Pricing

October 2014 Author Earnings Report

20 October 2014

From Hugh Howey:

The latest Author Earnings report is up. This is our first look at the effects of Kindle Unlimited — we’ll be diving in further in coming months. I wish our conclusions could be more . . . conclusive. To me, weighing all the benefits of KDP Select against the minus of exclusivity, my thinking is that KDP Select is great for those starting out and those selling at the very highest levels. For those in the middle, who might be getting traction on other outlets, the increase in sales does not seem to outweigh the percentage of the market given up.

. . . .

I’ve been able to experiment with KU without the exclusivity requirement. It’s not a permanent exclusion, and I’ve been leaning toward exclusivity and staying in KU once it expires. I’m now leaning the other way. Even with the potential of All-Star bonuses, I’m not keen on a system that rewards the top and bottom but leaves out the middle. What I’d love to see is for Amazon to drop exclusivity as a goal.

. . . .

So why not make KU elective for all authors? Why not set the pay scale by page rather than reward shorter length works? Compete for readers in all the other ways that Amazon excels (customer service, one-click, search, also-boughts, recommendations, reviews, etc.) and let authors publish their works far and wide.

Link to the rest at Hugh Howey

Here’s a link to Hugh Howey’s books

Local book industry concerned at proposed shake-up

30 September 2014

From Dynamic Business:

One of the more controversial proposals in the recent draft review of competition policy was its recommendation to lift parallel import restrictions on books, with the review warning this amounted to an implicit tax on Australian consumers.

The restriction prohibits the importation into Australia of a product by anyone other than the licensed Australian manufacturer or distributor, cutting off an important alternative source of supply.

Removing the restriction would see more books on offer for cheaper prices. The draft review, led by Professor Ian Harper, warned the continuance of parallel import restrictions would be similar to having a tariff in place because local industry remains shielded from international competition.

Australian consumers are also increasingly able to circumvent the restriction anyway. They can buy e-books or simply go online and have books shipped overseas from warehouses directly to their front door.

. . . .

He said the restrictions placed onerous limitations on the ability of bookstore owners to import products requested by customers. He said the restrictions also meant that the price of books was higher, forcing everyday Australians to pay more for their books.

“You could come into a bookshop, hold a book up and show it to them and say ‘I’d like a copy of this’. I would say, ‘I don’t have it. I’m not allowed to have it’,” Mr Strong said. “I don’t think the publishers understand it. I think they are just panicking. Embracing change helps business.”

“Lifting import restrictions is obviously better because you have access to more books and access to cheaper books.”

Link to the rest at Dynamic Business and thanks to Hugh for the tip.

Amazon looks to launch e-books in Netherlands

24 September 2014

From Reuters:

Online retailer Amazon.com Inc is in talks with a number of Dutch publishers to sell e-books in the Netherlands, the Financial Times reported, citing a Dutch publisher.

“Within the book trade it has been a recurring message that Amazon might enter the market. But now Amazon has actually been in touch and so we are getting close,” the report quoted Sander Knol, the director of Xander, a Dutch publisher that has been approached by Amazon.

. . . .

Although the Netherlands does not allow print books to be sold below their cover price, posing a problem for Amazon that regularly sells books at discounts, there is no cap on how retailers can price e-books.

Link to the rest at Reuters

When Giving Away Free Books Is the Smartest Thing a Writer Can Do

3 September 2014

From author Scott William Carter:

Nothing seems to stir up more disagreements among writers these days than all the issues related to pricing books. Unlike in traditional publishing, writers have lots of control about how they market their books on the indie side. And while there is no one-size-fits-all approach to pricing or marketing, it’s become pretty clear to me that few writers understand how powerful (and nuanced) a marketing tool FREE! can be in a digital marketplace where the cost of production and distribution, at least for the indie writer, is nearly zero.

. . . .

In the month of August, I gave away 150,000 ebooks of The Gray and Guilty Sea. Sales of the two sequels exploded. My mailing list doubled overnight. Hundreds of positive reviews poured in (on Amazon alone, the number of reviews on The Gray and Guilty Sea jumped from 30 to over 300 in a few weeks) and I’ve gotten dozens of nice emails from readers. It’s the most effective promotion I’ve ever done.  More importantly, I did it not because I was desperate, but because I believed in my work.  I believed that if readers got to spend a few hours with the curmudgeonly Garrison Gage, a lot of them would want to spend a few hours more and would be willing to pay money to do so.

