S&S Versus B&N And The Self-Publisher Schadenfreude Tango

So, in case you missed the news, Simon & Schuster are having a very public secret snit with Barnes & Noble over — well, best as I can tell, B&N sees itself as the only big dog left in bookstores and wants better support from publishers, and S&S claims it cannot afford said support and probably also sees itself as one of the only big dogs left in publishing, and blah blah blah, genitals-a-waving, slappy slappy, flappy flappy.

I don’t know who’s right or who’s wrong. I know I like Barnes & Noble as a bookstore and I know I like a lot of the books Simon & Schuster puts out. I also know that Barnes & Noble is increasingly focused on things other than books despite still being labeled a “bookstore,” and I also know that Simon & Schuster is occasionally responsible for some pretty scary contract clauses and is also responsible for one of the new vanguard of vanity presses (which in my mind you should avoid like it’s a bitey gonorrhea monkey coming for your wiggly bits).

Point is, they’re both businesses who do awesome things and shitty things.

Because businesses are like that.

I have seen on the sidelines, however, some cheering of this situation.

It is cheering by some — hell, relatively few — self-published authors.

Just the same, I thought I’d take a moment to remind you, as Delilah Dawson does here, that the people who get hurt in all this are, well, people. Authors get hurt because you can’t find their books. Readers get hurt because they can’t find the books they want. Even workers at B&N and S&S are hurt because they’re not a part of this cruel and clumsy tango. They didn’t sanction it. Most of those folks love books and love authors.

Let me say right now that schadenfreude by any author — self-published or otherwise — is an ugly thing. Put it down. Walk away from it. Don’t cheer damage done to other authors. Don’t cheer the erosion of the publishing industry. And further, don’t suspect for one second that something like that couldn’t happen to you. This could happen between any distributor and any publisher (and has, actually). This could happen when Amazon or some other e-tailer changes the rules on self-published work. Nobody is safe in this big corporate scraps.

Whenever Godzilla and Mechagodzilla fight, shits gets broken.

People get stomped.

Nobody wins.

So: no more cheerleading the misery of others, please.

And, if you’re so inclined, feel free to support your favorite Simon & Schuster authors by finding their work wherever you can find it — even if that’s somewhere other than a Barnes & Noble store. (Hey, aren’t indie bookstores cool? Indiebound is your friend.)

20 comments

  • Chuck, you are a prince among foul-mouthed men. Thanks for this. It’s been hard – and I know some S&S authors have had it tougher than I have. I appreciate the support. Writerly people are wonderful – almost all of ‘em. :)

  • On a related note, I have mixed feelings about the S&S ‘vanity’ press offer. On the one hand, given current climate and factors, authors have the process, power, and often the unique ability to most effectively promote their writing (via self-publishing, self-promoting, etc). Plus, traditional publishing increasingly has eye out only for big products that fit some mysterious ‘will-sell’ criteria and simply less interest in new voices and anything experimental. However, self-publishing and vanity presses has the inescapable whiff of, well, ‘vanity’, and also of material that is ‘not worthy’ of the traditional process. Now, if an author could remove any trace of the self-published stigma from their work, she could forge ahead with promotion and sales on a relatively level playing field. Ergo, if said author could produce a piece with the exalted S&S imprimatur…. well anyone can see the advantage.

    ON THE OTHER HAND… if indeed the S&S imprimatur was indistinguishable (self vs traditional) how long before it is dragged down and toppled into the muck by the inevitable weight of so much BAD WRITING, and “Oh, S&S, the mark of literature!” becomes “Ew, S&S, what the hell happened to them?”

  • Speaking of Godzilla, I just realized one of my acid prayers came true, and there is a new Godzilla movie along the way starring none other than Bryan Cranston/Breaking Bad’s Walter White.

    And I am convinced that the way Amazon’s self publishing format and kindle isn’t going to last forever. Who knows what it will be, and I could still be talking out of my acid-effected ass, but I get the feeling that just as the gates opened, that other doors in this haunted house can unexpectedly close.

