Free Books And Ebooks And Promos, Oh My!

This piece, from Alan Baxter, originally appeared on Publishing Renaissance on 6/14/09.

When I first started self producing my novels as POD trade paperbacks I was against ebooks. This is back in the dark ages, around 2006. My thinking was, “I want people to buy my books, therefore I’m only going to produce actual books!” If I could go back in time I’d give myself a solid slap upside the ear.

The simple truth is that POD trade paperbacks, even bloody good ones like mine, are still more expensive than their mass produced counterparts. You can buy my book on Amazon for around $15 or you can buy something by Neil Gaiman for $8, or that awful Twilight rubbish at around $5 or $6. Obviously, these low prices are for paperbacks, smaller and of lighter paperstock than POD trades, but that’s beside the point. The consumer is usually happy to buy books in a variety of formats if the price is right and if they’re really keen to read the them.

Therein lies the rub. Convincing people that my books are really worth reading is the hardest part of indie publishing, especially when they cost around $15. I currently have two novels out – RealmShift and MageSign. Neither of them have yet received a bad review – a few negative or lukewarm comments in otherwise positive reviews is as bad as it gets. I don’t think they’ve ever been reviewed at less than 3 out of 5. I’m ecstatic about that and it proves to me that people think my books are as good as I do. But it’s still hard to convince the buying public to give them a go. As indie publishers we’re always going to be hard up against three primary walls of resistance:

1. The recognised author name
2. The trusted publisher brand
3. The low price of light stock paperbacks

The price is something that we’re always going to struggle with. The recognised author is something we hope to become, but in the meantime have to struggle against. The trusted publisher is something that is becoming less and less of an issue. In all honesty, how many people check up on the publisher before buying a book? How many people would decide against a purchase on the grounds of not knowing the publisher? But whether that affects a buyer’s decision or not, that publisher will always have the massive marketing department and distribution reach that we can only dream of. So what to do?

Well, we have to embrace the new. Big trad houses are just starting to get on board with the idea that ebooks are becoming more popular. The Kindle 2 from Amazon has recently been released, the Sony Reader is very popular outside the US, the iPhone has a Kindle app. My novels are now selling better in Kindle editions than any other format. The trouble with the big houses is that they’re still charging at least $10 for an ebook. Talk about missing the point! My books are $3.19 on Kindle and $3.50 at Smashwords and I thought THAT might be a bit overpriced. But they’re selling and that means people are reading my books, hopefully enjoying them and, also hopefully, telling friends and colleagues all about them. So my writing and my name are being disseminated among a larger audience.

Read the rest of the post on Publishing Renaissance.