Friday, February 05, 2010

Amazon v. Macmillan

By now you all should be keeping updated on the Amazon v. Macmillan battle. If you aren’t, you should be. For those of you who are published this will eventually affect your sales, how your books are priced, and the money you make. For those hoping to be published, knowledge is power.

Earlier this week Wired.com posted this article on the issue. What I think is interesting is this belief that publishers hold a monopoly on their product. That would be like saying Coca-Cola held a monopoly on Coke products. Well, duh, they are the manufacturers of Coke. Granted, the publishing industry is hugely different from a product like Coke, but to some degree it’s not. A publisher should be able to determine the price of their product based on production costs, marketing and publicity costs, advertising, and the price paid to an author. Isn’t that how a manufacturer determines it’s costs?

Amazon and other retailers are welcome to price the products they sell however they like, and if they think the price is too high, I guess they’re welcome to not sell them. That’s how bookstores work. If they feel they can’t sell a certain book they stop selling them. They return the books to the publisher and the author’s numbers go down. It does not make sense to do this to an entire publishing house just like it doesn’t make sense to stop carrying all Coke products just because you think Dasani water might be priced too high.

Ok, I’ve launched into the same point everyone else was talking about and that’s not what I meant to do here today. What I meant to point out was what’s really missing from this discussion, and this article, and that’s the author. I believe, absolutely, that books should be priced by the publishers, but should all books be priced the same? Maybe instead of automatically charging $25 for a book we should look into the costs that go into that particular book. For example, a book with a $100,000 advance, television ads, and money spent on promotion should be priced higher then a book with a $5,000 advance and no advertising or marketing efforts. Maybe instead of putting your money into my book, publishers should start to price books based on the money they’re putting into them? After all, if you aren’t putting advertising into a book, then wouldn’t the author (and book) benefit from a lower price point?

And, if books are being priced higher, where is the author in all of this? Why are publishers still paying such low royalty rates on ebooks? I understand, and I agree, there are still costs that go into ebooks. The publisher will still (hopefully) pay for marketing and publicity, beautiful cover art, cover copy, and editors. Boy, do I hope they continue to pay editors. But if we’re not paying for paper and shipping and production, but we’re still charging the same for ebooks as we are for paper books, then isn’t it fair to start sending a little more of that money the author’s way?

Anyway, in all of this craziness about who has the right to price books, let’s not forget where these books come from in the first place. Let’s not forget the author.

Jessica

46 comments:

Donna Lea Simpson said...

I think, from my own perspective, authors feel a little lost and powerless in the whole mix. I've read so many different takes on this subject and I'm still confused.

Corporate entities by their nature will try to force everything into the mold that fits for them and it feels, to us, like a battle of Goliaths, when we are David, dangling our sling and wondering if anyone would notice our little pebble.

I will soon be entering the digital book world with a (very) large digital-only start-up, and one thing I do not know yet is, how will my book be priced?

I think I need to learn more!

JoAnn said...

Thank you so much for addressing this and looking out for your authors. One would hope that the creator of the book would receive some benefit of reduced production costs, but without a good agent to go into battle for them, I'm afraid many authors will lose. :(

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's hear it for the author. This ebook thing kinda reminds me of how Hollywood has been known to treat screenplay authors.They often are the redheaded step-child in the pecking order. In this ebook controversy, once again authors are pretty much out of the loop. I agree wholeheartedly with your pricing argument. If publishers priced according to margin profit, indeed they would vary a price of each book depending on their inherent cost to produce that book which includes those costs you outlined. Makes a lot of sense to me.

Mira said...

Jessica - I really like the way you're thinking about this. Especially the part about giving the author higher e-book royalities because of reduced costs.

This isn't just a fairness issue, either.

Traditional publishers are now competing with Amazon, especially for debut authors. As a debut author, if Amazon pays me 35%, why would I even go to a traditional publisher? Honestly, I'm starting to wonder what the benefit of traditional publishing is for me, period. They would take control, treat me like I'm the least important part of the team, order me around, provide me with no marketing support - why would I choose them with such a low royalty rate on top of everything else?

