If your RSS/email has been bouncy today, I apologize; I’ve been doing some site maintenance, and while I try to disable functions, it doesn’t seem to catch everything.
The latest skirmish in Amazon vs Hachette happened while I was on the road, which worked out well for me, as I was forced to spend five days as passive observer to the initial volley and the subsequent Category 5 Opinionstorm. I’m actually grateful for this, as when I got home I had already read the email Amazon sent out to its Kindle authors; if I had seen it raw in my inbox for the first time, I probably would have roared and said Things I Would Regret Later.
Seriously. It’s not a very good email. It’s insulting and pandering, and when I asked Brown to read it, he said: “Amazon did know they were sending this to writers, right? Because I’m taking a heavy beating from these metaphors.” You can read the full text for yourself here. If you don’t want to read it (don’t blame ya!), the takeaway argument is that readers (and yet somehow the primary audience for this email was authors who publish on Amazon…) need to come together and put pressure on Hachette to lower its ebook prices.
They referenced Orwell.
The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.
They referenced Orwell several times, actually, which is a huge warning sign to me because Orwell is synonymous with the little guy fighting against a giant oppressive force. Also? That giant, oppressive force tends to be a self-interested douche. Whoever wrote that email/press release seems to have intentionally misrepresented Orwell. Amazon could have chosen better, stronger quotes from any number of Orwell’s contemporaries to support their position, but Orwell wasn’t picked by accident. There’s never any subtlety when the O-bomb is dropped: it instantly creates the impression of conflict between good and bad, oppression and freedom, mind control and free will… It’s a trigger warning that an emotional argument is underway.
I can’t stand emotional arguments. I make them myself, and I’m as susceptible to them as anybody else, but if I’m being called in as part of Amazon’s own personal army, I’d like there to be a little more logic involved. Crowdfury is an exceptionally useful tool, especially for smaller persons and companies who do not have lawyers and publicists on staff. As one of those smaller persons and/or companies, I know firsthand that you do not release that particular Kracken unless there is no other choice. Crowdfury is nigh impossible to control, and can turn on you in a heartbeat because nobody likes to be used.
Which seems to be what is happening here. There’s been a substantial backlash to Amazon’s call to arms for this exact reason. No number of invocations of the ghost of Big Brother can change the fact that they are a giant organization with entire battalions of lawyers and publicists. They do not need us to fight their battles for them.
I am not obligated to go to war for Amazon. I provide content to Amazon, they provide services to me, and that is the end of that. And they are arguably less accountable to me than to some of the other service providers I’ve worked with: my relationship with Amazon has the illusion of transparency, as I can check my stats to see if my books are selling, but I can’t request additional data to verify these sales have occurred. I have to trust that Amazon’s algorithms are working, and that there is a 1:1 ratio between actual sales and reported sales. (I have no reason to doubt this is exactly what happens, but I can’t read an article about ebook price-fixing without thinking, “Hmmm…”)
I’m probably not alone in saying I would fight their battles with them if saw a righteous cause. I happen to like Amazon. They have provided great opportunities for me and many other self-published authors. I like the quality of the paperbacks they print for me. And I love the way their monthly payments arrive on time! If I saw another company actively threatening Amazon, I’d probably go and get my old plowshare and start hammering it back into shape. However, that’s not what’s happening here. Amazon’s existing business model is not being threatened, and many (most) of the points they have made to support their anti-Hachette arguments have been disputed.
By pushing this campaign, Amazon has made itself vulnerable. Best-selling authors are ten kinds of grumpy with them. And it’s quite possible that they have overextended themselves in going up first against Hachette, and then against Disney. (Disney, people!) Google Shopping Express, the fledgling Google/Barnes & Noble partnership, sees Amazon’s fight against Hachette as an opportunity. Since nearly a third of my income comes from Amazon. I’m watching all of this play out very, very closely.
p.s.: It seems a good time to offer up a new take on old advice. Here! I’ve redone the Orwell poster for you, free!
Download your own copies here. The .zip has two convenient print file sizes (4.5″x6″ and 8″x10.5″). If you want it in a larger size on heavy paper stock, let me know and I’ll see if I can get it into the store.
I must have missed a form or a checkbox or something, as I’ve been setting up a live Patreon account. And by “live,” I mean “I thought it was a hidden draft but no, apparently anyone on earth can drop in and see that I’ve just entered OH HELL in the Describe Your Project section and $10 PLACEHOLDER BALLS for most of the Goals.
The campaign is now live. Which is ahead of my original timeline, but, you know. Placeholder balls.
I’m excited about the monthly $5 tier, which gives me the opportunity to do Literal Dick Jokes. I didn’t want to put this particular image on the Patreon page, but someone asked me a while back where the dick jokes had gone and I was… Inspired?
The perfectly clean dick joke delights me. For $5 a month, a Patreon supporter gets one of these Crude Humor(tm) doodles every morning. It might not always be a happy penis, mind! I’m looking forward to serving as the scribe who chronicled the slow but violent deterioration of the unhappy friendship of Richard Dickerson and Martha Von Vagerton.
I really need to go work on a comic. Please stop starting fires, Internet!
I’ve been shopping around for product manufacturers for donor rewards for the upcoming Kickstarter. One of the big-ticket rewards will be OACET badges. I’ve been looking for vendors who can make badges which look as authentic as possible. Ideally, they would be the same quality, size, and weight as traditional law enforcement badges.
