Nathan Bransford, Author


Friday, March 18, 2011

This Week in Books 3/18/11

The Books! This Week!

First up, one of my blog readers is an editor in Egypt, and as there aren't many/any agents in Egypt (but there could be), she's hoping to work as a virtual intern at a literary agency to learn more about the trade. I know we're all rooting for Egypt after the revolution, any agents out there who could help her out

There was a very interesting discussion over at All Indie Publishing triggered by the always-interesting Zoe Winters. The topic: Do 99 Cent E-books Attract the Wrong Kind of Reader? Now, at first blush, your answer might be, as John Ochwat put it on Twitter, "If readers are wrong, I don't want to be right." But Zoe's thoughts are worth a read in full. Does the price affect a reader's loyalty and the perception of value? (via OtherLisa)

Is all publicity really good publicity? Well, according to a study spotted by The Millions: It all depends. For established writers, bad publicity can hurt sales. For new writers: Bad publicity actually helps.

Very smart editor Cheryl Klein has self-published a guide to writing called SECOND SIGHT, definitely check that out!

The New York Observer took an anthropological look at the "Assisterati," the collective of extremely smart assistants who are reading many of your queries and performing essential tasks behind the scenes at agencies. And yes, the "Assisterati" Twitter account was started just a week later.

What do you get when you take an author's first novel, which is the first sale by her agent and the first acquisition by her editor? Well, in this case you get THE TIGER'S WIFE by Tea Obreht, currently the toast of the literary scene.

In writing and publishing advice news, guest blogging at Pimp My Novel, Brad Philips offers nine ways to give a better reading, Finslippy gives advice on attending conferences, and agent Rachelle Gardner had three great publishing mythbusting posts here, here and here.

And in so wrong it's right news... real life re-creations of romance novel covers. (via Stephen Shankland)

This week in the Forums, March Madness is so on, can social media self-promotion be a bad thing, an authors for Japan benefit auction, the Great Gatsby mansion is going to be razed, and does grammar matter?

Comment! of! the! Week! Again, another great week for comments, but I had to go with Melissa Romo, who had a great metaphor on the way building a social media following works:

...I'm working on a novel (about to query) and I liken the entire project, including social media, to the formation of a planet. It takes time to form a center if gravity that will start attracting sizable enough chunks of dirt to form anything of a meaningful size.

And finally, it's been an incredibly difficult week for a lot of the world. Which is why we all need a little more Flight of the Conchords in our life. Frodo, don't wear the ring!



Have a great weekend!






82 comments:

adamo said...

Five bucks is a fair price for a book. I think that's what they should cost.

Mr. D said...

If Frodo didn't wear the ring, then there wouldn't have been a trilogy!

zegota said...

It's still crazy to me that people think value has anything to do with cost in this industry. When people ask me "What's you're favorite book?" I have never once responded: "Definitely this one, I paid $30 for it!" On the contrary, some of the stories that I treasure most came, originally, from used bookstores for pennies. Even more damning is the fact that most of the classic tales that define our culture are public domain, and therefore free. Does that make them worthless?

Obviously, authors should do what they want and what works for them, but patronizing other authors that choose to sell their books for cheap as "low quality" just seems elitist. Most readers who buy $.99 kindle books don't think "This is going to suck, but I'll buy it any way." They think "I have no idea whether this will be good or bad, but at $.99, I'm willing to take a chance." To me, that doesn't hurt loyalty at all, unless your books really are crap.

zegota said...

^That should be "your" favorite book, of course. How embarrassing.

magpiewrites said...

Thanks for the links, especially the one about attending conferences. I'm going to my first three day writing orgy iat Pennwriters and I'm freaking terrified. Drinking heavily is probably not the answer, but I don't know what is. Hopefully I can figure it out before May!

Melissa Romo said...

Thanks for complimenting my metaphor, Nathan. I was a little worried I was likening readers to chunks of dirt, which would not do wonders for my appeal as a writer. Actually, I'm still a little worried, so Readers, please know that was not what I meant. My metaphors tend to have a mind of their own.

Cookie said...

I love Flight of the Conchords! All of their songs are parody gold!

Gushiness aside, I don't think the price of the book necessarily defines the quality. Like Zegota said, a lot of the classics are public domain now and free.

Ted Fox said...

I read that story about THE TIGER'S WIFE earlier this week. It got me pretty excited, especially since I'm currently unpublished but signed with an agent just a few days before. Of course, there may be more of a market for her historical fiction than my Tweets about how much better the NCAA tournament is sans Billy Packer. But a guy can dream.

Munk said...

Bad publicity: I'm counting on it to make me a beloved figure.

Cathy Yardley said...

LOVE Flight of the Conchords! Did you know that Bret was actually in the movie Lord of the RIngs, playing an elf? (Um... oops. My geekness is showing.)

I'm still kicking around the .99 price point as a promotional option. I do think that authors that point out their sales drop too dramatically when they raise their prices to $2.99 ought to see if they have repeat customers, if possible. (I don't think there's a way to track, unfortunately.) A reader who will only buy you at .99 is not the audience you want, IMO. And yes, I think there are enough readers in the world that you can afford to be more choosy.

lauren said...

mmmmmm...Flight of the Conchords. Thank you. I also love the idea of this blog being a vehicle to begin a stronger literary agent presence in Egypt. Perhaps strong literary agents will turn out to be an incredible way to empower writers in the Middle East (not that I know enough about Egyptian literature; I'm unfortunately more in tune with Western Lit). Very cool regardless.

Laura Campbell said...

Loving Flight of the Conchords. A great way to start off a beautiful Friday!

Sommer Leigh said...

I don't like the idea of assigning a value to readers based on what they are willing to pay for a book. We already have enough perception of value problems in this industry to start being choosy about readers. I can see how .99 isn't sustainable for some authors, no matter how many copies they sell. I don't know what the right price is. I just don't want to go down the path where authors put a price value on their readers. There are plenty of books I've purcahsed at full price and never got around to reading! Saying that a .99 price point draws in the "bad elements" leaves me feeling really uncomfortable.

Libby said...

I love Flight of the Conchords, especially the Friends song. I fear all publicity, even the good kind but know it's necessary.

Brit Hvide said...

The thing is, I think that the 99cent e-books aren't attracting the wrong kind of reader so much as they are attracting an untapped market. You will always have big readers, the kind of people who read Franzen for fun, but then you'll have other people who won't read anything.

Buying a 99cent book from Amazon is like buying a trashy magazine or a stick of gum at the supermarket checkout. It's mindless and so easier to consume, therefore making it easier for non-readers or light-readers to pick up. No one's mistaking it for great literature, and I still have big hopes for e-books and publishing.

Gwen Roman said...

So glad I popped in here today. Needed to come up to speed on my pub news and REALLY needed that Flight of the Conchords fix -- thanks for both!!

