This Is The Modern Publishing Business

Trenchant insights on the exploitative tendencies of the “traditional” publishing industry from a successful indie writer…

David Gaughran

asandfriendsnewScammers used to operate at the edges of the publishing business, but have wormed their way into its heart. And the entire industry is in denial.

An unintentionally revealing aspect of the tiresome Amazon-Hachette dispute was a series of statements from an organization purporting to advocate for authors’ rights. One of the heinous crimes Amazon was said to have committed was treating books like toasters.

With such a claim, Authors United was attempting to tap into a current of feeling about the commoditization of literature – as if Amazon was the first company to put a price tag on a book, and writers around the country were hitherto living off laurels and kudos. It’s tempting to suggest that other entities in the publishing business might be doing as well as Amazon if they also treated books like toasters and attempted to sell the bloody things, but I digress.

What this…

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Summer in California: Fire and Fog

An emu flees a raging fire in Potrero, CA. (Mike Blake/Reuters)


It’s what used to be called high summer, but here in San Francisco we are socked in by heavy fog. The pattern of terrible California wildfires also continues. Here is a photo by Mike Blake of an emu running down the road in San Diego County. It’s a pretty symbolic image.

I am also feeling the effects of the claustrophobic election season, along with the episodic terror attacks here and abroad. At least the election season will have a finite end point!

I watched both conventions. It occurred to me that Hillary Clinton’s story about her mother explains so much about Hillary’s life, even up to her choice of mate. A woman whose mother was so horribly abused and neglected would of course fall for a partner who had been abused and neglected as a child too. I think that if the Clintons do regain the White House, many of us will have the painful experience of viewing them with cooler eyes and a more jaded viewpoint. (I was only 25 when Bill Clinton won the election in 1992 and I remember how euphoric I felt that night.)

Still, when Hillary Clinton said, “The sky’s the limit,” I could get behind the optimism of that. Her candidacy is ground-breaking. Trump, on the other hand, seems increasingly unhinged and destructive. I worry about the ugliness of the next few months and the bitter hatreds that are being unleashed. But here we are, and I suppose we’ll get through it.

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A Happy Fourth…

I wanted to wish everyone out there in the US a happy Fourth of July! The weather is always chilly and foggy here in San Francisco. At night in our neighborhood, the air is filled with the sound of homemade rockets going off. It’s not fun, but someone’s getting something out of it! 🙂

The Pull of Yesterday is in several promotions this month.

The Pull of Yesterday is in several promotions this month.

I released a new book last month (The Pull of Yesterday). Both Pull and Connecting the Dots are 50% off in the month-long Summer/Winter Sale that Smashwords puts on every year (and Elsie Street is free). Just use the coupon provided on the book page at checkout. Two of my early ebook shorts, The Captain and Claire and The Doge’s Daughter, are also free! And many great bargains are to be had.

The Pull of Yesterday is also currently 99 cents on Amazon for a limited time, and will be featured in the Rainbow Shelf newsletter on July 8! Price will revert to $2.99 sometime around mid-month.

A couple of my indie writer friends and acquaintances have released new books lately. Clare Ashton‘s latest romance, Poppy Jenkins, looks delightful. Shannon Yarbrough has a new book out, Feeling Himself Forgotten, which is a sequel to Stealing Wishes. I will be reviewing it soon. Kate Genet has turned to writing crime fiction and has unpublished much of her previous catalog of lesbian fiction.

I have been caught up in the madness of Brexit lately. It has been an odd time, but I find myself feeling more of an Anglophile than ever. Providentially, The Great British Baking Show just came back on PBS. I’m loving it.

It is possible that Britain will have its second female Prime Minister soon. Or will the backstabbing Michael Gove prevail? My heartfelt hope is that Hillary Clinton wins here in November. As Bill Maher said, this election is a referendum on decency.

And that’s about as patriotic as I get, folks.

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Orlando, a week later

This vigil took place in the Castro in SF the evening after the shooting.

This vigil took place in the Castro in SF the evening after the shooting.

I woke up last Sunday morning to news of the Orlando LGBT club massacre on Twitter. It was a terrible moment. The first pieces of news said that 20 people were dead, which was unbelievable enough. I believe the last count stands at 49.

I won’t mention the shooter by name. He was clearly a sad, sick, twisted soul. The fact that he had visited Pulse on a regular basis and been treated kindly by the patrons there just makes things worse. 

What has made things better, at least for me: the images of President Obama and VP Joe Biden visiting the memorial for the fallen really helped a lot. What has fundamentally changed in America is that LGBT people are now being treated with respect. The dead and wounded victims in that nightclub were seen as young Americans and everybody’s children. And that’s a huge, huge change that has taken place in my lifetime.

Because the issues of gun control and gun proliferation in the US are going to be here for a very long time.

It seems weird to say it in this context, but happy Pride Month.


A march in London in support of the Orlando victims.

A march in London in support of the Orlando victims.

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Elsie Street Sequel Now on Preorder!

Sequel to Elsie Street on preorder now!

Sequel to Elsie Street on preorder now!

