The open letter against Amazon from Authors United, the group steered by founding author Douglas Preston, seems to be getting a lot of column inches. And just to make sure, Authors United is buying its own. That is, a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of the New York Times to get the message across. Yes, authors are paying publishers (in this case, a newspaper publisher) to print their words – but no one seems to be crying “vanity press” this time round. (Well, maybe “vanity,” but of that, see more below…)
Evidently the grating irony of authors – those proverbial poor relations and doorstep-haunters of the publishing game – having enough money to pay for full-page New York Times has been was lost on The Bookseller and many other journals. Many authors in the UK and elsewhere would probably be glad to receive the cost of one NYT full-page ad as their entire annual income from writing. But the rich boys club seems equally as tone-deaf when it comes to irony. And I’ll continue to use the term “boys club,” although many of the Authors United signatories are women authors, so long as its leading figures and spokespeople continue to be male authors of a certain age (usually born in the 1950s) – and net worth.
Because there’s a big net of worth in there. Through the kind offices of Celebrity NetWorth (“the latest net worth and salary of your favorite celebrity”), I’m in the position to tell you that John Grisham “has a net worth of $200 million.” James Patterson “has a net worth of $350 million” and earns $90 million a year – more than many small independent publishers would ever dream of seeing, let alone authors. David Baldacci, poor man, is hardly in the same league – he only has “a net worth of $45 million.” I’m not sure exactly what the net worth of Douglas Preston is, though I’ll continue looking, but I do know that he has his own page on Celebrity NetWorth. No wonder he and the other bankable celebrity authors on the Authors United list got together to support Hachette in its bid to keep their book prices high. Got to protect the sources of that kind of income, after all.
Think of the outpourings of righteous indignation that would follow if the Koch brothers were to buy full-page NYT ads to attack intruders on their turf. But then it’s long been the way of American conservatism to bamboozle the little people into thinking that the One Percent plutocrats are Bruce Waynes and Tony Starks, out there fighting on their behalf for Truth, Justice and the American Way. I’m not quite sure how James Patterson or Douglas Preston would look in a Batman or an Iron Man suit, but they seem to be trying it on – in every sense.