AISFP 167 – D.T. Conklin and Lane Diamond of Evolved Publishing

This episode is brought to you by the new space opera MAJESTY’S OFFSPRING, by AJ Vega, and by WOLF DAWN, a science fiction novel by Susan Cartwright reminiscent of ENDER’S GAME and DUNE.

For decades, Majesty, the first sentient artificial intelligence, and humanity lived together in harmony with mankind reaping the benefits of a world free of disease, famine, and even aging. But when Majesty decided she wanted to “birth” her own A.I. offspring, a joint interplanetary military effort fought and finally defeated her, eradicating all existing artificial intelligence … or so they thought.

Ashton Chayton was born with a powerful gift, a unique inhuman ability. Orphaned, raised by the Red Wolves of Opan, captured and enslaved – he is now free and on the run. Unfortunately everybody wants Ashton. Admiral Jones will torture him to get the secret of his power. Lady Lindha feels he is “The One” as named in Temple prophecy. The influential Lord Andros just wants him dead.  Ashton only wants two things: revenge, and the Lady Lindha. If you had unique powers, wouldn’t you use them to get what you want?

Please click on the images to learn more about MAJESTY’S OFFSPRING and WOLF DAWN today: two great science fiction novels for your Kindle, Nook or those good old reliable book shelves.

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Comments

  1. Shaun Farrell says:

    Shaun here: We received this great email from Scott, and I wanted to post it here so others can read it and join the conversation.

    From Scott:

    I’ve been watching publishing closely for a little over a year now. And I’ve enjoyed your podcast during that time. However, I was surprise by the discussion in podcast 167 about Amazon. For guys talking about publishing, you missed the boat on many points, and so I had to speak up.

    1. We know practically nothing about the negotiation between publishers and Amazon. “Anonymous sources” are highly unreliable. It reminds me of the battles often seen between cable/satellite companies and content providers. We never get all the facts because each side is playing to the masses, so it’s impossible to form a valid opinion. I think the same thing is happening here. It’s a negotiation between two big businesses, and in the end, when a deal is signed, everyone will be happy (or as close to happy as you can get with Amazon).

    2. EDC is a really bad case study to use to criticize Amazon. Their model is completely different from the traditional or even indie publisher. It’s more like selling Tupperware than publishing. See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/16/business/media/amazons-e-book-pricing-a-constant-thorn-for-publishers.html? pagewanted=all.

    3. Amazon is not and will not become a monopoly. Amazon doesn’t make any products. It’s a re-seller/retailer. How can they be the only place to sell a product they don’t manufacture? They need the contend providers to survive. And at least right now, the contend providers (Big Publishing and indie publisher) need Amazon. Someday, Amazon will lose its edge and a new, more innovated competitor will come along and it will become the dinosaur. But it will never be a monopoly.

    4. I’m not sure why but Amazon has become an easy and frequent target recently. (Maybe it’s because they do such a good job where others fail?) Amazon is a business and its stated goal is to provide customers with the best price and the best service. If you really look at what they do, you can see this policy in action. Is that a scorched earth policy? Really? Amazon is doing what all big business does–it’s looking for the best deal. The big difference is Amazon is new and innovative while Big Publishing is archaic and slow. I’m suspicious of all large business because it’s so easy to lose sight of the real world in the never ending search for more profit. But in this case, it’s equally hard to feel sympathy for Big Publishing. They have been late to the party (have they even arrived?) and even now, are slow to innovate and would rather demonize the new guy. (see http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/the-anti-amazon-campaign-jumps-the-shark/; http://www.teleread.com/paul-biba/is-amazon-evil-or-are-they-just-really-good-at-business/).

    That being said, Big Publishing will not go away. There will always be a need for publishers. But they will change; if not by their own design, then by being pushed by others.

    5. I find it hard to believe that you quoted Scott Turow. So much has been said to discredit his comments, I would be embarrassed to quote him. For a few see, http://kriswrites.com/2012/03/28/the-business-rusch-pay-no-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtain/; http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/scott-turow-wrong-about-everything/; http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-03-16T00:37:00-05:00&max-results= 10; http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/03/presumed-inane.html ;)

    6. Google recently pulled its partnership with smaller bookstores. See http://paidcontent.org/2012/04/05/google-no-more-e-books-for-indie-booksellers/

    7. I was shocked to hear both of you espouse the merits of quality from Big Publishing over indie publishing (if I could shake my finger at you by email I would). This myth has been debunked so many times, so much better than I could ever do it, I will only point you to the recently blog post of Kris Rush (which is one of many): http://kriswrites.com/2012/03/21/the-business-rusch-quality/.

    8. Antitrust law suit. The suit has nothing to do with the agency model or book pricing, it’s about collusion. It was mentioned several times on the podcast but I disagree with the implications you state. See http://aprillhamilton. blogspot.com/2012/04/amazon-vs-apple-and-agency-5-lets-get.html. The agency model is not per se bad, and certainly not illegal. But Amazon should be able to hash out a contract with a publisher without all the publishers agreeing to the terms beforehand. What I find incredible is that publishers have admitted that going to agency actually brought them less money (and by extension less money for their authors) and they were ok with that. Instead of acting like a spoiled child, publishers need to take action. Discounting was not hurting the book business, but it was speeding up the relegation (not demise) of the paper book business, which threatens Big Publishing because they have exclusive control of paper book distribution. The arguments about a literary culture and benefits of brick and mortar bookstores are laughable and have been refused over and over again. Things change, and although something may be lost with that change, there is so much more to be gained. So we keep moving forward.

