I’ve got a lot of friends in the UK who were very excited to see the addition of Kindle to the UK store. Kindle, I’ve noticed, has separated out the UK sales from the US sales in our royalties – probably because authors are still getting 35% on their UK sales, while from the US sales, they’re getting 70% (as long as the book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99).
In spite of low author royalties in the UK, Amazon is scrambling to deep-discount books before agency pricing starts to take effect in the UK, as it did in the US (much to most consumers’ chagrin!) It seems that Amazon wants to brand the consumer’s brain with the idea that books should be priced on average at $2.99 – and certainly no higher than $9.99. And while I certainly agree with the latter, I’m not so sure about the former $2.99 price point.
Besides, it looks like Amazon wasn’t quite fast enough. Hachette, the UK’s largest publisher, is taking the same route the Big Six publishers in the U.S. have taken – they are demanding agency pricing from Amazon on Kindle books sold in the UK.
And the price-wars continue…
Will the investigation into price-fixing by the Texas Attorney General come to anything? Who will win in the end? Who knows?
But we all know consumers and authors both lose if books continue to be over-priced the agency way. Some of the forums on Amazon are eye-opening, with consumers threatening boycotts of overpriced books (and their authors). Granted, I happen to think some Kindle folks are a little extreme about ebook pricing, thinking full-length books should be priced at $2.99.
Because ebooks are such an ethereal sort of thing, people are loathe to pay much for them. I get that. After all, you can’t share them with a friend, and there’s always the fear your hard drive may crash (or your ebook vendor will go out of business) and your e-library might disappear. Ebooks don’t seem quite “real” – even if you’re actually getting the same amount/time of entertainment with them that you would with a hardcover.
It’s hard to wrap our heads around paying $9.99 for something that doesn’t quite seem “real.” But think about it – we do that now when we go to the theater to see a movie. (In fact, if you’re into buying popcorn, you pay quite a bit more). And you don’t get to take that movie home with you, or get to watch it again, the way you get to read an ebook.
Now, granted, if you’re a bargain-hunter like me, you can go see a matinee show for $3.75, or the twilight show for $4.75 (your mileage may vary depending on your state – or country – of origin). Or you can wait to buy the DVD and have it to watch over and over (at least until it gets all scratched – am I the only one who misses VHS for that reason?)
So why should a bargain ebook be $0.99 and a full-length novel ebook be priced at $2.99? Could we be down-valuing the medium?
Personally, I think ebooks should be priced based on length. This model has been used by indie ebook publishers for over ten years. (Yes, it’s true, there were thriving ebook publishers and distributors before Kindle!)
Our own eXcessica pricing is based on length:
$0.99 Short Shorts: Under 3K
$1.99 Shorts: 3-7K
$2.99 Stories: 7-15K
$3.99 Novelettes: 15-35K
$4.99 Novellas: 35-50K
$5.99 Novels 50-70K
$6.99 Super Novels: 70-140K
$7.99 Super XL Novels: 140-250K
$8.99 Super XXL Novels: 250K +
It’s a good, and I think fair system for both authors and consumers. I mean, come on – the average candy bar costs $0.99 – and I think a short little story is probably more nourishing than a Snickers.
Remember what you’re paying for – the amount of time you get to be entertained by a book.
In a world where everything has gone Supersize for so little investment – where you can get a Gazillion Ounce Big Gulp Slurpee for $0.99, but “real” food (i.e. an organic apple, for example) costs so much more – we have developed a Wal-Mart mentality where we want everything for nothing.
But the reality is you still get what you pay for – a $0.99 Slurpee is something that took very little energy to produce. The apple, on the other hand, took a long time to grow, and under the loving, watchful eye of an organic farmer.
So with ebooks. A $0.99 book should be a short-short – something it took an author perhaps an afternoon or two to write and polish. A 100,000 word tome that took a writer half of his life to complete, might, perhaps, deserve a little more investment.
There has to be a middle ground between the price-gouging of agency model and the deep discounts of Amazon and Wal-Mart. I think basing ebook price on length might just be the place we’re looking for.
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Carrie swore off men after a relationship-gone-bad in her freshman year of college and is perfectly happy with her roommate and lover, Maureen – until she discovers Steve Baumgartner (“Call me ‘Doc,’ everybody does”) in a very compromising – and decidedly sexy – position. Meeting Doc complicates things, but when Maureen’s very-religious boyfriend becomes a real threat and the gang goes to Key West for summer break, Carrie finds herself swept away by circumstance into a whirlwind of lust and sexual discovery.
If you’ve read Babysitting the Baumgartners, A Baumgartner Reunion, or Baumgartner Generations: Janie, you’ll love this prequel to the series. If you’ve never read any of them – Meet the Baumgartners! Your life will never be the same again!
