ScroogeE-books and e-readers have become so popular so quickly that it is hard now to remember now that we were all happily paying $25 or more for a book not so long ago. Amazon’s Kindle in particular has been responsible for bringing the e-book to market, but e-book prices have lowered the value of a book by so much, the returns for authors and publishers are diminishing rapidly by the day.

Yes, one can argue that e-books sell in greater volumes, but I completely disagree with this. E-book sales have replaced traditional book sales, and at great cost. This is proven by the financial hardship that has been felt by bookstores. Border’s bankruptcy is a good example of how serious the effect has been.

There is just no way that $25 or more can be replaced by $2.99, $0.99 or even free and expect that returns will stay the same. This financial pain is being felt by all the major publishers, and all the way down to independent or self published authors. The cost of producing an e-book though is not cheap. It’s fair to say that a physical book needed to be printed, but the printing cost of a book has always been very cheap. Around $2 per copy for a paperback. So at $25 there was plenty of margin.

The real expense however, is in editing, formatting, cover design, promotion and advertising. For the big publishers, this could amount to $10,000 or more per book. Even for a self published author this can run into thousands of dollars. Yet, even the big names in publishing cannot get more that $7 or $8 for an e-book. For the independents, $2.99 is about as higher a price as the market will pay. Take out the online retailer’s cut and it’s a long road to a return on investment.

Unfortunately though, selling e-books even at these prices is becoming more difficult as $0.99 and free e-books are really where the sales action is. With Amazon’s two tiered pricing model that returns 33% on a $0.99 sale, but 70% on a sale price of $2.99 and above, the choice is difficult for a publisher or author. But either way, it takes a very long time and a lot of sales to break even on the costs involved in preparing a book for sale.

So, the simple answer is not to spend so much on preparing a book. At $0.99 and a return of $0.33 per book sale, how many e-books need top be sold just to recover the editing costs of say around $1,000 alone? So the solution is simple. Don’t spend money on preparing a masterpiece.

However, book buyers still expect the same quality as they were getting when they were paying $25. I hear many complaints from readers about errors, typos and poor formatting in ebooks they read. I have seen these errors for myself in e-books I have purchased from major publishers as well as independents. One aspect of e-books that is overlooked by many is that there are so many different e-book file types and formats, that no matter how careful the preparation, errors will occur simply due to file conversion. It is impossible to prepare an e-book, even in the just the eight most popular formats, and attain error free files unless a lot of time and money is spent.

As an example, the last book I published on Smashwords took more than six weeks of very hard work to get all the file types approved for publication. And I don’t expect even after all this work that all the files are perfect.

So dear readers, get used to it. Welcome to the new ‘el cheapo’ e-book market. What did you expect for $0.99? $25 quality?

And as an aside, the reader (shall remain nameless) who boasted of downloading 70 free e-books and then loudly complaining the the quality of the books was awful, is a good example of the market today. Did you really expect expensive $25 perfection for free?



So What Did You Expect For 99c?
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41 thoughts on “So What Did You Expect For 99c?

  • 05/09/2011 at 4:01 pm

    Sadly Derek, I fear this is the way literature is heading these days. In fifty years from now I wonder which works will be poured over by the hungry reader, the E-book version or the physical kind?

    As always, the greatest financial losers in this whole sorry saga are the writers.

    The ‘big six’ will survive somehow – they always do. More and more book outlets will fall by the roadside as Borders have done. Amazon is busy devouring The Book Depository as I write.

    With cheap prices come cheap and cheerful products. You get what you pay for. If you want a Rolls Royce you have to pay dearly for it. The trouble is that these days what publisher can afford to turn out a Rolls Royce quality product and survive?


  • 05/09/2011 at 8:34 pm

    While I can certainly understand the sentiments expressed in the post, I must disagree with the idea that bookstores, specifically Amazon, but also in general, are suffering primarily because of ebooks. I have a used bookstore down the street that is thriving because they don’t overprice their books. Borders was doomed from the minute it decided to invest in selling DVDs and Music, by overpricing everything at least 30% above the competition. I can get most of my Scifi NYT Best Seller list books from our used bookstore for 2.99 to 5.99, or I could go to B&N and pay 8.99 to 12.99 for the same paperback.

