Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nick Mamatas on JA Konrath, and I Still Can't Keep My Mouth Shut.

Mamatas' Post Here

Once again, my "don't be a jackass until you absolutely have to" goal is butting its head against my contrarian side. Okay, here goes:

The house slave analogy on the part of Eisler and Konrath was inappropriate.

The analogy comparing self-publishing gurus to the NuRight's strategy of convincing people to vote against their economic self-interests on the part of Mamatas, while inoffensive, doesn't work any better. There are two reasons for this, the first being that pursuing a traditional publishing deal is not actually in the economic interests of most writers. The vast majority of indie writers would be making no money from their writing without the invention of the e-reader. Now they can make a little money, with the (miniscule) potential for a lot of money. A little is still more than zero. Secondly, the NuRight seduces people into voting against their economic self-interest for the NuRight's own benefit. Rupert Murdoch doesn't give a damn about gay marriage or US immigration policy. He does care about selling ad time for as much money as possible and then keeping those profits through generous tax breaks. Mamatas is resting his argument on the charge that Konrath, et. al, are running a pyramid scheme by seducing unsuspecting writers into the glitter of indie ideology and then selling to them, that there would be no market for indie books if not for gullible indie writers. I simply do not see how this is possible when the full diversity of various genres and idiosyncratic tastes are taken into account. A fan of Amanda Hocking* might find that Amber Scott scratches the same itch, but I kind of doubt that Blake Crouch and Selena Kitt appeal to the same demographics.

Mamatas also shores up his charge that the indie market is fundamentally incestuous and unprofitable based on, um, people use signatures with links to their books on the Kindle Boards. Frankly, I think the way that he's construing conversations on those boards is deliberately disingenuous: authors talk about weightier topics all the time, as even ten minutes poking about readily shows. If saying cool, intelligent things so that people decide that you're a cool, intelligent person and try out your books is now off-limits, then every author using social media had better stop right now. That includes Mamatas on his own Livejournal. Forget the attempt to make "self-promotion is an unauthorized use of the boards" charge; it's irrelevant. It's a matter of forum policy, not an ethical charge. If the KB mods decide that signatures with book links in them aren't a violation of policy, then they aren't a violation of stinkin' policy. That's one of the most passive forms of self-promotion there actually is, anyway, so unless we're now extending the charge that self-promotion in general is somehow gauche….? I didn’t' think so. As to the notion that indie writers tend to read a lot of indie books: authors also tend to be readers. This is not new. Self-published books make up the lion's share of my Kindle purchases because they're cheaper and I haven't noticed an across-the-board quality difference. I'm not putting myself in the monetary hole trying to chase the cool kids, and I don't that any others are, either. (That kind of purchasing would almost certainly be required to sustain the income levels of the growing list of people getting wealthy off of indies if the market really were that incestuous.) There's also an attempt to pull the old "oh noes, Joe in Iowa** might taint the hallowed halls of literature!" argument strategy, but my only hope there is that Joe handles the fame better than Laurell K. Hamilton has after writing the same damned thing.

Do I think that indie publishing has some crazy zealots, and that the rhetoric has gotten way too heated? Yes, I do. There is no need to sneer at physical books as "dead trees" or backhandedly call traditionally published authors stupid for an accomplishment that they likely worked their asses off for years in order to achieve. It's not the tone argument to tell Konrath that "phasers set to jackass" is not a winning rhetoric style. (Am I still amused as hell by what counts as flame-worthy now? Oh, god, yes.) Neither am I going to pretend that a series of red herrings counts as an argument, though, because it doesn't.

*Since it's been brought up, yes, I am aware that Amanda Hocking took a very generous traditional deal earlier this year. I am also aware that 1) she has not stopped self-publishing (a new book went out just this week, in fact) and 2) her deal is $2,000,000 for English rights to four books, three of which are previously published works that she pulled down for reediting and new covers. (EDIT 12/12/2011: There appears to be some confusion as to whether the Trylle books are included among the four, or whether the Watersong series is a four-book contract in and of itself. I'm getting conflicting info, can anyone else clear it up?) So she landed a seven-figure advance for producing one new book and signing over the rights to three others that have likely hit their reader saturation point in the indie market, has a chance to acquire new readers towards the works that have already been produced and earn a 70% royalty rate, and doesn't have to stop self-publishing in the meantime. And she referred to this as taking a risk. That's hardly clamoring for the first wagon that could drag her out of the indie wilderness, s'sorry. I might also add that to hint that advocating for e-readers and e-books is classist while defending $30 hardbacks is just a tad ill-considered.

**The NuRight also finds fertile ground in large part because of subtle "lol redneck" classism on the part of a lot of liberals. IJS, and I'm one step away from being a card-carrying socialist.

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