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks for the shout out, Nathan, and for calling me "always-interesting".

re: value. there are different types of value. In a "business", monetary value is a legitimate and important type of value, especially for artists trying to make a living.

Sure, a reader might not care if I can make a living or not, but I really don't want that type of reader to begin with.

zegota said...

Zoe: I think most readers, at some level, want the authors they read to be able to make a living doing it. There may be a misconception that all authors are rich fat cats, absolutely. But the readers who truly care nothing for the authors will probably just pirate the work, honestly, and those people aren't worth worrying about.

I may have spoke too generally; certainly there are readers for whom quality doesn't really matter, and buying book is just a simple $/word proposition. It sounds like you talked to a few of those people. But most people, like the rest of us, are normal folks with bills to pay, and our brain makes decisions based on that. I'll read a free story by pretty much any writer, poor or great. 99 cents? Sure, I'll give it a try. But as the price goes up, I have to try harder and harder to justify it. I'm not going to buy a $20-30 book if I know nothing about the story or author. And believe me, if I do buy that book and end up not liking it, I'm not likely to ever pick up a book by that person again. Whereas with a cheaper title, I might be more apt to see the potential and try the author again.

I'm not saying that 99 cents is necessarily the sweet spot. I think it differs for each author, and it may very well, and probably is, higher than that. But I think it's a little bit counterproductive to *not* want people to buy your book and read your writing, regardless of the type of person.

To put my money where my mouth is, I just bought an anthology featuring your story on my Kindle. The genre is not something I'd normally be interested in -- but who knows! Maybe one day I'll become a loyal fan :-)

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh boy. There really is too much interesting stuff here for one comment.

Conchords rule, though, I can say that much!

Other Lisa said...

For me, I can't see selling an eBook at 99 cents. I'm too slow a writer, and that price point doesn't reflect the amount of work I put into what I do. I also think the argument that it's better to start high and lower prices (like for a sale) makes a lot of sense. My publisher will do discounts and giveaways of backlist titles to help promote a new book, for example.

I think eBooks should be priced lower than paper books (I'm talking about in the traditional publishing model) and I like the idea that the price gets lower after it's been released for a while.

I find the sense of entitlement exhibited by some Freevangelists/99 centers disturbing. I still shake my head at the guy from WIRED who blithely said recently that he didn't see why a book should cost more than a song on iTunes. Um, maybe because it TOOK ME TWO YEARS TO WRITE?!! And it provides a longer "entertainment experience" for the customer?

(plus his hardcover book lists for like 27 bucks?!)

I think bringing up books that are in the public domain is sort of a diversion from what's being argued here: how do actual living working authors support themselves and build a sustainable career?

jesse said...

So many links. And links within links... Where's my totem?

E. VERNA said...

"For established writers bad publicity can hurt sales. For new writers bad publicity actually helps." You said it right Nathan.While humility helps other writers ,being proud and a little bragging helps achieve what you need to achieve. Besides armoring is a sign of weakness. Oh yeah I read Frager and Fadiman's book.

zegota said...

Lisa: I'm not sure what a Freevangelist is, but you could probably apply that to me, in certain cases :-)

Authors should certainly do what makes them the most money (unless you're one of those odd creatures who cares more for readership than making a living). I was just trying to argue against the idea that $.99 is somehow too low, even if it makes you more money because you have more readers. You say that the low price point feels like it's not worthy of the effort you put in, and that's completely fair, but to me, it's the overall bottom line that's important. I'd sell a novel for a penny if it would make 6 billion people buy it.

That's all I was trying to say -- sometimes the things that makes the most economic sense and the things that makes emotional sense aren't necessarily aligned. But there's obviously no way to "prove" $.99 or $2.99 or $19.99 will make any given book more money in the long run.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon (who has appeared only to me)-

This isn't the venue for that - also, if you want to attack someone's character I think you should do it non-anonymously. I'm guessing you would present your opinion a bit differently.

V.K. Tremain said...

As always, great information! Thanks, Nathan!

Anonymous said...

OK, Nathan, I can do that. Here's another link to Zoe Winter's blog, her opinion on the people suffering through the tragedy in Japan and those who are trying to help them: here.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Thanks for understanding.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, even though I'm an Anon...and I hope you will post this, Nathan...I did not attack Zoe Winters' actual character. I disagreed with and was shocked by another post on her Blog. If you read her post to which I linked, you will see that she was much more scathing toward journalists reporting on Japan...and you do have journalists here. You linked to Zoe Winters' Blog, and I was commenting on the Blog. I assumed discussion here was impartial, and if you link to a Blog where journalists are being harshly criticized, we can comment on that. No?

John Jack said...

Question: How are e-book sales tracked?

Sure, distributors occasionally report sales numbers. They're open to interpretation, embellishment, exaggeration, downplaying.

Paper book tracking hasn't been much more reliable.

I think with digital inventory tracking potentials and single-impression printing technologies the time for serial numbering of books, digital and paper, has come. Embed a serial number in an ISBN bar code. Extend embedded serial numbers to digital books.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Maybe so, but all the same when there's a comment I consider near or around the line of what I consider civil, the tie goes to people who are non-anon. Basically, if I feel like someone is saying something they wouldn't say if they had their name attached I lean toward the delete button.

We had a very spirited debate a while back about the guidelines for anonymous comments.
My resulting guidelines:

"As Spider-Man will tell you, with great power comes great responsibility. Because of the tendency toward abuse of the anon option and the lack of context for an anon post, I'm going to unabashedly hold anonymous commenters to a higher politeness and constructiveness standard than those who post under a name or handle so that the anon function is not used as a cover to espouse an unproductive attitude that might otherwise not be written if the person were associating their own name with the comment. Hopefully this will best facilitate a constructive dialogue, and polite anons will have nothing to worry about."

Other Lisa said...

@zegota - I'm not an economist, but I think I would rather have fewer buyers at a higher price point. I think that the 99 cent thing, in a way, might be creating a downward pressure on prices, to the point where it undermines an author's ability to make a living wage. Not everyone is going to be able to sell at the volume necessary to profit at 99 cents.

(I read an argument somewhere that $1.99 actually made more sense for that low-end price, but I can't remember where or why)

You know, there really is a whole notion of perceived value that's hard to quantify when you're dealing with creative work, and I don't know what the answers are. But while I'm sympathetic to peoples' economic situations (boy, am I, and hey, 9 times out of 10 I wait for the trade paperback), good work should have value in the marketplace.

I know, "should" is weak. But that's what it comes down to for me. Some basic fairness and economic justice.

Adam Heine said...

That Zoe Winters article triggered a whole post of my own on what our work is worth.

