Pricing

E-Book Sales Fall After New Amazon Contracts

4 September 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

When the world’s largest publishers struck e-book distribution deals with Amazon.comInc. over the past several months, they seemingly got what they wanted: the right to set the prices of their titles and avoid the steep discounts the online retail giant often applies.

But in the early going, that strategy doesn’t appear to be paying off. Three big publishers that signed new pacts with Amazon— Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group, News Corp’s HarperCollins Publishers and CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster—reported declining e-book revenue in their latest reporting periods.

“The new business model for e-books is having a significant impact on what [the big] publishers report,” said one publishing executive. “There’s no question that publishers’ net receipts have gone down.”

A recent snapshot of e-book prices found that titles in the Kindle bookstore from the five biggest publishers cost, on average, $10.81, while all other 2015 e-books on the site had an average price of $4.95, according to industry researcher Codex Group LLC.

“Since book buyers expect the price of a Kindle e-book to be well under $9, once you get to over $10 consumers start to say, ‘Let me think about that,’” said Codex CEO Peter Hildick-Smith.

. . . .

On Thursday morning, there wasn’t a single title priced at $9.99 among the top 20 titles on the company’s Kindle best-seller list. Last summer, Amazon offered the digital edition of James Patterson’s thriller “Invisible” for the bargain price of $8.99. Mr. Patterson’s newest tale of suspense, “Alert,” went on sale Aug. 3 on Amazon for $14.99, a price set by Hachette, Mr. Patterson’s publisher. The unit sales for Mr. Patterson’s e-books weren’t available.

The precise impact of the deals with Amazon, the dominant player in book sales, is still a matter of industry debate. The drop in sales could be partly due to a crop of lackluster new titles. But some publishing executives say higher e-book prices, resulting from the Amazon deals, are discouraging purchases.

. . . .

Hachette cited fewer hot titles and the implementation of its Amazon deal as reasons that e-books fell to 24% of its U.S. net trade sales in the first half of 2015, from 29% a year earlier. Declining e-book sales contributed to a 7.8% drop in revenue in the period.

. . . .

Pricing e-books is a Goldilocks problem for the book giants: For years they worried that consumer prices were too low, and now they are seeing the disadvantages of bumped-up prices. Publishers said the current pricing model involves some sacrifice but they felt it was worth it to keep Amazon in check. What’s more, they have noticed a bump in sales of physical books that is possibly related to the higher price of digital books.

To figure out how to set prices, a team of data specialists at Macmillan’s Manhattan offices in the Flat Iron building sifts through a database of 74 million transactions looking for trends. Amazon looms large in that decision-making: It accounted for 64% of the U.S. e-book market, by units sold, during the second quarter, according to Codex.

. . . .

One high-level publishing executive disputed that the Amazon pacts are contributing to the e-book sales decline. “This is a title-driven business,” he said. “If you have a good book, price isn’t an issue.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

Of course publishers don’t know how to price books at retail. Bookstores know how to determine retail prices for books because they actually sell them to readers.

Since Amazon is the biggest bookstore in the world, one which obsessively collects and analyzes data concerning customer behavior, it is much better qualified to set optimum prices to maximize revenues from the sales of ebooks than a bunch of provincial publishers who have never run any sort of store and have virtually nothing in common with a typical reader.

If you give a kid a stick of dynamite, why would you expect anything other than trouble?

Smashwords and Flipkart to End Distribution Relationship – Amazon Scores Victory

26 August 2015

From Smashwords:

Smashwords and Flipkart are ending their distribution agreement first announced in August, 2013.

The unfortunate news effectively hands the market for indie ebooks in India to Amazon.

A few weeks ago, I notified Flipkart that Smashwords was placing its distribution agreement with Flipkart under review.

I provided Flipkart a deadline by which Flipkart was asked to repair certain problems related to the listing and removal of Smashwords titles, and to provide Smashwords an acceptable plan to prevent such issues from recurring in the future.

I informed Flipkart that if these requirements were not met that Smashwords would request the immediate removal of all Smashwords titles.  The deadline was missed and an acceptable plan was not presented.

