Thursday, June 9, 2016
Devaluation of Books, One Bundle At A Time
As you know, things are not good in the publishing business, and everyone blames Amazon or piracy. I truly believe a perfect storm of crap lead to this point, but there is one piece left out that no one seems to blame. I point a finger at the big book bundle offered for .99 or free. Authors are up in arms because readers expect free or cheap. Well, authors are conditioning readers to expect just that with big book bundles.
And this isn't a rant against readers. Why wouldn't they want free or cheap if it's there?
Big bundles came along about the same time as Kindle Unlimited and other things we like to blame for the plummet of sales. You've seen the bundles--a herd of authors offering full-length books for a steal. I just saw a bundle of 51 books for FREE, another for 48 FREE books, and heard of another big one (over 40 books) for .99. After I typed this, a blogger sent me an invite to pimp a 24-book bundle for $.99.
How do these bundles help our industry? They don't. They're great for the reader. They're great for those authors wanting a bigger newsletter pool or hope to hit a NYT or USA Today list because readers are downloading their bundle. Authors think they're going to boost sales on their next book or their backlist by partaking in a bundle, by gaining a "best seller" title. But it's not working. Readers don't NEED to buy books anymore. If you count it up, in the past week alone I could have gotten 163 free books. IN ONE WEEK.
These bundles are bad for all authors--self-published, small published, traditionally published. Gone is the day when $2.99 was considered "cheap" and a way to get around traditionally published books with a higher price point. Now, why would anyone pay $2.99 for a full-length book when they can get all that for cheap or free with one click on a bundle? If they read one book a week, that 51 book bundle is basically their year's reading right there. They're going to click on that and save their money for the big authors they've been waiting for, meaning the middle author is left out in the cold. That means most of us aren't going to be read.
At $2.99, an author will make some money. Amazon pays 70% royalty for books over that amount. Under that amount, Amazon pays 35% Obviously, big bundle authors make nothing on free, and they're going to split that $.35 from Amazon between them on each sale of $.99. Each of the 24 books for .99 authors are making less than a penny per book downloaded.
Do we authors honestly value our work at $.01 per download? Because I sure as heck don't.
I understand having a sale now and then. I support that. I support giving away books. I give away a lot during promo events. But when FREE or CHEAP becomes the standard to get numbers, everyone loses. The quality of product decreases. How can the quality of editing and cover art stay high when authors are making nothing despite the success of downloads? It simply can't.
If we authors wish to be valued again, then something has to change. It needs to change within OUR community. We need to look at what our work is worth and price it as such instead of giving it away. Garbage collectors don't work for .99 or offer a FREE bundle of streets! If you asked for that, they'd go on strike. They should! They collect their money, and they do their job. Entertainment is a worthy business, but we do our job first. Now it's time to put value to our time and efforts again.
And no, this isn't me being jealous of those bundle authors. Yes, I've been in a bundle, but it was reasonably priced for the amount of books we had in it and it sold well. I'm not a huge seller or one-click author. I'm okay with that, and my career will move forward when it does.
I'm going to continue to write because I love it, and I have to put the voices on paper. However, I'm incredibly discouraged with publishing. It's one thing to fight piracy and complain about Amazon. But no one is addressing the big bundle situation, and it's really time it happened (without being mean or nasty or taking screen shots and calling names).
This post took a lot for me to write. But as an author and an editor, I had to write it. Everyone in the publishing industry is pointing fingers at someone other than themselves. It's Amazon's fault. It's piracy's fault. Nope. It's OUR fault for devaluing our work. We did this. I was raised to take responsibility for my actions, and when I see the publishing world pointing fingers instead of banding together to make an industry standard, it makes me ill.
There is no them and us anymore. It doesn't matter if you're traditionally published, or self published, or published with a small company. We're ALL taking the hit. When I started publishing books under this pen name, a lot of authors were making money. Things were good. Four years later, few are seeing any income. We broke the gravy train, authors. And somehow, we need to fix this.
The question is...how?