There's some thought that cheap books means more readers, but in general I think if the work is good, then it's worth good money. If it isn't good, giving it away for cheap isn't going to make anybody notice it.

The comments have good thoughts on both sides as well.

Marilyn Peake said...

I agree with zegota. Since I’m in writers’ groups with writers of literary fiction who actually get phone calls from agents telling them their work is amazing, but they can’t take it on because it’s not in a popular genre, I know where some of the best indie stuff is sold, and some of it is the cheapest stuff you can find on Kindle. My mindset has completely changed from where I was a year ago. A year ago, I wanted to buy only books with the stamp of approval from the major publishing houses. In fact, for public domain books, rather than buying them for free on Kindle, I bought the more expensive versions published by the big publishing houses because I assumed the editing would be better. That was before I read articles by publishing insiders saying that most authors published by those houses no longer have access to in-house editors. After TINKERS by Paul Harding, one of my most favorite books ever, could only get published by indie press and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, I no longer evaluate a book by its price. There’s a lot of inferior work published at $32, $2.99, and 99 cents ... and there happens to be fantastic work at all those prices as well. I buy 99 cent books now because I know some very talented indie writers are flocking to publish their books at those prices!

I’m going to weigh in a bit on the controversy Anon stirred up. I clicked on your link, Nathan, to the blog mentioned; and I clicked on Anon’s link. I felt physically ill after that. I’ll watch my tongue because I’m tired and I could rant something awful right now. I’ve been up all night for the past few nights because the most informed news has been coming across newsfeeds at night. My heart is broken over the suffering of the people in Japan. Perhaps I have a mutant type of empathy that allows me to feel for the people far away in another country. And I admire the journalists over in Japan who are getting the word out in order to mobilize the world to try to rescue the survivors. If the world wasn’t keeping a watch over the nuclear power plant in Japan, my guess is that it would be going to complete meltdown at this point in time. It’s already in partial meltdown. The journalists who are getting the story out have exposed themselves to radiation. The workers inside the plant are said to be on a suicide mission right now, and they understand they’ve been asked to sacrifice their own lives for others. All those people have my deepest admiration for what they’re doing. There are writers on Twitter who are trying to help get the word out about what Japan needs. I decided to join them. I’m in the process of reformatting a number of my manuscripts to sell for 99 cents on Kindle, updating my website, arranging book cover artwork, lots of other stuff ... but I decided to work much more slowly at that, so that I could set aside enough time to follow the news closely and retweet information coming out of Japan. People in Japan who are still alive have themselves contacted media, begging the world to hear them and help them. One woman actually said, "Please help us! Please, help!" She didn’t say please ignore us, we like our privacy and therefore would prefer to die from nuclear radiation. OK, that’s it. I’ll be retweeting again this weekend, having recovered from reading a blog that felt like a huge slap in the face to everyone trying to do whatever they can to help the people in Japan. Although I realize that is nothing compared to what the people in Japan are going through tonight.

Marilyn Peake said...

I agree with zegota. Since I’m in writers’ groups with writers of literary fiction who actually get phone calls from agents telling them their work is amazing, but they can’t take it on because it’s not in a popular genre, I know where some of the best indie stuff is sold, and some of it is the cheapest stuff you can find on Kindle. My mindset has completely changed from where I was a year ago. A year ago, I wanted to buy only books with the stamp of approval from the major publishing houses. In fact, for public domain books, rather than buying them for free on Kindle, I bought the more expensive versions published by the big publishing houses because I assumed the editing would be better. That was before I read articles by publishing insiders saying that most authors published by those houses no longer have access to in-house editors. After TINKERS by Paul Harding, one of my most favorite books ever, could only get published by indie press and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, I no longer evaluate a book by its price. There’s a lot of inferior work published at $32, $2.99, and 99 cents ... and there happens to be fantastic work at all those prices as well. I buy 99 cent books now because I know some very talented indie writers are flocking to publish their books at those prices!

I’m going to weigh in a bit on the controversy Anon stirred up. I clicked on your link, Nathan, to the blog mentioned; and I clicked on Anon’s link. I felt physically ill after that. I’ll watch my tongue because I’m tired and I could rant something awful right now. I’ve been up all night for the past few nights because the most informed news has been coming across newsfeeds at night. My heart is broken over the suffering of the people in Japan. Perhaps I have a mutant type of empathy that allows me to feel for the people far away in another country. And I admire the journalists over in Japan who are getting the word out in order to mobilize the world to try to rescue the survivors. If the world wasn’t keeping a watch over the nuclear power plant in Japan, my guess is that it would be going to complete meltdown at this point in time. It’s already in partial meltdown. The journalists who are getting the story out have exposed themselves to radiation. The workers inside the plant are said to be on a suicide mission right now, and they understand they’ve been asked to sacrifice their own lives for others. All those people have my deepest admiration for what they’re doing. There are writers on Twitter who are trying to help get the word out about what Japan needs. I decided to join them. I’m in the process of reformatting a number of my manuscripts to sell for 99 cents on Kindle, updating my website, arranging book cover artwork, lots of other stuff … but I decided to work much more slowly at that, so I could set aside enough time to follow the news closely and retweet information coming out of Japan. People in Japan who are still alive have themselves contacted media, begging the world to hear them and help them. One woman actually said, “Please help us! Please, help!” She didn’t say please ignore us, we like our privacy and therefore would prefer to die from nuclear radiation. OK, that’s it. I’ll be retweeting again this weekend, having recovered from reading a blog that felt like a huge slap in the face to everyone trying to do whatever they can to help the people in Japan. Although I realize that is nothing compared to what the people in Japan are going through tonight.

mbdcares said...

great job, Nathan. Lot's of work went into this blog.

mbb

Anonymous said...

I'm more likely to take a risk on a 99 cent or even a $2.99 book than I am on a $12.99 book.

In the back of my head, I'm wondering if I could buy the book cheaper used. I think this is just my recession mindset.

However, if the book that I took a risk on is really good, then I'd opt to spend up to $5 for other books by that author.

There was some good discussion about ebook pricing on the "I Should Be Writing" podcast a couple of weeks ago. It's the one with the Pyr editor.

Egalitarian said...

Did anyone else read the Assistants areticle and get perturbed that the publishing assistants are hired for unpublicized jobs because they took a short $7,000 publishing course?

I paid my way through college (working part-time, getting scholarship and grant money, and taking out student loans), and there was no way I'd spend $7,000 after that to try to get a lowpaying entry job. However, if my parents were paying for it and subsidizing me in NYC as I worked as a low-paid assistant and I didn't already have college loans to pay off, it would be different.

Maybe if publishers publicized entry level jobs and didn't make people pay $7,000 for the right to learn about them, the publishing world would be more diverse and not mostly made up of people raised by upper class parents.

