A List of Things Scott Turow Doesn’t Care About

Scott Turow woke up from his slumber recently to bark nonsense about Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads on the Authors Guild blog, before being thoroughly eviscerated in the comments.

Undeterred, Turow sought out the considerably larger platform of the New York Times’ Op-Ed pages on Monday to decry The Slow Death of the American Writer.

On reading the latter, my first thought was: if Scott Turow didn’t spend so much time hating Amazon and pretending self-publishing didn’t exist, maybe he wouldn’t be so depressed.

It’s easy to poke fun at Scott Turow’s views. A child could de-construct his arguments, while laughing at how a practicing lawyer is unable to grasp the definition of the word “monopoly.” If you want a proper debunking of his Op-Ed, Techdirt do a good job, but I think there’s no real point attempting to engage Turow on this issue. His hatred of Amazon and fear of change is completely clouding his logic.

What bothers me about Turow’s obsession with Amazon and his opposition to change is not his blatant disregard for the facts (or the definition of words), it’s that he allows this Luddism to become all-consuming, blinding him to the issues that really matter to writers.

Even if we granted Turow his brain-dead thesis, we still have time before Amazon becomes The Great Evil and exclusively powers its website with the tears of exploited writers.

But there’s a bunch of really awful stuff happening right now that Turow ignores, and has been ignoring, since his term as Authors Guild President began.


When rumors first broke that the Department of Justice was investigating collusion to fix prices between five of the six largest trade publishers in the US (Macmillan, Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette) and Apple, Scott Turow called for the investigation to be dropped.

He didn’t even want to find out if price-fixing was taking place. Turow, a practicing lawyer, didn’t want to know if federal law was being broken.

When the DOJ determined that collusion to fix prices had indeed taken place, and reached a settlement with three of the five publishers (the other two would settle in time), Turow opposed the settlement.

Penguin’s purchase of Author Solutions

Penguin purchased Author Solutions – the largest and most reviled vanity press in the world – in August last year for $116m. Scott Turow and the Authors Guild have been completely silent on the fact that Penguin is now in the business of scamming inexperienced authors.

Simon & Schuster’s Vanity Press

Big Publishing likes nothing more than chasing each other’s tails. As soon as Penguin started shaking that shady money tree, Simon & Schuster just had to have a piece. Scott Turow and the Authors Guild haven’t said one word about Simon & Schuster opening a vanity press and hiring Penguin-owned Author Solutions to run it, nor have they commented on Simon & Schuster bribing writers to lie about their scammy operation.

Digital Rights Grabs

Random House was caught red-handed forcing unfair terms onto writers via their new digital-first imprints which included no advance, assignment of all rights and subsidiary rights – even though they had zero plan to do anything other than publish an e-book edition, no meaningful reversion clause, and shady Hollywood accounting that would transfer all their normal business costs onto the author, to be deducted from royalties. Scott Turow and the Authors Guild had this to say: nothing.

Those are just the biggest stories that have happened recently, and I could easily have mentioned publishers forcing increasingly onerous contract terms on writers (and being disingenuous about what they mean), agents doing the same with representation agreements, publishers grabbing rights they never paid for, and agents moving into publishing (some of whom are aping the worst contract terms from large publishers) – all of which Scott Turow and the Authors Guild have been silent on.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a progressive president of the Authors Guild? Imagine them saying something like this:

There are at least two ways that e-books represent a favorable development in my mind. Those who have the cash to invest in one of these devices find that any place with a wireless connection can become a virtual bookstore […] There is no trip to the store, no waiting for the online retailer to get it to you through the mail, factors that tend to temper the impulse to buy. For these reasons, I suspect that e-readers increase book purchases among those who own the devices. That’s obviously encouraging news to authors.

Or this:

Far more important, e-books and e-readers have the potential to dramatically lower the barriers to getting published, and to allow books that traditional publishers aren’t willing to back to compete on a more even footing.

