Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lee Child Chimes In

Joe: Yesterday I asked any Authors United signatory to engage me on my blog.

Lee Child took me up on it.

For those who aren't familiar with Lee, he's the author of nineteen mystery-thriller novels and over a dozen shorts about military policeman Jack Reacher (who was also the basis of hit movie in 2012 starring Tom Cruise). They are among the most popular books in the modern era, and Lee is a worldwide bestseller. They're well-written and I've read several and enjoyed them.

Lee's first novel was published in 1997. He's bought me too many beers to count at various conferences over the years, and was kind enough to blurb my second novel in 2004. (Lee may hold the record for blurbing more novels than anyone, which is testimony to his generosity). He also has volunteered at International Thriller Writers since its inception, and is a pleasant guy to hang out with.

Here is Lee's original email. Afterward, I'll break it down with my responses..

Lee: Joe, thanks for the invitation to participate.

Here’s my personal take … speaking generally, with a plural “you” … and as a guy entirely unafraid of the future, whatever it may bring – after all, I kicked your ass under the old system, and I’ll kick it under the new system, and the new-new, and the new-new-new, until I retire, or the lung cancer gets me, whichever comes first. I’m completely confident of that, and you’d be an idiot to bet against me. We both started from nowhere, and in the last three weeks I sold more ebooks – of one title – than you have sold in your entire life. Or will sell. Print visibility, you say? How? Print is a niche, according to you, and no one visits bookstores anymore!

And don’t tell me I was lucky or “anointed” or some such … again, we all start from the same place, but I worked harder and smarter than my rivals, and believe me, I’m ready to do it all again … so don’t tell me I’m scared or whining – truth is, I’m licking my lips in anticipation of the big win in whatever scenario comes next.

And let’s settle one thing … the so-called Amazon/Hachette contract … I think you overestimate it, or misunderstand it, possibly. It ain’t the key to some kind of magic kingdom. Almost every sale Amazon makes happens without a contract with the supplier or manufacturer. It used to be that way with Hachette. Hachette sold to wholesalers, at a certain discount, and the wholesalers sold on to Amazon, at a slight markup. Soon Amazon wanted to avoid that markup, so it went to Hachette and asked, “Please will you sell to us direct?”  And Hachette said, “OK.”  And that’s the so-called contract, right there.

Subsequently Amazon larded on the "fees"... in street terms, protection money, to keep the playing field level with other publishers also paying protection money. Equal visibility and honest rankings – which are the best kind of visibility – were at stake. In plain English, Amazon was saying, “Give us cash under the table or we’ll lie in public about the relative merit and appeal of your products.”

Publishers were, of course, accustomed to that – B&N pioneered a junior version long ago – so it was business as usual. No sympathy from me, by the way. Life ain’t fair, things suck, get over it.

But, here’s the thing – by continuing to trade under expired terms, it’s Hachette doing Amazon a favor, not vice versa. Amazon is still getting its protection money – and giving nothing in return right now – and still avoiding the wholesalers’ markup.

If Hachette walked away, Amazon would lose... unless it was prepared not to carry Hachette titles ever again. Which it isn’t, because Amazon’s whole theory is to be the go-to, first-stop, everything store. “I’ll get it from Amazon” is what they depend on hearing. “I wonder if Amazon has it?” would be the kiss of death.

Which is why the dispute is so intractable. It’s half-rational, half-emotional. And flawed – Amazon wants more protection money now (yes, it’s really that simple) but it isn’t prepared to get up from the table and walk away. Neither is Hachette. Hachette’s best play – logically – would be to walk away and suffer a few lean years before an alternative presented itself. I’m absolutely sure its parent company wants it to do that, and would support it in so doing. Huge European corporations are good at the long game. But local management is resisting, because the hiatus would derail too many careers. Again, half-rational, half-emotional.

And no big deal, in the grand scheme of things. Not to me, anyway. I’m not a Hachette author. PRH is a different ballgame, and as I said, even if it gets beat, I’ll prosper under whatever comes next.

So why did I sign my friend Doug’s letter?

Because of what I know, and what I can guess. I've known Amazon people for 17 years, dozens of them, old hires, new hires, quitters, true believers, through dinner party talk, pillow talk, all kinds of talk. I’m making no value judgments – you’ll never hear any of that from me – but things are what they are. And the big deal is – Amazon is a publisher too. Not a very good one yet – no big hits so far, and they missed the biggest trade publishing phenomenon of recent years, even though it was right under their noses – but Bezos never gives up, and he wants Amazon to be the only publisher, and he’ll do what it takes to make it so. Which casts a different light on what’s happening. He’s broken rivals before, and he’ll keep on trying.