Nathan Bransford said...

egalitarian-

I definitely agree with you that there are class issues in publishing, but I'd think of that course as more of a short grad school than a pay-your-way into the industry system. The vast majority of assistants make their way into the industry without the Columbia publishing course (as I did), and yeah, the new jobs are often unpublished/unpublicized, but that's because there are many people making their way from unpaid internships that they got by knocking down doors and through a bit of luck.

There are definitely more than a normal share of people in publishing from rich families who support them and who had connections, but there are also plenty of people like me, who didn't know anyone and who survived their low salary by living frugally.

I'd characterize that article as being much more heavy on snark and generalizations than a real picture.

Egalitarian said...

Nathan, thanks for responding, and I love your blog.

I know it's possible for a poor or middle class person to get a publishing job, but I think hiring people who worked as unpaid interns is problematic too. When I was working 20 hours a week in high school and college and full-time every summer so I could afford one of those East Coast private universities mentioned in the article, it would have been very difficult to squeeze in an unpaid internship and still maintain my grades.

I had to put in a lot of study time to eventually get into the best graduate school in California: UC Berkeley. ;-)

J. T. Shea said...

A virtual internship is an interesting choice for someone whose ancestors invented paper publishing. Never mind e-books. The ancient Egyptians ruined publishing when they replaced good old-fashioned stone tablets with their damn new-fangled papyrus!

Seriously, Mariam Maarouf's Bransforums post is well worth reading and an object lesson in the potentials of the Internet at the cutting edge of history. She could become Egypt's first literary agent!

Assisterati? I'm not surprised. The world is run by assistants.

Rachelle Gardner myth-busting posts include a useful reminder that the much-vaunted New York Times Bestseller List is NOT directly based on sales, despite it's title.

Rachelle Gardner DOES confirm that agents CAN be bribed with both chocolate and wine, and are snarky, scary, mean, and love to reject writers, as we've always suspected. So I'm going to eat the chocolate and drink the wine myself!

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank every single reader who has spent .99 on one of my e-books. I love and adore them all, and I understand and appreciate that even spending .99 cents in this poor economy can often be hard on people.

I'm not posting my name here because I'm not into promoting my books on someone else's blog. I just don't believe in doing this. However, I will be posting something about this on my own blog next week in thanks to all the wonderful .99 readers who may have been insulted.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Bad publicity. So that's what I need!

abc said...

I'm surprised that This Week in Books did not mention SUPERMOON!

Other Lisa said...

@anon 5:36, Zoe Winters' discussion is a little more nuanced than some are making it out to be. She basically said that she doesn't want readers who ONLY will pay 99 cents for an eBook, because of the sense of entitlement they exhibit, the lack of loyalty or real interest in her as a writer, and the downward pressure this exerts on prices overall.

I don't think there's one right answer here—it's really about you as an author and your individual set of circumstances. But I think her argument is legitimate, and it's one I'm glad to see being made.

Oh, and GO AZTECS!!! (that's why I really stopped by!)

Mira said...

Well, I've not had a chance to read all of your wonderful links, Nathan (thank you!!), so I'll be back later.

But I need to weigh in because I'm having a serious identity crisis.

Word on the street is there are gangs of readers marking their turf.

One reader gang only buys books for 99 cents. They don't care about the book. They don't care about the author. They just want to buy things for 99 cents. They'll buy ANYTHING if it costs 99 cents.

Then there's this other gang that only buys books priced at $25.99, and they only buy two types of books: those that win the Nobel prize for literature, and anything written by Stephanie Meyers.

I don't know if I'm just being paranoid, but I sense a rumble coming on, and I'm not sure which group I'm in.

I bought Amanda Hocking's book for 99 cents last week. And then I downloaded a Jane Austen book for free. And then I spent 12.99 on two old favorite books two days ago. And alittle while ago, I bought a new book I've been waiting for for a year (!) for 8.99.

So, I think you can see my dilemna!! I'm just running around all willy nilly, buying books for all sorts of prices.

I don't know where I can fit in! Where is there a place for me? A place where books for 99 cents can rest peacefully next to books that cost 25.99. Is that a pipe dream? Could there possibly exist such a utopia in this crazy world of ours?

I sure hope so. Because when I write a book, I plan to sell it for two thousand dollars and 87 cents a copy.

But I'll only sell it to the right readers, of course.

Anyone who drives too slowly on the freeway is the wrong sort of reader and they can't buy my book. That's right. I'll need character references.

Okay, well I think we've resolved all these complicated issues with this post, so I'm off to go buy some more books.

Brandon said...

I think that pricing books in electronic form can have benefits and consequences on both sides of the debate. Readers are more likely to take a chance on an unknown author at 99 cents. I personally feel that electronic books should cost a little less than a paperback or hardcover. I seen recently a book that listed on Amazon for 9.99, but the Kindle version was listed at 24.99. It just depends on the market for your particular book and platform.

abc said...

Ha, Mira! Your comment made me laugh. And made me think of one of my favorite movies, West Side Story. Sharks vs. Jets!

Anonymous said...

(Shush! Don't tell anyone, but I'm the wrong kind of reader. I just read three .99 e-books last week. And now I'm planning to buy other books by these authors at higher prices. But please don't tell anyone.)

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan,

I want to thank you for all your open-minded discussion about the new world of self-publishing eBooks. The more I read about the current state of self-publishing, the more respect I have for it. As a result of your recent blogging about inexpensive self-published books, I started looking into self-publishing some of my own books for 99 cents on Kindle. While researching how to do that on Amazon today, I made a discovery related to the discussion on your blog about the value of 99 cent books. For years, high quality books have won the IPPY Awards, the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards, and other indie awards, but it was too expensive to buy a lot of those books. I did buy some of them, but I couldn’t afford to buy as many as I would have liked to have bought because a lot of those paperbacks were very expensive, sometimes over $30 each. Today, I found 99 cent books on Kindle that have won the IPPY Award. After a little more research, I also found 99 cent Kindle books published by authors who are known for their best-selling traditionally published books. This has all changed my view of where to find valuable books. I think valuable books can be found in any price category. It’s a wonderful time to shop for books. :)

Marilyn Peake said...

Mira said:
"I don't know if I'm just being paranoid, but I sense a rumble coming on, and I'm not sure which group I'm in."
and:
"So, I think you can see my dilemna!! I'm just running around all willy nilly, buying books for all sorts of prices."

HaHaHaHa! You crack me up, Mira! I have the same dilemma as you. I’m also running around all willy nilly, buying books for 99 cents (gasp!) and even sometimes $30 and more. True confession: I actually buy eBooks for 99 cents, $1.99, AND $2.99. I buy eBooks, paperbacks...and even hardcovers. I’m so confused.

Other Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Other Lisa said...

