I do have some holiday cheer going on in my life--it's not all end-of-year closing-the-books aggravation--but I have to say something cranky here.
The friend who is all down on Amazon was like, I want to buy from Google e-books! And then I read an article (on how indie bookstores are doing great this holiday season, which shows you how evil Amazon has just eviscerated their business) that also mentioned Google e-books.
And I remembered that when I put Trang up on Google Books I looked at that program and found it confusing, so I didn't sign up. But, I thought to myself, it's been almost a year, maybe it's gotten better!
Well, you can find the royalty rates now, although they're not nearly as prominently advertised as they are on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords. And the reason for that is...can you guess? That's right--they suck!
They don't suck as badly as, say, traditional publishing, but they're offering roughly 50%, instead of the roughly 70% everyone else offers.
Wow, do I love indie bookstores so much that I'd be willing to give up 20% of my income?
That's easy: No.
I will probably hold my nose and list Trang on Google, but it will be more expensive. If it's so important to you to shop at Retail Outlet A instead of Retail Outlet B, then I guess it's worth it to you to pay extra. Just keep in mind that the extra money you pay will primarily go into the pocket of that charming little indie Google, Inc. Last year they booked a paltry $8.5 billion in profits on revenues of $19 billion, so clearly they need every dime.
You can tell that the weeping and wailing about indie bookstores has gotten on my nerves. I understand that e-books pose a major challenge--a much greater challenge than being underpriced. But if booksellers feel that the only way they can sell books is by screwing authors hard against the wall, there is a problem.
There are other options: Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch had this idea of creating book cards that could be sold in stores and redeemed for an e-book. They actually went ahead and made some for a convention. That, to me, is a productive solution. Whining about a company that treats writers relatively well while routinely doing business with companies that shamelessly exploit them is not. Boycotting authors is not. Pretending this is a zero-sum game is just stupid. What are you hoping for? That your suppliers will decide that they can't afford to supply you any more?
Writers need to get paid. Everyone else in the entire publishing and bookselling industry is able to make a living because writers are able to write. We don't live on air, people. (Well, I do, but for the vast majority of my adult life, I lived on what I earned by writing.) The whole attitude that writers should be poor permeates our culture, and it's so counter-productive to the creation of literature. If you only ever want to read bland commercial best-sellers that have been carefully homogenized to appeal to the widest possible audience, then you want writers to be poor, to get screwed, to see the profits of their work go to other people. If you want books that are quirky, or weird, or challenging, or interesting, or freaky, or bizarre, or God forbid even art, then you want writers to be able to make a living producing these odd little books.
And that is why I will charge more for my Google e-books edition, assuming I do one. And that is why I don't intend to make all my books free, even though I can afford to. It's not because I'm greedy and capitalistic and evil--it's because I'm tired of watching writers get screwed. And I'm beyond tired of watching people get up on their high horse and demand that writers get screwed.