This shit’s been around, my friends. It’s been around for decades, and writers groups and others who make it their business to warn aspiring authors about scams and pitfalls have been raising flags about it all that time. The idea that that because it’s now attached to electronic publishing, that somehow makes it different (and, more to the point, better) is highly specious, to say the least.
Sprinkling the Internet on a bad business model does not magically make it a good business model. It merely means that the people who are pursuing a bad business model are hoping you are credulous enough to believe that being electronic is space-age zoomy and awesome and there is no possible way this brilliant business plan could ever fail. Or even worse, that they believe that being electronic means all these things, which means they are credulous. Which is not a very good thing to have as the basis of one’s business model.
Scalzi’s post is relevant to most kinds of creative job, not just books. Creative industries are often seen as glamorous, and that glamour often blinds people to the reality of what’s happening when money’s being discussed. How many times have you heard musicians moan about their terrible record deals, the contracts that they signed not just willingly, but happily?
you can’t blame the publisher for then taking you for every single thing they can. Because, remember, that’s their job. They don’t even need to be evil to do it; they just have to be willing to take every advantage you let them have. That’s business. This is a business negotiation.