In April 2012 Apple was accused of working with major publishers to “fix” prices on the Apple e-book store, iBooks. In early July 2013, Apple was found guilty and is reportedly paying a hefty sum. Any author that has a few notches on their belt knows this hurts only one group of people – them us.
No matter what the final outcome in this case is, Apple and the major publishing companies don’t stand to lose much. It is you, the author that will be hit hard in the pocket. Readers and writers alike have to understand one simple fact: the author needs to make a buck from their material. That is, of course, if you want to keep reading their books.
Eventually, this will probably result in prices being knocked down in many online stores. That’s great for the consumer and even better for the store. It’s not so wonderful for an author or someone trying to self-publish for the first time. Most authors and self-publishers earn money by making a cut of the profit obtained from the sale of each book. When you do the math, it’s not a monumental amount. Unless the author sells a massive swath of their product, they’re not going to be swimming in green anytime soon.
What We Can Do
Some veterans to the business would advise authors fight back. Some solution could be found in creating awareness and banding together. Authors and especially self-publishers should have some say in how their books are priced. Not major companies. There is much discussion to be had and some compromising to take place. Hopefully, both sides can come to some sort of an agreement. The industry is already seeing a drop in readers and an oversaturation of upcoming writers. The last problem it needs is petty disputes over pricing.
The Market Now
The sequel to Stephen King’s The Shining, can be pre-ordered on the iBooks store for $10.99. That’s a best-selling author. (Probably one of the most well-known authors ever.) Imagine a new writer getting published for the first time. If prices on e-books are lowered what do they stand to make? 4¢ a book? 2? You see my point.
To fully understand this issue as someone outside of the industry, you’d have to look at traditional paperback books. Would you pay under $10 for a paperback book? Of course you would. Although, if you’ve ever browsed a large bookstore, you know some of the best content is usually around that price or just above it. Hardcover books are an entirely different ballgame. Those usually range from $15.00-$25.00 and above.
The Road Ahead
If up-and-comers want to stay afloat we’d better start talking strategy. With a large corporation like Apple being slapped down and choke-held into pricing things “fairly” other big players are sure to follow suit. After all, no one is paying our bills for us. In a profession that many would say is dicey financially, writers should protect themselves and not aid in that uncertainty. Otherwise, one of my next posts may be for a support group called “Writers Anonymous”.
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