Amazon’s Price Fixing Attempt

This past weekend, I received a letter from Amazon.com. I know that I am not the only one who received this letter. I believe Amazon sent the letter to all Kindle Direct Publishing authors. Most likely, you received the letter too.

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I am dumbfounded that Amazon has turned to independent authors to try to get them to apply pressure on a major publisher to lower its ebook prices.

I urge you not to get sucked into Amazon’s argument. If Amazon can begin to dictate the price of ebooks, then you, as an independent author, will soon not have the ability to set the price for your own books either. Isn’t that one of the reasons you independently published in the first place—to have more control over the whole process, including price?

In their letter, Amazon states:

“We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.”

I am outraged at a number of statements Amazon makes.

First, who determines what an “unjustifiably high” price is? The book seller, the publishers, or the consumer? In a free market economy, it should be the consumer, not the book seller.

Second, “E-books can and should be less expensive” than print books. The reason Amazon gives for this is that there are no printing costs. There is a flagrant error in thinking here. The price of a print book is not solely based on the cost to print the book. Sometimes, the information in the book drives the price. For example, specialty books that contain information that cannot be found elsewhere are priced higher than the average fiction book even if the cost to print is the same. In these cases, the consumer is paying for the information.

Third, Amazon states, “Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices.” What Amazon doesn’t remind you is that the collusion had to do with steps these publishers took to stop Amazon from steeply discounting their ebooks. It had to do with something called the “Agency Pricing” model which was different from the “Wholesale” model. With the Agency Pricing model, retailers could not discount books the same as with the Wholesale model. Needless to say, the DOJ lawsuit threw out the Agency Pricing model. Therefore, Amazon has the ability to discount ebooks, like they do with print books. Instead, Amazon is trying to get Hachette to lower its prices so it won’t have to discount ebooks and, as a result, keep more money from each ebook sale.

Fouth, Amazon wants authors to send Hachette letters stating, “We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.” I think instead, we should be sending letters to Amazon stating, “Monopolies are still illegal in the United States. The main reason monopolies are illegal is because such entities get into price fixing. Price fixing is an agreement between participants on the same side in a market to buy or sell a product service, or commodity only at a fixed price, or maintain the market conditions such that the price is maintained at a given level. Whether a price is fixed high or low, it is still price fixing. Your misguided attempt to get Hachette to lower their pricing is an attempt at price fixing, plain and simple.”

Do not be deceived. Amazon does not care about the consumer and offering “affordable” ebooks to consumers. It is a business. Amazon only cares about profits and what will bring it the most benefit.

Needless to say, I will not be sending a letter to Hachette. I for one, still believe in and will stand for a free market economy.

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Opportunity: It’s Before You

I have been reading some dismal statistics about reading and book sales lately. One statistic I ran across was reported by Brian Judd, Executive Director of APSS. He stated that according to BookScan, 93% of books published sell less than 100 copies. To be honest, I am finding that statistic a little hard to swallow.

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However, when I step back and consider the sheer volume of books self-published each year, I can almost believe this statistic. There are hundreds of self-publishing companies in the United States willing to take authors’ money to produce a book. For the most part, that is all these companies do—publish the book. Many of these companies churn out thousands of self-published books each year. That is what they do—help aspire authors achieve a dream. However, these companies often don’t do anything to create sales for a book.

On the other hand, many self-published authors only have their sights on a book. They don’t think past getting a book published to actually selling the book. When reality hits and they realize that they actually have to do something to sell the book, many self-published authors don’t really know what to do to promote a book.

Almost always, the differences between the books that sell over 100 copies and those that sell less are quality and marketing.

First and foremost, a book must be quality. Compelling writing with a unique angle on a subject that has been talked about before is a must. The book must also conform to industry standards with grammatical matter, the cover design, and interior layout.

Then, marketing is needed. Without marketing, no one knows about the book. People don’t buy something they don’t know about. Marketing takes work and time. As Thomas A. Edition said:

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

The opportunity to create book sales comes with the hard work of marketing.

Knowing that many self-published authors are not schooled in marketing, I decided almost a decade ago to write and published Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. The purpose of this book is to teach Christian authors what to do to market their books to help them sell more than 100 copies. However, my book is not the only book providing information on how to market books.

If you are an author and want to sell more books, I suggest you read more than one book on marketing for authors. Educate yourself and then take advantage of the opportunity that is before you to lead people to your books. Don’t be part of this dismal statistic.

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Tweetable eBooks

Social reading just keeps growing. The latest innovative social reading idea has come from Intervarsity Press (IVP). This new idea, Tweetable eBooks, could start a whole new fad for ebooks. IVP has rolled out this new ebook feature with their book Teach Us to Want.

Tweet this

The way IVP’s Tweetable eBooks work is that functionality inside the ebook allows readers to tweet out, via the reader’s Twitter profile, preselected portions of a book with minimal effort. These preselected pull quotes in the text include a “Tweet This” button, allowing for single-click sharing through the reader’s Twitter feed. Each tweet includes:

  • The text of the selected pull quote.
  • A link to the book’s page on IVP’s website.
  • The author’s Twitter handle.
  • An appropriate hashtag for creating further discussion.

For this feature in their ebooks, IVP is using a “Tweet This” button. Using a button draws a reader’s attention to the fact that they can tweet a quote. Each tweet is further promotion for the book.

However, adding “Tweet This” buttons to an ebook can become burdensome because each button is an image. The more images an ebook has, the more costly the conversion costs.Small publishers and authors thinking about using this innovative technique in their upcoming books will have to weigh the cost of the additional image over the potential for added sales due to readers tweeting quotes from a book.

Another option for small publishers and authors would be to include a “Tweet This” link in the ebook, rather than a button. A “Tweet This” link would be less costly, but it also would be less eye-catching for the reader.

Either way, Tweetable eBooks are an exciting, innovative way not only to make reading more social—allowing for viral book publicity—but also as a great way to spread the Gospel message. Tweetable quotes from Christian books will serve to encourage and strengthen Christians as well as witness to those on the path to salvation.

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