Friday, April 13, 2012

Devaluing books

With the Department of Justice filing an antitrust suit against Apple and other publishers, the bottom line is that ebooks will continue to be devalued.

Amazon will again lower their ebook prices and create a monopoly, continuing their bullying policies.

What’s more, people will expect a book to only be worth $10 or less. Usually less. They’ll become upset if a book is priced at the "exorbitant" price of $10.

This article explains that the cost of a book isn’t in the paper, it’s in the other work that goes into it. Editing. Cover design. Interior design and typesetting. Marketing. The several editors and proofreaders who go through a manuscript so it can be as free of distracting typos as possible.

I’ve read tons of Amazon reviews about people distracted and annoyed by typos in those $0.99 ebooks. Well, when there are only 2-3 people (if that many) who go through a book before it’s self-published, you have to expect some errors.

I don’t know the exact number, but I’ve estimated that at least a dozen people go through my traditionally published books before they’re printed (the number is probably higher). And each of those editors needs to be paid.

(Big deal, they only read a book, right? But actually, proofreaders go through a book at least twice--once from front to back, and then a second time line by line, starting from the end, to help them catch typos better.)

That’s why the book is set at $12.99 retail. I get 90 cents of that. After you cut out what the bookseller makes, the rest goes to pay all the people who worked on the book. You can cut out marketing costs, perhaps, (and then no one would even hear about the book) but that still leaves all the other people at my publishing house who worked to make it the best book possible.

A book has to sell a certain number of copies before the publishing house even begins to make a profit over all the expenses of making the book.

When readers devalue a book, they devalue the effort of the author and all the staff who worked on it. “Sorry, Camy, your work isn’t worth 90 cents a book.”

There are people not happy with the lawsuit, and I hope the DOJ doesn’t win.

12 comments :

  1. What angers me, is that people automatically think that since you're an author you make the full price on that sale, not to mention that you're making bucks hand over fist. This stinks to high heaven to me too, and I'm wondering, why in the world does the DOJ even care when there are things more along their avenue they should be worrying about.

    From what I read on PW the publishers named in the lawsuit have settled. But it sounds like Apple might take it to them.

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  2. Ugh--thanks for reminding everyone how much work goes into a quality book of any kind, Camy! Phooey on those who don't have any understanding of the process!

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  3. Winter--exactly! It's not like Apple is even a huge player in the ebook market. If anything the DOJ needs to go after Amazon for their monopoly on the market.

    Thanks Fedora! :)

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  4. What a mess. I agree with you Camy. It's just not right.

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  5. It's sad when it comes to this, isn't it?

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  6. I respectfully wish to disagree. As Christians, we are called to be good stewards of what God has given us. That includes using our money wisely as consumers.

    I've just bought the second of the Sushi series, and will be off soon to get the next one. Based on the 90c per book you quoted above, that's going to earn you $1.80 - but will cost me $45 for two books, because I live in NZ and that's what Christian paperbacks cost here. The Kindle edition would be about half the price, but I bought the first book in paperback and don't like to split a series across formats.

    Or I can go and buy the new Tamara Leigh for $2.99. She's self-published it as an Amazon ebook, so she will earn $2.04 off my purchase. I can use the other $39 to buy more books, buy groceries, pay mortgage, donate to charity...

    Yes, there are some shoddy self-published books out there - badly designed, not well written and completely unedited. But I wouldn't put quality Christian authors such as Tamara Leigh or Mary Connealy in that basket (Mary has just self-published a new suspense as Mary Nealy, which is also only $2.99).

    Yet, despite their $2.99 price tag, they earn more per sale than your Zondervan books will (although they will have to pay for cover design and editing themselves). That might, at a stretch, be devaluing books, but it is not devaluing authors any more than personal lending, library borrowing or second-hand book sales.

    And isn't Weddings and Wasabi self-published? It's on Amazon as WinePress Publishing/Amazon Digital Services, not Zondervan like the other Sushi books. And the Kindle edition is $2.99...

    Incidentally, having 10-12 people go through your book before publication doesn't guarantee it will be error-free. A recent Kathy Herman book confused 'heroin' with 'heroine', and I found a typo in the latest DiAnn Mills book, The Chase, which is published by Zondervan.

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  7. You're right, there are a lot of self published books which are quite good. I know many authors who are self publishing their backlist or unpublished manuscripts they had written or hadn't been picked up by a publishing house. Other authors were never traditionally published but they are excellent writers and put out great books.

    My objection is the message Amazon is putting out there, that ebooks shouldn't cost more than $10. When self publishing, the costs go down, but when traditionally published, the costs naturally go up. I have done both and prefer traditionally published books because my publisher has distribution channels I don't have (and while you can pay for them with self-publishing, it makes costs go way up). Also, it's less work for me and puts out an excellent product when my book is traditionally published.

    I think it does devalue an author when so many other ebooks are $2.99 or less and it puts pressure on an author to price her ebook the same. Since Weddings and Wasabi is print on demand, I don't have much choice on the cost of the print copy because of the inherent costs of a POD printer. I put half as much effort into writing Weddings and Wasabi as I do for my Love Inspired books, so I priced the ebook at roughly half what a Love Inspired costs. So far, I haven't made any money off of that because of my other self-publishing costs. I didn't go into it expecting to make any money.

    You are right in that God does call us to be good stewards of our money, and I wouldn't want someone to spend money on my books when they ought to spend it on things like food, clothing, and schooling. I am not asking people to spend their money on my books when they have other needs.

    But when people start to expect a book to only cost $2.99 regardless of the actual production costs, that devalues ME as an author and it's very degrading to me emotionally. I'm sure some of that is completely irrational, but emotions are rarely rational. I just know that I'm hurt when someone complains that my book costs too much.

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  8. You are also right that 10-12 people going through a book doesn't guarantee it will be error free, but having so many people go through my self-published book caught at least 35 errors that I and my freelance editor hadn't seen. I would have hated Weddings and Wasabi to be released with so many errors.

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  9. "But when people start to expect ... that devalues ME as an author and it's very degrading to me emotionally."

    I undertand how you might feel that way, but please remember that you are not what you earn, or even what you do. Ask any mother or volunteer worker. Our value lies in the fact that we are precious children of God. The economies of this world are based on money and profit. Thankfully, God is not.

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  10. That is very true. However, I also can't discount the fact that my publisher is the reason I am able to write full time. Otherwise, I'd be back working in biology and I'd be lucky to put out a book every 18 months.

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  11. What gets me is not the price of the book, but how little of it that the author gets. Yes, there are editors and proofreaders and marketing, but without the product itself (the author's hard work) there's nothing to sell. Print copies are one thing, but when I see ebooks for $15, $20, more, I feel like it's the publisher being greedy. Even if 10-12 people read over the book looking for typos, they didn't write it to begin with, which takes a lot more time than reading them. Besides that, ebooks don't take up storage space in warehouses, don't have to pay rent, salaries, utilities for a brick and mortar store, don't take up paper and ink or the time it takes to print and ship them, and I'm sure there are things that I haven't thought of, but from what I've seen for the most part, they sell for the same price (or more, in a few cases) as the print editions. So who is profiting? Is it the author, at 90 cents a copy?

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  12. Actually, the cost of printing and warehouse storage is not that much, but the cost of marketing a book can be very high. That's why some books are released at such a high cost (just like being released in hardcover) to try to recoup some of the marketing money that's gone into it. The marketing budget is taken into account just like the editors who look over the finished product.

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