AN UNPUBLISHED AUTHOR’S PERSPECTIVE ON PAYING TO BE PUBLISHED

My great friend, Rob Guthrie, has brought to the forefront probably the most controversial subject I’ve ever seen highlighted on his blog.

AMAZON CHARGING FOR DIGITAL PUBLICATION?!

As an author working on her first novel I have chosen to go the self-publishing route. Join the growing rank of Indie Authors. I have already received advice from some of those I follow on Twitter as to why I shouldn’t be an Indie Author but rather find an agent and go through a publisher. I have done my research and homework, talked to other trusted authors. Some of those authors have agents, some had agents and fired them, some are already self-published on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. The more in depth I went into researching the publishing arena, the more I became convinced to self-publish.

Why?


Let’s start with if I decided to go the way of what I now consider the “old school” method of querying agents, many agents, and going the traditional publishing route. Here’s the likelihood of what will happen. After I have paid to have my book edited, I do lots and lots of homework to locate agents who are accepting authors in the genre I’ve written. I read what and how they will accept queries. I select a few, submit my materials according to their instructions and wait. And wait. Hopefully within the next month or two I will hear back from them in the form of either a rejection slip or a request to read more. Frankly, I have better odds of winning the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes than the latter happening. Not that my book is not good but I am a new author. I have no known credibility.

Not to be outdone or give up hope, I send out a new batch of material to even more agents. Start contacting people I follow on Twitter for help. Time is slipping by. Two months turn into six, six months turn into a year. Waiting. Waiting for the golden ticket. I start to doubt myself. I make revisions. Sign up and pay to go to a few writer’s conventions. It’s worth it, right? Go to New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, wherever the agents are congregating, a meet and greet, I’m there. Some agents are interested, send me some samples, they say. Great! Guess what, one of them hits. I’ll sign you. Happy Days. The clouds have parted, I’m validated.

Your work needs some editing. I’ve now got a publisher but some changes need to be made. Before you know it, I’ve made the changes according to what someone else, who I have never met, wants. Made the book the way they envision it. And what about marketing? That’s still up to me. I’m tweeting my ass off, have my Facebook Author Page up, hired a web designer. Joined Triberr. In the meantime, I have given up all control over price point and I’m doing the marketing for them.

Now I’m not discounting there are advantages to having an agent and a publisher. They do have more clout. They do have more presence in the market place. They can get my book in the stores. It’s just I see the disadvantages outweighing the advantages. Let’s talk pricing. Say your book sells for $15.00. Your agent is going to take a percentage, your publisher is going to take a percentage PLUS a recoup of their costs. You would be extremely lucky by the time all is said and done to see $3.00 from the sale of each book (and I’m probably being generous – more like $1.50). Not to mention we’re now talking two plus years down the road from when you began.


So now we’re going to talk the self-publishing route. I write the book, pay to have it edited, and pay for a cover design. BAM. Upload it on Amazon.

I’m going to set my price. I’ll get either 35% or 70% of the cover price from Amazon, depending on what I choose. I will see immediate results and the saying “time is money” is not just a saying. It’s a fact. I don’t have to wait any two plus years to start recouping any costs. The only additional outlay of money will be hiring a cover artist. And you can get a cover artist starting as low as $85.00. The marketing challenges will be the same. The only real difference is I am the one in control and my time is freed up to where I can start beating out another book.

By now you’re probably wondering what does all this have to do with asking Rob Guthrie if I could guest post his blog.

In a nutshell, Rob’s blog is about Amazon conceivably instituting a charge to upload a book to their site. And I AM ALL FOR IT. Let’s face it. Everybody wants to write a book. With Amazon offering a free platform to Joe Shmoo to come on down, there is no stopping me, you, anyone from doing it. And that’s a problem or, you should look at it as a problem.

Indie Authors need to be recognized as marketable. I actually had an agent tell me when trying to dissuade me from going the indie route that the reason authors go self-publishing is because they aren’t “good enough” to be published. Pretty harsh, isn’t it? Get your hackles up? It should. But as long as self-published authors sit back and DO NOTHING we’re going to keep on being perceived that way. Keep selling your books for 99 Cents. In the long run, you’re not only hurting yourself but the entire industry. I’m not talking about KDP. That is a marketing tool. I am talking about how we value our work, our product, our time put into that work over the normal course of business. If we show no respect to ourselves, how is the buying public going to have respect for the serious Indie Author? You get enough Indie Authors out there putting their books up for $2.99 +, eventually the buying public is going to see the 99 Cents market as nothing more than you get what you pay for. Be honest, how many of us have on our Kindles right now books we bought at 99 Cents or downloaded for free that we have never read??? Now how many do you have on your Kindle you paid more than 99 Cents for that you haven’t read? Yup. I think I just made a point.

Should Amazon decide to start charging to upload a book, it will only benefit and give some recognition to those artists who lay out the investment. Why shouldn’t they do it? Whether we want to see it happen or not, it’s coming where Amazon will have a monopoly on eBooks. Where do the majority of people go now to buy books? Amazon. Amazon has gotten so big I even know people who do their grocery shopping on their site. Grocery Shopping! Can you believe it?!

Yes, the additional cost would be another financial burden. I don’t really have it but I believe in myself enough where I would find the money to do it. Dig up investors. Sell shares. I’m not saying my book is great or going to be a huge seller. I hope it is. But just maybe I’m not meant to be that author that is worthy to be counted amongst the giants in the industry. Therefore, after putting money out time after time to upload books, I think I’ll get a hint that this just isn’t for me. It would break my heart but until you get that financial investment out there, put more than just your dream on the line, there is nothing to filter out the wannabes. I’m not saying this will deter a great many of people, but even the few who decide not to do it because they don’t have that drive to make their imagination be seen in print, well that just makes room for the ones who have, and gives more creed to the ones that do.

