Indie Authors Are Getting Clobbered by Big Name eBook Discounts – But Not For The Reason You Think
If you’ve been following ebook news over the past 6 months then you’ve noticed that ebook prices have tended to drop. In fact, the average prices of ebook bestseller lists have shown a fairly consistent downward trend for the past year as more and more titles exit agency price controls and enter the free market.
Indie authors are beginning to notice, and one in particular blogged about it last week. That blog post crossed my desk yesterday, and while it’s interesting and factually correct I don’t the author reached a valid conclusion.
Toby Neal wrote this over on her blog:
The DOJ price-fixing case with Apple and the Big 5 publishers was settled awhile ago, but September was when Amazon began really discounting big name books. I get several email lists of discounted books daily in my inbox, and I’ve been agog to see big names like Janet Evanovich, Louise Perry, Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwell and most recently, Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch, one of the Best Books of 2013, going for 2.99 or less.
And in September, my sales went to half of what they’d been. They’ve stayed at half what they’d been in spite of doing active marketing, ads on Kirkus Reviews, giveaways, promos in those same lists I get in my email inbox, and launching two new books.
Toby Neal blames her drop in sales on Amazon heavily discounting agency titles. That could be true, except that such heavy discounts are probably more than Amazon could do on their own. The new post-agency contracts limit Amazon’s ability to discount ebooks, so if heavy discounts are dropping prices for titles from legacy publishers enough to affect cheap indie titles then there is probably another cause.
And just to be clear, all signs point to ebook prices dropping and indie ebooks facing more price competition; I just want to offer a more nuanced explanation.
Edit: I’m not sure that this is related, but Dear Author posted in mid-November that free and deep discounting is not as effective of a promotional tool as it used to be:
In the early days of digital publishing, free was one of the most powerful tools that could be used to elevate the profile of a book. In a self publishing world, the price is probably the number one promotional tool of an author. But is it still working?
A few on the Kindleboards have reported more diminished success with Bookbub, a newsletter that broadcasts sales and freebies to an audience of hundreds of thousands of subscribers. I’ve come across a couple of author posts that suggest that free and even 99c promotions aren’t working as well as they might have in the past even though promotional pricing is more popular than ever.
As anyone in publishing can tell you, the Big 5 publishers release most of their Fall titles in a tight window starting in late September and stretching to early December. That’s a huge influx of content from popular and best-selling authors, and it’s pretty obvious that the major ebookstores are going to push the hot new releases. So of course indie authors might see a noticeable drop in sales as readers spend their limited budget on more expensive ebooks.
But that only accounts for the time since the end of September; Toby Neal saw a drop in sales early in that month, and that was probably due to the major publishers putting their older titles on sale in anticipation of the Fall releases.
That sounds like a good promotional model, but you don’t have to take my word for it; check out this best-seller price index from Digital Book World. Note the severe dip extending from late August to late September:
I’m not usually one to put any weight into best-seller lists but this graph, simply as a price index, fits too closely to be ignored.
At this point I’m sure that some are wondering why this year is different. After all, some agency titles were already ex-agency around this time last year so why didn’t indie authors see a similar effect?
For one thing, the above chart tells us that there is increasing price competition in the best-seller lists now that the major publishers no longer get to set the price and shove it down consumers' throats. The effect appears to be cumulative over time (so far), and if it continues it could have an interesting effect next Spring and Fall.
The other possible reason why indies didn’t see price competition last Fall is that, according to Kristine Rusch, the publishers were still coordinating their release schedules:
Events in traditional publishing are Event Novels. Until 2012/2013, it was common practice for the editors in chief of traditional publishing houses to have a polite, if off-the-record, discussion with cohorts at other publishing houses. The editors would scatter their Event Books throughout the fall season—which is the big season in publishing.
…Book publishers have had that same attitude too, but they don’t announce their lists that early. They announce the fall lists in January, sometimes even in March, of the same year. And all of the book publishers announce at roughly the same time.
