Friday, August 29, 2014

OPINION: Are E-Books the 21st Century's 'Penny Dreadfuls'? by @KarynGerrard

Please, no one get their hackles up. I am referring to PRICE. I am not saying all ebooks today resemble the shlocky Penny Dreadfuls of the latter Victorian era.

PENNY DREADFUL: was a type of British fiction publication in the 19th century that usually featured lurid serial stories appearing in parts over a number of weeks, each part costing one (oldpenny.

I have noticed that the price of an ebook has plunged in the past year. Now, everything I mention going forward in this post are things I read in my social media travels. Have no idea how people arrive at the stats or how accurate they really are. But I did read that ebook sales supposedly flatlined in 2013. Growth has slowed. All those smug predictions of ebooks pushing print into extinction have not come to pass, and they may not come to pass at all.

According to one source, one ebook is uploaded to Amazon every five minutes. If even close to being accurate, that is staggering. Narrowing my focus to the romance genre which I write, there is a major glut of offerings from publishers and self-pubbers alike. We have reached major proportions of over-saturation. Most people's first royalty checks can buy them a caramel latte and nothing else. It's rough out there, and everyone is clamouring for reader's attention by slashing prices. Offering books for free. Even the "Big 5's" digital lines are doing it. A lot of publishers offer new releases at 99 cents the first week or two of release. Entangled, Loveswept and Decadent Publishing do it just to name a few.

Then came the box sets/bundles. The number of stories crammed into these sets are growing all the time. Next it will be "50 Hot Romance Stories" in one collection. So what does an author make in royalties on these 99 cents books or bundles? Pennies. Mere pennies. Unless you are part of the 1-5% that go viral and crack the Amazon top 100 and slip onto a USA Today bestseller list. (If you have, big congrats!) But most bundles don't. Most ebooks don't.

Low prices is now the new reality in e-books with 99 cents the hot spot for selling...anything. Cents. Pennies. Think about it. I'm not going to get on a soapbox and pound my chest claiming I will not devalue my 'art'. Sorry. The new reality is 'low prices' and 'big sales and deals'. Nor am I going to listen to self-pubbers who claim they are making mondo dollars. (if you are, fantastic!) Most self-pubbers don't make a lot of money. Same with trad published.

Charging $7.00 for a novella is suicide in this ever fluctuating ebook market. Case in point? Ellora's Cave. For years they were the #1 e-publisher of erotic romance. They have gone public stating sales are down 75% at Amazon (now, I am sure price is not the only reason for the sales drop, but its a big part of why)

And Ellora's Cave is not the only one feeling the pinch. I've heard another top romance epub also let some editors go. You can bet if these bigger players are being squeezed, so are the smaller presses. I've read in various places some self-pubbed authors have seen a dip in sales.

It's rough and its going to get rougher. Big shake-ups are on the way. I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon starts chipping away at the royalty rate they pay self-pubbers. They already did with audio books. They are already embroiled in battles with publishers over prices and royalty rates. They squeeze the pubs, the pubs will squeeze the authors.

If this sounds depressing as hell, kinda is. What is a romance author to do? I for one will ignore all the rhetoric out there from the 1-5% of authors making all the money, (and they are the biggest voices out there) whether they are self-pubbed, traditionally pubbed or hybrids. What worked for them in all likelihood will not work for you or me. Find your own path and plan accordingly. I am.

And know it can all change in the flutter of an eyelid.

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