When I got into the publishing business fourteen years ago, readers paid more for novellas than they typically do now for a full-length novel. While the price of everything has steadily increased with inflation over the years, the value of the book— a writer's work of art— has steadily diminished. We've gone from being the Picassos and Warhols of the written word to the guy who created the cliché painting of dogs playing poker.
Let's take a look at the current prices of Amazon's top 3 selling books. For the paycheck of NOTHING you too can become a bestselling author. Unfortunately, it's not just their top 3 books that cost a whopping zero dollars and zero cents... I stopped there only because of my laptop's screen shot capacity. There is page after page after page of books that don't cost a cent to buy. What does bestselling even mean when the author isn’t getting paid for their work?
Perversely, even the self-publishing authors who actually charge money for their stories have been in such a mad rush to make the New York Times list that they've sacrificed all of our earning potentials by debuting their novels from around 99 cents to $1.49 per copy (sometimes going so far as to stash 14 novels under the umbrella of 1 title!) in an effort to sell enough copies to hit the list. The effect I'm seeing, which I'm basing on public reviews, forums, reader mail, etc., is an overall expectation by consumers that a book... something it can take an author weeks, months or even years to create... now carries less value in their eyes than a cheeseburger from McDonalds.
I refuse to devalue my work (and by extension myself) in that manner. My readership hasn’t suffered for it and continues to climb. My backlist has exploded in the last 6 months and I don’t even know why. Maybe because the McNopolization of the book is resulting in the realization that you get what you pay for? Maybe because readers aren’t the idiots people take them for and have caught onto the fact that a 99 cent novel is being sold for 99 cents because nobody would buy it otherwise?
I’m sorry if I sound overly harsh—actually no I’m not. I know my critics will say “I wouldn’t read her work if it was free!” because really, what else can they do besides take it to an emotional level rather than a logical one? They don’t value themselves so they will not value anybody else, period. Happy, well-functioning people place importance and pride in their work and are therefore readily able to appreciate the hard work of others.
So, no, I will not be putting my work or my authors’ work up for sale to the lowest bidder. Quite frankly, EC’s pricing strategy has nothing to do with our sales at Amazon. What does it have to do with? Go to Amazon, enter “Laurann Dohner” (a multiple New York Times and USA Today bestselling author) and see how many of her books pop up with ease. Enter my name and you’ll get a lot of the same thing and none of my highest grossing titles listed first. This “algorithm” farce has been going on for several months now. Coincidence that Amazon’s free titles and self-published ones pop up first? You be the judge.
In the meantime, Ellora’s Cave will continue to carry on and thrive because I’m a scrapper who’ll allow for nothing less. The good news about the slow bleeding we—and many other publishers who aren’t willing to publicly admit it—have suffered over the past several months is that we’ve all had to adjust our structures to the point where we have very little loss in income to make up now. And you can best believe I won’t be making it up by devaluing the work of my Picassos and Warhols.
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