Laura generated a Facebook post asking readers to pick either Three Fates or The Collector for a discussion. As often happens in the comment section some readers complained about the cost of books–why can’t I make them cheaper, or asked me to have a sale, do some discounting.
Is this aggravating to me? Yes, it is.
First, the post clearly asked for readers to vote for one of two books for a discussion. Second, while I appreciate a bargain as much as anybody, I find requests or demands or complaints re book pricing addressed to me, the writer, frustrating. Third, and perhaps most frustrating (over and above the fact I’ve addressed this countless times already) because I write the books. I do not publish them. I do not sell them. I do not set the price point. I do not decide when or if to discount or have a sale.
I sit here, in my office, at my keyboard, and I write. Period.
But then it occurred to me there may be readers who are simply confused, and some confusion may spring from the fact that many authors self-publish. When someone self-publishes, they are, basically, in charge of all. They set the price of the work, discount as they deem appropriate. They often give the work away for free, at least for a limited time, to generate interest.
If a reader’s surfing the web, they might often encounter an author announcing a sale, a discount, a give-away–and just assume it works that way for all.
I don’t self publish. I have no desire to be in charge of all. This is my choice. I want to sit here, in my office, at my keyboard, and write. Period.
Therefore I have no say–absolutely no say whatsoever, in the cover price the publisher puts on my work. I don’t want any say. I have no say when or if Amazon runs a sale, or when and if my publisher discounts my books in e-form. I have no say what B&N sells my books for, or Sam’s Club, or your local indie bookseller. I can’t tell them what to do, what to charge.
I can write the book.
I have no more control over this than I do when my books come out in another country. I can’t tell my Spanish publisher, for instance, when to release one of my books, or what price point to set.
While it’s weirdly flattering to have some people imagine I run all this from my office chair–or maybe zip around having meetings with all kinds of publishing, bookselling, distributing, marketing people, I just don’t.
To my knowledge no one who doesn’t self-pub has any control over price points or sales.
Let me add another pitch for libraries. They are the treasure house of books. Support your local library. They’re free! You can walk into that treasure house and choose a book, take it home, read it, enjoy it, then take it back so someone else can do the same. You can watch for your local library’s book sales, and buy books at incredible prices.
If you want to own a particular book before that library sale, try used bookstores, try flea markets, yard sales. If you prefer e-books, watch for sales at the venues that offer them. There are many, many ways to own a book.
Asking me to make them cheaper, to offer discounts, isn’t one of them.
PRICE POINTS, DISCOUNTS, SALES — the sequel
A little math for those readers who believe e-books should be cheap or even free.
The industry standard royalty on e-books is 25%.
So if an e-book’s cost was slashed to, let’s say $5. (Because math’s easier with 5s). The author would make $1.25 on that sale. The industry standard for an agent’s fee is 15%, so 8.3 cents goes to the agent, leaving the author with $1.16.6.
This doesn’t factor in any expenses said author might have laid out for promotion or the other business that revolves around the writing. The publisher would have $3.75 of that sale to pay for formatting, proofing, marketing, promotion (if any), distribution and all the other factors that go into it. They’d probably break even, maybe even eke out a small profit.
Publishing paper, audio and e forms start on the same road–with the content from the author, from the editing of that content, the scheduling, the generating of cover. Then the road splits off. One avenue for paper, one for audio, one for e. All those forms require work, a sales and marketing department, managing editors, proofers, distributors, book reps and on and on. All of them require that.
Publishing is a business. Writing is work. Reading should be a joy. But the joy isn’t free, and can’t be valued so cheaply that the creators of the joy can’t make profit or a decent living.