So it’s a thus-far-and-no-further thing for me. I don’t want Amazon to be the only publisher. Neither should you.

It’s staggeringly naïve to think the current KDP landscape is anything other than a short-term tactic. Note well – I am NOT saying don’t get into it now just because it will get worse in the future... instead I say, hell yes, make hay while the sun shines. Exploit Amazon’s game plan for all you can get, as long as it lasts, and more power to you. But understand that today’s KDP is a pressure point, designed to suck authors out of the established system, along with sucking out money and margin by other routes. Truth is, it ain’t working great so far – no significant authors have jumped ship, and publishers are still profitable. But Bezos never gives up.

And if he wins... then we all have a problem. Note well – I am NOT talking about nurturing or culture or curating or any of that kind of non-existent crap. I’m talking about money. Amazon is a tech company. The basic tech paradigm says content is always the smallest part of the cost. Those guys really believe that. Storytellers will be working for whatever few pennies they choose to hand out. (Or some will. I’ll be doing something else by then. I don’t work for pennies.)

And don’t tell me some alternate savior will ride to the rescue. There won’t be one. Publishing makes no sense to any other player. Certainly there won’t be a publishing-only player. Not enough margin in it.

Now, I fully understand lots of folk will scoff and disagree and make fun of me. Have at it. I don’t care. I have no dog in this fight. I’m old and staggeringly rich and I can live like a king without making another buck ever. I have nothing to be scared of. That should be you. Your hopes are pinned to a mast that isn’t a mast at all. It’s a spear, and when it has done its job, it will be dumped.


So really we should all be equally concerned. We should make common cause. Behind the noise and the bullshit we’re all trying to do the same thing – sell our stories to the same people, for a living wage. And it’s those last four words that made me sign the letter. Not my living wage – that’s already in the bank – but yours, and the people that come after us.

Joe: Thanks for participating, Lee. (And a word of warning to commentors: Stay polite. Keep your comments focused on the argument. Anything personal and I will remove your comment and ban you. I see this as an opportunity to talk in depth about some important issues. If you want to troll, flame, hurl insults, or act badly, do it on your own blog.)

I'm now going to respond to your points.

Lee: Here’s my personal take … speaking generally, with a plural “you” … and as a guy entirely unafraid of the future, whatever it may bring – after all, I kicked your ass under the old system, and I’ll kick it under the new system, and the new-new, and the new-new-new, until I retire, or the lung cancer gets me, whichever comes first. I’m completely confident of that, and you’d be an idiot to bet against me. We both started from nowhere, and in the last three weeks I sold more ebooks – of one title – than you have sold in your entire life. Or will sell. Print visibility, you say? How? Print is a niche, according to you, and no one visits bookstores anymore!

Joe: First of all, congrats on selling more than 1.5 million ebooks (which is where I'm at to date) in the last three weeks. I assume I'll sell a few million more before I kick off, so let's call my total lifetime sales 5 million. It's damn impressive that you sold that many ebooks in three weeks of just one title.

But it's also nearing the end of that era. You're everywhere books are sold. I'm not. That's a huge advantage. One I never had. Your massive paper distribution serves as a giant, global advertisement for your ebooks.

Let's set aside the quality of our writing because that's subjective. We both attained a minimum quality standard to get the attention of major publishers. But the legacy industry never handed me the keys to the kingdom like they did with you. No coop. No discounts on the front table. No giant print runs and distribution. No worldwide sales.

You may believe the legacy publishing world is a meritocracy. I believe it's a lottery. No one earns a lottery win. No one is entitled to it.

You've kicked my ass because you had the weight of two heavy hitters behind you (Penguin and Random House) who got your books everywhere in the US with major marketing pushes. I'm unfamiliar with your UK and foreign publishers, but I'm betting they did an equally good job at distributing and promoting you everywhere books are sold.

This only happens to a rare few. 

Lee: And don’t tell me I was lucky or “anointed” or some such … again, we all start from the same place, but I worked harder and smarter than my rivals, and believe me, I’m ready to do it all again … so don’t tell me I’m scared or whining – truth is, I’m licking my lips in anticipation of the big win in whatever scenario comes next.

Joe: I'm not discounting your talent, or hard work, or business savvy. You've written some good books, made some smart choices, and fought hard for your career.

