Paul Biba did something I did not do: He read the entirety of a recent Salon magazine piece where a juicy bit of info was buried about the Big Six of book publishing refusing to renew their yearly contact with the Kindle Store.
They were warned these terms were coming.
The Independent Publishers Group were the first to be confronted with that contract and its terms.
Now the Big Six think they can win this battle with Amazon.
I will tell you why they cannot.
Contrary to what book publishers think — especially of themselves — they have no real power.
Their power comes from and resides in their writers.
We’ve seen known names bolt from the Big Six and set up shop publishing independently. Some have also been testing the waters (using pseudonyms).
So, if the Big Six continue to refuse and Amazon is forced to remove all of their books from the Kindle Store, what they will be doing is depriving their writers of the massive income possible from Kindle sales.
Now if I’m a writer contracted to the Big Six, I’m not going to take kindly to that action. I have rent to pay, I have food to buy, I have bills that demand payment, and I need the peace of mind to actually write. Will my Big Six publisher front the money for all that so they can use me as a pawn against Amazon? They will not.
I will especially be displeased if I’ve been seeing my eBook sales growing and have learned from my Big Six publisher that most of those sales come from the Kindle Store, with all others being negligible (which has been the case for several writers who have self-published already).
Listen, this has zero to do with “loyalty.” The Big Six are loyal to their own interests. As is Amazon to its interests. Caught between both are the writers under contract to the Big Six. And they need to wake up to see that they have the power.
And that day might come far sooner than either the Big Six or any writer expects.
The catalyst for this upcoming shift is what President Obama recently signed into law: The JOBS Act.
Go read Matt Taibbi’s take on it and then come back here. I’ll wait.
Anyone old enough to have witnessed the go-go dotcom era should instantly recognize that Obama has just exponentially topped that.
Everyone is going to start setting up a shingle as an “investment counselor” to bring together whoever they can find — legit and otherwise — to sell to investors.
There will be lots and lots and lots and lots of money to be made.
And someone who has been paying attention to what’s been happening with the Big Six and Amazon and has even a little understanding about the dynamics of book publishing is going to start pitching to writers to leave their dinosaur publishers that have used them as pawns and strike out on their own under an umbrella group.
See how United Artists was formed.
What the Big Six do not want to happen to them is what happened to the Hollywood studios.
MGM, Columbia, United Artists, Paramount, all of them, were once dominant in movie making. None of them actually exist any longer. They are basically business entities that raise money. They are not studios as they once were in their heyday. They’re become investment funds, run by money people, with any sense of aesthetics kicked to the curb.
The Big Six will find themselves all hollowed out like that too.
If they think their only “threat” is the power of Amazon, they’re kidding themselves. Griffith, Pickford, Chaplin, and Fairbanks showed the other studios what could happen when they formed United Artists.
Someone out there will form a United Artists of writers, leading an exodus of writers from the Big Six that will rival what Moses did centuries ago.
The Big Six have no one but themselves to blame for this. Even their weak move to acquire independence is somewhere in an unknowable limbo. Bookish was supposed to launch last year. Will it ever launch? I don’t think so. I don’t think any of the Big Six can pull it off. They have resisted the future for far too long and that’s really all they know what to do.
The way Amazon operates is, “We’ll ask for two legs and an arm. So they’ll settle for what we’ve wanted all along: an arm.”
The Big Six will consider that a victory. But it’s just one more step towards that cliff the future has been pushing them towards.
If you’re a writer under contract to the Big Six, you had better start paying attention because your writing future — your career, your life, your art — depends on it. It won’t be with the Big Six if they continue on this path. And you don’t want your future to wind up all tied up with a con artist who thought writers were easy pickings thanks to the JOBS Act.