    As to the problems faced as more authors are published, the simple fact is that if your writing is really THAT bad, no one will buy your books. I think the idea that putting out free books somehow undermines trad authors is insane. I read Raymond Feist and S. M. Stirling because they write great novels and some free drivel pumped out over Amazon won’t make me simply stop buying books by great authors. I think people need to really look at the way trad publishers and distributors are going about their business plans before placing the blame in the laps of indie authors.

  • 05/09/2011 at 8:36 pm

    Oops, there’s our example of needing to edit. Please replace Amazon with Borders, my writing will probably make more sense. Sorry All :)

  • 05/09/2011 at 8:53 pm

    I completely agree with this and oddly, unlike the mp3 player and the demise of CDs, tapes, and the record store, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ebook doesn’t last. For that reason alone, I think the dream of a cheap, $25 book is going to ruin the ideal of a nook…or maybe I’m an idealist who still loves to go to the library and buying new books (real kind)…

  • 05/09/2011 at 9:19 pm

    Being in the business of books, I think you will find most authors are happy with their ROI on self-published books, even with the out of pocket costs involved. With the “Big 6” publishers they average ROI for the author is about 7.5% according to most information published out there. Self-publishing offers a much higher ROI even when the book is at a lower cost.

    There are plenty of us “double dippers” out there that buy both print and e-format, depending upon on our love for the book and author. “Do I want it on the shelf? Is there a chance of getting it signed?”

    In this day and age of technology and convenience, we might as well face the fact that e-books and e-readers are here to stay.

  • 05/09/2011 at 10:15 pm

    I must be buying the wrong new releases because I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve bought on Kindle that were priced at $2.99 or lower. And most of those were novellas/short stories. Generally, the prices I’m paying are $7.99 to $10.99 and a lot of new releases are being priced directly from the publisher. (I’ve actually paid more for a Kindle release than the hardcover a few times in the last several months.) So, maybe I’m the exception to prove the rule, but I disagree with the facts as you present them. Browsing around the Kindle Store, most of the books in that price range are NOT new releases. (In fact, a good deal of them are public domain!

    I also debate the pricing as you state it. I try to give my business to independent bookstores when I can, which means paying a higher price than the average Amazon buyer. But $25 for a paperback seems a bit inflated for an average book price. I have a hard time spending that much on a hardcover and I’m generally not one of those readers who will wait a year for the mmpb to come out to read my favorite author’s newest release.

  • 06/09/2011 at 12:12 am

    as a writer of one 99 cent erotic short story and one free short story. i would agree that the quality of my own work is far less than you would expect from something that you find in a barnes and noble for 25 bucks. I got d’s in english, but I love telling stories.

    I believe the future of e books will be some kind of seal of approval that readers will respect. The reality is you should be able to edit and prepare a book for far less than 10,000 and the e format allows the book to remain on the shelf indefinitely. I suspect in the near future we will see consistent quality literature being produced for $2.99 with the money being shared between the author and the publishers at a fair rate.

    the e book revolution will be messy but the big houses will survive because they have something the independents don’t and that is trust with their readers. people will pay a little more for a book they know is going to at least follow the basic rules of grammar and provide something an editor deemed worthy of sharing.

  • 06/09/2011 at 4:04 am

    Here’s how I fund the production of my books, both print and ebook: I offer Kickstarter-like pre-sale packages. The first time I did it was before Kickstarter existed. I didn’t have to put out a dime of my own to make the book. About 50 fans, only two of them actual “real life” friends of mine, bought $2500 worth of pre-sales which completely funded the professional editing and production of the book. I think I’ve told that story here, so I’ll refrain; if I haven’t, ping me and I’ll tell you how I did it.

    My novels sell for $4.95 and if I lower the price sales come to an abrupt halt. Everything else in my catalog is much shorter, less professionally designed but still acceptable, and is 99 cents. I agree; you can’t expect perfection for 99 cents, which is why I charge $4.95 for the better-packaged book.

    As far as who’s going to survive this: People who put out stuff readers want are going to survive. If you’re an independent writer, you have to be willing to invest both time and money–and come up with creative ways to raise the money you need if you don’t have it.

    I honestly don’t think a lot of readers pay attention to who the publisher is. Ask your friends who their favorite authors’ publishers are. I would bet the vast majority of them have no idea, unless you’re talking about very tightly niched writers like the Harlequin and Baen Books stables.

    Readers look at the cover, read the blurb, look at the general tenor of reviews and if they think it looks promising, download a sample. If the sample’s crap or doesn’t appeal, that’s that. If it’s what they want to read, they buy the whole book.