Maybe there's something I'm not seeing here.....but for debut authors, it seems to me that Amazon is the better deal. Period. And I'm not talking about making a name for myself and heading toward traditional publishing.

I can e-publish now, and then, if I get successful, self-publish. And then I'd make 100% on the royalties rate.

Please don't misunderstand. I'm not in this for the money. It's the principle of the thing. And I'd love to have an agent and a team working with me. But not if I'm devalued in general and the team is taking 90% of the profits.

Gina Black said...

What I don't understand is why the publishers even need Amazon?? Sure, it makes sense with the print model to have Amazon distribute their books, but with e-books the distribution costs are much less--mainly an e-commerce website and the accounting that goes with it. Why should it matter to a buyer where they point and click as long as it's a secure and trustworthy site?

Maria Zannini said...

I am getting a little tired of the litanies all around.

Bad Amazon
Mean MacMillan
Poor author

But what about the consumer--the plain old reader who supports the entire industry with their hard-earned cash?

Whatever price points these two giants want to hash out means nothing until the consumer puts out.

I'll be interested to see what the real market will bear.

John M. Baron said...

I agree with you that the author is being left out of the mix. Where I have to disagree is your suggestion that the publishers should be able to set the price of their products. Of course they should! But the way I see it, that has already been happening here. They've chosen to sell to Amazon (their customer) at $12.50. It happens that Amazon has chosen to sell its products (those same books) to its customers (readers) at $9.99. Certainly this price point is selling more books. Certainly this price point helps sell the Kindle. Unfortunately it is just as certainly setting an unsustainably low standard for expectations of what a book should cost.

I have no problem with MacMillan's (is HC next?) insistence on the agency model where they're selling THROUGH Amazon rather than TO Amazon. I hope it works. If this all falls through, then I'd hope someone would go after Amazon for anti-competitive practices. Not being a lawyer I don't know how that works, but it seems to me that as soon as Amazon began (begins? have they started yet???) selling their own books, they have indeed become competitors of the other publishers, rather than partners in commerce.

Catherine Gayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa said...

Let me state this upfront: I believe publishers put a LOT of money into books and have a LOT of costs, and I believe they should make a profit.

BUT... when we list those costs, can we PLEASE stop listing marketing? Yes, they market some books. But guess what... the authors do MORE, and the authors are NOT compensated for marketing. It comes OUT of our profit, and can eat all of a new author's "profit."

Dara said...

THANK YOU!

Often times when something like this in the publishing world happens--like the whole Harlequin debacle a few months back--the author is forgotten. I'm glad that you've mentioned this.

I mean, without the author, there would be no point to the publishing industry.

Anonymous said...

"What I don't understand is why the publishers even need Amazon?? Sure, it makes sense with the print model to have Amazon distribute their books, but with e-books the distribution costs are much less--mainly an e-commerce website and the accounting that goes with it. Why should it matter to a buyer where they point and click as long as it's a secure and trustworthy site?"

This is an excellent comment. It shouldn't matter, but right now it does. People are familiar with amazon and this is where they tend to make their purchases. I'm guilty of doing it myself and I should know better.

But it would be far better for everyone if readers would purchase directly from the publisher's web site. I'm not promoting any one publisher in particular, but the next time anyone considers buying an e-book, at least take the time to consider buying from the publisher's web site first. Especially all the smaller e-publishers who truly value each and every sale.

Lola Sharp said...

Amen, Jessica. Amen.

I now officially love you.

Thanks for thinking of us.

Hugs,
Cheryl

Mira said...

You know, sometimes I wonder if people think I'm just a trouble-maker, or hostile to the industry.

No, that's not it at all. I really like the agents I know. And why would I want people to lose their jobs?

I'm outspoken in part because I'd love to see authors more empowered.

But also, I believe the publishing industry needs to hear this. It needs to start thinking about engaging more loyalty from authors now, before it becomes too late. That's what I think, anyway.