. . . .

The key to giving away free books is to give away a Lindt truffle and not a Hershey kiss, and to do it in a way that the buyer can easily buy more once they have tried the sample. If your book has a presentation that makes it look like a truffle (by blurb, cover, original price, and of course the contents), it’s going to look very attractive next to a bunch of Hershey kisses (books with bad covers and blurbs and, more often than not, contents). When a writer gives away the first book in a series away for free, it’s like having the bag of truffles right there at the table.

Link to the rest at Scott William Carter

Here’s a link to Scott William Carter’s books

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

18 August 2014

From Hugh Howey:

But three lefts do.

And what of Orwellian triple-speak? That’s like double-speak, except you circle back around to the truth again. I’m seeing some bizarre protestations about an Orwell quote making the rounds among the anti-Amazon crowd. When Amazon sent a letter to KDP authors asking them to help talk sense into Hachette, one of the points detractors seized upon was a quote from George Orwell about paperbacks. From the letter:

The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.”

The quote was taken out of context, pundits and bloggers cried. The rest of the letter from Amazon was dismissed because of a single fact that seems to have been gotten backwards. In reality, they said, Orwell thought cheap paperbacks were great. He flat out says so. Can’t you hear the sarcasm dripping from his voice? He wasn’t really suggesting collusion.

Except he was. And he wasn’t being sarcastic at all. An intrepid researcher tracked down the origin of the quote, and Orwell was indeed suggesting, just as Amazon portrays, that he and others of his time thought cheap books would destroy the trade. Great for consumers, sure, but bad for everyone else.

. . . .

Publishers today—like Orwell was in his time—are terrified of affordable literature. Amazon’s point is that they were wrong, and that cheap paperbacks helped grow the entire pie of reading and enrich everyone in the industry. It bears mentioning, I think, that one of the pundits who twisted Orwell’s wording to suit his needs also freely admits that he encourages publishers to jack ebook prices up as high as possible to protect the print trade.

Another thing lost from this debate is that $9.99 is not the ideal price point for all ebooks. In fact, most ebooks would generate more revenue at even lower prices. $9.99 is like a speed limit. Exceed it in rare emergencies, but also feel free to drive slower where appropriate. Among the 120,000 ebooks we’ve analyzed at AuthorEarnings.com, $4.99 ends up being the bestselling price point by far.

Link to the rest at Hugh Howey and thanks to Ashe for the tip.

Up Against Amazon

15 August 2014

From the Independent Book Publishers Association:

Amazon doesn’t just take orders. It is used to barking orders at publishers and getting us to salute. But bullying only goes so far, and I’m thankful that a single large publisher, Hachette, stood up to it and that The New York Times ran an editorial about its strong-arm tactics.

I’ve been sitting on my own Amazon story for a while, after having receiving a threatening phone call from its legal department when I refused to agree to a unilateral change of terms. But with all the publicity and debate about Hachette, I thought other publishers, as well as Berkshire Publishing’s friends, colleagues, and customers, might like to know about our experience and why I believe that Amazon is destroying healthy competition in the publishing world.

. . . .

My fight with Amazon began when it decided to go after traditional “short discount” publishers (academic presses as well as presses like Berkshire Publishing) with a unilaterally imposed change in business terms announced only in a “case note” within their order-processing platform. This platform is normally used to inquire about the availability of certain books and is used by customer service staff.

A colleague of mine whose staff was puzzled enough to pass the “case note” along to him asked Amazon to contact him directly by telephone or email, saying that business terms were a matter for our company’s executive team. Amazon refused to talk—communication would take place only through the “case.”

Berkshire Publishing had sold print through Amazon.com since 2006. Although it originally demanded a 40% discount—four times our standard—I decided that we should make books available through any major platform that individual readers and libraries use. Our authors like knowing that their books are readily available worldwide. And we reach some people who would never otherwise know about our titles. In fact, I was recently at a meeting in Beijing and showed a copy of our book This Is China: The First 5,000 Years. Two of the people there started whispering and giggling, and finally one spoke up, “I have that book. I ordered it from Amazon!”