Who was this open-minded sage? Scott Turow, in his first letter to Authors Guild members, September, 2010. I wonder what happened…

But hey, maybe I should give Scott Turow a bit of a break. He seems a bit down. I don’t know how much time being President of the Authors Guild eats into his schedule, but I suppose it’s not nothing. And, as far as I can tell, he doesn’t receive any compensation for that role.

In any event, most of the myopic screeds published by the Authors Guild aren’t written by him. Turow often provides a juicy Amazon-bashing quote, and pens the quarterly letter to members, but the regular blog posts are written by the Executive Director of the Authors Guild, Paul Aiken.

Paul Aiken is quite the mystery man. Aside from references to his participation in the Google Books Settlement, there’s little information on him available online. Even the Authors Guild doesn’t provide a bio for the guy who has been their Executive Director since 1996.

I can tell you this though, documents filed with the IRS show that Paul Aiken receives $180,000 a year for his services.

Scott Turow is clearly too afraid of change to keep up with the latest developments. His New York Times piece demonstrates that he’s unaware of this new thing called self-publishing – which is enabling thousands of writers to pay bills and make a living from writing, in many cases for the very first time, thanks in no small part to Amazon.

With Scott Turow’s seeming inability to keep up with change, is it too much to ask that Paul Aiken help him out a little bit?

Given that Paul Aiken has earned over half a million dollars from the Authors Guild in the last three years, is it too much to ask that he be even somewhat aware of the paradigm shift which has taken place in that time?

Considering Paul Aiken receives annual compensation over seven times what the average Authors Guild member earns from writing in a year, is it too much to ask that he take another look at the horrible Back-In-Print program run by the Authors Guild – that funnels its own members into the scammy clutches of iUniverse?

In the Authors Guild’s defense, that partnership was originally agreed in 1999 – long before Author Solutions purchased iUniverse, dismantled what was reasonable service, and rebuilt it in their own exploitative image. But the world, and self-publishing, has moved on considerably since then.

It would be great if the Authors Guild could do the same and stop providing fresh victims for the world’s biggest vanity press.

It would be fantastic if the Authors Guild provided information to their members on the full range of options available to them for getting their works back into print, instead of just providing one terrible option: Author Solutions.

I don’t think it’s asking too much, given that, (a) the Authors Guild was established “for the purpose of serving and protecting the interests of authors” (b) Paul Aiken gets paid $180,000 a year to be the Guild’s Executive Director (c) he is currently doing a crappy job of “serving and protecting” the interests of its members.

But I guess Scott Turow doesn’t care about that.


Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler have posted a rebuttal to Scott Turow’s Op Ed that’s worth reading. One thing that jumped out at me: the Authors Guild is now blocking comments on their blog posts. Needless to say, censoring debate is… just the kind of “Soviet-style repression” Scott Turow is worried about!

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

89 Replies to “A List of Things Scott Turow Doesn’t Care About”

  1. Amazon good. Barnes and Noble bad. Got it.
    I personally own a Nook Tablet. I am quite content with it. what I am sick of is indie authors telling me to jump off the B&N bandwagon. I have emailed authors asking why their book is only available on Kindle. Replies consist of…. oh, I can’t be bothered to adapt my book to numerous formats. To… Nook sucks, get a kindle, to download the kindle app and read my book on you laptop or phone.
    I have finally given up on asking authors if their book is available in other formats. If an indie author is wanting to build a fan base, wouldn’t they want to reach as many readers as possible?

    1. Anyone who responds like that doesn’t deserve your time or your money. How rude!

      Look, I don’t care if readers prefer a Kindle, a Nook, paperbacks, audiobooks, or stories printed on vellum hand-illustrated by monks – all I care about is that they are reading. Like many indie authors, occasionally I have some titles which are exclusive to one retailer. I don’t like doing it – nobody does – but there are various rewards for doing so which help me build my audience, and it’s only ever a temporary thing. Some of my titles just came off exclusivity recently, and I just mailed out a bunch of free copies of my books to Nook owners who couldn’t participate in my last giveaway (as those books were exclusive).

