The Bookseller and Publisher’s Lunch reported recently that HarperCollins is returning to agency pricing on ebooks.
Agency pricing means that the publisher has the right to set the price for its ebooks. This means no deep discounts on Amazon…or anywhere else. It’s likely that ebook prices will remain high generally, with publishers experimenting with sales and promotions either through their own channels (the direct-to-buyers channels they’ve been opening up over the past year or so) and through third-party distributors.
This is good for them because it allows them to experiment with different release windows, different pricing structures, and even bundling to find out what works best. That’s great news for heritage-published authors. The stronger publishers grow, the more likely it is that advances will rise.
The same approach means that indie authors can continue to reach readers directly through pricing that is lower than the average price point of the big publishers. And because it’s expected that traditional publishers will keep prices high (at or above $9.99), this means that indie authors will be able to boost their own prices to as much as $8.99 and still be viewed as a bargain.
So, hurray for agency pricing!
Kindle Unlimited isn’t doing anything new. Subscription services originated outside of Amazon, leading the way for readers and authors to find a new way to interact. But KU did tap into the largest market of ebook readers.
That has caused some difficulty for indie authors…and likely for traditionally published authors, as well. Generally payments are down, even if reading rates are the same or stronger.
What this means is that it is time once again to shift the way you produce and market your books. Consider having only some of them available through Kindle and sell the rest of your ebooks on a different site. This could work especially well if you allow print versions of all your books to remain on Amazon.
Also try moving the price points for ebooks you leave on Amazon to a higher point. This could change the borrow rate by broadcasting to readers that your work is worth more. Higher valuation results in greater respect, and more consumer demand.
Finally, always have a direct pathway for sales. Use Gumroad to sell ebooks directly to readers at a discounted price. You’ll receive more money per sale even at $0.99 than Amazon’s standard 35% royalty at that price and you’ll potentially reach more readers.
Oyster, an ebook subscription service, recently topped the half-million title mark. Its major competitors, Scribd and Entitle, offer far fewer with 300K on Scribd and 125K on Entitle.
Any of these subscription services can enhance an author’s career. They are focused on discovery, so they help readers find your titles. My own three titles have been available on Scribd for only a few months, and already they have achieved a surprising number of reads…without any additional advertising push.
Subscriptions offer smaller payments than purchases but if you’re looking for eyes on your work, these services can help you enhance your visibility and provide a modest income at the same time.
Keep these points in mind when you’re planning to indie publish a book:
–Anything except text adds a level of complexity that isn’t easily managed in ebooks. You might need a designer to help you lay out the interior if you have pictures, graphics or tables. Writer’s Resource can refer you to top-quality individuals for this.
–Links should be easy to navigate. This means if you link back to an earlier section, be sure to provide a link that returns readers to the place where they left off. Readers don’t want to have to use the “go to” feature to find the page they were reading.
–Publishers might spend thousands of dollars making sure the interior layout works well for readers. Pay attention to this component. An experience that allows readers to sink into the content without the distraction of setup flaws will enhance your career.
Quality counts. Give your readers what they want!
At the annual London Book Fair, Tom Weldon, CEO of Penguin Random UK, said the last four years have been the best in the company’s financial history (for both companies pre-merger). He also noted that publishers have “managed the digital transition better than any other media or entertainment industry,” which is true. Compared to movies and music, books are actually likely to prosper from digital technologies.
He noted realities like fewer bookstores, of course, before turning back to the critical issue of reaching readers. Penguin UK has 700K Twitter followers and an active email subscription list. He also noted their move to expand related products, which any author can do even without the support of a big heritage publisher. If you need this kind of assistance, Writer’s Resource can help with branding, marketing and promotional plans.
MIT’s Media Lab has come up with a book that is the true definition of interactive.
The experiment has been called Sensory Fiction. The book has sensors that readers strap on with a vest. As the characters undergo different emotional moments, the reader feels the feedback directly through the use of air pressure bags, vibrating devices, a heater and LED lights.
Watch the video demo here.
Galleycat posted a great infographic on 40 years of ebook publishing here.
The points I found most revealing are:
The first ebook was launched in 1971 by Project Gutenberg. This points to the importance ebooks held before most traditional houses really understood their potential.
In 2000, Stephen King’s novella Riding the Bullet was downloaded over 400,000 times in 24 hours, proving the ability of ebooks to reach existing fans and new readers.