Warnings: Let’s see… masturbation, f/f sex, a m/f/f threesome, and it’s ridiculously hot… mostly what you’d expect in an SK story! 😉
Word Count: 20,007
LIMITED RELEASE – A KINDLE EXCLUSIVE!
Remember – you don’t need to own a Kindle to read this one! Kindle PC is available for PC or Mac as well, and you can download a Kindle App for almost any ereader.
About a year ago, Fictionwise was acquired by bookseller Barnes and Noble. This is old news. The reaction was mixed, positive and negative. Some thought, well it had to happen some time, as ebooks became a bigger part of the market share, and if Fictionwise was going to be acquired by anyone, at least it was by someone who actually cared about books. Some, though, hated to see the biggest independent ebook retailer sell out to one of the big boys. Up until the surge of Amazon’s Kindle (followed by Barnes and Noble’s Nook and Apple’s iPad) they were the considered THE place to buy ebooks.
But in a free market system, competition is good, right? The consumer never benefits from a monopoly, and in some ways, before the acquisition, Fictionwise was monopolizing the ebook market. Sure, some other distributors (most notably All Romance Ebooks and Omnilit) had come out to challenge them, and were even making some headway, but Fictionwise still had a lion’s share of the market.
Then the acquisition happened, Kindle exploded for Amazon, and the world turned upside down.
Fictionwise had already begun to have some major customer service issues. They were getting pretty big for their britches before the acquisition, ignoring customer and publisher complaints, all the hallmarks of a company who thinks it’s the biggest bully on the block who can get away with it. (Anyone hear Lily Tomlin’s cackle, followed by, “Because we’re the PHONE COMPANY!” in their head, or is it just me?) But even big ol’ Fictionwise saw the writing on the wall about the future of ebooks and sold out to the highest bidder.
They said selling out wouldn’t change anything – Scott Pendergrast, head of Fictionwise, was quoted as saying, “Barnes & Noble (is) fully behind Fictionwiseâ€™s philosophy of ‘platform neutrality and eReader everywhere.'”
Hm. Really? A big corporation holding the same philosophy as an independent retailer? Who was he trying to convince exactly?
Then came the extinction of Fictionwise’s Buywise program, due to agency model pricing. It was a great program for consumers, offering 15% off books for members, along with special â€œmicropay rebateâ€ offers. Of course, it wasn’t always so good for the publisher. Fictionwise standard contracts said that royalties to the publisher would be 50% of the sale price, or 25% of the list price, whichever was greater. And the “sale price” was defined as “the price paid by the customer.” Of course, Fictionwise stipulated that the price “may be less than the List Price because of coupons, promotions, or other discounts.”
Promotions like the Buywise program.
The small independent publishers had always complained about Fictionwise’s deep discounts of their books and the smaller percentage of royalties that they received based on those discounts. Unlike Amazon, who only gave a 35% royalty rate to publishers, but always based that rate on the publisher’s set list price even when they discounted a book, Fictionwise passed that consumer savings on to the publisher, much to the publisher’s chagrin. But at the time, Fictionwise was the biggest dog on the e-book block, and volume of sales helped alleviate some of those consumer incentives. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you, and small independent ebook publishers were loathe to complain.
The Big Six, though, weren’t having any of it. With the typical arrogance of the “too big to fail” philosophy of most big corporations, they complained. They wanted to sell their books and receive royalties based on the price they listed. And now that Fictionwise had been acquired by Barnes and Noble, they didn’t have much say in the matter. And the Buywise program bit the proverbial dust.
But that was just the first indication that the biggest independent online retailer’s selling out to one of the big boys might have been a mistake – at least, if they wanted their philosophy about ebooks to continue into the near future, let alone a long-term one.
Then, Fictionwise closed applications to any new publishers wanting to publish directly with them – I was told they were “indefinitely on hold.” I was also told to inquire with Barnes and Noble instead. I know of several publishers who applied and had been waiting six months or more without any response from Fictionwise about their applications, in spite of numerous attempts to elicit one.
And now, Fictionwise is closing all of its branded stores. According to Publisher’s Weekly, Fictionwise boasted about 500 of these store-fronts that were hosted by Fictionwise and enabled customers to view only a publisher’s own titles rather than the entire list of all ebooks sold by Fictionwise. EPIC’s (Electronically Published Internet Connection) own bookstore was powered by Fictionwise – but has since been redirected to www.fictionwise.com. All of the branded stores will reportedly be closed by the end of September.
