What is the “Authors Alliance?”

Authors Guild board member T.J. Stiles sent a note to the San Francisco Writers Grotto yesterday about the Authors Alliance, which launches next week. We thought you should see it.

May 15 note from T.J. Stiles to the San Francisco Writers Grotto:

I would like to pass along a warning about a new group that is trying hard to attract members, calling itself the Authors Alliance. In a recent interview in Publishers Weekly, founder and executive director Pamela Samuelson presented the Authors Alliance essentially as a counterweight to the Authors Guild. As an Authors Guild board member you may consider me biased. I have read the Authors Alliance materials, am familiar with the work of its directors, and met with one of them and developed a pretty good picture of what it’s all about.

If any of you earn a living as a writer, or hope to, I strongly urge you not to join the Authors Alliance. If you think authors should be the ones to decide what is done with their books, then I strongly urge you not to join.

However, if you are an academic, or scorn the idea of making a living from writing as a quest for “fame and fortune,” the Authors Alliance may be the organization for you. If you think, in our digital age, that the biggest problem facing authors is how hard it is to give your work away for free, it’s for you. If you think you’ve got too much power over people who copy and distribute your work without your permission, by all means sign up. Even if you agree with one or two things advocated by the Authors Alliance, if you join you lend weight to its entire agenda.

To be clear, I firmly believe that authors should have the choice to give their work away. That’s the Authors Guild position, too. But no one should make that decision for you. I’m pro-choice.

A few key points:

It’s an astroturf organization. It was not organized by authors, nor is it governed by them. The four directors are Berkeley academics. The executive director and her right-hand-woman are law professors who have made many proposals to reduce copyright protections for authors and restrict remedies for infringement. (I take that wording from the writings of Prof. Samuelson.)

As Samuelson stated in Publishers Weekly, the organization is intended to represent the interests of authors who don’t write for a living—academics and hobbyists. See my comments below on the financial interests they represent, and how they are at odds with those of authors who write for a living.

It may be too early to identify official Authors Alliance positions, but its directors and advisory board members have pushed such ideas as

• allowing people to resell digital files the way they can resell used physical books. Of course, with current technology the original copy would still exist, so that the “resale” would be copying. In other words, anyone could become a publisher of your book, selling or giving it away as much as they want by claiming to simply be reselling. You would have to prove they were doing it more than once—have fun with that! (For you legal wonks, this is called the application of “first-sale doctrine” to digital media.)

• allowing libraries to digitally copy your books, even if you have an e-book edition for sale. No security measures would be required. You would have to hire a lawyer to sue a library if you could prove that the library had allowed its self-published digital version of your book to be stolen and released onto the Internet. As has already happened with the theft of scholarly journals. Even if you did sue, by the way, you couldn’t collect damages from public libraries or state universities, which enjoy sovereign immunity.

• allowing private for-profit corporations to copy your books in their entirety and selling advertising against searches of them, and otherwise making money from your work. They wouldn’t have to ask your permission or share any revenue with you. Samuelson said, on behalf of the Authors Alliance, that Google had the right to do so, which would mean any business corporation could monetize your work, if they know how to game it just right.

• allowing potentially unlimited copying for educational uses. For many of us, library and educational markets are huge parts of our income. Many books are created specifically for educational use. Expanding free copying raises potentially huge problems—including the possibility that anyone claiming to be an educator could copy your work wholesale and not pay.

• requiring proper attribution of others’ works. This reasonable-sounding proposal sounds all kinds of alarms. Who will judge our books? What will be the penalties?

I have no doubt that their theories are sincerely held. But they happen to align perfectly with their own financial and professional interests. As academics, they don’t care about the commercial market for books or writing. I would argue they’re actively hostile to it.

Not including the executive director, the lowest paid member of the four directors earned $196,000 in 2012; the highest paid earned $262,200. That doesn’t include benefits. Prof. Samuelson is independently wealthy. I’m happy for their success, and wish all professors were paid this well. But my point is that these academics are insulated from the commercial book market, except to engage in it as consumers. They don’t earn much from royalties, but in most cases their advancement is largely based on publishing low-print-run academic works. Their interests lie in getting your books at low cost to supply their own academic work, and in advancing their own careers and incomes by making their own work available for free. Salary information is available here: https://ucannualwage.

When it comes to issues that actually matter to authors, the Authors Guild already advocates and provides actual services. The Authors Alliance does not. The Authors Guild provides free contract review and much more. The Authors Alliance will provide one-size-fits-all “education” about how to get your rights back. Period.

Again, you may believe that authors are too powerful, and have too much control over what happens to their work. But please be warned that if you sign up, you are lending support to a very long agenda. The Authors Guild is actually run by authors, elected by the membership, with an annual meeting open to all. That ain’t true of the Authors Alliance.

The Authors Alliance will stress some issues that are of authentic interest to authors, such as making it easier to get your rights back when you’ve signed them away to a publisher. If that was all there was, fair enough. But it exists to make it appear that there is a grassroots authors’ organization in favor of loosening copyright protections and limiting remedies for copyright infringement. (Do we have any remedies, by the way? Take-down letters are about as powerful as wishing wells.) And it doesn’t offer any actual services.

The intellectual-property shop at Berkeley’s law school has a very aggressive and expansive agenda that was crafted without working authors in mind. They want you to join so they can say you are one of a large group that supports that entire agenda. Let the joiner beware.

T.J. Stiles
Authors Guild board member
Author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and former Guggenheim fellow

Comments: more
  • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

    Well, gang, we’ve had a spirited discussion here across the last five days. Now, finally, everyone can see for themselves what the Authors Alliance actually proposes, rather than taking Mr. Stiles’ dire predictions and assumptions as reality.

    You can view the Authors Alliance principles and proposals for copyright reform on their website. I tried to post the link in a comment, but the moderators don’t like that, it seems. But I trust bright authors to be able to find it. ;-)

    I challenge everyone who has commented here to read it so that any future discussion about the intentions Authors Alliance can be based on their *actual* stated intentions. Seems reasonable, right?

    • jem jem

      I read the Authors Alliance ‘Principles and Proposals for Copyright Reform’. They want Civil Society to have greater access to what they write. They also want Civil Society to have greater access to what *others* write under an expanded definition of Fair Use.

  • Sanford Gray Thatcher

    One wonders how the AA can accomplish its aims of lessening the burden of copyright on the academic authors it mostly represents while not harming the trade authors the AG represents. And weakening copyright protection can harm even AA members because it threatens to undermine the economics of university press publishing, on which so many academics rely. If presses fail because of what the AA succeeds in doing, how will this failure serve the interests of academic authors? Will all of them begin self-publishing? But self-publishing lacks the academic credentialing that presses now provide. As it is now, any academic writer is free to waive copyright or use a CC-BY license to maximize use. What more does the AA want, and how can it succeed without destroying the livelihood of AG authors? I think AG authors are right to be worried. And so should academics who depend on university presses for their career advancement.

    • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

      Sandford, you can find the answers to your questions by visiting the Authors Alliance website, which has, since their launch last night, added their principles and proposals for copyright reform.

      In short, though, you’re (perhaps unintentionally) over-simplifying the mission of the Authors Alliance.

      Mr. Stiles did that (perhaps intentionally) in his original letter to the San Francisco Writers Grotto from last week… but now, with clear information available, the members of the Authors Guild have the opportunity to base their opinions on facts, not Mr. Stiles’ speculations.

      I look forward to this discussion evolving once concerned Authors Guild members educate themselves on the actual intentions of the Authors Alliance.

      • Sanford Gray Thatcher

        At first glance, many of these proposals seem reasonable. But the devil is in the details. It would be interesting to know, for example, the AA’s position on “transformative use.” If it mirrors the ARL’s, then it will be a problem for university presses.

        • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

          You should ask them.

  • Yee

    Since one appears to be obliged here to declare one’s credentials at the door, let me say that i speak as an academic who writes nonfiction books which have won awards and made appearances on bestseller lists as well as books and articles published in journals or by academic presses that are of interest only to specialists. From that point of view I discern conflicting interests — there are times when I’m vexed by the difficulty readers have in accessing my publications and times when I’m vexed that they don’t take the trouble to buy them. “Writing” is a complicated space and it’s presumptuous to imagine that either the writer of successful trade book or the writer of a specialized monograph can speak for the interests of all its practitioners.

    That said, I find this a distasteful post, which plays on cheap populist gestures, with its caricatures of academic writers (e,g, “if you …scorn the idea of making a living from writing as a quest for “fame and fortune,” the Authors Alliance may be the organization for you”) and its need to mention the salaries of the AA principals, without, say, enumerating the writer’s own advances so as to let readers know how much skin he has in the game. It also misrepresents the objects of AA, as various commenters have observed. I don’t think it serves the interest of the profession to cast the discussion in these terms, and it certainly damages the credit of Mr Stiles, a writer who has both railed at the factual inaccuracies of others and himself been charged of playing fast and loose with the truth. A polemicist makes himself known in every genre he touches.

    • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

      Well stated, Yee.

  • Deborah Smith Author

    Stiles’ post reminded me to re-up my Guild membership.

  • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

    Y’know what I just realized has been missing from this?

    The reaction / response of the original recipients of Mr. Stiles’ letter: the San Francisco Writers Grotto.

    Can anyone point to a link? Thanks!

    • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

      Bueller..?

    • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

      So… no one knows if the original recipients of Mr. Stiles’ letter have an opinion or response that’s been made public?

      What to make of that?

  • http://PaulLevinson.net/ Paul Levinson

    Just popping in here to say I’m an academic (tenured, full professor at Fordham University), author of scholarly nonfiction and science fiction (which my critics sometimes can’t tell apart), traditionally and independently published. I like money, I think sales are important, as is respect for copyright. But I think there are many ways of achieving these goals, and there’s no need for organizations with different approaches to be enemies. The enemy is public unawareness of one’s work, and that’s what needs to be combatted in any way possible.

    • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

      Thank you for chiming in, Paul. It’s nice to see that tone in this discussion.

    • lorcadamon

      Well said, and thanks for being a voice of reason in the conflict.

    • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

      Paul,
      Your “public unawareness” is the same as Doctorow’s “obscurity”, but how can obscurity be an “enemy”?

      Traditionally, an author would advertise and promote, and voluntarily give away samples of their work to attract an audience and attention.

      The problem I have with an “in any way possible” stance, is that this appears to include weakening copyright protections for authors who want copyright protection.

      It is difficult to embrace those who want to make themselves famous by beggaring their colleagues. Expanding First Sale Doctrine to ebooks would be disastrous, for instance. Not only would it mean a race to the bottom on prices as cheaper “used” copies would always be available, but it would mean that it would be impossible to enforce copyrights as every pirate site could claim that they only had “used” copies

      • http://PaulLevinson.net/ Paul Levinson

        Rowen – I’m using the word “enemy” metaphorically, when I say it is “public unawareness” (or Doctorow’s “obscurity”). But the key point in my position is that authors should able to do as they legally please – anything they want – to promote their books. I don’t recommend or like giving books away for free, but if an author wants to do that, best luck to her or him. I have mixed feelings about seeing any of my books for sale by a second-hand venue – I don’t like the no money for me, but I do like the publicity. Libraries are yet a different ratio – I like that libraries buy my books, I like that people who borrow them can be a source of good publicity, but I would prefer also being paid for the borrowings, and I love the Author’s Registry. I came up in a world in which libraries and used book stores were already well established, did ok in that world as an author, and now I’m doing ok in a world in which Amazon also sells used copies of my books, for which I see little or no money (little if I’m an Amazon associate) – ok with that as long as Amazon also sells copies of my books for which I do get paid. So I have a live and let live attitude regarding other authors and their strategies, and the same about what’s going on in the world of book selling. In this rapidly evolving situation, I think the best each author can do is look after his or her affairs.

        • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

          For the record, Doctorow isn’t the source for the quote I think you and Paul reference. It’s Tim O’Reilly:

          “For a typical author, obscurity is a far greater threat than piracy.” (Sunday Tribune magazine, 25 September 2005)

          It remains a very good bit of advice when it comes to where we, as authors, put our energies.

          • http://PaulLevinson.net/ Paul Levinson

            Thanks, Matthew – that’s the last time I’ll blindly accept Rowena’s attribution for a quote :)

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            Here is one quote ”
            For me — for pretty much every writer — the big problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity (thanks to Tim O’Reilly for this great aphorism). Of all the people who failed to buy this book today, the majority did so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free copy.”

            Also
            Tim O’Reilly famously once said “The problem for most artists isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.” That’s true, but it’s not the whole truth. These online services are, indeed, places where people infringe copyright a lot*******. It’s true that being widely pirated can also make you widely known, but you can’t eat fame.

            In other words, 20,000,000 YouTube views and $3 will get you a seat on the MTA.

            But here’s the thing about fame: although it’s hard to turn fame into money in the arts, it’s impossible to turn obscurity into money in the arts. It doesn’t matter how you plan on making your money — selling books or downloads, selling ads, getting sponsorship, getting crowdfunded, getting commissions, licensing to someone else who’s figured out how to make money — you won’t get the chance unless people have heard of your stuff.