This morning Smashwords received word from Flipkart that after careful consideration, Flipkart determined their systems are not yet capable of supporting the dynamic nature of the Smashwords catalog.  As a result they will begin winding down the relationship with Smashwords and remove our titles.

. . . .

Our primary concern was Flipkart’s delays associated with the removal of Smashwords titles that had been unpublished. Most of these titles were removed because the Smashwords author or publisher made the decision to enroll their book in KDP Select, an ebook self publishing option offered by Amazon that requires authors to make their books exclusive to Amazon.

Once authors enroll a title in KDP Select, Amazon requires the author to immediately remove the book from all competing retailers otherwise the book is removed from the KDP Select program and the author is warned that repeated offenses could lead to the termination of their entire KDP account.

As you might imagine, these fire-and-brimstone emails from Amazon are unnerving to authors.

. . . .

Many indies don’t understand the long term implications of KDP Select.  The million or so books enrolled in KDP Select are almost entirely provided by the indie author community. Amazon coerces authors to enroll their books my making KDP Select books more discoverable and more desireable to Kindle customers, while making non-exclusive books less visible and less desirable.   The message is quite simple:  If you want to sell more books at the world’s largest ebook retailer, you must be exclusive.

I don’t blame indies for their difficult decision.  I met with one indie author a few weeks ago at a conference who told me words to the effect of, “I hate the exclusivity of KDP Select, yet I’m in it because I have a mortgage to pay.  Books in KDP Select sell better than non-exclusive books.

. . . .

I believe KDP Select is toxic to the future of indie publishing because it forces authors to abandon competing retailers and become more dependent upon Amazon.  When competing retailers lose access to this important inventory of indie titles, they can’t compete.

Amazon wields its dominant market share like a club to bludgeon authors who don’t fall into compliance with Amazon’s exclusivity or pricing requirements, even when the lack of compliance is not the author’s fault.  No other ebook retailer practices such draconian punishment of authors.

. . . .

To be clear, the termination of our agreement with Flipkart is not Amazon’s fault.  However, Amazon was a catalyst because the harm they’re causing our shared authors made it impossible for us to give Flipkart the runway they needed to improve their systems.

Although Flipkart is a small ebook retailer and the financial impact on Smashwords authors will be negligible, I’m more concerned by what this signals for the future of ebook retailing around the world.

Link to the rest at Smashwords

Zombie Publishing Memes #2 – Low Prices Devalue Books

24 August 2015

From Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler:

Low Prices “Devalue” Books.

The premise behind this zombie meme is not only wrong; it’s also exceptionally strange. After all, if you love books, why would you focus on their monetary worth rather than their worth in society? Isn’t what makes books valuable how widely they’re read, absorbed, and discussed, rather than how much money they make? And if books cost less and more people can afford them, doesn’t it stand to reason (assuming everyday experience is valid and what they teach in Economics 101 is correct) that more people will buy more books (in fact, they are doing just that)? If books are indeed valuable for society and we don’t want to devalue them, shouldn’t we look for ways to make books less expensive and therefore more widely accessible?

But even if you think the sole value of a book lies in how much money it makes, it’s silly to believe higher prices automatically mean more revenues. As a thought experiment: it’s unlikely anyone would maximize revenues with a five-cent price point, but then why not charge a hundred dollars for a book instead? Wouldn’t that $100 price point value the book even more?

Of course not. So intuitively, we all know there’s a sweet-spot price — the price at which volume x unit price maximizes revenues, and logically, this would seem to be the price that derives the greatest (financial) value from the book. If we make more money from our books at a five-dollar price point than we do at ten (not a hypothetical for us, by the way, but empirical fact), which is the price that’s “devaluing” the book?

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books and to Barry Eisler’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Price Wars and Victims

6 August 2015

From Kristine Katherine Rusch:

I had an interesting experience this week: I just bought a brand-new hardcover novel for less than I would have paid for the ebook. I wouldn’t have noticed except that I’ve been doing a lot of stuff online this week, and Amazon, good marketers that they are, sent me an e-mail to let me know that I had received a preorder discount of 90 cents.