Of course, I could be wrong. I frequently am.

Kristie Cook said...

I absolutely agree on the author point and think writers need to get involved in increasing public awareness. I'm in the middle of writing my own blog post as my way of helping readers understand exactly what this all means to the authors. It makes me cringe to hear readers say, "Well, I just won't buy the ebook at $15. I'll wait for a used paperback at 15 cents." It's their right and prerogative, of course, but I think if they understood the writer's perspective more, they'd better appreciate the value of a book.

In a free market, pricing is set at what the market can bear. If the product cannot be produced at profit with that price, then it's up to the manufacturer to reduce their costs. Coca-Cola can't decide they want to price a 20 oz bottle of Coke at $5 and expect it to sell. The market won't bear that price and there is too much competition to try to force the consumer to pay it. However, Starbucks has proven that we WILL pay $5 for a cup of coffee if it's worth it. Writers, agents, publishers, etc., need to be proactive in proving that their books are worth the higher price.

And publishers need to pass on their higher profit margins from ebooks to the authors. After all, authors create at least 75% of the product. It's not even the same as scriptwriters (though I'm totally supportive of their deserving more credit and compensation), because there is much more that goes into the movie or show than just the writing to make it good. In a book, it's all about the story and the writing.

I could go on and on about this, which I will on my own blog. I'll stop tying up this one now. :-) Thanks for the great post and conversation! The more we all discuss this, the more readers will understand.

nightwriter said...

Good points! Personally, I hate shopping on Amazon cuz they constantly try to place "cookies" on your e-mail and they don't combine shipping for books. So why can't publishers market and distribute their own titles online to save costs, and thus pay the authors more?

I think authors who market and sell their own books should be rewarded or compensated for their efforts. Higher advances next time or more publicity?

Here's a good article that appeared in Huffington Post by an agent: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-zack/the-beginning-of-the-end_b_448155.html

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for that last comment in your post.

Lots of people on the internet and in that "Amazon Kindle Forum" are dissing on Macmillan. No one seems to understand that those of us who create these stories in the first place are getting screwed.

We are the storytellers - but, disregard for storytellers isn't new. I love the story about Frank Capra bragging about what a great director he was, blah, blah, blah, and the next day a stack of blank pages was deliverd to him by a screenwriter with whom he frequently worked. The note on the blank pages said "direct this".

So, to the readers who think Amazon is right, and who think Macmillan is wrong, let me say that what Macmillan is doing will ultimately be of benefit to the writers, and the free market will drive a fair price for consumers, which is what we all want.

I would hope the readers out there would be supportive of the people who create the stories you read.

Rebecca Knight said...

I love this discussion, and have been obsessively combing the internet for news of the Amazon vs. MacMillan saga.

I, for one, am excited to see what other publishing houses follow suit. We shall see :). I'm hoping that whatever happens, authors will benefit from the change.

Evangeline Holland said...

The Coca-Cola analogy is sort of off because retailers and restaurants charge what they want to charge for soft drinks (for example, Wal-Mart will charge $1 for a one liter bottle of Coca-Cola, whereas a corner store charges $2.49; or Taco Bell sells a 20 oz cup of soda for $1.59, and the gas station down the street does so for $0.99) depending on their business model.

I personally err on the side of Mira's comments. Since the bruhaha broke out I have been on the authors' side: the side of authors wanting higher royalties for ebooks if the prices rise.

I am a writer, and while NY is a goal, I am turned off by the platitudes of "what about the authors?". IMO, it smacks of the continuing practice for authors to place their careers into the hands of publishers (that whole erroneous viewpoint of publishers as employers). Point blank, readers have the choice and the right to not spend their money on a book or a few books if they don't want to, and without thinking about the author behind the book.

Certainly, as an author, I think we do matter, and without us, there would be no product for publishers to produce BUT at the end of the day, to a reader, a book is more than likely a disposable source of entertainment. Of the gazillion books in print right now, only a handful are considered treasures to each individual reader (even with large keeper shelves).

