As I said before I’m getting an education in the self-pubbed, indie author world. I’ve always been an traditionally published author, so I’ve neither lived nor worked in this world.
My books are, of course, available as e-books. My publisher publishes them in all formats. I just write the books.
Regarding books cheap or free, I’ve gotten an education there, too. What I’ve heard from various indie authors is basically this:
When this market opened years ago, those who chose to self-pub were able to take the time they needed to craft their story, do all the work required to publishe that work on line (it’s a lot). Most could and did–from my understanding–price their books at (rounding) about five dollars. Maybe more depending on the page count of the book.
At that price, the author earns 70% of the cover price. They’re doing all the work, paying–I hope–for a professional editor, paying for cover, for ads. It’s all out of their pocket, so they earn the lion’s share of the cover price.
They did the marketing, the advertising, the social media–while they worked on their next book. Maybe it took them three months, six months, even a year to craft that next book. Which they then published for about five dollars.
In this way, many could make a decent living.
A Broken System
Then came the scammers, and with the methods discussed in previous blogs, who flooded the market with 99 cent books. What a bargain! Readers couldn’t know these books were stolen or copied or written by ghostfarms. Couldn’t know about the clickfarms, the scam reviews.
At this price, the author receives only 30% (there’s a price point cut off on royalty rate). So all those out of pocket expenses may or may not be covered.
The legit indie saw her sales suffer, her numbers tank, her placement on lists vanish. To try to compete, many had to struggle to write faster, to heavily discount their work. Some had to give up writing altogether.
One other scamming method is to list a book–forever–as free. Not as a promotion, or incentive, but to toss up hordes or free books, so the reader wants–and often demands–free. They make their money off the scores of cheap and stolen books, and destroy the legit writer. Why pay when there are scores of free books at your fingertips?
Reporting bad actors, filing complaints didn’t do much. There have been, I’m told, some actions and improvements. But the scammers continue to thrive.
So those struggling authors have to devalue their own work, as many readers became accustomed to the fast and the cheap. Or the free.
I am NOT saying all books at a bargain price are scams, I am NOT saying readers should never scoop up a bargain or download a free book. I AM saying if you’re a reader who pushes for fast and cheap, who buys books simply because they’re under a buck, who hounds authors for free (and yeah, you know who you are, too) as I’m often hounded, this is a problem. This just plays into a broken system.
And I’ll happily say it again. Pay the artist, pay the creator.
Many authors–as Kasey Michaels explained so well in the comments on my previous blog–are and have been publishing their backlist on-line. Books they wrote for traditional publishers (for which they were paid) and now have the rights to. So many of them, like Kasey, offer a free book or a 99 cent one as a loss leader. But then up the price point for the rest in that series, or another group of books.
The straight to indie author is paid ONLY through those on-line purchases. And they can’t survive on thirty-three cents a sale. They wouldn’t have to without the culture these scammers created.
The scammers can survive, because of the volume they produce, of the bonuses they earn from incentive programs. I’m told some earn thousands, many thousands a week.
Feeding the Beast
Your honest, hard-working self-pubbed author? Not even close.
Writers are nowhere without readers. But readers are nowhere without those hard-working writers who pour their creative juices, their hours at the keyboard into the best book they can write.
If you want a book for a dollar, that’s your choice. It’s easy enough to check the author’s website, take a little preview of the story, see what else they might have to offer.
But if you’re a reader who’s just glomming those books because they’re cheap, because you’ve gotten used to cheap, it feeds the beast.
It’s still your choice–will always be your choice whether it’s buying on-line or buying paper.
For those–you know who you are, too–who’ve tossed my money back in my face, claim I’m elitist and mouthing off because I’m rich?