I prefer to read paper books, although I do read ebooks, especially when I’m binging on a series.

The thing is, I’d ordered the book six months ago from Amazon. The book, Sara Paretsky’s Brush Back (which I’m enjoying, thank you very much), has a publisher’s list price of $27.95 for the hardcover. Amazon never listed the book at full price. I believe I initially ordered a $17.95 hardcover. I kept getting notices of discounting from Amazon, until this last, which arrived after the book was shipped.

Caveat here: I preorder because it makes some random day feel like Christmas. Suddenly, a book I really, really want shows up in the mail, almost like a surprise gift from a special friend.

I had forgotten that the Paretsky was coming out in August. If you’d asked me, I would have said September, because that used to be her release date. So when I received the most recent notice of the preorder discount—one that sounded final, final—I went to Amazon and looked up the publication date for the book.

And just about fell off my chair when I saw that the Kindle edition was $13.99 and the hardcover was listed at $13.

. . . .

As I searched for the publisher’s list price, too lazy to get up and pick up my copy from the other room, I found that Barnes & Noble lists the book at $16.83 for the hardcover and $11.84 for the Nookbook.

. . . .

Agency pricing has returned to ebooks, which means that publishers are setting their own ebook prices and the retailers, like Amazon, are not discounting. The ebook price on Amazon is clearly a price-match with Barnes & Noble, not something that Amazon has done.

I poked around Amazon, looking at e-book prices, and almost fell off my chair for a second time. Lisa Scottoline’s next book, which releases in October, has a $14.99 ebook. So does Michael Connelly’s November release. And Stephen King’s November release. Robert Crais’s next book shows a $12.70 Kindle edition paired with a $13.37 hardcover. Does that sound familiar?

And what’s fascinating to me is that these books, and the dozens of other traditionally published upcoming releases that I looked at are coming out of different publishing companies. Not different imprints of the Big 5, but each of the Big 5.

Once again, pricing seems…agreed upon.

. . . .

Nonetheless, Amazon is leaving the ebook prices—set by the publisher—alone…and messing with the paper prices.

I mean seriously messing with the paper prices. I should not have been able to get a brand-new hardcover for more than half off the list price on the day the book released. Maybe at Christmas. Maybe nine months from now, as the publisher gets ready to release the mass market paperback.

But now? Release day? Seriously?

. . . .

The traditional publishers are screaming about Amazon. I’ve learned over the years that when someone screams about something, they’re doing so because they feel some kind of pressure, some kind of pinch.

How could traditional publishers be feeling a pinch from Amazon? After all, in the United States, Amazon is selling more books than any other retailer. Why would that hurt traditional publishers? Is it hurting traditional publishers?

Oh, my friends. One should never ask these sorts of questions. Because the answers are often surprising.

From the evidence that I’m seeing, here’s what I believe is going on.

Amazon is clearly fighting the price war on a variety of fronts, and I’m sure Amazon’s policy is pretty simple: They want affordable ebook prices. So if traditional publishers want to charge $14.99 for a Kindle edition, then Amazon will make sure no one buys the expensive Kindle edition by lowering the price of the hardcover.

My unscientific examination shows that when the Kindle prices are high, the discount on the paper edition is deeper.

. . . .

When publishers returned to Agency Pricing, they had to agree to the same ebook royalty schedule that indies have. Which means that for any ebook priced over $9.99, the publisher will receive 35% of the sales price. (If the publisher prices the books between $2.99 and 9.99, then the publisher receives 70%)

The publisher, with a $14.99 ebook, will receive a royalty payment per sale of $5.25. If the publisher had priced the ebook at $9.99, the publisher would have received $6.99.

So traditional publishers are deliberately receiving a lower percentage royalty to keep the ebooks prices artificially high.

But traditional publishers aren’t the only ones taking less money to prove a point. If business is being conducted as it usually is, then traditional publishers sell their books to Amazon at the discount they use for all of the other big accounts (Wal-Mart, Costco, and so on).

That would be 60-64% of list price. This is known as a deep discount.

So, if Amazon pays 64% of $27.95 for the hardcover of, say, the Paretsky book, then Amazon is paying a little over $10 per book. Amazon is currently selling that book for $13, making a $3 profit.

