What's the most money you'd pay to write a letter?
A dollar or two?
Ten bucks, if it was an important letter?
Maybe $1,000 to write a final letter to someone you really loved?
Last month, I wrote the most expensive letter of my life.
It cost me $43,000.
That was the remaining 2/3rds of my advance from Simon and Schuster. I'd gotten my book basically completed, and all I needed to do to get paid was sign a new contract affirming that all the bad things they'd done were legitimate.
I refused to sign.
Instead, I wrote "An Open Letter to Simon and Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy" - I called the industry terrible to authors and editors, anti-modern, and said they have to reform.
This cost me $43,000.
After I poured my heart out, did they reply? Address any of my concerns?
Nope, nope, and nope. Carolyn Reidy kept her head in the sand, and didn't reply to one of her authors saying he had a terribly bad experience. I was instantly told to delete the letter, and none of my concerns were addressed.
It was the truth.
They're bad to people.
I'm tough. Kind of.
Most authors aren't tough.
I need to stand up for them.
And good people in general, so we don't have to suffer abuse from self-righteous corporations.
My agent, Jim Levine, then delivered a threat from Simon and Schuster to me. If I didn't take their terms right now, they were going to attack me.
I replied with, "The End of the Publishing Cartel" - a video without me wearing a shirt.
Am I just crazy? Well, maybe. I guess you have to be crazy to walk away from $43,000 and tell a $15 billion corporation to sue you without wearing a shirt.
But there might some rhyme or reason to what I'm doing. I explained my reasoning in, "Why I Told CBS Corporation To Sue Me Without Wearing A Shirt." (CBS Corp owns Simon and Schuster)
Have I heard from S&S, CBS, or my agent who was working from them?
(Actually, I got a funny email from "a guy in Europe" asking if he should copyright infringe against Simon and Schuster... it was the most unnatural email I've ever gotten. Nice try, CBS Corp legal team. Idiots.)
Well, I like to keep the fight raging on. I'm being called a literary hero out on blogs and Twitter. (I'm also being called crazy. That's understandable.)
The guys from comedy webcomic "A Beer For the Shower" wrote up their own bad experience with publishing and how they got jerked around for three years. The rebellion is starting. They kindly drew me in my Russian hat flipping the bird to S&S too -
The Fight Rages On - Showing Them How Slow/Bad They Are, And Making A Scene They Can't Ignore
Publishing is slow and a disaster and bad to people, so I wanted to show them we could do better, and I wanted to keep the fight on. I got together a team of some bright people across continents, and we put out "Ikigai" into the Kindle Store in just seven days. (You read about that at http://www.theoneweekbook.com.)
That cost about $10,000 to do, but the bulk of that was just paying the members of the team some cash. I think they all would have done it as a favor anyways, but Aaron Tucker (the project manager on this, who is only 18 and taking a gap year before he goes to Harvard) and I were asking a lot out of people. Our chief editor, Kendall Giles, is working just on performance and taking a percentage. I've got to do something nice for him. And we've had a lot of other solid team members too - Yifei Zhang's beautiful cover design, Sachit Gupta's marketing, and Louis Eastman and James Pan helping with organization and web design.
If we'd done in a month or so, I bet it could have been done with close to zero cash outlay.
This took seven days -
One week! Imagine that. I'm giving all of my share of profits to charity, so I'm in the hole a lot financially at this point between writing that honest letter to S&S, and bankrolling Ikigai.
But I love it. We're making art. And shaking up an abusive, dying industry.
Now they're between a rock and a hard place. Ikigai was a material breach of their contract with me (they still haven't canceled me, they want me to accept their terms that say they're in the right and didn't screw up here; I still haven't heard from Carolyn Reidy or anyone significant at Simon and Schuster or CBS Corporation).
So, they're now between a rock and a hard place.
And I just pissed all over their draconian contract.
I'm in material breach.
They've now got only three options -
First, just accept it and show they're a paper tiger, that authors can breach their contract, that they have no moral authority and legitimacy. That's the beginning of the end for them if they accept it.
Second, come tango with me and set American legal precedent.
Or third, reform and do better. Which they don't want to do.
What else do they have?
Censorship attempts will result in huge public backlash. I'd welcome it, if they tried.
They won't most likely assassinate me or break my legs, and they have no other leverage. I've got enough friends/colleagues in business, government, out in the world, etc, that I'll be fine even if they freeze my assets, sanction me, or whatever else. I took their last leverage away by painting myself as crazy and unstable and trashing my own reputation without wearing a shirt.
They literally have no real leverage. They rely on people being scared of them, and I'm not scared of them.
They've got a lot of options, but none of them will work well for them except just reforming before things get too bad for them. After the end of this year, I'm consolidating my financial position and liquidating all my assets in the traditional financial system, and just spending all the money legitimately on people and projects - thus taking away their ability to seize assets from me, and generating a lot of goodwill and future favors I can call if necessary.
I'm just not going to stop. I'll go to the boss of CBS later if S&S doesn't deal with this, and then it's on to the U.S. Government, EU, anti-trust, whatever. I have no idea how this will go, but I've got no shame, no self-preservation, and a cause. That's a good combination for us and a dangerous combination for the bad guys.
Traditional publishing will reform and treat its authors, editors, and everyone better. Or they'll be destroyed.
Want to help? Please go buy a copy of Ikigai at Amazon and leave a review. The reviews are most important. The book is raw, of course, since it came out in seven days. But it's a life-changing read, and you're helping a fight against an abusive industry run by uncaring callous self-righteous executives, bureaucrats, and lawyers. And my share of profits goes to charity.
Thank you for everyone's support, for the awesome team that's been behind us, and for all readers and artists out there in the world. They'll reform, be destroyed, or destroy me. I'm with you. Thank you for being with me.