Let me start with my experience as a publisher, so that what I say can be put into context. I run a new and very small- OK micro- family publishing business. Trifolium Books UK has been in business now for just over 18 months.
I started the business initially because I was not prepared to spend hours, days and weeks of my life trying to find an agent and/or publisher for my friend Kathleen Herbert who had been a highly successful, mainstream published, author in the 1980s. Some of the story is here, thanks to Deborah Swift, and my full reasons for setting up the company are here.
I use new technology- Print on Demand- for my books, which has many great advantages- no wasted copies, no remaindered books, excellent quality printing, world-wide distribution, just as many copies as anyone wants- but one disadvantage: each individual copy costs more than your average trade paperback, and a lot more than mass market 3 for the price of 2, books. In all other ways, I am exactly the same as a traditional publisher: I offer editing, design and promotional services to my authors and don't expect any money from them!
Pricing of the books on Amazon and the world wide market is related to the cost of production, so longer books cost more- and actually this seems very fair to me. I price the paperbacks so that Amazon and the big distributors get what they need and demand; so that I can pay the authors a fair royalty; and so that I can have a tiny chance of making a small profit in the very long run. At the moment, I am happy not to lose money- but then, I don't count my time, nor does any other member of my family team, so it's a bit of an artificial picture. I have no problems with local bookshops- I can supply them on a sale or return basis so that they can sell them at a slightly lower price than Amazon etc.
This is an opportunity for me to offer these books at a lower price- especially as some of them are rather long. For example Moon in Leo has to retail at £11.99 on Amazon, or I would be paying to publish it, so I can offer the digital version at an affordable price, sell more copies and pay the authors a straight 50% of the takings, which will probably go higher if and when I sell more.
I know that I am lucky enough to have a pension that means I don't have to earn money from the business I am passionate about- at least in the short term. So- I am a traditional publisher in some ways- though not a mainstream one, and like the big publishers, I act as a gatekeeper.
|The price of this very short ebook is related to its length|
I think though, that the main point is that the self publishers who sell cheap are damaging sales of mainstream ebooks. I have a feeling that the big publishers are over pricing their ebooks in an ostrich like move to try and make us buy only paper books. It's often possible on Amazon, to buy the real book cheaper. Whatever the true explanation for this it is counter-intuitive to buy a virtual book which is dearer than a real one.
I buy ebooks for lots of reasons- one is that I don't risk much money to try a new author, and like many of the commentators in the Telegraph I have read authors I might not have come across because of this. Another reason is that, for good reads that I enjoy at the time, but probably won't read again, I am not cluttering up already bulging bookshelves. However, if I read a Kindle book I think is A Keeper- I go straight out and buy a real version- preferably from my local indie bookshop! I did this for Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance and happily payed full price for both versions- but this is a five star + + + book!
So- how do we small indie publishers know how to price our ebooks? We neither want to under-value the work of our authors, nor put off potential readers. When Julia and I discussed the digital price of The Boy with Two Heads we decided to price it at less than the price of the adult historical fiction so that young people could afford to buy it with their pocket money. In this discussion between author and publisher, who was being favoured? Author, publisher or reader? Or are we all part of the same community? Take a look at my books on Amazon, and tell me what you think.