So, now I am going to step down from the podium and turn the floor over to the very talented and brilliant, Robert Guthrie. If you’re not already aware, Mr. Guthrie has four self-published books already out on Amazon, with two more coming down the pike before the end of the year. He’s collaborating with two other authors to co-author at least four books, and has another book waiting in the wings to be started when he gets a chance to breathe. This is a man who knows the industry and what he’s talking about.

Phreaky Friday: Amazon Charging for Digital Publication?


Not yet, but they damn well should. Yes, I am aware that most authors are starving critters and don’t need yet another entry in the expense column. But here’s the thing: when publishing is free, anyone can do it, and charging peanuts for an entire novel becomes less cost-effective. (Truth is, the price point on a book has been moving toward 99 cents for the past year or two and that’s LESS than peanuts; a bag of those delectable nuts costs more than a dollar).

Why 99 Cents Doesn’t Work
Currently Amazon doesn’t offer any lower price point than 99 cents. You can’t even offer your work for free unless you are an Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select member (which requires that you not sell your eBook anywhere else and gives you five days every quarter to list your book free for download). This effectively makes 99 cents the lowest price for an eBook in the market (well over 90 percent of eBook downloads are from Amazon). So you need to look at it this way: if you charge 99 cents for your book, it is at least as cheap as the worst dreck ever published on Amazon. Why does this matter? For one, because the numbers no longer give any indication whatsoever between quality product and one that stinks.

It’s a fact that most consumers do use price as at least one of their comparison elements when they shop for products. But not always to buy the cheapest product out there—you’ve no doubt heard the old saying “you get what you pay for”?Well most discerning consumers have, and they live by it to one extent or another.

How many of you will look at several products and depending on the size of the quality range will select the mid-priced brand, leaving the “dirt-cheap” brand on the shelf?

I’m guessing the majority of us can agree that there is a HUGE quality range in the market for Indie Fiction. From the worst book to the best? Enormous range. Light years.

So imagine you are Joe or Josey Consumer and you don’t read all the articles, arguments, and analyses about price points or Indie authors versus traditional published or Amazon KDP. You just buy books; you just want a great read. Are you going to buy many books at 99 cents when the others range from $2.99 up past $15.99?

I wouldn’t. Not if I didn’t know there were a fair number of outstanding Indie writers out there.

And here’s the truth about those who do buy a lot of 99 cent books: at best they’re reading a percentage of the books they buy. Look at the stats on the free Kindle downloads. A large number of those downloaders are no more than book hoarders—consumers who will load up on anything that’s free. And guess what? 99 cents is “free” to a lot of people. I don’t think TWICE about buying something for 99 cents. If a dollar fell out of your hand on a windy day would you run a mile to retrieve it? Dodge heavy traffic to get your buck back? I doubt it. A large number of the people buying 99 cent books are only reading a small percentage of them. And we all know the biggest marketing tool of all: word of mouth.

(A quick note on Joe and Josey Consumer from above: man do I want to connect with those consumers—they are the Holy Grail of readership, my friends, and there are millions out there just like them. They buy a a large number of books every year, they read every book they buy, and they tell all the readers they know about the reads they really enjoy.)

How Charging for Digital Publishing Helps
Back to the “free” concept: when you make something free, you eliminate ownership of or responsibility for that action. You take all the risk out of it; you make the downside nothing and the upside infinite. Who wouldn’t publish a book with those odds? If it is free for me to publish and I know that sometimes lightning strikes even the sleeping dog’s ass, why the heck would I not throw a book or two out there and pray for a thunderstorm?

And because it’s completely free, there are tens of thousands of new books hitting the Amazon digital shelves every day. Oh, and because it’s completely free, who cares what they charge? Bargain basement, baby. The true 99 centers.

Imagine if it cost, let’s say, $500 to publish your first digital book online. And then, say, $100 for every book after that, thus giving a break to bona fide authors—”bona fide” being defined by me as “serious writers”, not necessarily a guarantee of quality there either, but we’re talking about people who have been writing (or wanting to write) all their lives, trying seriously to get published; these are the same writers who in the traditional market were/are submitting their writing even at the cost of facing rejection after rejection.

Back to imagining: A $500 initial investment to put that first book on the digital shelves. How big a reduction do you think we’d see in the firehose flow of books we are currently witnessing? I’m going to make a wild guess and say 75%. Yes, I am suggesting there would be an immediate 75% reduction in raw numbers. Maybe more. Now some of these would be “bona fide” writers taking pause, or not having the 500 bones. So I would expect some of those who were originally deterred to come back and eventually publish a book. But I also believe you would take a huge slice out of the dreck pie.

HUGE.

You’d be crazy (and not a very good economist) to believe it’s not coming. Not because Amazon cares about the quality of books on their shelves—they couldn’t care less about quality of product (if you buy a book and it’s crap your first thought isn’t “damn that Amazon”—the writer is to blame, not the storefront selling him or her). Amazon cares about one thing only: profit. Imagine the tens of millions of dollars that are transmitting over their wires and onto their digital shelves every year. Right now they aren’t extracting a single penny. Why? Because they are first trying to own the marketplace, which they have just about fully accomplished (kill off the Nook this year and I’d say it’s all theirs).

