $1,001,263 to tide them over that year. (Listed as “other contributions,” Part VIII, Line 1f.)

My guess is that these royalties are non-title specific “reprographic royalties.” The Authors Guild is a member of the Authors Coalition, which receives royalty money via IFRRO member organizations (International Federation of Reprographic Rights Organizations.) Basically, it’s money scooped up overseas by the copyright licensing fee racket. This lovely revenue stream that the big publishing gatekeepers have set up relies upon fear of fair use and suppression of competition, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the Authors Guild, Graphic Artists Guild, and others sucking at the reprographic royalties teat, end up spouting drivel in support of publishers rather than authors.

For the curious- Authors Guild EIN: 13-2509231

Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Authors Guild Form 990s

What good would a 501(c)(6) organization be if it couldn’t slosh money around anonymously? So, no; there’s no additional info on that million bucks, unfortunately.

Interestingly, though, our lawmakers gave those really dangerous organizations called 501(c)(5) labor unions, a bunch more hoops to jump through. The Graphic Artists Guild is saddled with having been chartered as one, so they are required to provide annual financial reports to the DOL that are somewhat more revealing, and also filed more timely. If you have a wonkish streak you might find those reports interesting, as IMO the Graphic Artists Guild is pound-for-pound the worst run organization I’ve ever encountered. When it comes to which side their bread is buttered on, they had dues revenue in 2013 of $131,651, but collected double that in royalties from the Authors Coalition; $ 276,123. The salaries of the two top employees at the Guild add up to more than the income from dues, which leads to the conclusion that their participation alongside the Copyright Alliance at rep. Bob Goodlatte’s recent hearing on first sale doctrine was made possible only by the flow of reprographic royalty funds.

LM-2 financial reports are available at the OLMS website. file number for the Graphic Artists Guild: 513-583

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...