Guys, I feel obligated to repeat this, because the larger point seems to be getting lost. Zoe Winters is talking about readers who ONLY buy 99 cent books. NOT those who include 99 cent purchases among a range of purchases. She also went on to say that she offers 99 cent books and discounts through subscriptions to her mailing list. So it's not an "OHMIGOD anyone who buys a single 99 cent book is baaaaad!!!" It's about "Freevangelists" who want ALL books to be 99 cents, or free, and won't buy books priced any higher, regardless of their ability to pay. Her point is that buyers of this sort are not loyal to individual authors so much as they are to paying next to nothing for what they purchase.

ZW said that she as an author is no longer willing to price books at that price point (exceptions noted above), that it is a case of market segmentation and appealing to a different market, just like most other businesses do when they look at their products and decide how to price them.

Another thing to consider—and this is what I was trying to remember in an earlier post—if you price at 99 cents, your royalty goes down from, what is it? 70%, for $1.99 and above? To 35%. The volume you have to sell at 99 cents to make up for the higher royalty rate at $1.99 is considerable.

Again, everyone has to make their own decisions here. But I hope those are based on the totality of the argument and not some misguided idea that she thinks a person who buys a few 99 cent books is "the wrong kind of customer."

And I would also ask everyone to consider the Walmart phenomena, which is another part of the argument: what is the real cost of those low prices?

Anonymous said...

@ Other Lisa:

I suspect we will see eBook pricing follow the pricing of apps for the iPhone. The expectation will be that eBooks should cost around the same price as an iPhone app. If I'm reading both on the same device (an iPad), why should reading cost so much more than playing a video game?

So folks will do the same thing they did when music was expensive, they'll pirate books since they already have a device to read them on.

But unlike the music business, there are tons of midlist authors that are not making millions.

Anonymous said...

Other Lisa said, "Zoe Winters is talking about readers who ONLY buy 99 cent books."

Where is the information that backs this up? I've never found a set pattern where I can place readers in a box and consider them one way or the other. And neither have my publishers.

Other Lisa... "Her point is that buyers of this sort are not loyal to individual authors so much as they are to paying next to nothing for what they purchase."

This part I understood, very clearly. And again, I want to see some kind of proof this is what happens. And I'm talking about proof on a large scale. I've even have had personal, private interactions with book pirates over the years to try and understand their motivation. I've encouraged it because I was curious about them. And I found most are actually avid readers who pirate books and then go on to purchase books as well at all different prices.

I don't think readers can be placed in boxes and generalized. I think they pay different prices for different books based on individual reasons. And until someone can prove, with information that backs them up, that there is a "wrong" type of reader, I'm not buying into it.

Marilyn Peake said...

Other Lisa,

I’d like to say, first of all, that you’re one of my favorite authors. I’d pay $30+ or $2.99 or 99 cents or anything in between for your books, no problem. I loved your novel, ROCK PAPER TIGER. And I used to feel the same as you about keeping prices higher for books in order to protect their value as perceived by customers. But I’ve changed my mind within the past year for a whole lot of reasons.

The big publishing houses have already ruined my perception of expensive, traditionally published books as "good". I’m tired of complaining about the tendency for those companies to publish anything that makes a lot of money. I’m tired of complaining that their books have typos, when they rarely used to have typos. I’ve discovered indie, and I’m thrilled to discover that many of the high-quality, tightly edited, indie award books are now 99 cents rather than the outrageous prices they used to be through the self-publishing paperback companies. I’m happy about books again. And this doesn’t stop me from buying great books published by the big publishing houses – they obviously publish a lot of great books; it’s just that they also refuse to publish a lot of great books that won’t make enough money for them. Now, I can buy from a much larger selection of books.

I understand the Walmart phenomenon. But the big publishing houses and Borders and Barnes and Noble are similar to Walmart. Struggling authors who can’t make a living from their writing can turn that around by being part of a movement in which books are sold for 99 cents. The bigger companies aren’t going to let that go unnoticed. Somewhere down the line, someone will probably start a company that puts a lot of 99 cent books under one roof ... and then – voila! – you have an alternative to the big six publishing houses and the chain bookstores (unless, of course, it’s one of the big six or the chain bookstores that creates or buys out the upstart).

I’m not sure why Zoe Winters’ prices are even part of this argument. To me, a $2.99 book and a 99 cent book are BOTH cheap books. I recently paid a lot more than that for an eBook by one of my favorite traditionally published authors. In regard to Zoe Winters, I look at the math differently than you do. In 2010, Zoe Winters published a book that told writers how to succeed at self-publishing, based on how she sold 28,000 copies of her self-published eBooks. Well, 70% of 28,000 X $2.99 per book = $58,000 for the author. That’s good. However, Amanda Hocking sold a lot of her books for 99 cents, became a millionaire by doing that and, according to her blog, is now in the process of buying her dream house. Now, most writers are going to sell a lot less copies of their books than either Amanda Hocking or Zoe Winters did. I mean, if an author sells 10 copies of their book, seriously, 99 cents or $2.99 for the price makes no difference whatsoever, but 99 cents gives the writer a better shot at having readers find them. As far as fans go, both Amanda Hocking and Zoe Winters seem to have loyal readers who are fans of their writing.

Anonymous said...

Marilyn Peake, I'm the anon above you. You said it very well. Thanks for being so articulate. And thanks for weighing in with a reader's POV, which is very important to all authors.

Mira said...

ABC and Marilyn, thanks! :)

I want to get into the e-book pricing thing in a different post. Here, I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed these links, Nathan. I agree with the poster who said this must be so much work for you. Agreed, and thank you!

I'll comment on a few of the links. I loved the Choncords video. So funny. I liked the part where he said, "There are nine of us and thousands of them" part. That was funny.

I liked Melissa's comment, and no, Melissa, I didn't think you meant I was a chunk of dirt. :)

Rachelle Gardner's myths were good. And I am deeply relieved to find that bad publicity will help me out. I am so good at bad publicity, it's a marketable skill. In fact, if anyone needs some bad publicity, let me know. I can help you out there.

Good links, Nathan. Friday in Books is fun!

Marilyn Peake said...

Anon @5:25 PM said:

Other Lisa said, "Zoe Winters is talking about readers who ONLY buy 99 cent books."

Where is the information that backs this up? I've never found a set pattern where I can place readers in a box and consider them one way or the other. And neither have my publishers.
-----------------------

I feel the same way. There’s no evidence whatsoever about who’s buying 99 cent books. It’s all conjecture. It might be that avid readers who can’t afford higher prices are now buying 99 cent books and becoming loyal fans of authors they discover this way. It might be that readers who used to buy cheap, used books because they couldn’t afford new books are now buying 99 cent books. In this economy, that would actually make a lot of sense.

Marilyn Peake said...

Anon @5:36 PM –

I just saw your comment. Thanks!

