[The following is an excerpt from a 7,000-word exchange between Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath. They are discussing an internal memo of Hachette Book Group that someone leaked. The discussion becomes a paean for self-publishing. Remember, these guys, Barry and Joe, are professional writers with dozens of books to their credit, most of them published by “legacy publishers”, their term for traditional publishers. They have no kind words for the bulls***ter who wrote the memo, and few kind words for current claims by traditional publishers. You can read the entire discussion by following the link, but the real meat is contained in the excerpt that I quote below:]
Joe: Publishers should stop trying to convince themselves and others that they’re relevant, and start actually being relevant. Here’s how:
1. Offer much better royalties to authors.
2. Release titles faster. It can take 18 months after a book is turned in to be published. I can do it myself in a week.
3. Use up-to-date accounting methods that are trackable by the author, and pay royalties monthly.
4. Lower ebook prices.
5. Stop futilely fighting piracy. Hint: all such fighting is futile. Piracy can only be made redundant with cost and convenience.
6. Start marketing effectively. Ads and catalogue copy aren’t enough. Neither is your imprint’s Twitter feed. Especially if your author has more Twitter followers than you do.
Did I miss anything?
Barry: Legacy publishing’s contracts are a disaster. Substantively, they should reflect 21st-Century realities, among those realities the fact that for the first time, authors have real alternatives to the legacy route. So absolutely, the ridiculous current 52.5%-publisher and 17.5%-author digital split needs to be massively adjusted. Again, in a digital world, publishers are unnecessary for distribution, and the fact that they’re still trying to charge for a benefit they no longer provide is an untenable state of affairs.
They also need to stop with the crazy land grabs — the first looks, the last refusals, the character and series and “anything remotely competitive” lock-ups and other non-compete clauses.
On a less substantive level, they need to make their contracts readable and understandable. Why do publishers still use antediluvian 14-inch legal paper for their contracts and 9-point font? Because it’s off-putting. It discourages anyone from reading or arguing about the contents. Why do they use such monumentally opaque and impenetrable legalese? Because they don’t want people to understand what the contract is doing — what rights are being forfeited and what obligations imposed.