Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weekly Round-up

As most of you know, I'm a proud owner of a Kindle and have been an advocate for e-books for years. I believe they are a major component in the future of publishing. I also believe that e-books, combined with the new opportunities presented by the internet, are a way more mid-list and new authors will find readers and, hopefully, make more money. And that brings me to a couple of links I ran across this week as well as some observations I've made after spending time reading various on-line fora about e-books.

The links first. For those of you who might be impacted by the Google settlement, if you still have questions about it, there are several phone conferences taking place this week to help explain it and answer any questions you might have. These are open to all authors and agents. You don't have to be a member of Authors Guild to take part. For more information, check out this link.

The second link is one that is much more telling, from my point of view, when it comes to the future of publishing. The New York Times published an article titled "With Kindle, the Best Sellers Don't Need to Sell". The basic import of the story is that authors and publishers have seen an increase in sales after posting a book for free for the Kindle. One example given is Lauren Dane's romance novel Giving Chase. Kindle users downloaded more than 26,000 copies of the book.

This is what's really impressive: But paid purchases of some of Ms. Dane’s other novels jumped exponentially. Her earlier novel “Chased,” which sold 97 copies in September, sold 2,666 digital units in October, and another of her previous books, “Taking Chase,” which sold 119 copies in September, sold 3,279 in the month in which a free download was available.

That's a huge increase in sales and it comes because the publisher was willing to give away, for one month only, downloads of Giving Chase. This form of marketing is one factor that will help pull publishing out of the doldrums it's in now. More importantly, it will help pull new authors and mid-list authors out of the shadows and bring them to the public's attention.
Unfortunately, there are still publishers who are digging their heels in and refusing to recognize that e-books represent a growing portion of the market and that the sales of them will not destroy the sales of hard copy versions of the same book. Executives at some houses said that given such actions, offering free content amounts to industry hypocrisy.

“At a time when we are resisting the $9.99 price of e-books,” said David Young, chief executive of Hachette Book Group, the publisher of James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer, “it is illogical to give books away for free.”

Similarly, a spokesman for Penguin Group USA said: “Penguin has not and does not give away books for free. We feel that the value of the book is too important to do that.”

These publishers, and all those like them, don't seem to grasp the fact that giving away an e-book for a limited amount of time is nothing more than promotion. It's a way to get the author's name out there and recognized by the reading public. It is also a heck of a lot less expensive, for everyone involved, than sending an author on a publicity tour, sending out ARCs, etc., and it wouldn't surprise me at all if it doesn't hit a lot more potential readers. Readers who will buy books in one form or another.

Even if only a small percentage of those who download a free book end up buying another one, “that’s all found money,” said Steve Oates, vice president for marketing at Bethany House Publishers, a unit of Baker Publishing Group . . . .

I wish more publishers took Mr. Oates's view. I do not believe e-books will kill the printed book -- at least not for a very long while. But there is a market for e-books, a market that will continue to grow as more and more e-book readers are developed. Are there still issues to be dealt with regarding e-books? Hell, yeah. DRM for one. A common format for another. But these are also issues that can be dealt with, if the publishing industry will just learn from what the music industry went through and if it starts listening to the purchasing public.

There is something we, as authors, need to keep in mind. The e-book reading public really doesn't understand why some books make it into electronic form and others don't, much less why the e-book version may not be published at the same time as the first release of the dead tree version of the book. They blame the retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They blame the authors -- sometimes rightfully so. But they don't, in many cases, understand that it is the publisher making the decision on when an e-book comes out. There is growing discontent on the boards frequented by those who purchase e-books about the delay in the electronic versions. If you're an author whose e-book has been delayed for months after the first release of the DTB and you're getting angry emails about it, that's why. If you're a reader angry because that e-book you've been waiting for has been delayed, let the publisher know as well as the author. E-books are here to stay, barring some form of catastrophe that kills computers, e-book readers, etc.

As readers, what would entice you to buy an e-book by an author you'd never heard of before? Would being able to download a book by them for free help? How about as an author? Would you be willing to put up a book for free for a limited time in order to boost your sales? What approach should publishers be taking with regard to e-books now, in face of the facts presented in the NYT's article?

(Image found at www.geeky-gadgets.com/amazon-kindle-2-2/)

17 comments:

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

It's much like when I come across a book I like through the Library. I have to buy a physical copy, so that I can keep it!

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, exactly. The library is still my first source for actually finding books I want to buy, especially hard covers. Gone are the days when I could walk into a bookstore and buy an armload of books simply because I liked the cover or the blurb sounded interesting. That's one reason I do appreciate those publishers and authors who offer the free e-books. I can try a new author without any negative cash flow. Of course, when I happen to discover I like that author, I do wind up buying more of her books, usually in e-version. Still, there have been one or two I've actually liked enough to go out and buy a hard copy book. It has most definitely helped my pocketbook and my limited storage space.

Anonymous said...

I have definately bought an author's work after reading a free ebook.

These days I will use my phone to take a photo of an interesting book in a store then check out the web to see if I can buy a digital version before making a purchase.

