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» 2012 » November Brian Farrey Books

An Open Letter to Tim Ferriss

Hi Tim,

I was more than a little…. oh, let’s say surprised, to read this story about you.

Look, here’s the thing. A LOT of books don’t get picked up by Barnes and Noble. Books from Big Six Five publishers. Books from small houses. Books from medium houses. A LOT. It’s not because they’re bad books. It’s not because Barnes and Noble finds them objectionable. It’s because they simply can’t carry every one of the thousands of titles released every year. It’s not possible. They can offer it through their website. They can special order it if a customer requests it. But they can’t stock all books.

My new book, THE VENGEKEEP PROPHECIES, was skipped by B&N. I don’t know why.* They skipped it long before I started getting the pretty decent reviews I’ve been getting. Not that those would have changed (or will change) their mind. Yeah, it stinks. It frustrated me to no end. It made my poor husband positively apoplectic. But, see, as upset as I was, I understood. I’m an editor. I’ve been faced with the unpleasant task of telling some of my authors that B&N skipped their books. And when you hear that, it’s an awful, sucky feeling that—for reasons I still can’t quite pin down—does a number on your sense of self-worth. Even though I am in full possession of the mathematics that explain to me how impossible it is to carry every book presented to them.

And what gets to me is: you know that too. You understand that. And I find that offensive. I find it revolting that you hide behind a very serious topic—censorship—when you know the exact reason your book isn’t being carried. And it has nothing to do with censorship. I get it. You’re a New York Times Bestselling author. It should have been a no brainer for B&N to carry your book. They (along with nearly every indie bookseller in the nation) turned their back on thousands of potential sales. Not because they’re trying to keep you from the public. But because you chose to publish with someone they see as a direct competitor and a serious threat to what they do.

I’m not here to argue the future of publishing. I’m not here to condemn Amazon for allegedly predatory practices or vaunt traditional publishing. Someone with your apparent savvy, I’m sure, knew that making the choice you made would come with consequences. I’d be really surprised if Amazon and/or your agent didn’t at least discuss with you the idea that your book might ONLY be available through Amazon. You knew what you were getting into. You made your choice.

Now, instead of living with it, you’re pretending to be the wounded party. Worst of all, you’re suggesting it’s censorship. A bookstore choosing not to carry a book is no more censorship than a publisher who chooses not to publish a book. Censorship comes into play when government tries to restrict access to information. They crack down and make it impossible to get the information. It’s not impossible to get your book. And in a digital age, I can’t even say it’s still not relatively easy to get your book. You aren’t being censored. You’re not being banned. Put another way, if McDonald’s chose to carry Pepsi over Coke, they’re not censoring Coke. They’re not “banning” it. They’re making a business choice.

But I don’t need to explain this to you. YOU KNOW THIS. You’re just hoping your readers don’t. You want to pull the wool over the eyes of people who’ve turned their hard earned money over to you many times before. A lot of writers work really hard to get recognized, only to find the odds against them when B&N says ‘no.’ You’re disrespectful of those writers when you try to make yourself a special case and when you try to make it seem like something it’s clearly not. (To say nothing of the writers who have been TRULY repressed. THAT’S the truest, deepest insult your publicity stunt has wrought. And, you know what? Not ONE of them was censored because they wrote a cookbook.) A lot of writers who publish with houses that have done nothing to offend B&N won’t see their work on the store’s shelves. And that’s painful. But in the end, they suck it up.

I suggest you do the same and stop claiming to be something you’re not.


*=This is the first time I’ve publicly mentioned this, although it’s been true for over a month now. Please note that at no point, upon learning this, did I kvetch, rant, whine, or play the victim. And as someone who has never enjoyed so much as a minute on any bestseller list, I think I’ve got more cause to do so than you.  But I didn’t. Just sayin’.


Published in: on November 16, 2012 at 7:37 pm  Comments (2)