If Amazon sells the Kindle edition of that book, Amazon makes $7.57 per sale. (65% of $11.64) If Amazon sells any of the $14.99 ebooks, it makes $9.75—over three times what it’s making on these discounted hardcover new releases.

Why is Amazon doing it?

I’m guessing here that the price wars continue. And Amazon is trying to force publishers to return to $9.99 ebook prices.

. . . .

Publishing contracts have changed in the past 15 years. Now, each contract has a discount schedule, reducing the royalty if a book is sold at deep (or what the average person would call high) discount. In the past, many contracts didn’t have a discount schedule; the publisher would eat the loss.

Now writers get a much lower royalty if the actual discount to the retailer is low.

At 60-64%, some writers are receiving only a 1-2% royalty. Let’s be charitable and give that writer a 2% royalty. That’s 2% of $27.95, which comes out to 56 cents per hardcover sold.

If the book sells at full price, the writer would get 10 to 15 to 20%, depending on the royalty schedule. (Often royalties are based on sales numbers—10% to 150,000 copies, 15% to 500,000 copies, 20% over 500,000 copies.)

Let’s be realistic instead of charitable this time. Most writers traditionally published in hardcover never sell 150,000 copies of that hardcover. The writer will get the 10% royalty, which is $2.75 per book. Not 56 cents. That’s a significant loss for books sold at deep discount.

But it’s a fact of life. That writer would get the 56 cents if Amazon sells the book at $27.95 or if Amazon sells the book at $13.37. It won’t matter to the writer at all.

The squeeze occurs on the ebook prices. Currently traditionally published writers across the boardare getting 25% of net income received on ebook sales.

So…if the publisher sells the ebook through Amazon at $14.99, and Amazon pays the publisher a royalty of 35%, then the publisher will receive $5.25. That’s “net income received” of which the writer will get 25% or $1.31.

However, if the publisher sets the ebook price at $9.99 on Amazon, the publisher will receive $6.99. The writer will get 25% of that $6.99 or $1.74. A little better.

But the other bonus at the lower ebook price is this: It has been proven over the years that the lower price point brings in more sales. So the writer would receive more money per sale and also make more sales.

The traditionally published writer is losing out here.

Link to the rest at Kristine Katherine Rusch and thanks to David for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kristine Katherine Rusch’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

The publishing world is changing, but there is one big dog that has not yet barked

5 August 2015

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

Recent data seem to show that, for the publishers, the growth in the retail ebook market has slowed down or stopped (at least for the moment), while Amazon’s ebook sales apparently continue to grow. The share of the market controlled by the publishing establishment — the Big Five publishers and others — is starting to be slowly eroded. This does not yet suggest that an author’s best bet is to go out on his/her own and we may be a very long way from that. But it does suggest that life may get increasingly difficult for publishers.

The headline data we saw last week is that Hachette’s ebook sales went down last year. All their sales declined, but ebooks fell faster and the percentage of their business in ebooks is diminishing.

. . . .

What we’re also seeing and hearing is that publishers might have boxed themselves in with their return to agency pricing. When publishers first “raised prices” by instituting agency pricing for ebooks in 2010, they saw no reduction in ebook sales, which continued to grow. Michael Cader’s analysis (can’t find it in print, but he told it to me) was that publishers may have misread the real impact of price increases because they raised them in a growing market. The number of ebook readers was increasing every day, so those who were put off by the high prices were outnumbered by the new entrants who just wanted to read their books digitally on their shiny new devices.

Whatever is the reason, the anecdotal reports I’m getting suggest that the price increases aren’t being so easily swallowed in the current round of Agency pricing. Amazon may not care about ending discounting from those prices because they don’t need to or want to, but it would appear that the new deals won’t let them. They certainly don’t have the flexibility to do so that they did before Agency came to the marketplace. So the sometimes startlingly high publisher-set prices are prevailing. And, aside from the Hachette numbers that were reported, we’re hearing widespread but totally unofficial reports that big publisher ebook sales are dropping noticeably when their new higher agency prices are activated.

