Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

David Streitfeld is Dangerous and Disingenuous

David Streitfeld of the New York Times has now cemented himself as the blabbering mouthpiece for the New York publishing cartel, and while he is making a fool of himself for those in the know, he is a dangerous man for the impression he makes on his unsuspecting readers.

(I should point out here that I’m a 7-day-a-week home delivery subscriber to the New York Times. I start every day by reading the physical paper. I love it. But they do make occasional hiring mistakes.)

A dishonest man with access to a pulpit is like a poisoner with access to a well. David Streitfeld is a dishonest man. He is a reporter with an agenda. A good case in point is this head-scratcher: Just one summer ago, David made reference to Orwell’s well-known disdain for cheap paperbacks to draw a comparison to Amazon’s fight for lower ebook prices. A year later, the same David Streitfeld claimed that Orwell was a fan of cheap paperbacks. What changed?

What changed is that Amazon used the same Orwellian quote in proper context, just as David did a year ago, but we all know that Amazon simply can’t be right about anything. And so enterprising Amazon-bashers reframed a partial quote from Orwell in an attempt to have the deceased man stand for the opposite of his opinion, in an exercise as disgusting as it was Orwellianly ironic.

There’s also this gem of a piece which ran the day before Douglas Preston and company paid over $100,000 for an ad in the New York Times. It states one side of this debate (much as Douglas Preston has been doing) and serves as an advertising twofer. It’s not reporting; it’s shilling. One highlight is its dismissal of a petition calling on Hachette to negotiate in good faith, which garnered over 8,000 signatures in mere weeks, by comparing it to a year-old petition calling for the protection of whales which drew over 200,000 signatures.

In what has become known as “Whale math,” the opinion of 900 authors is worth a fawning article (complete with Douglas Preston hanging out by his writing shack on his 300 acre summer estate), while the opinion of 8,000+ authors is meaningless . . . because far more people care about saving whales.

When I read articles like these in my beloved New York Times, I worry for their reputation. I wonder if I should write a letter to their board expressing my concern. We obviously have a reporter here in the pocket of monied interests, one who can’t even agree with himself year to year, and one who works in deliberate and bizarre ways to dismiss one entire side of the debate.

Let’s look at all that David Streitfeld gets wrong or deliberately misrepresents so we fully understand just how either dishonest or ignorant he is being about this Amazon / Hachette dispute:

After six months of being largely cut off from what is by far the largest bookstore in the country, many Hachette writers are fearful and angry.

Largely cut off? If I go to Amazon right now, all of Hachette’s books are available for purchase. The only books I can’t get are the ones that aren’t even out yet. Amazon removed pre-order buttons from books it may not have the ability to sell once they release. There is no “largely cut off” here. None at all. But readers may suspect this is the case if all they hear is David Streitfeld’s propaganda.

Check out this doozy:

In the Harris Poll of corporate reputations, [Amazon] once again took top honors this year. But that prestige is taking a bit of a beating as the fight with Hachette drags on.

So, because of Amazon’s actions, they have fallen from first place to . . . first place? Where is David’s fact to buttress his opinion of a beating? Reporting that Amazon took top honors in a poll of corporate reputations, and then saying that this reputation is taking a battering without referencing anything at all, is worse reporting than you’ll find on my stupid little blog. David, your board should be ashamed of you.

The entire article, in fact, is a dishonest and forceful echoing of Preston’s letter, replete with threats of growing discord and plummeting prestige. While the letter to the board members will likely do nothing, Streitfeld’s salvo is another loud boom in the PR war where those with microphones get amplified and those with mere votes and voices are muted.

David points out that:

Anyone contemplating ordering his latest novel, “The Lost Island,” written with Lincoln Child, is warned it might take as long as three weeks to arrive. That, as Amazon and its customers know, might as well be forever.

Without mentioning the fact that this delay is due to Hachette’s shipping inefficiencies. Why should Amazon sell pre-orders for books when it has no lasting contract with Hachette? Why should it stock predictive quantities of their titles in warehouses when it may not be able to sell that stock in the near future?

Douglas Preston gets this wrong as well. In this latest letter to board members, he says that Amazon could employ some negotiation tool that does not impact authors. I’d love to hear his ideas. Or at least one idea. How can Amazon hurt Hachette without hurting its authors? Impacting sales is going to impact the 15% of that money that trickles its way down to the writer.

