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Hachette Livre CEO Arnaud Nourry Has Advice for Authors: "When you Lose Control of Pricing, You Are Dead"

arnaud-nourry-hachette-livreSpeaking at the Frankfurt Book Fair "CEO Talk" yesterday, Hachette Livre CEO Arnaud Nourry inadvertently gave authors a good argument why they should not sign with publishers.

He made several sound suggestions, according to The Bookseller:

… Nourry said the industry had to be vigilant over the pricing of digital books.

"We have learnt from the magazine, music and press industry that when you lose control of pricing your content you are basically on your way to death," he said. "As book publishers, we need to put some kind of control through contracts, on pricing… To some extent Google is even more aggressive in not charging for content than Amazon, because Amazon is a retailer.

"There is consensus among publishers in the UK and US that there should be some price control."

He added: "I am very happy with the (current) agency model."

He said the publisher had to learn "segment by segment, genre by genre" how to best price content for customers. "We need to learn and we are in the process of learning," he said, warning that getting the pricing right was "instrumental in the future of the industry".

Sure, Nourry is speaking to commercial publishers, but (almost) everything he says is applicable to authors who act as their own publishers. After all, authors are just as much a part of the publishing industry these days as anyone working for a publisher. (And given the time that traditionally published authors are required to spend on marketing … ).

Authors do need to learn more about pricing their books (and many already are), and like Nourry said they should assert more control over the books they publish.

Of course, Nourry didn’t say that authors should go out on their own (nor was he thinking of authors when speaking yesterday), but that is simply the logical next step.

In fact, Nourry hardly gives indie authors a second thought. According to PW, Nourry described self-publishing as

the contrary of my business. We look at books and decide what we do and do not want to invest in. Sometimes publishers are wrong, as with 50 Shades of Grey, but even in this case E.L. James wanted a traditional publisher. When print is 85% of the market, you need it. I am not competing against self-publishing and it will not change my business.

He also doesn’t think that the ebook market will be expanding any further. From Shelf Awareness:

Nourry also addressed the plateauing and slight dropping off of e-book sales within the United States. The conclusion his company has reached, he said, was that the e-book market so far has been one based almost entirely on e-ink devices sold particularly to avid readers. That population now is saturated–there is no growth potential, he continued, among heavy readers for e-ink devices. In his view, that explained the plateau, and the increase in e-book prices in recent years might explain why a slight decline has followed that plateau.

"I think the same will happen in the U.K.," Nourry said, noting that the U.S. and U.K. were the only to countries to have such wide, deep penetration of e-readers. He believed that the much slower of adoption of e-readers in continental Europe was the result of no retailer.

Hmm, so Nourry can see the impact of the ereader market, but he doesn’t see that people are now reading on their phones?

Perhaps we should take his advice with a grain of salt.

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TheSFReader October 15, 2015 um 12:09 pm

WRT his self-publishing stance, I prefer he keeps Hachette’s paws far from Indie pub. since the next step would be to start a Vanity Publishing imprint…

Nate Hoffelder October 15, 2015 um 12:30 pm

Good point. Hachette hasn’t partnered with ASI yet, have they?

Let’s keep it that way.

Mike Hall October 15, 2015 um 12:55 pm

If control of pricing is so important and print is 85% of the market is he not worried that he long ago lost control of print pricing?

It may be the consensus of publishers in the US and UK that there should be some form of price control but, for print books, there is not a cat’s chance in hell of getting resale price maintenance/the net book agreement reinstated in the UK in the foreseeable future. Of course, the EU may do something stupid, in which case I might start campaigning for Brexit.

As for the "decline" in e-books, has he not noticed that the report only covers the trad publishers and, at least in part, can be accounted for by the silly prices they are setting now that they have got their desired "control"? I now have an Amazon wish list called "Price too High" so there is a chance that I’ll buy if or when the price comes down, but a lot of potential customers will have forgotten about a book by then and the lost sale will be permanent.

fjtorres October 15, 2015 um 1:07 pm

Print may be 85% of the gross but it is a much smaller part of the net profits.
But he does offer good advice on control, because as tradpub authors are discovering, BPHs don’t always prioritize author interests in setting policies.

Nirmala October 15, 2015 um 1:34 pm

He is simply wrong about the ebook market being mostly based on users of dedicated ereaders:

Nate Hoffelder October 15, 2015 um 1:52 pm

@ Nirmala Yes, but let’s hope he doesn’t figure that out.

Syn October 15, 2015 um 1:37 pm

What is more amusing, is that they think they can stop technology. Adapt or die.

fjtorres October 15, 2015 um 1:46 pm

Forget about telling them to adapt.
Let them keep on thinking they are indispensable.
Let them keep on treating authors like serfs they own.
Let them keep on celebrating the light at the end of the tunnel…
…until the train runs them over.

Thomas October 15, 2015 um 3:30 pm

I think he’s right in that there will essentially be two markets, trad and self, both 'as big' or 'as important' as each other.

FSkornia October 15, 2015 um 5:13 pm

"As book publishers, we need to put some kind of control through contracts, on pricing…"

Doesn’t that sound a lot like cartel price fixing?

Nate Hoffelder October 15, 2015 um 5:49 pm

@ Frank


fjtorres October 15, 2015 um 7:46 pm

"There is consensus among publishers in the UK and US that there should be some price control."

Maybe he should tell that to the DOJ.

Episode 81 – Reviews, Lists, and Indie Opportunity | Sell More Books Show October 21, 2015 um 11:31 am

[…] Straight From the Horse […]

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