As soon as Amazon feels they’ve locked up the eBook market, with KDP Select likely delivering the coveted death blow, they will start charging for digital publication.

I, for one, cannot wait. Bring it on.


For purposes of keeping this blog to a comfortable reading length, I have trimmed Mr. Guthrie’s original post. For more in depth discussion into this topic, I encourage you to read Rob’s blog post in its entirety at RobonWriting.com

And read more of the overwhelming responses he has received to that blog here RobonWriting.com Responses

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64 Responses to AN UNPUBLISHED AUTHOR’S PERSPECTIVE ON PAYING TO BE PUBLISHED

  1. Aside from the fact that you humble me with your too-kind words, this is an outstanding piece. You have put together one of the most clear and concise articles on the new age of publishing. As you’ve intimated, aside from prestige (which is still a factor), there seems to be little reason to go the route of the “slow as ice age”, rejection-riddled agent/traditional publishing route.

    For those who still choose it, I commend them and wish them well. But while they wait for their first book to maybe, one day, agents and publishing houses willing hit the shelves, I will continue to publish mine as they become ready.

    The one point I think really deserves emphasis (and that a lot of newcomers don’t understand) is that even if they have an agent and that agent lands them a publishing deal with a major publisher, unless they are being viewed as the next true bestseller, they will be responsible most if not all of their own marketing.

    Again, GREAT PIECE. One every writer should read.

    • I have a real problem with your supposition. What separates dreck from good writing for a consumer is the “look inside” feature. And reviews. Right away a reader can tell if a book is worth reading. Why impose a fee on struggling writers when the solution is already there. And guess what–the dreck is selling and selling like crazy because readers want easy consumption–zombies, dystopias, fantasy, erotica –no matter how poorly written grammatically. It’s all about plot.That stuff is being gobbled up. And Amazon is into quantity. Why would it eliminate quantity when there is a chance an ebook from an unknown could be the next big thing. A million downloads at $.99 is still a million downloads.

      • I’m starting to question the value of reviews when I look at a product. I’ve purchased a number of ebooks via Amazon based on the reviews they’d received but I discovered that the product didn’t marry with the 4 and 5 star reviews. Many times I found the book to be terrible both structurally and qualitatively. I’m becoming a far more discerning consumer as a result. I won’t buy books for 99cents and I’ll gravitate towards titles that have reviews that are bad as well as good.

  2. You make some excellent points here, Trish, and I agree with with pretty much everything. I too have found myself wondering when Amazon will break the news that publishing through them will now cost money. I too do not see it as a detriment. Now that the bubble has burst on the “buy my program and I’ll tell you how to get rich on-line” those people seem to be focusing and selling books that say pretty much the same as before. “Novelists” are popping up by the thousands, some of which don’t appear to have passed High School English. The new model of publishing will change again, and I think you may have pegged it: when Amazon has insured they have a firm grasp on the market.

    Whether they will succeed in this quest or not is the question. Amazon is dominant, but their success seems to be spurring others to try to compete rather than opening an ice cream stand. B&N may be tougher to quash than Bezos thinks. Apple has stepped up to the plate, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords all say they are encouraged by the market.

    What develops this year will be very interesting to watch.

  3. Becca says:

    The other thing they will have to determine is whether that will make them more money or LESS money. How many people who have become big sellers wouldn’t have uploaded if it cost them a few hundred dollars they didn’t have? Amazon will do what will make them money. If they will lose money in the long run by charging (which I suspect they will) then they won’t do it.

    • I don’t think there’s any question that Amazon is going to do or, not do, what gives them the most profit. This brings up another topic which I didn’t even hit on. If and when Amazon does institute an upload charge, I do not believe they will be so ruthless as to not offer additional incentives to use their service. They are not going to want to alienate those authors they have come to rely on that produce huge profits. What form of incentive this comes in, it’s hard to predict but I do believe we will get more bang for the buck than just a simple upload.

      • I would pay it if they did institute a charge, but I agree with Becca, If they have one million horribly crappy books uploaded for free, which sell two copies each (the writer’s mom and dad), then they still make 1.3 million dollars assuming the dreck was priced at 99 cents. Their system is mostly automated so I suspect that charging, while good for the authors who would like to see people NOT upload their horrible books, would be bad for Amazon.

  4. Bart Trahan says:

    Wow. Great article. Gives me a lot to think about when I am setting the price of my books.

    Thank you for the insights

  5. I disagree with charging upfront fees to upload to Amazon. It’s greedy and unnecessary.

    Crappy authors will still pay the start-up fee to publish, but it will prevent the kids in college and plenty of great authors who ARE good enough from joining because they will doubt their own abilities to make money. Self-doubt is NOT a good indication of ability.

    Amazon makes plenty of money with the model just as it is. Otherwise, they would have ALREADY installed a start-up fee. And authors who make nothing from their first books aren’t going to put up 2nd, 3rd and 4th books anyway. They’ll give up and go away or get better and start selling.

    Ebay turned on its sellers this way a few years back. I believe that in this case, what you are proposing is that Amazon do the same.

    Would I keep selling on Amazon if they installed an upfront fee? Yes. But my love relationship with Amazon would turn into a love/hate relationship and I’d start using my buying power differently.

    All of the new books I buy are through Amazon. If they started yanking me around as a seller, I would go elsewhere for my book purchases. I would venture to say most self-published authors are avid readers as well and this would negatively impact Amazon’s market.

  6. James Betts says:

    It might sound odd, but I sort of hope they also charge those who have previously uploaded for free on the basis of equality and pruning. It seems unfair that because some of us serious authors got to the whole KDP route a bit late that we might have to pay while those who were ready a few months prior didn’t.