Other Lisa said...

I buy lots of apps for my iPhone. Yes, a lot of them are 99 cents, or free. Those tend to be simple apps, or "lite" versions with advertising of more expensive apps. The heavier apps that don't interrupt me with advertising cost from $2 — $6. I tend to upgrade to those pretty quickly. Stuff like Lonely Planet Guides are also in the 5 - 6 dollar range. The most expensive app I own is the Pleco Chinese/English dictionary -- the basic app is free but the add-ons range from $10 to $40, and I've purchased a bunch of those as well.

So in the case of an app, vendors will frequently offer "lite" versions of their product for little or no money, in the hopes that you'll upgrade to the higher quality version.

I think some comparisons of books to iPhone apps are legitimate but in some ways I also think it's apples to oranges.

I said before: it took me two years to write a book. I would not offer it for 99 cents. Even if I get down to my hoped-for one book a year, I would not offer it for 99 cents, other than as some sort of special or sale.

As it turns out, I don't control my eBook pricing; my publisher and vendors like Amazon do. I have some opinions about what the prices should be but not a lot of say in the matter. That's one of the trade-offs in going with a publisher as opposed to going it alone. One that for me is well-worth making—I am very happy to be "traditionally" published.

Here's the thing: there's an undercurrent in these discussions at times that I find really worrisome, which is that writers don't need or don't deserve to make decent money from their work. After all, anybody can write, and now publish, a book. And we should all be doing it for the love of writing and sharing our work with readers.

I write because I love to write. And I love connecting with readers. I also write because it's my career. I think I should be fairly compensated for what I do (and thankfully a publisher thinks so too).

If I'm getting pirated, there's not much I can do about that. It happens. I'd prefer for people who want to sample what I do to take advantage of existing free samples on legitimate websites or to go to their local library. And again, there are plenty of people who buy books for cheap—I mean, used paper books as well as 99 cent eBooks are a great way to sample authors' works and decide if you want to buy the books new or at a higher price point, in whatever format.

But this idea that ALL eBooks should be cheap to free? And a person with this mentality is someone you need to cultivate by keeping your prices lower than a candy bar from a vending machine?

I can't see it. And that is the type of customer that was originally being discussed.

Mira said...

So, in terms of e-book pricing, I really like and respect you, Lisa, but I disagree on this one.

I used humor before, but let me get more serious because I feel strongly about this. I think there are two issues here, and it's really important to separate them. There's the issue of price and the issue of readers.

The issue of price:

People are afraid of the I-tunes model, but I think that's different. I-tunes does not allow musicians to set their own price. If they did, I would bet money some would sell their songs for more than 99 cents.

Most consumers are comfortable with a tier system of pricing. You pay 4 bucks for a hamburger and 25 bucks for filet mignon. You might also expect a new Dr. to price lower than an experienced heart specialist who is in demand.

The issue of readership:

This discussion makes me very nervous. I believe that pointing our fingers at readers and critisizing them is a very dangerous thing to do. I rarely speak quite so strongly, but I really wish people would stop. It will hurt the image of authors, and alienate potential readership. It is really shooting ourselves in the feet.

As Anon 5:25 said, there is no proof that certain types of readers exist. And even if they did, people are not static and they may change their reading habits.

Regardless, ALL readers strengthen the industry, whether they help a new author break out, or buy a beloved author's books by the truckload.

I also think Brit had an extremely good point when she said:

"The thing is, I think that the 99cent e-books aren't attracting the wrong kind of reader so much as they are attracting an untapped market".

Very good point. The audience for books has been small and needs to grow. The 99 cent price may help the market expand.

But regardless, we all can sell our books for whatever price we want. Like I said before, I plan to sell my books for two thousand dollars and 87 each. And if any reader buys them, I will be very appreciative. :)

Mira said...

Lisa, I just read your post, and I really don't think you need to worry.

I could be wrong, but the day traditional publishing allows their e-books to be sold for 99 cents, I will eat my hat.

I completely agree that you should receive value for your work. I plan to receive value for mine. But consumers aren't demanding that we set prices at 99 cents, your fellow authors are setting the price at 99 cents. Take this up with them.

But I think, I could be wrong, but I think they see 99 cent pricing as a strategy for long-term income.

Other Lisa said...

@Marilyn, thanks for your kind words about my book. My concern is that we are in danger of creating a market for books that won't pay me enough to continue to be able to write them.

You touched on this in your last post—not everyone publishing 99 cent books is going to be Amanda Hocking or Konrath, and I wonder if the window for those kinds of extremely popular authors to emerge and prosper at that price point is already narrowing somewhat.

I get that this is a bad time, economically. Believe me. But I have a hard time reconciling some of the complaints about pricing when they are being made by people who mostly have invested in somewhat expensive electronic devices to read their 99 cent books on.

Again (I'm saying this a lot), it's a decision that is up to the individual author. If I were self-publishing, I know how I would go. Because if people who are buying 99 cent books are also willing to pay more for books they want to read by authors they like, then I would want to start higher. I think the really low price point works better for authors who write really quickly and/or who have an extensive backlist, and I don't qualify in either category.

I am wondering: if you think 99 cents and $1.99 are both cheap, then why not start at the higher price? You'll get a higher royalty rate that way (that was something else Zoe Winters said, btw -- 4 or 5 dollars for a novel is still cheap!). I think the idea that it's better to start a little higher and go lower as an additional incentive is also worth considering.

Other Lisa said...

@Mira, yes, I think that a lot of self-published authors see the 99 cent price point as a sort of loss leader strategy that is going to grow their reader base to the point where they can either sell enough books at that price to prosper or gain enough loyal readers to raise their prices to a more sustainable level. The question is, does this by and large really work? The market is changing so quickly that what worked for people like Konrath and Hocking may already be a strategy for an era that is passing. I don't really know.

I liked Brit's comment too, but a part of what she said was this: Buying a 99cent book from Amazon is like buying a trashy magazine or a stick of gum at the supermarket checkout. It's mindless and so easier to consume, therefore making it easier for non-readers or light-readers to pick up. No one's mistaking it for great literature, and I still have big hopes for e-books and publishing.

Which essentially supports the notion that 99 cent books are often perceived as "trashy" and not serious literature.

That said, whether the books are "trashy" or not, if a cheap eBook gets non-readers reading, that's a great thing, particularly if it leads them on to other books.

But that's not an argument for all authors pricing their books at 99 cents; in fact, it points towards the opposite (or if not opposite, at least "different") conclusion.

You know there are so many people self-publishing for so many different reasons, and publishing so many different types of books, at such a huge range of quality—I don't think it's possible to form a consensus on what authors "should" do given the range we are talking about.

But yes, as an author, I am recommending to my fellow authors, if you want this to be your career, think carefully about how you price your work.