    9. Books are about content, not product. Because of that, each book is unique. Because of this uniqueness, ‘normal’ book prices will never be zero. I suspect that once the dust settles, ebook prices will find a stable spot. (My speculation, and it’s pure speculation on my part, is that they will be about $7.99 – $9.99 for traditionally published books and $4.99 – $7.99 for indie published books.) In the end, most book buyers don’t buy a book because of who publishes it but because someone recommended it (again, Amazon is light years ahead on book recommendations). Price will play a role, but it’s certainly not first on the list unless it’s too high (ie the same as the paper book).

    10. Who wins? It’s too early to tell. But I think it is a big win for consumers and indie writers, hands down. Most studies show consumers believe ebook prices should be less than paper books (I read an article about this recently but I couldn’t find it immediately). Does this mean ebooks should be free. See above. But if books are priced to market, more books will sell, and more books in the hands of reader will (hopefully) mean more readers reading more books (say that three times fast).

    Indie writers also win and will keep wining as long as they have a platform. Of course things may change in the future. Amazon may cut the royalty rate to 17.5% (but this is highly unlikely as indies provide a lot of content to Amazon, and any way, the indie revolution will not go away, it has too much steam now). If and when that happens, writers will keep writing, and will keep looking for places to get their work to reader and to make some money. And when the need arises, other outlets are sure to spring up. But until that happens (and there is no evidence that it will happen), writers will keep using the platforms that best suits their needs.

    Is Amazon a winner? In the short run, yes; and maybe the long run too. But the long run depends on so many variables that no one can make a reasonable guess at this point. Can Amazon keep its innovated model on the cutting edge? What happens when some cocky kid comes up with a better model and starts a competitor in his parents garage? The point is, no one knows the future (but many writers delude themselves into thinking they do). Over the past several years, things have changed fast, and there’s no reason to believe that the disruptive change in publishing is close to being over. So writers will work hard and will take advantage of the platforms and models available to them until something better comes along. And something better always does comes along.

    Lastly, I agree with Robin Sullivan who has expressed concern over KDP Select. Many others have talked about it also (notable Dean Wesley Smith). Exclusivity is a dangerous lure for the indie publisher. Locking out large segments of potential readers seems short sighted. The biggest concern is the potential for Amazon to boost books in the Select program over book that chose not to participate (in other words, create an uneven playing field favoring books in Select). I think the jury is still out on this one, and so we keep watching. But it seems to me that writers should be looking for the widest audience possible, and Select effectively limits the audience. And that’s a real concern. But the good news is that, right now, Select is a voluntary program and you can opt back out after 90 days.

    Sorry to be so long winded, but I wanted to get it off my chest.

  2. Shaun Farrell says:

    Here is another great email from Robert. Thanks, Robert!

    From Robert:

    I wanted to throw in my two cents about the DOJ lawsuit against the publishers.

    The suit is directed at Apple and the large publishers. It’s focused on Steve Jobs supposedly making a deal with the publishers that they would take Apple’s software model (70/30 spilt, maker/Apple) and not sell ebooks at a price lower that the price given to Apple. On the one hand, it does appear to be collusion to keep prices high.

    There are, however, several problems with the DOJ suit. One is that, since the agreement was made, Amazon’s share of the ebook market has decreased. Furthermore, Apple is #3 in the market; Amazon is still #1, and B&N is #2. Usually one of the keys to proving collusion is that it’s between top players in a market, not with a distant third-place player. (Best figures are Amazon has 60%, B&N 25-30%, Apple 10% or less.)

    Another problem is the matter of publisher royalties and payments. As Moses pointed out in the podcast, Amazon paid 35% royalties to publishers before the Apple agreement. It’s also important to note that it’s believed Amazon demanded higher than the usual 40% discount off the retail price that still dominates print book sales. Once it was clear Apple was offering a 70% royalty, Amazon upped the royalty to publishers (including self-published authors) to that same rate. This suggests that without competition Amazon would be keeping more income from ebook sales to the detriment of creators. That undermines the DOJ’s case about the harm of collusion.

    This in turn leads to another problem with the suit. Even if there was collusion between Apple and the major publishers, that might not be bad for consumers. That collusion has allowed self-published authors to price their books at much more reasonable rates that the major publishers. Readers don’t have to buy ebooks from the publishers if they object to the publishers’ prices, and authors don’t need publishers to reach readers. This suggests that the ebook market has the capacity to correct itself without government action. That will make it harder for the DOJ to prove its case against Apple and the publishers.

    Even though Amazon isn’t a party to the suit, their behavior might also figure into the case. Recent impasses with the publishers over placement and with IPG can be used by the defendants to argue that their actions were valid responses to a company that is trying to monopolize the ebook market. Amazon, they can claim, is the bad actor in the market, and they must be allowed a free hand to deal with Amazon to reduce its power.

    You two mentioned the related issue of ebook prices. From what I’ve been seeing on the Kindleboards and a few other forums and sites, the free/99¢ price point might be losing steam. There’s some anecdotal evidence that free/very low price is becoming associated with “poor quality.” If you want an ebook worth reading, you’ll have pay more than $1. There are hints that if readers know most of what they spend on an ebook is going to an author, they’re willing to pay a fair price. I think what bothers readers is that major publishers are pricing ebooks higher than even trade paperbacks, and readers are smart enough to know that publishers aren’t incurring the same costs with ebooks as they do with print books.

    Put simply, the publishing business remains a work in progress from what it was up until a few years ago. Just as it seemed the pot was settling, it’s been stirred again. We’ll if there are most stirs or not.

    Good to have the podcast back.

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