In light of the lack of concern for authors, it behooves us to care more for making ourselves indispensable AND gathering as much education as possible on the industry. Gone are the days (or did they ever exist) where an author wrote, an editor edited, and readers read. The longer writers hold onto their dreams of having a career like long-time authors, the more vulnerable they become to being squeezed out of the profits of their work. It's not 1981 anymore, or 1995, or even 2004--I'm looking to the future, and I really hope more authors begin to as well.

steeleweed said...

The entire author-to-reader paradigm is being reinvented. Publishers, editors, printers, agents, wholesalers, distributors and retailers are all middlemen. Each is out for his share. I have no problem with that and I'm not saying who is or is not useful in the process. My boss and my stapler are useful, but they are both overhead. Necessary, but overhead.
I have no doubt we will find the right way to do things - after we've tried all the wrong ways.

Kate Douglas said...

Jessica, I love what you have to say about the Amazon situation and just wish the powers that be would pay attention. Regarding the pricing of ebooks--one thing that's often left out of the conversation regarding the cost of an ebook is that readers are paying for content, not production. The percentage authors see for their work is so small, whether for print or ebook, that it often seems that the author is left out of the equation altogether.

Without the content, there is no book, print or digital. Which leads me to another issue, and that is ebook piracy. We have got to find a way to stop it. When I go into a pirate site and see how many THOUSANDS of times my books have been illegally downloaded I feel like throwing my hands in the air in defeat. It's growing by the day and affecting all of us who are published. Got any suggestions?

SM Blooding said...

Well said! Good points!

Watery Tart said...

I'm so glad the agent views on this have all been author advocacy. Thank you for that.

It's been a long time since I took finance, but once upon a time I did, and the very most basic calculation you make is unit cost. Unit cost is a function of fixed costs and unit costs, and the fixed costs between eBooks and Paper books should be the SAME (except machinery setup). It is the unit cost that is vastly different because of paper, printing, shipping, storing.

The problem is, the author provides the SAME product whether the physical thing is paper or digital, and the reimbursement per unit ought to be the same--an added on unit price, rather than a calculated from the other costs thing.

I think it's always been on a percentage because the price of books goes down over time--new hard copy, discounted hard copy, paper back run... so it requires some regular recalculation, but the DOLLAR VALUE an author gets for an eCopy should be the same as for a hard copy released at the same time. I wish THAT could be calculated into the price of the book--whatever form it takes..

Layne said...

Amen. I think the author has gotten lost in this discussion. Yes, the publisher buys the book but the author is the one that WRITES it, for goodness sake.

They deserve to be compensated for their talents, plain and simple.

AstonWest said...

Going back to the Coke analogy, if Coke was losing money they wouldn't go out and say "we need to double the price of bottles of Coke" before they said "we should figure out where we're wasting our money in production."

Publishers, instead of saying "we're going to get customers acclimated to a price point that isn't sustainable" (under the current business model) should be asking themselves how to drive costs out of the process to make themselves profitable by charging less.

Just as most people wouldn't pay $2.50 for a bottle of Coke, there are going to be few who want to spend $15 on an electronic book.

My own fear is that publishers are going down this track to try and kill the rise in e-book usage, because their entire business model is focused on hardback and paperback...

Anne-Marie said...

This is reminding me a whole lot of the music industry when it went from records and CDs to digital mp3... I am also remembering that when we had records and CDs, the prices for each were the same regardless of the quality of the product.The price per record incorporated all the studio time for work that never sold, and so my paying $5.99 for a Queen record meant I was also paying for less successful artists on Elektra, for example. Doesn't sound too different from what publishers have done.

It also makes me ponder the point, and maybe it's just me being a geezer- to what extent is the physical aspect of the finished product (ie: the pages, the album cover) a part of the product beyond the actual artistic content? I for one would never have bought Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell without seeing that amazing cover art. The same might be true of a book cover title or design. Food for thought there as we discuss pricing.

EbookLover said...

