Here's a thing! We have a hardback, a paperback, and a... what about an eback? (Did I just create another new word?) Anyway, the hardback costs about... Well, let's deal with a specific case in point: Michael Connelly's The Fifth Witness (I like to read Michael's books - I don't know if I'm being a bit forward calling him by his first name, but being an author myself - well, we're nearly family now, aren't we?) Anyway, Mike's book was originally priced at $27.99 - its now $14.28 - that's nearly half-price! As I'm writing this, its had 269 reviews (obviously some of the 5* reviews that were meant for my books were mistakenly posted on Mike's book!) As I was saying, being eagle-eyed, you will have noticed that he has a star rating of 2.5 and is No.3 in thrillers - Say what?
At face value, you would conclude that a lot of people have bought his book, but didn't like it - Mike's ability has deserted him. He's become a normal human being like the rest of us! But... all his other books are great, so what's gone wrong with this one? Well, he has 151 x 1* reviews - I know, you're thinking, This book must be the pits! Look more closely and you'll see that most of the reviews are complaining about the price of the book. That's why its nearly half price now, I suppose!
What appears to have happened here is that the power of the reader (or consumer) has forced someone (Amazon, Mike's publisher, Mike himself) to reduce the price of the book. Now, there are three points here - first, I saw a thread on Amazon discussion boards talking about the extortionate price of the book, and it appears as though these people have banded together (like people do in a democracy) to change things - it worked! The second point, is that we do live in a democracy and that people have power to change the status quo - if publishers forget that, then they're in for more of a dismal time than they're getting now. The third point, is that people power has forced publishers (which includes you and I by the way) to accept a hierarchy of pricing - hardback, paperback, eback - I know, there's audio, special editions, anniversary editions, etc., but let's stick to the basic three shall (I love that word) we?
So, if hardbacks are $15 (or thereabouts - I did a quick straw poll of some new books: Lisa Scottoline - $14.73; Danielle Steel $16.46; Maeve Binchy $14.70; Kathy Reichs $16.25; JR Ward $16.21). You get the idea, I'm sure?
And paperbacks are $10 (Edward Rutherford $11.08 (but this is a big damned book); Stephanie Meyer $7.99; JA Konrath and others $9.99; Rick Riordan $8.99). So, let's say $10 - you agree? Of course you do. We're not doing a scientifically significant experiment upon which rests the fate of the world for goodness sake!
Have you got there yet? I've been straw polling famous writers - I know, but unfortunately neither you nor I are famous (I say you because I doubt that anybody famous is reading my blog). Waiting in the wings we maybe, searching in our pockets for the door key, knocking on the dimpled Georgian glass, but sadly - not famous yet. Now, you may ask yourself why I'm not famous (you've got no chance, so we won't talk about you), but I should be famous by now - that sounds like a future blog if I'm not too much mistaken!
Let's look at book shops shall we? In America you've got a bucketful of book shops, but here across the pond our book shops are limited to Waterstones and WH Smith. I suppose if I had the urge to get on a train and go to London I might be able to find a few more, but now that I'm retired my wife says I shouldn't be getting urges anymore. So, When I go to the local town I womble around the Charity shops and pick up the latest bargains. I do go into Waterstones to see what's new, but I can't afford to buy anymore. And anyway, why should I when, in a month or so, I can get the book I want for a pound in a Charity shop? Am I being mean? Do you think that I'm contributing to the demise of the book-selling industry? The trouble is, its not just me is it? Everyone's doing it! And then there's the eback. I don't know if you've noticed, but ebacks reside in virtual book shops? That would be fine if it wasn't for the fact that ebacks are like a book-eating virus!
As an aside (I do a lot of that don't I? - Wander off the subject I mean - its called getting old!) Do you know what that RSS feed button is for? I didn't, and because of that I ignored it (always a good strategy with technology you don't understand!) Anyway, I was looking for a 'Subscribe to my Blog' button, but you know what - that's what that damned attractive RSS feed button is for! Ha, I looked on the Internet - as you do - and it was a simple matter to find out. Here's a webite that explains it in stupid people language: WiseGeek. So, if you want to know when I post my blogs - click the damned button!
So, the hardback appears to have found its level at $15, the paperback at $10, and the eback (for famous people at least) at around $5! - Nice and simple hierarchical pricing structure - except... You and I are still not famous, so we can't price our ebacks at $5 until we are (which for me will be soon, but you... Well, you might have to wait awhile). Not only that, but I'm sure you've noticed that there's been a veritable flood of ebacks published on Amazon since the release of that infernal Kindling machine! This, in effect, (much the same as everyone having degrees reduces their value) has devalued the eback - especially indie ebacks like ours. So, here's the thing - there's so many indie ebacks out there that if you try to put a $5 price tag on it - you'll get very few sales. (And I'm not even going to mention the gazillion free ebacks that some thoughtless people have made available, which devalues our brilliantly written, suspenseful, thrilling ebacks still further).
Remember Mike's The Fifth Witness? And the power of the people? Well, they've forced us to price our ebacks at 99 cents (or thereabouts)! Metaphorically (and financially) speaking this is the thin edge of the wedge. I mean, some people take a year or more to write a book (I churn them out every four months - and don't say, "Yeah, it shows in the poor writing, the crappy plot, and the one-dimensional characters," otherwise you and I will fall out you unfamous person). So, after a year of writing the best book you've ever written, sweating cheap plonk and doner kebabs, writing until your hands were bloody stumps, the final nugget of gold is priced at 99 cents - Say what?
Let's do the numbers working on a year to write your book - that's 0.99 divided by 365 = 0.0027123 (Yes, I write on Christmas Day!) - I didn't realise that such a small number existed! So, seeing as we've been rounding up - or in this case rounding down - that means you're getting a daily wage of - NOTHING! I hope you haven't got a wife, mortgage, kids, or a parrot to support because I have the eerie feeling you're going to starve and end your days in a cardboard box under the railway arches. And not only that, poor people very rarely become famous! I'll be all right, I've got a very generous pension, no mortgage, my son's left home (just in time before I murdered him), and my wife's on a fat-free diet. So, where do we go from here? Well, lets face it, there's only upwards left to go isn't there? Fame and fortune awaits both of us - if we can just live long enough to grasp it with our sweaty hands!
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.