    Tomorrow I start the pre-sale for the next book. Here’s hopin’. :)

  • 06/09/2011 at 8:43 am

    Yes, readers expect good quality at $.99, mainly because the author is in charge of the price. I think the mentality of authors needs to change with regard to the quality of work they put out.

    An eBook priced at “free” is a promotional product. It should be a sample of your best work, not a throwaway essay. Yes, the cheap readers who would never drop a dime on anything will also not come off any money for your backlist. They probably won’t leave great reviews either. They aren’t your market.

    Most of your customers just want a high quality sample. Not 20%. They want a full book. Loyal readers will buy, again and again. The process has changed, as have readers, most of whom were not readers before the Kindle gave them access to books on demand.

    I don’t think a burgeoning customer base qualifies as the sign of an industry in decline. People are reading, and on more devices than ever before.

    Borders went under because they were a poorly run business, as a whole. I never wanted to linger in any of the stores in my area, or the ones I visited abroad. Their’s was an idea whose time was done.

    As to people who happily paid $25 or more for a book, those people are probably still paying those prices. They are double dippers, of which I am one. Amazon’s lending options are still quite restrictive, and until they solve that issue, I’m stuck with buying a hard copy for lending purposes.

    I have not many people who gladly parted with money at that price point, unless it was a compilation, a coffee table book, or a thick, graphic novel.

  • 06/09/2011 at 9:17 am

    Thank for all your comments. Clearly this is a topic open to a number of views. I should point out though that I was referring to full length novels in my post. Ebook novellas or say, works of less that 40,000 words logically have a different price structure.

    For a book of 100 -140,000 words I truly do believe that current ebook prices undervalue the author’s work and this is now flowing onto paperback and hard cover prices.

    I took a quick glance at Amazon’s bestseller list this morning, and there were a number of books originally listed at around $20 -$25, but many have been discounted by as much as 50%.

    There is no doubt in my mind that ebook pricing has adversely affected printed book sales and prices and although this is a great deal for readers at present, the future looks very uncertain for publishers and writers.

    • 06/09/2011 at 9:44 am

      I think, Derek, that this should simply be considered the era of McBooks, more strongly than it had ever been before. I wish personally that I could write something that I can consider worthy of other people’s time, and sadly I was disappointed in the first manuscript of my only book so far after completing it. I don’t expect that one could easily make writing count anymore without a real push of money, effort, and most importantly, good inspiration. However, amongst the throngs of people competing to try to make something, at least a few out there have certainly the chops to do it, so I’m not unhappy really.

  • 06/09/2011 at 9:35 am

    I can’t agree with your downbeat views.

    I sell my two books for $99 each; I’ve sold over 43,000 copies in the last year and am very happy with the money I’ve made – more than the advance a publisher would have offered, had any publisher wanted my novels.

    I used beta readers, did my own editing, proofreading and formatting to a professional standard, and learned how to use Adobe Photoshop 7 to design my covers. Formatting for Kindle takes me about a day (you can read my method on my blog).

    My readers seem pretty happy, too, and they are the new gatekeepers. Carelessly-presented work is unlikely to do well on Amazon, however cheap it is.

    If you don’t believe me, why not read one of my books? It’ll cost you less than a dollar.

    Lexi Revellian

  • 06/09/2011 at 2:01 pm

    Hear, hear! Great post, Derek, with only one thing that is missing for me – the hours and hours and hours of author work that it takes to write the book in the first place. Unless we writers are a charity, or it’s just a hobby, then that’s something else that needs factoring in to the equation.

  • 06/09/2011 at 3:19 pm

    Claire, I really think that you may be right in saying that we could be writing for charity. No matter which way you look at it, unless you are in the top 0.2% of authors, your hourly rate is probably less than than that of a street sweeper. And only if you’re lucky!

    But we continue because we love writing.

    However, I do think it is bordering on exploitation when an online distributor can now make a killing out of my months of work by simply delivering a small file wirelessly.

    I’ll cover this new form of profiteering in a post in the coming weeks.