I am tempted to argue that publishing houses should keep extra profit from ebooks since they "figured out" a way to save themselves money. After all, they are footing the publishing bill. If you get your royalties percentage based, technically an author gets more profit because there is more profit to be had with ebooks.

I don't really think that's fair though. The initial reason for screwing authors with such low profits was: books are so expensive to publish. IMO, the increase should be divided up fairly. Good luck getting everyone to agree on what fair is though.

A lot of people forget about the readers who are buying books in this equation. Ebooks are being handled badly all around. They still get the "second class citizen" treatment.

Ebooks are cheap(er) to put out and there are no returns. Plus they cannot be resold or shared (less people buying used). Add the hassle of proprietary formats and DRM. With that being said, why would someone want to pay same price or more than buying a paperback book?

A paperback book can be returned, resold and shared often. Let's not forget that the bookstore isn't going to steal the book back either.

I hate DRM btw. It is often cracked within a week and is only a hassle to people who legally purchased their product. Anyone who thinks you can stop pirated software is in denial. I cannot think of a single digital entertainment item that hasn't been hacked and pirated in some way.

My question is, why are ebooks being priced so high? Sure they want everyone to keep paying a high price to save their hardcovers, but that's silly. People who require hardcovers will still buy them, everyone else is looking for a deal.

Ebooks are not hardcovers and have seriously restricted access / usage. The product is not worth the price at $14.99 (I'm not a fan of $9.99 if I can buy the paperback at the same time for $7.99 either).

Part of what happened in the music industry was outrageous prices. $17 - $20 for 52 minutes of music was too high. Because of the music industry goof ups (and napster's gui) everyone knows where to find illegal downloads. And we only pay $.99 for DRM-free mp3s because it's cheap enough to outweigh the risk of getting a virus trying to find an illegal copy.

I love ebooks, but this entire fiasco is irritating. Ebooks are the most restricted form of their product and the cheapest to put out. They should be cheaper than physical books. This is a recipe for disaster when it comes to pirated software. Why "push people" to this with ridiculous prices?

As a writer, I'd love to think my novels are worth $25, but they're not. $25 is because they're expensive to make / ship / store / sell / buy back. Don't get me wrong. I'm am not disputing profit there, but there is profit to be had elsewhere too.

Paperbacks are $7.99 and I have a lot of trouble figuring out how an ebook is priced higher than that, especially if they're available at the same time. If ebooks are going to be expensive the restrictions need to be dropped. The rare exception to something like that I would understand a Harry Potter (etc) book going for $9.99.

So maybe I'm agreeing that books should be priced to scale. And maybe I'm saying instead of passing all the extra profits to authors and publisher, some of it might go to the consumer savings. If you think about it, the consumers are still getting your valued story, but they are getting it in a really shabby and hassle filled way.

Something else to consider is that if books are cheaper, people who buy books will buy more books.

On a side note: I don't condone or agree with pirated or hacked software. However, it's out there and it's not going away. It's so common people often don't associate it with stealing anymore.

Anon247 said...

I thought this was an interesting perspective on problem with pirated books: Slashdot.org Article

Kate Douglas said...

Anon247--libraries are nothing like pirates. Libraries buy copies of our books and lend them out until the books need to be replaced, and then, if it's a popular book, they buy another copy. Last year I was directed to one pirating site where over 7000 copies of one of my books had been illegally downloaded. When I got the files taken down, they were put back up the next week by another thief. It's like playing "whack a mole" trying to keep up with it, and very discouraging to any career author trying to live on their writing income.

Bernita said...

It may be that - from an accounting perspective - writers are perceived merely as "costs" ie. as raw material in the production of a product.

Mira said...

Kate Douglas - that's awful. I know Ryan has talked about this too. I'm glad you're letting us know - people need to know that piracy is hurting real people.

You have my support - I'm really sorry this happens!

Kate Douglas said...

Thanks, Mira. It seems to be exploding--every one of my thirty-odd books is available somewhere for illegal free download--even one I give away for free! I know it's hurting sales, and publishers are certainly not going to pay an author to write books that don't sell. It's going to hurt all of us eventually.

