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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's Not About You

I wasn't going to get into this silly free-for-all between Amazon and MacMillan but I am sick and tired of the grousing and hand-wringing.

There has been some good analysis and then there are the dilettante observers who just regurgitate whatever they hear from their friends or eavesdrop from Twitter, and then get it wrong.

There are some important questions that are NOT being answered from either behemoth.

Authors: Amazon picks the price point. MacMillan doesn't like it. They want to raise it. Ooh, good for authors, right? Can someone tell me what MacMillan is currently paying its authors for ebook rights? I'm betting it's not the 35-40% that other e-publishers are paying. The last author I spoke to who was published with a NY publisher (not MacMillan) told me her contract offered 12%. Boo-rah!

Who is pocketing those other percentage points now that they don't have to worry about returns, or printing, or remaindering? These are huge costs that thanks to e-publishing are no longer an issue. Where does that money go?

Amazon demands a $10 price point. They're not out to help authors either. They are doing the WalMart quick step to draw in customers.

And guess what? It's not about the authors at all. All you drama queens, get off your fainting couch.

This is a business. Neither one of these giants care how it affects you. They care about what goes back into their coffers. So all this outcry about supporting this cause or that does little in the way of supporting writers other than in their little world.

But back to Amazon. Despite their low-ball price point. Is it really low-ball? I'm not sure I want to spend $15 dollars for an ebook, or even $10, not when I can get the paperback for $7-$8. When I get tired of it gathering dust, I can resell it or donate it. An ebook has to be cheaper than the paperback. That's my price point.

The writer community is getting itself in such a lather about this camp or that one, they'd forgotten the most important camp of all--the READER.

I am still a reader, and given the choice between a high profile author at a $15 price point and two low profile authors whose publisher is selling their books direct for five bucks a piece, guess where I'm going?

When I'm browsing a book catalog, that's only my first stop. Once I find a premise that sounds interesting, I then Google the book to find out who's selling it the cheapest. If it was originally debuted as an ebook, you can find all sorts of 3rd party sellers.

If the author was smart and had his rights reverted to him after the book went out of print, you might find that book even cheaper from the author's web site. A double-bonus: buying directly from the author returns all the profits back to him.

This war is far from over and I can't justly declare either side the winner. All I know is that despite Amazon's less than noble sucker punches, they are still endearing themselves to the average reader who is not a writer.

Writers have a tendency to isolate themselves and never look beyond what their other writer friends are saying. I make it my mission to step away to see how the rest of the world reacts.

And you know what? They are hoping Amazon wins.


Dru said...

You are so right about purchasing ebooks - if it cost more than a paperback, I'm buying the paperback.

Maria Zannini said...

This is why all the saber rattling on author boards is pointless. The price (eventually) will stabilize to what the market will bear.

If the consumer doesn't like it, they'll get their fix elsewhere.

Hope you're feeling better, Dru.

Marianne Arkins said...

I think a publisher should be allowed to charge whatever they want -- if people don't buy books at that price, they'll learn. They aren't stupid.

I think Amazon is going to try to kill off all their competition any way they can (hey... that's what business is about), even if they take a loss to do it. That's their right.

My fear? That Amazon will succeed, and then when we have nowhere else to shop, they can do whatever they please.

I vote with my dollar. I spend more for local produce and meat (and organic produce and meat) because I believe in what they're doing and want to support them in any way I can.

Same with books.

I don't buy my books at Amazon out of principle. Period. When I can, I purchase my eBooks from the publisher -- typically the author receives a higher royalty that way.

The rest? Let them duke it out.

Maria Zannini said...

We've been through all of this before with the music industry, newspapers and even cable tv.

My beef with all these fire starters is that they never of the people with the ultimate control--the consumer.