    It was finding out about the KDP route that really lit a fire under some of us. We realised we wouldn’t have to suffer start-up costs of hundreds or thousands, or the inanity of being rejected by publishers who, and let’s be honest, are not the gospel of what will and willn’t sell. In an economic climate that was putting a strain on us, forcing us to work more and be able to write less, free self-publishing seemed too good to be true.

    Of course, adding a start-up fee, providing its of the levels you suggest, might help with pruning out some of the junk. Making this retroactive might make people think twice about whether they want to keep a 2-star piece up just because it’s earning them a bit on the side.

    Personally I intend to try and get my bigger books legacy published (assuming I can get a better deal than would be achievable through KDP), and if they do this I sincerely hope it’s not prohibitively expensive. It sure would be nice to be able to self-publish to start trying to supplement or earn a living from it, rather than have it just cost me money. Doing so would better enable me to have the time to get it all done before the decade runs out.

    Not only that, but it would be nice to be able to say to a publisher, “Yes, I know it’s indie, but look: sales!”

  7. Jennifer P says:

    Hrm. Well, if Amazon does indeed become a vanity publisher then we will see a HUGE backlog.

    (And yes. This would make them a vanity publisher).

    Do we need a way to make the good work stand out from the dreck? Yes. Should we make it be by letting Amazon exploit writers? No.

    On pricing…I think the only thing that should be priced at 99 cents is one short story. In fact, the glut of novels at 99 cents really has a negative effect on those trying to sell ‘singles’.

  8. It is a legal contract that we all agree to when we sign up. Amazon can change the terms going forward but legally, Amazon can not install a retroactive fee. Also, any agreements that YOU make in the KDP select program, such as agreeing not to publish your works through other sites is legally binding on your part.

  9. The capitalized YOU isn’t directed specifically. My posts sound a little stronger than I mean them to be. I’m very passionate about keeping Amazon open to everyone…:)

  10. I don’t know. I can’t believe I’m the one-in-a-million author who finds a publisher off the bat, without even submitting EVER, and only because they read a page of my novel on my blog. There MUST be others out there. From “being discovered” to being signed took about one month, exactly the time the publisher people needed to read my manuscript and decide. Also, the editing was not at all as you describe it, it was fun, easy and didn’t alter my book at all. I’ve just signed a new two-book deal with my publisher. And I can assure you, it’s a GOOD deal. Traditional publishing is not the new devil. It still works.

  11. As an indie author who has uploaded (for free!) and used the free route, the 99 cent route in addition to the $2.99-$3.99 price point, I think I’m qualified to comment on this.

    First of all, free can work. It depends on the book though. You need a good cover and blurb, and it should be the first book in a series. I know this because my first book was free last June. It had 45,000 downloads in the week it was free. So what, you might say. Well, I had a sequel to that book that I was selling for $2.99. That book sold about 5,000 copies that month. When my free book went back to paid at 99 cents, it sold an additional 18,000 books that month. It reached #15 in the Kindle Store.

    You might say that people don’t read free/99 cent books, and I’m sure that is true of many people, but I have reviews, emails and sales of the my second book that prove a lot of people DO read them.

    I’m about to upload my third book the series in a few weeks, and I think I have a pretty good reader base already, judging from the 12,000 or so people who bought the second book in the series in only a little over a year. I did a free marketing experiment with the book last week, but didn’t have too much success with it, but it didn’t seem to hurt me either. My sales are about the same now as they were before, meanwhile, about 1500 people downloaded the second and may go on to now buy the third.

  12. Well..as a reader not an author,my first sentence is..I love all the indie authors I read,whether .99 or higher.I have also found a lot of free books I’ve read are at the least better than some New York best sellers,in my opinion.I do order a lot of books for .99 n I for one do read them,n review them on Amazon n Goodreads.Since I started readin’ indie authors,I have (n I say this honestly) been readin’ more,and I read a lot.So,keep writin’ all ya’ll indie authors n I’ll keep readin,reviewin’ n pimpin’ them out!(please,don’t make fun of my grammar,it’s who I am)

  13. I agree that it must be like playing the lottery waiting for an agent/publisher to take on a book by a new author. I’ve been there and done that. Didn’t get an agent, but found a publisher. Having gone that route, I’ve also experimented with self-publishing and it’s something I’ll definitely be doing in the future, if only for the absolute control I have over my work.

    As to Amazon eventually charging for upload, it will affect many writers negatively. Even if I did go that route, I’d be whining and moaning about having to spend the money and I don’t think it’ll stop drivel from being published.

    Good post, lots of interesting information here.

  14. LM Preston says:

    This is another hurdle and budget point for most Indie’s but it’s the business and we have to be flexible.

  15. Amazon is the big dog in indie publishing right now BECAUSE they’re free, and because they’re the biggest distributor. If they start to charge a fee (say the — God forbid — $500/$100 model described above), then they lose that advantage. Sure they can still SELL the book, but people will just find another free publisher like Smashwords or whatever else pops up next, who’ll just offer distribution to Amazon through their site.

    Is Amazon charging a fee a bad idea? I’m not convinced it is or it isn’t. Some of us who just got started in indie publishing like myself could never even dream of affording even a semi-modest fee — I’m starting slow and taking the baby steps needed now in order to make more money once my catalog builds up and a wider name recognition is out there.

    An excellent article all the same. Thanks for writing!