          • http://PaulLevinson.net/ Paul Levinson

            I agree completely about fame not being edible. It is, however, highly fungible, which means it can help with sales across the board of one’s creations.

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            That is a good point, and was the Baen model where they gave away the first book in a 5 book series, for instance (which may not be entirely accurate or precisely researched, but is my approximate understanding of what Baen did). However, Baen stopped doing that.
            Why?

            I can understand authors giving away one book out of a series as long as there are other books in the series for sale. Where I part ways is when some suggest that every book any author has every written should be given away free.

            Such a model cannot encourage an author to write well or to take more time. It will lead, if nothing else, to the dumbing down of literature and culture.

          • http://PaulLevinson.net/ Paul Levinson

            I agree with you until the last paragraph. My impression – historically – is that great writing can be triggered by poverty, wealth, lots of sales, and no sales. I think the muse is usually independent of marketing and publicity. Therefore, while I can understand and agree that giving away books can hurt sales, I don’t see where that would lead to a “dumbing down of literature and culture”.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            Indeed, given that literature and culture has historically built on what has come before, it’s reasonable to suggest that very long copyright terms that keep works out of the public domain are what is stifling innovation and creative progress.

            Remember, the copyright term was originally fourteen years “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

            If James Madison was around today, he’d be first in line for copyright reform. He’d probably be the keynote speaker at the Authors Alliance launch on Wednesday.

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            Paul, with the greatest of respect, you are an academic. Perhaps you are insulated from the pressures of popular novel writing and the phenomenon commonly known as “tits to the tile”.
            Have you noticed that the ideal length of a work of fiction has been reduced from 120,000 words to 80,000 ?
            Have you noticed an increase in typos, misspellings of homophones, changes in punctuation to save the cost of the ink and space that goes into the Oxford/Harvard comma?
            Vocabulary is being cut to satisfy lower reading levels… perhaps no editor has ever told you not to use hard words such as “astrophysics”, but it happens, and I deplore it.
            I say nothing about “the muse” or the quality of a starving artist’s imagination. I’m talking about the effects of Mrs Parkinson’s Law (work contracts to fit the time available) as applies to writing. One does not reach for a thesaurus any more, one uses Spellcheck –and Spellcheck is often wrong– or, one changes a sentence and uses a synonym instead of taking the time to check the spelling of the “mot juste”.

          • http://PaulLevinson.net/ Paul Levinson

            I don’t take any insult at from being called an “academic” – in fact, I’m very proud of it – but you should know that my books (fiction and nonfiction) have sold well over 100,000 copies over the years, and I doubt that I’ve taught anywhere close to that number students (and only one of my books is a textbook). I also disagree with your analysis – the average length of science fiction novels in the 1950s was 50,000 words for example. And, I’ve been seeing typos ever since I began reading (I have a copy of one of the early novels in the Dune series, in which the hero’s name, Muad’Dib, is regularly typo-ed throughout. So it seems we disagree on the facts, as well as your view of what I am :)

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            You shouldn’t. None was intended.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            rowenacherry, the length of traditionally published tangible books has more to do with printing and distribution costs than anything else.

            The “ideal length” for a work of fiction is the amount of words necessary to tell the story you’re trying to tell.

            The increasing ubiquity of the e-book means that writers don’t have to worry about not being able to sell something too short to publish as a book.

            For example, now you can sell unlimited copies of a 53 page story like “Mating Net” *forever* without fretting that the magazine that would buy a story of that length only has a circulation of 50,000.

            By the way, speaking of sales, the “buy the book” link on your website page for “Mating Net” leads to a broken link. You’ll want to fix that right away!

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            Thank you so much for the heads- up. I was aware. That publisher did a website refresh.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            You’re very welcome!

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            Matthew, what magazine? Neither NBI or NewConceptsPublishing were ever magazines as far as I know.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            rowenacherry, I didn’t write that they were magazines. My point was that you don’t have to sell novellette-length works to magazines with limited circulations anymore… e-books allow you to reach a potentially unlimited audience, and make money from every sale, essentially forever.

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            Matthew, your premise there depends on whom is doing the selling.

            An author would not “make money from every sale” if First Sale Doctrine applied to ebooks, for instance.

            Nor does the author make money from a sale if an unauthorized site is selling them…. and there is at least one that looks genuine, but prices ebooks at less than half the Amazon price.

            Nor does the author make money if the site calls itself am online “subscription library” which acquired its inventory from an online auction site on one of those 200,000 ebook collections on dvd, or from a torrent.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            rowenacherry, I wasn’t presenting a premise. I was talking about how great it is that we can write a story at any length and not worry about whether or not a publisher will buy it because it’s too long / too short to print, or whether anyone will read it at all because a magazine has such a tiny, limited circulation.

            My reply was to your comment about novel lengths fluctuating, and had nothing to do with unauthorized file sharing, the first sale doctrine, or any of that stuff.

            It looks like context is becoming a problem in our discussion. Maybe we should stop.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            Rowena, no one in this discussion (or at the Authors Alliance) is advocating that “every book any author has every (sic) written should be given away for free.”

            What are we even discussing, at this point? I thought we were talking about the merits of the Authors Alliance.

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            Matthew Wayne…. I think the point of discussion about the “Authors Alliance” is that their agenda appears to be to weaken copyright laws.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            Well, we’ve come a long way from that.

            I think I’m going to try to be done with this, unless someone writes a comment that is blatant misinformation or simply incorrect.

            I’m tired of folks acting as if “appears to be” is as good as fact.

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            Surely, the interests of society and culture have never been as well served by free public libraries as they are today. The inventories, the variety of media, the facilities, the convenience to patrons is astounding and remarkable.

            The Government is exceptionally generous to business and to the content-accessing enterprises with its Safe Harbors and Fair Use provisions and exceptions.

            Google and its like are exceptionally generous in helping armchair scholars locate, and read, and cut-and-paste great chunks of culturally enriching works.

            The length of copyright seems to me to be of minimal concern, except to those who would commercially exploit others’ works…. unless we are talking about textbooks, and since those appear to be re-written in a new edition with different page numbers every few years, life of the author + 70 years doesn’t appear to make much of a difference there, either.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            “Surely, the interests of society and culture have never been as well served by free public libraries as they are today.”

            The potential is certainly there. Unfortunately, based on a 2011-2012 study, nearly 30% of libraries have seen operating budgets reduced. 19% of states have reduced funding to their library systems (11% of that is in the south). And if a state doesn’t put enough funding into a library system, the become ineligible for federal aid for that system, further degrading the health of the system.

