Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Yo, Publishers! I Gots An Idea! Yo!


Dear Mr. Big-Wig Publisher,

I know you're stressing out. The whole publishing industry is crumbling around your shoulders. Indie authors are taking over the world and causing volcanic tremors and tsunamis and stuff. Digital books are destroying the age-old, fine tradition of killing trees to make reading material. Agents can't afford their Mercedes payments. And books with fake BDSM themes have surpassed the bible as "BEST BOOK OF ALL-TIME."

Yes, it does sort of seem like the publishing apocalypse is upon us. Thank God we still have big, national-chain bookstores doing well. Haaaaa! Just kidding about that. Yo!

Anyway, I have an idea. Maybe you could take a little tip from some of the indie authors who are pricing their books cheap. Like, $3 and under. I know. I know. You gotta make a living, and so does your art department, and publicity department, and you have your country club dues. I get it. But seriously, give this a try. In particular, it would REALLY HELP OUT YOUR DEBUT AUTHORS WHO ARE TOTALLY GETTING SHAFTED.

So maybe this isn't working so great...

1. You have a debut author with her new release.

2. No one has ever heard of her or read her stuff.

3. You price the book at $8-$10.

4. Folks are all...."YO! I ain't spending 10 bucks on some new unknown author I never read before when I can go get a whole boat-load of books for $1. YO!"

5. New author gets more or less no publicity, has mediocre sales, and no one wins. Not the author, not the reader, not the publisher.

Here's another idea....

1. You have a debut author with her new release.

2. No one has ever heard of her or read her stuff.

3. As a cool, totally hip, happening promo idea, you price the newbie book at $1.99 for a SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL OFFER! To introduce this new writer.

4. Your publishing company looks totally cool because it's offering readers a fabulous deal. Your author is super pumped because you are actually doing something to promote her, even though her name is not EL James. The readers are super psyched because they are sick and tired of getting gouged by the big publishers.

5. Readers buy the book, talk about the book, recommend the book to friends.

6. The high sales offset the low book cost and you make a bundle!

7. The author is happy! The publisher is happy! The readers are happy!

8. Next time the author has a book out, you can increase the price. Now she has a fan base and a following.


Think about it.

Penelope Yo

p.s. It also really pisses us off when you price the Kindle ebook HIGHER THAN THE MOFO PRINT BOOK, YO!


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

As I read this post it just confirms what I've been thinking for a while now, new authors may be better off starting out as Indies, and maybe staying that way or if sales take off, doing a hybrid type deal.

Unknown said...

It's a shame that new authors have to suffer...but it's true. I'm not willing to dish out $8 for a new to me author. I'm guilty as charged. :(

Liberty said...

I have had this debate with a publisher before. I believe no matter who the author is, the ebook should be significantly lower than the paper book.

Her argument is that the production costs for the ebook are so high, plus the ebook sales have to help offset the production costs of the paper books.

My response is to cut down on the number of paper books if they cannot cover their own production costs, don't charge someone who invested a hundred or more dollars in a devise to read a book on. Especially since you don't have to pay a printer, a paper company, or a warehouse.

Handy Man, Crafty Woman said...

Yes, I hate it when an ebook price is higher than a print book price. What's up with THAT?!?

KT Grant said...


I really think if an author signs with a publisher and gets an advance they should negotiate that instead of a big advance, part of that money should go to heavy promo. Promo is key with a new or unknown author.

Sandra Schwab said...

Excellent post, Penelope! I think a few publishers are finally wising up, but it would be nice if many more followed. As a reader, I am not willing to shell out $8+ for an ebook. Though I might make an exception for my super-duper, absolutely favourite authors, whose books I want both in print and digital.

Liberty wrote: "Her argument is that the production costs for the ebook are so high, plus the ebook sales have to help offset the production costs of the paper books."

If they're producing a print edition, the production costs for the digital edition would be minimal (they already have an edited book, a clean text file, a cover image - all they need to do is to convert into the relevant formats). Moreover, the whole Apple fiasco nicely showed what kind of profit publishers are making on digital books.

Julia Barrett said...

Oh. My. Gawd! You said it! Why do you think I'm bitchin' about the 4 books I can't get back for another 2 years! They just sit there, waaaaay down on the list. No promo. No competitive pricing, no nuthin'! The books sit on the proverbial shelves like lumps, gathering dust.
Now I ask you-- Does this do anyone any good? Nobody is earning money on these books.
If I had them back I could promote them, vary the pricing.... make them brand new again.
As it is I swear nearly every single sale of my publisher published books is because of my INDIE PUBLISHED BOOKS. Readers read my indie books, like my stuff, and want more. I'm convinced that's the only reason those books sell at all.
For example - I list all my books in my self-published books, along with purchase links and genre. I mentioned one book in the post-script of another and sales on Amazon (Amazon, not via the publisher's website) immediately shot up.
There I go again... bitchin'.