I can say now that I’m glad I followed my instincts in dealing with Fictionwise from the beginning and didn’t invest the $1000 (that’s right, it cost those who wanted a branded store $1000 for the privilege) to power Excessica‘s storefront. Although I feel sorry for those who did make that investment.
I’m also a little sad, in spite of my difficulty in dealing with Fictionwise over the past few years, to see the end of an era. This, to me, more than the explosion of Kindle, the Coming of the iPad, the scrambling of Borders and Barnes and Noble to keep up, marks the true beginning of the end. Fictionwise, once the largest and most profitable ebook retailer, isn’t going to survive the ebook boom we’re facing, and certainly not in the way they claimed to have hoped.
Perhaps Fictionwise saw the future of ebooks and sold out at just the right time. It was inevitable, wasn’t it, that once ebooks reached a certain share of the market, that the “little guys” just wouldn’t be able to hold their own anymore? Even the biggest “little guys” were going to take a hit or disappear altogether.
But why all the smoke and mirrors? Why not just admit that you sold out, that the impending change in the market necessitated the sale? Instead, we heard platitudes about things staying the same.
I don’t know, but it seems to me the winds of change have taken on the distinct odor of manure.
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eXcessica is giving away TWO Kindle 3 eBook Readers with wi-fi AND they will be already pre-loaded with dozens (75+!) of eXcessica eBooks!
Our scavenger hunt runs from Sept 1 â€“ Sept 30, 2010 and there are LOTS of way to win!
Besides the TWO KINDLE 3 READERS – the following prizes will also be given out:
- * $20 Amazon Gift Card (5 giveaways)
- * The ENTIRE Excessica Anthology Collection to Date (2 giveaways)
- * Excessica Anthologies, given individually (7 total giveaways)
- * A”habu” collection, including Rough Rides, Across the Threshold, Deal Closer, Hard Knocks U and Creampuffs (3 giveaways)
- * A Selena Kitt collection, including The Surrender of Persephone, Heidi and the Kaiser, Bluebeard’s Wife, Taken, Falling Down and Quickies (3 giveaways)
- * And don’t forget to come to the CHAT for even MORE chances to win prizes!
AND GOOD LUCK!
I started a new blog over at The Self Publishing Revolution, but I thought it would be good to cross-post here, too! Come join us, we have some great author contributors!
At this moment I have the #1, #6 and #9 bestsellers in erotica on Amazon. That may change in the next moment. They move up and down. But I’ve been in the top ten for six months and I am making $10,000 a month on Amazon Kindle.
How did that happen?
When I started Excessica in March of 2008, the biggest ebook distributor on the block was a company called “Fictionwise.” In order to get into their storefront, you had to be a publisher with 10 or more authors and 25 available (not public domain) titles. I wasn’t a publisher, and I didn’t have 25 titles, but I did have a lot of online friends who were authors.
So I had an idea…
What if we all got together to form a sort of “co-op” of writers to publish our work on the big ebook distributors? At the time, that was Fictionwise, Mobi, and a newcomer, All Romance Ebooks. That was how Excessica was born, and basically how my career as a real paid writer began.
Granted, at that time, I’d already been “epublished” by a start-up ebook publisher, Stardust Press, who had gone out of business almost as soon as my book hit the virtual shelves. And I’d sort of fallen into that, having entered a contest they sponsored, hoping for the money prize. I didn’t win – but they offered me an epublishing contract.
I hesitated. I didn’t know anything about epublishing at the time (it’s amazing what you can learn in two years) and kind of turned my nose up at it. I didn’t want to be “epublished.” If I was going to be published at all, I wanted to be published “for real” – to feel the weight of my book in my hands, to see it on shelves in a brick and mortar store.
But as my husband pointed out – why not? A bird in the hand, as they say…
It was that brief foray into epublishing that whet my appetite for more, watching Stardust Press get our books to distributors like Fictionwise. I thought, if they can do it… why can’t I?
Nevermind that Stardust had just winked out into nothing in the vast constellation that was epublishing at the time. I wasn’t taking on any big time investment – just the cost of creating a domain name and putting in the work of setting up a site for our books. I’d already purchased a hosting package for my own author domain, so that wasn’t an issue.
It didn’t take long for the authors I knew to climb on board, and we were off and running, applying to Fictionwise, being accepted, and seeing our books find wide distribution. That was exciting, and proved to be lucrative for me personally. I started making enough money per quarter on my books to make it equal to a part time job, which was really my goal when I started: a supplemental income.
The ball rolled along nicely for about a year – and then one day in March 2009, all our titles (about a hundred and fifty of them by then) disappeared from Fictionwise. This was just after Barnes and Noble had acquired Fictionwise. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
As I look back on it now, in light of what’s happened since with self-publishing, it’s almost amusing, but at the time it was devastating. I panicked, emailing the site. I received the response that Fictionwise did not support “author co-ops” and that they were terminating our contract and pulling our books.