So, until last year, they would have “informal” discussions, designating September 24 Stephen King week, and October 22 John Grisham week, and so on. No one would schedule a tent-pole book—a blockbuster, if you will—against another tent-pole. Unless those tent-poles were in radically different genres. Sure, a romance publisher might release a sweet contemporary romance blockbuster on September 24, under the assumption that romance book-buying dollars are different than horror book-buying dollars. In other words, the romance reader wouldn’t be buying the King, and the King reader wouldn’t be buying romance.
I think part of the reason why indies are taking a hit in the wallet is the general uncoordinated nature of the major publishers' sales promotions. They’re promoting all the titles heavily due to the more intense competition, and while that does help their sales it also hurts anyone that doesn’t have the huge marketing budget.
If that is true, and if book prices continue their downward trend, then the problems that Toby Neal reported last week are only going to get worse. Can you imagine what is going to happen next April, when the major publishers start their Spring release schedule? I think indie authors might want to consider getting a day job just in case.
On a related note, I think we may be looking at practical proof of Mike Shatzkin’s argument that high agency prices reduced the amount of direct price competition that indies might face:
But I want to argue here that all authors, including those who self-publish for $0.99 or $2.99, should be applauding the big publishers’ efforts to keep the perception of value for branded books high by keeping prices high and stopping retailer discounting. Authors should be vocally supporting price maintenance and the agency model, even if they are not “in the union”. There are several reasons for this.
3. If big publishers reduced their prices sharply, the key marketing distinction that fostered the discovery of such writers as Amanda Hocking and John Locke would be eliminated. On the comment stream of a blogpost I read on this subject (can’t find it so can’t link it), one person posted a string of suggestions for major publisher survival strategies that included “cut all your prices to $2.99.” Why? Because it would eliminate all the competition from the self-published riff-raff that is using price as a marketing tool. So not only would the publishers and branded authors make less money, the aspirants would find their path to success cut off as well.
That’s now going away, and indie publishing might wither with it.
Oh, I don’t think that indie publishing is going to die, but I do think we’re going to go into a brutal Darwinian period where the weak and the merely unlucky will be slaughtered. The next 6 months to a year could be a major upheaval in indie publishing as indies have to face more direct competition from the majors.
If I were an author, I would follow the advice of Toby Neal and start aggressively developing pursuing new options. I think she’s right when she says that it will be necessary.
P.S. I would like to thank Kristine Rusch for sharing the details about the Fall and Spring launch windows and Will Entrekin for pointing me in the right direction.
Toby Neal December 10, 2013 um 8:36 pm
Thanks so much for the mention and well-researched info! I follow Mike Shatzkin’s blog and Rusch’s too. I am not in the loop of the "bigger picture" of trad publishing calendar releases as an indie; as I said in my post, my evidence is anecdotal and based on the aggressive markdowns I see in the email lists coming to readers, lists I participate in too such as ENT, Bargainbooksy, Bookbub, BookGorilla, and the timing of the sales drop. Thanks for your thoughful analysis and adding to the discussion we’ve all been having behind (panicky) closed doors!
Bob Mayer December 10, 2013 um 8:39 pm
I don’t think that’s the big problem. The reality is that indies are fighting indies for the same slice of the pie. When 10 romance authors put novellas together into an anthology and sell it for .99 in order to hit the NY Times list, what good does it do in reality? Readers are going to remember all 10 and buy their books? Each author makes about 3 cents per copy?
The elephant in the room no one wants to talk about is the discoverability wars.
Toby Neal December 10, 2013 um 8:48 pm
Bob, I loved this when you said it on my blog too, and I agree. What a challenge navigating all this is!
Cathryn Cade December 13, 2013 um 3:29 pm
Toby and Bob,
I respectfully disagree.
I think the discount anthologies are a great tool to bring in new readers. I write, but am also an avid reader. I’ve discovered many new authors this year whose work I want to buy more of–and several I discovered through anthologies. I then went on to buy some of their full price ebooks.
I also have a perma-free sci fi rom novella up, in the same world as my new self-pub series. It continues to bring in new readers by staying near the top of the sci fi/space opera lists on the Zon, and has carried books 1 & 2 of the new series up with it.