Hugh Howey told me this was happening in a private exchange three months ago. I didn’t believe him. I do now.

. . . .

Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited may be having a bigger impact on the overall market. In all these cases, it is the public understanding that the subscription services are “purchasing” the ebooks from the established publishers. (Kindle’s own authors are compensated with a “by the page read” division of a pot that Amazon arbitrarily decides.) But the Big Five aren’t participating in KU and they aren’t putting their new books — the biggest sellers with the highest prices — into the subscription services. So all the reader bandwidth and revenue going through those services might be coming out of the big players’ and big books’ share.

Our friends at Ingram told me another piece of anecdata which may also be at play. They keep track of the number of SKUs that sell 100 copies or fewer and those that sell 10,000 copies or more. The aggregate sales of the former group is growing; the aggregate sales of the latter group is not. What that suggests is that the sales of books that are not really commercial are taking share away from those that are, whether those that are come from publishers or indie authors like Hugh Howey. Whether that particular change is yet impactful, it is inexorable.

. . . .

The reduction in ebook sales of hot new titles could be starting to affect future deals — one agent told me unambiguously that it is visible — which would be the next step in the indie vision of how publishers disappear. Publishers base their advances on revenue expectations, which, for ebooks, might now be diminishing.

. . . .

What is definitely true is that the share of the reading market held by commercially-minded publishers (not just commercial “for profits”, but also university presses) will diminish as both successful self-published authors and hundreds of thousands of others who don’t succeed (and maybe don’t even care) take their content to market on their own.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Why an Ebook’s Price Impacts Sales More Than You Think

1 August 2015

From Bookbub Partners:

If you’ve been reading the BookBub Partners Blog for awhile, you already know that the size of a discount can impact the number of copies an ebook sells during a price promotion. In this post, we’ll be looking at the relationship between discount price and conversion rate, or how many people buy a book after clicking through to its product page.

Why is this important? A negative trend would suggest that higher prices dissuade readers who showed initial interest in your book (by clicking on the link to the product page) from making the final purchase. And as we know, many of those readers aren’t nearly as influenced by price when it comes to authors they already know and like. So you could be losing long-term fans who would spend money on your books in the future if they did purchase and read the discounted title.

BookBub tracks both retailer clicks and sales of all the titles we feature, so we have a lot of data to look at when it comes to this question. And what we’ve found is that not only does a book’s average click through percentage decrease as price goes up, but so does its conversion rate. The chart below illustrates this trend:

a1

. . . .

Lastly, we compared books published by independent authors against those from traditional houses. Again, we found that conversion rate dropped off with price — though interestingly, the trend was less noticeable for indies beyond the $1.99 price point. One explanation for this is that many of the more expensive indie books we feature are top-selling box sets, which could skew the data with unusually high conversions.

a2

a3

This doesn’t mean that you should never promote your book at a higher price point. But what it does suggest is that the value of a steep discount goes beyond enticing readers to click on your book in the first place, and may hold sway when they’re deciding whether or not to put their money where their interest lies.

Link to the rest at Bookbub Partners

What price an e-book?

8 June 2015

From author Mark Lawrence:

I was asked today to ‘have a word’ with my publishers as The Liar’s Key ebook is £9.97 on Amazon.

I don’t have any say in setting the price for my books, and while my publishers would listen politely if I were to talk to them about it … they would do exactly what they think is right for the company, to maximise their chances of earning back the sizeable investment they have already made.

£10 is not an insignificant amount to me – I would have to want something quite a lot to put down a tenner for it. Even if it was a book that could entertain me for a week. So I’m not dismissive of people’s concerns about cost.

