What do you mean I can’t have it for free?

Rant Alert!

While I was in the office today one of my colleagues asked if they could get hold of my book.

‘Sure’ I replied ‘It’s on Amazon.  I write under the pen name of W.Chaser’

‘It’s £1.66.  I’m not paying that, can I have a copy for free?’

Sorry?  £1.66.  So that’s 0.000018p per word.  Or 6.9p per chapter.  Yes, I know I do free promo’s but if I wanted everyone to have it for free I’d just post it on my blog as a PDF and be done with it.  Perhaps I’m looking at it all wrong 🙂

Geez, is that all I’m worth when I write (not that I do it for the money, but seriously 6.9p per chapter)?  I’ll probably spend about 3-4 hours to write a chapter (maybe longer) and then another 10-15 hours editing it.  The net result is 6.9p per chapter per book sold, and that’s full price.  My take is actually only 2.4p per sale per chapter which makes it sound even more depressing!

In fairness she asked if she could be a beta reader for book 3, but to do that she needs to read books one and two.  Methinks I’ve been suckered here 🙂

People are now used to the age of the cheap or free eBook.  My wife will frequently download free books from Amazon when they’re on promotion, and whilst some of them are difficult to read (bad grammar, wrong words etc) most are worth her while and she enjoys them.  In many cases they are a springboard and she’ll read other things by the same author that she then pays for so it must work at some level as an income generator for the author.

J. Keller Ford wrote an article earlier in the week about the bankruptcy of a major publishing house, and to an extent (as I commented on her blog) this is down to the reluctance of the media industry (and I include all media here) to change with new technology – that’s my opinion anyway.  Recent history is littered with failures of companies that couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt (Woolworths in the UK, Marconi, Kodak) to a changing world or did so too late, and while I agree with many of her arguments the fault lies with the companies themselves not the consumers.  Consumers want new ways to consume media (whether that be ebooks or news, films or TV)  and these mammoth organisations just can’t adapt or won’t adapt – I suspect the latter.

Physical books as we know them will survive, there’s no way that they will just die.  eBooks are readily available, and the market is growing but there will always be a demand for physical books.  We specifically won’t give our son permanent access to an eReader because we want him to have the experience of a physical book.  But at the same time it’s not practical to hoard all of the books that my wife would read in physical form, we’d need another room.  Don’t believe me?  She pretty much wore out her Sony eReader in 2 years.

Many will argue that the eBook sellers who are offering the ability for anyone to publish is to blame, but is it really?   There are those that argue that allowing any old Tom, Dick or W.Chaser to publish a book leads to dross and while that’s undoubtedly true it’s also fair to say that a large number of talented authors take these routes because the major publishers/agents won’t touch them for one reason or another, whether that be because it’s the wrong time or ‘it’s not what we’re looking for at the moment’.  And with the best will in the world I’ve bought physical books that are dross.

Piracy is likely blamed on a number of levels, and I can understand that, but you know what if they made the price of what they’re selling reflect the product they’d probably generate more sales.  As I’ve said before, who wants to pay the same price (or more in some cases) for the same product but in a digital form? That just smacks of rank profiteering and the author generally gets no more from the sale of an eBook (if my research is correct) than the physical book, so where are the profits from not printing, warehousing and distributing going exactly?

Regardless of the state of the publishing market, eBooks are not going aware, nor are self-published or free eBooks.  They’re here to stay and the sales of Amazon’s Kindle and the other eReaders like the Nook and Sony readers prove that.  eBooks are now ubiquitous and available pretty much everywhere and on every platform from phones to tablets to dedicated readers.  The publishing industry needs to embrace this (as they’ve started to do) but do so in a fair manner so that people don’t feel they’re being cheated, because unlike 3 years ago there’s now a wealth of talent out there waiting to be read and consumers if nothing else are fickle.

And apparently object to paying 6.9p per chapter per copy!


8 comments on “What do you mean I can’t have it for free?

  1. First of all, I’m appalled that someone would ask you to give them your book just because they know you. I know a lot of authors and wouldn’t DREAM of asking them for a freebie. That took a lot of nerve for your co-worker to do that.

    As much as I don’t want the traditional books to go away, I can’t help but believe that eventually they will. They’ll be one of those lost art forms and real books will be collector items. I personally like the idea of a library in my home. That can be my ‘girl cave’. 🙂

    I want to have my book published because I love the idea of autographing them. One can’t sign e-books and signing book cards just doesn’t get it. I can see the benefit of e-readers and understand the need for the big 6 to keep up to date with the new technology, but I don’t want them phasing out the physical book all together. I personally love the feel of a real book and seeing a book on a screen once it’s ‘published’ is no different than me looking at it on the computer screen while I write it. It’s not real. It’s virtual. I like living in the real world. It’s no wonder I like reading in one, too.