That's a part of why I've been going on here at such length!

Mira said...

Lisa - I liked what you said:

"But yes, as an author, I am recommending to my fellow authors, if you want this to be your career, think carefully about how you price your work".

Agreed!

Pricing is an interesting issue. I think it is well worth exploring.

Other Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

@ Other Lisa:

The challenge for readers is to find good authors to read. When newspapers like the NYT start throwing up pay walls, then readers are even more likely to go to their social network to find out about new books to read. But someone in that social network has to take a chance on an author and like their stuff enough to recommend to the network.

This does not bode well for the one hit wonder author unless that one book gets produced into a good movie.

But pricing books at $12.99 is still a lot of money for folks. Gas prices are nearly $4 a gallon, and a lot of people are out of work. This economic environment has an impact on how people think about their spending habits, loyal readers or not.

We are also in the day and age of Groupon, where everyone is expecting some kind of offer and discount. And while agree that authors should be able to make a living, authors have to be aware that some of their readers are struggling these days to make a living.

Sari Webb said...

Nathan, I love that you posted a FOtC video! Kiwis represent! :)

Other Lisa said...

@Mira, I just reread your longer comment, and I think what you said is very much on point. I don't think this discussion was intended as a reader bash-fest, and I completely get (and share) your concern with it being perceived that way.

Because the more I think about this, the more I believe that it really is a discussion that grew out of clashing viewpoints of authors (and would-be authors), not so much readers.

I originally linked to Amanda Hocking's post about her experiences with ePublishing (several times in fact) because I thought it was so fair-minded and even-handed, in a way that a lot of discussion about self or indie pub versus "Noo Yawk" are not.

There's a lot of anger out there, which I get, from people who feel shut out of the traditional system, and too often the discussion seems to devolve into the Jets and Sharks, like you said in your earlier post.

I see what you, Marilyn and Anon are saying about not making too many conclusions about readership and reading habits, at least not until there is more solid evidence to back up.

But as you also said in your post, if consumers are willing to accept market segmentation, authors need to think very carefully about this as well.

And I still think...you know this all gets very complicated. The whole "Walmart" paradigm—people shop at Walmart because it's inexpensive. Maybe they don't have a lot of shopping options. And maybe they are really struggling economically, and it's one of the few places they can afford to shop. Or hey, they just like the selection and the stores.

So right there, you have four different reasons why someone would shop at Walmart.

But out of those reasons, at least three of them give me cause for concern. Why is it less expensive? What are the tradeoffs of that?

Why are there fewer retail choices than maybe there once were?

And why are so many more people struggling economically?

I think all of this is a reinforcing loop of sorts. And I'm concerned that we're heading down much the same road in terms of book publishing.

I don't know, I always end up, after thinking I have a firm opinion on an issue like this, feeling like it's moving too quickly for me to even grasp it.

(Er, I actually thought I posted this a half hour ago but I'm having intermittent power outages with the rain, so...)

Marilyn Peake said...

This is a fascinating discussion! I was going to begin responding to excerpts from some of the posts, but there are so many I want to respond to, I guess I’ll just wade in all at once.

OtherLisa, I agree with what you said about the window may have already closed for an author to sell a lot of copies of their books for 99 cents. Thanks so much for suggesting that I price my books a little bit higher on Kindle, but I think the best chance to sell more copies is still at the 99 cent price. I’m tired after years of hard work and putting money into book promotion without selling enough copies of my books to even recoup the money I’ve spent on promotion. I have a boatload of awards and great reviews for my writing, even a great review from Piers Anthony, but I want to sell books. We’re probably in different places in our careers. Right before this 99 cent publishing discussion started all over the internet, I had started to seriously think about quitting writing, walking away from it, because it had just become too exhausting and frustrating. I agree 100% with your statement, "Here's the thing: there's an undercurrent in these discussions at times that I find really worrisome, which is that writers don't need or don't deserve to make decent money from their work. After all, anybody can write, and now publish, a book. And we should all be doing it for the love of writing and sharing our work with readers." I agree with that. I think writers deserve to make decent money from their work, but so far that hasn’t happened for me.

It was said several times in this blog thread that expensive books suggest that the books have value, whereas low prices suggest they’re "trashy". I disagree 100%, maybe 110%. The traditional publishing houses started losing me as a loyal customer when they flooded the market with trashy books and started labeling some of them YA because that sells more copies. Now that I’m finding very high-quality literary and science fiction books for 99 cents on Kindle, I’m buying them. I’m not waiting until those books are picked up by a traditional house because, for most of them, that will never, ever happen. If people don’t buy them for 99 cents, chances are the author will remove those books from Amazon and stick them in a drawer, and I’ll never get to read them.

I think phone apps are quite comparable to books. I know computer tech people who design apps and computer games. Some of those take a very long time to create, especially the game apps. Computer coding is a labor intensive process, usually involving skills learned in college and graduate school programs in Computer Science. Most people who make apps would like to sell them for more money, but that’s not how apps are being sold. Some apps take a year to make; some authors write books in three weeks. Cormac McCarthy wrote THE ROAD in three weeks. A number of YA authors, some traditionally published and some indie published or 99-cent-Kindle published, have mentioned online that it takes them three weeks to write each of their books.

After seeing how hard some of my neighbors had to work to buy an e-reading device, I understand how people might be able to afford the device but not expensive books. Someone I know temporarily worked three jobs to get enough money to buy their eReader – there was no way they could keep up that schedule forever to buy books. They’d never even have time to read if they had to do that.

Other Lisa said...

@anon 7:15

You wrote: We are also in the day and age of Groupon, where everyone is expecting some kind of offer and discount. And while agree that authors should be able to make a living, authors have to be aware that some of their readers are struggling these days to make a living.

There's so much here that i don't know if I'm going to be able to unpack it all before I need to cook the rest of my dinner, but I'll give it a whack.

You hit upon something key: "everyone is expecting some kind of offer and discount." Part of the issue here is, how far should we be willing to indulge that expectation? If you don't put some limits on it, you're engaged in a race to the bottom, which is the big concern underlying this whole discussion, IMO.

Second...

AUTHORS are people who by and large are "struggling these days to make a living." Have you seen statistics about average advances and earn-outs? They aren't pretty, and on the average, they are not rising. Most of us don't expect to make a living from our writing alone, even though it's an incredibly time-consuming business in which to be engaged (I still marvel that I did as much as I did when I had a full-time job. I think I would have totally burnt myself out if I'd kept doing it).

We often set rather arbitrary values on who should be compensated at what rate. You know, the whole old saw of, "why do hedge fund managers make so much more than teachers?" etc. Sometimes it's easy to assign value to a product, based on what the product cost to produce, or how scarce it is. Other times it's more difficult and subjective. So much is based on perception.

