Well known authors vs independent

Discussion in 'General Books' started by Herickson, May 20, 2011.

  1. Herickson

    Herickson New Member

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    So, I do have a question.

    If your at the store or on amazon, would you prefer to check out an independent author or a well known author?

    Is it taking a chance to throw down say, 2.99 for a new author's book or would you prefer to put forth 5.99+ for something that is from an established author?

    Why?
     
  2. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Publishers and price are the key here; as well as word of mouth.

    I think a lot of authors new to the game, feel that if they charge a really low price and if they can just get published by any publisher (and with the ebook world selfpublish) that they will get into sales. My own experience of this (as a reader) is that yes whilst you might get some sales from curiosity the weight of a good publisher and a proper market price (not undercutting) is worth more to me when I go to choose a new book. I say this because someone who is charging 0.70p for their book tells me that, yes its a 70p book; its 70p because its not good enough to sell at anything higher - further if the publisher is self or very smalltime (and not a specialist small time publishing group) then that again says to me that there is possibly something lacking in this book.


    Furthermore massive market undercutting only works if you can shift big volumes of sales - really big volumes of sales. It works well if you're tescos selling masses, but if you're a small time corner shop you can't undercut the prices that far. And its the same with books. With books, and in a smaller genre like fantasy, you'll have to have something really special and get a lot of notice to sell big volume at cutprice level (heck even the big fantasy names don't always make all that much income).
     
  3. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    I'm not interested in supporting established writers; I'm not interested in finding new writers. I want to find books that I want to read. That means I'll happily try both looking for something I want. When I bought my first Stephen King book a few years ago, I knew how good he was, because you can't be that big and make that much money without being very good. But I didn't know if he was to my taste, so I was still taking that risk. Admittedly, the risk was reduced, but it was still present.

    Since you mention $5.99 and $2.99 I'll assume you're talking about independent electronic publishing, since those prices are really limited to indie e-books.

    Overread is right about the $0.99 e-books. Most writers don't know that that's a discount price and appeals to discount readers. Many smart writers will offer a novel or two at that price, or some short stories for free to give the reader a sample, trusting the free or cheap sample will drive sales of the more expensive works. And that strategy does work, if the writer has plenty of work up. If the writer only has two novels, offering them at a buck apiece won't won't work because they have no other work to propel.

    The reason lower prices work in e-books is that the writer gets such a good cut if he publishes independently

    For example, a writer writes a novel and it's published by a major New York publisher, who sells it in stores for $8.99. The writer gets an advance of, say, $5000 on anywhere from 8-12% of the cover price. Let's take 10% because it keeps the math easy. The writer makes 90 cents on every copy sold. The book has to sell over 5500 copies just to cover the advance, and he has to do it in the three months or less that it'll remain on the shelf. That's about 1850 copies a month. And even after that, if the book remains in print (unlikely but possible) the writer still only gets 90 cents per book. In reality, the writer almost certainly will never get more than the initial $5000 for the book, and may not get all of that. If he has an agent, he'll only get $4250.

    But if the same writer puts the same book up independently for $2.99, depending on the site sold from he'll get anywhere from $1.78 to $2.54. The most popular site, Amazon, will give him $2.10. To make that same $5000 he only has to sell ~2400 copies, but he has the rest of his life to do it in. I'm 47. If I put up a book now and die at 64 the way my father did, I still only have to sell twelve copies a month. If I live to be 82 the way my mother did, I only have to sell half as many a month. And my heirs still get the same profit per copy long after I'm dead.

    But if he's confident enough to put up the same book at $4.99, he'll make anywhere from $2.97 to $4.24. Amazon will pay $3.49. He only has to sell ~1400 copies to make up that $5000.

    But when I'm buying from an e-book from a writer I haven't read before - whether the writer is new or established - I always download a sample first. Just a week ago I downloaded a free short on Smashwords and read it the next day on the way to work. It was a tie-in to a fantasy trilogy, clearly offered to entice readers. I'm not going to do a full critique, but let's say I want to read what he writes after he has another half million words under his belt. He has potential, but he isn't there yet. And I found out for free.
     
  4. Herickson

    Herickson New Member

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    @overread

    One thing that separates an independent author from an author that has been published is not quality. Yes, quality is necessary and if your writing is downright terrible, there is no way your getting a publishing deal. But, even then, to say that quality is required is actually incorrect. It is actually more important that you are marketable. Every publishing house is looking for the next twilight right now and if you can possibly offer something with vampires in that vein of thought, and have a decent (notice I did not say good) writing style, congrats, you got yourself an agent and a publishing deal.

