Traditional publishing continue to lose out on ebook sales to indie

Brian G Turner

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Forbes reports that Ebook sales from traditional publishers were down 10% in 2017 over the previous year - but instead of trashing ebooks and talking up print, it lays the blame squarely on traditional publishers over-charging on their ebook prices.

Traditional Publishing Ebook Sales Dropped 10% In 2017
 
Have Ebook sales dropped in general? I sold a total of 3 Ebooks last month, 2 the month before. Fortunately, paperback sales are up.

Not long ago, Ebook sales accounted for about 60% of my sales.
 
If you're going to be greedy and attempt daylight robbery by charging people US$20 for an e-book, then yeah - you're gonna lose, especially in Asia, Africa, and Central/South America where US$20 is a huge amount of money. Even US$6.99 is pushing it for many people but we buy it since it's paperback price.

Charge anything between US$1.99 - US$4.99 and that's reasonable for an e-book. A fiver is reasonable.
 
Being with a trad publisher, this doesn't surprise me at all. There are some imprints able to sell ebooks in huge quantities, but they play amazon very well, constantly changing covers, blurbs, titles, metadata etc until a title starts to sell. They've basically copied everything the big indie sellers do. Majority of trad imprints aren't doing this and it shows in sales.
 
I'm with a small traditional publisher and my novel sells at about US$3.50 (excellent value!). I can't see any justification for the $15-20 cost of ebooks from major publishers and, as I only read on my Kobo, I now wait a year or two for the cost of books from my favourite writers to come down.
 
Have Ebook sales dropped in general? I sold a total of 3 Ebooks last month, 2 the month before.

A lot of this is probably due to Amazon's subscription service, and the changes they keep making to their website (e.g. 'also boughts' keep disappearing and reappearing). After they removed one of my books from KU, I went from several 'sales' a day (which must actually have been borrows) to a sale every few days.

In particular, there seem to be a whole bunch of KU scams running in Romance right now, from what writers in that genre have said online. Many are complaining that their sales have sunk as a result.
 
So those of us who prefer to read ebooks are being financially punished for not buying paperbacks.
With millions of EBooks available, you don't need to feel punished. There is a plethora of excellent self-published writers out there in every genre! :)
 
A lot of this is probably due to Amazon's subscription service, and the changes they keep making to their website (e.g. 'also boughts' keep disappearing and reappearing). After they removed one of my books from KU, I went from several 'sales' a day (which must actually have been borrows) to a sale every few days.

In particular, there seem to be a whole bunch of KU scams running in Romance right now, from what writers in that genre have said online. Many are complaining that their sales have sunk as a result.
It’s also to do with trad publishers trying to maintain a perceived value of books (the coffee idea - we expect a cup to cost a higher amount and therefore pay it).

I did up my prices recently. No doubt I’ve lost some sales - but when I do sell I see a more realistic return on my books (2 are 99p though - one I have a choice about, one my publisher set :()
 
There is definitely an argument for not giving away e-novels for free or for pricing them very low. Either subconsciously or otherwise it gives the impression to the buyer/reader that the work is of low value because the price is low. Authors and writers have to have the courage of their convictions to ask a decent price, but very often - particularly for new authors, and, I suspect, for those self-published - this decision is bound up with feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. Walking the line between confidence and narcissism isn't impossible, but it is tricky, not least because writing a novel is such a personal thing.
 
I'm very shallow and love reading bestsellers :)

I bought three Clive Cussler ebooks yesterday, but the most expensive was $5.99.

As a reader, I generally avoid the bargain-basement $0.99 self-published novels these days, because I've never found a good one. I'm sure they exist, because some have quite high sales ranks, but to me it's just become a red flag for 'OK, I can't sell on quality, so I'll sell on price' thinking. I'd rather pay another couple of bucks (or five bucks in Cussler's case) for something that's worth my time to read.

Still not paying $10.99 for a trade-published ebook unless I really, really want to read it, though.
 
I've never paid more than about £7-£8 for an ebook and very rarely paid that much. Most of the really high priced ebooks are generally only so high until the paperback comes out and, when it does, the ebook price generally falls in line with it. If I see an ebook more expensive than the paperback edition then I simply won't buy it. But I have almost never found this to be the case.
 
f I see an ebook more expensive than the paperback edition then I simply won't buy it. But I have almost never found this to be the case.

I haven't bought many ebooks from Amazon in the last year or so (mostly iTunes these days), but it was commonplace when I was buying them there. Many times I went there looking to buy an ebook and ended up buying the paperback because it was cheaper.

Possibly because Amazon discount the paperbacks more than other book stores?
 
It does annoy me when I see new ebooks from authors such as Lee Child and Stephen King selling for US$13.50 (A$17.99), when my (small) publisher can make a profit selling ebooks for under US$4. And while none of us have the 'name' or pulling power of those writers, the many books I have read from my fellow authors have been just as satisfying.
 
It does annoy me when I see new ebooks from authors such as Lee Child and Stephen King selling for US$13.50 (A$17.99), when my (small) publisher can make a profit selling ebooks for under US$4. And while none of us have the 'name' or pulling power of those writers, the many books I have read from my fellow authors have been just as satisfying.

This. 10,000 times this. I wanted to buy the new Anne Bishop book (LAKE SILENCE) but they priced it at the equivalent of US$20 on Google Play. So no, Penguin doesn't get my money until it goes down to US$5.99 (paperback price).
 
This. 10,000 times this. I wanted to buy the new Anne Bishop book (LAKE SILENCE) but they priced it at the equivalent of US$20 on Google Play. So no, Penguin doesn't get my money until it goes down to US$5.99 (paperback price).
I think this is a good example in that, as far as I can see, the paperback edition is not yet published and I would expect the ebook price to fall when it does. At least this is what I've normally observed.
 
I think this is a good example in that, as far as I can see, the paperback edition is not yet published and I would expect the ebook price to fall when it does. At least this is what I've normally observed.

For some books, the wait could take ages. Meanwhile, books by Faith Hunter, Nalini Singh, and Patricia Briggs are released at paperback prices in e-book format (US$4.99 - US$6.99) right from the beginning and so their fans can go to town on the books and leave lots of lovely reviews (which will, in turn, help drive sales).

So pricing e-books reasonably is a win-win for everyone concerned. As I said further above - a fiver for an e-book is reasonable. Maybe 1 dollar/pound or 2 higher than that but no more. Anything beyond that is just greed.
 
For some books, the wait could take ages. Meanwhile, books by Faith Hunter, Nalini Singh, and Patricia Briggs are released at paperback prices in e-book format (US$4.99 - US$6.99) right from the beginning and so their fans can go to town on the books and leave lots of lovely reviews (which will, in turn, help drive sales).

So pricing e-books reasonably is a win-win for everyone concerned. As I said further above - a fiver for an e-book is reasonable. Maybe 1 dollar/pound or 2 higher than that but no more. Anything beyond that is just greed.
I agree with your thoughts on pricing but I guess some publishers are still taking the same approach to hardback/paperback that they always have. ie. delaying publication of the paperback (at the lower price) to protect the sales of the hardback (at the higher price). Don't they make more profit from hardback sales or something? And I figure they can't justify delaying publication of the ebook so they price it high initially to protect the hardback sales.

I'm not trying to justify this behaviour (I've always considered the delay in publishing paperbacks to be morally questionable), just saying it is effectively a continuation of what they've always done to protect hardback sales. Although as you have observed some publishers are not doing this, many certainly are. I typically find myself having to wait until publication of the paperback before I can sensibly buy the ebook. It's annoying, but I can live with the delay when I have such a backlog of book on my wish list! :D
 

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