The reasonable move from Amazon would have been to stop carrying Hachette’s titles months ago until Hachette began negotiating in good faith. Hachette went months without responding to Amazon while their contract ticked down and expired. Amazon’s solution to removing authors from harm was to fund a pool to make their royalties whole until the dispute is settled. They’ve made three such offers, and Hachette hasn’t so much as countered a single one. The cries of “disingenuous” could be tested by calling Amazon’s bluff or making a counter offer that helps the authors while hurting Amazon. But no one has suggested this other than those of us who are supposedly Amazon’s shills.

Hachette has instead refused to remove its authors from the line of fire. The company is using them as a shield. And the New York Times has chosen not to report on all the details and on both sides of this negotiation. Rather, they have chosen to engage in a deliberate negative PR campaign against Amazon. They have chosen to support a publishing cartel that recently colluded in a price-fixing scheme that harmed readers. They have chosen to make as their publishing spokesman a reporter who contradicts himself from one summer to the next, a reporter who sings the praises of a handful of elite authors in exchange for 6-figure ads while dismissing the thousands of authors who disagree.

 

 

77 replies to “David Streitfeld is Dangerous and Disingenuous”

As a career journalist, I often cringe when I read Streitfeld’s stuff, particularly lately. He’s obviously biased against Amazon. The most egregious example was the one you cited above, in which he slammed everyone who had signed a petition supporting Amazon and compared it to another, completely unrelated petition to help whales. I was flabbergasted that made it past Stretifeld’s editor.
It may be worth bringing this to the attention of Margaret Sullivan, the public editor at the New York Times, who can be reached here: public@nytimes.com.
At the very least, the NYT running a big story on an ad in its own paper — and glorifying the person responsible for the ad — raises a lot of dicey questions that the NYT should address in a public format.

In addition to the email address, Margaret Sullivan’s Twitter handle is @sulliview.

I would be interested to see if she offers her Editorial in response to this.

I tweeted this post with an @sulliview included and asked what NYT is going to do, but that will have as much effect as a raindrop on their roof. A whole lot of raindrops will have to fall before it approaches a tropical cyclone’s worth of rain.

My normal ritual on Sunday is to go to the coffee shop, get my analog copy of NYT and sit for a bit. It used to be I had to go super early because they would all be out, but now I can take my time and still get one. Hint?

Last time, I was sitting there reading opinion pieces and bits of “reporting” and it hit me. I know the Amazon bashes are bunk because I’m part of that business (even as an Indie), but what about all the others. It made me look at them all with very wary eyes, with each position piece or opinion piece I had to ask myself: Are all of these written by shills for some specific deep-pocketed interest? And who is being paid to promote these opinions…because someone must be.

For the first time, I put my paper down and didn’t finish it. If I can’t trust anything about the paper, then why bother? Alas, I’ll be looking for a new Sunday publication.

I know the Amazon bashes are bunk because I’m part of that business… It made me look at them all with very wary eyes, with each position piece or opinion piece I had to ask myself: Are all of these written by shills for some specific deep-pocketed interest?

This exactly. When you don’t thoroughly know the other areas being reported on, how do you dare trust the content?

I thought it was just me!
After that pre-ad shill, (and did you check out the book review for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a Hachette book that was titled ‘Possibly the best read of the summer’?) my faith was shaken.

I have to admit now that I no longer read Krugman, Friedman, Blow, Dowd, Collins and Brooks the same way b/c of how blatantly biased Strietfield has been and has continued to get away with it.

I used to truly believe the NY Times was the ‘greatest periodical in the world’. But now… well… it’s credibility with me has been severely damaged.

You can try. As a former newspaper reporter and editor myself, I sent Sullivan a letter asking some pointed questions about the article that ran right before the $100k ad, the misrepresentations by Streitfeld and the appearance of a quid pro quo for ad dollars. I got a response from a lackey in her office telling me it would be forwarded to the business editor where apparently, it went to die.

Well said.

Traditional media keeps highlighting the opportunity for real creatives without entrenched interests. Unlike Streifeld, we’re free to actually come up with ideas, we have the freedom of optionality.

I’ve grown to pity a lot of those who feed from old media. It would be a horrible life to live if you always knew what you could and couldn’t write. Streitfeld writes from the purgatory of obligation, which has to suck.

Appreciate the continued education in publishing!