      I respectfully submit that’s the way to handle a reader request that you can’t fulfill because you are currently exclusive. I’m sorry that you were treated with rudeness. But I’m not just sorry, it also makes me mad. Writers can’t exist without readers. They literally put food in our mouths. To talk to a reader like this is… it baffles me.

      As for Barnes & Noble, they are not held in the same regard by indies for a few reasons, but the main one is that there is a general sense that they put obstacles inbetween us and readers – that they prefer readers to buy the more expensive books from the larger publishers, and steer them away from our work. But those feelings should never spill over into treating a reader this way just because they happen to own a Nook. Sigh.

      1. I think some writers don’t get that their readers are their customers. Any sales clerk mouthing off to a customer like that would have been out of a job. Any writer who mouths off to readers and disses their concerns like that are going to find their fan base dwindling. Anyway, writers are supposed to be good with words, so it should not be so foreign to them to have a mature discourse with their readers.

  2. I think we all need to get together and do an intervention for Scott.

    “Scott, you’re not well. We have endured your excessive use of op-eds and AG posts for long enough. We have found a nice re-hab center for you. Here’s the brochure. It’s a really nice place, and you’ll get better there.”

    Who’s with me?

  3. David,
    As usual, great work and a service to independent writers everywhere. I’ve run several business associations and I would be greatly surprised if Authors Guild’s arrangement with iUniverse doesn’t involve some form of remuneration every time an AG member uses the service. That’s almost standard practice and would need some explaining (to AG’s board of directors) if it were not true.

    It’s particularly useful that you have drilled down on the organization, pulling its IRS form 990, etc. Good to see what’s visible in the light of day.

    It’s possible Turow has been poorly served by staff; on the other hand, he’s made the stewardship of the organization his responsibility, his and the board’s….

    As far as self-publishers earning more than $5,000 becoming eligible for membership in AG… gee, that would open AG to membership from the subset of all authors who might conceivably be able to afford the dues…. Good thinking for any association, wouldn’t you say? You can only join if you have the money.

    Even with its doors flung more or less wide open, AG still has a problem: There are no benefits for those of us with independent spirits, enterprising natures and a reasonable sense of our own self interest. They exist but they are elsewhere. Let us endeavor to find them.

  4. Years ago the Author’s Guild tried to recruit me as a member. They wanted ten percent of my income for the privilege. I declined, as I could get better information about and representation for my concerns from SFWA and that only cost me $80 a year. I don’t remember the Author’s Guild forcing traditional publishers to toe the contractual line or prying loose unpaid royalties. SFWA did, and does. It amazes me the Authors Guild is even still in existence, or can afford to pay an ED that much money. They have to be hemorrhaging members and tithes both by now.

  5. I just wonder if perhaps the fact that a lot of indie writers are making money and paying bills, and one of those bills is NOT Authors Guild dues, could have something to do with the animosity?

    No, I suppose not. They set their 19th Century Ivory Tower up themselves so they could bask upon the little people and be a wellspring of carefully dispensed wisdom. There’s no way that could’ve backfired on them.

  6. Thanks for the well-researched article. I am just getting into the world of self-publishing, and as with all things I do, I try to read as much as I can about the subject before diving in. I’m finding that there’s a whole other world out there that no one is aware of.

    Thanks again.

  7. I wonder. From authors guild site re membership….”Writers (including self-published writers) earning at least $5,000 in writing income as a book author or freelance writer in the 18 months prior to applying for membership.”

    and i wonder too about this: “…iUniverse publishing programs are endorsed by ASJA, Mystery Writers of America, and other industry leading organizations. iUniverse is a proud member of the Association of American Publishers, Publishers Marketing Association, and Small Publishers Association of North America. The company’s major investors include Warburg Pincus and Barnes & Noble….”

    Not sure what asja is, or what warburg pincus is.

