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New Authors Group Hasn’t Even Launched and It’s Already the Victim of FUD

4736550347_d193a8e485_b[1]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.

From PW:

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.

From Wikipedia:

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

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deb smith May 20, 2014 um 2:05 am

Take sides much?

fjtorres May 20, 2014 um 6:29 am

“Take sides! Always take sides! You will sometimes be wrong – but the man who refuses to take sides must always be wrong.”

? Robert A. Heinlein, Double Star

Valentine May 20, 2014 um 4:02 am

I don’t know, I think we should hate AA based on their salaries alone 😀

But … a little competition is good for everyone.

Caleb Mason May 20, 2014 um 6:34 am

I think of FUD as an internal tech company tool to try and keep employees from becoming complacent. This is a big challenge in an industry where one day Motorola is a superstar and a few years later passé. Managing people through bipolar highs and lows is challenging so FUD came to be. At least that was how I knew it. It was an internal mantra to keep innovating. I thought it was a necessary paranoid point of view requiring some balancing like everything else to survive through rapid change.

fjtorres May 20, 2014 um 7:12 am

FUD was perfected by IBM in the 70’s as a tool for account control to keep corporate buyers away from the "seven dwarfs" selling compatible mainframes.
The attempts coming from the Manhattan publishing mafia pale before the subtlety and effectiveness of the suits from IBM. They never said anything outright derrogatory or legally actionable but always left the corporate types feeling that buying a non-IBM mainframe was a straight trip to the unemployment line.
"Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." was the mantra that resulted.

Chris Meadows May 20, 2014 um 7:23 am

And Microsoft was famous for using FUD against its competitors in the ’90s. It was commonly used Microsoft jargon, right up there with "embrace and extend."

fjtorres May 20, 2014 um 8:32 am

They learned from the best.
FUD is most effective when it’s done subtly, talking up your positives while implying the other guy’s product is riskier.
The funny thing is, in the Window vs OS2 fight IBM lost sight of that and ended up helping Microsoft. The whole "better DOS than DOS, better WINDOWS than WINDOWS" was a godsend to the 'softies, given the RAM price-fixing going on at the time. ("Why spend $300 more on RAM just to run the same DOS and Windows programs?") By the time IBM switched gears and started promoting the native OS/2 environment, Warp was toast. And, of course, they took Word Perfect and Lotus along with them.

Chris Meadows May 20, 2014 um 7:21 am

Now, to be fair, the Authors Alliance’s board of advisers is salted liberally with copyright reform activists. I can readily imagine those less enamored of copyright reform seeing it as a thinly-veiled attempt by those activists to use authors as pawns to push their agenda.

But then, for authors who are down with that agenda, that’s probably more of a selling point than a turn-off.

fjtorres May 20, 2014 um 8:37 am

The thing is, we really don’t know what the AA is going to actually do, if they even get off the ground. Which is what the Publishers favorite Guild is worried about. Just the fact that anybody else dares say they speak for authors is a threat to their cozy little world. After all, somebody might stop paying their dues…

Caleb Mason May 20, 2014 um 8:14 am

Great to learn more about FUD. "Embrace and extend" must have been during the early kinky years of Microsoft. The language of corporate speak never ceases to amaze!

Brian O’Leary May 20, 2014 um 9:29 am

Launching with an all-Berkeley board made the Alliance a somewhat easy target for the Authors Guild, but you’re right to call the Guild out on its wholly predictable response. The mess about how much each of the board members is paid is pretty vile: the figures listed are their salaries for teaching in the UC system, not how much they are being paid by the Alliance. If the implication is that high salaries make people less sensitive to the needs of authors, perhaps the Authors Guild could tell us how much they are paying Paul Aiken to rail against piracy and sue Google.

Valentine May 20, 2014 um 10:12 am

The salary jab was pretty obvious, and I’m surprised they actually put up a link to verify those numbers, because there were no sources listed for the other "info".

Greg Strandberg May 20, 2014 um 11:41 am

I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t see how organizations like this can help me. Aren’t they more concerned with me helping them? I guess it’s obvious I never went to business school.

fjtorres May 20, 2014 um 11:48 am

At best, they are a lobbying group.
Key question is: do they lobby for things that help you. In recent times, the guild has lobbyied for… questionable… things.

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