Have you heard about the Authors Alliance? It's a new forward-looking authors trade group which first broke cover last week in Publishers Weekly, and even though it won't formally launch until later this week it is already the subject of strife.
For authors in the digital age, with an ever-broadening set of interests and goals, the Authors Guild is no longer the only game in town when it comes to advocacy. On May 21, the Authors Alliance will officially launch. Formed in the wake of the Google library litigation by University California Berkeley law professor Pamela Samuelson (among others) the Authors Alliance endeavors “to further the public interest in facilitating widespread access to works of authorship by helping authors navigate the opportunities and challenges of the digital age." It will be also be a “voice for authors in discussions about public and institutional policies that might promote or inhibit broad dissemination.”
PW interviewed one of the founder of the Authors Alliance. I think that article is worth your time to read, but for the purposes of this post I am going to skip to the juicy catfighting which has already broken out.
One The Authors Guild board member took to The AG's blog last Friday to post a "warning" about this new group. It start out with this:
If any of you earn a living as a writer, or hope to, I strongly urge you not to join the Authors Alliance. If you think authors should be the ones to decide what is done with their books, then I strongly urge you not to join.
However, if you are an academic, or scorn the idea of making a living from writing as a quest for “fame and fortune,” the Authors Alliance may be the organization for you. If you think, in our digital age, that the biggest problem facing authors is how hard it is to give your work away for free, it’s for you. If you think you’ve got too much power over people who copy and distribute your work without your permission, by all means sign up. Even if you agree with one or two things advocated by the Authors Alliance, if you join you lend weight to its entire agenda.
And it goes downhill from there.
At a time when The Authors Guild should be building bridges, trying to bolster their ranks, and making peace, they have instead chosen to take an inflammatory and divisive position that is guaranteed to alienate many people like myself who weren't happy about The Authors Guild's positions in the first place.
I had suspected that The Authors Guild would not react well if they ever faced direct competition as spokesgroup for book writers, but I didn't think they would descend into FUD quite so quickly.
Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is a tactic used in sales, marketing, public relations,politics, and propaganda.
FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information. An individual firm, for example, might use FUD to invite unfavorable opinions and speculation about a competitor's product; to increase the general estimation of switching costs among current customers; or to maintain leverage over a current business partner who could potentially become a rival.
If you think I'm wrong to call it FUD, feel free to call me out in the comments.
But after having read that post 3 times today and after looking up the founders of the Authors Alliance, I can't help but conclude that the post is slanted and conveys dubious, inaccurate, and misleading information about the Authors Alliance.
I can't think of a better word to describe that post on The Authors Guild blog than FUD. Can you?
image by Jason Hargrove