  16. I agree that readers need some way of filtering out the rubbish to find the good stuff. I’m not convinced that Amazon have any incentive to provide it, beyond what they do already. It costs them almost nothing to add one more book to the Kindle Store, so if it sells even one copy, they’ve made a profit on it. If they start charging a fee to be listed in their catalogue, that would drive many authors to their competitors (assuming they remain free to publish with).

    Pay-to-publish would not (necessarily) keep out the bad books. It would keep out the books whose authors couldn’t afford the fee, or who thought there were better places to spend their money. You only have to look at what comes out of the vanity presses now to see that authors are often the least qualified to judge the merits of their work.

    If Amazon wanted to convince readers that pay-to-publish was actually about finding good books, rather than just a grab for more money, they would have to pay people to review the books. Then imagine the stink if they let a bad one through. But if Amazon gets paid for what they publish, and don’t get paid for what they reject, the reviewers have an incentive to let everything through, or almost everything. Most books still wouldn’t sell many copies, so it’s not as if anyone would be likely to find out. (Unless a group of writers got together and deliberately wrote the worst book they could imagine, specifically to prove that the quality control was non-existent. They could call it… Atlantic Days, perhaps.)

    My approach to finding good new fiction is to read the free sample. (This is the best feature of ebooks, in my opinion – better than being able to carry 4000 books in my coat pocket, or have a new one delivered to me in seconds.) If I get to the end of the sample without wanting to throw my Kindle across the room, I usually buy the book. I’ve bought a few books that started well and went bad later on, but I could say the same about traditionally published books. It’s allowed to me to avoid buying a lot of turkeys.

  17. An awesome insightful article. Now as to whether or not I think Amazon should do this, I’ll hold off on that opinion and instead say I don’t think they will. They might offer premium services but I’m not sure I see the financial benefit for Amazon to put any barriers in place for self-publishers. The more books they have, the more clout it gives them in this online arena. With B&N taking a more traditional publisher friendly route the advantage is all Amazon’s here. Sure there’s crap out there, but does Amazon really care? Doubtful unless it starts to impact sales.

    Personally I think this is a self-correcting situation. I liken this to the dotcom boom of the
    90’s. Lots of people see gold in dem thar hills. Once the ‘gold rush’ is over, I think we’ll see a lot of the get rich quick crowd move on to the next big thing. As for the rest of us, well hopefully the cream will rise to the top.

  18. Great Post!
    @Rick, apart from the potential profit making, or not, of amazon in charging to publish, it would enable them to filter out the “clever” people who upload dozens of almost similar books filled with ads and virtually no content.
    These hope to make a few bucks per book, use automated system to create quasi-clone books and these are cluttering Amazon shelves. In the long run this growing quantity of total rubbish will result in potential readers tiring from having to wade through them and voting with their mouse to browse from other distributors.
    Asking authors to pay to publish would be immensely more cost effective from amazon than filtering through the incoming books for unique content, content to ad ration etc.
    The publication fee actually should not have to be higher than $50-100 to discourage freeloaders who rarely earn that much from the rubbish they upload.

  19. Great post, great argument. I just hope that if and when Amazon does start charging for their platform, it’s not $500.

    The one thing that may slow or even stop this is not the Nook, but the other elephant in the market: Apple. Its iBook Author program is an obvious tilt at the Amazon windmill. Or mabe a closer analogy is a hammer-throw at the Big Brother of Kindle Direct. (C’mon – I can’t be the ONLY guy on Twitter old enough to remember Apple’s 1984 Superbowl ad to launch the Macintosh.)

    While Amazon rules the e-book market, with the huge and continuing sales of the iPad, iBooks may soon start to figure more prominently – even though its results to date have been less than spectacular.

  20. Intriguing blog! I agree with everything. The chances of finding an agent then finding one that will be able to locate a publisher who will not try to alter your book; it’s too much of a headache.

    I recently wrote a blog about my take on self publishing. The key to it is marketing. Even if you found an agent, who’s to say that individual will share the same enthusiasm in regards to your work after four or five month of shopping it
    around? I also chose to rely on myself and my networking skills. Our books will be a success because we have put in the time and exerted the energy!

  21. Insightful blog post! My main thought: if Amazon begins charging authors to publish, I think it’d be a wise idea for them first to make sure that sales reporting problems are truly resolved. There are too many complaints; inaccurate numbers and missing sales can’t be a figment of so many authors’ imaginations. While serious authors may not mind investing in publishing, no one likes to feel cheated.

  22. Leigh Sparrow says:

    Amazon is not free to publish right now. As a self-published author, I pay a percentage for every book sold. Also, there are tons of garbage books out there, even in the traditional book stores, listed at every price. Ultimately, the readers and reviewers distinguish the quality books from the junk. I consider myself a serious author; I look at the downloading charge as one more thing I’d rather not pay just to get published. Frankly, I enjoy downloading a 99-cent book every now and then to check out a new author. And I hope someone would do the same with me.

  23. I have to admit that when I knew that places like Amazon and B&N paid you very little for sales of your ebook or even your regular book I decided I was going to market it on my own. Sure, I don’t have a big name behind me but if someone buys either the pdf version or requests the real thing I get to keep all the profits. If either site actually helped market me that might make a difference, but they don’t.

    As for credibility, heck, I wrote a book; that’s enough credibility for me. 🙂

  24. andyholloman says:

    hey rob,, great post, i love to read intelligent thinkers and their musings on the marketplace…. would postulate this, since amazon is a biz, what would be the revenue trade off if the DID charge X for each writer to publish their book and thus diminish the junk (which i’m sure it would) vs. the revenue they receive from consumers right now who pay .99c for the junk , hmmm, not sure…. but i DO like the way you’re headed with your thinking,, some type of screening system would make sense to us serious writers…..but does it make biz sense for amazon and/or book buyers? keep the thoughts coming…..a

  25. Wonderful post and as a 1st time writer I will be going down the route of self publishing with my story which is based on true event.

