Dear Mr. Publisher

Old Guys Teetering at the Top of the Heap
Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster
Legacy Publishing Division
Broadway & 56th Street; 237 Park Avenue; 175 Fifth Avenue; 1230 Avenue Rockefeller Center; 375 Hudson Street; 10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY

June 20th, 2012

Dear Old Guys,

It’s been with mixed feelings that I’ve read all the articles about the Department of Justice’s investigation and all the letters written to Mr. John R. Read regarding the antitrust/ collusion suit against Apple and the Big 6 publishers.  Everyone is writing to the DOJ, but no one has even thought to write a letter to the publishing houses, the ones who’ve been in charge for so long.  So here is my letter to you neglected publishers—an olive branch extended from my lowly hand to yours.  

I’ve always been a polite, conscientious kind of guy, and right now, for anyone who’s reading this, I’d like to send out a genuine challenge to any of the Big 6 publishing houses to do away with tradition, and take a chance on me, an up-and-coming indie-author.  There’s not a doubt in my mind that, at some point in my life, my stories will be read and enjoyed by thousands—hopefully millions—of fiction lovers and avid readers.

You don’t know me, so I’m putting myself out there for you to see.  This is your chance to be a part of something big; to be a part of something unique.  This is your chance to make amends with the self-publishing world, extend a hand, and bury the Hachette, er, hatchet.  We aren’t old and tired and played.  I’m an indie-author, not because I can’t hack it and my stories are junk, but because I believe in the paradigm shift that’s taking place in the literary world.  We are the future of books and storytelling, and of how those great stories are distributed for all to read. 

I want to give you the chance to be a part of it all.  I want us to be partners.  I want to give you the opportunity to represent me and for me to use your reach and influence to get my stories out to a much larger reading audience.  Do you want this chance?  My stories will be great, and are very commercial.

The beauty of this offer is that you won’t have to make all those difficult decisions associated with publishing.  I’ll handle all that stuff.  You can certainly give me suggestions and some helpful tips from your vast bank of knowledge in the publishing business, and I’ll certainly entertain any valid and useful ideas.  But I make the final calls.  I keep the control.  After all, I know what’s best for my baby, and how to put forth the proper image and feel for my book.  I should—I’ve only spent several months or years writing the damn thing…

Of course there are a few stipulations, caveats, to my offer.

To show you how nice a guy I am, I won’t even demand an advance on any of my books.  The catch is I want to be paid quicker.  Much quicker.  I’m talking monthly.  There will be no excuses to withhold payment since my book sales will be virtually traceable in real time.  Everything will be digital, books included.  Everything will be transparent.  Everything will be clear.  Once more:  get paid quicker.

Next, I’d like to get paid more.  I don’t think that’s asking too much, is it?  After all, I am the creative genius behind the stories.  Not to sound too blunt, but in what way did you contribute to the development of my story?  Anyone?  So why would I get paid less than you as found within your legacy publishing model?  For our new partnership, let’s start somewhere in the middle, more so for short stories or smaller non-fiction type ebooks.  Say, a 50/ 50 split.  I’ll accept that.  But for larger works of fiction, I’ve got to bump my royalties up a tad.  Maybe not to 70%, but at least to 60-65% of the royalties.  Sound good?

I guess that kind of moves us into a sub category:  pricing.  I’ll set the prices for my books.  Since they’ll be in ebook form and since there will be no cost incurred for storage, or distribution, or printing—you know, all that 20th century stuff—there will be no point in ever selling my books for more than $5.99.  At first glance it may not look like you’ll be making as much on a $5.99 book as you might have employing the legacy publishing model (and you’d be right), but I’ll be making a whole heck of a lot more.  And that’s a good thing, because I wrote the book.  But don’t fret, because it’ll all balance itself out by the sheer volume and swiftness of the e-publishing model we’ll be using.  Read on.

This next stipulation is probably the most critical of all my conditions:  100% retention of all rights associated with my stories.  Why should you care about this one?  It shouldn’t matter to you whether you have the rights, or whether I retain the rights.  You’ll be associated with my ebooks for an eternity.  You’ll be getting paid for as long as you’re in business.  THAT’S THE BEAUTY OF DIGITAL!  Everything is forever, and all that shelf space is unlimited.  And since I was the creative force behind the entire product, save maybe a few minor details suggested by you and potentially employed by me into the ebook, it’s only logical that I keep all of my rights.  Doesn’t that make sense?  This is a biggie for me.  This is a deal-breaker.

You’ll notice in my letter that all my conditions benefit both you and me.  That’s what a partnership is: mutually beneficial.  We all know that if I were to take your route for getting my books published, it would take fooooooorever.  The nice thing with e-publishing is that we can get my stuff out very, very fast. The quicker we get the products out, the quicker people can buy them.  The quicker we get product out, the more we’ll get out sooner.  The more we have for sale, the more money we make.  See how that works? 

Don’t hold my ebooks hostage to the paper version.  If someone really, really wants to buy yet another paperback to cram onto their already packed bookshelf rather than the digital version, she’ll do it regardless of the price (I think...)  Get them both out at the same time and let her make the choice; don’t force-feed the reader what you think they should buy.  Of course the paper version would need to be priced much higher than the ebook version in order to cover all the extra costs associated with producing them and storing them and distributing them, but that problem is easily solved in the following paragraph.

Don’t worry, old friends.   I know it might be a really difficult transition for you to abandon paper, the lifeblood, your primary resource that you’ve so loyally—some might say stubbornly—clung to for so long, and switch to a strictly digital format.  But I’d be doing you a huge favor!  No more paying for storage facilities to house the hundreds of thousands of books that don’t sell or have been returned (just to be clear: I’m in no way insinuating that my books won’t sell.) 

What a bonus!  The digital bookshelf is infinite, so we’ll be able to store as many titles as we want for as long as we’d like.  HURRAY!  You can relax.  But I am also sympathetic to the one or two people who absolutely must hold a 300 page novel in their hands.  No problem.  There’s the print on demand system, whereby we only print off the exact amount of paper books that have been requested/ ordered.  Sounds too good to be true?  Sounds too logical?  Sounds too forward thinking?  Sounds like common sense to me, and to the thousands who already use it.  Again, you’d not only be doing yourselves a favor, you’d be doing Mother Earth a big favor as well.  We all know that chicks dig an environmentally conscious guy (I’m sure men have their own environmental turn-ons, too.)

In conclusion, I hope that I haven’t sounded too arrogant or like too much of a primadonna for your liking, but I really want you to stay around and help us indie-authors out as much as you can.  We’re worried that you’ll fade away into the recycling bin of the publishing industry before we’re able to take full advantage of your branding power.  This will be a collaborative effort where both parties will need to accept the other’s role in the whole publishing process.  I’ll accept your status symbol and name cache, and you’ll respect my royalty and rights and creative control conditions.

So, to recap:  If we’re going to be partners, I want to get paid quicker (who doesn’t?), get paid more (only makes sense), set the price low to bring in more sales (duh), retain 100% of all my rights (no-brainer), and have a much faster turnaround when getting my ebooks out into the reading world (you’re welcome, dear readers.)  These are not unreasonable demands.  We’ll both be getting paid faster, more regularly, and for a longer period of time.  Readers will be able to read more material faster and for a lower price, too.  And that’s a good thing, because if we aren’t conscious of the reader and what she wants, then why are we in the publishing business at all?  It all seems so simple. 

So, what do you say?  Do we have a deal?

J. P. Kurzitza
Indie Author