What authors want

So, yeah, I still haven't figured out Google e-books. It occurred to me that maybe I'm not allowed to put a book up there, because I'm self-publishing and not a publishing house? But of course I couldn't find that information.

Now there's a rumor that Apple will do it's own self-publishing platform, plus Kobo (which has a larger presence overseas) may do one as well.

It seems like people are just now figuring out, Hey, Amazon is making some good business off of them there self-publishing authors! The cost to Amazon of, say, keeping Darcie Chan's book on their servers is minimal, and she's made them more than $250,000 in six months! You can't beat that with a stick!

So everyone wants in now, but as often happens with these "me-too" businesses, everyone wants to ignore what made the original business successful. Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords ARE EASY FOR WRITERS TO USE. Got that? Yes, creating a file people can easily read is a little complicated, but actually uploading it and making it available for sale? EASY EASY EASY EASY. Like I said, you never saw whiny posts about that aspect of the process until I tried Google e-books (and then I made up for lost time).

One aspect of the Apple rumor that is particularly amusing if it is true is that they will be demanding exclusivity from authors. That's a joke, right? Amazon only recently began offering authors certain perks in exchange for exclusivity. It's a totally voluntary program, and what popularity it has is because Amazon can really move books for you--but even with Amazon's selling power, they are only asking for three months' of exclusivity (and plenty of people object even to that), and it's certainly not a requirement for listing your book. I can't imagine anyone giving up access to, say, Amazon or B&N or even Smashwords in exchange for being in the iBookstore (which you can get into via Smashwords anyway).

Oh, and another thing? The current players PAY WELL. A royalty of more or less 70%.

Are these new players going to succeed? Well, if they make it impossible to use the service, if they put draconian requirements on writers, and if they don't offer them enough money, I'm going to go out on a limb and say no.

It's almost like this is a business, and authors are rational economic actors, is it not? I realize that authors have a reputation of being patsies, and that this reputation is sometimes deserved, but I'm going to be generous to authors and note that for a very long time, they had basically no choice other than to get screwed. Nowadays things have changed--past tense, have already changed. Apple isn't some White Knight riding into the rescue here--if it's actually entering the field, it's entering one that's pretty well occupied by some pretty generous players.