Come to find out, after a little digging and back and forth with Fictionwise president, Scott Pendergrast, that a few “support tickets” had been submitted about our “extreme content.” Excessica has always been about freedom of speech. We have some boundaries, but I try to let our authors push them as much as possible. We publish things like nonconsent and adult consensual incest – something other erotica publishers wouldn’t touch.
Of course, when I inquired about those support tickets, I was told we couldn’t get any details about them, even if stripped of identifying information. They wouldn’t even tell us the number of support tickets submitted! Finally, we had to give them a list of “possibly offensive titles” after which they would restore our books to the site, minus “the list” – and would only restore those upon review.
Basically, they used our self-publishing status to try to censor our books. Mr. Pendergrast scoffed at the idea of an author having total creative control over their work, creating their own covers, arranging for their own editing, and decided we weren’t “a publisher” because of our business model. So what if I was offering 100% payout to my authors? What business of it was his?
Luckily, the first amendment won out. After two months of lost sales, they finally restored the titles on “the list”, adding a new “taboo” category to their site.
Then another revolutionary thing happened. Smashwords opened their doors. They looked like another distributor, on the surface of things. The difference was they offered a huge cut to authors (something I was all for – because I didn’t take any percentage from Excessica authors’ works and only profited from my own). We got to keep 85% of our profits with Smashwords (All Romance Ebooks gave us 60%, Fictionwise gave us 50%, and Mobi gave us a piddly 35%) so I signed up with them immediately. Who knew that they would change the face of self-publishing inside of a year?
Of course, they couldn’t have done it without Amazon Kindle’s success.
It was like the perfect storm. Smashwords started reaching out and becoming a true distributor, offering individual authors the opportunity to get into places like Fictionwise (and hence Barnes and Noble) where they couldn’t tread before. More and more authors jumped on the bandwagon. Kindle themselves opened their own self-publishing platform (although we could, as a publisher, access them through Mobi before that). In places like Sony, and then much later, Apple, the doors were opened wide for individual authors.
Our little co-op had become unnecessary within six months. We didn’t need each other to publish books anymore – any single author could go onto Smashwords and reach the same distribution level we had. And they did. Joe Konrath blogged extensively about his success. I watched it all unfold, seeing my own numbers on Amazon start to match his. I was making $10,000 a month on Amazon alone.
Our little venture had, for me, gone far beyond a “supplemental income.”
Of course, I was still running Excessica. From the beginning, I’d done the lion’s share of the work, formatting everyone’s books, putting titles up at distributor sites, sending out royalties. It added a great deal of time to my schedule, but I figured, I was also receiving the lion’s share of the profits (even if it was just for my own work) so it seemed, somehow, fair. And I did have some amazing volunteers (the woman who offered to take over the accounting aspect for me saved my life!) But as our roster of authors reached 100+ and our distribution schedule hit four books a week, even I got overwhelmed. And the business model I’d created wasn’t quite as self-sustaining as I’d hoped.
I had come up with the idea of releasing quarterly anthologies with donated stories from Excessica authors to pay the basic costs of doing business (web site, postage, etc). But the anthologies weren’t coming out fast enough to keep up with costs. Finally, I decided to take 10% of Excessica’s proceeds – leaving Excessica authors with 90% profit. And I started “hiring” people to do the work I’d done previously, paying them, as a co-op might, with keeping their 10%, or with free advertising on our site.
So far, this system has worked quite well, and Excessica has kept on rolling. The only other thing I’ve done is close our doors to submissions from outside authors, except by referral or invitation. We will keep publishing our own authors’ work, of course, if they want to stay with us. (Our contracts allow them to leave at any time.)
I knew this was the right decision when My Bookstore and More (Samhain’s distribution site) stopped taking outside authors’ works. For a while there, ebook publisher storefronts like Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, and Bookstrand, opened their doors to not just their own published work, but to outside publishers as well. But as the success of Amazon/Kindle, Apple, Barnes and Noble and Kobo started to appear, they realized where the real money could be found and saw the futility in selling other publisher’s books from their own storefronts.
So that’s it. That’s how I started my journey toward making $10,000 a month on Amazon writing erotic fiction. I don’t know how long it will last, of course. This business has proven it can turn on a dime. It’s a whole new world in e-publishing. In just a few years, a total shift has taken place. My revolutionary idea has become obsolete. Authors like Joe Konrath can publish their work on their own. He never had to jump through the hoops I did back in 2008.
Makes you wonder what 2012 is going to look like, doesn’t it?