So have I. You're aware of that, as are readers of this blog.

But I never got the same breaks you did. Neither did 99.9999% of authors. While book sales aren't zero sum, there are only a certain number of titles that get put into the bestseller track and get a massive marketing push.

I understand why you believe talent and effort win the day, but you're wrong. Unlike a sport, such as track and field or basketball, writing talents and efforts don't translate to stats because there is no even playing field. Usain Bolt can run 200 meters anywhere on the planet. Michael Jordan can have a personal best even when his team is losing. Their successes don't depend on other factors.

Authors can't do it alone, and publishers make a lot of mistakes. Neither you nor I had any power over how many stores our titles were available in, or how big our marketing pushes were, or if our titles were pre-printed on the NYT Bestseller list, or how many reviews we received, or how many ads were bought. We don't know how my books would sell in airports or drug stores or Sam's Club or in Uzbekistan, because I've never been available in those places. We don't know what would have happened if I'd landed at Simon & Schuster rather than Hyperion (S&S made an offer, we didn't take it).

That's luck, Lee.

You seem to be arguing that your sales resulted from you working harder and smarter. But correlation doesn't equal causality. Yes, you worked hard and smart. Yes, you're one of the most successful writers in modern times. But any conclusions you draw are speculative.

Certainly you've read good books that were never huge hits. Certainly you've read huge hits that weren't good books. Certainly you know how hard and smart other authors have worked. Certainly you've seen titles get bestseller treatment and flop. In each of these cases, I'm right, not you. Luck played a big role.

If your success is fully based on the strength of your writing and your efforts, you can pull a Richard Bachman and soar up the charts with a pen name. By the way, Bachman didn't sell as well as King. Thinner sold 28,000 copies as Bachman, and 10x that amount when he was revealed as King. 

https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Richard_Bachman.html

Or I could write a novel under your name and it would sell as well as the rest of your backlist, and I bet no one would even know. You're a fine writer and storyteller, but I could name a dozen writers who can write a similar book in a similar style. That isn't an insult. Good writing is good writing. There's no magic to it. Ask the writers who took over for the posthumous Robert B. Parker, V.C. Andrews, Robert Ludlam, and Ian Fleming (weren't you even offered a James Bond book by the Fleming estate?). What we do isn't rocket science, and none of us deserve success.

Since you're not going to attempt a pen name and I'm not going to write a Reacher story, and since it will just devolve into a dick-measuring contest if we both start in about how hard we've worked to get where we're at, I suggest we move on.

Lee: And let’s settle one thing … the so-called Amazon/Hachette contract … I think you overestimate it, or misunderstand it, possibly. It ain’t the key to some kind of magic kingdom. Almost every sale Amazon makes happens without a contract with the supplier or manufacturer. It used to be that way with Hachette. Hachette sold to wholesalers, at a certain discount, and the wholesalers sold on to Amazon, at a slight markup. Soon Amazon wanted to avoid that markup, so it went to Hachette and asked, “Please will you sell to us direct?”  And Hachette said, “OK.”  And that’s the so-called contract, right there.

Joe: And then Hachette colluded with four other publishers to force Amazon to accept their new terms, i.e. the agency model. Amazon didn't want to accept those terms. Not because of the 30/70 split, but because it took away Amazon's ability to discount.

Suddenly contracts became important. What began as a mutual handshake (assuming you're correct about this) was no longer acceptable to either party.

Right now, Hachette doesn't want Amazon to be able to discount. Amazon wants to discount. Since Hachette forced a contract on Amazon--the agency contract--and that contract lapsed, Amazon does not have to sell Hachette's titles under Hachette's terms.

I've had verbal contracts in the past, and a handshake was enough. But when things become contentious, written contracts come into play. And, currently, Amazon and Hachette have no written contract, and Amazon apparently sees no reason they should go back to a handshake model under Hachette's terms.

Lee: Subsequently Amazon larded on the "fees"... in street terms, protection money, to keep the playing field level with other publishers also paying protection money. Equal visibility and honest rankings – which are the best kind of visibility – were at stake. In plain English, Amazon was saying, “Give us cash under the table or we’ll lie in public about the relative merit and appeal of your products.”

Publishers were, of course, accustomed to that – B&N pioneered a junior version long ago – so it was business as usual. No sympathy from me, by the way. Life ain’t fair, things suck, get over it.

Joe: It was under the table? How so?