    1. First of all, re membership, allowing self-publishers who have made a minimum amount into the organisation is a recent move by the Authors Guild. However, they are not allowed gain full membership, and don’t have voting rights. In other words, they want our money, not our opinions.

      As for iUniverse, it was originally founded in 1999, and not long after that Barnes and Noble bought a 49% stake in the comapny. They used to be (in the pre-Digital days) one of the best self-publishing (POD) providers out there. Then they were purchased by Author Solutions, and everything went to shit (like everything else they touch).

      More on that deal here: http://accrispin.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/victoria-strauss-author-solutions.html

      And if you want to know why Authors Solutions buying anyone is a bad thing (and why they want so many different brands like iUniverse), read this: https://davidgaughran.com/2013/02/19/penguins-solution-for-authors-one-racket-to-rule-them-all/

      By the way, if any of you guys are Wikipedia editors, it looks like Author Solutions have been let loose on the site again, and the iUniverse page might need some updating: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IUniverse

      1. Im confused then, on AG website it says self published authors are given ‘regular membership,’ within the perameters listed, the regular membership being full membership, it appears. The quote above “”Writers (including self-published writers) earning at least $5,000 in writing income as a book author or freelance writer in the 18 months prior to applying for membership.” is from under the Regular Membership category. It is not under Associates or Affiliates which are different I take it.

  8. Dave

    Fantastic post as usual. Most of us know that Turow has his allegiance, and that’s fine, but there’s clearly a lot more going on over at the AGA than anyone thought. Opacity and secrecy; traits of the industry they’re aligned with. Shouldn’t be a surprise I guess.

  9. Still fighting the good fight, DG. Thanks for this. It makes me even more glad to be an Australian Writer and to be part of the Queensland Writer’s Centre, which isn’t picky about who can join and why and is starting to more actively embrace self-publishing and run workshops about it, as well as being involved in IFBooks Australia. The Authors Guild seems a short-sighted institution with elitist goals. Why throw money their way to line the pockets of those who are obviously living in the past.

  10. An author’s best frind is to be read, whether from a library or a sale. The internet has been a great leveling field, giving a chance to new authors. Any exposure is good for the writer and the readers. All the new changes with regard to copyright laws should be used as added tools for marketing abroad.

  11. My favorite part of Turow’s op-ed was this gem: “Now many public libraries want to lend e-books,” — GASP! — “not simply to patrons who come in to download, but to anybody with a reading device, a library card and an Internet connection.” How dare they! Who do these libraries think they are? They want to lend books to people who have the ability to read them. My god, if this library thing catches on, no one will ever buy another book again!

    These concerns completely disregard the historic relationship of passionate readers. Borrowing from friends or from the library is how many of us fell in love with reading and how many of us continue to keep up with authors we love when we don’t have the money to spend on new releases. Easier access to readers shouldn’t be something that an organization proclaiming to represent authors fears.

  12. It is sad, but I’ve come to expect nothing more from people in places of influence…which is a shame, but it’s just where most creative industries are at right now. Here’s hoping that after the institutions of yesteryear finish dying their slow deaths, people won’t have become so jaded as to be unable to trust the grassroots organizations that are cropping up to take their place. Personally, I’m an optimist…but cautiously optimistic.

  13. Smart article, Dave.

    Re your comment: ““Who was this open-minded sage? Scott Turow, in his first letter to Authors Guild members, September, 2010. I wonder what happened…”

    I once took a writing class from Turow. Excellent writer, great teacher, who encouraged his students to improve their craft and find their way in the writing world.

    I wonder what happened…..

  14. I’m just trying to figure out exactly what Authors Guild does for the average writer & why anyone would want to be part of it. (The Wikipedia article omits a lot of details, which happens sometimes, especially if the subject isn’t very good about maintaining a public presence.) Maybe the AG throws good parties?

  15. I downloaded the IRS forms, and was fascinated by where the money is going.

    $130k a year for website hosting? Aren’t there free hosting sites? How many authors use Guild websites?

    $1.4M a year in lobbying?

