Thursday, July 26, 2012

Misplaced Loyalty

Amidst all the hubbub over the legal proceedings concerning the largest publishers, I remain confused by only one thing:

Why are so many people so loyal to these companies?

Brand loyalty is something I've never really understood. There are brands that I trust, certainly. Brands that I have stuck with for some time because they are dependable or have certain quirks that I appreciate or various other considerations. But am I loyal to them? Hell no.

The closest I ever came was with processors, actually. AMD vs. Intel. I bought AMD processors to build computers with for years and years, but not out of habit. I did it because AMD processors were always the best chip for the price. As soon as Intel managed to catch up in quality for price, I switched. And I'll switch back if it changes again.

I find it funny in sports teams too. People are so rabidly dedicated to a team, and sometimes a player, when the player is usually just in it for the money and damn sure the team is. Sports - both professional and "college" - are just a business. Hell, even the Olympics is these days, judging by the antics in London lately.

...but I digress...

Publishers are a funny case, because they don't really leave a mark on their product - a marketing failing that has been pointed out again and again. I happen to know that Tor published many of the fantasy books I've loved the most, but I would not be able to tell the difference between a Tor title and a fantasy title from any other publisher unless I looked at the logo on the spine.

Furthermore, because I am also a writer and have been studying the publishing industry for so long, I know how backwards some of the practices of these companies are and how archaic their contracts and accounting continue to be. Even before I decided self-publishing was a viable option, I had a short list of "things to watch out for" should I ever get a publishing deal. I knew that publishers will not hesitate to screw a writer. If they have no loyalty to the people who they build their entire industry off of, I'm certain they have no real loyalty to the reader. Perhaps that's why they have so utterly failed to innovate over the years.

Needless to say, I won't be especially sad to see any of these companies die. If they fail to survive in the market, that is exactly what they should do. The ridiculous claims that this will somehow harm the publishing industry make me laugh. No, it will only harm the companies. Others will rise to fill the gaps, because there are still a shitload of people who want to read books, and they are willing to spend money to do it. So long as there is a demand, somebody will find a way to make money from supplying it.

Even more laughable are the claims that the DoJ proceedings will somehow harm culture itself...

Maybe I was wrong. If the Big 6 have managed to make themselves synonymous with culture, then they can't be so bad at marketing after all.


  1. I tend to have more of an author loyalty, because I've enjoyed their work in the past and know what to expect. Of publishers, if I had loyalty to a brand, it would be Baen. I can tell a Baen novel, mostly by it's content, and some by the type of cover. They just seem to have a certain cover style, overall.

  2. Author loyalty makes much more sense. Chances are the author _does_ feel loyalty in response, and feel a sense of personal responsibility for everything they put out. I'm sure some of the (smaller) publishers feel this way too, as they are much closer to their audience and their books.

  3. I have no idea who the publisher is for any of the books I read. I pick things up off the shelf at Walmart or a truck stop though, so getting their books in places like that might be a plus. I do most of my intentional book shopping online now though, so it's less likely that any marketing on the publisher's part would make that much difference. I do look for books by author, and check out the "also viewed" books as well for similar titles.