Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hachette, Amazon, and the art of the reframe

Fiction writing is of primary importance to me, of course.

Nevertheless, the diversity of topics here (everything from foreign languages to politics) means that many readers of this blog are not particularly interested in the worlds of fiction writing and publishing. I recognize that.

Likewise, you may or may not be interested in the ongoing contract disputes between Amazon and the Hachette Book Group. Honestly speaking, unless you're a writer or a (very) avid reader, this probably doesn't have a major impact on your life.

You should, however, be interested in the way in which language is often used to control a debate by reframing the basic premises of an argument. (Hint: This is how wasteful government boondoggles, funded by your tax dollars, become "investments in our future".)

Publishers and their cronies have come up with a strategy that relies on reframing what is essentially a mundane, garden-variety contractual dispute between a supplier (Hachette Book Group) and a distributor ( to Hachette's advantage.

The reframe involves the depiction of Amazon as a corporate philistine (as if publishers aren't corporations) while depicting publishers themselves as altruistic, sophisticated guardians of "literary culture". (Never mind that since 1995 has made books far more widely and cheaply available to the masses.)

JA Konrath does an excellent job of breaking all this down. After sampling the quoted portion below, I recommend that you read the entire piece over at Konrath's blog:

I'm going to put the buzz words that are being repeated in italics, and explain why they're fallacious.  
Amazon is not a monopoly. But people know monopolies are bad and illegal, so the term keeps getting used.  
Publishers don't create culture. They don't create anything; authors do. But Authors United wants you to believe publishers are indispensable. And they aren't.  
Books aren’t commodities. Well, yes, they are. They’re bought and sold, after all. AU wants to say they aren't, that people recognize the importance of literature and are above crass, plebian capitalism. But publishers print prices directly on book covers -- if that’s not a product, what is?    
Writing is a job. It isn't some special calling for the elite. It isn't some form of magic where the shaman practitioners must be deified. I'm a writer, and damn lucky to be one, but I'm no better than someone who makes toasters on an assembly line.  
Authors aren't being targeted. Amazon's goal isn't to put books in their crosshairs for systematic termination. In fact, Amazon has tried, three times, to compensate authors for the duration of the negotiations. Hachette no longer has a contract with Amazon, but Amazon is still graciously selling Hachette’s titles. If Amazon truly wanted to leverage Hachette into signing a new contract, it could stop selling all Hachette titles. But it hasn't done that.  
Amazon isn't delaying Hachette titles. It simply isn't stocking Hachette books, and why should it when there is no contract in place?  
There isn't any boycott or sanction. Hachette books are available elsewhere. Amazon isn't blocking any sales.  
Amazon isn't reducing book discounts. They're pricing books according to the prices Hachette itself stamps on books. They aren't refusing preorders, either. Is it a smart practice to sell titles that haven't been released yet when there is no surety that they'll ever be able to fulfill those orders if they can't come to terms with Hachette?
Amazon isn’t punishing writers who are helpless. Writers are only helpless in that they signed a contract with a publisher who refuses to negotiate with Amazon because the publisher wants to protect its paper oligopoly by keeping ebook prices high. Amazon isn't negotiating with writers, it is negotiating with Hachette. Writers are collateral damage--and writers put themselves in harm’s way by signing with a member of a cartel with a specific agenda.
Look at these words again: reducing, refusing, boycott, sanction, blocking, delaying, targeted, commodities, culture, democracy, monopoly, punishing, helpless. They’re all being used to deliberately mislead.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Generation Y and the "experience economy"

(FOMO, in case you don't know is "fear of missing out".)

Well, I'm sure the data will show that Millennials spend proportionately more on "experiences" than older folks do--everything from concert tickets, to iPhones, to travel. 

(We could legitimately debate about whether or not iPhones belong in this category. I saw this segment on the television version of FoxBusiness, and iPhones were cited as an example of "experiential spending"--hence my inclusion of them here.)

What I would dispute is whether or not Generation Y is unique in this regard. When I was 21, I wasn't thinking about buying my first house or padding my 401K. I was thinking about seeing the world, chasing women, and learning new things. In other words, I was a typical 21-year-old male.

Now, at more than twice that age, my priorities are quite different. 

When you're young, you're a sponge, and you want to experience as much as possible. This is perfectly natural. When you're older, you crave the comfort and security that possessions, stability, and bank accounts bring. This is perfectly natural, too.

This is a story as old as humanity--or at least as old as the early 20th century. Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were both members of the generation of American expatriates who spent time in Paris during the Roaring Twenties. In the 1960s, vagabonding around the U.S. (and maybe the world) was practically a requirement if you were a young person. 

The youth of all these previous generations changed their priorities as they acquired years, gray hairs, and experiences. I see no reason to believe that the members of Generation Y won't change, too. 

And while Generation Y might be "reeling from the Great Recession of 2008", this isn't the first batch of young people to come of age in a period of economic uncertainty. Ask anyone who was 24 in 1983, when unemployment was above 10%--or anyone who was 24 in 1933, when America was hit by the Great Depression.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scottish independence and book prices

If Scotland becomes independent, readers may suffer. A vote for an independent Scotland is a vote for higher book prices, say booksellers.