    $1.2M in salaries?

    There’s some Law that says every organization will wind up serving itself rather than the cause it was created for. What are those thousands of authors paying $90 a year for? A discount in health insurance if you live in NY?

    Something seems odd.

    1. Hi Joe,

      For anyone that wants to check, there’s three years worth of filings viewable online here: http://www.guidestar.org/organizations/13-2509231/authors-guild.aspx

      You have to create an account to access the information (Forms 990 – half-way down on the left). I’ll try and link to them directly below in case the PDFs are publicly viewable:

      2008: http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2009/132/509/2009-132509231-05b3cdcf-9O.pdf
      2009: http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2010/132/509/2010-132509231-06cd88a2-9O.pdf
      2010: http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2011/132/509/2011-132509231-07f98c25-9O.pdf

      It looks like it works. Let me know if you can’t see them.

  16. Thanks, David, for laying that all out for us. As a side note, the AG membership voted to allow indie authors to join their ranks if they made $5000 in the last 18 months from their writing, the same as traditionally published authors. That’s a great step, but at the same time, I don’t know that I want to join an organization that stays silent, as you say David, on the issues that are important to me, especially when front and center on their home page is a quote from Scott Turow which says, “The Guild is the authoritative voice of American writers.” I beg to differ.

  17. Would love more people pushing for the “New Book Store” where ebooks could be printed on the spot. That seems to be the right direction forward, and would satisfy all readers.

  18. I don’t mean to go all OMFG fan! on you, but I read A Storm Hits Valparaiso, and I couldn’t believe I’d gotten it for free. Next time I need to treat myself, I’m getting something else by you. And if your TBR pile isn’t tipping over, I’d recommend The Serpent and the Rainbow and Under the 82nd Airborne.

    Thanks for writing about this. A big part of the reason the community knows about all these shady dealings is because authors keep talking about it. I follow the blog of a woman who used iUniverse, and it’s been rough to read sometimes. I told her I had good recommendations for editors and cover artists for her next book.

  19. There is an organization for Indie writers that started in London last year, correct? Dave, at one point I talked to you about having a convention… and then I got busy writing. Someone will do it, and I’d be happy to be involved. Anyone want to raise her/his hand?

      1. You just beat me to it. I’ve heard good things, and there are some great people involved. I’m going to chat with them at the London Book Fair next week.

  20. Excellent article, yet again. I know quite a few independently published authors who are paying their bills, making their living without having to supplement with a day job — these people are not famous, just working writers who saw an available opportunity. It’s called the Future. Turrow would do well to look toward it.

  21. Dear David,

    What I like so much about your posts is that you so often say what I have been saying in my head and ranting about to my husband (but you say it so much better), so I can let go and get back to the work of writing. Every time that Turow has spoken out, my main reaction has been, “why is he speaking out once again on evil Amazon and the dangers of piracy, but not on all the other issues?”

    And since the Author’s Guild has never welcomed authors who are not traditionally published, and more and more traditionally published authors are becoming at the very least hybrid authors, I would think that in time if they continue down this path that they will notice the lack of dues rolling in. I would suggest that at some point their Executive-Director would get the blame, but then we have seen how rarely the CEO’s of the companies involved in the recent world financial disaster suffered for their bad decisions, so I won’t hold my breath that either Paul Aiken or Scott Turow would be held accountable. But thanks for at least shining the spotlight on the issues.
    M. Louisa

    1. I have said the same thing about the SFWA, the author’s organization for science-fiction writers. Based on their membership requirements, I have already made many times over the advances that they would deem acceptable for membership had I been traditionally published, through sales of books which are unquestionably science fiction and fantasy. However, since I published them myself, they are not interested in me. That is fine: I am not interested in them. (I did have a plan for a little while to try to get just enough traditionally published to join and then become a fifth columnist, but even I am not willing to waste as much time as it turned out that would have taken.)

