The Difficulty of finding deals on publisher books, some deals

First, for your Kindle, some deals on “publisher published” books -

  1. Home in the Morning by Mary Glickman. Price: $4.99 (again). Genre: Jews in the South, Love, Civil Rights. Rated 4.5 stars on 19 reviews.
  2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Price: $5. Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure & Thrillers, Children’s Action & Adventure. Rated 4.5 stars on 1,908 reviews. Supposedly a fun read for adults too.
  3. A few Kurt Vonnegut books at $5 or so. The deals include Cat’s Cradle at $7, The Sirens of Titan at $5.38, and Slaughterhouse-Five at $8.

After 30 to 45 minutes of searching these were the only deals found.

Why is it so difficult to find good deals on Publisher published books?

It’s just not that easy. No one, except a few Kindle owners at the official kindle forum, is highlighting deals. Amazon isn’t. Publishers certainly aren’t. Authors don’t really have any say in the matter. If they couldn’t stop the Agency Model, do we really expect them to offer $5 deals?

Gary had a comment -

How about news on deals (ie., discounts) on mainstream books? I have little interest in these Indie freebies. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. I’d much rather spend a few dollars for works that have been carefully vetted and edited. Old-guard publishing houses do serve a purpose.

Firstly, we’re not assuming anything about indie authors or smaller publishing houses. Just that there is interest in deals on published books in addition to indie books and the books from smaller Publishing Houses that Amazon loves to trot out in its free book offers.

We are only looking at why there are hardly any deals on ‘published’ books.

Here are some of the reasons there are very few deals from ‘Publisher published’ authors -

  1. They just aren’t that hungry. There’s never been a published author, to the best of my knowledge, who’s promoted her book (or his book) on any of the blogs or forums. They are happy to let indie authors get all the benefits and let indie authors be the people’s champions.
  2. They are trapped. If an author wants to run a promotion or lower the price or skip the Agency Model – He first has to get his Publisher’s approval. Plus would an author fight against his/her Publisher, when the Publisher is paying advances and ensuring the author is free to concentrate on writing books.
  3. They have no idea what to do. How many Published authors would even know how to start self-promoting? Or, for that matter, what prices to sell their books at?
  4. Publishers can’t really afford $3 deals. They have all their legacy costs. They have to support the costs and wastes of the printed books part of their business.
  5. Publishers still think of low-priced books and free books as marketing tricks. They aren’t thinking – We might have to live with $5 books. They’re thinking – We can use $2 books and free books to get readers to buy $15 books.

At a fundamental level, it’s a very interesting combination of things – powerlessness of published authors, Publishers’ detachment from reality, Publishers not realizing the market has ALREADY fundamentally changed, Publishers not realizing that they can’t make ebooks pay for the sins of their physical book processes, a lack of understanding that the people’s champions will be the only winners in the future.

Two of these are very important to understand: Publishing has ALREADY fundamentally changed. The People will be the only ones picking winners in the future.

Both of these are almost impossible for Publishers to grasp. Their advantages have turned into disadvantages. Their power has been stripped away.

For published authors, there’s a disconnect – they don’t realize that readers have the real power now. The fact that they get their royalties and their advances from Publishers makes them focused on what Publishers want, and on making Publishers happy. It’s going to kill them if they don’t realize that Publishers are sinking.

Publishers feel $10 is a deal. They feel $7 is an absolute steal. They don’t realize, or are unwilling to accept, that books that are nearly as good are available at $5 and $3 and even at $1. They still think of book deals as something you trot out to increase preorders and trick customers into thinking lots of people bought a $15 book.

Fundamentally, neither Publishers nor Published authors understand that -

  1. Readers decide everything now.
  2. $1 to $5 is the People’s Model. It’s much more powerful than the Agency Model.
  3. $1 and $3 books are their direct competition. Random House going with the Agency Model would have been perfect if they’d chosen April 1st. At a time when they most need to choose the People’s Model they are choosing the Agency Model instead.

