Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More about Amazon, Kindle, and the price of ebooks

Eric Hammel, in his blog on Goodreads, posted about Amazon's Kindle strategy and why selling an e-book for $9.99 just doesn't make sense for traditional publishers. It's well worth reading.

Here's the link:

Did you read it? You really should. In it he explains how publisher and author compensation has to come out of the paltry 35% of retail ($3.50 for a book that sells at $9.99 retail) that Amazon sends to the publisher (not the author!). He also points out that to make a middle-class income of $60,000 a year, a writer has to sell over 34,000 copies of a Kindle book. And that's assuming that the writer completed his or her novel in a year.

Hammel's arithmetic goes a long way toward explaining why authors and especially publishers aren't rushing to make their books available on Kindle.

It seems that what the digital publishing revolution is giving authors with one hand it is taking away with the other, because the distribution is still done by gatekeepers like Amazon who set the terms.

I, however, am more hopeful. The Kindle may be the bully on the block right now, but more e-reader devices are on the way, and if they will give authors and publishers better terms than Amazon, we'll go there. And if they also give better terms to the customers, readers will go there.

In the meantime, Kindle has made it possible for me to sell many more e-books than paperbacks, and as I am both author and publisher, I get to keep the whole $3.50. Not quite the
profit I make on a paperback, but I'm happy with it. Of course I also have a day job.

And that's the thing. I took many years off from working a day job to write my trilogy. I depleted my savings, including my retirement savings, to do it. It was a labor of love, and I don't regret it.


Am I writing now? No. I'm trying to earn back enough of my savings so I can retire someday, and I am already past the age when most people retire.

Do I have more ideas, more things to write about? Not a day goes by that I don't jot down a thing or two to pursue when I have more time. I have lots of ideas. I would love to write the books that could come from those ideas. But I can't afford to take the time right now.

Maybe, in my 70s or 80s, if I should live so long and my mind holds out, I will get around to writing that YA novel about family secrets, about a young girl who becomes a real-life sleuth to uncover the truth about a mysterious person from her past she just barely remembers but knows in her deepest heart of hearts matters just as much to her as the family she grew up in. Or maybe it will be the story that keeps flitting through my head about two women whose paths keep crossing through their youth and middle age, but who keep just missing each other, until...

But all of that is on hold for now, while I dig myself out of the financial hole that writing my trilogy dug for me.

So if you are a reader, and if you like a particular author, please--tell people! Post a review on Amazon. On Goodreads. Blog about it. Let people know that you read this great book, or discovered this fantastic author. Give books as gifts, especially to young people. Because if an author can't afford to write, you may never know what you'll be missing.



Anonymous Eric Hammel said...

Thank you for the boost, Catherine. Keep telling your story and making your appeal. I'm a professional writer. As I sit on the brink of retirement age (but not retirement), I feel no regrets whatsoever that I have earned through my writing career roughly half of what my high-school classmates earned in their professional lives. I did what I was made to do, I've helped others achieve their dreams of writing good books, I've touched people's lives, and I haven't let the thieves we're saddled with get me down.

Keep fighting the good fight.

July 29, 2009 at 10:12 PM  

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