I'm Sebastian, and I've been called a lot of things recently - ranging from 'a literary hero' to crazy. Why? Because I gave up 2/3rds of a $65,000 advance on a nonfiction book from Simon and Schuster by writing an Open Letter to the CEO saying that they don't treat people well enough.
Most people don't understand the decision. Why do that? Why screw up my author's career? Isn't that a lot of money? Isn't it a huge risk?
And the answers are - principles, integrity is more important than money, maybe not, and no.
I'm taking a bit of stand. I'm just one guy, but I think the publishing houses mistreat a lot of people, and it's even hurting their own business. Go talk to editors in the publishing world. They're all buried under paperwork and bureaucracy. The work conditions range from okay to unpleasant. I think people in publishing don't even realize how bad things are, because they've never seen a very healthy hyper-engaged industry.
I'd like things to get better, so I'm taking a stand. Okay, I'm losing out on about $50,000 after I already had a book that was basically done. But what's the point of money? I think it's some mix of doing what's important to you in the world, and being happy and engaged.
I'll absolutely give up $50,000 to try to show my sincerity and make the point of how bad things are. It's not just me - lots of people have had bad experiences with publishing, and it really is unnecessary. It's 2012 in a few weeks, there's no reason that basic stuff takes weeks and months. There's no reason editors should be filling out paperwork in triplicate and doing useless meetings that don't benefit the editor, house, or reader. There's no reason why there isn't a person who can hear an author's complaints if they're not being heard.
The industry can do better, and must do better to keep going. The risk? I'm out some money. The upside? A brilliant and once beautiful industry gets healthy. I'll take the gamble.
Did you get a copy of Ikigai? Compiled in a week, it puts us in material breach of contract with S&S, and all my share is going to charity. It's a damn good read too, go get it: IKIGAI by Sebastian Marshall.
Thought this was interesting, along the lines of a revolution in publishing, and Amazon's leverage against publishers:
I will make a prediction. Because of this post, the publishing industry will face a new type of competition. It will not because you will make it. It will be because of Hacker News, and the following you have gained. I look forward to seeing whatever company is inspired by this post.
Maybe it is a marketplace for book design, where editors and authors and cover designers bid on jobs. Combine it with an interface designed around publishing, premade contracts for people to sign with each other, the publishing industry as we know it could be taken down. I don't know what will happen. I don't know how it will be designed. I do know that people have been inspired by this, and that I look forward to using the next generation of technology to publish my own book someday. I know that I am glad that you have taken this stand, here.
Is breaking your word and written contract really a principled action? From an outsider's perspective it looks more like an attempt to drum up attention and hopefully sales.
Sit down before you read this.
We've got to talk.
Look. This is going to piss you off. This is going to look like I'm causing problems.
I'm not causing problems. I'm just pointing out where problems already exist.
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talked about how in certain industries, the leaders all have clustered birthdays within a few years. They grew up, and right when they hit that sweet spot of maximum freedom and minimal responsibility, along with a budding industry, they started their companies. Bill Gates, Gladwell argues, created a software company at possibly the best time ever to start a software company.
Sure, they were smart and persistent and revolutionary, but that wouldn't have done them much good if they weren't in the right place at the right time.
Okay. I'm smart and persistent, you're smart and persistent, so what is now the perfect time for? I have a few ideas, influenced heavily by my sphere of awareness.