Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ebooks, the Feds, and Editing

 Is this really the enemy?

While I can’t remember a moment in time when I agreed with Senator Charles E. Schumer on anything, his op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning did make me waiver. He wants the DOJ to drop the Apple E-Books suit. His reaction is based on the Department of Justice’s suit against Apple and major publishers alleging that they colluded to raise prices in the digital book market. He says that the suit would wipe out the publishing industry as we know it, making it much harder for young authors to get published.

As always Schumer is long on hyperbole and short on reality. I also take umbrage with the issue of “young” authors getting published, from my experience the great majority of us self-published writers tend to be, to use the euphemism, mature and experienced. But he is correct in his belief that this new media would wipe out the publishing industry; something is needed to kick it in the ass. As new authors to the game, as well as represented authors, quickly find out, to be successful requires a strong back, since you will have to carry everything. What the publisher brings to the game is dramatically changing and I don’t think they, or us, know what those changes will be.

Dear reader, contrary to most of what you’ve read and Schumer seems to believe, for the great majority of authors wanting to be read they set the price of the book. Not Amazon, not iBooks, not Smashwords or Kobo or even Barnes and Noble. The self-published author sets the price they want or hope to get. While we all want to sell our product for the same price as Turow or Clancy, we are realistic, we sell for what we can get. But we can, in the ebook world, change the price daily, weekly, offer it for free, give it away, or charge one million dollars. As always the market will determine the price. But it is also disheartening to find that when it’s free you will “sell” hundreds, but when it’s at $3.99, only in ones and twos (true story Charles!).

While there is the usual sop about the future and the impact on digital platforms what concerns me is the simple act of the government being involved in the control of the “message” whether it’s Shade of Grey or Dr. Seuss. Not the words but the price and thence, the access to these words – if you control the price (or even a threat of control) you control the message. The marketplace is a tough world and in the end the marketplace will win. I hate to see a world in the future where books are passed around on thumb drives hidden in the folds of coats and stuffed in other unmentionable places. To paraphrase, “Is that a gun in your pocket, or just the latest best seller?”

Editing of my latest O’Mara thriller, 12th Man 4 Death, is on hold this week. This week is the Mystery Writers Conference at Book Passage in Marin County, California. Three and one-half days of murder, mayhem, and CSI stuff – cool. So you want to be a serious writer of crime novels and thrillers? It’s always a good idea to be well founded in the facts, so for these few days I’ll listen to the proper way to die, how to investigate the death, and then make sure they stay dead. We’ll also look at story, character development, and firearms. There is also a session on deadly plants and bugs – very cool.

I’ll report on the conference next week and maybe even Tweet a few times. Look for it @gregorycrandall.

More Later . . . .

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