My hands and eyes find ebooks easier to read and I really have to be desperate to read a book before buying a pb these days.

Laine

Amanda Green said...

Laine, I hadn't thought about taking a photo of a book and going to the computer (or the kindle since I can shop Amazon right there) to see if there's an e-version. I need to keep that in mind.

And I completely know what you mean about e-books being easier on the eyes, at least on my eyes. I swear my arms have gotten shorter the older I get and some books, especially pb's, are getting increasingly hard to read. The ability to increase the font size on the Kindle is wonderful, imo.

There are still authors I want hard copy books for. But, on the whole, I love the convenience of having hundreds of books at my fingertips on the Kindle.

Da Curly Wolf said...

I like my ebooks. but DRM is one reason most of my stuff if Baen. Well that and I like a good number of their authors.
You going to try and come down in june or are you gonna be too busy?

Amanda Green said...

Wolfie, funny you should ask...I was actually talking to another local author about that yesterday. A lot depends on my son's schedule but I'm hoping to. Who do we know that's on the concom?

John Lambshead said...

I still kinda like books. They have a solidity that electronics lack. Purely an emotional response, I know.
John

Amanda Green said...

John, I love my real books. There really is something about holding a book, turning the pages. However, reading as much and as fast as I do, I also like not having to carry several books with me if I'm going to be gone overnight, much less how many I'd have to carry for a trip of more than a couple of days.

Also, I like the fact that a lot of authors' backlists are being released as e-books now. Not only do I get to find and read those books that have been nearly impossible to get my hands on, but in many cases, the authors are getting more in royalties for the e-books than in hard copy reprints and that assumes such a reprint is planned.

That said, short of waking one morning in an alternate universe, I'll never give up my library of books nor will I stop buying books for those authors whose work I really enjoy. In fact, I usually end up buying a hard copy of the book as well as an electronic copy. That way, I have it whether I'm home or traveling.

RJ_CruzeJr said...

I'll see Hachette's "it is illogical to give books away for free" and them a "Baen Free Library."

Problem is, when it comes to the internet, most publishers (with the exception of Baen Books, naturally) are right now just barely reaching where the rest of humanity was in 1999 -- back when a company could get away with charging an arm and a leg for something online, just for the sheer novelty of saying "hey look everybody: I just bought this on the Internet!" It was also a time when the internet was still new and novel enough to rate the capital "I." ;-)

Sorry publishers; you folks are a decade late and a dollar short. You have some serious catching up to do, and the only way that's going to happen is if you stop playing these foolish games and actually start wrapping your minds around the internet. The World Wide Web is not some quirky flash in the pan, it is not going away, and it is long past time for the you folks in the publishing industry to wake up and start dealing with that. You need to fire your dinosaurs and hire some mammals. Do that and maybe, just maybe, you might still be around come 2020. The digital Chicxulub is coming; are you ready to evolve?

So endeth Bob's rant.

RJ_CruzeJr said...

Oops! That first paragraph should read: I'll see Hachette's "it is illogical to give books away for free" and raise them a "Baen Free Library."

Nothing worse than a good rant derailed by sloppy typing :-D

Kate said...

Robert,

Actually, there's a certain amount of difficulty dragging some of these companies into the TWENTIETH century, much less the twenty-first. They're still stuck at patronage, and if they thought they could get away with charging authors for publication, they would (exhibit A - Harlequin allying itself with a vanity press)

The biggest benefit of Amazon's latest initiative is that it's moving control to where it should be - with the creators. When I was doing my software engineering degree in the late 90s, one of our professors was convinced that disintermediation services were the next big leap. He might be off by about 10 years, but in terms of publishing, he's right. Amazon can consolidate all the publishing/distribution/marketing/delivery side of things (generally at least three organizations, often more) into a single step.

Amanda Green said...

Robert, I have to agree with you. The publishers like Hachette that are delaying e-book versions of their projected best sellers are, to all back on cliche, cutting off their noses to spite their faces. As I noted in an earlier post, the delay won't mean, imo, noticeable increases in hard cover sales. Worse, a delay of months before issuing the electronic version will result in the loss of sales. The belief that giving away free e-books for a limited time won't increase sales or name recognition of a new or mid-list author falls into the same category.

Maybe these publishers should take a look at the following story from Times Online ( http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article6999918.ece ). If authors are looking to publish their backlists electronically, shouldn't the publishers pay attention?

Amanda Green said...

Nothing worse than a good rant derailed by sloppy typing :-D

LOL, Robert. That happens to me all the time. But I never let it get in the way of a good rant. ;-p

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Laine,

What a good idea. It's time publishers and book sellers realised that the book buying public are technologically savvy and informed and will do what suits them.

If publishers want to keep making sales they need to move with the times.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, from your mouth to the publishers' ears re: needing to move with the times.

Da Curly Wolf said...

Amanda, Pogo is on the concom. don't know how much pull she's got though. she does the newsletter.

Amanda Green said...

Thanks, wolfie. I was wondering/hoping since there's still nothing up about the writers workshop.