Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Self-Publishers: Pricing for Hardbacks

by Stella Atrium


textbooksSo I went to purchase the textbook for a freshman course to write a syllabus for fall term.  I know textbooks are obscenely overpriced, so I was expecting to pay $35.  The university bookstore wanted $65 for the reader and $87 for the handbook.  I was appalled at the greed.  These books were required and guaranteed to sell, so where's the risk to the publisher that justifies a higher retail price?

By comparison, for those of you who only open free ebooks, I bought a handbook for Wordpress online for $35 – but it teaches how to use Wordpress!

Once a friend was moving to another state and giving away whatever he was not willing to drag along.  In the pile was a complete set of hardback copies of Harry Potter, except Book 3 was missing.  I asked him about Book 3 and he said the cat threw up on it. The set has no value if it’s not complete. It’s an artifact of history more than a repository of the living truth. Potter_set

When I was young – in the previous century – I owned Norton editions of university books that we treasured and displayed to show our smarts. I held onto the valuable ones such as Martin Esslin’s Theater of the Absurd.  The price printed on the back (I just looked) is $14, which I’m certain I thought was outrageous at the time.

Book publishers are experiencing hard times, and we should feel bad for them, right?  Just like we should feel bad for Usher and JayZ because new singles are available on iTunes for 99¢.

Book publishers are pricing themselves out of business.  They set the retail price high so Amazon can offer a discount, and so publishers get the investment back from the na├»ve author who buys HIS OWN book for HIS OWN marketing efforts.

smashwordsNo wonder epub is expanding and Smashwords is a global marketplace. My point of view is that publishers get what they deserve.  I know this stance doesn’t make me popular, but I’m not the one who set hardcover copies of my fantasy novel at $32.95.  Not a soul in the world will pay that, especially since the ebook is listed on Amazon at $5.28.

I didn’t want to print hardback copies of the fantasy novel, and argued with the publisher to drop that option, but hardbacks were included in my “package”.

Supposedly, the existence of the hardback version of my novel makes me a legitimate writer.  Raspberries. ePub

I lost the argument, and Amazon is winning the conflict.  The writer waits on the sidelines for sanity to return to the marketplace.  But then, I’m also waiting for my balloon mortgage payments to be ameliorated.

I'm a writer, and I want the publishing industry to succeed. I want the consumer to believe he got a good deal, and to become a fan, and to buy the next book in the series.

But I hang my head these days when I see how each group grabs profits at the expense of the very people who should be partners or colleagues. Is this any way to run a business?

I'm called cynical at the dinner table.  Am I the only one?



Ty Johnston said...

Most people will say there are two ways to look at any given situation, this one being the book publishing industry. There is the glass-half-full way to look at it, then there's the glass-half-empty way. I disagree with both. I say the glass has been slammed to the floor, shattered, stomped on and is now dripping with blood. Currently that blood mostly comes from writers and readers, but I've got a feeling that's going to change over the next couple of years as some of the publishers start bleeding themselves. And love them or hate them, Amazon is likely to just sit back and watch the frenzy.

Stella Atrium said...

Ty, I agree with you that my frustration with the "package" doesn't mean I can quit the game. Love them or hate them, publishers are needed to produce a quality product.

The book industry will change quickly over the coming months. I hope I'm there to take advantage of new opportunities.

Thanks for posting...

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