Biz Doc: It Has Come To This

eBook Bestsellers – Tale of the Tape

September 2012

The DBW eBook bestseller (this week’s list available here) list continues to underline a key point: content is king and people will pay the retail price for it.

Only a few books in the top 25 were available at  ‘bargain” prices of $1.99 or less.  Yeah, yeah, Scholastic’s Hunger Games and Random House’s 50 Shades of Mommy Porn take up more than a few spots.  But Penguin deserves credit for 3 individual books in the top 25 (2 at $12.99 and 1 at $7.99).  These legacy publishers are offering content that the consumer is willing to pay “full retail” ($9.99 or more) to read.

I’ll say it again, content is king and people will pay for quality books.  I need to qualify that statement about quality because 50 Shades of Grey is the singularly worst written bestseller series of all time (that little fact is something MANY people in the industry wish someone would say out loud).  Regardless whether the mob is following the fad or seeking a truly wonderful book, they are paying full retail for the top sellers.

PDP (my company) experienced this firsthand with the release of Greg Dinallo’s latest book – The German Suitcase.  It cracked the DBW list (here) during the two-week launch phase when heavy marketing and channel promotions were in play.  The bestseller list is a self fulfilling perpetual motion machine of sorts.  Once on the list, books continue to sell which tends to keep them on the list.  This, in turn, leads to PDP sending Greg a  five digit check along with the first royalty report (ahem, PDP pays monthly).

Beyond the bestseller list, however, there is the ever-present line in the sand; discovery.  Beyond this demarcation point, lies a treasure trove of great books at bargain prices (under $4.99).   The trick is to get the titles noticed and that’s exactly where a violent two-pronged debate is raging.  The first and sharpest prong is whether an author should perpetually encumber the rights to their next book unto a legacy publisher in the first place (the sub points in this debate include diminishing advances, accuracy of obtuse royalty reports, the rancid royalty rates themselves, returns, etc.).  This invariably leads to the second prong: marketing and promotion (the sub points being that authors are increasingly pissed that they give away perpetual rights and don’t get perpetual marketing – well, at least effective near-term initiatives AND at the same time are expected to carry the bulk of the marketing responsibility).

At PDP, we don’t think there is much of a debate.  Any fair minded person with a background in IP management will tell you that the legacy publishers continue to offer legacy deals that fall short of what many would call fair and reasonable compensation.  That’s a whole other topic that I have written about before (here).

The inevitable fracturing and roll-up of the legacy publishers will eventually reach full pitch (Thomas Nelson was only the beginning…).   Until then, the rules will change slowly but the authors DO have choices today.


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