I’m sure many, many of the readers who downloaded the perma-free haven’t even read it, but enough have that my sales are excellent. They’ve extended to my sci fi rom backlist.
I understand the worries about discounting and the plethora of new books on the market, but I believe the core of readers are savvy and will buy what they want. I do.
Will Entrekin December 11, 2013 um 8:54 am
Oh, jeez. The "discoverability" buzzword.
There’s no discoverability problem. There’s an attention war. That’s what the reality is: there is a finite amount of attention (there are only so many hours in a day, after all), and that’s what all art and entertainment (and artful entertainment and entertaining art) are competing for.
Readers are having no problem whatsoever discovering new books by new authors at low prices.
The elephant in the room is how good are any of the novellas in the anthology you mentioned? That’s the problem. Do readers care about books hitting the NY Times list (or any list, for that matter)? Those are feathers in the caps of authors and publishers.
Nate Hoffelder December 11, 2013 um 9:04 am
Readers don’t really have a discovery problem, but marketers want us thik we do so we’ll use their apps. (Bookavore)
C. S. Lakin December 15, 2013 um 10:57 am
Will, discoverability is the same as getting attention. This is just rhetoric but the same issue. And what I believe is that writers who want success as indie authors need to see what the biggest-selling genres are and then write to them, if they want to see sales. I have a very interesting blog post on The Book Designer this Wednesday (Dec. 19) that you may want to check out about genre vs. author platform. You can read about the genre experiment I did and what I learned about discoverability as it relates to the rule of supply and demand. Hope you check it out!
Greg Strandberg December 15, 2013 um 3:50 pm
Hope you have some secrets I don’t. My genres currently are thriller, fantasy, historical fiction, sci-fi, history, author reference, spirituality, and business.
Sorry, but multiple genres by itself isn’t enough.
Ciara Ballintyne December 15, 2013 um 8:17 pm
I agree discoverability and getting attention are the same thing. Yes, readers can discover new books, but a) how easy is it to discover good new books? (I generally only do this by recommendation from someone trusted in the indiespace because there are just too many titles to choose from) and b) any individual’s author to be discovered is pretty slim. So discoverability can be viewed broadly (can new books bound – yes of course, there’s so many, you couldn’t miss if you threw a knife blindfolded in the dark) and narrowly – how easy is it to doscover a specific new books. Which in the indie space is very hard. Discoverability is nothing more than the ability to 'be seen', and when indies are mostly making digital sales, and you bear in mind that a good online conversion rate is 1% (that means for one sale, 100 people need to see the book), discoverability, or more simply, the ability to 'be seen', is a huge problem.
I don’t agree with writing to best-selling genres, because if you start writing what you don’t like writing, you might as well not bother writing and just work a day job. Writing is a business, yes, but I probably like my day job better than the notion of writing outside my preferred genre.
Also, the advice has always been don’t write to trends, because by the time you see a trend, it’s on it’s way out (or this is often the case). Indies have the advantage of being able to get to market faster than traditional publishers, but the disadvantage of knowing several years after the traditional publishers what will be big because what’s big is still often driven by traditional titles, and indies don’t see those titles until they hit the shelves – several years after the publishers knew about them.
Jim Miller December 15, 2013 um 8:40 pm
I agree with Ciara regarding aiming your writing at what is selling now. Unless that is the genre you enjoy writing in, stay away from it – if the only reason to write in a genre is to make money. Write what you like to read, write as well as you can. Use an editor and a pro cover artist and promote in ways that fit your own style.
And have a Merry Christmas. 🙂
C. S. Lakin December 15, 2013 um 9:11 pm
Ciara, this is what my blog post also addresses. If a writer loves to write and wants to make money writing, genre is important. You don’t have to sell out unless you absolutely dislike every genre except the one you write in. Magazine article writers tailor their articles to fit a certain audience in order to sell to specific magazines. I used to feel the way you did, but after writing more than a dozen novels in various genres (which I love, by the way), and not really getting noticed or making any money, I decided to write to a specific audience that had few good books in the genre they loved. The results … well, you’ll just have to read the post on Wednesday at www.thebookdesigner.com. This is not writing to a trend; that’s an entirely different thing. Trends have to do with topic interests, like vampires. Genre is constant and has a set readership expecting a type of book.