As you said, bookstores have been selling coop for decades, and publishers have bought coop to place books such as yours (and not mine) in prominent places around the store. This isn't protection money, it's more like a kickback. I'm calling you on that terminology because I just did a post on the specific fear words and hyperbole that Authors United are using. Assuming you're correct about all of this, kickbacks are part of the book business, and Amazon didn't invent them, and they're legal.

You need to spend money to make money, and no one ever said it would be fair, fun, or easy. I didn't have an even playing field when we both had new releases in Borders--you had every advantage while I didn't--and I don't expect an even playing field now.

But at this point in time, I can do much better through KDP and A-pub than I was ever able to do through Hyperion, Hachette, or Penguin. More sales, and more money per sale. Through my legacy publishers, I made about $300k in eight years. On my own, I've done about 10x that in four years. And I'm not the only one. I bring this up in response to your earlier comment of "Print is a niche, according to you, and no one visits bookstores anymore!"

For the majority of writers, print has become a subsidiary right. Ebooks are the main income. But you are not in the majority. For you, print is still your main source of book income, and I'd guess a good deal of that income comes from non-bookstore outlets. These are outlets that I've never had titles sold in, and neither have most of our peers. 

Lee: But, here’s the thing – by continuing to trade under expired terms, it’s Hachette doing Amazon a favor, not vice versa. Amazon is still getting its protection money – and giving nothing in return right now – and still avoiding the wholesalers’ markup.

Joe: If Amazon wants to charge Hachette to sell its books, it can do that. If Amazon doesn't want to discount, it can do that. Amazon isn't a monopoly, and it isn't the government. Being a tough competitor or being tough with suppliers doesn't violate any laws.

Lee: If Hachette walked away, Amazon would lose... unless it was prepared not to carry Hachette titles ever again. Which it isn’t, because Amazon’s whole theory is to be the go-to, first-stop, everything store. “I’ll get it from Amazon” is what they depend on hearing. “I wonder if Amazon has it?” would be the kiss of death.

Joe: I believe you overestimate the value of Hachette's catalog to Amazon.

Right now Amazon has 500,000 exclusive ebooks available to customers. If Douglas Preston is no longer available on Amazon, do you really believe millions of Kindle owners wouldn't find something else to read? You think they'd seek him out? Forgo the fast, easy, and inexpensive Amazon shopping experience--on a proprietary format no less--and instead buy his books on a platform that is more expensive and less convenient? Or would they find some Preston-ish technothriller on Amazon and buy that for $3.99 with one-click? 

Mega bestsellers like you, and midlisters like me, have fans. But I think we both realize most of our sales are accidental. Someone browsing Amazon, looking for a particular type or genre of book. Or, in your specific case (as in Preston's), casual readers who want a thriller to take on the plane and only have a choice of six in the rack at their local airport. You have long signing lines when you do a book event. Those are fans. Are those lines proportional to the 100 million books you've sold? We know they aren't. Because the overwhelming majority of your readers, and mine, aren't fans. They're casual readers who gave us a try.

Let's look at it another way. In the USA, between 1926 and 1956, if you wanted to travel by car from Chicago to LA, you took Route 66. Along 66 were places for travelers to get gas, eat, and sleep. These places did well, because travelers had no alternative.

Then the Federal Highway Act of 1956 was signed by Ike, creating the Interstate. It was faster than Route 66. And what cropped up along the Interstate? Places to get gas, eat, and sleep.

Let's say there was a terrific restaurant on Route 66. One that was always busy, and made a lot of money. Maybe it had great food and unparalleled service. Maybe it was the best damn restaurant in the USA.

Guess what? That didn't matter. It still went out of business once traffic disappeared. People preferred the Interstate. And most of the businesses on Route 66, including the best restaurant in the country, withered and died. Because as good as it was, people preferred to get their food on the Interstate. They didn't go out of their way to eat at that wonderful restaurant. Bye-bye Route 66, and all who made their living on it.

As for "I wonder if Amazon has it" is something I do a lot. If Amazon doesn't have it, it's rare I go elsewhere... I just find something similar on Amazon. And I'm not the only one who does this.

Right now the majority of your sales is paper to casual readers, and you believe ebook sales have plateaued. (You mentioned this on the Passive Voice blog.) That may be true, for you. But while your ebook sales have plateaued, there is ample evidence that ebook sales overall are increasing. The market is growing, but legacy publishing sales aren't growing along with it. 