As a result of the Preston letter, the ad, and the biases and slants re publishing, I have been telling my husband to question what the NYT says on EVERYTHING.

Their impartiality is severely in question in the one area I’m acquiring a lot of knowledge/information – why should I trust them to be reporting other things neutrally?

‘Journalism’ used to mean something; now we read The Economist and watch their language carefully for evidence of bias.

Streitfield is a specialist. He doesn’t engage in just any kind of journalism…it’s yellow journalism. Less gracious people might refer to it as “trolling.”

Alicia you should read what Barry Eisler has to say about The Economist on his website. He has also been saying many of these same things about the NYT for many years.

I’m a digital subscriber of the New York Times. Their reporting in the Amazon v Hachette standoff has been shockingly dishonest. Over the years, I have come to place close to zero value on their editorials, especially when it comes to economic issues. But what’s to be done if their reporting is this bad? On the Amazon issue, I know enough to detect the BS. But on things I know less about–the Middle East, say–how would I know? Articles like these make me wonder how much I can trust their other stuff. Aren’t there editors and fact-checkers and smell-testers somewhere in the production process? Or is it more like a blog where reporters can just write whatever they want and hit publish?

I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

Another perfect quote from the linked post, referring to newspaper articles in which the reporter gets it so far wrong that cause and effect are reversed. Yes. Thank you, Mr. Popescu!

I lambasted Streitfeld before http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2014/08/david-streitfeld-embarassment-to-new.html and just replied to Authors United new letter.

Luckily, propaganda doesn’t work like it used to, because the Internet makes everyone an expert researcher.

Granted, some readers will form an opinion and make decisions without any further research. But happily there are counterpoints that are readily available for those who seek more information.

Also, maybe it is time to vote with your dollars and cancel your NYT subscription.

Why do you need one? I’m quite serious, if it’s not a local small town paper why can’t you get your world news from an aggregate of smaller news services and blogs that you can cross-reference against each other?

I was doing that until before all the major newspapers put up pay walls over the last couple of years. For opinions, I think blogs of people I’ve gradually come to trust (like Hugh) are better than mainstream newspapers. But for straight-up reporting, are there any good free options left?

The best way to learn to ignore the paywalls is to use aggregator services. For tech I use techmeme.com, and for US politics I use memeorandum.com. While they’re both blog aggregators but it’s not hard to parse out events in either field by perusing the blogs that are quoting and commenting on them. For straight news I find that Google’s news aggregator is pretty good once you get it trained in your interests.

Maybe it’s just my training as a researcher but I vastly prefer being able to easily find 4-5 reports on an event to any one news supplier’s content. Case in point: events in the Middle East. Don’t stick with just American sources. Le Monde, Al Jezeera news, BBC World news, Washington Post, they’re all good and by seeing what they ALL say about a subject you’re more likely to parse out the full story.

I had a deal with a big NY publisher to reprint one of my books. They lagged in their efforts. I warned that the term of the contract would soon expire. They dithered further. The contract expired. Then they wanted to do the reprint. I said no, not without a new contract and new money. They said no. We went our own ways.

Ending business relationships happens. Amazon should start a clock running with Hachette. If nothing mutually agreeable happens by a certain date and time, see ya.

Observing The New York Times coverage of a topic we happen to know a little about has been nothing short of eye-opening.

We’ve seen a parade of shoddy research. An embarrassing lack of logical coherence. Outright falsehoods. Pandering to and shilling for advertisers in the guise of “news.”

Zero credibility. Zero integrity.

Yet we’re supposed to believe that The New York Times coverage of other subjects, ones which we don’t have the knowledge to sanity-check, is any more accurate?

How a once-mighty bastion of journalism has fallen. Why keep subscribing, just to keep its skeevy ad-whore corpse alive?

At this point, if The New York Times reported that water was wet… I’d start having doubts.

I gave up on mainstream media a long time ago. They all have an agenda, whether it’s corporate or political, and almost everything they report is twisted to further the agenda of their “team”.