However, here is the breakdown of that cost as I understand it:

£9.97  —-   Amazon take 20% of the price as Value Added Tax. You might imagine this is then paid to the government, and I understand from the news that bad press has finally convinced Amazon to do that in the near future – but certainly until recently they were registered in a tax haven and kept the bulk of the VAT for themselves. This leaves:

£8.31  —-  For all self published books over £1.99 Amazon takes 30% of the sale price (after VAT) for themselves. I’m assuming it’s similar for everyone. This leaves:

£5.82  —- As with all big publishers Voyager take 75% of the money that Amazon hands over from the sale of ebooks. This is standard and much better than the deal on paper books. I’m not complaining. This leaves:

£1.46  —- My agent takes the standard 15% from all my royalties. He’s a good hard working chap and I wouldn’t be an author if he hadn’t risked his reputation on me. This leaves:

£1.24 —- The tax man takes 20% of my income. Given that I benefit from free healthcare for my very expensive disabled child, I can’t complain. This leaves:

99 pence.

99 pence to buy (on publication day) the longest book I’ve ever written and one that I laboured on night and day for 12 months.

Link to the rest at Mark Lawrence and thanks to Matt for the tip.

Here’s a link to Mark Lawrence’s books

Are You Willing to Pay as Much for a Book as You Are for a Burger?

3 June 2015

From author Jody Hedlund:

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the price of Ebooks. Since I’m traditionally published, I don’t have the luxury of setting the prices of my Ebooks. That means, sometimes I like the prices of my Ebooks and there are times when I don’t.

Obviously, most readers are aware by now that traditionally published Ebooks sell at a higher price than self-published books. There are a couple of reasons for the disparity.

1. Self-published authors are “in charge” of setting their own prices. In a free enterprise market, everyone knows that you’re better able to drive business your way if you can under-price your competitor. That’s why we all go to Walmart to buy milk for $1.98 rather than paying $2.50 at Meijer. Indie books are able to draw shoppers through the lower prices they offer, prices that traditional publishers can’t offer on a regular basis. That leads to my next point . . .

2. Traditionally published books have more people involved in the publication process, thus need to generate more revenue in order to pay everyone who had a hand in the book: two or more editors, office staff, the cover design team, the cover model, photographer, the marketing staff, publicist, sales representatives, and more. And let’s not forget, the author also has to be paid! No, Ebooks may not require the same “print” costs that a hard copy or paperback may incur, but as you can see, the costs of traditional publication go beyond the price tag of paper and ink.

Let’s face it, low indie prices have changed the Ebook market, and so traditionally published authors who are selling their Ebooks at $9.99 are often losing out to indie authors who are selling theirs for $2.99-$4.99.

. . . .

Part of me also wonders if having such low priced books is really a good thing anyway. Over time, I’ve noticed a subtle shift in the mind-set of many readers. Since so many of us have grown accustomed to cheaply priced or free Ebooks, we balk if we have to pay full price on any Ebook. In fact, I’ve had readers comment irritably about the higher price on some of my Ebooks. After reading my free novella, Out of the Storm, which kicks off my historical romance lighthouse series, some readers have been upset that they have to pay $9.99 for the full length Ebooks.

When I get those kinds of negative comments, I want to say, “If you went to Applebees for dinner, I bet you’d pay at least $9.99 for a burger which you’d consume in an hour and have nothing to show for it later.”

Link to the rest at Jody Hedlund and thanks to Charmaine for the tip.

Here’s a link to Jody Hedlund’s books

My personal list of what should be top-of-mind for publishers around digital change today

20 May 2015

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

What are the most important digital change issues publishers face?

. . . .

1. Ebook pricing. Publishers get anywhere from 50-to-70 percent of the retail price from most ebook retailers. Unlike the print world, where price-setting must take place before the book comes out and is, because the price is printed on the book, very hard to adjust, ebook prices can be changed quickly and frequently.

Pricing variation has historically been the province of the retailer. In the physical world, markdowns were almost never shared: the retailer voluntarily gave away part of their margin to gain market share or to build customer loyalty.

In the agency world that four of the Big Five have now created (with Penguin Random House almost certain to follow on), pricing is not only mostly controlled by publishers, they are the direct beneficiaries of higher prices and lose margin if prices are lowered.

It is true — and the indie authors who like it better when Amazon is in control rather than the publishers often point this out — that publishers have almost no experience with pricing and the impact of changes. But it is also true that the retailers, who do have more experience with it, have different objectives than publishers. Retailers want a competitive advantage against other retailers and, as part of that, they want to build customer loyalty. Publishers want to maximize revenue for each SKU, build awareness of authors, and use one book by an author or in a series to sell other titles under the same brand.

