You Can’t Have it Both Ways…

Stories are circulating today in the publishing universe regarding the fuss about low prices books and value. One story reports:

“Independent authors are rallying around the controversial 99-cent price point. Some authors feel the 99-cent price point devalues their hard work, while others feel that readers will not take a chance on new authors at a higher price point. To further complicate the matter, it’s not just new authors that are using the 99-cent strategy, and the issue doesn’t only affect independent authors, but publishing houses and agents as well.”

Uh-huh. The REAL iceberg below the surface is the volume of the profit dollars involved. Suddenly the old days of large advances and $20 fiction books don’t look so bad…

While it is fashionable to run to the town square hollering “workers of the world – UNITE!” and rail against the machine, the law of unintended consequences predictably kicks-in. Some members of the screeching mob are quickly caught out by what’s needed to survive and compete as the new status quo emerges. Well, that new status quo is this: free to $1.99 is the volume price point and it is not going away. Unless we all want to head to jail under the terms of the Robinson Patman act, a volatile market with low prices is here to stay. Some entity (author, agent, publisher) will awake each day and hang a sign that says “FREE – Today Only.”

Personally, I have no problem with this new paradigm because I saw it coming years ago. It’s capitalism driving the digital market. It’s reality. Yeah, it’s tough. But it’s not going to change so you need to orient your mind and position your brand accordingly and just deal with it. (Ahem, just as Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath have done. Go read “Be The Monkey.“)

You either defend the traditional business of publishing (a mostly closed system with publishers and large retailers being the gate keepers) or you embrace the open, accessible digital market with low walls – replete with the zits and emotional turbulence of its youth. Oh, and did I mention consumers who are clamoring for free books and books at $0.99 or $1.99.

You need to pick one and make your bet. You can’t have it both ways.

As Geddy Lee once said in song “If you decide not to decide, you still have made a choice.”