The #MurderBot Series is Everything Wrong With TradPub
Did you by any chance get the free copies of Martha Wells’s MurderBot series that Tor.com was giving away last week?
I did, and in addition to four fun stories, I also got an object lesson in what’s wrong with trad pub.
The content is great, but there’s very little actual content there, and they are charging an extortionate price for it.
The 4 books in the Murderbot series are novellas, and their combined length is 625 pages (about the same as Game of Thrones). The writing is great, but the price is ridiculous.
I got these stories for free last week, but if I had bought all 4 I would have had to pay $36. Yes, Macmillan is charging $36 for one novel’s length of content.
The first installment costs $4, while the second, third, and fourth books cost $10, $11, and $11, respectively. To put it another way, the latter three cost the regular retail for a trad pub ebook, and yet you only get a story about half as long as the minimum expected length of a novel (300-ish pages).
While some people are buying the ebooks, they sure as hell are not happy about the prices.
- Enjoyed the series, very brief reads. Not a fan of the price for a sub two hour read.
- The first book is delightful. However, at the rate I read, I can’t afford the other three novelettes at$10 each.
- First story was very good – and I can see where this might go – but the next set of stories is way too expensive for very short works. $10 for 160 pages? I can read 160 pages in a couple of hours.
What’s especially interesting about this series is that both the top positive review and the top critical review complained about the price.
John Sargent wonders why his ebook sales are down, and he has repeatedly blamed library ebooks. It’s really weird how he never seems to realize its his own policies (as evidenced by this series) that are causing the shortfall in sales.
I mean, Sargent was running Macmillan when he decided that the publisher’s first move into ebooks was to conspire with Apple and bring about agency pricing, raising Macmillan’s ebook prices in the process. And he was still in charge when he brought about Agency 2.0 in 2014.
And now, as a result of Sargent’s policies, we have Macmillan charging $36 for a novel-length story.
The reason this is the perfect example of what is wrong with tradpub, folks, is that for the past decade trad pub has refused to sell the public what it wants at a price the public wants to pay. The whole point of agency pricing was to raise ebook prices and force consumers to buy the print books the publishers want to sell.
In this example, Macmillan split a novel into 4 parts (it honestly feels like it was written as a single novel) so it could try to get people to pay four times the going market rate.
And y’all wonder why trad pub ebook sales are down?