I do feel what you say is valid. I wholly support and encourage all my editing and coached clients to write what is in their heart, as I always have done. But when I did my genre experiment and wrote in a genre I don’t read or care to read, I had a great time, loved writing the book, and am very proud of it. Was it worth it? Emotionally and financially, yes. And I will continue to do so. I’d like to get to where Russell Blake is (see his comment below)–selling 300k copies of my books a year. That’s my goal for 2014!
Ciara Ballintyne December 15, 2013 um 9:21 pm
I may feel particuarly strongly about the point because I’m a one-genre writer. I rarely read outside my genre (and certainly not with the same degree of pleasure as my preferred genre) and I’ve never written outside it. The idea of even trying produces nothing but blankness.
C. S. Lakin December 15, 2013 um 11:00 am
Bob, everyone is talking about it. But to me, as I wrote Will below, the key to discoverability is assessing what the readers are buying. If an author wants to make money and be successful as an indie author (get discovered), she has to write in the genres that sell. Please check out my controversial guest post on Joel Friedlander’s blog (The Book Designer) this Wednesday, where I reveal my secret genre experiment results and show the key to indie selling!
Ciara Ballintyne December 15, 2013 um 9:24 pm
It’s not just writing what sells. There is an audience for what I write. Getting that audience to see me is something totally different.
J.L. Campbell December 10, 2013 um 8:55 pm
Definitely serious food for thought here. I don’t think indies (of which I am also one) have any alternative but to find creative ways of promoting their work. Thanks for the links.
Will Entrekin December 11, 2013 um 8:45 am
Hey, glad to have been any help at all, sir. Nice summation.
As mentioned, I saw Neal’s post, but I think there’s a lot more going on than simply that corporate publishers' discounts tanked sales of indie titles by indie authors. First, consider the seasonal nature of the reading market: September is a tough month, as its first weekend marks the end of summar and the conclusion of "beach read" season, just as everyone’s gearing up for fall and, as has already been mentioned, big titles (I’m thinking Tartt, as well as King, Grisham, and several others–all have had recent releases).
And then we enter holiday shopping season. Which I think is really, really important here, as so many indie titles are exclusivly digital. It’s the only instance where the print tangibility argument actually still holds up.
That’ll switch over starting December 24th. All those people getting new tablets and ereaders? iPads and Kindles are going to be huge this holiday season, and people are going to want content for them.
But on to Shatzkin. Because great Shakespeare that’s all insane. I’m sorry, we’re supposed to "be applauding" big publishers? The ones who colluded to keep ebook prices artificially inflated? Because that’s what happened. Every last one of them settled. The only corporation who didn’t settle, who fought the collusion suit brought against them, was the only one who really only participated to the extent that they made the collusion possible. I’m thinking specifically of the famous Jobs email in which Jobs wrote that readers would pay a few dollars more *but that was what the publishers wanted anyway*.
Finally, the argument point you mentioned is one of the greatest problems here, and one Neal mentioned in her post. Neal says "Cheaper pricing was our advantage as indies," while Shatzkin notes "If big publishers reduced their prices sharply, the key marketing distinction that fostered the discovery of such writers as Amanda Hocking and John Locke would be eliminated."
You know what? That’s fine. Because if cheap pricing is our advantage (as opposed to one among several), that’s a problem. (And that’s not to mention that the key marketing principle that drove Locke’s discovery was the reviews he bought.) If cheap pricing is indies' advantage, that basically makes indie titles and indie authors akin to the Designer Imposters of the ebook world.