            “The length of copyright seems to me to be of minimal concern…”

            Again: copyright is about more than just authors of books. I urge you to look into the crisis of orphan works. I’ve mentioned it before.

            Copyright is intended “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

            To those passionate about copyright reform (not elimination!), the issue is that the “limited times” are so long that the purpose of copyright (to promote the progress of science and the useful arts) as been lost.

            Rowenacherry, will you be watching the talks at the launch event of the Authors Alliance? They’ll be streamed beginning at 7:30 PM Pacific Time on the Internet Archive Presents channel on uStream.

            I thought you’d be interested in hearing what the Authors Alliance is all about from their perspective, to best form an opinion.

            I hope Mr. Stiles tunes in, too… since his letter to the San Francisco Writers Grotto, he’s been (near as I can tell) very quiet.

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            Matthew Wayne Selznick, I worry about the living authors of “orphan works”. As the Authors’ Guild showed in the Hathi Trust case, many so-called orphan works are in-copyright and the authors are alive and relatively easy to find. Is there really a crisis? Or is it a premature stampede of vultures? (Mixed metaphor, I know!)

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            There really is a crisis. Especially with film and other media that degrades with time.

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            You really ought to have attended the USPTO roundtable today. Someone made exactly that point about digital files degrading or becoming obsolete. ;-)

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            Baen still provides over fifty titles for free, with no DRM restrictions. They never stopped doing the Baen Library. Just to clarify things.

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            Fame “may” help with sales, but what I see on pirate sites is that the pirates read the first book by a debut author, and then request the next book. They do not write, “Thank you for introducing me to this hitherto obscure author. I will now go to an online retailer and purchase this hitherto obscure author’s next work.” They write, “Can anyone upload this hitherto obscure author’s other books?”

            When already-famous authors tell obscure authors that they can give away their ebooks and thereby become famous, I suspect that the advice is flawed. It may happen for a celebrated few who were in the right place at the right time, but in a saturated market, where myriad hopeful authors are following that advice, I doubt that the advice will prove to be helpful.

      • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

        Rowenacherry, you wrote, “for authors who want copyright protection.”

        In the United States, at least (which is the arena in which the Authors Alliance operates, I presume) copyright protection is received automatically when an author sets their creative work in a tangible form. There is no way to opt out of copyright protection.

        It’s clear you’re very passionate about copyright. I recommend you dig a little deeper on the subject and broaden your understanding.

        • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

          Dear Matthew Wayne Selznick,

          There are plenty of ways to opt out of funtioning copyright protection if one does not wish to be paid for ones work, and does not wish to enforce the default copyrights. All one has to do is choose not to register with the Copyright Office (so one cannot sue), choose not to post a copyright notice on ones work, actively choose to release the work as GNU or Creative Commons, and personally upload ones work to torrents and pirate sites.

          In theory, one is still protected by default, but if one does not send Takedown Notices, what difference does it make?

          When I clumsily wrote “authors who want copyright protection”, I meant professional authors who would rather not have their statutory copyright protections weakened by attention-seeking amateurs.

  • lorcadamon

    The AG fails to represent me because I don’t earn enough money to join. Maybe the Alliance will let me in?

    • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

      The fact that you are able to post your opinions on their blog would suggest that the AG represents you to some extent.

      • lorcadamon

        Not really, it’s an option afforded to anyone who has a computer, writer/author or not.

        What I found laughable was the assertion from AG that the Alliance is going to somehow harm authors, while AG won’t even deign to let me join because I don’t sell enough of my work. The fact that I gave away 200 copies of one of my books in March alone–given to teachers to use with their high school students–is the reason I don’t “earn” enough to sit at their table. I support an author’s choice to do with her content as she pleases, and the Alliance at least presents itself as a supporter of that idea. While I would never speak for another author and insist that free access to all written work should be the norm, that isn’t what the Alliance is supporting (despite Mr. Stiles’ misrepresentation of its mission).

        • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

          Dear Lorcadamon, authors already have the right to give away their own work, always assuming that they do not have a contract with a publisher that gives the publisher the exclusive rights to distribute the work. We don’t need an “Authors Alliance” to fight for a right that we already have.

          Regarding your finances, I seem to recall that AG membership is $90 whereas AA appears to be requiring $100 from founder members.

          • lorcadamon

            Do note that an independent author cannot join without meeting a minimum sales figure for a set calendar period; as for my traditionally published works, my publisher isn’t “big enough” to make me eligible for membership. Basically, I’m not an eligible author without first a) marketing myself to a larger audience and b) turning over sales data to prove my worthiness. A selfie of me holding my book should be enough proof that I’m an author, but it’s not. This isn’t to say that AA doesn’t have similar rules, but it’s insulting to be told how to feel about a competing organization when I’m not even allowed to join the one that has the gripe in the first place. AG does state that it advocates for authors, but don’t they really mean authors who sell enough?

          • Deborah Smith Author

            And the AMA requires members to have medical degrees.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            That’s your basic logical fallacy right there, Deborah. The Authors Guild requiring a certain revenue limit for eligibility is not the same as the AMA requiring a certain education limit.

            Now, if the AMA said that its members had to make at least $50,000 per year, that would be different. But I don’t think it’s the case.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            The Authors Alliance, as of this writing, has not posted membership costs. Are you referring to the DONATE button that defaults to $100, but can be set to any amount? That’s not a membership sign-up.

            Pesky trees.

        • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

          Here’s the mission as stated by one of the Berkeley law professors. “The mission of the Authors Alliance is to give voice and provide assistance to authors who are motivated first and foremost by the desire to be read, seen, and heard by the public in order to promote the public good.”

          Any content creator who wants their work to be read and shared without regard for compensation to the creator can use a GNU license or Creative Commons under existing law.

          Another of their pitches is “Authors who are eager to share their existing works may discover that those works are out of print, un-digitized, and subject to copyrights signed away long before the digital age.”

          If a work is out of print and undigitized, authors don’t need an alliance of Berkeley lawyers in order to send a rights reversion letter. They simply need to read their own contract.

    • Deborah Smith Author

      Not unless you have income that doesn’t come from writing. Only penniless writers count in their world?

      • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

        Penniless writers *don’t* seem to count to the Author’s Guild, since it requires authors to make at least $5,000 (or $500 if you want to be a second-class “associates” without a voting voice, for which privilege the Author’s Guild will still take its $90.00).

        Elitism is a sad, pitiful thing to witness.

  • Rich Meyer

    The Authors Alliance is a disconnect from reality of Godzilla-esque proportions. So all books should be free for everyone to use, to copy, and to make money on then? Though it doesn’t seem as though the actual authors of the books should or will get any consideration for how that’s controlled, or even seem to be in line to get any of the financial revenues generated by their own works?

