BioBooksAwardsComing NextContactBlogFun StuffHome

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Authors, Ebook Backlists, and the Sweet Spot

On Twitter this weekend we were talking about books and the conversation had me mentioning a couple of mystery series written by a romance writer. There are romances in both of the series, but they're a subplot, not the main plot. Thinking about these books made me wonder if they were in ebook format yet or not. I went over to take a look.

And there was the first book for my favorite of the two series. Yea! Except it was priced at $8.99. Huh?

This surprised me. The series was old enough that I thought it would cost a lot less, even with agency pricing. Especially since it ended after only four books. I would have liked the title on my Kindle, but I wasn't paying that much when I had a paper copy on my shelves. (A paperback, BTW, that cost $5.99 and then I probably had a discount on it, too.) I thought the price was ridiculous. There wasn't a disclaimer from Amazon saying that the price had been set by the publisher, so I scrolled down. The publisher listed was one I'd never heard of before and definitely not who put it out originally.

This got me curious. I Googled them and checked out the website that came up. It was a literary agent who started e-publishing authors' backlists in 2001. I think that's the date they listed on their site.

All I could think was wow.

First of all, they only give the author 50% until a certain sales threshold is met, then it goes to 60%. The 60% is okay if they're providing other services besides just formatting the books and uploading them. I'm sorry, but it's not that hard to format and the author could hire that out at a flat rate if she wasn't tech savvy. (And to my dismay, many authors are most definitely not tech savvy.) The cover put on the book was lame enough that I could have done it myself, another huge strike. That's my quality measure when it comes to graphics--if I can do it, it's not good enough.

My second thought was this agency is grossly mismanaging the ebook publishing endeavor, and not only with the poor cover art. Okay, at least they're mismanaging with this one book by this one author. I didn't check out the other books they handle, but I'm assuming they're doing the same thing with everyone else, too. The pricing is ridiculous.

I'm not a proponent of selling books in eformat for $2.99, not even backlist. I think that's too low and devalues the incredibly hard work it takes to write a full-length novel, but at the same time, there's no way I'm paying $8.99 either--not even for a new release. It made me wonder how many other people would have bought the ebook if the price had been less. If it had been $5.99 or lower, I know I would have picked up the book in electronic format because it's just easier to have it accessible on my Kindle.

So from where I'm standing, the author got a bad cover and she's getting only 50% royalties unless she passed whatever threshold amount was set, which I doubt because they're pricing her out of sales. This doesn't sound like a good deal to me or a smart way to handle backlist.