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23 January 2013 @ 11:28 am
No Dominion  
So jemck posted over on Facebook saying:

Apparently, 20p will become the new default price for ebooks as this is what Sony are doing by way of promotion, and the books featured are gobbling up market share. Can someone remind these nitwits of the old, tried and true saying "Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity and cash is reality'?

Oh, wait, maybe this has nothing at all to do with books, readers or writers. Forcing Amazon to price match is costing Amazon millions. That reminds me of another saying. "When two elephants fight, it's the grass that suffers.'

Which made me think about NO DOMINION, which is doing pretty well in its first couple weeks of release. It's been hanging out in the top 50ish of Amazon's contemporary fantasy ratings for a fair amount of its release time. I'm hoping it'll get up to the top 20, because that's where it becomes self-sustaining for a while (if you want to mention it to your readers, the Kindle version is here... O.O), but the top 50 is very good.

Actually, it's excellent when you take into account that I released the book at full price. bryant, who is the person who suggested I try crowdfunding in the first place, said recently that he'd have suggested I set NO DOMINION at a lower, entry-level price to get up in the Amazon ranks. But since he didn't suggest it and I didn't even think of it, I didn't. I just set it at full price. Between Amazon Kindle, the print edition and the Nook edition, it's sold about 700 copies in the two weeks since it was released.

"I," Bryant said, "would have been wrong."

And so are the publishing companies. People will pay for a product as long as they can 1. get it easily*, and 2. believe it'll be worth the price.

I mean, maybe I'm missing out on millions of new readers by doing it this way, but at least I don't feel like I'm undervaluing my work.

And as Bryant also pointed out, pricing it at full price and still having the book in the top 50 or so Amazon rankings for contemporary fantasy means that the writers I'm hanging with--others in the top 50 who are at full price--are the big boys: Jim Butcher. Kim Harrison. Charlaine Harris. Kevin Hearne.

Everybody else in the top 50 right now is priced at under $5, and (without trying to sound self-aggrandizing, and indeed with the awareness that I may just not be Up enough on the latest releases), I don't know any of their names. Obviously this wouldn't be a good strategy if I was new to the field, but with my career so far, this approach seems to be working just fine.

And I really do believe that if the publishing industry wasn't running around in such a panic that there's a lot they could do to strengthen sales and break Amazon's back. (Seriously, it's like Napster happened in a separate universe from them.) They could:

- bundle an e-edition with the purchase of any print book
- release mass market and e-books first, then release the hardback several months later for collectors
- work together to create an alternate storefront to Amazon, followed by
- going in with ANYONE ELSE, Kobo or Nook or Sony whatever, to push that brand of DRM-free e-reader on the storefront
- a major advertising campaign about how books never run out of batteries/etc, featuring the new storefront, followed by
- ceasing to give Amazon deep discounts (which the publishing industry needs to do anyway, not just with Amazon)

They're coming from behind, so it would require a hell of a lot of work, but it's not impossible. And I recognize that speaking and acting as an individual, I can respond a great deal more quickly than the behemoth of the publishing industry...but at the same time, the publishing industry really is following the music industry's mistakes slavishly. Looking toward where the music industry has gone could save them time and trouble.

But wait! What about pricing? Everybody knows that people won't pay more than $.99 for content!

Well, first go up and re-read the first part of this blog about the NO DOMINION sales. Then bear in mind that a song is usually released for in the region of $.99, but if you buy every song on the album for that much, you're paying anywhere from $12-20 for the album in most cases anyway. People *will* pay full price for digital material if they think it's worth it. And I personally believe my stories are worth it, or else why would I even be doing this job in the first place?

Furthermore, it certainly appears readers also think my stories are worth it. As a rule, the only people who don't seem to be sure are the publishing industry, which is just all messed up. There are much better ways for the publishing industry to break Amazon's chokehold than cutting their own throats.

