Scott Turow

I used to respect Scott Turow, but after this last year of his ranting and “leadership” of the Author’s Guild, I have lost all respect for the man.

He has zero clue how most of his members make a living, and is stuck on the idea of turning the clock back to the “good old days” of publisher-only control of all distribution channels.

And what is more stunning is that he just keeps opening his mouth and sticking both feet in. For a man who is supposed to be as smart as he is, I think he needs a check-up.

Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler do a nice job of taking Scott’s latest comments apart. You can read it at:

And you can find Scott’s comments at

Salon Interview

And if you are one of the idiots who think Amazon is a “big evil” that needs to be taken down, please take your comments to other places. They won’t be published here.

Amazon is not a perfect company. No company is. But they have opened the door for all authors to get our work into print, and others like B&N and Apple and Sony and Kobo and others have followed and in some cases been ahead of Amazon. Scott wants the supposed “Big Six” (as idiots call traditional publishers) to stay in control of all distribution so he can keep making his millions and screw all the rest of us.

Nice job, Joe and Barry, for calling it like it actually is out here in the real world. And thanks from all of us now making really nice money without traditional publishing.


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27 Responses to Scott Turow

  1. Ramon Terrell says:

    Read this the other day and it really tripped me out. Since Scott is nice and comfy with his Big 6 income, to hell with everyone else. Perhaps he feels threatened that indies are closing in on, and in some cases surpassing the big names in the rankings and sales of ebooks.

    It’s such a shame, when all writers should be banding together that you get these house pets of the Big 6 who want to keep things as they are because it suits them.

    The stupid thing is, writers like him have at least somewhat of a leg up because they have a fan base to plug into if they went indie.

    Quite a ridiculous shame.

  2. Ramon Terrell says:

    And I’m being tongue in cheek when I refer to them as Big 6, so please don’t think I’m an idiot. :)

  3. Found myself still awake at little after 2 a.m. my time and was glad I dropped by the blog. Was wondering if you would mention any of the hubbub with Turow, Konrath, and Eisler. Thanks for pointing the way to the posts. I’ll probably check out Turow’s comments at Salon.
    Wish somebody would pull Turow away from his soapbox. Just glad Konrath and Eisler are calling him on his bullshit.

    I’m so glad for the transformations that have been happening in publishing since the major traditional/legacy publishers lost their grip on distribution. The fact that I’m an indie author/publisher is still one of best things that’s happened lately. I’m doing more writing than I had been doing for months. I’ve published several short stories and am building up my list of books (both nonfiction and fiction alike). Not making much money yet, but I’m getting there slowly.

    Definitely want to make a living at this. No way I want things to return to the status quo of the past. Thanks Dean. Oh, and glad you’re getting things back to normal after all of the estate business. Talk to you later.

  4. R. L. Copple says:

    His whole premise is flawed, Scott’s that is. One, the likelihood of Amazon ever becoming a monopoly is slim. Just look at ebooks. When they started with the Kindle, they had over 90% of the ebook market, as would be expected for innovators getting something rolling. But as of now, I’ve read it is more like 60 something %. Why? Because other players came into the market and competed with Amazon.

    But lets assume for a moment that somehow through “predatory” practices, Amazon was able to put all its other competitors out of business, or essentially make them such minor players they couldn’t hope to get a foothold into the market. What would happen if they then raised prices to some big amount? Either one of two things.

    1) Because they raised prices, that opens the door for competitors to get a foothold by selling cheaper. They would then lose market share and not be able to hold onto their monopoly status.

    2) Or, if they somehow were able to squelch all competition in this free market, and sell books for whatever price they wanted, the government would come in and break them up. Like they did AT&T. Like they did Microsoft that wanted to integrate their browser into their OS so no other browser could compete. Like it is doing now because Apple and the publishers have colluded to prevent competition among retailers for the sale of their product, forcing them all to sell at the same inflated price.

    So even if Amazon was able to accomplish this feat in the retail market, which is unheard of in retail, it wouldn’t stand for very long.

    So there really isn’t anything to fear about Amazon becoming a monopoly, because that isn’t very likely to happen, and if somehow it did, it wouldn’t stand very long.

    Since there’s nothing to fear, that pretty much puts the rest of his “arguments” to bed as well. We’re good now.

  5. Crystal says:

    I’ve read Scott Turow’s comments and the Konrath-Eisler response to them. It seems silly/stupid that the president of the Author’s Guild is speaking like a mouthpiece for traditional publishing and villainizing Amazon.