As a former award-winning journalist who worked for major media outlets and print publications, I found Mr. Streitfeld’s first article on this issue to be shockingly bad — poorly reasoned, biased, under-reported, celebrating expensive advertising in his newspaper, and just plain dumb and ignorant. (Whale-math? Really?) The NYT still has some good editors and has always had some standards. They are one of the few games left in print journalism and I will be sorry to see them go when technology finally rolls over them, too. But the paper has a history of mounting campaigns to discredit one side of an issue and champion the other. I experienced this firsthand in politics and we all saw it blatantly on display in their coverage of the lead-up to the Iraq war. Streitfeld is probably safe. But then, so is Amazon. Maybe the whole mess will help some trad-pubbed authors to wake up and smell the coffee. Coffee is what fuels all these day-job + write-novels-instead-of-sleeping indie-pubbers, isn’t it?

What’s surprising to me is this feeling that it’s one rotten apple in an otherwise pristine bunch. The Times has a history of playing fast and loose and now that newspaper revenues are declining I expect hit pieces such as this to not only continue but to increase and become more strident.

It’s another source of revenue. Buy and ad, get a hit piece thrown in gratis. Instead of paying Vinnie to kneecap you in the alley, I’ll get the Grey Lady (perhaps she should be renamed…what fits?….Jezebel perhaps) to beat you around the head and neck leaving you bloody and bruised and amenable to suggestion.

Amazon’s Harris Poll Corporate Reputation Score:
2013: 82.62
2014: 83.87

I’m sorry for not involving whales in my math, or perhaps the result would be more accurate, but simple arithmetic shows that Amazon’s reputation has *increased* over the past year.

Yeah, Streitfeld is just making stuff up.

To expand on the numbers supplied by Michel Savastio… Amazon not only held first place for the second year in a row… but its rating continued to climb…. Details below.

According to the annual Harris Poll (just purchased by Nielson) RQ Summary Report, Amazon has had the top reputation of the most visible companies for the last two years, surpassing Apple.

Amazon’s progress in Harris Poll of company reputations…
2012 81.92
2013 82.62 (highest for 2013)
2014 83.87 (highest for 2014)

By contrast, Apple (previously the highest)
2012 85.62 (highest for 2012)
2013 82.54
2014 81.76

To verify this, search on
“Harris Poll 201x RQ Summary Report”
substituting desired year in place of “201x”.

The 2014 rankings list appears in the following
http://www.trackur.com/report-top-brands-increase-reputation-in-2014-amazon-coca-cola-apple-lead-the-way

As a consumer of goods online I am motivated by price, not by reputation. AU’s attempts to besmirch Zon’s rep is an exercise that matters only to (some) writers and (some) publishers. The real game is over here in this new big bright stadium where the other 99.999% of the world votes with its dollars. As long as Zon has the lowest prices on the Internet (and it usually does) I’m going to continue buying my garden hoses there instead of going uptown, trying to find a sales person at the hardware store that knows the difference between a half inch and five-eights inch hose, can talk kink vs. non-kink, and can offer me 50 reviews from users of that particular hose. AU and its mouthpieces have a huge battle before them, it’s all uphill, and it’s already been won. By Amazon. Now we’re just going about letting everyone down easy.

Cost, honest & accurate depiction of product, and reliability of meeting promised delivery time. Meet those three requirements and I’ll gladly buy from your online store. This is Amazon’s strength: they have good prices, accurate product blurbs, and fast delivery. That’s a hard trifecta to beat.

“Largely cut off? If I go to Amazon right now, all of Hachette’s books are available for purchase. The only books I can’t get are the ones that aren’t even out yet. Amazon removed pre-order buttons from books it may not have the ability to sell once they release. There is no “largely cut off” here. None at all. But readers may suspect this is the case if all they hear is David Streitfeld’s propaganda.”

Why would Amazon not have the ability to sell those titles? They have accounts with Baker & Taylor and Ingrams. Unless a book publisher pulls their titles from those distributers, it’s impossible for them to prevent Amazon stocking their titles. There’s no reason Amazon can’t offer pre-orders, apart from the fact they don’t want to.

Your readers may suspect this is not the case if all they read is your blog.

“There’s no reason Amazon can’t offer pre-orders, apart from the fact they don’t want to.”

Wait: so you think that Amazon should order the books from a third-party distributor, at a higher price, so they can continue to sell them at a pre-order discount?

They would do that why, exactly?

Amazon is a business, Daniel. It’s not a charity run for the benefit of Hachette or Douglas Preston.

Even better, why doesn’t Amazon buy Hachette’s entire catalogue in volume at retail prices from Barnes and Noble, warehouse the books so there are plenty available in case anyone wants to order one, and then sell them at a discount and take a significant loss. (Free shipping too!)