    Giving your work away for free is NOT a problem. Why anyone would think that in the first place, other than wanting to be cheap bastards or foster piracy, is beyond me. That simple statement proves the massive disconnect. This organization is for a bunch of rich academics (the worst kind, IMO) who think they know best. Wotta buncha maroons.

    • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

      “So all books should be free for everyone to use, to copy, and to make money on then?”

      That *would* be a disconnect from reality. Fortunately, based on available information, that’s not what the Authors Alliance advocates.

      “Giving your work away for free is NOT a problem. Why anyone would think that in the first place, other than wanting to be cheap bastards or foster piracy, is beyond me.”

      Indeed. And I can’t find anything in the Publishers Weekly interview or on the Authors Alliance website that claims that it is a problem (so long as you own the rights).

      That’s why it’s so disappointing that Mr. Stiles would write things like, “If you think, in our digital age, that the biggest problem facing authors is how hard it is to give your work away for free, it’s for you.”

      Check out what Ms. Samuelson actually said. Check out the actual stated mission of the Authors Alliance.

      As he admitted, Mr. Stiles’ representation of the Authors Guild may be biased.

  • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

    Perhaps T.J. Stiles should have written “As an Authors Guild board member you must consider me biased,” rather than “may consider me biased,” given the content of the rest of the post and Mr. Stiles’ position within the Authors Guild.

    Mr. Stiles wrote of the Authors Alliance, “If you think, in our digital age, that the biggest problem facing authors is how hard it is to give your work away for free, it’s for you. If you think you’ve got too much power over people who copy and distribute your work without your permission, by all means sign up.”

    Ms. Samuelson might be surprised, hurt, or maybe amused by Mr. Stiles words, since she wrote in her Publishers Weekly interview, “We are not trying to create an organization with an orthodoxy that says you have to make everything available on an open access basis. We want to empower people to understand what their options are, and the pros and cons of those options, facilitating the dissemination goals of our members.”

    “It’s an astroturf organization,” asserts Mr. Stiles

    Wikipedia tells us, “Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g. political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participant(s).”

    I carefully read the PW interview of Ms. Samuelson, as well as all the currently available information on the Authors Alliance website.

    From those sources, I never had the expectation that the Authors Alliance was a grassroots organization, or the impression that they were presenting themselves as such. Also, since the membership and affiliations of their board and advisory board are readily available for anyone to see, I don’t see any evidence of masking.

    Mr. Stiles wrote, “As Samuelson stated in Publishers Weekly, the organization is intended to represent the interests of authors who don’t write for a living—academics and hobbyists.”

    I just re-read that interview to be sure: nowhere does Ms. Samuelson make the statement Mr. Stiles attributes to her. As Mr. Stiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, I expected him to be less cavalier about putting words in other people’s mouths, especially while they’re still alive.

    Let’s not forget that most authors earn substantial percentages of their income from something other than direct compensation for their writing.

    I’m sure Mr. Stiles himself is very aware of this, given his work as a public speaker and frequent consultant and on-screen personality for a number of documentary television productions. And of course there’s Mr. Stiles’ own work teaching at Colombia University… or, as it’s also know, being an academic.

    Unless, of course, Mr. Stiles does not charge a fee for all of that non-writing work..?

    Mr. Stiles writes, “It may be too early to identify official Authors Alliance positions…”

    Indeed. One might at least wait until they open their doors for business before one assumes to guess at the Authors Guild’s official positions.

    Or, one could spend three hundred words or so on the “ideas” that “its directors and advisory board members have pushed,” as Mr. Stiles did.

    Damning the group for the ideas of some of its members seems like a risky strategy when one is a board member of the glass house known as the Authors Guild. Not to mention a cheap shot.

    Mr. Stiles wrote, “Not including the executive director, the lowest paid member of the four directors earned $196,000 in 2012; the highest paid earned $262,200. That doesn’t include benefits.”

    Fair’s fair, Mr. Stiles. Please provide an income report for the board members of the Authors Guild, including yourself, for 2012. If you like, exclude book royalties and advances received by the board members *in that year,* since your seem to believe your counterparts in the Authors Alliance “don’t write for a living.”

    It would be educational to compare the Authors Guild board members’ standard of living to the highest / lowest income of its rank-and-file members.

    I digress. Somewhat.

    Mr. Stiles wrote, “But my point is that these academics are insulated from the commercial book market, except to engage in it as consumers.”

    Perhaps that’s why their advisory board includes a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, the 39th Poet Laureate of the United States, a Campbell Award winner, a well regarded and critically acclaimed journalist and memoirist, and a futurist whose decades-long track record includes several bestselling non-fiction works?

    Seems like the commercial book market is represented, at least on the author front.

    According to the PW interview, Ms. Samuelson is looking for help from the publishing side of things, too (“It would be wonderful to work with agents!” “Donald Lamm, a past president of W.W. Norton, is on our advisory board, and has helped to give us a publisher perspective on some of the issues we are grappling with.”)

    Mr. Stiles wrote, “When it comes to issues that actually matter to authors, the Authors Guild already advocates and provides actual services. The Authors Alliance does not. The Authors Guild provides free contract review and much more. The Authors Alliance will provide one-size-fits-all “education” about how to get your rights back. Period.”

    Comparing the services of an organization that’s been more-or-less representing the best interests of its members for over a century to the possible offerings of an organization that hasn’t even begun to offer services is, to me, another cheap shot.

    Mr. Stiles writes, “The Authors Guild is actually run by authors, elected by the membership, with an annual meeting open to all. That ain’t true of the Authors Alliance.”

    Well, first of all, the Authors Alliance hasn’t been around long enough to have a monthly meeting, let alone an annual meeting.

    Second: I have not seen the by-laws of the Authors Alliance, so I have no idea how they will select their leadership once they are a viable, working entity. If Mr. Stiles can show us that information, that would be great.

    But come on… criticizing an organization for not letting members select the leadership, when the organization hasn’t yet opened its doors to the unsolicited membership who might participate in that vote? That’s damn sloppy. At least give ‘em a year.

    And third: It’s possible Mr. Stiles places a much more narrow definition on the word “author” than does the Authors Alliance.

    The Authors Alliance, if I interpret their mission correctly, is intended for all creators of works that fall under copyright protection. In this sense, a software developer is an author, as is a filmmaker, a poet, a musician, a researcher, and so on. A quick look at the Authors Alliance website shows that there are many, many authors in leadership positions in the organization.

