February 2nd, 2010

A Call for Author Support (x-posted from John Scalzi)


I want to talk to you all about other authors today, and why they need your support right now, but to do that, I need to talk about my own situation first. So hang with me for a few paragraphs, please, until I get to the point.

A quick check of Amazon shows my Tor books are still unavailable to buy directly from the store, so I suppose we can say Amazon is still digging in its heels. So it goes. But it also means other authors with books from Macmillan and its imprints are still not being sold either.

I’ve told people that I’ll be fine no matter what Amazon does in the short term, and that’s true.  I sell well enough that even with Amazon temporarily out of the mix I’ll do fine, and I have enough income aside from my Tor books that I can take this in stride. Moreover, thanks to the awesome financial skills of Krissy Scalzi, we have money in the bank. None of this is coincidental, incidentally. I’ve been a writer long enough to know that shit happens, precisely because it’s happened to me, numerous times. I’ve structured my career so I can take a hit or two and keep going. It also helps that I’ve been very lucky in my career, in terms of breaks and sales, and am now in a position where I can wait out an event like this.

But as I said: I’m lucky. Other affected authors are not so lucky. Many if not most of these folks do not have the financial cushion I do, and the sales that they are getting cut out of here are going to make a real and concrete difference to them when it comes time to tally up royalties, and when they’re trying to sell that next book. I have friends who are deeply worried right now about what this thing is doing to them, and they should be worried, because it’s going to hurt them if it drags out. Amazon is not the entire sales universe, to be sure, but it’s a significant chunk, especially for genre writers who build their communities online and sell a large percentage of their work online (and thus through Amazon) because of it.

I said it snarkily yesterday but I’ll tell it to you in earnest today: Amazon was moving against Macmillan when it pulled those books, but in doing so it also moved against Macmillan’s authors. Amazon thought it was sniping at a corporation, but in fact it unloaded a shotgun into a crowd of writers. It wasn’t smart, and although I know the world isn’t built to accommodate this particular concept, neither was it fair. There’s a lot of collateral damage here.

One response to this from fans of these affected writers is to boycott Amazon. But you know what, I think that’s putting the focus where it shouldn’t be. This crux of this matter is a negotiation between two corporate entities, and that’s something a boycott just isn’t going to matter to, or solve in any meaningful way. And in the case of the authors involved, it’s not going to help them make sales.

So rather than focus on what should happen to Amazon or Macmillan, here’s an idea, and here’s my point: let’s us focus on the writers, who are getting kinda screwed here. None of this is their fault, it has nothing to do with them, and they don’t deserve to lose sales and their livelihood while this thing goes down. If you want to make a statement here, don’t make it against a corporation, who isn’t listening anyway. Make it for someone, and someone who will appreciate the support.

Support the authors affected. Buy their books.

How to do this is simple enough: Remember there’s more to bookselling than Amazon. Offline there are brick and mortar bookstores — go visit one. They like visitors. Tell them I sent you. Online there is Barnes and Noble. There’s Powell’s. IndieBound will hook you up. Specialty bookstores have their own web sites. You can often buy books online from the publishers themselves. Hell, even Walmart.com sells books.

Yes, yes. I know, you know Amazon isn’t the only place to buy books online. But that doesn’t mean you use those other places. I had a friend who used Barnes & Noble’s web site for the very first time in a decade today, because, as it happens, Amazon wouldn’t let him buy a book. He was pleased to discover B&N let him use PayPal. Good for him. The point is, he didn’t let a balky retailer keep him from getting a book he wanted. I suspect too many people do just that; they get used to going to that one place online and forgetting there are any other options. Well, you know. Remember, please.

Here’s the Macmillan site — I give it to you not as a show of support for Macmillan but because it has all the books, imprints and authors affected by this thing. Find a book you like and want, and then go to any retailer you want, who will sell you the book, and then buy it. It will matter to the author. And I personally would appreciate you supporting these people who are my friends and fellow writers, who could use a break in all of this. Give it some thought today, if you would. And pass the idea along. Thanks.