    My question is: why is he doing it? I know there are people who resist change and seek to “preserve” the status quo. But the Amazon genie is out of the box. There is no going back. Turow must be smart enough to see that.

    I know there are people who are just kiss/suck up types. Turow sells millions of books. What more can traditional publishing do for him?

    If the hope is that Turow’s words will some how influence other authors enough that they’ll stop publishing their books now and wait weeks and months to be rejected or ignored by the traditional publishing system [the agents+publisher duo] he’s crazy.

    Most authors and readers like Amazon!

    So again, my question: what does Scott Turow hope to gain by supporting publishers over authors?

    • dwsmith says:

      Crystal, your answer is in Kris’s post above. She said, “So to expect Scott Turow to understand what the rest of us go through is like asking Prince Charles how to get into government.”

      Yup, that hits it on the head. He has no clue what a midlist writer goes through, let alone why indie publishing has value and is good for all books. He just can’t see it because he never had to see it.

  6. Todd says:

    In a nutshell, to counselor Scott Turow:

    “No, YOU’RE out of order!”


  7. @R.L.: you made me smile. I was getting entirely too indignant about Turow’s sell-out of all the authors who *aren’t* making millions. Your succinct analysis concluded with “we’re good now” was just what I needed: a little perspective. Thanks!

  8. Carradee says:

    Change scares some folks. Not sure why, but some people believe that different = bad.

    I had one job where I had to argue with my boss for him to let me put together a more accurate and easier method of compiling information we needed.

    Might Amazon someday start screwing over its customers? I doubt it; they’re in the business to make money, not give customers reason to begin or fund the competition.

    Might Amazon someday start being more draconian about the terms it sets with content suppliers? Possibly. I’ll worry about that iff it happens. (And I do mean iff, not if.)

    Freaking out over events that haven’t happened and may or may not happen doesn’t do the freaking-out person any good. Being prepared with multiple irons on the fire, to adapt in case of changes, does do the prepared person good.

  9. Just to clarify: I *am* indignant about Scott’s persistence in spewing . . . what he’s spewing. (Thank you, Joe and Barry, for showing him up!) I’ve just stopped obsessing about it now. Back to my novel to write that!

  10. Sean O'Hara says:

    I dunno. As dumb as Turow’s arguments are I don’t think Joe made a good defense against them. His point that monopolies never hurt anyone … has he ever read up on the origins of antitrust laws? Is he too young to remember Ma Bell? Does he live in an area with multiple cable providers? The correct argument against Turow is, “Amazon isn’t even close to becoming a monopoly.”

    • dwsmith says:

      Sean, I think you just made Joe’s point. You did not name a company in your argument that was a monopoly and actually hurt anyone. Or that raised prices.

      Did you know that in publishing, there used to be a major monopoly. It was the distributing company. In the late 1940s and through the 1950s one company distributed all books and magazines and for a time comic books, but they spit off in the mid 1950s. Prices were decent, pulps and digest magazines were everywhere, as were paperback books as paperbacks started to boom from the war era. Then there were rumors about Congress looking at the distribution company for anti-trust, even though they were hurting no one. Their stock price dropped under the rumors and a vulture swept in, bought up the company, and shut it down suddenly, selling off all trucks and warehouses.

      There actually were gunfights in the streets as thousands of start-up distributors took over, fighting over rack space. Hundreds of magazines went out of business because they could no longer get out to readers. Thousands and thousands of writers were ruined. It went from one distributor to around 1,600 nationwide in the space of just three years. That lasted until the mid-1990s when Safeway decided it hated getting so many invoices from around the country, so it picked four distributors, and other companies followed and again writers were hurt, publishers went out of business, and we are now down to just three major distributors dealing with all major traditional publishing. Of course, that does not count chain distribution and Amazon distribution and now electronic distribution. But if you want to worry about a monopoly in publishing, if Scott has his way, he will go back to only letting major companies distribute books and then only through three distributors. Yeah, that’s better. (Snort)

  11. Randy says:

    He lost me right off the bat with “grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture”… I guess he considers the rest of us a bunch of hacks.

  12. Dean, I’m not sure I understand the “as idiots call traditional publishers” part of this sentence: “Scott wants the supposed “Big Six” (as idiots call traditional publishers) to stay in control of all distribution so he can keep making his millions and screw all the rest of us.”

    Barry and Joe routinely use the term “Big 6″ and I don’t think they are idiots. In fact, you are praising them in this very blog post.