    I’m disappointed, but not surprised, by the antagonistic position Mr. Stiles has taken regarding the Authors Alliance. I am not sure if it is the official position of the Authors Guild, or if such a thing exists. I can only hope not.

    Especially since Ms. Samuelson, in her Publishers Weekly interview, said, “…there may even be some issues that we would want to form an alliance with the Authors Guild.”

    Based on Mr. Stiles piece, if Ms. Samuelson extends her hand to the Authors Guild, she’d best make sure her rabies vaccinations are current.

    • ocatagon

      Thank you for this fantastic rebuttal.

    • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

      Do we know for certain that Amazon, Google, EFF and others are not quietly funding AA?

      • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

        Are you just trying to stir the pot, rowenacherry?

        Might as well ask if we know for certain that the Authors Guild doesn’t actually work for the best interests of Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin / Random House, and Simon and Schuster, rather than book authors.

        In any event, you put the EFF on that list of bogeymen, which is confusing, since the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a civil rights advocacy group whose mission is to “work to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows.”

        • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

          Matthew Wayne Selznick, with the greatest of respect, perhaps we can agree that some people read between the lines and see what isn’t there, and others skim for the gist, and don’t see the wood for the trees, let alone read between the lines.

          Here’s something from EFF which puts it on the bogey list for me, and which to my reading makes it very clear to me that they are in favor of First Sale Doctrine applying to ebooks, and than anyone who pays $2.99 (or whatever) for an ebook acquires a non-exclusive copyright to the work.

          Quoting EFF
          “International Day Against DRM: It’s Time to Fix U.S. Copyright Law

          Digital rights management (DRM) is technology that purportedly exists to protect against copyright infringement, but in practice limits how people use and share technology they have paid for.”

          It’s the “and share” and “they have paid for” that are red flags to me.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            rowenacherry, we’re drifting a bit from Mr. Stiles’ attack-dog post on what the Authors Alliance might possible do in the future.

            But, sure, let’s talk about DRM.

            You quoted from the 661st issue of the EFFector. I don’t know if you went any deeper than that (clicked through to the full content, for example, and didn’t just skim for the gist).

            I hope that, when you consider DRM and related issues, that you recognize that it impacts much more than book authors.

            I hope that you recognize that the issue of copyright reform (no one, not me, not the EFF, not the Authors Alliance, is talking about eliminating copyright laws, despite what some folks might claim) are larger than the concerns of book authors. We must, as members of the creative culture… heck, human culture… look at the larger picture.

            You like to research, so I leave it to you to discover more about the larger issue… the forest, if you will.

            You wrote, “…to my reading makes it very clear to me that they are in favor of First Sale Doctrine applying to ebooks, and than anyone who pays $2.99 (or whatever) for an ebook acquires a non-exclusive copyright to the work.”

            With all applicable respect, your interpretation does not make it so.

            Also, if you’ve found a reference to the proposition that the First Sale Doctrine (for e-books or anything else) actually assigns a copyright to the purchaser, I’d love to see it. As the man says, “I think that word does not mean what you think it means.”

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            EFF stated, “At EFF, we think you should have the right and ability to make full use of your stuff – to tinker, reuse, re-sell, improve, break, and lend.”

            Re-Selling and lending involve making copies and distributing them to other individuals.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            Rowenacherry, as you’ve pointed out, context is important. The context of the quote you site is with regard to DRM (digital rights management) technology and policies.

            We can get into an in-depth discussion about DRM and how it’s ultimately an ineffective nuisance at best and culturally damaging at worst, if you want. We can go there.

            If you want to know who funds the Authors Alliance, you can find out. They’re a 501(c)(3) corporation, so you’re welcome to request their funding records rather than make what could be construed as a side-ways attempt to disparage them.

            Be sure to share what you find out!

          • http://www.rowenachery.com rowenacherry

            If you have the right to create a perfect copy of a piece of intellectual property for the purpose of publishing and distributing it, you have the right to copy… or copyright. I did say non-exclusive.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            Copyright and the right to make a copy are two different things. There is no such thing as non-exclusive copyright, and (far as I know) no one is advocating for that.

            Copyright is, literally, the right to grant permission to others to copy.

            Again, if you’ve found a reference to the proposition that the First Sale Doctrine (for e-books or anything else) actually assigns a copyright to the purchaser, I’d love to see it.

        • e30dn8t

          The EFF doesn’t care about my rights. In fact, they’re actively campaigning against me using my copyright. They always side with the pirates and they find every reason to embrace whatever revenue-increasing game that Google can invent to circumvent my copyright.

          When it comes down to it, the EFF mainly cares about their big donors: Google.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            Since I don’t know where you live, e30dn8t, I can’t address whether or not EFF directly concerns itself with your rights.

            Considering copyright reform (not eradication!) is just a small part of what they concern themselves with (bigger issues being privacy, illegal surveillance, and things like that), it’s entirely possible they are, in fact, working on behalf of your rights (if you’re a US citizen) whether you are one of their big donors or not.

            It’s a complicated world, isn’t it?

  • Rebecca Hulit

    Let me understand clearly what I’m reading here because, you see, I do write and produce to Kindle, and have been a graphic artist for well over 40 years. I have NOT made a penny on anything I’ve written, and very little as an artist (which, of course, meant I had to have other employment to sustain me). Are you suggesting now that anything we make, draw, sing, compose, write isn’t ours unless we pay someone even to be a member of a group to protect us? If I don’t make a single dime, how on earth would I have the funds to pay to become a member of any group?

    • e30dn8t

      Uh, I don’t think that’s what the message is. Only that of these two choices, one goes to a group that is committed to helping writers maintain control while the other group embraces many ideas that weaken the author’s control. So if you want to spend your money, you should take this into consideration.

      I don’t think you should contribute any money to either group unless you really like the message. That’s why the groups exist– they help us amplify our feelings by banding us together with others. I personally like the Authors’ Guild much more because I don’t think that the Internet has been very kind to Authors. The tenured folk at Berkeley also don’t have the same incentives as me. I just think they’ll embrace trendy, cool ideas without thinking about the economic consequences.

      But you should choose what’s good for you. Maybe fair use sounds good to you. To me, it seems like an excuse for people to not pay anything because they’re just “tasting” or “sharing”. But the choice is yours.

  • Joseph Harris

    Excellent. Some of this was obvious, and I so commented elsewhere. It is interesting to see the company Samuelson mentions – Book Agreement anyone?

    More strength to your elbows [English saying] Mr Stiles and the Guild. There’s an even bigger fight coming, for another piratical shark is on the loose.

    Joseph Harris, author/publisher in London

  • C.R.