I’ve been busy writing this spring. The full-length sequel to Elsie Street, The Pull of Yesterday, is now available for preorder at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. It will be released on those platforms on June 5. Meanwhile, Elsie Street is currently free on all platforms, including Google Play!  

Update: Elsie is now .99 on most platforms. But talking about Google Play, I spotted two 5 star reviews there today that warmed my writer heart. In the latest review, a reader called Chris Webb writes:

“Addictive reading. Superbly written, beautifully drawn characters, totally addictive and absorbing.”

Thanks, Chris!


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Time of Grace on Promo to Mark Easter 1916 Centennial

Time of Grace2When I started writing the book that became Time of Grace in 1996, I really gave little thought to the Easter Rising of 1916 being almost 100 years old. After all, as a child in Dublin in the 1970s, I knew an elderly man in our neighborhood who had fought in WW1! As a child, in fact, I was surrounded by old people who would have been children themselves in 1916, but those events weren’t widely discussed in the circles I was in. (The Rising was followed by the War of Independence and then a terrible civil war, which pitted brother against brother and led to decades of simmering violence in the North by the IRA.)

Fast forward to now, and the Irish people have just officially marked the Easter 1916 centenary (as they call it). Not on the exact historical date that it happened (April 24), but on the day before Easter. The Rising itself began on Easter Monday, 1916, and was actually covertly announced by the planners in the newspaper classifieds—just one of many fascinating tidbits from that time.

My novel Time of Grace takes a mostly objective, though somewhat sympathetic, view of the events of 1916 but is mainly concerned with a forbidden love affair between two young women, one Irish, one English, who are caught in the middle of the storm. After originally being published in Ireland 15 years ago, it has enjoyed new life as an ebook on Amazon, and I’m going to mark the occasion of the centennial by lowering the Kindle price to 99 cents for all of April.

Click on the cover image above to take you to the Amazon link.

Happy Easter, everybody. I always find pleasure this time of year in noticing the renewal of spring. This does seem to be a season in which the pagan and the spiritual are overlaid with each other, just as many early Christian churches were built on pagan temples or near sacred springs. It’s a powerful time of resurgence and I think the planners of the Rising must have sensed that. They did in fact succeed in radically changing Ireland, though they couldn’t have anticipated the complexities that followed their actions.

To learn more:

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Smashwords Read an Ebook Week Promo Runs Through Saturday

Read an Ebook Week

Read an Ebook Week Is Here Again!

It’s that time of year again. Smashwords has its sitewide promotion, Read an Ebook Week, running through Saturday, March 12.

It’s a great opportunity to pick up a multitude of ebooks at low cost using the in-store coupons SW provides.

For my books, pick up my memoir Connecting the Dots, novels Elsie Street and The Leaving, and my nonfiction short on ADHD and food dyes for 50% off, using code RAE50 at checkout!

Here’s a link to my profile page, where you can find the titles: 

And enjoy browsing the entire eclectic Smashwords catalog by category from the home page.

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An Aside: Louis CK on Donald Trump

donald trumpTrump is a messed-up guy with a hole in his heart that he tries to fill with money and attention. He can never ever have enough of either and he’ll never stop trying. He’s sick. Which makes him really really interesting. And he pulls you towards him, which somehow feels good or fascinatingly bad. He’s not a monster. He’s a sad man. But all this makes him horribly dangerous if he becomes president. Give him another TV show. Let him pay to put his name on buildings. But please stop voting for him.” –Louis CK on Donald Trump, 3/5/2016

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Elsie Street Will Be Deal of the Day on ARe!


Get Elsie Street for 50% off on All Romance ebooks March 2.

All Romance eBooks is an ebook platform focused on, well, romance, and to my surprise my latest novel, Elsie Street, has done quite well there as opposed to on the bigger stores like Apple and Barnes & Noble. So I was delighted when Elsie Street was chosen as ARe’s Daily Deal on Wednesday, March 2nd. Update…I checked, and the price has been reduced to $1.49 all day today!

What that means, as far as I can gather, is that customers are given the option of buying the book for 50% off at checkout. I thought I would share the good news and encourage readers who may not know about ARe to check it out. It’s a vibrant little site with its own unique look, and it’s fun for us authors because you can discount your own book/s at any time for up to two weeks. They are very LGBT-friendly as well.

(Click on the image above to get to the book page on the site!)


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Review: Lust & Wonder, A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs

Lust & Wonder is the latest memoir by Augusten Burroughs.

Lust & Wonder is the latest memoir by Augusten Burroughs.

Oscar Wilde once famously said that all women become like their mothers; that’s their tragedy. He added, “No man does. That’s his.”

Wilde was implying that all men become like their fathers. The fact is, the last book I read by Augusten Burroughs was his memoir about his disturbing, probably sociopathic father, A Wolf at the Table. Not many readers liked that book, but I did. I also believed every word—it rang true to me, though I remember at the time that several reviewers questioned it.