*I need to get it up via Smashwords. *sighs & adds something else to the to-do list...*
hegemony hedgehogagrimony on January 23rd, 2013 12:26 pm (UTC)
I'm a terrible person. :) I have a hard time justifying to myself paying much more than $9.99 for an ebook license outside of a couple special cases (you being one of them). I don't like paying hardcover prices for hardcover books (enough so that many a book I'd love to read goes unread for quite some time). I get downright grumpy being asked to pay close to hardcover prices for a digital book I don't even really own. (I know this makes me the kind of reader authors hate, but there it is.) :/

That said, I think the publishing industry should seriously pursue negotiating ebook rights for their back lists. There are many, many books I'd love to have in official e-format that are no longer even really available in paperback. Books I've paid for more than once in the past and would happily pay another five or so dollars per book to have on my nook.
kitmizkit on January 23rd, 2013 01:02 pm (UTC)
No, the kind of reader authors hate is the kind that pirates books. Everybody else we love. :)

I think that except with fairly extraordinary circumstances--demand for the next GRRM book, f'rex--that $9.99 is as high as an e-book should go. For GRRM, well, the demand is great, so I can understand milking it. Mostly, though, the cost of production has to happen to print the book, so I don't like folding an extra large chunk into the e-book price. Of course, except with something like ND, I have absolutely no control over that kind of thing (which I realize you know) so it hardly matters what I think. :)

I rarely buy hardbacks myself, preferring to wait too.
Eleri Hamiltoneleri on January 23rd, 2013 08:11 pm (UTC)
I'm in this category. Other than a few authors (who, pre-ebook, were the Buy In Hardback Now class), I very rarely will buy an ebook at the same price as a paper copy. If it's something I really want to read, I'll head for the library or the thrift store.

I especially won't buy an ebook priced the same as the *hardbound*, because that's just silly. In a few months that exact same ebook will be priced at the paperback rate. Hardback charges more because there's value added, there's no reason to charge more for the ebook.

I would be all over the bundled concept- one of my serious pet peeves (that encourages the hoisting of the Jolly Roger) is having to buy another copy of a book I already own, just to read it on my ereader. It's the same drama that happened when people started copying songs from CD to computer. The recording industry had to adapt, publishing will as well.
saare_snowqueensaare_snowqueen on January 23rd, 2013 12:42 pm (UTC)
I'm not crazy about e-books so don't buy them. I read them only when I have to - for work, eg. reviewing.

But, once a month or so, I pay €9.00 - €11.00 for a paperback of something that I'm interested in. I thik your suggestion to release mass-market paperbacks (or even trade paperbacks) first and then hard (or simultaneously) for the collectors is very sound.

The Bellinghmanbellinghman on January 23rd, 2013 01:03 pm (UTC)
It'd probably mean the effective end of the hardback. The current publishing model (as explained by Charlie Stross - he has a bunch of articles on publishing on his blog that are worth reading) is a reverse auction.

First up, out comes the hardback. This is for the people who just have to have the book immediately, and who are prepared to pay a premium for it. Think of this as first run cinema.

Then come the paperbacks, six months or a year later. These are cheaper, but they pick up the people who wouldn't pay the initial price. The paperback cost slightly less to produce, much less to buy, and so has a lower profit margin. Think of this as the DVD release.

And eventually, both hard and soft covers end up in Bookworld, discounted to a fraction of their cover prices. But they still sell for more than the marginal production costs. That book going for £2.99 cost maybe 50p in physical production costs. Think of this as the cheap edition DVD without the insert and no extras.

What happens if you release the paperbacks first? According to this traditional model, nobody will buy them, because they already have them in paperback.