I’d very much like for the next six months to see a big shift, but I don’t think that’s unusual. 2012 was the year KDP Select jumpstarted so many authors and titles, and this past year it was Bookbub. We’re seeing now that the efficacy of Select has dwindled, and I think we’ll see the same of Bookbub down the line. I don’t know what’s going to be effective in 2014, but you’re correct that’s where Neal gets it right; the advantage of indie titles and authors is not low prices but flexibility, adaptibility, and agility. We’re doing things right now that Shatzkin et al. won’t really glom to for several more years. We’re not corporations, so we don’t have to answer to shareholders; we’re indie authors, and the only people we have to answer to are our readers.
[email protected] December 11, 2013 um 8:46 am
Interesting post. In my province, the government has introduced legislation that will ban the discounting of books by more than 10% for up to 9 months after the book has been released. This would apply to all books – digital and print. Some booksellers here think it is a fantastic idea, however I feel that it will lead to people buying less books, people cross border shopping for print books, and book piracy.
The whole idea is that independent book sellers don’t stand a chance against low prices from Costco, Amazon, and Walmart.
I feel sad for my province. Legislating culture never works.
flyingtoastr December 11, 2013 um 11:49 am
In Germany there are incredibly strict pricing controls on books – both printed and electronic. The market there is diverse, wonderfully vibrant, and quite successful, with some of the highest sales per capita for literature on the planet.
Pricing controls can work, if they’re administrated smartly.
Nate Hoffelder December 11, 2013 um 12:30 pm
One problem with German pricing controls is that the retail price is controlled but not the wholesale price (or so I was told). This still gives the bigger chains room to outcompete the imdie stores.
Indies Are Getting Clobbered by Big Name eBook Discounts | Time to Write December 11, 2013 um 10:13 am
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Ben December 11, 2013 um 11:05 am
If "discoverability" is only a buzzword, try not to have a marketing plan. Let’s see those awesome ebook sales. Imagine walking into a bookstore and you see nothing but books on shelves where nothing draws your attention. Yup, discoverability is just a buzzword…
Nate Hoffelder December 11, 2013 um 12:33 pm
No one has any objection to marketing; the only issue is when some try to pretend it’s something else. In the case of the term discovery, it’s a case of inventing a problem to be solved.
Juli Monroe December 11, 2013 um 2:24 pm
I think you are right, Nate, about your "Darwinian" period. And I also think we’re going to be better off for it happening. Some self-pubbed authors have gotten away with publishing crap. (Note, I said "some", not all or even most.) If price isn’t the only differentiator, the smart authors are going to realize they need to be both inexpensive and quality. Inexpensive alone won’t cut it any more. If the overall quality level improves, that’s just good for self-publishing as a whole because the good ones won’t automatically be tarred with the crap brush.
Ironically, my sales have been (for me) very good in November and early December. But I’m still in the early days of finding readers, so my expectations are still pretty low.
Nate Hoffelder December 11, 2013 um 2:45 pm
Yes, I’m concerned that some indie authors will start showing up and saying that they’re not seeing a drop in sales. That could disprove this post. On the other hand, perhaps the authors who were unaffected are already operating at a higher professional level and can go toe-to-toe with publishers' marketing depts?
Juli Monroe December 11, 2013 um 4:56 pm
Even a bunch of individual examples like mine won’t disprove the post. I can’t imagine that many of us are reading this and are willing to take the time to comment. After all, shouldn’t we be working on our next great book? 😉
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Indies Are Getting Clobbered by Big Name eBook Discounts – But Not For The Reason You Think | jbiggarblog December 14, 2013 um 9:26 pm
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Greg Strandberg December 15, 2013 um 3:42 am
Little late to this party.
I don’t see the $2.99 price point as sustainable for big publishers. Prolonged $2.99 prices, continuously 24/7 for 6 months, 12 months? Does anyone believe that?
Now, what would happen if they did do that? I’d imagine it would cut into their revenues something fierce, leading to layoffs, shutterings, and mergers.
And will they go into the 35% royalty range? That’s a forbidden territory they’re unlikely to cross into.
I still think pricing is an option for indies, but I agree other things will have to be found quickly. I like that agility comment. I can still put out a book a month at the least and am not constrained by any publishing schedule buy my own. Still, I don’t have an eager fan base so that’s not helping much right now. I guess that’s why the 2nd job comment really hits home for me.