    Thank you once again, Authors Guild, for your vigilance, and thank you, T.J. Stiles for alerting us to what’s going on with Authors Alliance. I am one of the few academic members of the Authors Guild. I continue to be amazed and dismayed that my colleagues think that our books don’t need to make money. In the humanities, most of us make far less than $100,000, and a great percentage of us are adjuncts without benefits, without professional funding to support our research, and without a regular income. This means that we are paid per course — these days frankly not enough to live on — and therefore seeking remuneration from our writing is essential. Still the myth persists that we should be offering our work for free or for very little. The Authors Alliance has easy prey in reaching out to traditional academics. I will continue to urge my colleagues not to succumb to these ways of thinking about our work, just as I continue to urge them to join the Authors Guild.

    • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

      Don’t worry, C.R., you’re not the only Academic in the Authors Guild.

      In fact, I don’t know how T.J. Stiles can handle being on the same board of directors at academics like Matt de la Peña and Annette Gordon-Reed!

      Maybe he doesn’t know! Don’t tell him, for their sakes!

  • Eugene Mirabelli

    I’m a a professor emeritus of the English department of the State University of New York at Albany as well as a member of the Authors Guild since around 1959, and I’m sorry to say that the views on copyright espoused by the Authors Alliance are shared by many in the academic community. Unfortunately, the same views are held by an increasing number younger writers (younger compared to this one at 83) who publish online and see current copyright law as being a capitalist tool of large corporate publishing enterprises.

    • e30dn8t

      It’s sad to see how one side has brainwashed the world. The people who want everything to be free are the billionaires who make money selling ads on the “free” content. Sure they old school publishers only offered 15% royalties, but at least they paid something. The new faux-sharing companies give nothing, nada zip.

      • Deborah Smith Author

        Amen. As a published author who’s made a living at it, more or less, for thirty years, I’ve seen my books pirated, sold in used bookstores without compensation to me or my publisher, loaned en masse by library systems,and given away by me or my publisher for promotions (in the thousands, per ebook promos). So I’m not feeling particularly protected *now.* For every book I’ve sold and received royalties for, XX have gone out the door as a gift to the world. What the AA proposes would slash an already tenuous safety net.

        • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

          Authors who begrudge the cultural gift of libraries bewilder me. Talk about biting the hand.

          • e30dn8t

            It all depends what you mean by library. Many of the wacko Internet dreamers seem to think that the library should lend infinite copies to anyone who wants them. There would be a market for one copy of the book because everyone else would borrow one of the infinite copies.

            That’s not a hand that feeds us. That’s a hand that steals from us.

            Now I agree with you about the old definition of libraries with physical books because the authors were paid in an amount that was roughly proportional to the popularity of the book. But we’re drifting away from that. The billionaires at GOOG would like to pretend they’re merely a library and thus exempt from sharing any of their ad revenues with teh people who make it possible, the authors.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            e30dn8t, you do understand that if your book is searchable in Google Books, that also means it’s linked to places people can buy it if they want to read the whole thing (assuming it’s available for sale), right?

            As for libraries, no matter how many copies of a book (tangible or electronic) are lended, it’s not stealing because nothing has been taken from you.

            My position (as an author and a reader) is that libraries *do* feed us. They feed authors new readers.

            I look at my bookshelves, real and electronic, and see plenty of authors represented whose works I first discovered in a library.

            Never mind the cultural “food” a library provides. Libraries make children into readers. Those children grow up and buy books.

            If a library wants to lend five or five thousand copies of my works, they get my gratitude, not my indignation.

          • e30dn8t

            Wow. You’ve been chugging the EFF/GOOG kool-aid, haven’t you?

            If you want to give your book away and get as many free readers as you want, no one is stopping you. Go to it. You don’t even need a library.

            But if you want to earn something from each reader, then libraries aren’t feeding you. Someone lending an infinite number of electronic copies is destroying the system. And while I don’t want to play your weirdo game about whether this is or is not official theft, I think the system sucks.

            The old scheme with physical books worked because the libraries weren’t very efficient. People were forced to buy the books that weren’t easily available. But when there are infinite copies available for free, the libraries quit working as a support system and turn into a system that only helps the authors who want to give everything away.

            Here’s the thing: you and your digital idealists can give your books away as much as you want. You don’t need to ruin our book selling business. But for some reason, you seem to feel that you destroy the traditional author.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            e30dn8t, I asked you a direct question that you either didn’t take seriously, or opted to not answer. But I’m sincerely curious, because I’ve found that many authors have some misconceptions on this point, and one of the reasons I’ve spent so much time and energy in this discussion is to help people see past the often inflammatory rhetoric.

            I repeat the question in more basic terms: Do you understand that if your book is searchable in Google Books, that’s a marketing tool that can lead to money in your pocket?

            You wrote, “But if you want to earn something from each reader, then libraries aren’t feeding you.”

            If by “earn something” you mean “get financial compensation from each library book reader,” then, no, of course one does not.

            But there are other forms of compensation. If you think of a library as an institution that simultaneously promotes literacy and authors… if you think about how, for many, the library may be the first introduction to your work… libraries create readers.

            That benefits all authors. Often directly. I have purchased many books after either first reading the author or that specific book thanks to a library. Don’t you?

            You wrote, “But when there are infinite copies available for free, the libraries quit working as a support system and turn into a system that only helps the authors who want to give everything away.”

            “Only?”

            Do you sincerely believe when there is no cap on the number of times a library can loan a particular e-book, the library helps no other author but those who want to give everything away?

            It’s another serious question I hope you’ll answer.

            Speaking of that: I’ve seen a few authors in this discussion refer to “authors who want to give everything away.”

            I’m very curious about this.

            I, no doubt like you, know a great many authors at every point along their career paths, from folks just polishing their first novels, to first-time self-publishers, to repeat NYT bestsellers.

            I’ve yet to encounter a single one that wants to give everything away!

            In fact, nearly all of the authors I know are working hard to earn a comfortable living entirely from their writing. (As you probably know, most authors, including, I suspect, the majority of the members of the Authors Guild, do not earn a living wage solely from their published works).

            To that end, many, many authors I know offer things for free as a marketing tool to drive sales. It works pretty well for a lot of folks.

            But the author who want to give everything away… that’s a mysterious beast to me. Where are they? Who are they?

            Can you point to some examples?

            Again: I’m serious. I want to know.

            You wrote, “…you and your digital idealists can give your books away as much as you want. You don’t need to ruin our book selling business. But for some reason, you seem to feel that you destroy the traditional author.”

            There’s a lot to unpack in those three sentences. I’m going to try:

            “…digital idealists…”

            I don’t know exactly how you define a digital idealist, so I’m not sure if I should be lumped in with them.

