July 28, 2015

Fair Trade Erotica

I've been chronicling my life in publishing on this blog for nine years. The ups and downs, ins and outs, overs and, um, unders. (Throughs? Throes?) I've written about rejections, about what it actually costs to make a book, about my views on ebook royalties.

When ebooks first hit, we scrambled for pricing. I remember thinking that a print book cost $14.95—about the price of a CD. Songs were selling for around $1.50—so it made sense to me that a short story would cost that much.

Many numbers float through my head. But to keep them straight, here are some facts. When I work through a mainstream publisher, for a $14.95 print book, I (as the author) make $1.05. This is because my royalty with mainstream publishers is 7%.

On Amazon, for books priced under $2.99, authors/publishers receive a 35% royalty. Between $2.99 and $9.99, authors/publishers receive 70%.

(Yes, things may change, but that's the land right now.)

Of course, there are more incentives to self-publish than simply financial. There's control. There's the fact that I won't fuck myself. There's freedom.

But now I want to get to serious pricing. If I understand this correctly, authors began banding together to create 12-novel collections for 99 cents. The thought was that if the collections sold well, the authors would all be able to say they were "U.S.A. Today Best-Selling Authors" because the bundles had a chance to climb the ranks quickly with the discounted prices.

That led to serious price wars across the board. If you can buy 12 novels for 99 cents, why pay more?

I don't know if anyone ever made money on these deals. Authors would have split a 35-cent royalty twelve ways. What I do know is that this is a work in progress. And not only for us. I've been reading extensively on pricing of ebooks. Everyone seems confused.

There will always be low-end and high-end in any situation. Motels. Whiskey. Boots. Cars. You can find an inexpensive model. You can purchase the top-shelf. Or you can land somewhere in the middle. You choose your experience. Sometimes you get what you pay for. Sometimes you score big. As an avid thrift-store maven, I'm not putting down bargain hunters.

But there's no way for me to succeed with 99 cent novels. (Not one for 99 cents. Not 12 for 99 cents.) If I price something at $1.99, I make 69 cents. If I price it at $2.99, I make $2.09—you pay an extra dollar, and I make an extra $1.40.

I'm playing around with what our books cost right now. On the collections, we divide every penny that comes in. I feel our pricing is fair. And I feel that you choose your experience. If we offer what you're looking for—then everyone's happy.

I'm calling this concept "fair trade erotica." I will try to remember to state what the authors make each time we put up a book, so you can see and decide for yourself.

One of my friends works in a boutique where people request "fair trade" clothing all the time. Her store sells sweaters for $100-$200. Because that's what exquisite handmade sweaters cost when you factor in top-of-the-line yarn and labor. She says that some people are willing and able to pay the price. Others want "fair trade" at big-box-store prices. Which isn't going to happen.

Like I said, this is a work in progress.

Of course, you don't have to agree with my opinion. All of this is from my experience, my point of view.

Next week, I'm going to attempt to write about publishing cycles. (Which can be as baffling as crop circles!) I've decided that since I have spent twenty-five years working in erotica, I might as well use my experience for something. That's one plus to getting older!


P.S. I have been in the industry long enough to remember when you could order a single short story through the mail for $12. The stories were fetish-y (and, I believe, mimeographed). That was pre-internet. The Dark Ages, right?


Galyn. C said...

I really, really appreciate your input and insight. ...like, really.

Sacchi Green said...

Valuable information. It's my impression that building a "platform" (I hate that word) through mainstream publishing is necessary to get noticed when you self-publish, but I may be wrong. Themes and titles aimed relentlessly at niches and selling for rock-bottom prices seem to work, too, if the Amazon best-seller lists mean anything, and reading those titles is apparently a guide to what those niches are, but too many of them make me shudder. Hmm, "Rock-bottom" might not be a bad title, though.

Su Tungpo said...

I've noticed that a lot of writers use Amazon to get their out of print books back in circulation. Since you are selling new titles it just makes sense to charge a premium for them.
Amazon's bestseller list makes little sense anyway, since the editing is non-existent and the publicity sucks. i'm constantly amazed at the prices for relatively new books that were published in book editions.
there is at least 1 e-book publisher that charges a premium for all books. maybe you should try their business model. I for 1 would be glad to pay a premium to ensure that you make a decent profit.

Lola said...

There is no "fair" when you put your entire life, love, and learning into book.

Miz Angell said...

I'd like to think that, thanks to your pioneering ways, there are new erotica writers who are taking the next step to get their words out. And your path might make it a little easier - if they're paying attention.