Unknown said...

Nah. That'll never work... :-D

I agree with Amber- it's the authors who suffer when big publishers refuse to do the obvious.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Pamela! That is a very interesting it! It used to be that authors started with a trad publisher, and then branched out to indie. But now authors are finding success as self-pubbers, and then the trad publisher wants a piece the pie. It's flipped. Great comment!

Penny Watson said...

Amber, I agree. I don't pay that much for a newbie author either.

Penny Watson said...

Liberty...yes, digital should ALWAYS be less. The only reason they are charging more is so they make more money, since the demand for digital is so high. It's crapola.

Also, "production costs are high for the ebooks?" I don't buy it. I know (as do you) how much it costs to format ebooks AND print. No way.

Penny Watson said...

HMCW--the big pubs know that digital sells for romance. The demand is high, so they charge more for the ebooks. Good for them? Bad for readers. But in the long run, I believe it's also bad for them, because they are losing customers.

This happened to me about 5 times this past week. Went to get a book, saw that it was priced too high/ebook higher than print, DID NOT PURCHASE. If the price had been $5 or less, I would have purchased.

$5 is higher than zero. Publishers take note.

Penny Watson said...

KT--As far as I can tell (via friends with big pubs right now), they are getting virtually NO PROMO AT ALL. They do everything themselves. The big name authors don't need publicity, but they are the ones getting it! The newbs/debut folks NEED the publicity, and they get nothing.

Brilliant strategy. Ugh.

Penny Watson said...

Sandra...I don't buy that explanation either about ebook production being high. No way.

And I agree...the cut-off for ebooks seems to be $5, unless it's a really big-name author.

I have seen 2 pubs offer book deals recently. But most of them are still clueless.

Penny Watson said...

Julia...another good point. I truly believe that if the price is right, sales go up, and the total in sales will compensate for the lower price point.

And you are not the only one who has noticed that your indie sales are supporting/generating more sales for the trad pubs.

Penny Watson said...

Hey Penny Jr! The problem is that what is in the publisher's best interest is not necessarily what's in the author's best interest.

Case in point: My old publisher had some of the xmas books come out last week in December. They promoted this as ...."Hey! We have a special xmas gift for our readers...some new holiday stories!" Nice for them, nice for the readers. HOWEVER, if you are an author w/ a seasonal holiday release, and you only have it out for 5 DAYS before xmas, that is HORRIBLE. That's it. 5 days. And then your book is obsolete for a year.

The publisher doesn't care, because it has 10,000 authors generating sales. Even low sales add up for them. But for each individual author making horrible sales/book, it's not good.

And this is why so many folks are turning indie...

Kwana said...

Yo, how you get so smart yo?

Liberty said...

Penny, you are right about the publisher's excuse. It is nothing but a crock of poop. (I'm still hanging out with toddlers.)

I self pub. I have a cover artist but do everything else myself. Everything!

To put my books up on Kindle, NOOK, Kobo, and whatever platform I use for itunes, takes me a day. That includes formatting and fixing the back material for each incarnation.

I could have done Create Space on the same day, but decided to wait.

One day to do it all and make Easter dinner for a family of 12. ;)

Penny Watson said...

Yo Kwana Yo! I gots me a PhD in common sense, yo.

Dr. Penelope

Penny Watson said...

Liberty...The "ebooks are harder to produce than print books" excuse isn't going to cut it. If they were just honest and said "demand is high for ebooks and we want to make a butt-load of cash" it would be better.

Tales of Whimsy said...

Say it again.

Anonymous said...

This happened/is happening to my wicked talented CP. Her debut fantasy rom was priced higher in ebook than print, and I'm convinced this has affected her ebook sales. But recently the publisher has dropped the price of her ebook by $3. I think this is to promote her October release. I hope this helps her!

I think she should forward your post today to her publisher...

Unknown said...

BRILLIANT. Totally agree. Thanks for expressing my disgruntled thoughts on this subject. :)

Penny Watson said...

Juju...maybe someone will listen? Maybe?

Penny Watson said...

Hi Jessi...Please do so! They need to hear that readers are NOT HAPPY WITH THAT BIZZ!

Also, best of luck to your CP. Make sure she promotes the fact that her book is now on sale...important!

Penny Watson said...

Thank you, Stacy! It is frustrating for sure.