If you believe that in ten years there will still be chain bookstores, and books will still be available in the check-out isle at the local grocery, you aren't following the same trends I am. In just five years, ebooks have gone from a small niche to outselling paper in many genres. When those book outlets disappear, so goes the majority of the paper audience. And they will disappear

Lee: Which is why the dispute is so intractable. It’s half-rational, half-emotional. And flawed – Amazon wants more protection money now (yes, it’s really that simple) but it isn’t prepared to get up from the table and walk away. Neither is Hachette. Hachette’s best play – logically – would be to walk away and suffer a few lean years before an alternative presented itself. I’m absolutely sure its parent company wants it to do that, and would support it in so doing. Huge European corporations are good at the long game. But local management is resisting, because the hiatus would derail too many careers. Again, half-rational, half-emotional.

And no big deal, in the grand scheme of things. Not to me, anyway. I’m not a Hachette author. PRH is a different ballgame, and as I said, even if it gets beat, I’ll prosper under whatever comes next.

Joe: You mean by getting really, really lucky again? :)

It's entirely normal to look at where you currently stand and point to your past to explain how you got here. But that kind of thinking completely discounts luck and randomness. So many things happened that were beyond your control, and so many other things could have happened. If you'd gone with another publisher, or if I had, we might not be having this conversation right now. 

Lee: So why did I sign my friend Doug’s letter?

Because of what I know, and what I can guess. I've known Amazon people for 17 years, dozens of them, old hires, new hires, quitters, true believers, through dinner party talk, pillow talk, all kinds of talk. I’m making no value judgments – you’ll never hear any of that from me – but things are what they are. And the big deal is – Amazon is a publisher too. Not a very good one yet – no big hits so far, and they missed the biggest trade publishing phenomenon of recent years, even though it was right under their noses – 

Joe: Are you referring to 50 Shades? You know that the other Big 5 publishers missed out on that too, right?

Lee: – but Bezos never gives up, and he wants Amazon to be the only publisher, and he’ll do what it takes to make it so. Which casts a different light on what’s happening. He’s broken rivals before, and he’ll keep on trying.

So it’s a thus-far-and-no-further thing for me. I don’t want Amazon to be the only publisher. Neither should you.

Joe: Who ever said I want Amazon to be the only publisher?

Competition is good. But I'd like publishers to compete for authors as well. Better royalties. Better terms. For decades it has been lockstep unconscionable contracts offered to all writers save for a few lucky ones like you. Contracts that last for an author's life plus 70 years. Non-compete clauses. I've listed these all extensively before

You won the lottery. So did your friend Doug Preston, and many of the other Authors United signatories. You could no doubt buy a $104k NYT ad with change you find between your sofa cushions. And you want that to continue. But it continues at the expense of authors who didn't win the lottery, all 99.999% of them.

Lee: It’s staggeringly naïve to think the current KDP landscape is anything other than a short-term tactic. Note well – I am NOT saying don’t get into it now just because it will get worse in the future... instead I say, hell yes, make hay while the sun shines. Exploit Amazon’s game plan for all you can get, as long as it lasts, and more power to you. But understand that today’s KDP is a pressure point, designed to suck authors out of the established system, along with sucking out money and margin by other routes. Truth is, it ain’t working great so far – no significant authors have jumped ship, and publishers are still profitable. But Bezos never gives up.

And if he wins... then we all have a problem. Note well – I am NOT talking about nurturing or culture or curating or any of that kind of non-existent crap. I’m talking about money. Amazon is a tech company. The basic tech paradigm says content is always the smallest part of the cost. Those guys really believe that. Storytellers will be working for whatever few pennies they choose to hand out. (Or some will. I’ll be doing something else by then. I don’t work for pennies.)

Joe: Most of us already have a problem. It's with publishers like Hachette. Right now, Hachette, and the rest of Big Publishing, treat the vast majority of authors as the smallest part of their costs.

Hachette authors are getting screwed, working for pennies. And Hachette's insistence on keeping ebook prices high to protect its paper oligopoly will continue to hurt all authors but the very top of the heap (such as yourself).

On the other hand, Amazon is allowing many authors to make money for the very first time.

Lee: And don’t tell me some alternate savior will ride to the rescue. There won’t be one. Publishing makes no sense to any other player. Certainly there won’t be a publishing-only player. Not enough margin in it.

Joe: We'll see. After my experience with the legacy industry, I'd never put all of my eggs in a single basket. And if there were only one basket left, I'd create others. A new publishing model makes a lot of sense to me, and I see a big demographic that Amazon is dismissing. As for margins, I'm funding it myself, and we should be in the black by the end of the year. 