Cathryn Cade December 15, 2013 um 11:21 am
Or perhaps the big publishers would sell many more ebooks at this lower price point, thus raising revenues in a different manner. It will be interesting to see what happens, as you say.
Like most readers, I’m on a budget. I’ll try new authors, if they price their books low enough, or at least have a loss leader for me to sample, discounting the first book of a series, or making it free.
I refuse to buy any but a select few authors at 6.99 and up for an ebook. My strategy is to wait and buy the paperback at a discount, so for the same price I at least have something to hold in my hand. But then, being the busy woman I am, I forget to keep an eye out for that book. So the publisher lost that sale. Was that good business on their part?
It is truly fascinating watching book marketing change as a reader, writer and now self-publisher.
Are Independent Publishers Being Clobbered? | Diane Tibert December 15, 2013 um 11:33 am
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Russell Blake December 15, 2013 um 1:03 pm
The ebook market is maturing. So the promotional strategies that worked in its infancy are fading, leaving indie authors with the exact same problems trad pubbed authors have had for years – how to find an audience. The quality of the work will hold the audience once it’s been found, but how to find it?
Every salesperson knows that anyone can sell on price. It’s the refuge of the lazy salesperson. Selling based on perceived value, based on brand awareness, based on differentiators, based on intangibles…that requires more skill.
I haven’t reduced my prices. In fact, I just took my perma-free books off free for a month or three to see exactly how it impacts my sales. Free was a brilliant way to find an audience two years ago via Select, partially because of the impact it had on Amazon’s algos. Now, I’m not so sure.
This year, I will have sold approximately 300K novels, with perhaps 40K of that attributable to a bundle I’m in. Ironically, the sales of the novel in that bundle, King of Swords, are as strong or stronger than ever. So the bundle buyers are a different audience than my core, which means I’m reaching different readers, which is all good. But the point is that even if one removes the sales of the bundle as somehow "not real sales" 2013 is 2.6 times greater sales than 2012, and revenue is actually more like 3.3, due to selling at higher prices.
I agree that the next year is going to be a tough one. Just like this last one has been. Just as the one after it will be. The market keeps changing, and the only thing we can do is to think outside the box and try new marketing approaches, and write good books our audience find valuable.
Jeff Bach December 15, 2013 um 3:49 pm
x2 what Greg S writes above. I see the price cuts by the big publishers as being unsustainable. While they might sell more at the lower price, I do not believe (my gut feel) that they will sell enough to maintain their current revenue levels. Sustaining high fixed overhead costs, satisfying their shareholders, and staying profitable are going to want to bump prices up. However, they can drop prices long enough though to disrupt the whole ecosystem. This business is maturing. Everything goes from specialty to commodity. "What comes next?" is one way to fix this unstoppable force.
RP Dahlke December 18, 2013 um 8:40 am
Jeff, we can only hope that publishers will not be able to sustain their deep discounts–agents must be pulling their hair on this, as no one is making money, and certainly not the authors!
Ksenia Anske December 16, 2013 um 1:01 pm
I give away my ebooks for FREE everywhere, on my site, and on any others that would let me. You might call me crazy, but I believe that the publishing industry is following the steps of the music industry. Soon books will become promotional material for authors. I have self-published my 1st novel in August and have so far made only about $3,500, but 50% of those were sales of autographed paperbacks on my site (or paperbacks on Amazon), and 50% were donations. I let readers pay what they want. My belief is my readers will support me directly as an artist. I’m planning on doing a Kickstarter project for my future books, and people have been pre-ordering my books even though I’m still writing them. Of course, I’m a nobody in terms of credibility, just a newbie writer, but I’m very passionate about breaking the rules of the game. I don’t think writers need publishers anymore, it’s between writers and readers now. The barriers have fallen.
I intent to show numbers in the future to show everyone how I’m doing it. If I will fail, oh well! But if not, well, then maybe it’s time you joined the wagon!
