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'Amazon's patsies'?

13 August 2012

 The huge differential in costs between self publishers and the corporates is tremendously beneficial to self publishers. It is also tremendously beneficial to Amazon and the self published should perhaps reflect that there seems to me no evidence whatsoever that Amazon cares about authors or books in any way at all.

They certainly show a disgraceful lack of interest - as the dominant UK bookseller - in promoting British talent and there is absolutely nothing to suggest that once they have reduced the power of the big publishers - and so the self published authors cease to be useful to them - they will do anything other than ruthlessly pursue their own interests and the interests of their own publishing outfits.

It is not just that the self published might do well to wonder if they are Amazon's patsies, they are in a more important sense selfish. One of the benefits to being published is the sense of belonging to a 'house'. To be a Knopf author (to deliberately take a non UK example) was to be part of a fine and noble lineage - even if what you published was cheerful tosh, you were part of a grand continuum of writing: you were sharing fraternity with the greats.

This promoted a sense of solidarity which is rapidly disappearing. It also resulted in one rather important thing. Publishing has always worked on the basis of the commercially successful 10% of their list supporting the rest. In practice that often meant the commercial supported the literary: in effect commercial authors were paying a kind of culture tax to help them support their more literary (and less fortunate) brothers and sisters.

This was tacit - but I think pretty widely understood. It would seem to have no part whatsoever in the world Mr Leather and other self published zealots inhabit: less writers of the world unite than I'm alright jack perhaps?

Agent Orange in the Bookseller's Futurebook