Amazon has so many options available. Why should they need a contract with Hachette to sell Hachette books? It’s so silly of them.

I used to be a dedicated NYT reader, but at a certain point I cracked after reading one too many articles like Streitfeld’s on a variety of subjects. It’s not just the bias that got to me, it was the smugness…

You know, when they jacked the daily up from $1 to $2.50, I didn’t really flinch. Shrortz’s puzzles are worth it, and the Sunday one, man oh man, I’ll happily shell out five bones to get my hands on it.

I’m not much for their reporting, and with a track record like Streitfeld’s, the NYT is showing little chance of changing my opinion.

If I were a lawyer in a courtroom and Streitfeld were on the stand, I’d be jumping up every five seconds: “Objection, Your Honor! Assumes facts not in evidence!”

The Times / NYC Publishing House Culture relationship has always been incestuous. Of course the Times would take that side in the debate. They want the Big Apple to continue to be regarded as the seat of letters and intellectualism in America, if not the whole world. To them, Amazon is just WalMart.

Your expertise is publishing, so you see the nonsense in the NYT when they talk about publishing. My expertise is government, and there’s just as much if not more biased, factually incorrect nonsense when they talk about government. I wouldn’t worry about the damage folks like Streitfeld are doing to their reputation. It’s already in tatters.

Even so, it’s hard not to hold a warm place in my heart for the “journalist” who unwittingly brought us WHALE MATH–an amazingly useful phrase (especially when talking about publishing or politics) that we may well be using for years to come.

So what is Hachette’s endgame in this propaganda war? Are they planning to continue on as they have been, banking on Amazon suffering them to continue using the terms of their expired contract, knowing those terms are more favorable than any they are likely to negotiate, until Amazon either capitulates or stops carrying Hachette books entirely? Or is Hachette hoping simply to delay any resolution whatsoever until the judicially mandated windows open for the other colluding publishers to join in, at which point they can once again wield their bargaining positions against Amazon jointly? But if that’s their game, why hasn’t Amazon already cut Hachette off? Is Amazon betting they’ll be able to get additional legal relief (and enhanced public cachet) by claiming the Publishers are at it again? What am I missing?

You are assuming Hachette has a plan.

My gut tells me that Hachette would have capitulated months ago, but Preston et al stepped in at just the right time to give their publisher courage. The damage these authors have caused to their colleagues is absolutely tragic. All it would have taken to get back to normal business practices (and sell more books at a lower price) would have been for a handful of Hachette authors to understand their publisher’s history and intent, realize the company was not working in their best interest, and quietly ask for them to negotiate with Amazon in good faith.

Instead, these writers have empowered their publisher to persist in their lunacy. And Amazon will not cut them off completely, because it would not be in service to their customers. They believe in fighting for lower ebook prices, but I think they’ll only go so far. It’s a shame, because the overall damage would’ve been less if they’d just terminated their deal with Hachette when the last contract expired.

Originally, I think the hope was that the propaganda war mixed with threats of government intervention would get Amazon to cave quickly. (Remember when self-publishers were supposed to join Hachette in the fight with Amazon because it would make their books seem cheaper?) Now their hired PR machine is on autopilot even as all their talking points fizzle out one by one.

I don’t think Hachette has ever considered capitulating to Amazon. I don’t think they ever will. They see the terms as a death warrant. They are not going to sign their own death warrant (that only happens in thrillers).

In short, I do not see an agreement in the offing.

IMO a few thousand people in Manhattan give a damn about Authors United’s expressed opinion. The hundreds of millions beyond New York City 1) don’t know and 2) don’t care.

The Manhattan thousands hate Amazon, because the ‘Zon did not go to right schools and does not play by the unwritten rules, doncha know. Bezos is ‘new money’ and needs to learn to defer to his betters.

The fly-over millions love Amazon. 99.999% of them do not know that Hachette or Doug Preston or David Streitfeld exist. But they order from Amazon every day in increasing numbers.

The opinion of David Streitfeld and the New York Times is irrelevant. Amazon has already won this battle. The only thing left to do is count casualties.

Chased down Shirky’s piece — https://medium.com/@cshirky/publishing-and-reading-6a80139d13cc — and soon realized I’ve read it all in quotes in many fora around the internet. (I’ve had deja vú all over again here and at thepassivevoice.com. I feel like I read these things weeks ago.)