    Thank you so much for the content which will guide me in reaching a price for the ebook.

    http://thewrongplaceatthewrongtime.blogspot.com/

    Regards,

    Dave P Perlmutter

  26. I’m still inclined to try for traditional publishing for two reasons – I want hard copies of my book (and would prefer not to use a vanity publisher to do so), and as a non-US citizen there are a number of tax-related hurdles to me publishing on Amazon. There is also the external validation aspect, which I can’t denyis rather seductive. This of course assumes that my book, when finished, will be good enough to get to this point, which may not be the case. This post does an excellent job of selling the alternative route, though, to the point that I found myself seriously considering it for the first time. Thank you for giving me food for thought. It has certainly made me start to rethink things.

  27. Lousy authors pay now for vanity presses. If Amazon charges authors to upload their books, they become a vanity press. Bad writers will always find a few bucks to publish their rubbish. It will NOT keep them out.

    Right now, KDP is not a vanity press. It is my partner. I upload my book, and they do, in fact, charge me a fee — just at the back end, not up front. If my book sucks, only my mother and my best friend will buy it, and guess what? Amazon gets to keep their money because they don’t have to pay me a dime until my sales pass a certain point.

    So Amazon DOES charge crappy authors. Just not up front.

    And in the meantime, those of us who are producing high quality work don’t have to add an insulting up-front fee to our “publish or not?” ponderings.

    Diane Farr
    Happy Kindle Author
    http://www.dianefarrbooks.com

  28. Stephen says:

    Excellent article. Enough to convince me to go down the self published route.

    • Thank you Stephen. I really appreciate your kind words. If you haven’t, I’d really recommend you read both of Rob Guthrie’s articles as well. He goes into much further depth than I did. The links are at the end of my article 🙂 Good luck with your book!

  29. Team Oyeniyi says:

    Many decisions for me to make. I like the arguments.

  30. Lots to think about here. My Mum is an Indie writer and good. We will not allow her to sell for .99. Her work and others are worth more. Reading the comments her book can be bought in hard copy. CreateSpace and it’s not a vanity publisher. I have read many books that go for .99 and felt on some the book was worth more and some I felt I should of been paid to read it. In the end hard should be rewarded.

  31. A great and confirming article as to why I self-published. Although there are times, I admit, that I wish I went the traditional route – from a vanity standpoint.

    Thing is, if your work is good enough – others will notice. I’m a Christian writer and probably the largest on-line Christian book retailer picked up my indie book, something that is very, very rare. There are only eight other Createspace books on this whole site. Exciting and humbling all wrapped up in one!

    I’ve worked hard – VERY HARD – to market my book. Will an agency or an agent care as much as I do about my work? Hard to say, but I doubt it. Thank you for this wonderful confirmation!

  32. One thing I found offensive in this article was the line about the crappy authors who persevere being the same people who try year after year to get published and continue despite all the many rejections, or something like that. I have had books rejected by publishers with two page letters about how good they were, only not for their market. Jim Butcher was rejected for nine years before he became a best seller. That seems to be the norm, and the writer who hooks someone with their first book on the first couple of submissions it the rarity. Most successful writers persevere despite the rejection, and your saying otherwise is an insult to those writers.

    • Hi Doug. I’m not sure where in the article you saw I referred to authors who go through the method of procuring an agent and publisher as being crappy, or otherwise. My focus was on the “traditional” method vs. self-publishing. Anyone who wants to spend the time to go through the queries, rejections, acceptance, etc., I have nothing but admiration for. I, personally, don’t want to spend the time waiting for that to happen. If my book is good enough, gets enough sales, then they will find me. Thank you for your comment and reading the article. 🙂

  33. Pingback: Progress! | Love versus Goliath : A Partner Visa Journey

  34. JeriWB says:

    I agree to a point. Like you, I’m working on my first book. I’ve mulled all possible routes to publication over in my mind and self-publishing seems to make the most sense. I also just downloaded my first Kindle freebie today. Figured I better since I’m aiming to do the same. I’ve owned a Kindle for over a year now. Why did I wait so long? Even if it’s free, I don’t want to download crap. I have so many “to read” book on my real shelves, that I feel no need to hoard mediorce stuff. In that regard, I guess I would be willing to pay a $500 first time fee if it would help a lot of poorly written literature from becoming available. On the other hand, you gotta admit that it’s pretty great that anyone can post just about anything free of charge right now. In either case, it will be interesting to see how all this plays out.

    Nice blog by the way. I’m now following it 😉

  35. Thanks so much for the response Jeri. Good luck on your novel! The thing about the freebies, there are really good Indie authors out there giving away their books to get reviews, increase their ranking within Amazon, and to create a buzz about their book. It’s difficult to filter out though the good material from the bad. Until the prices are increased to correlate what’s good and what’s not and unless you know the caliber of the author or the author posts a free preview chapter on their site, you’re really not going to know whether it’s good or not. The beauty of the Kindle though, it’s just as easy to take a book off as put on. 🙂

  36. I am at the VERY EARLY stages of thinking about what the book route will look like for me once it’s done. This is all new territory for me, so this post definitely lays the information out in a way that helps me think through my options, research, etc. Thanks so much. Extremely informative!