People pay lots of money for all kinds of entertainment products. My take is that a novel is a great value in terms of the entertainment it offers, based on the length of time it takes to consume it alone.

I'm with those who think that an eBook ought to be priced the same as or lower than a paper book (in the case of a hardback, definitely lower, though I do understand why this isn't always the case). But there's a huge difference between, say, $7.99 or $9.99 (in the case of NY publishing), or $4.99 (in the case of self/indie pub) and 99 cents.

Again, special offers are one thing. But establishing this as some kind of a floor, where people expect the price to be set, I think it's a bad idea, for both traditional publishing as an industry and professional authors as a whole.

And that's my 99 cents.

Mira said...

Well, this is my last comment, because after commenting here multiple times, as well as the forum, I don't want to wear out my Nathan welcome.

But I do want to say a couple of quick things about pricing and author income.

Indie e-books - There is gold in them there hills.

But only if you have a really good book.

I read Amanda's book, and she is a darn good writer. She would have sold as much if she'd priced it higher. It wasn't the price, or the networking. It was the book. I truly believe that.

I don't want to see the standard set at 99 cents, but if I write a good book, people will buy it if I sell it for more than that - and I will.

I can't control how other people set their prices, and we're in a time of experimentation. So, it's good to discuss it, but let's also see how it plays out.

Personally, I predict tier pricing will be the result.

And, btw, I disagree that the 99 cent window is closing.

Imho, the window has barely begun to open.

Marilyn Peake said...

My last comment, too, before I wear out my welcome.

Mira said:
"I read Amanda's book, and she is a darn good writer. She would have sold as much if she'd priced it higher. It wasn't the price, or the networking. It was the book. I truly believe that."

I hate to say this; but, sadly, that’s not true, Mira. Amanda’s told her story online about how everything changed for her. She was turned down by agents and I think she said every one of the big publishing houses. She put her books on Kindle and not much happened. Then she set her price at 99 cents and sent her books to bloggers for review, and THEN her books started selling like hotcakes. Other writers have had the same experience – 99 cents was their magic number.

Adam Heine said...

Marilyn wrote: "Then she set her price at 99 cents and sent her books to bloggers for review, and THEN her books started selling like hotcakes."

Actually, if you read Amanda's epic tale of how it happened, she attributes her initial success to book bloggers, not pricing. She says she sold 7x as many copies in the month she discovered book bloggers.

I don't know (because I don't read her blog that often), but it sounds as if she always sold for $.99 (and $2.99). If that's true, we don't know how much she would've sold at a higher price. Though if the book bloggers are what got the word out and got her the sales, I'd be willing to bet she'd sell--not as much as she has--but still a whole lot even if she priced higher.

But that's my opinion. As I said, we can't really know.

Marilyn Peake said...

Adam,

Yikes, I had said I had already made my last comment. I’ll just make some points very quickly.

I had mentioned that Amanda Hocking attributes her success to both the low price of her eBooks and to bloggers reviewing her books. She mentions in another blog post how one of her books had been 99 cents, later she raised it to $2.99. She mentions the prices here: Some Things That Need to Be Said. In the blog post by Amanda that you linked to, she mentions Karen McQuestion as one of her role models for eBook publishing. I had heard about Karen McQuestion last year, when she became hugely successful by selling her books at the lower price on Kindle. Here’s an interview in which she attributes her success to that strategy: Interview with Karen McQuestion. And here’s the amazing place where Karen is right now in her publishing career: Success in Epublishing: Interview with Karen McQuestion. I agree with you – we’ll never know what really led to these mega-successes, but they all started with extremely low-priced Kindle books.

Other Lisa said...

Ack. I realized that because of all these power outages I've had here that the interwebz ate one of my comments when I tried to modify it. I don't think I could possibly recreate it but the gist was, I totally appreciate what Mira is saying about not wanting this to be a reader bash-fest.

I really think the conversation is more of one between authors and what can be a contentious debate between indie/self-published authors and NY traditionally published authors (Mira's Jets and Sharks!). I had tweeted and posted Amanda Hocking's recent post a few times because her take on the divide was so even-handed and thoughtful.

The reason I'm typing this again was that I mentioned the whole "Walmart" comparison in an earlier post and I wanted to expand on it.

People shop at Walmart for different reasons. Some people shop there because the merchandise is inexpensive, and that overrides any other concerns about quality and the conditions under which it was manufactured and retailed.

Some shop at Walmart because the places where they live lack other convenient alternatives.

Some shop there because they are struggling economically and can't afford to go elsewhere.

And others just might prefer the range of selection, convenience and layout.

I think the first three of these reasons are cause for concern, and that there are relationships to be drawn between them. I think they form a self-reinforcing loop that ultimately may deprive us of choices.

If you want cheaper goods, then you have to cut costs. At a certain point, cutting costs means cutting wages along much of the manufacturing and supply chain. And creating the expectation that goods should be cheap exerts further pressure to drive costs—and wages—down, along with a tendency to sacrifice quality in the name of expediency.

Maybe this is another apples to oranges situation, or maybe, eventually, globalization is going to even things out and bring us all the potential of billions of customers for our work. But it's going to be an "interesting" transition, if indeed we ever get to that point.

And now I really am done!

Adam Heine said...

Thanks for those extra links, Marilyn. I apologize for dragging you back after you said you were done ;-)

And I apologize for not being totally clear. You did mention BOTH the pricing and the book bloggers in your comment. I was just saying that Amanda only mentioned the book bloggers because (presumably) that was the only thing that changed from May to June in her success story (her prices always being low).

So: not disagreeing with you, just clarifying. Low-priced Kindle books are definitely a factor. I just know for me, $.99 is lower than I would be willing to sell for (unless someone could guarantee me like a 10x increase in sales or something ;-).

Marilyn Peake said...

Adam,

I agree - the book bloggers who reviewed Amanda's books seemed to have been what finally got her books selling in large numbers. Lots of people have 99-cent books for sale, but word-of-mouth from bloggers who love a particular book does seem to get the sales going.

Anonymous said...

I was the anon who commeneted several times about how stunned I was to read about the "wrong" type of reader.

And I'd like to say that both Mira and Lisa made valid points on both sides. No argument there. We all want to be paid after a hard day's work.

But I'm still stunned a writer would comment in public about readers in such a way. The way in which it was done was shabby.

Other Lisa said...

Er, well, now I see my original WalMart rant and the revised version both posted. Sorry about that!

Nathan Bransford said...

lisa-

Blogger's fault, the original got trapped in the spam filter.

Mira said...

Lisa, I didn't see either comment yesterday, and I wanted thank you for the discussion. I really appreciate that we were listening to each other and not just trying to win an argument. That's rare.

I felt the same about Marilyn, Anon, Adam and others here, too.

Very good place to discuss these complicated issues!

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