  • Thanks for this, Chuck. For those of us who launched in the midst of this. . . well, broken hearted might describe it. Many of us have years and years in these books, and many dollars of self-funded marketing and promotion. Why anyone would find satisfaction in another writer’s sadness is unfathomable. What it’s meant for us is ever-more work in getting the book out, every less time to write our next book, and quite a few bottles of our self-medication of choice.

  • B&N will be out of business by 2015, and S&S will be merged with other publishing houses by 2020. Neither are relevant when talking about the future of books, so let them fight over the crumbs.

    • @Michelle —

      And this is what I’m talking about.

      Because here I have to assume that by “crumbs” you mean “authors and readers.”

      And that’s not a really spectacular — or kind — outlook.

      — c.

  • Thank you very much – I think its worth mentioning that at least three of the authors involved all also self publish so it is indeed odd to hear there is cheering that the books we chose not to self pubbed. Those authors are me, Lisa Renee Jones, and Hugh Howey. There might be more. One word for all this. Ironic.

  • In the year 2525, only books printed on robot velociraptors will survive. We’ll all fight for crumbs of vitamin-rich vampire flesh and Facebook bucks, which can be redeemed for water flakes.

    TWO BOOKS ENTER. ONE BOOK-SCRIBBLED VELOCIRAPTOR LEAVES.

    *not Nostradomus

  • I live in western Canada. We don’t have B&N, We have Coles, Chapters, and Indigo as big box bookstores. I don’t know how B&N’s little snit is gonna affect us up here.

    My heart goes out to all the authors that have/are being affected by this dispute. Its a sad sad day when two groups can’t be bothered to crawl out of the sandbox and act like adults. They don’t seem to care that they are making everyone pay. The Reader, the Author, and themselves. Self destruction is stupid, both groups are affecting reader/author loyalty which in the long run will cost them both what they are fighting over now…money.

  • Thanks, Chuck.

    Now, here’s the thing I don’t get personally:

    I, in my unending booze and nicotine induced naivete, assume that every writer (published or not, indie or trad, or somewhere in between) is a reader. A lover of books. A person who would gladly jump naked into a pool filled with paperbacks (or is that just me?).

    Anyway, anyone who professes schadenfreude over someone who in the past, and probably in the present provided books they love is essentially laughing at authors, chains and publishers that ignited their love for reading and writing.

  • Thanks for saying this. There are many S&S authors l like. And B&N is “my” bookstore.
    No side needs taken. l do however grow so weary of the very vocal (few) e-pub and self-pubbed who persist in whooping and cheering for “the end of publishing”. lt is a sad commentary indeed.

  • I’ve never understood anyone cheering for the end of traditional publishing, surely they realise that if big publishing does collapse none of the big name authors are going to just quit, instead there will be some new, very big, fish in the self publishing pond.

    Plus cheering on anyone’s pain or discomfort always makes the cheerer seem like a tool, and tha’s not the way anyone wants to be remembered when it comes time for their book to be promoted.

    I hope that everyone caught up in the Godzilla throwdown gets away with the absolute minimum disruption to their careers.

  • Interestingly, with regard to the vanity/self-publishing route: Tor have obviously felt the pinch or seen the writing on the wall because they now have an open-submissions policy, which specifically mentions self-publshing as the reason they’re doing this.

    As a result of self-publishing and people’s belief/perception that it’s a good way to go, I believe that there will be a massive shift in how people find, and read books anyway.

    • “I believe that there will be a massive shift in how people find, and read books…”
      There will certainly HAVE to be a major improvement in how we ‘find’ books. As it is, new fiction writers going the self-pub route are almost impossible to find without wading through a thousand mediocre books in search of the ‘one’ … and like many other people, l have neither the time nor inclination to do so.
      Give me a book store shelf every time.

      • I think that as people get more socially aware regarding online networks, that authors will need to work Facebook, Twitter etc and get the word out about their book that way. After that, it will be word of mouth. Afterall, I’ve browsed through a bookshop and bought a book which turned out to be the best example of how NOT to write that I’ve ever seen. DNF as well.

  • This was annoying to me, because of a particular kid’s book that is no longer available at Barnes & Noble, Made me have to buy it at amazon. lol Which felt like treason, because I used to work at Barnes & Noble. lol :D

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds