For those of you who may not have seen the recent blog by Connie Brockway over at All About Romance, it’s here http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=6169 In it Connie announces that she is excited to be joining the ebook Rogues, many of us who have been not only able to reissue our backlist books, which have not seen the light of day for decades in some cases, but who are exploring the opportunity to write the kind of books the publishers keep telling us “they” (meaning you the readers) just don’t want anymore. They (meaning the publishers) have this big crystal ball, you see, and they know that you, the readers, only want Regencies with drawing room stories and hot sex, or vampire books with hot sex, or paranormals with hot sex, or….wait. That’s all they (meaning the readers) want.
I went on hiatus six years ago because my proposal for the sequel to The Iron Rose was turned down flat. I was told pirate stories were not popular anymore, this despite the wild popularity of the Johnny Depp movies, Pirates of the Caribbean, and despite the fact The Iron Rose was one of my bestselling books and readers sent scads of emails asking when I was going to write a story for the brothers, Gabriel and Jonas.
Well guess what? Connie has had scads of mail over the years asking when she was going to write sequels to her bestselling books, All Through the Night and As You Desire. And she has wanted to write them. But why would she…or I…spend a year writing a book that the publisher’s won’t buy? As Connie says in the blog:
No one was or is going to buy a book from me that is set in Egypt. Or Italy. Or take a chance on my riff on the Tarzan story. And while my Facebook page poll on where readers want their books set told me loud and clear that the publishers are right, most readers do want their historical romance set in England, there’s that hallowed word “most” to consider. My core readers have never been “most” –otherwise I would have long ago sprung to the top of the bestseller list. I like to believe that my readers are picking up my books because they like my slightly different settings or characters or time periods.
Ditto ditto ditto. I was told years ago if I wanted to break out of the midlist crowd of authors, I had to sit myself down and write what the publisher wanted me to write…namely: Regencies. Books without so much action and adventure. Books that didn’t concentrate so much on the swashbuckling angle. Books that were shorter, less intense. Books that were character driven rather than plot driven. Books that readers could read in an evening…375 pages max, preferably large print. And don’t use too many big words. And fill it with hot sex.
First of all, it takes me a hundred pages just to set up the characters and hurl them into the first of many plot twists. Secondly, I don’t set out to write a porno book, so deliberately filling it with hot sex doesn’t cut it. If the characters happen to find themselves in a scene that lends itself to hot, steamy sex, then I’m all for it…I’m right there in the hero’s arms in fact, enjoying the hell out of myself…but if it isn’t believable and there isn’t a reason for writing a sex scene other than to fulfill a quota, then I don’t write it. Thirdly, I happen to like finding some obscure event in history and giving my characters a large part to play in exploring it. For the medieval trilogy, I hadn’t planned on writing my take on Robin Hood, but it developed over three books because of my curiosity over the lost princess of Brittany. Exploring Eleanor’s story allowed me to bring in all the Robin Hood elements…which, honestly, did not occur to me until I was near the end of Through A Dark Mist. That was when Under a Bright Lightbulb occurred and I thought: woo hoo…what would happen if I changed a few names, dropped a few hints, moved the story to Lincolnshire and brought in the sheriff of Nottingham. My toes actually curled in delight, and not just because of the hot sex with the Black Wolf in that steamy grotto.
Er…where was I? Oh yes. Ebooks.
Connie and I, along with six other scintillatingly brilliant authors: Virginia Henley, Jacquie D’Alessandro, Julia London, Sherri Browning, Jill Gregory, and Julie Ortolon, have been email pals for over 15 years, fondly calling ourselves the Loopies. We were all together at Dell and have stuck together over the years. Kathleen Givens was a Loopie until she was unfairly taken away from us last year, and we all miss her deadpan humor and pithy emails, not to mention her wonderful books.
But we have all been closely watching and tracking this ebook revolution. Julie Ortolon was the first one to charge headfirst into the fray, dragging me–admittedly with some hesitation and doubt–onto the battlefield with her. We both self pubbed our backlist then stood back to watch what would happen, if we had stepped into quicksand or landed on solid ground. Sales were slow at first, but as I have said in previous blogs…I haven’t been on the writing scene for six years, which is like two lifetimes in the publishing world. I wasn’t even sure I would be remembered, much less my books. But a funny thing happened over the Christmas season. A million iPads were sold, a million Kindles were given as gifts, and a couple million readers suddenly found that backlist books, hard to find books, and out of print books were readily available at Amazon and Smashwords and Barnes and Noble. Not just available, but cheap!
I must indulge in a slight ramble off the path here to say that I have never understood–more so now than ever–why publishers price ebooks almost the same as print books and in some cases, totally incomprehensibly, even charge more. I can understand new releases being priced the same, at least for the first six months or so, but after that first flush of sales…come on folks. It costs the publisher nothing (because it costs us self-pubbing authors nothing) to upload an ebook to Amazon. No overhead, no delivery charges, no transport charges, no costs for shelf space in a bookstore. Most manuscripts these days are delivered electronically to the editors, so a half hour formatting job, a jpg of the cover (the expense for which was already incorporated in the print version) and blam. It’s on Amazon.
Self publishing a book requires a bit more fuss. We need to make new covers, do the formatting ourselves, do the promoting and advertising ourselves, but basically it’s the same process: blam, and it’s on Amazon. Where we differ is in the price point. Publishers match the print copy price in most cases. We could certainly be greedy and match the print price too…and since some of the comments on the All About Romance blog accuse Connie, myself, and all ebook authors in general of being greedy and not thinking of the poor reader on limited bugets , here’s some figures for you, using my own books for an example.
Through A Dark Mist is currently listed on Amazon at $7.50 for the print version and $6.00 for the Kindle version. I don’t know what taxes are in your neck of the woods, but in mine, they’re 15%, so the price of a print book, for the discerning print reader, is roughly $8.60, and unless you buy three or more at the same time and spend over $25, there is a delivery charge on top of that which I can’t calculate having had only one coffee so far this morning. Ditto for figuring out over the counter sales at a bookstore, without delivery charges. For the sake of my brain, we’ll round it out to $9.00 for a print book.
If the royalty on the print version is 8%, I earn .60 per sale, so a thousand sales=$600.00. The royalty rate on ebooks through the publisher is an average of 25%, so @$1.50/ book X 1000=$1500.00
Already ebooks are looking better, and this has nothing to do with “the greed of authors changing to ebooks” because we have no say in the price of either the print or ebook version.
Turn an eyeball now to self publishing. The average price point on a self published ebook is $2.99 and again I’ll use my own book as an example. The Wind and The Sea is currently on Amazon for $2.99. They list a used copy of the print version starting at $8.58 but otherwise it is unavailable anywhere, new, in print. Of that $2.99, at a royalty rate of 70%, (35% for “foreign” sales, which includes Canada…can you hear me grinding my Canuck teeth?) I earn an *average* of $2.00/book X 1000=$2000.00
To sum it up then…
Earnings on 1000 print books=$600.00 (cost to the reader @ $8.60)
Earnings on 1000 ebooks through the publisher=$1500.00 (Cost the reader @$6.00)
Earnings on 1000 self pubbed ebooks=$2000.00 (Cost to the reader @$2.99)
Seems to me, at a glance…the reader is getting a bargain and the author is almost able to make a minimum wage/year…assuming we can sell 12,000 books/year, which is iffy. Keep in mind not all authors can do their own covers, so that adds a cost. We still need to have the books professionally edited, and we need to do our own advertising and promotion (so far that has cost me more than I earned the first month 2 of my books were on sale)
What inspired this rambling blog was a comment left by *Cheryl* on the All About Romance post, aimed at Connie (and I guess all of us Rogues by association):
So sad! I understand the need not to be limited to writing the books the publishers want, but what about all the readers on very small incomes who are big fans? Well…fan no more! We helped make your income lucrative, and now we are being dumped. Forgot what is is to struggle? Connie, I’m getting rid of all your books on my shelves.
Seems to me we are trying to cater to the readers on smaller incomes. You can buy two and a half ebooks for the price of what one print book would cost. And because there are a plethora of .99 promotions and even freebies given away (and our earnings drop drastically to match)…I would think readers would be excited by this new revolution.
Keep in mind that a bestselling midlist author, on average, sells about 20,000 books/year. Most new authors are thrilled to sell 10,000, but their average is about 5,000. And if an agent is involved, that skims another 15% off the top. Lucrative income? Not really *s*
As one wise observer noted: If they have the capability to comment on the blog, they have the capability to read an ebook.