"Authors have admitted they welcome the “huge boost” in sales when their e-books are sold at rock-bottom prices, despite concern over the long-term impact.It is believed individual authors have earned in the hundreds of thousands from books included in the long-running 20p promotion on Sony and Amazon."
I should say immediately that I have no books out on Amazon's Kindle or Sony's e-reader, so I have no personal experience of this phenomenon to draw on, but that's quite a statement, isn't it? Admit it - what did you focus on first? The 'long-term impact' or the 'hundreds of thousands'? Did a small part of you wonder for a moment how much you could earn if YOU had a book chosen for the 20p programme? I certainly did. But then I began to think about those long term consequences if you are lucky enough to be, as I am currently, traditionally published.
In the same article, Terence Blacker, whose latest book was included in the Amazon 99p Daily Deal promotion, says that while his book sold thousands and went to the top of the fantasy chart, 'at that price people are paying 20p for every year I worked on the book."
Peter James, crime writer extraordinaire, worries about the effect on the indy (and chain) booksellers in the high street, who are already beleagured and battered by the Amazon juggernaut. He says "Booksellers on our high streets are already an endangered species and losing their bread and butter bestsellers sales to an online campaign they cannot compete with... makes life very much harder." They're both absolutely right - but it seems to be an insoluble conundrum.
If you are an indie author, perhaps you could take the ethical approach, like Dan Holloway, who has removed all his e-books from Amazon and written about why on the Authors Electric blog. But that's not going to work for the traditionally published writer like me, who has no control over whether their books - either print or electronic - are featured on Amazon or not. The Amazon Kindle juggernaut is here to stay, it's ubiquitous, it's seductive to the average book buyer, and although there are other e-platforms like Sony, Kobo and Nook, we're going to have to live with the fact that most publishers do use the Amazon Kindle programme - because more readers have Kindles than any other form of e-book.
I didn't believe that the physical book was on the way out. Now I'm not so sure. I still hear people say that they love the feel and smell of print books. I believe them. I do too. But we are in a bad recession. Money matters. The price of things matters to the average consumer.
Just think about this for a moment. There's a paperback book Mr Average particularly wants to read. Maybe he's seen a review, maybe it's an author he likes, maybe someone has recommended it. Let's say he passes his local indy bookseller on the way home from work. Inside, Mr Average is offered the physical paperback at the full price of, say, £9.99. He can take it home there and then. But before he buys it, he has a little check on his smartphone. Oh! It's discounted to £4.95 on Amazon. But wait. It'll have to be delivered. He doesn't have Amazon Prime, so he'll have to wait at least 2 or 3 days AND pay postage. Damn! He wanted to read it on the train home. Then he looks at the Kindle or Sony price. Whoopee! It's in the Daily Deal Slot - he can download it now for 20p. Cheap price, immediate gratification. Job done.
What does that mean for the author, though? Well, for a bookshop sale, you get full royalty of (probably) between 5 and 10% of the cover price. For an Amazon print sale, that drops to squigpence ha'penny per copy. And for the Daily Deal? The current state of e-royalties is the subject of much debate and argument - but even if you do sell thousands of e-copies, it's still not very much on 20p, despite that claim above of 'hundreds of thousands' of pounds.
For me, writing is a job. It is, agreed, a job I love and feel privileged to do every day (despite occasion rants about books not doing what I want them to and other authory gripes). BUT, if I am lucky enough to have a book published, I do want to be fairly rewarded for my efforts, and that includes readers paying a reasonable price for my work.
So the thing I worry about most is what is currently happening to the perception of the value of a book. If e-books continue to be devalued like this, I think our Mr Average book buyer will begin to expect bargain prices across the board, and that means physical print books too. That can't be good for authors in general, nor for publishers - and if it carries on, it's going to become unsustainable to produce a print book because no one will want to pay for what it costs to produce. I hope I'm wrong, I really do. Even though more e-book 'units' will be sold (and if that means people are reading more, then that's the one bit of good), from this (currently) tax-paying author's point of view, it looks as if there's going to be only one major winner. They don't (currently) pay taxes in the UK, despite making huge profits here, and I think that's wrong (but that's a whole other can of bookworms).
I wish I knew how to fight against the book becoming just another unit of fodder for the bargain basement, but I don't. Do you?