Mike Shatzkin does a great job making a solid case for the fact that John Locke, a million-selling indie publisher selling his books for 99 cents would have made more money selling his books traditionally. Interesting thoughts by Mike. And then in the comments Mike and Joe Konrath get into a great discussion. Worth the read, folks.
My sense is that Mike is both right and wrong. As I have seen over the last twenty-five years, things go wrong in traditional publishing all the time. Going that way, Locke would have been taking a huge gamble on timing, pricing, and making only a small percentage of the money. We all know those arguments since we have had them here over and over. He might have made more money, but with traditional publishing, so many things can go wrong, I tend to not want to make that argument.
And the other argument we have had here numbers of times is the 99 cent price range. Sure, John Locke sold 1 Million copies. But he only got 35 cents per copy, so he made before any other costs, as Mike talks about, around $350,000.00. Now granted, that’s nice money, but not for that amount of sales. It’s a stunningly low amount of money for those kinds of sales numbers. And seeing it that way bothers me, to be honest. John Locke seems to really be devaluing a writer’s value.
I hate that.
(And that’s part of Mike’s discussion in his article and in the comments. A million seller in traditional publishing would be a multi-millionaire a number of times over. Locke made $350,000. That’s a HUGE devaluation of the value of writer’s work.)
Math goes like this: If John Locke had believed in his own work enough to sell it for $2.99 and sold only a half million copies, he would have made $1,000,000.00. Sell half the number, make 3 times the amount of money.
Math goes like this: If John Locke had believed in his own work and sold his books for $4.99 and sold only 100,000 copies (1/10th the number) he would have made the same amount he made selling one million copies.
Mike and Joe have a great discussion about different audiences for the different price points. And I sort of agree. Just as discount dollar store shoppers seldom go into expensive stores. And people who drink Ripple don’t buy $20.00 bottles of wine, I think there are two distinct groups of shoppers with little cross-over. 99 cent ebook shoppers won’t often spend $9.99 for an ebook and $9.99 ebook buyers won’t think there can be much of value at 99 cents.
So go read the great article and the discussion afterwards. Worth your time. But my opinion is that writers need to believe in their own work and not devalue a novel by tossing it into the discount bin of 99 cents. And the more I read and the more I see writers like John Locke hurt the rest of us, the more I am going to shout about this I’m afraid.