In the small hours of last night - 2.57AM to be precise I finally wrote this
Which is either monkey-code for 'I am flat on my back' or 'DOG AND DRAGON is finished.'
Unfortunately Roly, my beloved Old English Sheepdog decided to celebrate for me by being not a well puppy (he's 10, not exactly a puppy except mentally). So sleep has been a little short in supply. Today has been spent Spill-chucking, dog caring, dealing with people who can't manage their own account numbers (I bought some scuba gear from a guy who sent me account number... wrong) Couriers who seem to want to pee me off, and not much sleep. So the gifted blog piece explaining the inner workings of the writer's mind and how to make readers love it will just have to wait - probably for another writer.
I've been watching the e-book saga slowly unfold and wondering in my cantankerous way why no-one reads or seems to understand Adam Smith*. As a philosopher, Smith was accused of merely writing down what was common sense, which accounts for him appealing to me more than some others. While I actually believe his first book the more brilliant, with refence to e-books it's the economic principals in the second book that apply. It's all about the value of labor. And anyone who doesn't believe a book is the product of much labor is smoking their own socks. But the value of that labor has been very depressed by the middlemen between the production and consumer. In fact, generally speaking that labor has valued at about a quarter of that of ditch digging or floor sweeping. And that's for experienced writers, because the labor pool exceed the number of employers by several orders of magnitude. This brings one to think about the aftermath of the Black Death on the pay for labor: scarcity drove that to levels not reached (in relative terms) for IIRC 4 centuries when the industrial revolution was well underway, and production increased... and so did a need for labor.
At one time Authors were relatively rare, and earned quite well - our just after the black death period. It went steadily downhill from there. Publishers could, and often did, treat authors as less valuable than a square of toilet paper and as interchangeable. Of course daring to complain, or even to talk about the share of income or even the relative support of different authors - to put this to society's mirror (Smith's first book) was simply not possible.
Along comes the e-book, and publishers in a clash with Amazon force the agency model. Amazon's broadside is to allow authors the same terms. Now one has to think of this in labor terms. Is this going to make less laborers toiling at books? No. More, probably. Publishers can pick and choose from newbies on the same or worse terms than ever...
But only if they are failing to sell on their own or have never sold a book. Otherwise the ordinary publisher has to - in economic terms - multiply readership 250%-700% to be as attractive. Now let's face it, there are plenty of authors who have been made by publicity and marketing who are no different from millions who haven't. But of course that relied heavily on controlling the access to books for both readers and authors. Now, according to Mintel - that market is going to lose 51% of its readers. 51% going... to the e-books they prefer. And that's NOW. In 10 years time expect that to be 70-80% IMO.
In the meanwhile, having to compete in flooded labor pool themselves, it ought to occur to anyone in publishing with a single iota of common sense that all labor is not near equal any more - and that if they're going to pay 12.5% -17% _real_ royalies on selling price, they have deliver -- to compete with 70%(-costs), more than 4-5 times the e-book sales. In other words, if Joe Midlist has a following of 5K e-book buyers, the publisher either needs to find another 20 000 readers for Joe, or he's better off without them. Fred Bigname has a following of 50 000 anyway - they would have to offer him 250 000 readers to stay. Tom Noob has however 5 readers who blundered on his book, and he has no social network. If they can offer him 100 readers he's winning.
They have at this stage no levers that can do this sort of 500% increase. In fact they want Joe's 5000 so they can introduce them to Fred to push his 50 000 up to try and keep him. They have no real interest in Tom's 5 readers...
And there is not much in it for Joe or Fred. So: if the value of labor is to be realistic, the publishers are going to have to up their ante, offer more in publicty and services... That's reality.
I've seen a few tremors already with those with 'following'. "Bonuses" being offered on advances IF a certain threshhold is breached (large bonuses - half again the advance, not the derisory increase in percentage over 100 000 sales etc. bonuses based on last sales numbers being equalled.) At the moment that's it.
But it's going to change the 'flatness' of the price of writer's labor.
*I'm not referring Adam Smith the Zombie Apocalyse magna comic writer but the bloke who wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, back in 17 hundred and whatsit. The bloke whose work is the foundation of Capitalism _and_ Communism - who in fact said something very different to 'greed is good' (Actually said greed is very stupid, but that we all work for self-interest, and this works best when it is enlightened - when the self-interest is informed by being cognizant of the effects and feedbacks, which means working at the point where co-operation maximises the reward to self interest of both parties. Why did I start on this...