Lee: Now, I fully understand lots of folk will scoff and disagree and make fun of me. Have at it. I don’t care. I have no dog in this fight. I’m old and staggeringly rich and I can live like a king without making another buck ever. I have nothing to be scared of. That should be you. Your hopes are pinned to a mast that isn’t a mast at all. It’s a spear, and when it has done its job, it will be dumped.

Joe: I've disagreed with you but never scoffed at you, and have always liked and respected you. And no one is going to make fun of you here.

My agenda is transparent. I'm pro-author. Right now, Amazon's stance aligns with what is best for the majority of authors. If it continues along those lines, great. If it doesn't, I don't plan to be at the mercy of a large company.

Lee: So really we should all be equally concerned. We should make common cause. Behind the noise and the bullshit we’re all trying to do the same thing – sell our stories to the same people, for a living wage. And it’s those last four words that made me sign the letter. Not my living wage – that’s already in the bank – but yours, and the people that come after us.

Joe: At this point, Amazon has given more authors opportunities to earn money than Hachette, Penguin, Random House, et al have, combined.

You've been extremely generous to new writers, me included. But perpetuating the current system isn't for the benefit of midlisters. It only benefits the publishers, and a few dozen gigantic bestsellers like you. You believe that Amazon intends to wipe out other publishers, and then it will pinch authors. At this very moment, Hachette and other major publishers are pinching authors with shitty royalties, high book prices, and one-sided contract terms. Bookstores are pinching self-pubbed  and Amazon-pubbed authors by refusing to carry our books.

Authors United isn't made up of altruists. It's made up of status quo writers who don't want the gravy train to end, and Stockholm Syndrome writers who want to be part of that gravy train. Preston's insistence that AU isn't taking sides is silly, and it's only one of many silly things your group is proclaiming. If Hachette does get its way, it will mean Preston's and Patterson's Amazon sales go back to normal, but it also means all the Hachette midlisters will continue to get screwed in the longterm.

But if Hachette allows Amazon to discount, all Hachette authors will benefit from increased ebook sales. It might come at the expense of paper sales, but for the majority of authors those sales don't matter; Hachette isn't getting their midlist paper titles into airports and grocery stores.

I see $104k wasted on an ad, and I think how many unhappy Hachette authors could have benefited from that money--money that could pay for lawyers to help get them out of Hachette contracts, get their rights back, and start actually making that living wage you mentioned. Instead it was wasted to help the rich stay rich, while those rich folks spouted nonsense.

Likewise, these authors could have benefited from accepting one of Amazon's offers to compensate them. 

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this, Lee. You haven't defended any Authors United statements, or addressed my criticisms of those statements, but you did make a valid and important point about Amazon attaining too much power. AU should have stuck to that and left all the other BS out of it. 

Your "thus-far-and-no-further" statement is entirely reasonable, but that's the way I feel about legacy publishers. As I've said many times, why worry about the tiger who may eat you tomorrow when there is a wolf currently gnawing on your leg?

The wolf is gnawing on 99.999% of all writers. So I'm not concerned about the tiger just yet.

I think we could support a common cause, but if you truly aren't worried about your future, and truly do care about authors making a living wage, you're siding with the wrong team.

Maybe there is no right team. Maybe Amazon, when they control the universe, will be worse than NY Publishing ever was (though looking at my previous legacy contracts, I doubt that.) But I was surprised you signed the AU petition, and surprised you chipped in for the silly NYT ad. I understand your goals are aligned, and that AU includes many of your friends, but you never struck me as someone who'd join a movement whose main talking points are all bullshit, let alone allow their words to speak for you.

That said, I don't see our viewpoints being all that different, and I'm glad to hear yours independent of the AU nonsense I've been fisking.

Also, I already knew this, but kudos for owning a pair bigger than any other Authors United signatory. You read opposing viewpoints, and respond politely and thoughtfully, while other vocal AU endorsers reiterate ridiculous bullet points off of cue cards and refuse to engage in any sort of discussion, let alone defend their position.

Your friend Doug is now approaching the DOJ to investigate Amazon, as if the DOJ isn't already aware of the situation. I assume this will involve more money. No doubt you're involved in a great deal of philanthropy and charity work, but I hope I've gotten you to at least reconsider how much help you're giving Authors United. 

Thanks again for stopping by. If you'd like to respond to any of my points in the comments, I'm in and out of the house all day, but I'll be monitoring.