By now you all should be keeping updated on the Amazon v. Macmillan battle. If you aren’t, you should be. For those of you who are published this will eventually affect your sales, how your books are priced, and the money you make. For those hoping to be published, knowledge is power.
Earlier this week Wired.com posted this article on the issue. What I think is interesting is this belief that publishers hold a monopoly on their product. That would be like saying Coca-Cola held a monopoly on Coke products. Well, duh, they are the manufacturers of Coke. Granted, the publishing industry is hugely different from a product like Coke, but to some degree it’s not. A publisher should be able to determine the price of their product based on production costs, marketing and publicity costs, advertising, and the price paid to an author. Isn’t that how a manufacturer determines it’s costs?
Amazon and other retailers are welcome to price the products they sell however they like, and if they think the price is too high, I guess they’re welcome to not sell them. That’s how bookstores work. If they feel they can’t sell a certain book they stop selling them. They return the books to the publisher and the author’s numbers go down. It does not make sense to do this to an entire publishing house just like it doesn’t make sense to stop carrying all Coke products just because you think Dasani water might be priced too high.
Ok, I’ve launched into the same point everyone else was talking about and that’s not what I meant to do here today. What I meant to point out was what’s really missing from this discussion, and this article, and that’s the author. I believe, absolutely, that books should be priced by the publishers, but should all books be priced the same? Maybe instead of automatically charging $25 for a book we should look into the costs that go into that particular book. For example, a book with a $100,000 advance, television ads, and money spent on promotion should be priced higher then a book with a $5,000 advance and no advertising or marketing efforts. Maybe instead of putting your money into my book, publishers should start to price books based on the money they’re putting into them? After all, if you aren’t putting advertising into a book, then wouldn’t the author (and book) benefit from a lower price point?
And, if books are being priced higher, where is the author in all of this? Why are publishers still paying such low royalty rates on ebooks? I understand, and I agree, there are still costs that go into ebooks. The publisher will still (hopefully) pay for marketing and publicity, beautiful cover art, cover copy, and editors. Boy, do I hope they continue to pay editors. But if we’re not paying for paper and shipping and production, but we’re still charging the same for ebooks as we are for paper books, then isn’t it fair to start sending a little more of that money the author’s way?
Anyway, in all of this craziness about who has the right to price books, let’s not forget where these books come from in the first place. Let’s not forget the author.