Hit a roadblock on the new project


It was unexpected, but unavoidable. I’m trying to figure out how to fix it within pre-established parameters, and I think I just about have it handled.

It’s funny, though. I used tear my hair out over this stuff, but today it looks to me like a pleasant little puzzle (more fun than the Minecraft obstacle course my son designed for me, at least) and I know it’ll be stronger for being fixed.

Anyway, I put up a couple of posts over the weekend. I suspect you guys saw my joke post about Pat Rothfuss (I’m just trying to help the guy get his name out there), but I’m surprised no one wanted to talk about the super-low pricing on ebook backlist titles–prices set by a publisher, not an author who’ve had their rights reverted.

I think it’s potentially a great thing for midlist authors and may cement price windowing as a professional publishing business model. It could also hit very hard against indie authors who have been hoovering up all the ultra-low priced impulse-buy ebook sales.

If you are writing a series, would you ask your publisher to release an ebook of book one for $0.99 to help promote book four?

8 thoughts on “Hit a roadblock on the new project

  1. I’d guess that’s not usually something a publisher lets an author and/or his/her editor decide.

    That said, I suspect it’d be a great way to drum up sales and interest and thus be an idea to funnel to marketing. And in that vein (and the fact that a 4th book is usually years after a first book’s release), I’d actually suggest they put the ebook version of Book 1 out for free for a limited time to help drive the sales of Bks 2, 3, and the 4th book as well….

  2. I can see keeping the e-book price high — within spitting distance of the paper price — while there are still paper copies to be moved. But once those are gone through, there’s no reason not to drop the ‘backlist’ editions to some impulse-buy price. All of the fixed costs have been recovered, and bits are pretty damned cheap. $.99 is fine for a promo price, especially for the first of a series, but I’d keep the remaining previous volumes at something like $2.99: Cheap enough to still be an impulse-buy, but not so dirt-cheap that people don’t value it.

  3. It’s certainly not something that the author decides, but having a five-year-old novel top the NYTimes list at 99 cents is the sort of argument that might carry a lot of weight.

    The real question is whether the low price for the backlist book can bring 99 cent readers over to the full-price market.

  4. One hopes that the fixed costs have been recovered, but it’s not always so. (And too bad, too.)

    I suspect there will be an inevitable downward pressure on the e-backlist, but I hope it doesn’t go too far; the author cut is already pretty small.

  5. Doing everything you can to turn a non-customer into someone who’s buying the series seems like a good idea — and a free or low-cost sample seems like a good way to go.

    More general reducing of costs of backlist books to $1 I’d think would be less useful. I figure for most people the major “cost” of a book is the time it takes to read it. ((On a side note, in the PDF roleplaying game world there was a big burst of $1 game books for a while, but they were smaller, like 5-20 pages — but again I think the real issue there is that nobody has enough time to use all the books there are available.))

    Though there might be a good middle position for backlist ebooks like 2.99 to 4.99 so that people will just download more of them to store on their reader in case they ever decide they want to switch books on the spot.

  6. There’s also a huge variation in reading speed. Many readers can do a book a day while I read very slowly. The big book in ebooks has come mostly from these superusers, as far as I can tell.

  7. Have ebook sellers tried reinstating the serial novel concept? I know Stephen King tried it a few years ago with hard-copy books, but haven’t heard much along those lines from the bytemarket.

    (Then again, I haven’t really been paying attention.)

    The first chapter is free, every chapter after that is something small like $0.25. That way each chapter is easy to justify as an impulse buy if you like the previous chapter, but the price of the whole book is still in a reasonable range for authors to make some money.

  8. I think the biggest holdup to micropayents is the delivery method. There’s no Amazon.com of taking a nickel out of your bank account (and charging a profitable fee for it).

    However, some authors have tried subscription models for weekly short stories, and Lawrence Watt Evans has been doing donation-based serial chapters. When donations reach a certain threshold, he posts the next chapter. Of course, he also has a fairly successful fantasy series (and readership) to tap.

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