  • 06/09/2011 at 7:20 pm

    With the advent of self-publishing and eBooks there is a rise in the number of published works available. As a writer and a book reviewer I am of the belief that demand and desire will phase out quite a few not so good works. Those who endure will improve their craft and will develop their own following.
    As far as the publishing companies and book stores are concerned they will either make the proper adjustments to compete or go the way of Borders. One of their biggest problems, my opinion, is their introduction of new authors or lack there of. The old adage “where there is a will there is a way” is true. A writer who wants to get his or her book out will do so. It was not a problem when the only solution we had was the “vanity press” now with POD’s and eBooks the dynamics of publishing and selling books has changed.
    By the same token authors need to re-evaluate themselves. No longer can you take your readers for granted. Every 99cent book is not a bad book, I have read quite a few free and less than $5 books from unknown authors and would gladly pay for another. Every author who sells his book for less than a dollar is not looking for big profits.
    The book market is changing and every one needs to evaluate how he or she approaches it.

  • 06/09/2011 at 8:17 pm

    I’m going to stick my neck on the sexist chopping block now. And probably have it chopped off in an instant. But it comes from reading this blog post today about a $0.99 bestseller.

    How to be a Chartbuster on the Kindle Store (An Interview With Angela White – Author of The Survivors) | The Official BookBuzzr Blog

    One line in the interview caught my attention.

    ‘You’ll find a bit of romance and drama, surrounded by horror and fantasy. Perfect for a chilly evening’s pleasure. For a little while, the “Real world” won’t exist. My word on that. I’ll give you what you came for.’

    But who wants the real world to become non-existent for an evening? Not me.

    Then I went of on a hunt. As I have a large number of followers on Twitter, I started looking at the proportion of ‘authors’ on my list, and what gender they were and genre they were writing. Then with my interest fired, I also went in hunt of reviewers and book bloggers.

    My conclusion. Publishing and now self publishing is a ‘women thing’. Of a search of the last 5,000 followers I have, and only counting those who describe themselves as authors, novelists or writers, women writers outnumber men by at least 10 to 1. And then looking at the genres, romance, urban fantasy and paranormal reigned supreme amongst the lady writers. The surprising discovery was that almost without exception, the erotic and self confessed ‘smut’ writers were all women. As for the reviewers and book bloggers. 100% women and young girls.

    The men? Sci-fi, How to’s, detective, espionage and historical drama. And no book bloggers I could find.

    I know I’ll be pilloried for this, but I recall reading Amanda Hocking well before she was signed up my her New York publishers. Her writing was awful. Full of grammatical errors and horrid spelling. But she hit the right market. Young, female, SAHM, bored and with her form of chick-lit, she found a ready market of those looking for an escape from their reality. And didn’t care about the spelling. Or worse, didn’t even notice it.

    Not satisfied, I then went on a hunt for authors on Twitter who note in their profile that they are ‘repped’ by a literary agent. Bingo, 100% women again. 90% or so writing the well drilled ‘romance and fantasy’ label. So lit agents know where the money is then!

    So my conclusion? Barbara Cartland has resurrected and is now publishing at a bargain price under thousands of new names for $0.99.

    I’m about to start writing under pseudonym. Please be on the look out for Becky Rabid. Coming soon to Amazon with very cheap romantic and paranormal escapism.

    • 08/09/2011 at 7:10 pm

      As a male writer of smut, i have to disagree with you that most of the smut writers are women. Carl East was momentarily famous for being at the top of the apple bookstore with his smut before they changed the rules on what counted as a best seller. There is a belief that women are better at smut and romance and a number of males write under a female name for that reason.

      Grammar and spelling both areas of extreme weakness for myself are an important ingredient in good story telling but a lot of us who sell in the 99 cent market are doing so because we are learning, You may not realize this but there is very little feedback on a 99 cent story. People don’t even review them so new authors often have no clue as to what is wrong with their stories.

  • 06/09/2011 at 9:16 pm

    “The men? Sci-fi, How to’s, detective, espionage and historical drama. And no book bloggers I could find.”
    What a depressing thought.

    • 08/09/2011 at 7:03 pm

      Well then, it looks like male book blogging may be a good niche in which to fit my own blog. Seems to be a dearth of such out there.

  • 06/09/2011 at 9:36 pm

    Lexi Revellian makes a good point. Her books probably do well because they show a degree of quality on par with those produced by larger publishers. But I fear she is one of the exceptions to the rule. Her sales speak for themselves. But on the average, most self-published books sell fewer than 100 copies and fall into the category that Derek outlined in his excellent post. Self-publishing has the potential to be a game changer, but with the incredible amount of drek available for $0.99 and above, coupled with the fact that we are still in something of a shake-down period, I think it will be more of a game modifier. And while I hope more writers will follow the lead of Ms. Revellian and offer top quality work for the money (regardless of the price), I fear such will not be the case.

