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The Big Six Doesn’t Hate Its Authors. Really.

February 19, 2012

It’s become cool to bash the Big Six, and we’ve probably done our fair share of it here. Of course, nothing happens in a vacuum, and more than one published author has told me horror stories about support functions that were messed up so horribly that they’d be funny if they weren’t true.

The publishing industry as it currently stands is flawed. If it weren’t Amazon wouldn’t be so thoroughly beating its biggest players.

Felice Therese

Valid criticism can also jump the shark* and become unwarranted generalization, and in any contentious matter, it’s always good to check out a voice from the other side. FutureBook, “a digital blog from Europe” (as opposed to what? an analog blog), recently posted that voice, specific Felice Therese’s voice. She’s the online content manager at a major publishing company based in New York City (give you six guesses which one).

She writes in response to JA Konrath’s criticism of the Big Six, saying in part:

Konrath’s barbs hit me me so deep because I know they’re about as true as they are impartial. I know this because author care relates directly to my job. As online content manager, my job is dedicated to supporting authors in a new way – giving them advice about their online presence if they want it, or doing techy stuff like coding and optimising their content for web if they don’t. I am living, breathing proof of the fact publishers love their authors.

JA Konrath

I don’t have a front-row seat at this fight, so my vision is limited. But it’s been influenced by criticism, first of the Big Six, then of Amazon. Several comments to this blog have countered criticism of Amazon, and if that’s not enough, just Google JA Konrath.

To hear that the Big Six is dabbling in these types of activities is a positive sign. Although slow to adopt to the e-book revolution, their corporate leadership has to be on board now. You hear about Penguin’s battle with libraries–which has been exaggerated. Penguin has said their withdrawal is temporary and seems to have more to do with OverDrive than the libraries.

But you don’t hear much of the other news. Some of that lies with the Big Six. When JA Konrath speaks, people seem to listen. Maybe one of their authors needs to speak as well.

A robust Big Six to counter Amazon is a good thing. And a robust Amazon to counter the Big Six is a good thing. Having both sides healthy and innovating is the best possible thing for writers.

* — Jump the Shark is a cultural idiom from the 90s, referencing the fact that Happy Days when from cartoonish to absurd when Fonzie, who had never water skiied before, beat a surly California surfer dude at his own game by jumping a shark on water skis. In his leather jacket.

  1. February 19, 2012 11:37 am

    I agree, the Big Six doesn’t hate their authors. In my experience, they really don’t have any hate or love one way or another unless the author sells A LOT of books, and even then, it’s not about the author, per se, it’s about doing what is necessary to keep that author so they can keep those sales. It’s a business. One thing I learned early on is that what my publisher did or didn’t do for me had nothing to do with me — it had to do with their business decisions about what they thought would help the bottom line. Did I always agree with how they implemented those decisions? No. Did I always agree they were even good business decisions? No. But I never took it personally, because I knew it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with book sales.

  2. Chris Hamilton permalink
    February 19, 2012 11:45 am

    I would imagine it takes a great deal of self-reminding, especially early on. Sure it’s a business, but it’s also a personal endeavor for writers. Balancing that must be a learning process of its own.

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