So, if you are upset that there seem to only be deals on books from smaller publishers and indie authors, it’s because they are the only ones who are seeing things as they really are. There aren’t that many deals on books published by the Big 6 Agency Delusionals. At some level, they don’t even understand what a deal on a book is.

How could you consider a $7 published novel a deal when a book that’s quite good is available for $1?

Alone was $1 for a long time, The Hangman’s Daughter was really cheap for a long time. Two of Stiegg Larsson’s novels are at $5. Indie authors John Locke and Amanda Hocking have 4 $1 books and 2 $3 books in the Top 20.

In this environment a $7 book can’t really be considered a deal. Yet, Publishers don’t realize this.

Publishers and published authors are either going to accept reality and embrace the $5 and $3 price-points full-heartedly, or they are going to give up the Top 50 spots to indie authors. It’s that simple.

Reality is that a $1 book that’s an 8/10 is ALWAYS going to beat a $7 book that’s a 9/10. This isn’t one person picking out what book she is going to take to a desert island. This is millions of people taking the path of least resistance and the path of maximum value for money.

12 Responses

  1. Two more low-priced goodies for your list, by Philip Roth (the first was especially good; haven’t read the second yet):

    Exit Ghost

    The Humbling

  2. The big publishers lost me last year with the agency model. After the Random House betrayal yesterday, I will now spend all of my book budget on indies and authors who self-publish their backlists.

    I’ve read many fabulous books by indie authors, priced from free to $3.99. Give me more! The 2 worst books I read this past year were “published” books. Those who turn up their noses at indie are missing out.

  3. Exactly my thoughts. A “good” $3 book will always outsell a slightly better $10 book. I am buying 2-5 indie books a week on Kindle, they have all been $3 or less, and have all been at least 4 star.

    I am unable to give that high a rating to the last Cussler novel (from the library) I read.

  4. For me, the problem is that my tastes run to non-fiction, especially history, and however good indie fiction might be, there are little, if any, substitutes for the books from the larger publishers.

    To a large extent, this has always been the case: $9.99 was the exception, rather than the rule, when it came to the stuff I wanted to read.

    But it has gotten worse. For most titles, it is cheaper to buy the paperback and the same price to buy the hardcover. So, I don’t buy them or, if I do, it’s used or from the Marketplace. It will be the proverbial cold day in Hell before I reward the publishers.

    • Roberto, you should start asking Authors in History to self-publish. However, that’s a market that is really hard to do without Publishers.

      • You have just identified a market that publishers could focus on. The problem is that, in the past, the big money was in best sellers. I could see a publisher focusing on history books being able to maintain the $9.95 (or higher) price.

        When I buy a history book, I want one that’s been vetted by experts. When I buy a book of fiction, I want to be entertained. Two very different markets.

        O’Reilly will survive, because their books have a certain factual reputation in the technolgy field. Tor will have more problems, because they’re “just another” science fiction publisher. (Actually, Tor’s not a great example. They are working on brand awareness on Tor.com, with free stories, previews, giveaways, etc. They still over price for new eBooks, but may survive on back catalog and reputation.)

        In other words, a niche publisher, with a reputation for editorial expertise on the subject matter more than what’s enjoyable, may very well survive the move to eBooks. The general publishers, on the other hand…

        Probably not a great time to buy stock in Random House.

      • To be fair, having criticized the Agency 6, I should give props to Oxford UP whose indispensable History of the United Sates series is consistently $9.99 or less. Right now, “Battle Cry of Freedom,” the best one-volume history of the Civil War is $8.69!

        Fredrik Coulter is correct: you want history to be vetted by experts and I don’t see how self-publishing makes that happen.

  5. Your insights and opinions are, as always, fascinating.

    While I’d like to agree that book publishing has already changed, as you assert, I think we’re not quite there yet. Hanging out on the Amazon forums and at the Kindle Boards, it’s easy to assume everyone wants to read ebooks. Near-universal ebook adoption is still somewhere out there–perhaps as early as 2012, perhaps into 2013 or 2014.