      That being said, *especially* in the science-fiction genre, I think that an author’s guild which bars indiepubs will soon find itself quite like the mafia guys in “Ghost Dog” – a collection of tooth-sucking elders sitting around recalling mostly-imagined glory and wondering why the young people are so disrespectful nowadays. Science fiction and fantasy are second only to romance on the list of genres where indiepubs are staging massive, disruptional breakouts. But the rest will follow.

      1. Perhaps it’s time to found an indie guild. Sooner or later, AG and SFWA might come to their senses and ammend their trad only rules, but why should we sit around waiting for second hand crumbs?
        There are a lot of us out there. If we founded the iG and charged ten dollars a year, we could probably afford to hire Richard Branson to build our clubhouse on the damn moon.

      2. I registered ISFWA.com a while ago when I was feeling particularly malevolent and was going to do something like that with it, but it probably makes more sense to go with something broader. IWG.com, anyone?

  22. I’ve always wondered, since authors have been waking up and realizing there are tools at their disposal for doing their own publishing… why did this ever have to be a “self versus traditional” war for publishing?

    To me, shady operators aside… traditional publishers just need to use Amazon as another tool to get books sold.

    I mean, that is their objective right?

    To me, Amazon is like quicksand to a traditional publisher, the more they struggle, the farther they sink… but if they just focus on floating, and heck, reach for the vine swinging above their heads (joining with Amazon instead of fighting them)… they might survive.

  23. If the revolution in author accessibility to readers continues at the pace it is now going, many of Turow’s arguments will be rendered moot (if I may borrow one of his legal terms.) I can’t imagine why a fellow writer would bemoan another writer’s success at finding readers. Jane Austen should have been so lucky.

  24. Not that I know anything about Scott Turow personally, but I recognize his problem. When I first started writing professionally the culture was this: Writers who were good business-people were both admired (the way a savant is admired) and looked upon with suspicion, as if anyone who concerned themselves with MONEY could not possibly be an ARTIST. (I once complained to my editor about a late check and she snapped at me, “Get a real job, then!”) Writers who complained openly about unfair contract terms and abusive treatment were shunned as troublemakers. Nobody talked openly about contract terms. The relationship of publishers and writers was that of parent and child, and like children, writers were to be seen and not heard. Publishers held all the power of creative life and death, and any writer who “misbehaved” risked earning a bad reputation. We were told constantly, “Publishing is a small world, if you screw up or make trouble, EVERYONE will know.” Writers were told they could not exist without publishers and agents. We were utterly helpless without them. Moreso, we should be happy, nay, ecstatic over any crumb they threw our way.

    Turow is a smart guy, but he’s a victim of that culture. He’s the guy still living in his parents’ basement because they’ve convinced him the world will EAT him if he strikes out on his own.

  25. Nicely done. Your post leads me to wonder, also, how somebody with no locatable published works lands a gig as ExecDir of a group called Writers Guild for a salary well into six figures.

    1. From what I could find out, Paul Aiken graduated from Cornell Law School in 1985, and then was admitted to the New York bar in 1986. I can find no information on what he did for the next seven years, until he’s mentioned as a “Staff Attorney” for the Authors Guild in 1993. By 1996 he was Executive Director – a position he has held since then. I can’t find any other reference to any professional experience he may have on top of that – which is not to say it doesn’t exist. The lack of information is puzzling.

      And for all we know, he could write under a pen-name 🙂

      1. Lack of experience is rarely a disqualification for a position like this. It probably had more to do with who he knows. You see that kind of thing in business as well. I’ve worked for a company with forty Billion in yearly revenues and some of the directors were little more than seat warming social butterflys. They’re mostly carried by the actual professionals that are stuck under them for less than half the pay.

  26. Whoa! Don’t hold back, David. LOL! Excellent reporting and I wholeheartedly agree, especially in regards to Penguin Publishing. How can Penguin’s purchase of a vanity press be overlooked by the guild that is supposed to be looking out for authors?