  37. Every writer wants validation somehow, whether by attracting an agent, publisher or readers. How you become published is more a product of the reason why you write. If you write for joy, then your path to publication may lead you in one direction. If for commercial success, another. The time a writer invests in a book, often a year or more, is a critical deciding factor. There’s a point of diminishing return, both financially (how long can I take myself and my family down this path) and emotionally (how long can I take myself and my family down this path).

    I believe traditional routes to publication suffer because it takes much too long for books to be discovered, edited and published. The process is also highly subjective, and although many high quality books come out of it, traditional publication is by no means the stamp of quality 100% of the time.

    It boils down to a question of tolerance. How long does a writer wait it out? If you believe in your work, have vetted it thoroughly (at your own expense) and take responsibility for good/bad reviews/sales, then alternative routes to publishing look attractive.

    I ask myself daily: “How much longer should I wait it out?” The clock is ticking.

  38. DRMarvello says:

    One of the best reasons for Amazon to institute a nominal fee (even $10 would probably do the job) is to get rid of “Kindle spam.” Right now, thousands of books with ripped-off content or PLR (Private Label Rights) content are being uploaded to Amazon every day by what are effectively pirates and spammers. These books show up in keyword searches and basically pollute the search results. Many of the so-called “authors” of these books are actually made up!

    I would support a title setup fee of up to $25 for each book, if that would clean up the listings a bit. Even an author with severely limited funds could pony up that much to take a shot at the Kindle Lotto.

  39. Diana Stevan says:

    An intriguing post. As a novelist trying to go the traditional route, I’ve been faced with those “positive” rejection letters from agents, the ones that say “no” but tell you that you’re a talented writer. I am toying with self-publishing but find it alarming that so many authors are giving their work away for free or charging .99. It seems demeaning somehow. Maybe there’s a whole slew out there who don’t deserve much more, but I know how much sweat and tears go into getting a book completed.

    As for who’s buying the books that are undervalued or perhaps overvalued, my husband is one of them. He can’t resist a good deal. Unfortunately, he now has hundreds of cheap books, many unreadable on his kindle and tablet. He’s an avid reader and turns to the classics when he gets frustrated with the stuff he’s downloaded. So what’s the answer? Well, I’m hoping that the junk will sink to the bottom, and some sanity will return to the business of writing and selling books.

    • DRMarvello says:

      It’s true that a lot of authors are pricing their books low to get traction, but most of the ones who *do* get traction don’t keep their prices low. Many use a 99-cent or free price point to get new readers and then price subsequent books (in a series, for example) at $2.99 or even $4.99.

      Take heart. I know of self-published authors who actually sell more books at $2.99 or higher than they do at the lower prices. Even at $2.99, you earn a higher royalty on your book than you would get from a traditional publisher.

      Also, there is mounting evidence that low prices bring in *bargain hunters* with poor author loyalty, and higher prices bring in *fans* with higher author loyalty. The trick seems to be using low prices on selected titles to introduce readers to your books. Once you’ve proven yourself, fans are willing to pay more.

      Your husband is a classic example of the bargain hunter mentality. These readers load their Kindles up with dozens of books they’ll probably never read. I’ve done that myself. Low prices are designed to trigger an impulse buy, and obviously they work!

      The bottom line here is that price is strictly a marketing decision. Do not try to equate it with the “value” of your book because there is no relationship. That way lies madness. 😉

      • Good point in making a distinction between pricing for marketing purposes and the actual “value” of a book. You can’t really put a price on some aspects of good literature; to an author who has poured his/her life into writing, the book is priceless anyway. What price can you put on an author’s life? And as a reader who has read books that have changed my life, I couldn’t put an accurate monetary value on the resulting life-change. But, alas, prices have to be assigned to books for practical reasons, for the sake of stores, customers, the industry, etc.

        As for books that authors may put up for free or for very low prices for whatever length of time, I don’t view that much differently than authors getting their books into public libraries, or donating books to schools, etc. Yes, many people may read one book from a library for free, and the author won’t be paid multiple times for each patron who reads that one copy, but readership still increases for the author through all of that free reading. I’ve purchased a good number of books by authors that I first read for free.

  40. DRMarvello $25 is actually quite a bit to an author selling a $0.99 story. That commission is only $0.35. It’s not until the $2.99 price point that an author earns the 70%.

    Also, with the Look Inside function, ability to return books within 7 days, and report abuse functions, advertisers should soon realize that they can’t make money trying to scam people on Amazon and go away.

    Not sure how to deter the pirates, but if a pirate made enough money, it probably wouldn’t act as a deterrent.

    • DRMarvello says:

      Jeanette: Your points seem reasonable in theory, but not so much in practice.

      If an author can’t afford $25 to put their book into the fabulous selling environment that is Amazon.com, that author probably also can’t afford decent editing, cover design, or formatting. If you are going to offer your writing to the public, a certain amount of professional consideration is warranted. And if you don’t believe your book will earn back your $25 and then some, even at a 35-cent royalty, you should probably find something else to do with your time.

      Thinking that shoppers will reject the spammers and that they’ll go away by themselves is not realistic. Email spam continues to plague our in-boxes because it costs nothing for spammers to send the messages. The same is true with KDP. It costs spammers nothing and they occasionally get a sale, so it continues to be worth doing. The lower the cost of advertising, the lower a conversion rate you need to be profitable.

      As for pirates, they thrive in free environments and are rarely seen in a paid environment. As soon as they have to speculate real money on selling their stolen goods, they just go somewhere else where they don’t have to pay.

