What J.K. Rowling’s Move Means

In my original 2008 post, J.K. Rowling: A Year In The Life, about the midnight lines for the final book in Harry Potter series:

It’s too easy to forget what a phenomenon her books have been. The final volume was the fastest-selling book in all of publishing history. … This could be the last time this happens in book publishing history. Once ebooks catch on, there won’t be this kind of public excitement to capture on film. What would a crew do, film a server crashing under heavy loads?

Well, we had a bit of that already today:

Click = big

That’s not as exciting as the screensnaps in the original post of kids lined up and then reading books.

The press has a very, very strange idea in its head that I’m seeing in several places. It boils down to the idea that somehow J.K. Rowling will be cheating Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, Kobo, and Sony!

Dig it, from UK Wired, which really should know better:

If mega-authors know that iBooks and Kindle will continue to allow readers to fulfil purchases of their books without having to pay them 30 percent commission, what’s stopping them from following suit? This could mean that the Apples and the Amazons of this world reconsider their commission structure in order to retain at least some commission from big players.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

What is this idea that any writer owes any of those gigantic companies any sort of cut?

What the hell did any of them really do for the eBook revolution other than massively fuck it up through DRM, proprietary file formats, poor book creation tools that required specialized technical expertise, and also trying to lock in both writers and readers?

Did Sony, the first eInk entrant, make it easy for individual writers to publish for the Reader? Hell no!

And when Amazon did, they took a seventy-percent cut! Writers should be eternally grateful for that screwing? Did Amazon ever give back that money after they reversed the cut?

Apple really requires writers to own a Mac in order to properly submit to the iBookstore. That’s in every writer’s best interest? To have an additional hardware expense to submit to one bookstore? All for the chance of also giving Apple thirty percent of the action?

Writers don’t owe any of these companies a goddammed thing!

I’ve said for years that writers will abandon their print publishers for eBooks.

And now J.K. Rowling is showing writers that we should also abandon the monopolistic lock-in stores.

Why give any of those companies a thirty percent cut when none of them — NONE OF THEM! — can justify that cut in terms of marketing exposure?

Don’t you dare try to argue that there is somehow prestige in being a line-item in one of their endless lists of books. Would you also argue that every writer should then pay rent to physical bookstores for shelf space?

None of those companies can justify their cuts at all. They’re not marketing each book to the extent that such a cut could ever be justified.

They advertise their platforms on the backs of the writers they’re stealing from.

What good is a Kindle without Patterson and Larsson? Without all the other writers people want to read?

Did Apple introduce the iPad without signing on five of the Big Six? Of all companies, they were in a position to flip the Establishment the bird and give individual writers a chance. They chose not to. And writers should be grateful that they went with their parasitic Masters?

The one thing the press has gotten right — and it’s only in passing so I doubt people are even letting it sink it — is this:

Rowling will be going around middlemen like Amazon and Apple‘s iBookstore to sell the digital versions herself.

To all those Apple fanboiz who unzipped their flies here in Comments and waggled their limpies about how Apple wanted to “do away with middlemen” like Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, et al — how does it feel to face that fact that Apple itself is nothing more than a greed-bastard pig middleman in the end?

It is up to writers not to enslave themselves to these large companies.

I don’t give a damn that Locke sold a million eBooks via Kindle. That’s no accomplishment given the pimpery that surrounds the Kindle platform, with blogs all over and affiliate links.

Had Locke sold a million eBooks on his own from his own site independently of all of these stores, that would have been noteworthy.

What about that braying egress-touting boob who thinks he invented self-publishing and today jumped on the back of Rowling’s announcement for his unending self-glorification? He went and signed with Amazon’s publishing arm! He never self-published. Like Locke, he depended on Amazon for help. And now he’s sold himself out to Amazon, confirming the fact he’s always been nothing but a rent boy.

Rowling is showing up every other writer with this move.

It doesn’t matter that she’s at the top of the heap, “a billion-dollar writer.” She could have taken the easy way out and just sat back with a fistful of contracts, let the eBooks flow from the middlemen, and her fans would have been happy anyway. So why didn’t she?

And you, at the bottom of the heap, why are you bending over to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, Kobo, Sony, and the rest?

That takes courage?

That shows you have confidence in the value of your work?

That you willingly give up near a third of your income to be lost in a ever-growing pile from the Big Six and from people can’t write but can figure out how to upload their unpublishable once-a-year delusional NaNoWriMo shit into the stores to compete against you for pin money?

You willingly submit to having your income double compromised like that? Once by the middlemen who don’t earn their cut — and then by the assholes who have no business touching a keyboard?

You expect to be able to stand out that way? There are easier ways to stand out: Strip off your clothes, smear yourself with shit, and run screaming down the street.

How is that any more demeaning that begging people on Twitter to buy your stuff that they can’t find in these stores?

Show me the promotional emails these stores send out that include your work! Where are they? What the hell are they doing to earn that thirty per cent they claim is for marketing?

You’re giving those stores near a third of your income — and then you have to beg people to notice you?!

When you do wake up to that absurdity?

J.K. Rowling is leading.

Start following her.

Previously here:

Who Says 30% Is Fair?


Filed under Digital Overthrow, Writer, Writers, Writing

7 responses to “What J.K. Rowling’s Move Means

  1. This is the first I’ve heard of the digital middlemen &co screaming about their rights to her work, but the physical bookstores are howling and the Outrage of Frustrated Entitlement is deafening.

  2. That’s an important piece, Mike, for all scribblers to muse on. The game is: Win or lose, blast your stuff out from your own goddamn kingdom. Your own site. Don’t fuck about with dumb-ass stores like Amazon, Apple…or beg people to buy your wares on Twitter or Facebook – like rotting carcases begging for resurrection.

    Keep the show on YOUR SITE. Found your empire. It don’t work, burn the fucker, or just enjoy it for its own sake.

    Your own website is like your own farm, your own mom & pop store, it’s your place. Don’t attract traffic to Facebook, Amazon, whatever, bring it to you. If people buy your books you’re a writer, if they don’t you need to change your game.

    Like you say, JK is in the lead… what she’s done is simple. She sells her own stuff from her own kingdom. Easy lesson to learn.

  3. This was an excellent read, Mike. And it does give writers like me something to think about.
    I think at the end of the day, most of those writers stay with the middlemen because they really believe that being in those markets is the best way of promoting their work. Even though said promotion doesn’t exist.
    They hope that via the recommendation system that readers are brought to their works automagically and then the “inevitable” sale occurs.
    At the end of the day, they do it because the middle men have trained them to believe that they are the only real markets out there to sell ebooks and that to do otherwise is to waste your time.

    • mikecane

      And then you have writers who get in there and muddy the waters by devaluing everything down to ninety-nine cents.

      • I saw that other post. Also an interesting point. But then there are those who argue it’s a good way to get someone interested in your work and then price following novels in a series at a higher price.

        I’ve seen some of the Big Six use a similar strategy. In some ways, its the “drug dealer” method of getting people to buy more of an authors books. Once you get a taste of it, you’ll be back for more.

        Although, in all honesty, I’ve only seen them price a novel using the above strategy to $2 or even free, but not at $.99. That price point does seem to be more popular with the self-publishers.

        But when you see stuff like John Locke selling a ton of e-books, it’s hard easy for those writers to jump on the bandwagon in the hope of selling more at the expense of devaluing their work.

  4. Yeah, I did get a chuckle outta that one. Values his techniques more than his actual writing.

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