As noted earlier here today — the Howey-led petition to give Amazon a tongue-bath feels almost creepily overblown. I have lots of criticisms: It’s too long by about 3000 words. It agitates. It takes a while to get to its point. It’s established as a “petition,” which is ostensibly a tool to accomplish something. It feels like a corporation ego stroke, as if right now Amazon is sitting in a bar somewhere, sipping on a bitter cocktail, wondering why nobody likes it. (Meanwhile Hobby Lobby, that bastard, is out living it up! Though without birth control, because Jesus hates IUDs.)
I do not think the petition works.
I think it speaks only to its most cultish base, which is probably not ideal. I don’t think anybody speaking only to their base is particularly interesting or engaging. I prefer, as always, a moderate approach. Point your megaphones to the people who aren’t listening rather than the frothing crowd already behind you.
So, if one wanted to cobble together a more sane and sound response to the Amazon protest letter penned by some industry giants (Patterson, Preston, Patterson — wow, they sound like a legal firm), what would it, or could it, look like?
It’d be short.
It wouldn’t be a petition.
It’d go to media, but also posted on relevant blogs to increase commentary and viral transmission.
It could be co-signed by a lot of self-publisher venerables.
It might read, in fact, like this:
“We respectfully disagree with the Amazon protest letter and believe that Amazon represents one part of a diverse publishing environment. We also feel that Amazon has helped to revolutionize publishing and is working for readers and authors, not in opposition to them. Amazon continues to put books in the hands of readers all around the country — in fact, the world — and has done more good for publishing than bad.
Further, we respectfully call on all publishers to work toward more equitable royalties and deal terms for their author partners. We support authors and want to keep as many avenues for those authors open — and as advantageous — as possible to maintain the health of books and book culture.”
Then, I dunno, you’d write THE END and be happy it was under 500 words. (Actually, I think that’s about 100 words, so huzzah for brevity.) Short and sweet. Still lots one could disagree with, and I’m not putting this out as my letter — rather, I just wanted to demonstrate what a short and moderate response letter could look like. I feel like this is sharp enough, middle-of-the-road enough, and still gets the message across without sounding like it’s time to pass the Flavor-Aid around the Jonestown campfire. It doesn’t demonize anybody, doesn’t throw anybody under the bus, doesn’t elevate anybody to Empyrean pillars. Sounds (theoretically) mature. I mean, if I were really the one writing it, I’d probably throw a couple “fucks” and “poop noises” in there, just to brand it as my own, but whatever. Your mileage can and should vary.
Of course, if you’re really truly confident that self-publishing is the way forward, then I don’t know why you’d need to write this response letter at all. You’d just drive by on your blinged-out jet-skis, throwing up devil-horns and spraying the stodgy old trad-pubbers in their dinghy with a mist of Cristal. Somewhere, the news would report on graffiti seen all over the world:
(If you’d like another moderate look at it — here, Scalzi puts forth: “Amazon, Hachette, Publishing, Etc. — It’s Not A Football Game, People.”)