Ghost Bride: the movie

No, I'm not talking about the bizarre, cheesy stop-motion animation film by Tim Burton (that was Corpse Bride

Ghost Bride is a new feature film that combines Chinese superstition with a cross-cultural cast and the direction of David Blyth.

It looks interesting (for those who enjoy horror films, of course). 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014

New book: Our House

Our House is finally available for sale at Amazon, and I'm happy to report that it has already started selling. (The first copies sold within an hour of it going "live", in fact.)

Now that this one is out of the way, it's on to several other projects--and hopefully some more blog posts here!

Book description:

Some dream homes are deadly…Appearances can be deceiving.

On the surface, 34-year-old Jennifer Huber seems to have it all: a handsome, loving husband, a six-year-old son whom they both adore. A respectable job.

Jennifer and her husband have just purchased their first house: The neo-Tudor house at 1120 Dunham drive appears to be their “dream home”.

But everything is not what it seems: The previous owner of the house has an unusual—and ultimately violent—attachment to the house. After the Hubers move in, sinister things begin to happen: Dead animals appear in closets, strange figures disturb the Hubers’ sleep in the middle of the night.

There is more to the house at 1120 Dunham Drive than meets the eye: As Jennifer uncovers the secrets behind the home’s history, she finds herself drawn into a web of lies, violence, and sexual betrayal.

All the while, Jennifer struggles to contain a secret of her own—and to combat an act of blackmail that could destroy her marriage.

From the author of the crime novel Blood Flats, and the horror novel Eleven Miles of Night, ‘Our House’ is a riveting thrill ride through the dark undercurrents that might lie beneath the placid surface of a suburb near you.

*       *       *

As is generally my habit, I'll be posting a sizable preview portion of the book here (probably the first ten chapters or so.) 

In the meantime, you can feel free to use the various sampling mechanisms on Amazon. (I believe that the "Try it free" button allows you to download the first 10% of the book at no charge.) 

I recommend that you do this, in fact, because although I am sure that Our House is going to be one of your top ten thriller/mystery reads ever, there is no reason why you should take me--or any other author--on blind faith. 

That's what all those Amazon preview functions are for, after all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Blood Flats free on Kindle Sept 11th and 12th

I'm running a FREE Blood Flats Kindle promo for Thursday and Friday of this week (Sept. 11 & 12). Here's your chance to read Blood Flats for free.

Amazon promotional blurb for Blood Flats:

“Meth, murder, and the mafia---a vast tapestry of a southern gothic crime novel with a Dickensian cast of characters.”

***Lee McCabe is home from Iraq, but home has changed.***

Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and recently discharged U.S. marine Lee McCabe never imagined the dangers awaiting him in Hawkins County, Kentucky. While Lee has been in the Middle East, a network of violent methamphetamine traffickers have established a foothold in the county, corrupting, intimidating, or murdering anyone who stands in their way.

***Charged with murder and marked for death***

Lee quickly discovers that his neighbor, Tim Fitzsimmons is a meth dealer. When Fitzsimmons and his girlfriend are killed in a drug-related hit, Lee attempts to intervene. The law and the community blame Lee for the murder. The meth traffickers target Lee for death, knowing him to be a witness to the crime.

***Enemies motivated by passion, greed, and desperation ***

Sheriff Steven Phelps has his own personal reasons for hating Lee: Twenty-five years ago, Lee’s now deceased mother had a youthful affair with the sheriff. The sheriff planned to marry her--until she jilted him to be with the man who became Lee’s father. Phelps is torn by his duty to justice, and his obsession with the doomed love of his adolescence.

Lester Finn is a classics-quoting, self-aggrandizing local hoodlum and meth dealer. He is caught between the law and the Chicago-based mafia, which wants a greater share of the southern methamphetamine trade. From his bar, the Boar’s Head, Lester controls a sordid regional enterprise that consists of gambling, drug trafficking, and prostitution. Lester is torn by his grudging respect for Lee---and his need to see the ex-marine dead.

Paulie Sarzo is a Chicago mobster, a rising star in the Coscollino crime family. He despises Kentucky, Lee McCabe, and most of all, Lester Finn. But Paulie has an important mission to accomplish in Hawkins County: If he fails to eliminate Lee, he risks the ultimate punishment for failure in la cosa nostra.

***A journey toward death or redemption***

Dawn Hardin is a former golden girl, honor student, and premed whose life has fallen into a downward spiral of meth addiction and prostitution. Dawn had a tumultuous relationship with Lee before he went to Iraq. Now she tries to help him wage war against the mafia, even as she struggles with her own inner demons, and a family that wants to deny her existence.

The Hunter is a mysterious figure who compels Lee to go on the offensive against the forces pursuing him. But will the Hunter offer any concrete assistance, or only advice?

Brett St. Croix is a journalist who offers to tell Lee’s version of events. But Lee suspects that St. Croix has a contrary, private agenda of his own.

Ben Chamberlain lost his wife to a meth-related murder. Will he assist Lee; or will Ben’s desire for revenge destroy them both?

***A battle in Blood Flats***

Pursued from all directions, Lee embarks on a cross-country journey toward the town of Blood Flats. There he faces a showdown---in which he must pit his wits and determination against the ruthlessness and superior resources of his enemies on both sides of the law.