  • 06/09/2011 at 10:14 pm

    Having just attended a couple of different book conferences I find that many NY published authors are also going the self-pub route because there is no limit as to how fast they can turn out work. Do they already have a following? Yes, most likely they do. And quality should not suffer. We copy edit and format to the highest degree of perfection for authors and charge a minimal amount for that. Why? Because we love books. We are not dependent on this sideline business, we offered it because there was a need and so far, I have had no complaints as to quality in the formatting. Be it a $0.99 book or a $9.99 book.

    I like to believe that thanks to the advent of being able to try books at a lesser investment means more people are buying more books. Are women leading this charge? Yes. But the reason is most likely because women have always led the charge in buying and reading books. Take a stroll through the book shelves of your local supermarket and compare how many are geared toward women and how many are geared toward men. It is no less skewed in print as it is in e-format.

    And yes, many of us women read How to’s, espionage, detective and just about every other genre out there.

    Here’s to the success of every author no matter how they publish!

  • 07/09/2011 at 9:10 am

    Thanks for your comments Christine. A great overview of where the industry is going. I wonder though, if there will be a change of focus by agents and publishers now.

    Instead of sticking firmly to the old query and slush pile approach, will they start looking for self published authors with a track record of sales to contact? The Amanda Hocking case is a classic example I suppose.

    Or will it be the other way around with established authors walking away from their agents and becoming self published?

  • 08/09/2011 at 5:31 pm

    There is no excuse for typos, horrible grammar and complete lack of editing – regardless of price. When I read a 99 cent e-book I don’t expect the professional editing found in e-books from the big publishing houses. But I do expect the author/publisher to have enough respect for their craft to do the best self-editing and proofreading they possibly can.

    As a self-published author, it’s frustrating to see the slipshod quality of many 99 cent books – it reflects poorly on ALL books in that price range. Sooner or later, book buyers will rebel against 99 cent books because the quality is so inconsistent – and that is bad for all of us.

    • 08/09/2011 at 6:00 pm

      Too true James. Self-editing is very difficult and painstakingly slow. For many indie authors, paying for professional editing is simply too expensive, so doing themselves or with the help of friends is often the only logical way. It can be done, but it is hard work.

      However, there are some writers who may be able to fashion a story, but have no idea of the difference between its and it’s, their and there and your and you’re. This makes the book impossible to read. So in these cases, the writer should really seek professional editing as their book can only become an embarrassment.

      Another point that has begun to annoy me about 99c ebooks is that Amazon in particular never include a word count. There is a big difference between a book of 120,000 words and a 10,000 word short story. No matter how well written, I don’t particularly like short stories being passed of as books.

      • 08/09/2011 at 6:50 pm

        The things you mentioned above, Derek, are one of the reasons I started working as a freelance editor. It drives me insane to see “it’s” when it should be “its” or my favorite, “hoping” when it should have been “hopping”. I try to offer reasonable rates, because I know how tight money is for everyone. Trust me, as the mother of a teenager, I totally understand the money situation.

        I also agree about the word count. If I am going to pay for an ebook, it would be nice to know how many words (or pages) I’m paying for. I go by the adage “More bang for the buck”. Lots of pages for a reasonable price? I’m hooked!

  • 08/09/2011 at 5:54 pm

    Love your rant <3 Save the books from e-books

    • 08/09/2011 at 6:02 pm

      I think some people tried to do their bit today in fact Misty. I just notice a few sales come through of my REAL books. You know, the ones made with paper and a pretty cover. :)

  • 08/09/2011 at 6:13 pm

    E-books are still so new everyone is rushing to get out there and then try to figure out what a good price is. No one knows yet, which has been the truth since the beginning of publishing: no one knows what will sell.

    Formatting still has a ways to go as well as everyone learns what does and doesn’t work. With several different platforms available few people can test on each one.

    At 2.99 with a 70% return and sales of tens or hundreds of thosands, you can recoup your money quite easily. If your book catches on. It takes a lot of hard work to get lucky.