    As for Scott Turow, he’s manifesting the sort of attitude about indie publishing/indie distribution that I’ve seen in other authors who have struggled and struggled and finally landed a contract with a legacy publisher. Call it fear, call it jealously, call it resentment…whatever it is, it boils down to the simple fact that they don’t like to see other writers circumvent the “system” that they have invested so much time and energy in “conquering.” These writers are “cheating” and can (and sometimes do) attain the same level of success as those who “played by the rules” like Turow, like Grisham…and like Eisler, until he took an objective look at the situation and walked away from one of the Big 6.

    • dwsmith says:

      G.M., I’ve been fighting the term “Big Six” in publishing for some time now. I have even asked people to tell me who the “Big Six” are and from person-to-person the list is different. There are thousands of publishing companies. And more every day. There are far more than just “Six” big ones. And even when talking about the companies that are entwined, they are separate businesses. As the good old courts have stated, each corporation is like a person. And trust me, not all the corporations that are run under one major umbrella act the same or even have the same policies. But even counting the “major umbrella” conglomerates which do far, far more than publishing, there are more than six.

      Calling all traditional publishers “The Big Six” just shows a level of ignorance about the business as a whole. Sorry, sad but true.

  13. Cyn Bagley says:

    I have been watching the show and I have lost any respect that I would have had if I had known Scott Turow. It is very sad.

    The world started changing with the first personal computer. We have no idea how much farther or faster it will change. Those that claw and fight for the old ways will be left in the dust.


  14. One of the things I learned as a reporter is that the best way to understand someone else’s point of view is to see how they formed it. Scott Turow never ever ever struggled as a writer. He’s clueless about it.

    He sold OneL straight out of Harvard through connections he made at Harvard (no slushpile, no search for an agent, nothing). Then the book became a bestseller back when the book market was small enough that bestsellers could be made simply by being on bookstore shelves (so many books weren’t).

    Then OneL sold to television. You’ve all heard of the Paper Chase, right? Scott Turow. Then he “forgot” about that piddly little writing thing to become a Big Name Attorney. He came back to writing in middle age, with Presumed Innocent, which got a fair read and an auction (it’s a hell of a book) and became a movie…and…and…

    So to expect Scott Turow to understand what the rest of us go through is like asking Prince Charles how to get into government. He might know that there are other ways besides being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he has no clue how it works or the impact running for office has on the candidate–or those who never even manage to make it to candidate.

    Turow’s been making egregious mistakes like this since he became head of the Author’s Guild. I’ve been ignoring him now for more than two years. I will continue to do so and hope that the Guild comes to its senses and actually puts in a writer who understands the business of real writing next time, not the once-in-a-lifetime Prince of Fiction, Scott Turow.

  15. B.J. says:

    I get so annoyed when I hear people state that Amazon is so evil they have to be stopped. Especially if their argument is defending Agency Pricing as a way to do that. The argument doesn’t even make *sense*.

    Worse is when it’s people who otherwise seem very intelligent, like Victoria Strauss over at Writer Beware. She’s stated a few times on the WB Facebook page that she believes this way, though she isn’t as vocal about it as Mr. Turow.

  16. Steven Mohan says:

    I love Amazon. Love it. Of course it’s smart for consumers to be watchful of any company they do business with. But if you discover Amazon is doing something that you don’t like, there’s no need to lead a Davd-vs.-Goliath, off with their heads, French Revolution campaign against them. Just do what you’d do if you were dissatisfied with any business partner–go somewhere else.

    Dean points out all the other big epub distribution channels, but Amazon has plenty of OTHER competition, too. In a sense, big NY houses are competition, as are companies like Sourcebooks, and small presses, and university presses, and magazines, and . . . well about a million other places. But I have to wonder, if Amazon truly is the big evil . . .

    Why do so many writers choose to work with them?

  17. Kristine, I think you are confusing Turow’s “One L” with John Jay Osborn’s novel “The Paper Chase.” Osborne published his novel in 1970; Turow’s “One L” was published in 1977.

    I was living in New England when I wrote my first novel back in the early 90s and worked briefly for a friend of Osborn’s. Her father was also friends with John Updike. He introduced me to Updike, who was very gracious in giving input and encouragement to a fledgling writer (me).

    • dwsmith says:

      G.M., I sure thought the show “Paper Chase” was based on Turow’s “One L” novel as well, but it seems it was based on the earlier novel you mentioned. Strange how my memory took that in another direction. I’m sure Kris heard that from me. (grin…sorry)

  18. There are people who realize that Amazon is ruthless and believe they’re evil. Those aren’t equivalent.

    (Evidence for ruthlessness: the way they’ve cut off affiliates like me w/o notice when a state legislature attempts to collect sales tax from them, their hard negotiating style with distributors, etc.)

