Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Publishers and grocery stores pt deux OR... WHAT THE ACTUAL F**K?

Okay, boys and girls. Some of you might remember a couple weeks back I went on this long, weird, rambling post about the Penguin/Random House merger, which I then named Penguin House because "Penguin Random House" sounds like the world's perfect password and not, you know, an actual thing.

Anyway, the tl:DR version of it is, Penguin House wants to compete with Amazon and will probably shoot the rest of the industry in the process. I thought it was 90% bullshit at the time, but I know what happened when HEB did the same thing with Wal-Mart down here and, well, I felt like rambling. That's the name of the blog, right?

Well...and this is really weird...I kind of found the connection that makes it all make more sense. And then the connection that makes me go why the fuck is this even a thing?

Let me introduce you to Author Solutions, sports fans. And by "introduce" I mean "talk about" because I'm not linking to them. They are not PubliSHAMerica but they are close to it the way that Miller/Bud/Michelobe lite beers are to water. It kind of sort of looks like the real thing, but you know it's not. Here is a litany of how awful they are. 

In case you don't click on that link, however, you'll miss the really weird part. Apparently Author Solutions is the DeBeers of the publishing industry.They are everything, apparently, that isn't Createspace or Lightening Source or Lulu. Including iUniverse, which I could have sworn was its own thing, but apparently not. And they're talking real publishers into creating their own self publishing arm.

I think this is the way most of 'em are going to wind up going, given the massive amounts of money Amazon is making off the self pubbed authors they've published via KDP. But the weird thing is, the publishers who do decide to do this? Aren't doing it on their own. They shove it off on Author Solutions, which is a little like asking the hot dog guy to do your surgeries for you when you're an IRL brain surgeon and you could probably find a way to do it cheaper and better if you thought about it hard enough. I get not wanting to deal with us self-pubbers, I really do. We're whiny, self-entitled idiots who think we understand the universe better than the people who have done it their entire adult lives. But again: hot dog guy.

And they're charging money for this. Oodles and oodles of it. They are charging shitloads of money, in a branch of the industry that has a TON of free options that are as good, if not better. KDP. B&N's PubIT. Smashwords. All of these I can work with right now, for free (and Amazon is still my best option. Phooey) As for print books, I can go to Createspace or Lulu and, again, have it all done for free. Which I'm not doing yet because a real book will cost you twelve fucking dollars and I'd only get maybe a dollar out of that? And negative dollars for overseas sales? I was kind of drunk when I did it, and I just remember being massively disgusted with how much paper books would cost. My vanity, boys and girls, does not reach that far.

And if I'm not having books printed when they'd cost me nothing, I sure as shitfire am not going to have my books printed by a service that'll charge me ten thousand fucking dollars for the privelage. Not even to have Simon and Schuster's new affiliate attached to it.

Oh, yes. They're the latest to jump on the band wagon. They're gonna have "their" self publishing service, just like iUniverse and Harlequin's self pub service, and just like Xlibrius and a few dozen other ones, because it's all being run by Author Solutions.

Who suck hard enough to take the black out of space.

How does this tie in with Penguin House? Well...They bought Author Solutions back in July.

Speechless Castle is Speechless

So Simon and Schuster have basically licenced their name to Author Solutions, so Author Solutions can put it on a sticker on the spine of some of the books they print and then send a large portion of their profits to Penguin House. Simon and Schuster have licenced their brand to their biggest competitor.

And Penguin House? Now has its own self publishing arm that it doesn't have to fuck around with because, hey, it already is everything. iUniverse? PENGUIN HOUSE! Xlibris? PENGUIN HOUSE! The Harlequin offshoot that got Harlequin taken off the Romance novelists guild...thing...list of qualifying publishers? Penguin House again! As of right now, if you lined up all the self pub companies that are actually worth the card stock it took to write their name on and threw darts at this hypothetical board, you'd have a better chance of hitting an Author Solutions/Penguin House company than you would anything else. Including Amazon, who has a grand total of two services as compared with Author Solution's apparent nine billion. And, sadly, Amazon is still the only platform that offers a chance at actual sales. Which means? These books? That Penguin House will be printing via Author Solutions via whatever cardboard cut out they're using to sell these services? will probably be sold via Amazon.

This is wheels within wheels. This is the Russian Nesting Dolls of WHAT THE FUCKING HELL. There are weird systems, there are systems that don't make logical sense, and then there is the fucked up WAY past broken system we've chosen to call the publishing industry. I'm not even resentful anymore. I'm just kind of sitting here going

And...why. WHY? S&SCHUSTER, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS? WHY WOULD YOU INVEST ANY MONEY IN YOUR BIGGEST COMPETITOR? ESPECIALLY when the company you just hired to do the work for you has a TERRIBLE record as far as publishing actually goes. WAS THE PITCHMAN HAROLD HILL? Wait. He was, wasn't he? He sang "Seventy six expresso book machines lead the big parade, while a hundred and ten copy machines followed behind" and the internet wayback machine had already stolen the pages that said the Gary Conservatory wasn't even open until aught six, so now you're stuck with the industry's version of marching band instruments and the think system.

Guys, I'm not as confident that I'm full of shit as I was a couple weeks ago. I'm not confident that we're about to see Penguin House Vs Amazon, but all this looks weirdly familiar to this Texas girl. HEB fought Wal-Mart, and everybody else in the grocery world "died" as a result. The problem with this comparison is...HEB actually takes damn good care of both its employees and its customers. It does things like donate day-olds to local food banks and truck in water if the local supply is bad and then give that water away to anyone with a bucket. When I worked for them, I did shitty, nasty, awful labor, but I was goddamn proud of the company I worked for. Yes, it's a cold heartless corporation that only thinks about its bottom line, but it's a cold heartless corporation that understands giving a shit about people is best for its bottom line. They're gonna charge as much as they can get away with for that box of noodles, but they'll turn around and spend a good portion of that profit making sure your community has drinking water and canned goods if a disaster hits your hometown. They'll do it, because they know when you're back on your feet? You're never shopping anywhere else, ever again.

A publishing company trying to set itself up as the HEB to face down Amazon's Wal-Mart? Would not buy Author Solutions. They're trying to compete with Amazon by being bigger and worse at the same damn time. Would you like to live in a world where the only options were Wal-Mart and the company worse than Wal-Mart?

Yeah. Me neither.

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