            I *do* know that without the rise of e-books and other digital media, I’d be making a lot less money from my writing than I am today.

            “…give your books away as much as you want.”

            Personally, what I advise is to never give something away for free that you also charge for.

            For example, my first novel currently has no for-pay audiobook edition, so I offer a free podcast edition that can (and does) act as a promotional tool to funnel people to buying the print or e-book editions of that work or others.

            Indeed, without offering certain things for free, I never would have broken the Amazon overall top sixty (in PAID books) or cultivated the wonderful, dedicated, loyal community of paying readers I’m so honored to have.

            I also advise that one should never offer something for free (we’re talking about content, here, not altruism in general, of course) without getting some kind of return.

            “Free” should be a transaction. Sometimes the return is permission to sell to the recipient in the future, as with a mailing list. Sometimes it’s exposure to drive sales of other products, as with the Amazon Kindle KDP Select program.

            “You don’t need to ruin our book selling business.”

            Your book selling business? Isn’t it *our* book selling business?

            As I’ve tried to make clear: the advent of digital distribution has made me much more money than I’ve ever made from print. Indeed, I’ve made more money and sold more units as a self published author than I did through a traditional publisher.

            I can’t speak for, or be held accountable for, anyone else’s book selling business. But I assure you, mine’s doing better and better all the time.

            “But for some reason, you seem to feel that you destroy the traditional author.”

            I assume you mean to write “…that you must destroy…” or something similar.

            The myth of the author who is out to destroy the traditional (whatever that means) author (presumably by wiping out copyright or some other scheme..?) is, again, something I’d love to see substantiated. I suspect it’s as much of a monster-under-the-bed as the “author who wants to give everything away.”

            Again: please show me who these people are.

            In closing:

            e30db8t, your anonymity protects you from scrutiny and prevents me from really understanding your perspective. You’re entitled to that obscurity, of course.

            On the other hand, I choose to be an open book (pun not entirely intended).

            If you care to look, you’ll find I’m a lifelong advocate of creative endeavors. I’ve been making (and selling!) “works of authorship” for thirty years.

            I am deeply committed to Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution of the United States of America:

            “The Congress shall have Power to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

            It’s my love of the “copyright clause” that drives my desire to see the copyright laws reformed. I want a set of laws that serve culture as well as creator equally well. We don’t have that today.

            Thanks, in advance, for addressing the questions I’ve asked you, and for maintaining a tone of mutual respect in this discussion.

          • e30dn8t

            Yes, I’m well-aware that Google puts tiny sales links next to the copies of the books they display. When they first started, they were displaying most of the books and so only a fool would actually spend money for something they could get for free. Now that the Authors’ Guild has fought back, Google displays less. Maybe they actually sell some books, but I haven’t heard any back-patting press releases from them bragging about how many books they’ve sold. I bet it’s pretty close to zero.

            As you note: don’t try to sell something that you also give away for free. Google was giving away something I’ve been trying to sell. Only by complaining and joining into the Authors’ Guild suit was I able to stop this.

            I’m all for authors experimenting with their work, but the EFF is just an apologist for Google. They receive huge contributions from the billionaires at Google and so– surprise, surprise– they see nothing wrong with stomping all over my copyrights and ignoring me.

            Here’s a hint: you don’t need change to accomplish what you want. You can use CC licenses or other things without changing any laws. And I can use strong copyright for my work. But all of these “reform” movements are just designed to make the billionaires at Google (and other web sites) rich while depriving the authors of any share of the income.

          • http://www.mattselznick.com Matthew Wayne Selznick

            The Authors Guild’s suit against Google was dismissed last year, e30dn8t, when a U.S. Circuit Judge ruled that, under the copyright law the Authors Guild so vigorously defends, Google’s actions constituted Fair Use.

            From Judge Chin’s ruling:

            “In my view, Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders. It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.”

            So that’s that.

            If you don’t like the Fair Use test, maybe you’re for copyright reform, too! ;-)

            You wrote, “Maybe they actually sell some books, but I haven’t heard any back-patting press releases from them bragging about how many books they’ve sold.”

            That’s because those links you mentioned (not so tiny, either) go to third party marketplaces like Amazon..

            The larger point: the Google Books search engine provides authors with another way to passively market their books. It costs you authors nothing, and could earn you something. As an author, that’s a check mark in the “win” column, I’d say.

            You wrote, “…you don’t need change to accomplish what you want. You can use CC licenses or other things without changing any laws.”

            I’m well aware of Creative Commons. The first edition of my first novel was released under a Creative Commons Developing Nations License in 2005, which gave anyone in a developing nation the right to create and profit from (within their country) derivative works based on my book.

            The free podcast version of that book (a sales-driving and community building marketing tool that, when I stopped counting in 2009, had a worldwide audience of over 30,000 listeners) was, like many podcasts, released under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial No Derivatives license.

            Creative Commons is a great licensing tool.

            However, you might have missed what I actually want. I wrote it toward the end of my comment. Here it is again:

            I am deeply committed to Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution of the United States of America:

            “The Congress shall have Power to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

            It’s my love of the “copyright clause” that drives my desire to see the copyright laws reformed. I want a set of laws that serve culture as well as creator equally well. We don’t have that today.

            You use words like “only” and “just” when describing what organizations like the EFF, and the copyright reform movement, advocate. The thing is, you can’t simplify these issues. Copyright is about more than the concerns of book authors.

            Thanks for answering that first question of mine.

            I look forward to your future comments addressing my other questions.

          • jem jem

            These are remarks of the US delegation to a NOV 2011 WIPO compilation document on a possible treaty for exceptions and limitations for Libraries and archives:

            (From 34.) “It is important to determine how much is being copied. And we draw a distinction between those occasions when libraries wish to send each other or to provide to end-users copies of single scholarly articles or small parts of Copyrighted collections or small parts of Copyrighted works such as a chapter or limited number of pages versus when a copy of an entire work is being made.

            “Obviously when a copy of an entire work is being made, there is the question of substantially adverse market effects to the publishers and authors. It is also important that this type of activity not be done in a systematic way, but that it would be a single occasions at the requests of libraries. There is a danger that one library could end up making copies for all libraries, essentially taking away an author’s market to the entire country once one copy is sold to one library.”

  • e30dn8t

    Here here! Tenured academics love to push the idea that other people’s work can be free. They’re already getting a fat subsidy from the taxpayer while they heap debt on the backs of the poor. If you’re making $200k+ from the taxpayer and the undergraduate suckers, why not push for other people’s work to be free. You’ve already got it made in the shade.