  27. David
    Your continual defense of Amazon is starting to grate. Amazon is a capitalist institution dedicated to profit. It is not creating a brave new world for indie writers or anyone else bar their shareholders.
    Let’s move on and not talk about Amazon any more.

    1. Hi Bernie. I think you missed the point of this piece. My argument is that Turow could be using his bully pulpit to address areas of real concern to writers instead of exclusively railing against Amazon and change in general. I would be quite happy if the conversation moved on from Amazon and we could focus on those issues. I would be even happier if Turow used his platform to do the same.

    2. And for the record, I reject the characterization of my positions as being a “continual defense of Amazon.” I have written numerous pieces critical of Amazon on issues like the unfair and regressive surcharge they impose on many international e-book purchasers, and the often ham-handed customer service from KDP which leads to awful situations like books getting pulled from sale for no good reason. I don’t, however, think they are some kind of Great Evil out to destroy literature and publishing, and have little time for that view.

      1. David, a quick search of your archives shows that Bernie’s overwhelmingly right on the money. And let’s be even more pragmatic than that–your site’s turned into a long list of screeds. Turow’s “depressed”? “A child could de-construct his arguments”? This is how you tend to talk of people and industry practices that you don’t like–like Konrath, you begin with ridicule and end with snark. Turow “doesn’t get” what a monopoly is, but *Joe Konrath* does? Really, David?

        I’ve been enjoying Chuck Wendig’s blog quite a bit over at terribleminds.net. He manages to blend the snark and ridicule with a healthy dose of reality and compassion, and (like most writers these days) realizes that there is no “self publishing vs. the Evil Publishing Industry” movie playing–because he’s a professional writer and realizes that professional writers don’t operate this way.

        Over time, this kind of screechy invective will wear quite thin. It doesn’t change things, it doesn’t help writers be better writers or publishers, and it definitely doesn’t help writers learn to stop treating the publishing world as if it were a Saturday morning cartoon.

      2. Hi James,

        While you are entitled to your own opinion, you aren’t entitled to your own facts. Here are the last 10 posts on my blog:

        1. My estimate of US e-book market share self-publishers have grabbed.

        2. The Turow piece we’re commenting under now.

        3. My take on Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads.

        4. The Random House v SWFA dust-up re crappy author contracts.

        5. Guest post from a reality TV star about TV visibility not leading to book sales + my musings on reasons for same.

        6. Interview with fantasy author David Dalglish.

        7. Analysis of Amazon’s recommendation engine vs the competition.

        8. Guest post from Emily Suess re Author Solutions.

        9. The importance of mailing lists for authors.

        10. A promo post re a 99-book promotion I was in.

        Only three of those posts could be said (IMO) to have any edge to them. Author Solutions unquestionably deserve such treatment, and I would strongly argue that the terms Random House was forcing on writers deserved the same. In fact, you would struggle to find an example of someone writing on those topics in any other way.

        I think the Amazon/Goodreads post was quite balanced – but you may feel differently – and there were five other posts on writing and the book business that have different kinds of advice for writers/analysis of the industry.

        Which leaves the Turow post – about which you seem to have strong feelings.

        Let me tell you something about that. I was at the London Book Fair this week, and met lots and lots of people from trade publishing – all with a range of views on Amazon, self-publishing, and the level of e-book royalty rates publishers are or should be offering.

        Turow’s Op Ed was one of the big topics of discussion. Every single person I spoke to was dismissive of his arguments, and most used language far saltier than that used in my blog post. I’m talking about authors, editors, and literary agents – many of whom who would (and do) vehemently disagree with me on many topics. Every single one of them thought he was full of it (and plenty had read my post and agreed with it).

        Despite what you may think, I choose my words very carefully. If I’m going to write a post critical of someone with a huge platform and megaphone, someone who is a millionaire, and a lawyer, you better believe that I’ll have poked and prodded each argument, rigorously checked each fact, and carefully chosen the exact words I need to convey my points.

        Turow is the president of the Authors Guild – an organisation that’s funneling writers into the biggest vanity press scam in the world: Author Solutions. While he’s doing this, he’s writing in the New York Times about the slow death of the American author.