(In practice, I suspect you will get some collectors editions, but very few of them.)
kitmizkit on January 23rd, 2013 01:06 pm (UTC)
I understand the current publishing model. I'm just not convinced reversing it would spell the end of the hardback. But nobody's likely to listen to me anyway, so it hardly matters. :)
The Bellinghmanbellinghman on January 23rd, 2013 02:12 pm (UTC)
I'm a little bemused as to why you want to delay the hardback though. I can understand the desire to have the paperbacks no later than the hardbacks, but not why you want to reverse it rather than just level it.
kitmizkit on January 23rd, 2013 02:22 pm (UTC)
Same reason they delay the paperback now. People who want to read it RIGHT NOW will buy the paperback and then the hardback if they're collectors. It might cut the hardback market down, but the flip side is that if publishers are looking at actually creating collector-style editions, they can put an even higher cover price on them, which collectors will pay.
The Bellinghmanbellinghman on January 23rd, 2013 02:43 pm (UTC)
Ah, I get you.

The interesting side effect is that books will be on sale for quite a while before you'll be able to borrow them from libraries, assuming hard covers don't almost disappear. (If they do, then the libraries are in deep trouble too.)
kitmizkit on January 23rd, 2013 02:44 pm (UTC)
Mmm. That's an excellent point, and would be disasterous.
The Bellinghmanbellinghman on January 23rd, 2013 05:19 pm (UTC)
Yah. It wasn't in my original set of considerations, but I suddenly realised that libraries are possibly a major proportion of hardback purchasers.

(I've not been addressing the rest of your points by the way because I agree with them.)
All Over The Mapjemck on January 23rd, 2013 06:08 pm (UTC)
No, actually, libraries buy very few hardbacks nowadays, as confirmed this very afternoon by Gollancz on Twitter as part of an exchange with someone who thinks he knows rather more than it's apparent he does...

There are also now specialist publishing houses who do specific hardback library editions, so this is becoming a niche market in its own right, entirely separate from the mass market.
saare_snowqueensaare_snowqueen on January 23rd, 2013 09:34 pm (UTC)
That's in the UK. Many libraries here in Estonia and Finland buy paperbacks for borrowing.
Plumfan RockwellPlumfan Rockwell on January 23rd, 2013 02:29 pm (UTC)
You once wrote a post about book pricing. At the time it was almost a think aloud on how to price some of your self-published e-books. (this was a while ago. I can't remember what was being released at the time.) You had some solid facts on publishers costs and margins, as well as some things you thought you could assume from the invoices you found in your own boxes of books.

One thing you mentioned has really stuck with me and that was the cost to the publishers to print a paperback. You said printing costs represented about 10-20% of a cover price and the cover price represented about 50% of what the publisher was paid by the bookstore. I wonder what percentage of the cover price of a hardback is printing costs.

I took from this that e-books should cost about 10% less than the printed version and I won't buy, with some rare exceptions, from print publishers that won't discount e-books. I'm not looking for a deep discount, for most of the books I would buy this amounts to $0.80-$1.60, depending on mass market or trade size.

I love the idea of a print/digital bundle. I've often told my husband, who works for a major bookstore, That I would easily pay 150% of the cover price if I got a digital edition bundled with a mass market paperback, for the books I would want to have physical copies of.
msgodiva1 on January 23rd, 2013 05:25 pm (UTC)
I wish...I dearly Wish
If I could get the e-book for $1-$2 more with the hard cover or paperback it would be Nirvana. 95% of my reading is done via the library, so for that 5% that I enjoy enough to purchase on my limited budget, I'd like to have both digital & paper. In looking at my book purchases in the past year Kickstarters make a up a rapidly growing portion. Thrilled to know the majority of that purchase price goes directly into the author's pocket.

Libraries - fruitlessly wish I could effectively boycott the publishers raking the libraries over the coals on ebooks or refusing to sell ebooks to them. Libraries are where I decide which authors to follow, read first and then prioritize my endless list.

