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Crime Writer Makes a Killing With 99 Cent E-Books 445 445

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Joe Konrath has an interesting interview with independent writer John Locke who currently holds the coveted #1 spot in the Amazon Top 100 and has sold just over 350,000 downloads on Kindle of his 99 cent books since January 1st of this year, which, with a royalty rate of 35%, is an annual income well over $500k. Locke says that 99 cents is the magic number and adds that when he lowered the price of his book The List from $2.99 to 99 cents, he started selling 20 times as many copies — about 800 a day, turning his loss lead into his biggest earner. 'These days the buying public looks at a $9.95 eBook and pauses. It's not an automatic sale,' says Locke. 'And the reason it's not is because the buyer knows when an eBook is priced ten times higher than it has to be. And so the buyer pauses. And it is in this pause—this golden, sweet-scented pause—that we independent authors gain the advantage, because we offer incredible value.' Kevin Kelly predicts that within 5 years all digital books will cost 99 cents. 'I don't think publishers are ready for how low book prices will go,' writes Kelly. 'It seems insane, dangerous, life threatening, but inevitable.'"
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Crime Writer Makes a Killing With 99 Cent E-Books

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  • I TOLD you. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @09:21AM (#35428574) Homepage Journal
    not only i told you, but many other people told this as well :

    digital goods are easily distributable. make it something cheap that noone will hesitate to pay for, and A LOT of people will buy it - even people who think 'hey i may read/use this in future' may buy it if its 99 cents. same goes for games. a lot of people will buy games that they will never play, just to have them handy, or in their collection, or to have a more complete game arsenal. a lot of people will buy your software if its cheap, just to have it handy if they ever need it to do anything at some random point in time in future.

    there is nothing barring you from doing that. the bandwidth costs are low, they are going down and down continually. you dont have to reproduce a digital good. all you need is :

    - an easy to use website to buy from, and a short, easy checkout procedure
    - a payment provider that is easy to use. (or a reliable credit card payment method)
    - a digital download.

    its THAT simple. no really, it is THAT simple. and the example is, in the article above.
  • by Scutter (18425) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @09:25AM (#35428604) Journal

    Just like the music industry, the electronic distribution of books has the publishers running scared. Writers are finally waking up to the fact that without the need to actually print books, they have no need of monolithic publishing houses whatsoever. They can self-publish with little to no overhead and keep the profits for themselves. $9.95 (or more, oftentimes) is an abso-friggin-lutely ridiculous price to charge for an e-book.

  • by shoemakc (448730) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @09:31AM (#35428658) Homepage

    Why would anyone pay $9.95 for an Ebook when your average paperback novel costs the same (or less) at a brick + mortar store? I think the issue is that retailers still see Ebooks as an "upgrade" over a standard paperback, and prices them accordingly. While Ebooks certainly do have many advantages over a paperback, I think people realize that since printing and distribution costs of Ebooks are basicaly zero and should be reflected in a lower price.

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @09:43AM (#35428744) Journal
    I seriously doubt that the book will sell in the same numbers for the next 10 months.

    Could happen but it seems a little too optimistic.
  • by Broolucks (1978922) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @09:49AM (#35428796)

    Well, if you watched the show, you would likely have had more exposure to John Locke the character than you ever had to John Locke the philosopher, which will change what you think of first when you see the name. When I see "John Locke", the character pops to mind, then the philosopher a second later, at which point I beat myself up for letting TV shuffle my associative memory around :(

    If the name had anything to do with popularity, I'd wager the TV show is to thank. Nobody cares about philosophy, unfortunately.

  • by Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @09:58AM (#35428858)

    No. I don't have to buy your inferior product. Neither does the rest of society. If your income depends on your skills at a certain task, like writing in this instance, you need to do a good job in order to make money. If you can't, that's what not being a writer is for.

  • by silentace (992647) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @10:03AM (#35428922)
    So your mentality is that if the average person doesn't know a bunch of random historical characters then our education system is messed up? I believe you sir are the fail in this situation. I guess you haven't heard of people that don't enjoy/care about history.
  • by Carik (205890) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @10:03AM (#35428928)

    Writers are finally waking up to the fact that without the need to actually print books, they have no need of monolithic publishing houses whatsoever.

    Not entirely true. The publishing houses don't just provide printing and distribution, they provide editing, publicity, a route into brick-and-mortar retail locations, and often money to live off while an author is writing. Those are all important things.