    ...wait...I can write about sparkling vampires too. (Runs off to get his pen) scurry scurry scurry (Sounds of scribbling)'

    @greybeard

    True enough. The sample is important, I'm actually going to go and put in a prologue that I believe will grab reader's attentions. Then, I'm going to swap the first two chapters, then voila, I'll put it back out.

    As a writer friend told me when I was first considering publishing, she said, you need to be writing for at least three years, before your voice is established. That was encouraging to me, since I had been doing that for a bit longer and I do believe that I have a voice now that is my own.
     
  5. JIM

    JIM zombie Turncoat

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    it really depends for me, i didnt like Terry Brooks Shannara series, but his latest work, set in post apocolyptic America, caught my attention and got me reading.
    i am not a fan of Tolkien, but i love fantasy.
    i like Gemmel, but not Eddings. (u couldnt pay me to read eddings again, long winded son of a *****.)

    i also tried stephen King for the first time a few yrs ago. Desperation and Regulators, tho i have tried his other works and am not a fan.
     
  6. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Herickson - of course getting published is about more than the quality of your work and a marketability is certainly a big part of it - along with knowing the right people and timing. However most publishers enforce a basic level of competency with the writers they publish - in other words whilst not every book published will be an amazing story it will at least be a well put together presentation.
     
  7. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    True. Large traditional publisher guarantee a certain level of spelling and grammar. But so does sampling. I can read the first page online and determine if the writer can construct a sentence and proofread his own work. I can read the first three or four pages and determine if the writer can tell a story, and that's my own guarantee of spelling and grammar.

    But with traditional publishers, there's no guarantee that they publish anything you want to read, and I'm certain that all traditional publishers combined don't publish everything you want to read. In time, Indie publishing - because there are no restrictions on content based on marketing - eventually will publish such a variety that you'll be able to find everything.

    There's a lot of garbage in indie publishing, but most readers can sift through it to find the well-told stories. There's a lot of sameness in traditional publishing, and I don't know a solution to that.
     
  8. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    True, but remember an Indy writer knows that they only have to get the first chapter or two to work - the rest of the book can fall apart quite fast (in both content and grammar/spelling) because that part won't be seen pre-purchase (at least through services like Amazon).

    What will be interesting is if we get indy publishing groups started up - groups that might well be able to cater toward select interest groups (eg an indy sci-fi publisher), but also able to enforce the grammar/content and standards one expects from the larger established publishing firms. This I think will be the eventual way forward for the writer wanting to tap into this new ebook market, but who also wants to have their works noticed outside of the general masses of fanfiction type content.
     
  9. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    I don't think that's a realistic worry. Writers who can't spell and can't write intelligible sentences don't know it. They can't hide their own flaws if they don't know they exist.

    What I'm worried about is that a new writers will post their first two or three novels, find they don't sell, and quit writing, when all they really needed was practice.

    If anyone reading this is thinking of publishing independantly, I think you're best off writing at least 300,000 words for the garbage can first (and better 500,000 words.) Then put up at least ten, and better twenty, short stories (a couple of them for free) to build web presence so you're easier to find and sample, then write novels for posting. And don't forget novellas (17,500 - 40,000 words). You might choose to call them "short novels" as DWS does, as I'm tempted to, or go with the traditional "novella" which no one understands, but they're relatively quick to write and read, and should be profitable.

    There are e-publishers that do what you suggest. Lucky Bat comes to mind. But they - and others - also offer editing and copyediting, cover design and blurb writing for flat fees.

    My concern is that any e-publishers will have trouble with the accounting. Many of the big publishers have already had huge problems with ebook royalties, and it'll only get worse.

    What I think will make the indie writer stand out are:
    1) Striking and professional-looking covers
    2) Good blurbs
    3) Lots of content.
     
  10. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    From what I've seen in ebooks most big time publishers are not even bothering with cover art as part of the ebook. Those that do most are supplying very poor quality scanned covers. One or two do have a good bit of cover art, but they are few indeed who show the cover art in the ebook and not just on the amazon page. (annoying as I would have thought cover art, in combination of having cover art as backgrounds on the kindle would have been a big point for them to have.........)
     
  11. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    I really don't see cover art in the ebook as a major issue. It's nice to have it, but not a selling point for me. My point was that a good cover helps the book stand out from the rest on the web page.

    But having a cover inside the ebook is really secondary to the discussion. We're talking about what makes you buy a book in the first place. And indies can really compete with covers. There's nothing a New York publisher can do for a cover that I can't hire done for two or three hundred dollars. And considering that covers are seen mostly at thumbnail size, there's not much that I can't do for the price of the cover photo, and that's often under five bucks. Sometimes far, far less than that.