Problem #1: Can’t use a traditional law enforcement badge company. There are many companies that offer badge templates, and you can just plug-and-play with an organization’s information. However, these companies won’t sell to anyone who isn’t an authorized representative of a law enforcement agency. I’m not about to test this, and I’m certainly not about to offer a product as a Kickstarter reward and then find I can’t deliver on it.
Problem #2: Most alternative custom “badge” designers offer shoddy products. Think gumball machine sheriff stars. Woo.
Problem #3: YOUR WORKMANSHIP IS BAD AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD. Let me show you what happened when I approached some alternative custom badge designers which offered slightly higher-end products. This is the original design I sent to them:
This is what I received from one company:
A second example from another company:
I received a few more of these from various vendors. They are all nothing but the original art with some form of Photoshop treatment.
I was almost ready to junk the badge idea, but every so often you find a company that can deliver:
This last sample came from a jeweler’s company in Maryland who does custom decorative work for state and federal law enforcement. The final design will be tooled in 3D, cast as a die, and then reverse casts will be made. I’m hoping the Kickstarter goes over its cap, because one of the stretch goals would be to get challenge coins made, and this company does fantastic commemorative coins.
Back in August (Wait, that can’t be right… Holy crap, yeah, August) I made a Futurama Head In A Jar template. And then I started working on heads-inna-jar. I finished and posted two of them, and then worked on a bunch of others. Two of these I sent to author Seanan McGuire when I sent her a copy of DIGITAL DIVIDE.
And her alter ego, Mira Grant.
Seanan has been amazing. We’ve been chatting back and forth since I featured her book cover in a comic strip. At the time, I hadn’t read any of her works and picked the cover of a popular zombie novel off of Amazon at random (because what the hell else would undead pixy Ben Franklin read?). Man, I am glad for that chance landing on Feed. Seanan has been nothing but awesome. She’s funny, helpful, and willing to say “Yes, that thing you are doing? Do not do that,” or “That other thing? Do that more.” And today she wrote up a hell of a fantastic review for DIGITAL DIVIDE.
I’m unbelievably appreciative both to Seanan and to her (insanely prolific) writing abilities, because I’ve been devouring her October Daye series like the scrumptious treats they are. BUY HER BOOKS!
NOTE 1: This post does not apply to international orders purchased from the store prior to 10/29.
NOTE 2: I am aware there are other methods/options/opportunities/fish-in-the-sea. I am looking into these.
International shipping will be discontinued from the store until I can find a method that doesn’t
screw negatively affect me in terms of my time and money.
I mailed the first batch of international orders of Digital Divide today. This was my test batch. I have another, much larger, batch to do tomorrow. A total of 7 international packages and 2 domestic packages were mailed today, for a total of $127.40 in shipping. I’m rounding down to make the math easy, so let’s say it was $7 for domestic shipping with $120 for international shipping, or $17 on average per international package.
This was not an anticipated expense. I had weighed the packages and priced out shipping, and costs came to approx. $9 for the UK and Canada, and $14 to Australia. The price for shipping and handling in the store reflected these expenses.
This was also not the first time I went to the post office to mail these books. It was the third. The first time, I was told it was now policy to complete my custom forms online. The second time, I was told the online custom forms were invalid and needed to be submitted manually. Today, I went with a stack of old forms, the ones where you have to write out your information, the buyer’s information, and a tiny bill of lading to tell inspectors what’s in the package. The clerk took those seven forms, then painstakingly entered this information in the computer. It took her nearly thirty minutes to finish my transactions.
It’s not like the final total was a surprise–I had watched the numbers climb as the clerk worked, and I knew something was off when the Canadian shipping costs came back at $10.55 and the UK costs at $16.95. They continued to go up from there. I had a lot of time to think (pulling out a book and reading at the counter seemed like a dick move), so I did math instead: It costs me $5.05 to print each copy, plus $35 to have them shipped to me, plus $0.60 for packing materials, plus at least a dollar of my time for handling because I’m not using that time for paid work, I’m doing brainmath instead, whee goodtimes, so that’s an investment of $6.95 in each book… I was charging $8.95 for shipping to Canada, so that’s not too bad a loss, I’m still ahead by a few bucks, but outside of Canada… aw hell.
(The flat rate for international shipping begins at $19.95. Not-quite-ironically, none of the packages made it there.)
So, yeah. Today pooched me hard, tomorrow will pooch me harder. Nothing to do about it since these packages need to go out. However, until I can expect predictability in international shipping and charge accordingly, I have disabled international orders from the store for all products except digital downloads. I apologize for any inconvenience.
/angry rant off
I just posted the following on Twitter:
This was part of a larger spread of writers’ residences in Greensboro, North Carolina. Each one of them with a picture and an image of their actual motherfucking house. It was brought to Brown’s attention as the picture of Randall Jarrell’s house in that spread was not ours, but an earlier one Jarrell owned.
I’ll just leave this here with one comment: I don’t know whether Mr. Card approved of this information being made public, but if so, he has never been on the Internet. Ever.
EDIT TO ADD: Yes, yes, I know I keep a home blog with pictures of our house. Please note the lack of actual physical addresses in that blog. Have fun driving around the thousands of miles of residential streets in scenic Greensboro!