Peter Newland said...

Oh my...

thanks for the information on this latest insanity Jessica.

Also, to Ms Douglas, very sorry to hear about your experiences. I was unaware piracy was so rampant. I hope the publishing world learns from the mistakes the music industry made in this regard.

Are we in the "rising action" stage of the Evolution of Publishing drama yet? Or the great murky middle?

The Daring Novelist said...

Even though Amazon made the evil move in this dispute, I think they do have a point in pushing the price point down.

Books are priced the way they are for two reasons - they are expensive to produce and distribute, and they are durable goods that can be expected to be shared among several users in the end.

Ebooks are not expensive to produce, and cannot be shared.

Some books are editorially expensive (reference books, for instance) and should be priced to match, but that's a different model altogether. (And a lot of those sorts of books are offered electronically only by the publisher - in a database or as a subscription publication.)

But publishers have to prepare themselves for a new business model that doesn't depend so much on scarcity. Right now there is time, because most people will still be reading paper books for a long time. There is also likely to continue to be a library and collectors market for paper books for the forseeable future.

But it's the publisher who realizes the mass market potential of low prices, who out-competes the rest.

Kate Douglas said...

Peter, I think piracy is an issue that authors are much more aware of than readers. It's like the culture that said it was okay to download music for free--"everyone" was doing it, without realizing the harm it did to the artists. Until we have strong enough legislation that will protect copyright the way music is now protected, we really don't have any recourse against this kind of theft. Any of you who write, and hope to make writing a paying career, should be concerned. It's an issue that impacts the income of all authors.

The Daring Novelist said...

I have to disagree about the issue of piracy and the threat to artists. It wasn't the laws that made a difference with music (and books are covered by the same IP laws so I don't quite get the idea that somehow music is better covered) but rather that the industry realized what was happening and adapted.

The idea that the book pirates are such a threat to publishing is based mainly on the fallacy that the book pirates (many of whom don't even read much) would buy the books and other items they download. The truth is, the piracy culture is largely made up of "collectors" who just want to get every thing they can find for free.

I used to monitor Usenet piracy groups for my writer's group, and among the things I learned was that very often the books they are trading and collecting are just garbage files with a title of a best seller at the top. And they never notice!

The issue for publishers, as it was for music producers, is to find a fair price, and really easy access for legitimate customers, so that you don't drive those customers to the black market.

Right now, it's much easier to find and buy exactly what you want in music than it is to find a pirated copy - and that is not because piracy has been shut down. Because it has not. Illegal copies of everything are still as available as they ever were.

Anon247 said...

Kate my link is more of a tongue in cheek thing. The Daring Novelist has the jist of it.

With pirated copies, often a copy is purchased and then shared. Though, there will be a few cases of employee theft. So if you think about it with twisted logic, illegal downloads are like a library, just, well, illegal.

Piracy is wrong and illegal. Books are covered by the law. It's not about legislation, and legislation will never fix the issue any more than it fixes shoplifting or other theft crimes.

Right now, books are more expensive than music and get less usage. You'll listen to the music you buy for years to come, while you'll only read your average book once or twice. Ebooks have no value once you've purchased and read them.

A reasonable price is the best method of curbing piracy. Though there will always be people out there wanting it free, it's best not to stress too much over it.

An awareness and effort should be made to combat piracy, I agree, but don't make yourself crazy over it. You could spend all your waking hours tracking down and putting a stop to piracy, but you won't put a dent in it.

It's not as much profit lost as it sounds like. A number of people who download media, simply wouldn't buy it otherwise.

It's disheartening and rough, but it's been going since there has been media to pirate.

Kate Douglas said...

I'm sure you guys are right, though I do get mail from readers who have illegally downloaded my books and want help from me when the files don't work right...that one is a bit hard to swallow!

I guess it's one more thing that's out of my control, and that alone makes me nuts and forces me to resort to my standard mantra for dealing with stuff like this: As long as puppies and small children are not hurt by this, it's okay.