    Why does it cost a big publisher $10,000 to get a book to published? Authors are paying for big salaries, big offices and expensive lunch dates. If publishers expect to compete they need to chabge the way they do business. I can give 90+% of my sales to someone else or I can spend a few thousand and keep all the money. It’s a gamble on my end, but a calculated one. Even a so-so good ebook can bring in money.

    Books have always been a woman thing (see data: romance paperbacks sold). E-books more so. More women own e-readers, whereas more men own tablets and cell phones. So women writer’s have to go where their market is.

    • 08/09/2011 at 8:20 pm

      Asrai, I think you have outlined the current publishing dilemmas perfectly. You have encapsulated the situation very well.

      The one point I would really like to pick up from your comments is in regard to ebook formats. From hard and frustrating experience, it is just not an area an author or small publisher should have to spend so much time in trying to comply to with. I have tried and tried, but no matter how much work I put into it, there are always one or two formats that just refuse to behave. After all, it’s only text! It drives me crazy. In fact, I have one or two books on Smashwords that are not available in certain formats because I gave up after months of frustration.

  • 08/09/2011 at 6:54 pm

    There is a simple enough solution for a lot of these issues and that is this: one universal format for ebooks. There shouldn’t be eight different formats. There should only be one. If the major players (like Amazon) would get on board with this, the problem would be solved. Why should I have to buy a Kindle to order from Amazon? Answer: I shouldn’t. The book industry needs to go with a single format, much the same way as the music industry has with MP3. Buy an ereader of your choice and shop where you like.

    I think we’re heading that way eventually (it seems that most ereaders are leaning toward EPUB), but I don’t think the likes of Amazon will go along with it without a little kicking and screaming. But I do think it will happen. Authors and publishers having to format a book eight different ways is simply ridiculous…

    • 08/09/2011 at 8:23 pm

      Unfortunately Derek, Amazon and Apple and alike just love their closed markets with their own file types. I can see no change on the horizon. One can hope, but don’t hold your breathe as Apple still insist on using ACC while then rest of the world uses MP3 for music files.

  • 11/09/2011 at 8:46 pm

    Meh. I love ebooks. I don’t care if the “quality” is worse, I care for the information inside of them. I know when I get an ebook. I just want the words.

    I’m thankful my parents gave me an ereader last Christmas. Because of the economic hardship I’m going through, and I don’t have a car during the day because husband is working 12 hours a day, the only way I’ve been able to access information or books is through my computer. And I’ve been downloading a lot of books through my public library’s website, project gutenberg, etc. which has been awesome. I’ve also purchased a couple books through different author websites and paid them the 3 bucks directly to their paypal for the book.

    And with regards to Borders: Borders failed because Borders didn’t choose to adapt to the new markets early enough, in the same way Blockbuster made poor decisions when Netflix came on to the scene

    Also, ebooks seem to be replacing paperback sales the most. People are still buying hard cover books. (People who were buying paperbacks weren’t paying for “quality” either). So it appears, that if someone really wants a book for their physical collection, they are going out and still purchasing the hardback.

    As for the quality being crappy, the technology is still new. And with technology, it tends to improve over time. The truth is, ebooks are here to stay. Publishers, authors, and bookstores need to figure out how to adapt, or fail.

    It’s a challenge, and I understand it can be annoying if readers complain about “quality” after paying a buck (shut up people), but trying to convince people to stop buying ebooks by guilting them into thinking they’re responsible for the downfall of all-that-is-good is not the answer.

  • 12/09/2011 at 8:36 am

    It is sad, Mr. Haines, indeed. I don’t see any better in the future. If they’ll increase the price again, it’ll be for the “publishers”, not for the writers’ benefits.

  • 12/09/2011 at 8:43 am

    I just wanted to express my approval for every word you say here, :). But I remember a paperback was around $9 in USA and they’re £7 in UK. Not all e-books are cheap, either. Good luck, with your good work, Sir.

  • 19/09/2011 at 11:07 pm

    Will – you say – “While I can certainly understand the sentiments expressed in the post, I must disagree with the idea that bookstores, specifically Amazon, but also in general, are suffering primarily because of ebooks. I have a used bookstore down the street that is thriving because they don’t overprice their books. Borders was doomed from the minute it decided to invest in selling DVDs and Music, by overpricing everything at least 30% above the competition. I can get most of my Scifi NYT Best Seller list books from our used bookstore for 2.99 to 5.99, or I could go to B&N and pay 8.99 to 12.99 for the same paperback.”