Amazon’s demand in 2012 was for an additional 5%, bringing the discount to 45% (some academic presses had been at 25%, so the change to 45% meant a reduction of 80% in their net income from Amazon sales). Bookstores generally get a discount of 30-40%. Amazon has been getting 50-55% from the big trade presses, and the current battles are in part over further discounts that Amazon is demanding to increase its marginal profit.

. . . .

Amazon is destroying competition and innovation because it is not letting the market determine winners and losers, but is instead making the selection itself, deciding arbitrarily where to take its pound of flesh and shore up its feeble margins. Publishers (and authors) would be fine if they were actually competing with one other for sales without Amazon sucking the life out of every transaction.

Finally, what happened? Are Berkshire Publishing titles available through Amazon? Dear reader, I capitulated after four months. It wasn’t fair; it wasn’t good for anyone but Amazon, but I was losing sales that I needed and I gave in.

Link to the rest at the Independent Book Publishers Association and thanks to Karen, who points out that this brings into focus the area where independent publishers and independent authors are NOT aligned for the tip.

While PG almost reflexively takes the side of the little guy/gal in any battle, he would suggest that Amazon is exquisitely attuned to the market, much more so than any publisher.

 

Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Stuffing

6 August 2014

From author Michael Bunker:

In the final days of the Roman Empire there were plenty of people still arguing (and from real evidence I might add) that the Roman Empire was still in power. The problem is that the conclusions they were drawing from the evidence was incorrect. The Ceteris Paribus fallacy had most people convinced that because the Roman Empire still ruled, then it would continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Even though the empire’s days were numbered.

I keep telling people that the days of Kindle Stuffing as a means of launching a new career are numbered. There is still a place for .99 and free books, but the days when new authors could count on cheap or free to get their names out there in a big way and to perhaps break out from the crowd… well, I suspect those days are generally over.

Authors don’t realize that readers have changed. Even this early in the e-book revolution, there has been a fundamental change in reader behavior that almost everyone is missing. In one of my last articles, I likened it to what happened with dollar stores. Anytime a once rare, pricey, or difficult to acquire commodity becomes abundant and inexpensive, buyers will gorge on it… for a time. Set a hungry man free in a field of strawberries and see what he does. But have that man live in a field of strawberries – where there is no scarcity, no seasons, and no cost – and you’ll see that he behaves differently in regards to strawberries. Sure, he’ll still eat them now and then, but the gorging will stop. Quality and value always assert themselves when price and/or scarcity is removed from the equation.

. . . .

[R]eaders, if you take the time to talk to as many of them as I do, will tell you that they are reading fewer and fewer of the cheap and free books they stuff into their Kindles. And of the ones they do try, they are reading less of the book before giving up. In many cases they are giving the book 2-3 pages (in many cases far less than 10%) before they decide to go on to the next book.

. . . .

So how does the launch of Kindle Unlimited prove my point?

1. The fact that Amazon saw it as necessary to provide unlimited FREE book loans to readers means that they are choosing to compete in a new delivery method that is going to revolutionize how readers receive titles. More and more books are going to be consumed via these membership services. And we have evidence that will allow us to predict reader behavior.

NETFLIX

. . . .

2. The fact that, unlike the Kindle Online Lending Library, Amazon has instituted a 10% read threshold before author payment is secured, proves my point even more. Amazon knows that the more free books are available, and when scarcity is removed as an issue, more readers are going to graze shop rather than committing based on a cover and a blurb. If the reader doesn’t read past the 10% threshold, Amazon doesn’t have to pay the author. This makes sense for Amazon, but it should tell you something about reader behavior and how it has changed.

Scarcity has been removed. The binge is over. Most newbie authors who count on the 2011 method of marketing and promotion to build a career are going to fail miserably.

Link to the rest at Michael Bunker and thanks to Sharyn for the tip.

Here’s a link to Michael Bunker’s books

Amazon’s Latest Volley

30 July 2014

From John Scalzi:

Another day, another volley in the Amazon-Hachette battle, this time from Amazon, in which it explains what it wants (all ebooks to be $9.99 or less, for starters) and lays out some math that it alleges shows that everyone wins when Amazon gets its way.

. . . .

I think Amazon’s math checks out quite well, as long as you have the ground assumption that Amazon is the only distributor of books that publishers or authors (or consumers, for that matter) should ever have to consider. If you entertain the notion that Amazon is just 30% of the market and that publishers have other retailers to consider — and that authors have other income streams than Amazon — then the math falls apart. Amazon’s assumptions don’t include, for example, that publishers and authors might have a legitimate reason for not wanting the gulf between eBook and physical hardcover pricing to be so large that brick and mortar retailers suffer, narrowing the number of venues into which books can sell. Killing off Amazon’s competitors is good for Amazon; there’s rather less of an argument that it’s good for anyone else.