Do you know why the first three Walker Paper books are below $6 and the next three are at the just-published price? Asking in sheer curiosity and won't be offended if you don't reply!
kitmizkit on January 23rd, 2013 05:37 pm (UTC)
Re: I wish...I dearly Wish
I do know! It's because they released the first 3 Walker Papers in mass market paperback a while back, but they haven't released any more of them, so the majority of the books are still in trade and therefore at the higher price point.
All Over The Mapjemck on January 23rd, 2013 06:11 pm (UTC)
Re: I wish...I dearly Wish
the trade paperback is a pernicious beast that the retail book trade have seen come and go and come round again when the bright sparks in marketing and accounting who thought it was a good idea last time have moved on to allegedly higher and better things and a new intake of bright sparks decide to reinvent the wheel without the benefit of the institutional memory to know that it never proves to be as good an idea as it seems...

ahem, rant over now.
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on January 23rd, 2013 05:28 pm (UTC)
I buy hardcover versions of books by my favorite authors--especially those books which I know I will probably read over and over. Often, I can get hardcovers a little cheaper from a book club (not sure what that means for the author).

I'm still not into the ebooks, so otherwise I by paperbacks, or get them from the library, or wait until I can find them on an online book swap. Either way, when I do eventually join the ebook readers, I know I won't want to pay the same price for an ebook as I do for a physical copy.

Chrysoulachrysoula on January 23rd, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
My micropress does ebooks bundled with printed books if you buy direct!

Right, okay, enough of that.

But I wanted to say, I expect one or two publishers in the next 1-2 years to experiment with selling hardcovers with a sealed code that will get the purchaser an ebook version (from a publisher-conglomerate ebook web store front). And I'm very excited about this because THEN I will go to a BOOKSTORE and BUY A BOOK! I am so excited about being able to support bookstores while getting the preferred reading medium AND getting something nice to put on my shelf, all for a buck or two more than normal hardcover!

Also, congrats on No Dominion sales. I'm delighted for you. ;-)

Oh, and also, Amazon Kindle buyers have lots of experience with 99 cent novels. Unless it's a known desired author, it's trash! The 'price at 99 cents to sell' boat was passed by the 'cheat to sell at free' boat which was sunk by KDP and now, well, might as well make enough money for the occasional cup of coffee, what hey? Because the REAL key to self-publishing success is self-promotion! Promote! Reviews! Wait, indie-accepting book bloggers are giving up because of being overwhelmed by crap? OK, I'm not sure what the next target is. Nobody ever wants to settle down and write the next book...
martianmooncrabmartianmooncrab on January 23rd, 2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
just buying an ereader is a big investment, and yes, I have paid that much money for one very collectable book, but still, paying the same price for an ebook as the print book doesnt thrill me, considering I am paying for the platform too.

Plus my Nook has an app called Books Buddy that has a selection of free and intro priced ebooks that changes out, so thats a lot of fun.
anthony_lionanthony_lion on January 24th, 2013 07:56 am (UTC)
Sony selling at .25?

I didn't know that their eBookreaders were selling that poorly...

Sony has an unfortunate history of trying to whip dead horses into performing, or even killing a good horse in order to start whipping it.

Sony insisted on deciding what was to be sold on their format. Pr0n was not accepted. (The big pr0n-companies all picked VHS, and so did their customers. The Pr0n-industry would have been happy to use BETA because of the higher quality... )

Sony's MD-players were actually pretty good. And the ATRAC-3 format has a better compression-algorithm than MP3(sound stays a bit more 'natural'), but again... They manyfactured a DATA-version of the player, that hooked up to a computer using a SCSI-interface(can't remember if a parallell-port version was available). You'd expect that you could copy music to and from it, right?
No... MD-music players only used 'MD Music' disks and wouldn't even read a 'MD Data' disk. If you stuffed a 'MD Music' disk in the DATA-version, you were allowed to edit disk and track names by way of a Win95 program...
They tried to sell it as a mass-storage, and with 150MB, it compared favourably with iOmega Zip100 and the LS120 disks, but with a read-speed similar to a 3.5" diskette...
Then came MD-HD, with 1GB on the diskette. And USB-interface in the drive... It became possible to copy ATRAC-3 tracks to and from the diskette(after a while... Not on the first MD-HD players, though.), but at that time, MP3 was already taking the world by storm, and that was all the customers asked for.
(The only ones who bought MD-HD were 'hifi enthusiasts' as it allowed them to keep an entire CD's worth of uncompressed music on a small diskette)