The online revolution is a new writer's best friend. Gone are the days when new and lesser-known writers had to languish in obscurity, only sometimes on some shelves, while big famous names – Nora Roberts, Stephen King – were everywhere for all book-buyers to see.
It's still famous names on the buzz tables. And airport stores and drugstores only stock bestsellers. But shelves aren't where people are shopping. Online retailers have just started to outsell brick-and-mortar stores. The ebook revolution takes that further – on Amazon, Kindle books have begun to outsell hardcovers.
This is sad news for bookstores – particularly independents, who do a lot for the book community. Maybe we'll see a shift to wine and book bars, or library-cafes with literary readings - I look forward to seeing how creative store owners are able to change with the times. I'd love to see a government incentive program help stores make the transition.
But we can't stifle progress because one side of the industry is dying. There is so much rebirth going on.
Yesterday, Publishers Weekly's released a report saying ebooks have reached 8.7% of the total book market share. That's up from 1.5% in the first quarter of 2009. Sales can't keep climbing at that rate – they'd be over half of the market by the middle of 2012. But ebooks are finally at a place where even those who fear them can't ignore them and hope they go away.
As a new writer, these statistics are the happiest news I could hear. Ebooks and online retailers go a long way toward leveling the playing field, so new and lesser-known writers can have their work available to anyone, anywhere.
Publishers are less thrilled, but the savvy ones are shifting their business models to include and promote ebooks. My publisher, ECW Press, has even recently launched an ebook imprint.
But what no one seems to know is how to price ebooks. New releases are currently valued between $10-$12. I think that's a ludicrously high standard set by fearful big publishers who are afraid of ebooks putting them out of business. I guess they think if they price the ebook so high, it won't steal their print sales – and if it does, they won't lose money.
It's time to kill that fear. Ebooks are here to stay, and they are by no means terrorizing the industry. Environmentally, they're a massive step forward. It's time to figure out a price that's both fair to the consumer, and still makes it worth a publisher's and writer's time and effort.
I think that price is $4.99 – about half of a mass market paperback. An ebook can't be loaned, it can't be signed, and – come on publishers, you know this: it costs a lot less to produce.
ECW Press disagrees. They've priced my mystery novel at $10.99. They don't want to make it lower because (a) they're afraid to devalue it by making it less than other new releases in its genre, and (b) they don't think people shop based on price – they don't think more copies will sell if it's cheaper.
I differ on both counts. On (a) I promise not to feel devalued. I'd like the book to cost what it's worth – not what the big publisher dinosaurs are trying to set as the standard. On (b) my mouth drops. What? Who doesn't shop based on price? Take me shopping.
So they've set up this challenge. I feel lucky to be with ECW, because they're like that. They don't tell me to go away with my little opinion – they say, okay, we'll entertain this.
Until Monday, December 13th, Dead Politician Society is $1.99 in iBooks, Kobo, and Kindle stores. ECW has run similar experiments and they've seen no spike in sales. So if sales stay static, I'll concede – I'll agree that price doesn't drive ebook sales.
But if sales do spike, ECW will look at what book buyers are saying to them. They'll rethink their price structure. They might not change all at once, but they love books, they love readers, and they care about going strongly into the future.
Thank you so much for stopping by, Robin - I look forward to the next book in the Clare Vengel series!
And I encourage all of you to take on her challenge!
Coffee and a Book Chick