        If that doesn’t stick in your craw, I don’t know what will. And, as for changing things, every time I blog about Author Solutions I get comments and emails from people who had been considering using their services but stumbled across my post. If my “screeds” save one writer from that path, then they are easily worthwhile.

    3. 1) Telling someone not to talk about Amazon on a blog whose title includes the words “self-publishing” has more than a little feel of King Canute to it. Just saying.

      2) Thanks to Amazon, with an up-front investment of exactly zero dollars on my part my hyperniche hobby fiction (sneer if you like: I will laugh at you) is paying for my car. Every time I release a new book, I start seeing royalties in my bank account not more than 61 days later. Compared to the days of Author Solutions and Publish America, if you think that is not a brave new world… if I may speak bluntly, you are delusional. Amazon’s main goal is to do well, but in the case of indie authors, they are doing well by doing good.

    4. First off, it’s David’s blog… and I’m sure he’ll blog about what he wants to.

      And second… the whole business of publishing is just that… a business, unless you write for a hobby only and never want to make a single dollar, which is OK too.

      So yes, Amazon is a business, and yes, it is responsible to its shareholders.

      So what?

      It may not be intentionally creating the “world” you describe for indie writers, with the warm, fuzzy feeling you imply with your comment. But you cannot argue with the ability to research, write, design, and publish your own book with no interference from any middle man… if you so choose. Amazon, warm intentions or not, sure makes that easy.

      I hope that David keeps sharing his insights on Amazon, traditional publishing and the whole host of categories he writes on. I for one, have learned a lot. 😉

    5. “Amazon is a capitalist institution dedicated to profit. It is not creating a brave new world for indie writers or anyone else bar their shareholders.”

      Amazon is definitely Sentence #1, and is also doing Sentence #2. But we should definitely stop talking about the biggest player in self-publishing on a blog dedicated to self-publishing.

    6. And what is the accountability of the Authors Guild? The points raised by David should be very interesting to traditionally published authors who are members. And the professional degradation – e.g., by not criticising iUniverse, Author Solutions, et at – unprotested by AG is shameful.

  28. I am so disappointed in Scott Turow, who is a highly intelligent man… but apparently blind on this issue. Thanks for unearthing info about the shady Paul Aiken. It sure sounds as though the Guild is being lobbied hard to be absurdly anti-Amazon and everything ebook. Is there money changing hands somewhere along the way?

    Thanks, Dave, for continuing to deal with the realities of self-publishing.

    1. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything shady about Paul Aiken, I just think he’s doing a poor job. I was surprised to see how much he’s getting paid though, and I do wonder if the regular members of the Authors Guild are aware of just how much he’s getting. While it is curious that there is so little information on him available online, I don’t think that means anything per se.

      I would like to know this though: does the Authors Guild (or any of their staff) receive a kickback for funneling members to iUniverse? I suspect not, but it would be nice to have that clarified.

      Anything is possible of course, but I prefer to attribute these things to ignorance, rather than malice, in the absence of evidence. But yes, I suspect that the Authors Guild (or its leadership) are subjected to lobbying from the publishing industry. It was quite clear around the time of the price-fixing investigation that we were witnessing an orchestrated attempt by the defendants to influence public opinion on the matter – which is hardly surprising when you are talking about billion dollar media conglomerates (and potential liabilities in the hundreds of millions).

      1. I’m sure Mr. Aiken is on the up and up… just clutching his pearls and resisting change to an industry that is his (and Turow’s) bread and butter. Although Aiken is mysteriously unreported on, anyone interested in public info on him, at least up to 2009, can see it here:


        Photos from last year here:


  29. This is just so sad. So many of us have aspired to be full members of a professional organization like this, believing it would support our career objectives and look out for our interests. The lack of transparency here is so unbelievable, not to mention the unexplainable jump from the Turow of “then” to the Turow of “now.” Baffling. I don’t get it!

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