    WHEN YOU BUY IT FROM B&N YOU BUY IT NEW, NOT USED. The tiny – oh, inconsequential, even! – difference here is that when you buy the book NEW from B&N or even from Amazon, the author gets SOMETHING from that sale, even if it’s just a few measly cents per copy. When you buy the same book in a used store emproium, the writers gets nothing. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. And while I adore used bookstores and patronised them myself I do not do so exclusively, nor do I do so because I think new books are “overpriced” – it’s just that some books go out of print or stuff like that and can only be found in second-hand copies somewhere.

    But the point is that if you keep taking your money to the “cheap” places… eventually you run out of writers to produce the new stuff that you need to replace the older stuff that you find in the used book stores. Because those writers needed to eat and to keep a roof over their heads, somehow, and your buying all their books used – well – thank you for being a fan but your actions did not support your favourite writer, feed their children, feed their cat.

    It’s been said over and over again and still somehow it doesn’t sink in. Why is it that people don’t value the WRITING? Good writing is worth paying for, to keep it going, to keep it alive. Otherwise just stop complaining when all you get is an ocean of mediocrity and people who are only willing to give away work for free because they know that’s exactly how much it is worth.

  • 20/01/2012 at 11:37 pm

    IndieBookList said : “Most of your customers just want a high quality sample. Not 20%. They want a full book. Loyal readers will buy, again and again.”

    Well, they’re NOT going to get a full book. Period. When you get samples of Hot Pockets at the market or store they don’t give you the WHOLE friggin’ Hot Pocket, they give you a slice! When you go to Ben & Jerry’s and get a sample they don’t give you an ‘effin’ GALLON of ice cream for you to ‘sample’! What has gotten into you for you to expect writers to give you entire free books as samples when 15-20 pages is what a sample is???

    Oh wait, I forgot: it’s dumbass self published writers who have trained these people to expect books for nothing (and then keep denying it). I strongly predict that the majority (98%) of self published writers will not be able to earn more than 99 cents and will have to give their work away for free because people will refuse to apy for it. Instead of being more consolidated and caring about self publishing as a viable income source for present & future writers, they are only thinking about themselves.

    This will come back to bite them if it hasn’t already. This entire subject has me livid, Derek. Really it does.

    • 21/01/2012 at 9:12 am

      I agree with much of what you say IndieBookList.

      Yes, many Indie authors are now of the mind that being read is more important than selling ebooks. However, I wouldn’t blame them entirely for the current state of ebook pricing.

      As we have now seen with Amazon’s recent KDP Select initiative, the online providers of ebooks are the ones who initiated free and cheap ebooks to support sales of their own proprietary devices. i.e. Kindle. Free and 99c ebooks where the initiative of corporations, not authors.

      It is worth remembering that before the advent of ebook distribution, self published authors were doing nicely using POD and selling paperbacks. With no silly cheap prices.

  • 21/01/2012 at 12:42 am

    Derek, I’m one of the women in your twitter survey and I write sci-fi (with a love story attached – but not romance) that I hope makes the reader think. I definitely don’t want to be Barbara Cartland and will never offer cheap romantic or paranormal escapism.

    To the writer just above – re samples. I don’t know who you are, but “here, here!”

  • 31/01/2012 at 12:49 am


    I’ve just had to pick myself off the ground (having read your post and fallen off my chair laughing).

    I think you must be me.

    There is a fear factor – no let me correct myself – a TERROR factor about the eBook publishing industry, and writers who are desperate will probably pay you now to excavate their insides – if you will only read their book.

    As a very new online ebook publisher we’re trying to balance it out so that writers value themselves a little more, but this stranglehold of fear is so crippling that… someone find me the polite words please.

    Last night I spent sometime looking at the smashwords top 100 sellers? Guess what? 80-90% of them were free. And guess guess what? 80-90% of them were – ahem – erotica. Not there’s nothing at all wrong with a little slap and tickle (even tried my hand at some this year, no pun intended ) – but 90%…? Really?

    Now WHOEVER could be downloading these literary gems, we ask? Are writers so very desperate that they’ll give away free wahoo guides just to say they’ve made a sale? Unfortunately yes. And with Amazon”s Borg like growth, and even despite Smashwords Matrix formatting code, there still very few Seven of Nines in the mix.

    And now that I’ve used up half my sci-fi metaphors, I’m off to find a Ben and Jerry’s on the quest for a whole gallon of free icecream!

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