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.