A Hodgepodge of Useful Bits & Pieces – Mid-December 2013 | KD DID IT Takes on Books December 16, 2013 um 9:15 pm
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RP Dahlke December 18, 2013 um 8:37 am
In the "Old" days of publishing, we were all told that success for our books would take time, and that we should put ourselves on 5 yr plan. That advice may become true again. I had huge successes in 2011 and 2012–then legacy publishers took over in 2013 and the sh*** hit the fan. My philosophy, and Winston Churchhill said it best, NEVER GIVE UP!
Write good books, promote, promote, promote.
Bev December 20, 2013 um 10:02 am
Branding. Promotion. Branding. Promotion. That publishers would have to get serious about pricing was a given from the start. They’re bigger and they have more muscle. I knew when they decided to flex it, things would get super interesting.
Brian D. Anderson December 20, 2013 um 12:21 pm
As an indie author, I keep up with price trends and the who’s who in my genre. Personally, I don’t think this will have any impact at all. Indie writers who do not depend on their books for a living, won’t care, and those of us who do, have built a fan-base large enough to sustain us though most adversities.
If prices drop to indie levels then it is a clear indicator that indie books are stomping the guts out of traditional publishing, not the other way around. Why else would they choose to make less money? It’s certainly not from the kindness of their hearts.
Cathryn Cade December 20, 2013 um 2:04 pm
Agree! I price my books reasonably (3.99) for my genre, sci fi romance, and they sell. I don’t sell them cheaply because I consider them inferior, I do it because I want to move my product. This is working well for me, despite the shenanigans of the trad pubs.
Also despite word on the street that Nov & Dec are terrible months to sell books, this has proven to be untrue for my self-pub product. And as a reader, I read a lot this time of year. I’m indoors, I need stress relief, etc.
Brian D. Anderson December 21, 2013 um 4:39 am
I would like to clarify my earlier statement. I am speaking only of publishers, not authors. I don’t think other authors, be they traditionally published or indie are in any sort of price war. We just write books and hope people like them.
J. R. Tomlin December 20, 2013 um 8:19 pm
Ah, the sky is falling yet again and will fall first on the heads of indie authors. The same thing was shouted last month and will be shouted next month. Publishing is in a state of flux. What was true two years ago or a year ago isn’t true now. We have to do a lot of adjusting but I suspect the sky will still be up there and see no reason that readers will suddenly decide to never again buy an indie novel. This could have been a worthwhile article if it hadn’t gone right over the top into hysterical territory. Nobody is going to wither although no doubt a few people will give up. Most of us will adjust and keep on with writing and selling our writing. By the way, I’m selling at about the same rate I did this time last year before the post-Christmas spike in sales. When sales do spike after Christmas, I rather doubt that Mr. Hoffelder is going to come back and admit he was wrong. Book sales are seasonal. As many things as are changing in publishing, I am pretty sure that is a fact that won’t change.
Nate Hoffelder December 20, 2013 um 9:55 pm
Indie sales going up in January won’t prove me wrong. That’s the expected post-Christmas boost.
No, what would prove me wrong is if indie sales don’t go down in April when the Spring releases are being promoted.
Brian D. Anderson December 21, 2013 um 6:10 am
I think what you’ll see over the next few years is that the more "established" indies who consistently sell as well as traditionally published authors will start reaping the benefits. The Big Six will certainly be looking to put the squeeze on indie authors, and they’ll do what they can to cut them out of the picture. They will, of course, fail. They simply can’t maintain a price war with a group who has virtually no overhead and little more than household expenses. We can take a hit and still pay our bills. They have stockholders and employees and 401k’s and Christmas bonuses, etc..
The logical next step is to snatch them up. This is already happening to a degree. Smaller audio publishers are signing successful indie writers by the dozen and making quite a nice bit of money in the process.
The only real way to lessen the competition is to have them join your team. Sadly for the Big Six, most of the top indie writers won’t come cheap. I, for one, would need considerably more than I make on my own for me to give away my freedom. I think you’ll find that to be the case with most indies.
