Self-Publishing Authors Have A Golden Opportunity

Self Publishing Authors Have An Opportunity

Self-publishing authors should grab this chance.

What opportunity? Over the last year, the major publishers including Hachette, Penguin/Random House, Macmillan and Simon and Schuster have all renegotiated their agreements with online retailers, and can all now dictate the price of their ebooks.

No longer can retailers discount their ebooks to gain market advantage.

This means that the retail and distribution ebook wars and legal battles are over and now the major publishers are setting their ebook prices in concrete.

But boy, have they declared a new war. A war on ebooks. And not on other ebooks, but on their own. When you look at many new titles from traditional publishers, it’s pretty clear that they do not want to sell ebooks. Take this one book for example.

ronald reagan high price ebooks

Would you buy the Kindle version at $16.79 or the hardcover at $17.99? I mean, read the hardcover and you can give it to a friend or sell it for a buck to a second-hand bookstore.

Take a moment and have a little think here. Which version does the publisher want you to buy?

Do you fancy an exploitation of Stieg Larsson? Let’s grab this bargain ebook by David Lagercrantz?

over priced ebooks

Once again, you can save a whole buck if you buy the Kindle version over the hardcover. What a bargain! Oh, come on. I could post hundreds of ebooks from the Big Five like this, but let’s look at why this gives self-publishing authors a fantastic opportunity.

Now look at the top ten bestselling Kindle ebooks, and yes, the two ebooks above are defying price logic and appear here, but the rest are priced at between $1.11 and $6.99.

Kindle Ebook Bestsellers

If you dig deeper than the top ten, you will find that ebooks priced between $2.99 and $4.99 dominate, and of course a large proportion of these are by self-published authors.

Does this create a market gap for self-publishing authors?

The change in ebook pricing by traditional publishers is an opportunity for self-publishing authors to take the ebook market for their own. The traditional publishers don’t want it.

Readers aren’t stupid, and know what they are buying, and they are also smart enough to know when they are being taken for a ride.

Although I have been pessimistic about the state of self-publishing at the moment and wrote about this recently in my Train Wreck post, this is a chance for self-publishing authors to chisel out a part of the publishing market for themselves.

If the big publishers are thumbing their noses at it, grab it!

But it will take work. Self-publishing in general still has some way to go in providing a quality product, and while many, many self-published authors have made huge strides in this regard, there is still a lot of junk being published.

However, for those who are writing great stories, the ‘kill the ebook’ pricing from the Big Five gives a chance to create a price and quality differential. Whereas $2.99 to $4.99 has been the mean self-publishing price range, why not up your prices a little and sit between the Big Five and the dross.

ebook pricing - price differentialThere now seems to be a price point of between $5.99 to $7.99 that could be competitive for quality self-publishing authors.

Is this a gap in the market that you could try to make your own? If you are publishing in paperback as well, which is always a good idea if only for credibility, why not open the price between your ebook and paperback by a dollar or two to give better-perceived value to your ebook?

Time will tell of course if this proves to be a golden opportunity for self-publishing authors, although ebook publishing is still so young that this time truism may not have had long enough yet to be true.

What do you think?

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

6 thoughts on “Self-Publishing Authors Have A Golden Opportunity

  • It looks to me as though the big traditional publishers do not understand the ebook market at all. Do they think it is just a passing fad and that they can soon go back to their 19th century gentlemen’s clubs?

    I’d like to say that the writing is on the wall for them, but it may be more appropriate to say the writing’s on the screen. Could this be the beginning of the end for big pub?

    Reply
    • It could be, Steve. Railroad companies went out of business because they didn’t see that the invention of the automobile was a threat to the railroad business. This was because they didn’t understand that they were actually in the transport business.

      Reply
  • The issue we’re overlooking here is the cost to a major publishing house entailed in putting out any format of any book. Ink, paper, shipping, fulfillment, and shelf costs are only the obvious expenses involved in producing and distributing a print book. Whether a book is to be produced digitally or in hard copy, the publisher still has to pay an executive editor, managing editor; an acquisitions editor; at least one copyeditor; a proofreader; a page designer; a cover designer; an artist or photographer to produce the cover image; at least one marketer (but often a team of marketers); a copywriter, designer, and printer to create a catalogue; IT people to run the company’s website(s) and server; advertising costs; admin assistants; office overhead…and undoubtedly more.

    A wannabe author who’s producing sketchily edited books out of a back room in his or her house and posting them on Amazon bears very few of those costs.

    At Camptown Races, our only costs are contract payments for five writers, pay for a contract website wrangler, occasional subscriptions to Shutterstock, and occasional payment for a cover designer. The work that a publishing house would assign to five or six people is performed by the publisher. Office overhead costs are largely absorbed into the cost of running the publisher’s residence, where the business is located. And while we might, now and again, take a prospective writer to lunch, there are few literary agents (to speak of) in the flyover states, and so a major cost of “meals and entertainment” is mooted.

    The point being that major publishing houses HAVE to charge nearly as much for an ebook as they do for a print book, to cover their costs of doing business.

    Thanks for this excellent website, BTW, which I just ran across. You have given me what promises to be an excellent insight about marketing….just in time to save me a chunk of money.

    Reply
  • Thanks for this article. As a self-publisher who’s trying to learn the tricks, all your stuff is very informative.

    Reply
  • I get that publisher’s are heavy on infrastructure but the fact is that once you have designed a print cover and jacket liners and have a print book published–you have all the source files (text and graphics) that you need to electronically publish.

    A large company could easily script an automated creation process from these source files to output to the formats they want to distribute.

    Much of the electronic costs overlap already paid expenses–they certainly don’t require an entirely separate infrastructure; unless you’re running an anachronistic business model that can’t or won’t be changed to adapt (*cough*).

    Reply
  • thanks Derek,
    for your very valuable thoughts and articles, just great.
    Personally, I started getting quite enthusiastic this year making my first steps as a self-publishing author.
    Of course, the beginning is always tough (so much to learn, so much effort to create a great product!) but in the end it is paying out if you have a product online with a price tag on it.
    Even though I have just issued a first book in english and german, I am so thrilled by it being listed on amazon that my second book is “in production”.
    The entire process of designing, creating and finishing a self-published book is deeply gratifying, I think.

    Reply

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