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Archive for October, 2012

Anti-Trust Settlement

In case you missed it, three of the largest publishing houses settled a $69 million anti-trust lawsuit which was raised by the State Attorneys General office. The lawsuit claims there was a conspiracy to fix & raise ebook prices.

But the settling publishers (Hachette, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster) claim they did nothing wrong. That sort of statement is always there in a settlement. It’s the final claim of innocence before the defendant(s) pays a lump of money over this act whereby they “did nothing wrong.”

Sigh.

Of course they did nothing wrong. The States Attorney just had nothing better to do that day. The courts had a lapse in judgment which allowed such a frivolous case to be filed. The publishers engaged in no activity which raised suspicion.

Yeah, and I’m a Chinese jet pilot (couldn’t find a YouTube clip, sorry!).

Early in my never-launched law career, I learned to never debate a legal case where I didn’t have all the facts. Classic example is the McDonald’s hot coffee spilled in lap case. We’ve all heard of it. Woman in McDonald’s drive-thru spills a coffee in her own lap while driving away and sues McDonalds. Crazy, right? What right did she have to sue? It was her own fault.

Well… not so much if you know the facts of the case. The lid was 1 size too small for the cup. The coffee machine wasn’t turned down to the “daytime” heat levels after store opening (it was still at “mega hot” for store “warmup”). And so on… So, when you get all the facts, you start to see where the blame can be placed on both parties.

And so too, this case about ebook price fixing. Can anyone honestly stand in front of me and tell me why an ebook was priced at or higher than a paperback? Really? Where is your argument? Ebooks require no manufacturing, warehousing, distribution or infrastructure beyond a few KB on a server somewhere. And formatting my ebooks is FAR easier than the print counterparts (or, they are equally “fun” if you really want to argue the point. Both have their quirks).

So, why were/are ebooks from this big publishing houses priced so high?

Here comes the other side: we paid those prices as consumers. (well, I didn’t… fuck that shit. I ain’t paying $10 or more for an ebook… are you insane? Unless that ebook gives me a handy and cooks me eggs: no freakin’ way.)

But many, many consumers did pay those prices. And the prices stayed high. If you believe in Capitalism, then a free market would have seen prices lower over time for all the reasons I mentioned above: it’s FAR cheaper to produce ebooks than print books. Supply is limitless. Demand should be reasonably equal to print books (but with no supply factor, demand shouldn’t be an issue).

But the prices didn’t lower.

Now, we can throw accusations around all day, but I can only assume the Attorneys General didn’t just file this case on a hunch or random bullshit. There must be some evidence that prices were maintained at a high level by these publishers thru some sort of clandestine agreement (or “backroom, winky” agreement).

I’ve heard stories of publishers cheating their writers and all kinds of other crap. And my own experiences in the publishing world turned me quite sour to the whole enterprise. So, this really doesn’t surprise me. Even without knowing all the facts, I do believe these publishers did indeed band together to set prices on a market they all but control.

How do we fight such an evil empire? Blow up their Death Star?

Nah… go out there and support quality indy writers 🙂 Start Here.

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You go, Chris Roberts!

Before I explain the title, here’s a story from my childhood:

I was in junior high (“middle school” for you non-New-Englanders) and I had kinda grown up on my Atari game system, arcades and (later) my Apple IIc.

Sometime during those wonder years I met a friend with a PC:  a 486 Windows 3.something. And he had Wing Commander. I hadn’t played anything quite like it, and I’m not sure anyone had. It was a quasi-3d space shooter which had so much more. The storyline won’t knock yer panties off, but the game had a storyline! This was revolutionary back then.

Storyline PLUS great gameplay = I rode my bike 3 miles after school to go watch my friend play this game. I eventually did play (and got my own PC), but this game shaped all my future gaming in so many ways. Wing Commander was the benchmark by which I measured many other games that came down thru the years (even non-space-sims). Between this game, Pool of Radiance and Railroad Tycoon, my gaming pedigree was established.

The man behind Wing Commander kinda disappeared for a while. But now he’s back.

And he’s crowd-funding his next project.

Watch his video explaining the project. He talks about how he could have signed with a publisher (with his street cred, publishers line up for him), but he doesn’t necessarily agree with current publishers’ visions of the future of gaming. He wanted to retain control of his own project and develop it for his beloved platform: PC.

God damn, we live in an exciting time! I see projects getting “crown funded” all the time on sites like Kickstarter nowadays. Creative people with great ideas can see their projects come to life and succeed/fail based on their own merits – rather than on some gatekeeper’s whim (sound familiar?). To see this sort of “do it yourself” invasion spread across many aspects of life today is truly inspirational. We self-published writers might have the best toolset of them all (Amazon, ’nuff said), but sites like Kickstarter and Gamecrafter are spreading the revolution into other creative avenues.

Bravo to these pioneers. And Bravo to Chris Roberts. I’ll be happily funding your project and eagerly await the release of Star Citizen (or whatever you call it in the end).

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If you’re planning to put your fiction “out there,” or you’ve already taken that leap – chances are you’ll be dealing with criticism. No work of fiction, even if it was ejaculated upon the author from On High, is universally accepted as perfection. Literature is subjective. People have their own likes/dislikes.

And, yes, your literary shit stinks just like everyone else’s.

What am I saying? It’s simple, really. Until you can accept that your work isn’t a flawless gem, I’m not sure you’ll have the tools you’ll need when strangers read and critique your “finished” product. But this has nothing to do with being thick-skinned. Even fragile flowers deserve to tell their stories if they dedicate themselves to the craft. But, when the jeers come, those delicate souls can indeed weather the storm without changing their personality. And it all comes down to accepting the truth: your work isn’t a timeless paragon of literary brilliance.

Instead, like us humans, each work of fiction is a unique lump of matter. Complete with flaws, quirks and uniqueness. The sooner you realize this, the better off you’ll be in the end. If you’re at peace with the truth, you’ll be prepared to absorb valid critique, recognize a mismatched reader and deflect worthless chatter. For the valid points, you can choose to make changes (if you have direct control over your work) or mark it down for a possible revision later on. Or, perhaps, you’ll just earmark the advice for future works. In the end, your fiction will improve and your reviewers may be telling you something you already know. Perhaps a certain scene or character never sat 100% with you. As more people read your work, your chances of running across constructive criticism rise (as does the number of internet asshats). For me, I embrace anything that helps the story. So, if a reviewer points out something negative that I happen to agree with, chances are I’ll change it. I know my shit ain’t perfect, and I’m willing to make sound revisions.

You should too.

Now, the reverse of this is also true – believe in your work! Just because some anonymous internet goon gives you a “1-star” doesn’t mean you suck as a writer. If you’re be better suited for handing out stickers at Walmart, then I hope you realize that before writing book number two. But if you truly think you deserve to be called a “Storyteller”, then don’t let bad reviews get you down. Easier said than done? I don’t think so. If you truly believe in your work, and that you deserve to share shelf space with other authors – this is an easy state of mind to keep going strong.

You thought it. You wrote it. You shared it. It won’t ever be perfect, but fuckin’ believe in it!

At the end of the day, we’re all a day older. (sorry) But, it’s also all comes down to the story. If you can take a step back and view negative comments as possible constructive criticism – you’ll become a better writer. And I don’t see how that’s ever a bad thing.

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