    There are some smart people at the big publishing companies. Sure, some of them are people who love dead-tree books and everything about them–but those people aren’t necessarily controlling the purse strings. When you listen to authors who’ve turned away, disillusioned, from the New York publishing paradigm (e.g. read Jon Merz’s post yesterday on J.A. Konrath’s blog), you may draw the conclusion that some pretty business-savvy people run those companies. If we can watch what’s happening on Amazon, so can they. Having battled Amazon over the agency model, they’re probably well aware that Amazon blinked first, but still won in the medium term (i.e late 2010 to the present time). Will they be so blind as to assume Amazon doesn’t really care about books? Even if that’s true in the long run (as you hypothesized in your previous post), the short run could well destroy some of these companies if they’re not careful. And the parent companies of these publishers are, for the most part, huge with deep pockets.

    Authors seem to me to be people who want to get their stories in front of eyeballs. That’s particularly true with fiction writers. Among indie novelists, you’re more likely to find savvy businesspeople who are storytellers first, but keen proponents of their own brand as a close second. The authors who are sticking with traditional publishing tend to be willing/needing to delegate the stuff that isn’t directly related to storytelling, and for the most part, the story benefits from that focus. Perhaps that’s what your correspondent Gary was trying to point out.

    Readers do have more power today, particularly people who want to read a fast paced story and don’t much care for the opinions of intellectual elites like the NYT Review of Books. Note the rise of the USA Today Bestsellers List as evidence. However, readers are still at the mercy of time, and while the filters are changing, I dare to assert that they’ll still be required by a majority of readers. The new filters are evolving.

    If Amazon cares to remain predominant in bookselling, it will figure out how to best administer and control those filters. And that’s my prediction related to the fundamental change in the market.

    • I didn’t say Amazon doesn’t care. Just that it has a bigger prize. It wants both prizes and it’s fighting very hard to keep ebook prices at decent levels – but it can’t beat the people. In fact, it’s too smart to even fight them.

      The filters no longer exist. I think I’m wrong because I’m seeing the future based on current trends and talking to that. However, it’s not something anyone can fight. Even readers who want to pay good money for books will not be able to. Even readers who think books should be at least $5 will have no option because authors will be pricing them at $3 and $1 and $0 to fulfill their need to be read.

      I mean – you’re absolutely right in terms of where we are and where we might be in 2012. However, people are beginning to realize that there are no filters. It’s a Matrix like moment – there is nothing except what readers accept. If they accept nothing external then everything flows from what they want and wish for.

      • Here’s what I mean by a filter:

        Say Amazon improves on its rating system.

        Say the improved system makes it hard to refuse to rate what you purchase. So everyone is pretty much compelled to rate everything. (Dunno how you’d compel them…some sort of free prize, probably.) Then some algorithm rates the raters, based on another algorithm that figures out how close each individual customer’s taste is to the taste of the overwhelming majority of customers. Then it makes a mash-up of weighted ratings by all customers for that product, based on the preceding info and every other bit of info available to it about those people (zip codes, what other stuff they buy, info drawn from other demographic information available to it.) Then it fits you, an individual customer, into this system so you see what other people think who are very similar to you. Say this algorithm has amazing granularity…

        That’s a crude model I just pulled out of thin air, but Amazon’s doing it to a certain extent already. Maybe they don’t want to become the e-commerce equivalent of Google Search–but maybe they do.

        It would add a tremendous amount of value.

        However, if all fiction books are driven to the $0 to $3 price bracket, the point is moot. Then you’re right, and there are no filters. A cheap price moots a filter, because the book costs so little that you buy it based on the free read portion, and shrug and give up reading, if the balance of the book is crappy.

      • Actually the last para you mention might be why low priced books are doing so well – people buy it thinking that whether or not they read it, whether or not it’s good, there’s no big loss.

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