Control, and Lack Thereof
I have no control over whether any individual editor will like my work. I have no control over whether a publisher's purchase committee will take a chance on what I write. I have no control over the cover that they place on my book. I have no control over where they place my book in their catalog, or how they pitch it to buyers at the large chain stores, or what marketing money, including co-op money, they decide to invest in me. I have no control over the editions that my publisher chooses to issue (hardcover, trade, mass market, electronic), and I have no control over the prices that they demand for those editions. I have no control over the actual physical production of the book - what quality of paper they use, what glue they use, whether the books are packed carefully in their boxes so that covers remain pristine. I have no control over warehousing, over how efficient the distributors are, over the shipping of my books, or the unpacking of my books, or the placement of my books on the shelves in stores. I have absolutely no leverage to change any publisher-created policy regarding the distribution of their work.
After I have written the best story I can write, I have no control.
And, of course, I'm not unique. Most authors (all of us whose last name isn't Roberts or King or Rowling or Grisham or maybe a half dozen others) have no control.
Therefore, it *enrages* me when Kindle owners choose to employ the "nuclear option", to rate a book one star (out of five) because the publisher decided to release the Kindle edition later than the print edition. (See, e.g., http://tinyurl.com/ycx2bws - a link that I first received from karen_w_newton )
Angry Kindle owners have lots of other options open to them, options that don't jeopardize the sales -- and thereby, the careers -- of authors. Kindle owners can give one-star ratings to the Kindle, thereby providing an incentive to Amazon to throw around its massive weight with the publishers. Kindle owners can organize campaigns against those publishers, taking advantage of electronic and print contacts to express their displeasure at late releases. Kindle owners can even choose not to buy late-release books when they are released.
Kindle owners, though, should not deflate other sales by giving the unwarranted impression that an author's best work isn't good enough. The "nuclear option" corrupts the entire concept of reader reviews. (Yes, I'm fully aware that reader reviews in an unmoderated or very-loosely-moderated system are already somewhat corrupt.) Angry, deprived Kindle owners distort the review system so that potential customers believe the quality of a book is less than it is; they give the lowest rating even though -- indeed, *because* -- they haven't read the book in question.
Don't get me wrong. I think that delayed release of prime titles is a poor business decision on the part of publishers. I think that same-day release of expensive hardcover editions at a somewhat reduced electronic-edition price is one of the main reasons anyone would choose to buy a Kindle. But Kindle owners who attack authors are directing their anger in absolutely the wrong place.
The authors have no control.
Mindy, off to write the best first chapter of a vampire novel that she can write