Self-publishing advocate Barry Eisler has an opinion piece on Techdirt discussing the way that so many organizations with “authors” in the name (Authors Guild, Authors United, etc.) seem to be arguing on behalf of publishers rather than authors.
Now look, there’s nothing wrong with lobbying the government on behalf of big publishers. The First Amendment guarantees the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, after all, and it doesn’t say those grievances can’t be self-serving or even that they have to be sane. I just wish all these organizations pretending to advocate for authors would call themselves something a little more honest. Power in publishing is already horrendously lopsided. Publisher lobbyists masquerading as author champions only makes things worse.
Reason discusses the piece, Eisler’s long-time cohort Joe Konrath talks about it here, and The Passive Voice readership discusses the original piece, the Reason piece, and the Konrath piece. (And here I am, discussing all of them. Did I just see Leonardo DiCaprio spinning a top?)
So, yes, I get it: these organizations are all trying to pull the moral equivalent of wrapping themselves in the flag, proclaiming they’re doing all this on behalf of the authors, who are in need of protection from the big bad corporate Amazon interest who threatens to stomp all over their livelihood. (Whereas Eisler and Konrath point out that the big bad corporate interests doing more of the author-stomping are the publishers, while Amazon is in turn stomping all over the publishers, or so the publishers would have us believe.)
But whether that’s true or not, there does come a point where repeatedly belaboring it is counterproductive. Eisler and Konrath make some decent points, but they make the same ones over and over again. (And then others such as The Passive Voice, The Digital Reader, etc. pick up the refrain.) I’m more on Amazon’s side than the publishers’, but at the moment I’m ready to hear some dead silence for a while about these publishers-in-authors’-clothing groups until something more substantive emerges than more Authors Guild propaganda.
Perhaps the real problem is that there simply isn’t anything more substantive. They get to make all this noise about how they’ve sent letters to the Department of Justice, and the people mocking them get to point and laugh…but then nothing else happens, and both sides claim moral victory.
To be honest, I’d be surprised if anything did happen. I don’t think the Department of Justice is going to spend more time and resources investigating Amazon again. But you never know. I’m actually surprised none of the Presidential campaigns have apparently made this an issue yet. It is an election year coming up, after all, and authors and publishers vote just like anybody else.