Joe Konrath hands Rob Spillman his head in a debate over Amazon:
“What I can’t understand is why you would cheer for Amazon in its fight against traditional publishers. Here comes one of my analogies that you love to pull apart – -it seems like rooting for the lions against the Roman prisoners in the Coliseum.”
I was a Roman prisoner in the Coliseum, being feasted on by lions. Those lions were big publishers. After 20 years, a million written words, and nine rejected novels, I finally landed a book contract. And I worked my ass off and published eight novels with legacy publishers, dozens of short stories with respected magazines, and went above and beyond everything that was required of me, in order to succeed.
And I got eaten. One-sided contracts, broken promises, lousy money. But it was the only game in town. If I wanted to make a living as a writer, I had no choice.
Then Amazon invented the Kindle.
I first self-pubbed in May of 2009. That first month I made $1,500, publishing books that New York rejected. Those same rejected books have earned me hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I cheer for Amazon because it saved me, and thousands of other authors, from the Coliseum. And I try to show others there is a way to make money from publishing where the terms are better, and the writer stays in control.
“My central argument is that if Amazon crushes us all, it will be able to dictate whatever terms to anyone using its massive platform. What if it suddenly decides to flip terms and only offer you 30 percent, or decide that your books really should be sold for 50 cents?”
Rob, that’s what the Big 5 already do. Except for an elite, tiny group of upper-tier authors, the Big 5 treat 99.9 percent of us badly. Keeping rights for term of copyright? Non-compete clauses? Twenty-five percent e-book royalty on net? I’ve had chapters cut by editors that I wanted to keep. I’ve had terrible cover art. I’ve had my titles forcibly changed. And my experience isn’t unique. I’m friends with hundreds of authors. A few were treated like kings. Most were screwed.
You worry that Amazon might someday offer 30 percent when publishers right now offer 17.5 percent? You must see how odd that is.
I was treated very well by Pocket Books. I have no complaints on that score. But my personal experience, which was mostly positive, doesn’t change the fact that mainstream publishing is extremely exploitative of authors; the feed-em-in-and-spit-em-out system is constantly churning and destroys the careers of the vast majority of authors who enter it.
And speaking of independent publishing, I’m pleased to say that we should be able to announce as many as FOUR new Castalia authors in the near future.