Unlike many of my Ramblings, this post is written in a far more focused manner, giving a clue to the importance I place on this content.
I think, ALL indie authors NEED to read the following, in full.
Recently I have seen a large number of indie authors discounting their books, or giving them away freely, offering a plethora of ‘giveaways’, from the humble bookmark to expensive looking jewellery, even a combination of all the above.
Whilst this form of promotion is not unusual by itself, the number of offers has increased to such a degree, that it seems no one is selling a book at full value price.
In fact, a quick scan of the internet shows very few books, (in relative context), for sale above zero, naught, nil, zilch, nothing.
This is excellent if you are a reader. You have the largest and widest choice of reading material ever produced in the history of human life, being offer to you at no cost; even incentivised, bribed, to take up such offers, by the additional giving of gifts.
Life has never been so cosy.
This recent explosion of free books has been boosted by the hundreds of book promotion sites, offering authors the service of marketing their works to millions of potential readers, for a small fee.
The sales gist of this is, should the author give away books, each person receiving a free book may like it so much, they will buy more of that authors works.
This seems a viable strategy… in principle.
BUT… there is always a but!
This form of book marketing was, for want of a better word, pioneered by Amazon when they were quite a young organisation selling only books.
At that time, the indie authors publishing phenomenon had not established, making it a very different market place; one where the novelty of being offered a free book was the exception not the rule.
Furthermore, add this marketing fee to the cost of production, editing, proofreading, formatting, cover designer, advertising, etc. Now, work out your royalties per-sale, because that is what must pay for your books production costs.
From this simple equation, you will see how many books you must sell to break even.
NOTE: This figure is cost based only. It does not include a budget for your time, your internet bill, your software licence fees, office space offsets (even if ‘the office’ is a table in your lounge) and other associated costs, which as a business person you need to consider. If you do not, whatever monies you think you have made form that book, will be demanded from you by those wonderful, friendly folks at the Inland Revenue.
So…how much do your royalties add up too…oh, nothing… because you gave it all away, with the bookmarks and coasters you paid for to boost your sales.
Not very business minded, are you?
Let’s fast forward to today.
The indie publishing business is a global industry, with hundreds of thousands of books being self-published each month, in every country and every language on earth.
This is a world where an adage I loth, ‘A victim of our own success’, has the hollow ring of truth.
Because computer technology has allowed the growth of, what was once referred to as ‘desk top publishing’ to grow in such an unprecedented way, the competition in the indie publishing scene is immense.
However,… there is always a however, too!
While the market place for book sales has undergone change akin to continental drift, the methods used by indie authors is still as primitive as the those used in the embryonic days of Amazon’s birth.
You see, Amazon has outgrown the indie author world. It has outgrown many, if not all the established mainstream publishing companies and, by doing so, has irrevocably altered the landscape of publishing in general.
Neither is this giant called Amazon about to offer indie authors a helping hand.
It does not have to and does not want to. Not only has it outgrown the publishers, but it has established itself as the master of sales opportunities. Basically, as an independent writer, if you want to sell a lot of books you must factor Amazon into your marketing mix. What is more, Amazon will need to be your prime ingredient in the clear majority of cases.
Which brings us back to the reader, those illusive, almost mythical creatures who may, one day, if you are extremely lucky, buy one of your books.
BUT… yes another but!
BUT… it is getting less and less likely any reader will put their hand into their pocket and pull out some money, simply to get hold of a copy of your book.
You see, they don’t have too.
There are hundreds and thousands of books available for free. The reader can order any of these, or simply download an eBook version, which they can add to the hundred unread books waiting on their Kindles and E-readers, without ever spending a single penny.
Oh, that fleeting promise of maybe’s, the one the book marketing sites sold you, you know, the one that goes… “if they like your style they will buy the rest of your series/books….”
You didn’t fall for that old spangle, did you?
Because they will not.
Please do not dismiss the reader thus. Like all of us, our readers must be canny when it comes to spending, whether buying packet of sausages in a supermarket, or buying a good book to curl up with in front of the fire.
These folks will:
A, wait until another of your series is offered for free.
B, read another free book. (They may enjoy it better than yours.)
C, Both, of the above.
This is a reader’s market. It has got this way because of several factors, but (another but!), it is you, the indie author who has brought this situation upon yourself.
By publishing your book at a ridiculous low price, then lowering that price and eventually giving your book away, you are part of the overall problem affecting many, if not most indie authors.
You are simply adding to the situation you are moaning about. You know the one, about having too many free books on Amazon. That the competition is too great, because the market is flooded with cheap books, 99 cents and below.
This WILL NOT CHANGE until you…yes, YOU do something about it.
Ideally, for me. As of tomorrow morning, there would not be one book, not a single novelette being given away.
Novella’s and the such would be priced at around £2.00/$2.40 for the shortest book and escalating up from there.
Novels would kick in at a minimum of £10.00. Book prices would be back to a decent level, a level not too dissimilar to that before Amazon muscled in.
We all, from time to time, often with good reason, knock the major publishing houses who controlled publishing, much as DeBeers control the diamond market. Yet they ensured authors got a fair return for the time and effort involved in creating a book.
That cannot be said of Amazon, or any book promotion site encouraging free and 99c priced book sales.
I know there is a movement within the indie community, one which is trying to discourage the giving away of books.
I am part of that movement.
I believe, if ALL indie authors removed ALL free books, re-priced their books to reflect true value for authors, we would see a major shift change within the industry almost overnight.
People will not stop reading.
They never have and they never will. They shall simply be paying a fair price for the goods they receive.
Authors will start earning a fair return for their creativity, effort and investment. The quality of books will increase.
The world will be full, once again, of wild unicorns running free in green woodlands full of Tinkerbelle fairies… well, I may be pushing it a bit too far now; but the facts are, indie authors will be better served without cheap and free books…. FACT.
Which brings me to the title of this post, ‘ Bucking the trend’
What give me the right to state such?
Firstly, this is not me simply making a vortex of hot air.
I stand by my convictions. I do not have any FREE books. I shall not be giving any books away. I do not have gifts of incentives. I have no bookmarks or jewellery.
In fact, I am deliberately ‘Bucking the trend‘.
Recently, I have increased the price of all my books, both Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.
One of which, is an Amazon No.1 bestseller.
The coveted No1 position, is something I doubt would have occurred, if the book was priced undervalue.
You see, perception plays a large part in decision making.
What value you initially consider an item, is easily disputed once furnished with a low price. Hence altering perception.
With that in mind, a low cost, or free book will hold little or no perceived value to the reader.
If the same book is viewed at a higher price, the value is assumed to be greater.
In association, the assumption of quality is also presumed higher or lower in direct proportion the estimated value implicit.
This is my view and the principles I adhere too.
I shall charge a fair price for my books. Not a penny less.
Readers can buy them, or not.
BUT…. (The last one I promise), consider this:
Should I just sell one copy of one of my books this year, I would have made more money than you, giving a thousand copies away.
I’ll leave you to muse over this.