Claude Bouchard Books

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Ramble On

Are Ebooks and Indies Killing Big Name Authors?

Posted by bigceebee on January 7, 2012 at 10:20 AM

I have forever been an avid reader and I've had a TBR backlog for years. Back when books were printed paper things, the backlog tended to be at around forty books at the high end and ten or so at the low end. When I'd reach that low, I'd head to the bookstore and buy a bagful of books because I don't like to run out of stuff.

I just checked my TBR print pile and found I have forty-five novels waiting for my attention. Books by Larssen, Clancy, Cornwell, Koontz and others lay on the shelf, most which have been there for a couple of years or more. You see, we don't buy many print books anymore as both my wife and I prefer using our Ereaders. This preference has led us away from the physical bookshelf and to the electronic one instead which in turn is having a direct impact on authors such as the ones I mentioned above.

The impact I refer to is as follows: Chances are small that any such big name authors' books will end up on our Ereaders because they are overpriced. When I was buying paperbacks at anywhere from $8.99 to $11.99, I was acquiring physical, manufactured products at what I felt were reasonable prices considering resources used to make and distribute them. Today, the same or similar books in Eformat are retailing from $9.99 to $14.99. Do the trees they use to make electronic files cost more than the ones used for paper? Is the Ebook printing process more intricate and costly than offset printing? Do the truck drivers who deliver Ebooks command a higher wage than those who deliver print books? Or is it simply the exorbitant cost of required bits and bytes?

The end result, in this household's case, has been that indies are getting our undivided attention to the detriment of big name authors and I'm sure we're not alone. As time goes by, we continue to discover excellent writers with fascinating stories rivalling those from the traditional side. There is an abundance of talent amongst independent authors offering quality literary works at reasonable prices for the reading public which begs the question, are Ebooks and indies killing big name authors?

I'm an indie thriller writer. Give me a try at a reasonable price:

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Reply N.V. Binder
05:17 PM on January 07, 2012 
I do think that a lot of mainstream ebooks are overpriced. But ebooks are not costless just because they're not physical. Speaking as a librarian (with some archival training) the cost of data storage, maintenance & transmission is huge and growing every year.

Just as the relatively high cost of paper books supported the whole manufacturing, sales and delivery structure of the old model, so the price must be made up somewhere for the establishment and maintenance of the equipment that delivers stories through the air. There are are also costly security risks that come with maintaining a giant website like Amazon's. Not to mention, authors have to eat. Can advertising support the whole thing? Not if we want to continue to have high-quality ebooks.

I am an indie author too, and my first story is free because I want people to read it. However, this is a loss-leader for me, and if I want to make an income from my writing, I will have to make that cost up somehow. I want to put out a good book, so I'm hiring a cover designer and editor. These are in-demand skills. I can eat the cost for a little while to support my writing, just like entrepreneur with start-up costs. However, eventually my writing will at least have to pay this team, or I won't be able to afford them anymore. That means I'll have to price my books a little higher.

I think it will be OK. Traditional publishers are in a bind because they're carrying a lot of weight at the top, as well as supporting a manufacturing infrastructure that probably isn't going to make it to the next decade. That's why they keep raising prices and screwing with DRM.

Leaner indies may be able to boost a smaller support staff of freelance designers, illustrators and editors, while still producing a good product at a price that works for everyone. But we have to be careful that we don't overshoot, and end up devaluing content to the point where writers can't make a living.
Reply Mari Stroud
11:21 PM on January 07, 2012 
I wonder about this myself. Indie books have an overwhelmingly better chance of winding up on my ereader simply because traditionally published books are so friggin' expensive. If I do still read a paper book, I get it out of the library so that I can give it back rather than have it cluttering up my house further.
Reply Jesi Lea Ryan
11:44 PM on January 07, 2012 
I have to agree with you. I have been reading a lot of indie and mid-list authors because I can get their books on my Nook at affordable prices. The big publishing houses better get a new business model together pretty quickly if they want to continue to complete. It will be interesting to see what happens with the government investigations into their price fixing of ebooks.

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