Being an author is one of those unusual highly skilled jobs that have absolutely no application criteria and a 'you got the job' rate of about the same size as make it into astronaut training. Oh and an average income - last survey I saw - of something like 1/4 of the minimum wage... which among many other reasons is why I sometimes feel there SHOULD be one entry criterion (I don't _really_ because I believe in an open and fair-as possible playing field. The 'fair' part is why I actually mention it.)
Almost every author and wannabe author I know could probably have used an anger management course before they started. And probably, with a few exceptions, a refresher every few months. I spend at least 80% of my time on the edge of livid with myself for not writing better, thinking smarter, catching the right opportunity, for thinking I have written the best book that will change the world (or at least sf) and no-one seems to read it (so I am angry with myself for not doing a better job). And that's just the start - The waiting, the stupidity, the attitudes, the arrogance (some of it mine) conspire to make the most even tempered and nicest person angry to boiling over furious a lot of the time. The fact that no-one has yet gone bat-sh!t crazy and taken out their agent, editor, publisher, cover-artist, blurb-writer, proof reader, reviewer, various distributors, Neilson bookscan, retail buyers and even book-stores staff - let alone the fine upstanding gifted people who did this to newbies http://www.examiner.com/x-562-Book-Examiner~y2009m3d20-20-famous-authors-who-were-rejected-repeatedly-and-sometimes-rudely-by-publishers continues to amaze and perplex me. Because that's your BABY. Even with the best will in the world (and that, trust me, is sometimes just a little lacking) NONE of these people will give it the love and care you feel it deserves. And some of them are useless bastards, and some are unmotivated jerks (like that store-clerk who didn't put your book - which only has a month of face time, on the shelf for 2 weeks) and some of them are out to screw you. The paranoids just have no real idea how bad it actually is ;-).
In these interesting times of course this paranoia (which isn't entirely unjustified) has knock-ons. Take this post: http://industry.bnet.com/technology/10006444/random-house-dodges-apple-ipad-to-keep-authors-in-the-dark/ Now, besides the fact that it is fairly obvious that, somewhere down the line the author has decided that he's prepared to risk burning his bridges with a very big publisher in order to poke it with a shark stick, the active dislike for large publishing does show through. It's largely hidden because authors are in an envidious position, where criticism of your publisher is a death sentence for your career - probably (a la John Norman) with all of them. Any gripe is either voiced in very private and trusted quarters, or couched in the most diplomatic terms possible. Of course for the industry's real darlings the opposite is true. Their income is thousands of mulitples higher than the average midlister (and no - there is no proportionality. Rowlings might be 50 times better than Joe Midlister, but she's not 100 000 times better and nor does she have a 100 000 readers who would enjoy her books for every one who'd like Joe's. The system is simply not very good at matching taste of reader and type of writer. It'd be good for readers and writers if it were, but fairly bad for our middlemen.) and so is the amount they earn for the publisher. Every whim is therefore catered to, and every effort made - more and better than they could have made themselves. There is a good reason financially for this... but did that ever stop the rest of us being as mad as cut snakes about it all? There is some justification in this too. There is plenty of evidence that extraneous factors besides the writing quality can and do push books into the public eye and make bestsellers of them. Most of these are not things that ordinary authors can afford to do, or have the skills or contacts for. I can't dispatch 20 people to go and buy every copy of a book in NY and place orders for more and buy those too and buy 40 000 copies and put myself on the bestseller list. But I believe it has been done. I have no control over pricing, over my cover, over my release date, over the push for retail buyers to make a big laydown happen, over book dumps over end displays, over tours to have dinners with book buyers, over appearances on Oprah etc. etc. Yet... these things do happen, and... some of the books they happen for are one-book wonders, because no-one will touch that author again. Quite often too they've lauched books that are, let's face it, good but no better and sometimes worse than Joe Midlist-and-staying-there's books. Remember Terry Pratchett was exactly that - Joe the ignored midlister for I think 20 years. Others have leapt from the starting gate to being on every shelf (though sometimes I wonder who BUYS them) on the basis of a subjective decision. This may be real life, but it does leave some very angry people out there.
Anyway - back to the knock-on effects of interesting times and e-books... It's fairly obvious to me that most White South Africans had no real idea of the depth of feeling of Black South Africans about Apartheid. And mostly they didn't really care. Some even kidded themselves it was really the best for them. And now the boot firmly on the other foot, it's very apparent that the Black and very wealthy powerful leadership are really, really enjoying schadenfreude and even it means hurting other black citizens, NOTHING is better than stomping and kicking those whiteys. They hero-worship the genocidal homophobic kleptocrat Robert Mugabe who has destroyed his country and has set the region back 50 years, because he kicked a few whiteys and spat in the West's eye. And that, I think, is the situation right now in publishing. Publishers probably are aware that some authors don't love them that much. But I think they have no idea of the years of deep bottled-up frustration and un-expressable anger that is seeting away in 99% of the midlist and newbies - and even higher up. So I think they also have no idea that most of these people would - given a chance - support a retail Mugabe (Amazon are no saints. And I wouldn't dish out halos over at Apple either). I don't think they realise that most of their midlist authors would take utter delight in leaving them and spitting in their eyes as they go. Apple has so far been kissing up to the big publishers. Amazon (and we don't love them, but they've been no worse for the little guys than B&N or most of retail) is taking an adverserial stance to them. I don't think Amazon is good for authors... but I can see that they will be bad for publishing. If they start winning, and offer a home (even with strings and nasties) to authors, watch. Authors will leave their publishers faster than rats leave a sinking ship, and they'll take glee in opening the stop-cocks as they go, even if it hurts their interests.
It's probably realistically too late for large publishing to mend the relationship. Throwing a lot more than just crumbs (and so far all they've done is point to gouging more, as thanks for helping them against Amazon) at the midlist could make a difference, but only if they're prepared to make big bold steps too - firing a few people, and improving the equity of spend and effort - neither of which are going to happen. Moving a few deck-chairs might. So... watch this space. I think that Amazon have started with moves to steal publishers only real assets. If Apple - or Google or any other player start too, we're in for interesting times. Small houses with some personal loyalty from their authors might survive. But the rest will die. It might not be any better for writers than Bob Mugabe has been for Africa though.
So where do you guys think its going?
And how do you cope with being frustrated and angry?