James PattersonI know I’m coming a bit late to this party, but I was out of town while everyone was discussing James Patterson’s ad. And I’m kind of glad I was. It gave me time to digest what other people were saying and form my own opinions.

I wasn’t in favor of the government bailout of the automobile and banking industry, for exactly this reason. We set a precedent. Now people can say, “Well you bailed them out; what about us?” Which is exactly what Patterson alluded to in his ad.

That genie’s out of the bottle. We’re going to see lots more people asking for free government funds in the future, but that’s then. What about Patterson’s request?

It probably won’t come as any surprise that I’m not in favor of it. Joe Konrath made some excellent arguments in his post; I thought his best point was that books are thriving, something Patterson is apparently unaware of. Ask lots of self-published authors, though, and they will say the same thing. Ask readers who can find high quality books at far less than Big Six prices.

But for just a moment, let’s ignore the in-your-face absurdity of the idea and step back and seriously consider it. What would a government bailout of the publishing industry look like? I’ve been pondering it all morning, and I can’t come up with anything sensible to do with the money. Pay authors more? That might be a charitable use of money, but it wouldn’t solve the industry’s problems, nor do I think the government would think it a good use of the money. How about propping up Barnes & Noble? Surely keeping more bookstores in business would be a help to the industry? Again, I don’t think it would solve the long-term problem.

Sue Amazon? Probably not. The Department of Justice had an opportunity to look at Amazon as part of the e-book settlement, and they didn’t. I’m doubting they’ll seek legal action against them now—not unless Amazon does something lawsuit-worthy. And if that happened, it wouldn’t be part of a publishing bailout.

But hey, I don’t need to figure this out—Patterson’s the one who asked for the bailout; I’m sure he’s got some ideas. Salon asked that question in their interview with him about the ad. His answer?

I haven’t thought about it but I’m sure there are things that can be done. There might be tax breaks, there might be limitations on the monopolies in the book business. We haven’t gotten into laws that should or shouldn’t be done in terms of the internet. I’m not sure what needs to happen, but right now, nothing’s happening.

Seriously? He went to all the trouble to place the ad, but he didn’t think about exactly what he was asking for? I’m glad Salon asked the question because that answer undermined his entire point.

You know the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for; you might get it”? Makes me wonder what we might get from this request.

James Patterson