Check out this article from the Huffington Post.
Competition for sales. Loss leaders. Huge numbers of unpublished authors hoping to break in through high Amazon rankings. This puts pressure on the rest.
But readers are beginning to rebel. They do want free books or pay no more than 99 cents, but they want quality for that. They haven't been getting it, so now they shy away from cheap titles.
Ingrid is right. The glut of supply keeps prices low, as there is relatively more supply than demand. Sports have virtual monopolies. If you want to see a professional hockey game in the Washington DC area, you pay to see the Caps or you don't see a game. If you want to read a professional grade book, you have more options than you can keep track of.
However, what of the music industry? While there are certainly people selling their CDs and downloads fairly cheap, I'm still paying an average of $9.99 to download a full album to iTunes - about the same I was paying to buy the CD.
Also, who is to blame for the prices? Consumers? Or authors willing to value a book at 99 cents?
"I'm still paying an average of $9.99 to download a full album to iTunes - about the same I was paying to buy the CD."
Because they know you'll pay it.
Authors or musicians could give their efforts to publishers for free and it wouldn't affect the consumer price so long as people were willing to pay the existing cost. The public doesn't have to buy MY (any specific author's) book, and the publisher doesn't have to sell it to make money from publishing;there are other books to sell. The only person dependent on how well my books sell is me. This means I am caught in the middle and always will be.
There is no blame to be assessed here. We tend to spend too much time allocating moral imperatives to economic conditions. Prices are what they are. We make our accommodations with them, or we don't. It has always been this way. The only thing that has changed is the transparency with which we can see it now.
Ah! That transparency has come very late for most authors. Anyone who ever got a call from an agent, saying we have three offers for your book, would be overwhelmed with gratitude and hope. The author would love both agent and publisher. After all, they thought well of the author's book. At that point, authors are willing to leave the details to them. And when, years later, they might begin to wonder a little, agents will inform them: "The terms are better than industry standard. This is the best you can do. Nobody offers the sort of deal you want."
And who were we to question that?
This never was a level playing ground. It isn't until they offer 6 figures.
I've been in the business since the late 90's and I am now convinced (even after I went through years thinking otherwise) that nothing we do sells our books. I honestly believe that. You can have all the marketing and promotion power behind you, no matter how you are published and there is still no guarantee your book will do anything. It comes down to the luck of the draw. You just have to "hit" that spot with readers for a book to take off and most books don't do that. It all depends on fate and is out an author's hands whether their book will sell or not.
I've known authors who promoted the heck out of their work with their publisher's help and didn't sell much of anything. I've known authors who don't lift a finger to promote their own books and they sell like cocaine. For decades people have been trying to pinpoint what sales a book and what doesn't but the truth is, it just happens.
The point is authors need to stop thinking so much about their sales. We need to focus on why we write, because we love it. At least we all should or we need to do something else. When you get into wondering why something isn't selling or comparing your books to someone else it leads to negativity and envy. So I no longer worry about sales. I can't control what happens, so why worry? I can only spread the word and hope the book takes off. That's the only thing we all can do.
As long as you enjoy writing and have a way to get books out there, commercially or otherwise, that's the main thing. That's why it's so important to be happy doing what you are doing. The thing is a lot of new writers submerge themselves in trying all these techniques and antics to try to get sales but you can do anything and it will not guarantee your book will sell one copy.
That's just the way it is.
Well, yes, that's quite true. The part about loving the writing anyway. But things aren't simply luck.
You need to know what sells. Of course, you may not want to write that. People's tastes are somewhat predictable. There are reasons why the Da Vinci Code sold so well and other reasons for the success of sexy vampire novels. Also, while publishers may have tanked with some heavily promoted books, they have also succeeded with others. Heavy promotion does work. It isn't within the author's reach, however.
That brings me to "spreading the word". That's where the problem is. It isn't possible to spread the word effectively.
This is a very interesting topic. Wow, so many points to make.
I believe that price does represent value--the value the writer puts on his or her own work. If one prices a novel at .99, what do they price a short story at? Plus, the difference in royalties between .35 and 2.09 (.99 vs. 2.99) is potentially huge.
I read where one top-selling indie author sold 410,000 copies of her .99 novel in one year. Do the math. She earned $143,500 for the year.
Instead, if she priced it at $2.99 and sold only one quarter as many (102,500) at $2.99 (royalty rate of $ 2.09) she would have earned $214,225 of if only half as many; $ 428,450. To me, that's a lot of money to leave on the table.
But, the real issue to me is that this is not a gold rush, people thinking they can throw a novel up and make a ton of money right away. Publishing has never worked like that, except for a lucky few. The writer needs to build their audience (their brand) over time and they do that by putting up quality product and new titles over time. Nothing will promote the writer better than a good story, told well.
IMO this is something you go for, for the long haul.
Fatal DEstiny - a Grace deHaviland novel
Yes, that's more or less what Joe Konrath says. You need to build a large inventory and sales numbers will rise exponentially. This is very hard to comprehend, but I do want to believe it -- even if I cannot turn books out at a great rate. This is an advantage for those who write easily and with speed and perseverance. I have a notion that Konrath's many collaborations help to spur him on. There's nothing like a buddy to plan plots with and share the writing job.
As for brand: that's either the author's name or his subject.
Looking at Joe's backlist on Kindle, there are a lot of shorts or collaborations in the list. It gives him presence.
Also, I don't want to sound picky here, but I've noticed a couple of differences in some books I've read recently and my own WIP. It was something I noticed about Joe's work as well. Some authors are just writing. It reads well, is interesting, etc, but it isn't researched, well or at all. They haven't taken the time to know their subject. I know some are just fun fantastical elements (Matthew Reilly is found of them) but some are just ridiculous. I think this is the difference readers will notice and will pay for.
Basically we will have the cheap books that are pure popcorn. Then we will have the popcorn novels that are well written and priced well (any front of the store artist). Then we will have the serious novels, also well priced, well written, but attractive to only certain readers, much like hard SF or fantasy now.
Yes, Tim. I'm coming around to this also. I simply don't write the sorts of books Konrath et al. write. His system doesn't work well for me. And a lot of books are just written quickly in order to flesh out the offerings because Konrath says that sales figures depend on the number of titles on offer. He may be right about that, but it requires an author to have a very large backlist or turn out books double quick. I have neither option. And the 99 c. business did not work for my full-length novel.
I don't disagree, but I think the removal of the gatekeepers that traditional publishing did have has a lot to do with this. I'm not saying that is either good or bad, Just that if writer is going to become a publisher, they need to assume all the responsibility and functions of a publisher.
Many people are putting up stuff that is not properly vetted either through as good first reader or a qualified editor. I think because they are in a rush to get stuff up and "finally" make some money from their writing. I'm not talking about a gatekeeper here (for example, an agent or marketing team saying "I don't know how to sell this" or "there is no market for this."). I'm talking a good second set of eyes to catch mistakes, to call out where a character acts out of character, or to say the logic of events don't make sense, as well as the whole spelling, grammar, punctuation stuff.
I think the consumer will eventually catch on to who is doing it right, and who's just slapping stuff up there.
At least, I hope so.
A Cold Wind - a Grace deHaviland novella