Publishers are starting very near zero on knowledge. How does discounting one title in a series affect the audience’s likelihood of getting started with it and then buying other titles at higher prices? If a book is in the news, is the right strategy to raise the price (to maximize revenue) or to lower the price (to get better market penetration on the back of the news). And is the strategy the same if the story is about the book, rather than the book being about the story? Do pricing strategies need seasonality rules, and how is that different across genres or topics?

. . . .

7. Allocating effort across a large backlist. The biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge for publishers, as they have historically operated and as they are currently structured, is maximizing their opportunities across their backlists. The big houses are dealing with many tens of thousands of titles. We advocate techniques that require some human application so scale techniques have to be used to pinpoint the titles worth an effort.

Although we are developing tools to help digest the external cues that might affect where the focus should be — cues from the news and social graph — each publisher has to start with a combination of knowledge of the list, intuition, and a sense that sales can be improved to pick those titles worth reviewing for better audience understanding and descriptive copy improvement. Almost certainly, titles that are more than a couple of years old will need work for several reasons: the house knew so little about SEO when copy was written; time will have changed the search terms that matter; and reviews and awards and other things from the book’s experience in the marketplace might need to be incorporated.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Fixed Book Price in Foreign Book Markets

14 May 2015

From Publishing TrendSetter:

Earlier this year, France made publishing news headlines when its court ruled ebook subscription services like Kindle Unlimited illegal. The law cited was theLang Law, which gives publishers the exclusive right to set the price of a book. Retailers are not allowed to discount more than 5 percent from this set price.

You may be thinking, A measly 5 percent? Here in the United States, we’re used to seeing 50 percent or more slashed off our books.

. . . .

But in other parts of the world, price fixing is even welcomed— especially when it comes to books. Many countries have a fixed book price (FBP) system like France’s Lang Law.

An FBP system is an arrangement between publishers and retailers that establishes a (more or less) fixed price for each book sold in that market. Because retailers can’t compete on price, big box stores and online retailers have less advantage in the market, and independent bookstores have more opportunity to thrive. This diversity in the distribution network, in turn, is supposed to promote bibliodiversity. An FBP system assumes that variety— in booksellers and in books— is necessary for nurturing a healthy reading culture.

In practice, FBP systems look different from country to country. In some countries, FBP is a law; in others, it’s a trade agreement. Other variables include duration, discount rate, and format. For example, how long after publication does the fixed priced apply? What, if any, is the maximum discount allowed? Are ebooks included?

. . . .

The United Kingdom pioneered the FBP system, but doesn’t have one anymore. According to a report by the International Publishers Association, FBP began in the UK as pricing agreements made between publishers and booksellers in 1829; a nationwide Net Book Agreement came into effect in 1900. Then, just short of 100 years old, the Net Book Agreement collapsed in 1995 after major publishers and retailers withdrew. In 1997, it was finally ruled illegal and anti-competitive. By then, one writer for The Guardian reflects, the UK had fully converted to free market capitalism and price had become first priority.

The collapse of the Net Book Agreement has made the British book market more like ours, as predicted by the publisher John Wiley & Sons in 1996, in that it has narrowed. British independent bookstores are on a steep decline (after more than 500 closures in the past decade, the total number of stores dropped below 1000 last year). Though the loss of FBP isn’t the only cause, the worrying situation overall has prompted discussions about bringing the Net Book Agreement back in the UK.

. . . .

Paris-residing writer Pamela Druckerman provides insight into the radically different approach. She clarifies in her New York Times Op-Ed that “what underlies France’s book laws isn’t just an economic position— it’s also a worldview.”

In France, “‘books are seen as a cultural rather than a commercial product,’” echoed a Penguin Random House executive in a Publishing Perspectives article. And, one editor at Gallimard explained, since the Revolution, “‘the French state has always considered that culture is not a private matter.’” The government actually classifies books as an “essential good,” as Druckerman and others have pointed out.

Link to the rest at Publishing TrendSetter and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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