09 April 2013

Dietary Interruption

Just a short post-trip platter of baby seal link sausages here... unfortunately, LA's baby seals have upset my digestive tract a bit, so I'm back on a Bay Area fish diet for a few days.

  • Scott Turow pretty definitively demonstrates his, and the Authors' Guild's, permanent blind spot regarding publishing: Their layered assumptions culminating in the unstated premise that the publishing model of the mid-major and Big {insert number here} general publishers for their nondifferentiated lines is both the actual default (you've got to be kidding) and proper (no — just no). I'm going to just note one major defect for now; I could easily spend three or four thousand words and just touch the surface.

    Perhaps the most important reason for authors to welcome Kirtsaeng is a practical one relating to accounting. Turow's article presumes that publishers' accounting is accurate, honest, and timely regarding those "lower priced" foreign editions and how they relate to authors income. Leave aside for the moment that those "lower priced" foreign editions are either or both of (a) price-controlled with limited print runs, so there simply isn't a flood available for the US market (more like a trickle) and (b) specialty works way the hell outside the experience and expertise of the Authors' Guild (such as the college-level textbooks at issue in Kirtsaeng itself... whose author-publisher contracts do not resemble those for trade books at all, starting with their work-for-hire nature and going downhill from there). I don't know of an author who has published more than three books who has not personally questioned the accuracy of publisher accounting at one point or another, even if it never rose to a formal complaint. My ultimate literary ambition remains getting a royalty statement from a Big Five publisher onto the final Hugo or Nebula ballot for Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Short Story (under 7,500 words). And it's even worse with subsidiary rights than it is for straight domestic trade publication. Instead, Kirtsaeng represents an opportunity to go to unified accounting... where it's a lot harder to hide things, and it's a lot harder to claim deductions for nonexistent VAT payments that were instead made by the author's overseas agent, and so on.

    Proclaiming and acting as if one's own experiences (for example, never having been in the slush pile) are universal does little for one's credibility. I expect better from a former Assistant US Attorney and current specialist (when practicing law) in white-collar crime. Hell, I expect better from any lawyer under any circumstances. It appears that I'm expecting too much.

  • Of course, I also expect courts to be places of justice and not places of confusion, obfuscation, and terror.
  • Then, too, I expect journalists — even those purportedly covering publishing — to be just a little bit less credulous and a little more careful in what they're reporting as "news." The latest failure of journalistic standards at PW concerns the Julie of the Wolves fiasco, being reported with wide-eyed amazement that it's finally clear that this is about e-book royalty rates. That was obvious from the initial public statements and the initial filings in the matter... but the article betrays no sense of having looked at either of those sources even when preparing this article, let alone at the time they actually might have qualified as "news."