Amazon launched Kindle in 2007, five years after traditional publishers began working with ebooks. So Amazon is not always at the forefront of publishing trends.
As brick-and-mortar stores fall and ebook sales grow, a lot of chatter has been going around about whether this is the new focus for the top publishers. Even agents no longer assume that print will be part of their clients’ deals.
Pressure on publishers to release books more quickly as well as to keep an eye on profitable releases is a major driver. Authors fear that with a smaller investment from publishers, the publishers won’t feel that marketing is as necessary as before.
Since these days the main benefit publishers can offer is the ability to get books into stores, it’s a tricky situation for everyone. What are your thoughts?
Amazon’s bundling initiative, where purchasers of print books receive the ebook for free or a very low price, has already grown. The launch day offered 10,000 titles. Within a very short period of time, the number grew to 70,000 titles.
Currently, one of the biggest complaints about Matchbook is that most of the titles are backlisted…they are older titles that don’t hold much interest for readers. Try offering your own works now on Matchbook and be one of the few recent titles available. It’s an additional benefit that might help sales.
Gale has launched a new purchase option for libraries. It’s a Usage-Driven Acquisition (UDA) model for ebooks. It allows libraries to purchase ebooks based on actual usage.
Since one of the latest trends among readers of ebooks is the frustration over not being able to share or gift their ebooks to others, this model might be something everyone can utilize to open DRM barriers that currently stop the average purchaser from sharing an ebook. If applied, it could provide authors with income based on actual readers.
Bowker, the ISBN provider, found that the number of self-published books in 2012 rose 59% to over 390,000 titles. Ebooks have led the charge, although print books still accounted for about 60% of self-published titles.
The analysis also found that more than 80% of self-published titles came from just eight companies, including Smashwords and CreateSpace. Fiction is the most popular self-published genre followed by inspirational/spiritual works, books for children, and biographies.
USA Today reports that ebooks are changing reading habits. Here are the highlights:
–Readers who buy ebook readers report that the amount of reading they do has increased in a big way, sometimes doubling the number of books read in a year.
— The top genres being read were sci-fi, romance, mystery/crime fiction, and nonfiction.
–Having read a particular author before and word-of-mouth were the top two ways readers made their selections.
The New Republic magazine recently presented an article on how books are avoiding the digital decline seen in the music and video entertainment industries.
Generally, CDs declined not because people switched to digital versions that were cheaper but because they listen to songs individually…and wanted to buy only one or two songs from an album.
TV shows suffered the same fate. The packages of entire seasons weren’t always what people wanted to buy and so they turned to individual streaming of single shows.
Books, on the other hand, can’t be offered in pieces. Although some authors have found success serializing their books by releasing single chapters at a time, most readers want to consume the entire work in a single sitting or multiple sittings performed within a short timeframe. This is part of the engagement of readers in a story or nonfiction topic, so books perform better for readers when they are consumed in this fashion.
So, although prices have fluctuated for ebooks, there really isn’t any comparison that can be made for how a reader is impacted by a book. It has to be taken as a complete whole at the reader’s leisure, not in bits strung out over time.
As we move forward into this new world of publishing, remember that. Price your works accordingly, and reserve the low prices and bundling deals as short-term sales.
Often I talk to authors about selling themselves to readers as much as their books. It’s natural for readers to want to know more about authors, their motivation for writing a particular book, even about the writing process.
Nowadays, with short books and short stories being produced in ebook and even print formats, there’s an added ability to market your books. No matter what you’re writing, you can create adjunct books.
Consider a self-help author with a workbook…the workbook isn’t the primary self-help book but it adds to the original publication in a helpful manner. Novelists, too, can use this idea by writing short stories about appealing secondary characters in their stories.
These can be sold, of course, or given away to generate interest in the book. Since most adjunct books are short, the time and effort to produce them is often much less than what the original project required.
Lately there’s been chatter about whether to automatically bundle ebook copies with print copies…so every reader gets one copy of each.
There is of course the idea that every sale then has added value to the reader. Many readers, in opposition to the idea that individuals favor either print or electronic books, are opting to consume both ways. There are even fans who purchase ebooks and, if they enjoy the work enough, return to purchase the print version for their home libraries.
Publishers have generally been resisting this trend because they are concerned that the value of ebooks will be discounted.
In the meantime, consider bundling your own print and ebook versions in special, limited-time offers to enhance sales.