  41. Bob Mayer says:

    The fee won’t change much. Everyone writing is convinced they are brilliant and their work is outstanding. And 95% are wrong. But you can’t tell them that. All a fee will do is hurt those who might be brilliant and have not much money.
    What will weed out the wanna-be’s is persistence. When they see few sales week after week, month after month, they will quit.
    But the real writer will continue to hone craft and produce and never quit.
    Authors are the real gatekeepers in publishing right now, even if they don’t want to believe. Distribution is no longer key. Discoverability is and the best way to be discovered is to actually have written a good book.

  42. bpeschel says:

    Amazon already takes a share of your earnings, and now they want more?

    This is the economics of a monopoly. They’re squeezed to produce more of a profit margin based on shareholder demands (and, of course, Jeff Bezos wants another billion for his space atomic clock projects).

    They’re already squeezing the big publishers, and removed a middle-sized publisher when they demanded so big a share that the publisher was faced with the choice of agreeing and going out of business, or accepting and going out of business.

    Make no mistake, this is NOT a good thing for authors, because what’s to stop Amazon from asking for half your earnings? Or 80 percent?

    Meanwhile, they still do nothing to keep pirated and stolen material out of eBooks.

  43. As a Marketer…

    I see the advantages of Amazon charging a fee and yes it would cut down on the crap that is being uploaded and sold at 99cents ( which really is insane as a book in my mind is at least worth $5 to $10 depending on how good the writing is ) I think the advantage of 99 cents books for new writers is, lets face it… if they are unknown this is a nice way to break into the book industry and most are going to shell out $9 on an unknown. I know I wont. Yet someone I have read at 99 cents who is good I would buy at 9.99

    I think if amazon starts charging it likely wont be $500 probably $50 or $100 as they aren’t going to want to drive away people they can make money on even if the books put out are crap. Amazon is in the business of making money and they know if they price too high, a competitor will come along and offer it for free or less. Amazon has always been in the business of being competitive and they will stay that way even if they charge.

    I’m currently working on my first novel, and I will be going to route of self publishing as it just makes sense. Its a numbers game

    I also believe THE CREAM WILL RISE TO THE TOP even if you have to start at 99 cents to get a foot in the door and get your first or second book read, it doesn’t mean you have to stay there. You can shift up.

    The book industry is going through what the music industry has, people are mobile, people want choice and they don’t want to shell out what they used to for a full album, they want to taste and choose. 99 cent songs lets them do that. Upside is they have concerts they can sell at and make money off.

    Authors are going to have to up their game if they want to make a living from it.

  44. Thanks for the comment, Jon. You made some really good points. Your last sentence told it all: “Authors are going to have to up their game…” It is ultimately going to be up to us to help set the price-point for quality work. Good luck with your novel!

  45. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter says:

    This is the dumbest suggestion I’ve ever heard. Totally, and utterly stupid.

    You want Amazon to charge you, to prove that you are a good writer? You think that this will ACTUALLY make a difference as to the skill level that will be put into the books that Amazon publishes?

    Think again. What it will do is cut out the poorer writers. It won’t have any effect as far as skill is concerned. None.

    So people who have lots of skill, but NO money, will get screwed.

    Of course it will cut down on the competition that you will face. And maybe that’s what you want, to cut the competition, so that you can sell more books. If it is, I’d have some respect for you, if you admitted that was the aim. As it is? I think you need to think.

    Wayne

  46. MoniqueE. says:

    Reblogged this on Monique Egelhoff – Writer and commented:
    REALLY GOOD ARTICLE on INDIE It’s insightful and informative and makes you really think “What would I do if Amazon charged to publish books”. Whether you have books to publish or are like me, researching before publication, the article is an important one to read.

  47. Tower Lowe says:

    You work hard to make your point, and I take it, but if this happens it will take all the fun out of it. I am getting so much from my fellow indies, whatever the writing skill, because they support my effort. Frankly, my writing is pretty good for what it is…I have two editors and I take the whole thing seriously. If you want an entry point, I don’t think money is the answer. There might be categories, and if you pay the $500.00 maybe you get an editor and some honest reviews of the edited final.

    I am sure this stage won’t last, as you say. But, for me, this if fun. Maybe the next stage will be fun, too, who knows?

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  49. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter says:

    Won’t happen. Amazon makes money by delivering a wide range of books. You are asking them to cut off their own profits, and to make Smashwords into an even more dangerous competitor than it already is.

    Business is business. I used to be Major Accounts Sales, calling on large multi-nationals, that are bigger than Amazon. The one thing that you don’t do in Sales is give your customers a reason to go elsewhere.

    Telling the next Amanda Hocking that she has to pay, or publish on Smashwords would be telling all Amazon customers that Amazon doesn’t want their business, that Amazon would rather send the business to Smashwords. Think about it. Is Amazon going to do this?

    Not likely.

    Besides, there are others in the business, who aren’t as visible as Amazon and Smashwords, who’d love Amazon to pull something this boneheaded. They’d be in all the writer’s forums the day after Amazon announced something this stupid, trying to get all the independents to come try them out instead.

    So no, Amazon won’t do this. At least not while Bezos is in charge. The man is smart, and knows where his money comes from.

    As to your complaint, I’m doing both. I’m selling short fiction, and doing fairly well at it. It isn’t a living, but I’m running an average of 2 out of 3 for stories accepted, which isn’t bad.

    I have a novel, which I’m going to publish myself, because it doesn’t “categorize” easily. The choice you make, will of course depend upon your circumstances, and your chutzpah.

    Wayne

  50. It’s difficult to find well-informed people about this topic, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about!

    Thanks

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