Well, not really, but you get my drift! Thanks for your words of advice, Anon247 and Daring Novelist. I'll do my best to pay attention! (But it AIN'T easy!)

Anon247 said...

Yikes Kate! That is rough. Maybe you could write a form letter explaining the financial and legal ramifications of illegal downloads.

Someone going through the trouble of mailing you can probably be nudged (or shamed) into purchasing legal copies.

After doing some brief checking on the interwebz, there are a bunch of sites to report pirated files / people. Drop a report :D

Kate Douglas said...

Anon247, for what it's worth, I regularly send legal "take down" notices--files may or may not be removed. However, they are generally back up the next day, posted by another "generous soul." As I said, it's like playing whack a mole. And, it takes a lot of valuable time and energy better spent working on the book.

As an author, we can either write or chase down pirated files. I have decided to write, but if pirating affects my bottom line, I--and many other authors--may at some point take such a huge financial hit that the career is gone.

Tracy Garrett said...

Well said, Jessica. And thank you.

Patrick Burrows said...

Everyone seems to be talking about eBooks as if the physical books don't exist. If a publisher chooses to buy a book with the intent of only ever producing an eBook of it, then that makes sense. But I don't think that is really happening yet.

If a publisher intends to produce a print copy as well as an eBook, then all the old costs still apply. There are still printing costs, type setting costs, editing, blah, blah, blah. But once that is done, producing an eBook is close to free.(maybe someone still has to go through and format the book properly for that medium -- but that won't cost more than $100. And probably far less,I imagine one person could format two or three books a day, provided all the other work is already done.)

So adding an eBook in addition to a print run costs the publisher only a few dollars more than just doing the print run by itself.

Up until now, eBook sales make no significant dent in hard copy sales. So eBook sales are pure gravy. They cost nothing (more) to produce, they cost nothing to distribute.

With the market the way it currently is, authors and agents should make far, far more off eBooks than they are.

As time goes on and eBooks start to become a significant percentage of sales, then those numbers might shift as part of the eBook sales will be expected to cover costs. But as now they are not. There's no reason an author / agent shouldn't make 90% of the eBook sale (after the e-tailer takes his cut, that is.)

Anon247 said...

I disagree Patrick. Money is still being spent in a number of ways. Advertisement being one example. There are some costs for putting out an ebook, though minimal in comparison.

Don't forget distribution. If you sell your ebook on Amazon, they are getting a cut (and I think it might be more than 10% but I haven't checked).

Plus, if a book's print sales run the publisher in the negative, I don't think the author should be taking home a profit from sales.

Finding a new way to distribute an item doesn't negate the money already invested in a product. If the investor (the publisher) isn't going to be seeing profit from it, why would they bother putting it out?

Even if you use services like LuLu to self publish an ebook they take $2.50 off the bat. That's almost 20% of a $13.99 ebook.

(Personally, I find Lulu charging fifty cents more for ebooks than print books offensive.)

Authors should get more from an ebook, but publishers shouldn't be virtually cut out. The publisher is the one taking the risk on the product as the author doesn't put up any money.

Anon247 said...

Woops, just noticed you did mention online retail sites. Sorry! The rest of my post still stands lol.

Anonymous said...

Agents are our advocates. It's your job to get us the best advance and royalty rates possible, so shouldn't you guys be pushing for better royalty rates? Maybe if writers stopped selling to houses that offered such poor e-book rates, the houses would realize it's a lot harder to sell books that are going to their competitors. And maybe they'd remember where their product comes from.

DeadlyAccurate said...

I have decided to write, but if pirating affects my bottom line, I--and many other authors--may at some point take such a huge financial hit that the career is gone.

The game industry is larger than ever, and they've been fighting piracy for decades. Daring is right; a large portion of pirates are nothing but collectors. The percentage of genuine lost sales is pretty small. As long as the product is not too hard to get, and the consumer doesn't feel they're being treated like criminals from the get-go (draconian DRM, for example), you'll get sales.

Nishant said...

without a good agent to go into battle for them, I'm afraid many authors will lose

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