. . . .

Amazon’s math of “you will sell 1.74 times as many books at $9.99 than at $14.99″ is also suspect, because it appears to come with the ground assumption that books are interchangable units of entertainment, each equally as salable as the next, and that pricing is the only thing consumers react to. They’re not, and it’s not. Someone who wants the latest John Ringo novel on the day of release will not likely find the latest Jodi Picoult book a satisfactory replacement, or vice versa; likewise, someone who wants a eBook now may be perfectly happy to pay $14.99 to get it now, in which case the publisher and author should be able to charge what the market will bear, and adjust the prices down (or up! But most likely down) as demand moves about.

Link to the rest at Whatever and thanks to Ben for the tip.

PG will quote himself in a comment he posted last night:

Does Barnes & Noble have a say in the prices it charges for books?

Amazon’s a retailer. Retailers set prices.

If Hachette wants to set prices, it should open its own store.

But, of course, Hachette experimented with price-fixing. Now it’s hooked. Let that be a lesson to all of you young people – just say no to price-fixing.

Amazon Calls for Hachette to Cut E-Book Prices

30 July 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com Inc. on Tuesday described its dispute with the Hachette Book Group as a battle for lower consumer prices on digital titles and a bigger payday for writers.

In a posting on its website, Amazon said that it would be willing to accept 30% of digital book revenue, the same percentage it currently receives from Hachette, if the publisher agreed to lower digital prices on many of its titles to $9.99 from between $12.99 and $14.99.

. . . .

In the blog post, Amazon said that its internal data showed that when a book is priced at $9.99, it sells nearly twice as many copies as when it is priced at $14.99. It argued that, as a result, total revenue at $9.99 is more than when the book is priced higher. “At $9.99, the total pie is bigger,” stated Amazon.

A spokeswoman for Hachette didn’t respond to requests for comment.

. . . .

In its Tuesday posting, Amazon suggested authors should receive 35% of the e-book retail price. Many authors today receive 25% of net revenue on e-book sales, a point of contention for some who consider it too small.

. . . .

The Authors Guild, at least, didn’t appear to be mollified. It criticized Amazon’s suggestion for lower retail prices. “Lower e-book prices aren’t necessarily the best thing for writers,” said Roxana Robinson, president of the Authors Guild. “We get a percentage of the price as a royalty. You also have to take into consideration the price of the hardcover. Yes, it’s cheap to make a digital book but it’s expensive to present a book in hardcover.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

The Author’s Guild continues its never-ending quest to provide the most bewildered and unhelpful comments on the subject of Hachette/Amazon. PG wonders if they’re consciously trying to retire the Clueless Trophy.

Book Publishing Needs Socialism to Save It

27 July 2014

From Book Marketing Buzz Blog:

Let me just state up front that I love America and wouldn’t live anywhere else but, I also believe there’s room for a blend of socialism and capitalism to exist in a democratic society, and when it comes to how books are sold or treated, I prefer what the French and other advanced nations do.

They protect books and the printed word. I applaud them—and so should you.

Here in the U.S., thanks largely to Amazon, books have become commoditized. You can buy clothes based on price—or a desk or the hotel you vacation at. But books should not be purchased based on price alone.

. . . .

[T]he Hatchette-Amazon battle is now being waged and the repercussions of it could dictate the fate of publishing’s long-term viability. However, in other countries, books are a much healthier product.

In France, where Amazon only owns 10-12% of the book market—but 70% of online sales, Amazon is contained because of laws passed to protect and support bookstores and publishers.

The law says online sellers can’t offer free shipping on discounted books. Further, booksellers can’t offer more than a 5% discount off a book’s cover price.

I wish it were that way here.

In Germany, books can’t be discounted. In fact, six of the 10 biggest book-selling countries have versions of fixed book prices—Japan, Italy, Spain, South Korea, Germany, and France.

Link to the rest at Book Marketing Buzz Blog and thanks to Karen for the tip.

Just a reminder that PG doesn’t necessarily agree with everything he posts here. He tries to include a variety of opinions.

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