About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Tiger Woods has gotten some very bad advice from a lot of people, but it's disappointing he isn't smart enough to have noticed. Haven't he or his handlers paid any attention to any other similar scandal, or to any of the steroid stuff in baseball, to know that it's a better idea to get ahead of the story, in public, than to leave on the stove? Even at the lowest temperature, a pot left to simmer eventually boils over. Some journalists have said we should all just leave Tiger alone and respect his privacy, but he sold his privacy long ago. He's never been a golf player who plays the game and goes home. He's marketed himself and his image. And when that image becomes a mysterious wee hours car trip on Thanksgiving, driving into a fire hydrant and tree, your wife standing over you with a golf club in her hands... It was bad enough at that, to decide not to be silent on all of it.

Afghanistan depresses me. You can't win in life without occasionally going to war. That's true in my business. No, publishers shouldn't be thinking I'm a jerk. But every once in a while one of them should be mad at me about something. So yes, I have strong liberal tendencies. I sometimes wonder why the US still has troops pretty much everywhere it ever put them, with the possible exception of Viet Nam. But going into Afghanistan in 2001 was a must in my book, and deserved more and better follow-through at the time. The problem is that we're trying to make up eight years later for things we should have done six or eight years ago. I kept thinking as I watched the West Point speech that these cadets were 10 or 12 years old on 9/11. And all these years later... Well, we can't set up an Afghan army or police force with illiterates. So we need to build schools to educate people so we can then train them to be killed defending their country. But it is awfully hard to justify building schools in Afghanistan when we have a serious funding crunch for needs here in the US. I don't want to be there for $30B a year, I don't want to not be there, I don't envy the President for having decide between so many bad options.

Some publishers are delaying the release of their e-book editions that are selling for $9.99 to protect their $27.95 hardcovers. Enh. The problem with this isn't the $9.99 e-book, it's the free one. The ultimate threat to publishing is the illegal file share, especially because publishers and authors don't have the ancillary revenue streams in ring tones or merchandising that the music industry does. For the publishing industry to transition, it would be like going to a convention that would cost five times as much as it costs now, then paying ala carte for each panel, then having all that revenue split with the authors. Yeah, right. People who pay $250 for an e-book reader will want to read things on it when they want to read them, and I think we're better off risking our hardcover money than risking that it will become as acceptable in publishing to get for free what you can't or don't feel like paying for than it has become in the music industry. I can worry about what e-books will do to my bottom line. I can have nightmares about file sharing.

And over the course of 2009, the Google settlement and the presence of illegal file share sites got me to thinking that the publishers should provide authors with a free copy of their e-books just like they would provide them with 10 or 20 paperbacks. This was something new, I wasn't expecting to find every publisher would instantly agree to something new, but it's been surprising to me just how resistant they've been.


Maria said...

Re: Tiger. Out in front of, behind, over the top--didn't matter when he made an announcement, no good way out of the mess he has made. I'm thinking Elin had the best idea--golf club in hand.

Re: ebooks. I published a book or two on Kindle so I follow the forums pretty closely in several places. I have been...shocked and completely dismayed at the number of people that believe: If the ebook isn't out with the hardcover, it gives me the right to hunt down an illegal copy.

That feeling has been much more widespread than I ever would have expected. As I said on multiple forums, the publishers would have been better off offering the ebook at full Hardback price--or even a higher price--than to "delay."

I know that a staggered release worked for eons with paperbacks, but the world is a different place now. People understand how things work better--they have more things to choose from (new, used, multiple stores) and are much more accustomed to instant gratification. A delayed release is not going to save independent bookstores, and it certainly isn't going to save the hardcover.

As someone on one of the forums said: If someone is trying to hand you money for a product, GET THEM THE PRODUCT. Find a way to make money from it. Hiding the product in the back room will not make the customer part with their money for a different product.

It's going to be interesting.

The Brillig Blogger said...

One of the problems with the e-book situation is that the publishers signed on for the Kindle with Amazon having full control over the pricing.

Maria said...

Yes, it is quite a conundrum. I'm pretty sure delaying isn't the answer (neither is pirating--whether "excused" due to delay or high-price; that is just wrong.)

I'm not certain what I would do in this situation, but I think it would involve offering the ebook from the publisher site for the first 4 months at whatever price the publisher deemed appropriate (which would probably be ridiculously high, but we're trying for a compromise here.) It's fairly easy to get books into formats that can be read on most readers without relying on any one vendor. Then the publisher could blast the book out to other vendors after their "delay."


Myke said...

Well, thanks Joshua. Now I'm completely depressed. If you need me, I'll be under my bed.