Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Phreaky Friday: Amazon Charging for Digital Publication?

Phreaky Friday: Amazon Charging for Digital Publication?

Rob S. Guthrie's  ideas on Amazon charging fees to self-pub novels.

Here are my comments regarding Mr. Guthrie's  recommendation that Amazon begin charging fees for publishing:
Mr. Guthrie;
While you make some very enlightened points, and while I partially agree with your premise, I agree to disagree about the true benefit to either authors or consumers by charging a fee to self-publish (frankly I don’t care about Amazon’s profit margins, and I doubt any author out there is worried much about what kind of profit they are taking in).

In regards to the author, breaking into the traditional publishing arena is an extremely difficult, and strenuous process, one which leaves most out in the cold.

Now while you, and maybe even I in some respects, may feel that the many hoops that an author must jump through just to get a query through to an agent or to one of the few houses that allow for direct author submissions, creates a quality barrier that not any joe schmoe with a laptop can breech, the truth is that there are many decent, and very talented writers out there who will NEVER have the opportunity to have their life’s work read by anyone due to large “slush piles” and other means agents and houses use to whittle down the masses of manuscripts they receive yearly.

I can say that as a writer and someone who has sought out other authors to gain knowledge from their experiences, the entire process that has existed since the first printing press went live, is very disheartening to many and whether it has been your dream since birth or not, many truly talented writers can and will lose their gumption and constitution after a few hundred “No’s” or more realistically, just the traditional no-answer that they receive.

The tradition “Big-6″ and other houses that have emerged throughout the years to create a stranglehold on the market have had their way for far too long and authors have gotten fed up with trying to play a game they don’t even know the rules to, and frankly one in which the rules often change on a whim. This is why vanity presses came about, to give an author with the desire, and maybe the talent, and some cash an avenue in which to get their voice heard.

Now in my own attempts to get published I went the traditional course, which was the route of the 150 or so “no-answers”, followed by a handful of “not for us at this time”. Now you can judge me on my conviction or not, but the whole process left me both physically and emotionally fatigued and caused me to put down my manuscript for several months due to sheer frustration.

Now it was never my intention to quit the process of querying forever, but I did need a month or two to collect my thoughts, pick my ego up from the gutter and get the strength to go through another round of “maybe this time”. Long story short, one month turned into 7-months and were it not for the self-pub “indie” option, I may have still been sitting on my manuscript, trembling from the fear the “6″ and others caused me to feel.

In reality I am not necessarily a fan of vanity presses. I think they prey upon the weak or arrogant or both, but in one regard they do serve a worthwhile purpose. The vanity presses of the world allow the literary market to be controlled by those who should have had the control all along: the consumer. Consumers are the ones who should determine who and what should be published, and what the overall price of something should be.

In theory, our society is free to dictate what is “worthy” of being published, purchased and read. What Amazon to this point, has done is finally put the decision into the hands of the consumer to judge for themselves what author has talent, what book has “teeth”, and what price a book is truly worth.

If a truly talented author wants to sell his masterpiece for $.99 on the open-market that is Amazon, and allow any person with an internet connection to read his or her novel, that should be their right, and the only ones who should decide whether that is a fair price are the consumers who decide to purchase that book.
If the work is crap and the price is too high, sales will show that, and the author will not have many. If the work is literary gold and the price too low, the author will have the option of raising the price while still maintaining good sales numbers.

As you stated in your article, price does not always determine true value, and if the consumer wants to overpay (your point being that $.99 is too much for many books on the market) for a terrible book, it is and should be their prerogative. I may read my fair share of books that I felt should have been destroyed in the author’s mind before I had to be subjected to it. Some of these books have gone on to find a niche somewhere, in some cult culture or some grouping of fans that I don’t understand, and sold plenty of copies. This is the way the market should be (I’m hearing “Free to Decide” by The Cranberries in my head right now).

You suggesting that Amazon go the way of the vanity press will cause many talented (but financially debilitated) writers to make tough choices that in the end may cause them not to publish, thus depriving the consumer of some worthy creations.

While I agree with you that a portion of the “talentless” will sit on the sidelines if a publishing fee is instituted, I think that the risk of losing the good and even great writers far outweighs the risk of letting the bad and terrible compete in an open market as they do now.

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