When automobiles first hit the roads, they were playthings for the wealthy. Henry Ford changed that. At one time in the early ’20s, every other car in the world was a Ford. (Coincidentally, Ford captured the small tractor market during WW1, but, hey, those were just farmers and nobody ever bothers about them.) Like Ford, Bezos has half the market in books, and only Bezos knows how much of the other markets he has.

My reading preferences in two genres — Great War aviation and fighting sailing ships — are the arcane provinces of small presses. The books are expensive: $40 is cheap; $150 is common; and $500 for a first edition may sometimes be considered a steal. Recently I have found ebooks in this genre offered at Amazon. A book I paid $48.80 for 2 years ago is now sold in ebook format for $9.99.

My book buying habits divide into BK and AK: Before Kindle and AK. My records show that in the last year BK I bought 18 books. In the year 3 AK (last year), I bought 62 ebooks and 6 DTBs.

The Manhattan crowd is the only one bellyaching about Amazon. Amazon sends me an email every day hawking clothes, andI have not heard a peep out of L.L. Bean or Lands’ End or WalMart. They just roll with the punches and compete.

I’ll say it again: the war is over. Amazon won. Preston and Shatzkin and their running dogs remind me of the Southerners who — to this day — maintain that the Confederacy shoulda won. But they did not.

Look, the decisive engagement of the Civil War was the Battle of Hampton Roads, 9 March 1862 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hampton_Roads). Took 3 more years to finish it, but the outcome was never again in doubt. Amazon won with the introduction of the Kindle. There is no chance that any of the BPHs or even all of them together can mount an offensive. Now they can stand and die, fight a retreat, turn and be ridden down, or surrender and live.

I’m pretty sure we’ll see legal action once the appeal to the general public’s emotions goes nowhere. And while they won’t have a leg to stand on, that doesn’t mean they can’t win. Courts are exciting in that way.

Someone above, referring to the NYT, remarked, “How a once-mighty bastion of journalism has fallen”–as though the fall occurred only the day before yesterday. The fall has been evident for a long lifetime.

One example: In the 1930s Walter Duranty was the NYT’s Moscow bureau chief. He wrote glowing stories about how well things were going in the Soviet Union. The country was filled with happy farmers and factory workers. It also was filled with people who were being starved to death deliberately, most notably in Ukraine, where millions perished under Stalin’s orders. Duranty knew about the famines but never mentioned them. He had an ideology to push, and that trumped everything.

Only decades later did the NYT say that Duranty’s articles constituted “some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper.” The acknowledgement came long after Duranty’s failings were well known and only after the NYT found itself in a corner, forced to make some sort of exculpatory statement about him.

The NYT newsroom long has been home both to competent and unbiased reporters and to reporters who think the purpose of a newspaper is to foster their own prejudices. Streitfeld seems to fall in the latter category, but he is only the latest, and by no means the most prominent, of those NYT writers who care little for truth and much for ideology.

I’ve said it before on other blogs, but it bears repeating. Outside of the publishing industry, the writing community, and a few dedicated bibliophiles, NOBODY CARES. Customers don’t care about publishers, they don’t care about supplier/distributor contract disputes, and I would be starkly amazed if I could walk down the street and ask ten people if they have ever heard of David Streitfeld and get an answer in the affirmative. Hachette’s PR campaign is an epic failure. They’ve done so much damage to Amazon that their revenues are climbing by double digit percentages quarter over quarter and their customer satisfaction rating is in the stratosphere. Well played, Hachette. You may as well have launched a bottle rocket at the sun.

Furthermore, if I, a writer, have fatigued of hearing about this dispute, how does Hachette think the 99.999 percent of people with no vested interest feel? For crying out loud people, it’s football season!

I recently ordered “Ancillary Justice” by Ann Leckie from Amazon. It took 2 weeks to get to me and only after I got it did I realize it was published by a Hachette imprint.
However, the reason I bought it at Amazon was because I went to TWO separate B&N stores and neither had it on their shelves. Two weeks was way better than not having it at all.

I posted this over at Konrath’s blog, and thought it relevant here too:

The thing that gets me the most about these author complaints is when they keep referring to “my book”, or “author’s books”, without acknowledging that they don’t own their books anymore when they sell them to publishers. The publisher owns the books. The authors only get a royalty.