    I'm not saying there's no way around them -- for instance, many authors still work a day job anyway, and there are good free-lance editors available for hire -- but they're a good "one stop" way to get them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @10:11AM (#35428984)

    Situation B: A multitude of people - the author, the people working at the publisher, the people working at the printing press, the people working in distribution, and so forth and so on - receive a reasonable, but not stellar, income. [...] there's certainly a potential for consequence that will separate the wheat from the chaff - but what do we, as a society, do with that chaff? The common answer is "Not my problem". But isn't it?

    No, as a matter of fact it is not my duty to support pointless middlemen that increase the overall price. It is also not my fault that they are not providing value. It is refreshing to consider a possible future where leeches on a process would be recognized and removed.

    Allow me to spin your philosophy around on its head: if the author is creating the value (ie. the book), then why do these unrelated third parties deserve to extract money from the author's efforts? Fortunately, socialist insanity like yours didn't reach a fever pitch in the USA until after many of our institutions were in place. Otherwise, we would still be paying a 37% surtax on all new car purchases in order to "offset the harm" that automobiles were doing to the buggy whip industry. I mean, it's either that or "thus society dies", right?

    ...oh, wait, that's right, society survived just fine without them. As a matter of fact, systems perform better without parasitic loads. So, not only did society survive, but it is healthier without the buggy whip manufacturers. These dead-tree process middlemen need to evolve.

  • Re:I TOLD you. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tgd (2822) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @10:34AM (#35429238)

    No, its not that simple. He sold a ton of 99 cent books (20x the $2.99) because it hit a sweet spot *relative to the other books available*. He got eyeballs because his book stuck out.

    If all the books were 99 cents, he'd be lost in the noise and having to sell his book for ten cents to get that kind of bump in sales.

    Price is not the issue, exposure is.

    This is why he is a literary author, not an economist.

  • The long tail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bradley13 (1118935) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @10:50AM (#35429542) Homepage

    Another thing that publishers are totally screwing up: the long tail. Ebooks give them the opportunity to get some last sales out of older books.

    As an example: my kids are reading an old series that contains 20-odd books. These books are no longer in print, but you can easily find them in a used bookstore for about 50 cents each. The original cover prices were $3.00 to $3.50. I thought - hey, we have an ebook reader (Sony), let's see if the publisher has them, and we'll just get the ebooks. I would have happily paid $0.99 per ebook - twice the cost at the used bookstore, but hey, they do have to reformat the things.

    Sure enough, the publisher has all of the books on offer as ebooks. Price: $9.99 each, and no extra charge for the DRM.

    Is that insane or what? Charging 20 times the price I would have to pay for the physical book (and three times the original cover price). Meanwhile, their DRM is not compatible with our ebook reader. Yes, I could strip the DRM off, but I shouldn't have to.

    Faced with such utter stupidity on the part of the publisher, most people will make the obvious choice: it takes only a few minutes to find a torrent containing all of the books - free and without DRM. The pointy-haired managers at the publisher will, of course, draw the wrong conclusion. They will say "piracy costs us sales." In fact, their idiotic pricing and DRM policies cost them sales.

  • It's not so dire. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jvonk (315830) on Wednesday March 09, 2011 @01:41PM (#35432414)

    And if publishers lose, we all lose, because quite honestly ebooks are a far inferior experience to real, dead tree books.

    You are conflating the issues. Publishers don't really provide much value anymore, and they engage in protectionist gatekeeping crap that squelches smaller authors or those who don't wish to "play ball". There are many analogues in other businesses. Take, for example, Ticketmaster... how the hell can they call it a "convenience fee" if I am buying the ticket at the venue's box office? But I digress...

    I believe technology will also come to the rescue wrt your dead tree book concerns: Print on demand []

    As this technology evolves, there will be almost no overhead that the B&M's currently face, due to zero inventory. Just as digital photography hasn't killed the glossy print, I don't believe the popularity of e-books will kill the dead-tree market. Hell, a few years back Apple integrated into iPhoto a way to get your digital photos delivered as a printed book. The future could even be brighter than the present: what if you could inexpensively custom order your books to have leather binding, be a particular color, be in your favorite 'easy to read' font, etc? These value-adds would be fairly inexpensive to produce in a PoD scenario. Furthermore, "out of print" would become an obsolete concept: no more searching high and low, then paying an exorbitant price all for a thumbworn used book.

    BTW, I have nothing against publishers if they evolve and actually provide value commensurate to their cost. Editing, "packaging" the book with cover art, marketing, etc, could all contribute value. However, "you have to use us or we will keep you from being able to sell your book because we have locked up the distribution channels" is the antithesis of value.

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