    Great post.

    • Thank you :-). We do have quite a ‘lively’ and open office, so it’s no surprise :-). It’s a nice place to work actually so I wasn’t too offended.

      My personal view is that there will always be a place for physical books, while eBooks are good for some things they don’t cut it for others, and I think that education will always be based on physical books. There are also enough people of older generations that while they may use eReaders prefer physical books, my father in law has an eReader but still goes to the library. Also, while the pricing of ebooks is in line with physical books there will always be a market for them. I remember when Amazon was being accused of killing physical CD sales but that hasn’t happened yet.

      Could be though that ‘Generation Y’ will move further that way and whatever follows them may abandon physical books altogether, but thankfully I’ll be dead and buried by then and my books will just be a distant memory 🙂

  2. That’s outrageous what your work colleague did….some people *shakes head* 😦

    I’m really torn on the whole free eBooks idea. On one hand I think, yeah, there should be some free books because it’s encouraging people to read who wouldn’t normally “buy” books. But on the other hand, the amount of free books available must damage sales of the eBooks that aren’t free. Hmmmm……

    I heard recently about eBook buyers asking for their money back. That shocked me. I wouldn’t dream if asking for 99p back on an eBook. I guess that’s people for you *sighs* 😦


    • I think free promos are here to stay, and I agree with you, it encourages people to read and also to branch out. I wouldn’t necessarily pay for something I *might* be interested in, but I’d read it for free and from there branch out so it does present some opportunities I guess.

      I know what you mean about refunds, there’s a column in the Kindle Publishing console that lists ‘Items Returned’ and it’s shocking that it even needs to be there, like you say, 99p for a book that probably 250 pages+ is a bargain, you might not like it but you run that risk with any book. I bought book 4 of a series from a major author and hated it, but I wouldn’t have sent it back to Amazon! It’s becoming more common though, I’ve heard of people demanding refunds in the cinema when they’ve seen a film they didn’t like!

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. Apparently so, some cinemas even have a policy for it in that if you leave within x amount of time you can get a refund. Not sure it’s a tenable model for Waterstones though 🙂

  4. Your point is well-taken. Some people can be so CHEAP! I know they say Manitobans are probably the worst for wanting to get a bargain – I guess that’s why we have a lot of garage-sale shoppers – but even I object to wanting to get everything for free or mere pennies! As a writer, I know how much time and effort goes into creating a book and would never undervalue that creation.

    I only make about $1.15 per book (probably about the same as you when converted to pence), which is about average. It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if one tries to make a living from it unless you can sell thousands of copies a year! Most of us don’t. When I buy books directly from my publisher for book-signings at places other than bookstores, I have to pay half the retail price and get no royalties. Mind you, if I were to sell the book at retail price I’d make about 4 times what I would normally get for royalties. I generally don’t charge quite that much if it’s a good friend, but for strangers that’s what I charge – and they’re saving the taxes. Still, it’s not a whole lot if you only sell a book here or there.

    As for refunds, I think that idea is preposterous, especially if they’re only paying a few cents for it in the first place! After all, you get what you pay for, in some cases. I hope people will now realize what they’re asking when they want their books for free!

    • Indeed, it’s rare for people to get rich on the back of writing, for every author that does there are hundreds that don’t make enough for a 6 pack of coke :-). It is a sad reflection though that people will ask for refunds on the back of a 99c/99p purchase though. Unfortunately we do live in a something for nothing culture these days.

      I’ve read books that were free or 99c/99p (or free even) and they’ve been as good as books I’ve paid full price for. Unfortunately there’s also the case that KDP etc have introduced so many people to self publishing that there is bound to be chaff in there with the wheat and it’s not really Amazon’s responsibility to sort through it. I guess it’s a bit like the X-Factor in the UK – people come on clearly having been told that they can sing like Whitney when in fact they can’t actually hit a note……

      After I’d finished my first and second novel I gave it out to people other than family (and someone from target audience) to try and gauge if it was worth publishing. It’s not the comments they fed back after reading it that I’ve worked on, it’s the fact that quite a few of them keep asking when book 3 is coming because they want to read it. Proof of the pudding as it we’re 🙂

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