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.
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.
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.
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