Burroughs has always been able to present the gruelling facts of his life in a funny way, a way that the reader will quickly swallow. It probably helps that he worked in advertising for many years. While I loved Running with Scissors and Dry, his memoir about rehab, as I’ve gotten older, I pulled away from his work a bit. I haven’t followed his personal life either. So I came to Lust & Wonder with beginner’s mind, almost. Knowing the story of his background, but not knowing what the book was going to be about.

Well, it’s a relationship memoir. And the punchline of the memoir, which I didn’t know going in, was that Burroughs married his agent, Christopher, in 2013. So it’s the memoir of a happily committed man looking back over the two dreadful relationships he had before he realized he was in love with his longtime agent, who he’d known for ten years and up until then had a platonic friendship with.

Relationship memoirs are slippery things. I’ve written one myself, and the thing is, the writer never comes out of it looking good. The trick is to make it somehow universal, so that the reader can at least nod along and say “I’ve been there.” 

The first lover Burroughs discusses before he gets sober, Mitch, is almost an afterthought, perhaps thrown in to give the book some balance. Mitch is a writer and both Burroughs and Mitch cheat on each other. The sex isn’t good, and Burroughs blames Mitch for his lack of desire, in a pattern that continues. That relationship quickly and nastily ends, though Burroughs starts writing, and he meets his longtime agent, Christopher, blond and funny, and begins to have some literary success. Then Dennis comes along: the nice, stable guy that Burroughs thinks he wants. The 9/11 events happen around this time, cementing the lovers quickly into a committed relationship. But from the beginning they barely have a sex life, as Burroughs tells it.

Sadly, while Lust & Wonder contains many funny passages and some wry wisdom, it seems very much like revisionist history. Instead of Burroughs castigating himself for not initiating a relationship with Christopher when they first met (he was attracted, but convinced himself not to go there), he lets his unfortunate long-term lover Dennis bear much of the blame for the nine-year boring relationship limbo that ensued. 

Burroughs nails Dennis on almost everything in the middle section of the book. His friends are soul-numbing:

“It’s not that I hate your friends,” I lied. “It’s that none of them seem to have any real affection for you. It’s almost like they’re generic.”

Dennis is someone that Burroughs feels safe with, though. On reflection, when I put the book down, I realized that Burroughs’s uneasy feelings towards his father must have prompted him to stay in the relationship, because Wolf at the Table describes Burroughs’s intense fear of and hatred for his dad, whose every action is ambiguous and possibly sinister, and who was certainly violently abusive to Burroughs’s mother. (His poor mother is still referred to here as “a mentally ill poet,” which seems awfully dismissive, considering what Burroughs must have learned by now about mental illness and the roots of it.)

But safety only goes so far. Dennis is passive-aggressive:

Dennis seemed to be one of those people who had decades of rage simmering below the surface, masked by a smile.

Burroughs plays his part too, simmering with fury at being judged by Dennis:

I was sober and in a relationship, and that was supposed to be better than being a drunk, but I also felt like, at least when I was a drunk alone in my apartment, I didn’t feel like my walls resented me or wished I was something other than the mess I was.

This is the crux of the issue. Burroughs is a mess of anxiety from his childhood (and even when he gets with the happy-go-lucky Christopher, the anxiety continues, I note). The problem does not seem to be with Dennis in this book, and I feel badly for Dennis, since Burroughs has not changed the first names of his boyfriends. 

There is some insight. Burroughs muses:

Perhaps we’d been not in a relationship together, after all, so much as crouching together in the same hiding space, a true limited liability partnership.

The account of the two of them finally going to therapy together (their one doomed attempt at doing so) makes me distrust Burroughs even more, for while Dennis is trying to muddle along to save the relationship—which he still doesn’t realize is completely over, since Burroughs hasn’t told him!— Burroughs simply declares that they are there to break up. It’s no wonder that the therapist, whom he rather meanly labels Joyce Carol after Joyce Carol Oates, hates him and refuses to see the couple again. He has already decided he’s madly in love with his agent though he hasn’t told Dennis, and the betrayal of that (since Dennis and Christopher are longtime friends!) is not sufficiently explored, in my opinion.

This book has quite a bit of mean humor in it. While I felt very sorry for Burroughs in his previous books about his damaged parents and his terrible, unstable childhood, I reflected while I read this book on the havoc that an unstable, insecure person can wreak in relationships. This wasn’t the intended message, was it? But it’s what came across. 

I’m sincerely glad for Burroughs that he’s happy with Christopher, but I can’t help thinking what might happen if Christopher ever starts to pull away. That seems to be the point at which demons arise in Augusten Burroughs, quite understandable demons, perhaps, considering his past. When he briefly labels Dennis as having borderline personality disorder, though, I smiled, because it was such an obvious projection of the author himself, who fits the diagnosis perfectly.

And yet this slippery, complicated person is a good writer. Here’s the biggest takeaway from the book, which he does sound sincere about:

“I know now: what is is all that matters. Not the thing you know is meant to be, not what could be, not what should be, not what ought to be, not what once was. 

Only the is.”

It’s a Zen moment in a memoir that could have used more of them.

(Lust & Wonder is currently $12.99 on Kindle (on preorder). I received an ARC from NetGalley for this review.)

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