Monday, July 23, 2012

Join the ebook/indy controversy!

There are some great discussions going on right now (on Twitter, blogs) about the state of ebooks and indie publishing. Join in and add your two cents -- are ebooks priced too low? If so, who does this hurt? Or is anything fair in the race to gain readership?

Indy author Catherine Ryan Howard has a great post (and follow-up discussion in comments), "Low E-book Pricing: The Compensation Problem," where she discusses a recent spat at the Harrogate Crime Festival. Writes Howard on her blog, Catherine, Caffeinated:

"During a panel discussion called Wanted for Murder: The E-book (for anyone surprised at what happened, shouldn’t that title have been your first clue?) bestselling crime writers Mark Billingham and Laura Lippman, seated in the audience, got into a bit of a heated debate with the panelists, one of whom was mega-selling cheap e-book author Stephen Leather."

Blogger Pam McIlroy tweeted about an article in The Guardian that discussed Sony's decision to offer a range of 20p titles in its new Reader Store.

And journalist and fiction writer Scott Bury tweeted and blogged about independent writers deserving more respect in the publishing world. From his blog, Written Words:

"We need to start talking about independent writers, those who control the publishing function themselves, in the same we we do about independent filmmakers and independent musicians. "Indie" group Arcade Fire, after all, won a Grammy."


Written Words said...

Thanks for quoting me!

I think it's interesting that the established commercially published writers are the most defensive about independent e-book authors. Combine that with the fact that e-book versions of commercially published books are not much cheaper than the printed versions, even though the publisher bears no cost for paper, printing or distribution.

I'd like to ask another question: to what is that huge premium being applied? Salaries in the executive suites of the Big 6?

What every one of these discussions among the authors still bound to the big commercial publishers misses is that, even at $2.99, the indie author gets a greater return than the author of the Hachette (for example) paperback that retails for $9.99. The reader pays less, the author gets more; where's the problem?

And don't tell me that the problem is lower quality. Read any of my other blog posts on this subject on that matter.

Louisa said...

Thanks for the feedback, Scott! Yes, I do sometimes wonder how ebook pricing works for the big publishers... I know they have to pay for marketing, etc... But from what I'm hearing, authors are expected to do more and more of that themselves -- nonfiction writers are often expected to have a platform of thousands of readers before even sending out a query!

Nicola Morgan said...

It drives me up the wall when my publishers price my ebooks too high. When I'm setting my own prices, I price at just under £3 usually, well, between 2 and 3 anyway (except for a temporary promotion) and that seems fair to all.

Ideally, don't think books should be priced too low but it's a free market and it should be the writer's choice, I believe.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Great points. I think this is going to be more and more of an issue. In some countries, and I may be wrong about this, like Australia and Germany, I believe the ebook market is still very much regulated (as is the print market), which means fairer pricing all round. But in the UK and US it's more of a dog eat dog world and I think under such circs it's survival of the fittest and all's fair in love and war etc. Great question! Thanks :)

Louisa said...

Thanks, Nicola and Marianne, for your comments!

I tend to agree that authors should be able to set their own prices. That being said, I do tend to (perhaps subconsciously) place a higher value on books that are priced at least $1. For free books, or those ridiculously cheap (like 20p), I find myself wondering, how good they can really be??

Shannon said...

This controversy is really interesting to me -- I read Catherine's article about it and will have to read the others you linked to as well. I think my biggest issue with traditional publishing's eBook pricing is that I KNOW their production costs are so much lower for eBooks and yet they don't want to give readers much of that benefit in the price. A paperback has editing,formatting, and printing costs plus boxing, shipping, a cut for the bookstore, etc. but an eBook has half of that overhead, yet the prices aren't cut in half.

And as for indie authors, we definitely need more credit for being artists just like anyone else. Critics like to say that self-pub is low quality but I've read plenty of trad pub books with grammatical errors, bad plots and terrible writing.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Hear hear, Shannon!
Very well said!