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Barry Eisler, Amazon Deep-Cover Operative

“I made this announcement that I’m gonna self-publish the book, I’m not going to take the big – seemingly big – legacy advance, I can do better on my own… Amazon…approached me with what is essentially a hybrid deal, the best of both worlds.”

This morning, Barry Eisler, mid-list thriller writer of such books as Rain Fall, Killing Rain, Rain Storm, and Hard Rain, had an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition: www.npr.org. Go listen to the story, then come back here. Go on, it’s only 4 minutes.

In case you didn’t go off & listen to the story, even though I just told you to, here’s the deal: back in March, fed up with the general inefficiency of his publishing company, St. Martin’s Press, Eisler walked away from a lucrative 2-book deal, claiming that he would be better off self-publishing his books and offering them directly to his readers. Although booksellers could feel the knot in the pits of our collective stomachs growing, I could understand his move & thought it was a harbinger of a new wave of author/publisher relationships. Even if Eisler was mainly talking about providing eBooks, rather than paperbacks, directly to the consumer – much like J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore site – I understood the frustration with the traditional model of publishing. Publishers have generally been extremely slow to evolve along with the current electronic trends in the industry, helping force the downfall of brick & mortar stores, from Borders to local indies. We’re all in this together – it was only a matter of time until authors began to try to write directly for their readers, cutting out all us middlemen.

Aha, but NOW, things are different in the Eisler “self-publishing” company. Soon after his announcement, Eisler was approached by Amazon.com & the two brokered a deal, wherein Eisler would retain creative control & Amazon would handle the distribution of his eBooks. 

(I have) the entire Amazon marketing juggernaut behind the book, which is something you, as a self-published author, can’t do on your own – it’s good to have a powerful, competent distribution partner…

Sort of…like…ummm….having a publisher like…Macmillan distributing your books…? Wait a minute….

Not only is Amazon distributing the eBook, they are also publishing a paperback version through their new Thomas & Mercer imprint. So… he backed out of his deal with one publisher – who would have presumably distributed his book in all formats – in favor of another. It sounds to me like Eisler had a shitty deal with St. Martin’s, wherein he didn’t have the kind of creative control he wanted, he made threats to self-publish, which could have potentially caused an avalanche of authors following suit, upsetting the publishing apple cart, only to broker a better deal with a new player in the game in Amazon. Sorry, Barry, but no matter how you slice it, this would be the very definition of hypocrisy.

To boot, writing a book & signing a lucrative, multi-format distribution deal through the world’s largest distributor is not “self-publishing,” sir. I understand that normally, a self-published author would not have the marketing machine of Amazon in their camp, but this would move what you’re doing firmly outside the parameters of doing anything your “self.” Maybe I misheard him, I don’t know. He seems to talk extensively about self-publishing in his NPR interview, but drops this little series of gems at the end:

Look, I told you what my objectives are…to make more money from the title, to get the digital out first, and to retain more control over business decisions. Those are my objectives and self-publishing seemed like a good way of achieving those objectives, but if a better way comes along – and the Amazon model is a better way for me – of course I’m going to take it. Publishing, for me, is a business, not an ideology.

All this in response to those of us who claimed he was being hypocritical in signing his deal with Amazon. Uh, not good enough, Barry – it still seems pretty goddamn hypocritical to me. You can’t claim that you’re just trying to provide a better service to your readership by self-publishing and turn around and sign a better deal with a different company who is pretending that they’re not a publisher in the traditional sense. I call bullshit.

Oh, and my favorite part of all of this – and perhaps the most perplexing – is the listing for The Detachment on Amazon. Remember, Amazon is the sole distributor for this book, yet the price structure listed is “$9.99 digital list price” – which is dramatically crossed out & offered by the generous folks at Amazon for a mere $5.99. (Ditto for the paperback version. WTF?) 

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This entry was posted on October 7, 2011 by in Amazon, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, rant.
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