Nate Hoffelder December 22, 2013 um 9:00 pm
"Sadly for the Big Six, most of the top indie writers won’t come cheap."
The Big 5 publishers can’t afford to match what the more successful indies earn – not for more than a handful of authors and a handful of titles. It’s far more likely that we would see a greater number of hybrid authors.
Consider an indie author who is used to writing 5 good books a year. Do you really think that (for example) RH would be able to process 5 titles a year from a single author? I don’t because they are not used to that tight of a turnaround; what they’re used to doing is pushing a release date out by as much as a year to 18 months. Can you imagine an indie author willing to see his next 5 books be delayed by as much as 5 years? I can’t.
So at best the Big 6 would want 1-2 titles from from an indie author, with the rest of the titles being released as indie.
And you’re right that indies are going to ask for considerably more to give up their freedom; publishers can’t afford it so indies will more likely go hybrid.
Busy Mama » The Weekend Edition December 21, 2013 um 12:57 am
[…] Indie Authors Are Getting Clobbered by Big Name eBook Discounts – But Not For The Reason You Think (The Digital Reader) […]
Blogs for Self-Publishers December 8 – 14, 2013 — The Book Designer December 21, 2013 um 2:07 am
[…] Hoffelder on The Digital Reader Indies Are Getting Clobbered by Big Name eBook Discounts – But Not For The Reason You Think “Oh, I don’t think that indie publishing is going to die, but I do think we’re going to […]
Ernie Zelinski January 2, 2014 um 3:33 am
I have priced my main ebooks at $9.97 on the Kindle platform since I started self-publishing them a little over a year ago.
My "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free" is my flagship book. When I first placed it on Kindle, Amazon was forcing my price down because they were discounting the print edition (as much as 49 percent of retail price at one time). There is something in Amazon’s agreement that says when a print edition is priced at a certain price, they can discount the Kindle edition, even though they are the ones discounting the print edition.
Luckily for me, Amazon stopped discounting my print edition that much and the price of the Kindle edition was not discounted from its $9.97 price anymore.
Here are the results.
1. The print edition sales were not affected at all when Amazon rasied the price. In fact, the print edition has sold around 10 percent more copies than last year – and last year was the best year ever for sales since the print edition was released 10 years ago.
2. The Kindle edition sales were also not affected by the rise in price. In fact, overall both the Kindle edition and the print edition have been the best-selling "retirement planning" books in their respective categories on Amazon over the year, beating out the competition of the major publisher and the competition by the self-published authors, who price their retirement books as low as 99 cents and other low prices of $1.99, $2.99. etc. (a great way to cheapen your books).
On this first day of 2014, I had my best day ever with the Kindle edition, selling a total of 34 copies at $9.97. That translates into royalties of around $230 from the Kindle edition in just one day for me. And the self-published print edition should have made me at least $150 in profits (after subtracting printing costs and the distribution fees) for the day on Amazon alone (not counting the sales in other outlets).
In short, I am not concerned about these predictions of prices. I will keep the prices of my two main ebooks at $9.97 regardless of what the major publishers do and regardless of what self-published authors who compete with my books do.
Incidentally, three years ago there were a bunch of so-called "book experts" on blogs and websites saying that "Print is dead." At that time I said that anyone who said that was either outright lying or just plain brain dead. Since then, the sales of the print editions my two main books have increased every year. And I expect the print sales in 2014 to increase over the great year of 2013 that I just had. Not only that, I expect the ebook sales of both titles to also increase over those of 2013. This will be accomplished without reducing the price of the books.
The key here is to have great books, ones that are better than the competition. Another secret is to do many things related to marketing that the competition is not doing.
Ernie J. Zelinski
International Best-Selling Author
"Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free"
Author of the Bestseller "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free"
(Over 200,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
and the International Bestseller "The Joy of Not Working'
(Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)
Kindle Unlimited is Cutting into Authors' Sales, and Other Market Scrying ⋆ The Digital Reader December 9, 2014 um 9:18 pm
[…] was around this time last December that I reported that some indie authors were seeing a big drop in sales during fall 2013. I cited […]