    When someone’s ruthless, the key question is: to what end? I find it hard to believe that Bezos is an Evil Overlord Wannabe because retail isn’t exactly the route to having minions cowering at your feet. Especially retail for something that’s *optional* in people’s lives. Truly “evil” behavior can too easily be countered by having the populace just walk away (hey, I can go to a movie instead).

    Bezos has made his ends clear over the past decade. He wants to win big, for the long term, and he believes that the way to do that is superior customer service. I find it difficult to see this as ‘evil.’

    Which reduces Turow’s complaints to the equivalent of those from a sports team that’s upset because their competitor is actually going all out to win the game. You can complain all you want about how rough they’re playing, and even complain that they’re breaking the rules and the ref’s aren’t calling the fouls. But there’s nothing to prevent Turow’s team from either playing better or walking away.

    I suspect that a lot of this is simply that having real competition is a shock after decades of gentleman’s agreements not to play rough.

  19. You’re right, G.M., and explains why I always wondered how they got the John Houseman character out of the Scott Turow (nonfiction) book. Don’t know where I conflated the two; might’ve been Dean, might not.

    Still doesn’t negate my point about Turow. I do know how he sold that book, and it was through law school/Harvard connections. Also, the book has never been out of print, not even when Turow was a Big Name Lawyer and not a writer. (Writing was his little hobby.)

    He doesn’t know anything about writing as a business, and sadly, has never bothered to learn.

    I used to respect him. I don’t any longer. I still love his books, but jeez, I’m going to have to struggle to keep his real persona away from his very good fictional one. I think he’s harming a lot of writers here, and I just hate that.

  20. RE: Monopolies and whether they are harmful to the consumer or not, there are two distinct kinds–the natural, and the established.

    Natural monopolies (ALCOA in the early 20th century is an excellent example) are won in the marketplace by a disruptive player, and generally behave very well where their customers are concerned–they seem to keep with them the institutional awareness that what they did to the marketplace will be done again, so they’d better do it first. They have a heavy, palpable incentive to keep their prices low, their innovation high, and their feet nimble. And when they forget that, as sure as Saturday follows Friday, they lose their monopoly position. Monopolies of this sort in the U.S. that have fallen without government intervention (either none came, or it came only after the monopoly position was eroding due to disruptive external change) include: IBM, Microsoft, Standard Oil, Edison Electric, and many others.

    Established monopolies are the ones that do severe damage to a marketplace. These are monopolies that are usually created by legal fiat (DeutcheTelecom and British Rail are good examples) either through government building an industry or (more frequently) through government nationalization of an industry. In these situation, no one else is allowed to play in the sandbox, and the sector of the economy controlled by that monopoly ossifies. In a rapid-development technologically-driven civilization, this kind of thing is death to a marketplace, as many countries in Europe have learned the hard way in the last 20 years.

    Cartels tend to be the worst of both worlds (worst of an established monopoly + worst of crony capitalism)–the cartel players collude to protect a market position rather than competing with one another, then they find ways to buy legal insurance against a governmental position. You can see this going on right now in agriculture around small-scale dairy farming, and it’s the general way that concentrated non-monopoly industries have conducted themselves in the US in the 20th century. However, also worth pointing out, the cartels also break under disruptive change–they just tend to do a lot more damage on the way out as they try to outlaw their competition.

    Reading Joe’s post, every monopoly he points out is a natural, non-established monopoly, and as far as my understanding of economic history goes, he’s spot on. Great post :-)


  21. Randy says:

    Best line ever about people who don’t have to pay dues:

    “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” -Football coach Barry Switzer

  22. Kristine, it sure doesn’t negate your point about Turow being clueless. But getting back to my original post, I really wasn’t trying to say that Turow was once a struggling writer who finally “made it.” I was just saying he’s evincing (and maybe purposely trying to perpetuate) an attitude toward indie publishing/distribution that I believe authors who have struggled, played by the rules, and “got published” sometimes have.

  23. I for one welcome our Cyber overlords….

    In all seriousness, I couldn’t understand a lot of what Turow was saying, truthfully. It sounded like the inarticulate ramblings of a billionaire talking about class warfare. I had to read Konrath’s piece to understand a lot of it. Maybe I’m just not smart enough in the business yet to get it.

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