It would be as if an architect were to keep calling a house he built and then sold “my house”, and complaining about the way its price and rent and so on have been hurt by some new developer in the area. When you sell a house, even if you built it, it’s not yours anymore. And the same applies to a book you sell to a publisher. It doesn’t belong to you, and you can’t insist that a retailer is doing something to “your book”, because it isn’t yours.

I can understand the feeling of helplessness that motivates these kinds of letters. The Authors United group really does feel powerless and helpless and unable to do anything about their situation, because they really have no power here. They don’t even own their own books. They signed over all their rights for an advance. How more helpless can you be?

So their rage is understandable. It’s just misdirected at Amazon. The proper target isn’t even their publisher, because they are the ones who sold it, and no one put a gun to their heads. So the real rage should be directed at themselves, for giving up ownership and control of their book to a publisher in exchange for an advance.

But people don’t like to blame themselves when things go badly, so they look for someone else to blame, and someone as far from the actual scene of the crime as possible. Amazon had nothing to do with the actual problem, which occurred when the author signed away all his rights of ownership to the publisher. Amazon’s beef is with the publisher, not the author. Amazon doesn’t own the book, so it can’t control what the publisher does with it, and it can’t force the publisher to agree to reasonable terms.

It’s not Amazon’s fault that the author has ZERO negotiating power, and can’t affect the outcome of these negotiations one wit. So these powerless authors are doing they only thing they can – whining in public about their sorry-ass state, and trying to blame someone else for it.

Interesting how you don’t find self-published authors, who own their own books and don’t sell off their rights, whining about their problems and trying to blame someone else. It’s not like they’re all rich. They just know that they can control their own fate, for better or worse, and so they learn self-reliance.

They don’t get any advances in exchange for selling their rights, but they do get the satisfaction of actually owning their own book. When they say “my book”, those words actually mean something. Whereas, with a traditionally published book, it’s a self-deluding lie meant to placate authors who literally do not own the books they wrote. That’s got to be a terrible feeling, and it explains the humongous piles of bullshit people like Preston and his Authors Unlimited keep leaving behind after their pity-party is over.

I’m reading a very interesting book right now about Internet media and how easily blogs and news websites are manipulated by PR operatives who are hired by corporations of all sizes and specialize in propagating a kind of nefarious, underhanded bullshit that helps promote a cause, an agenda, or a product.

They often start with low level blogs that they know the bigger blogs mine for stories, and the best worded—and most clickbait worthy—stories get picked up by those bigger blogs and eventually by the big news websites like the New York Times. These operatives use sock puppets, emails, phony documents, faked credentials, self-proclaimed “expert” status, bribes, non-monetary compensation, promises of career enhancement, and just about any other trick you can think of to get their message out.

The book is a complete indictment of “news” gathering in the world of the Internet, the laziness of reporters, the pressure that’s put on them to produce copy for what amounts to a per click commission, and how easy it is to spread false information very quickly.

The book is called TRUST ME, I’M LYING by Ryan Holiday, and I highly recommend it.

I too am an ex-journalist, but I have a different take from the ex-journalists who have commented.
Editors don’t want reporters writing biased and untrue stories. Never. Not anywhere.
But editors often allow this to happen because they TRUST their employees.
Look what happened with Jason Blair. He falsified for years before he was caught.
NYT folks involved with this story have put their faith in Streitfeld.
I’m sorry their faith isn’t warranted.

What amazes me the most is that you expected better from the NYT. They’ve been riding on their reputation as the paper of record for some time, but they’ve become little better than a tabloid. (I highly recommend Gray Lady Down by William McGowan for an in depth history of how this happened.)

it would be well to keep in the the NYT was knowingly manipulated by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby (et al) during Valerie Plame incident and never quite apologized nor addressed its own integrity issues.

Amazon took a beating and moved from first place to first place, lol. The writer must have once worked in politics, because of his fuzzy math.

The banding together thing and drawing lines (dare I say”in the sand”?) Is what caused all this trouble in the first place, going back to cro-magnan times. This I have carefully researched. Why would it surprise anyone that a lie can find its way into print? I just read a story about a guy who started self-publishing and everything went smooth as silk and the money just kept on pourin in. But I looked at his numbers. If he states the truth, a truck full of money should be pulling in my drive way at any moment. Mend your own fences. Paddle your own canoe. Don’t look outside yourself for validation. Don’t utilize a band wagon. Buy more of my books. Etc.

Comments are closed.