A Question About a Comment I Made…

Most of you know that I flat out think that KU with its exclusive clause is the stupidest thing a writer can do in a career. (Outside of going to a traditional book publisher.)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, for a short time you can make some money. Good for you, but it is still stupid for an overall indie career. You are not gaining readers.

So I made this comment about how I wrote a couple of books for a straight-to-discount publisher and got a few questions about wanting me to explain that more. To put it simply, same as going to KU. Nobody outside of cheap and free readers saw them.

In the old traditional publishing (and still to this day) books are bought, printed, and published with the only intent of letting them be discount books for people to buy cheaply. Sometimes you know your book is going that way in traditional publishing, but more often these days you don’t. And honestly you might never know because of terms in the contract where you get no income at all for high-discounted books. They don’t even have to be tracked.

(In other words, they can print fifty thousand of your book, high-discount all of them out, and you won’t even know or make one penny of royalties. And don’t even get me started on escalators for royalty rates.)

There are bookstores all over the country in discount malls where discount books are sold. There are entire shelves of B&N (usually up front by the check-out) where discount books are sold. Used bookstores often buy large amounts of discount books.) There are still a couple of major conventions of discounter books and numbers of discount distributors. Few authors know of these or no author goes to them.

If you think a book gets to that discount shelf in the front of B&N by simply being marked down like a normal store, you are sadly mistaken. The books that don’t sell in a B&N are shipped back for credit. (They have tried a discount-in-place program with a few publishers, but the accounting of the publishers is so ancient, it can’t keep up in most instances.)

Realize that after a few months, your book is nothing more than a spoiled banana to a publisher. It’s called the produce model. So after a time, if a publisher has inventory left over in a warehouse, they will often sell off the inventory for pennies for those B&N front shelves, discount bookstores, and used bookstores. That will happen to about 20% of the books on those shelves and in those discount stores.

But most of those books up front at a B&N and in a discount bookstore are published just for those shelves. They were never intended to go anywhere else.

So let me say this clearly again. About 80% of all books in the discount bookstores and B&N discount shelves are published just for those stores.

(You wonder why I keep warning the new, dream-loaded writers to avoid traditional publishing? This is only one tiny part of it I almost never talk about. Like talking to a writer who is making money in KU. Go ahead, waste your breath.)

The two books I did for discounters I was hired to write. Both under pen names, both by B&N Press through a packager. (Bet you didn’t know that B&N has a publishing arm, did you? And please don’t ask me to explain packager.) I also had short stories regularly in those monster collections B&N used to print that went straight to the discount shelves.

So what seems new in publishing never really is. There are always readers who will not buy a book or pay much at all for a book and there will always be publishers who cater to those folks who do not believe books have much value. Luckily for all of us, most readers don’t mind paying fair price for a book (not traditional publisher prices, but fair prices).

But sadly, so many writers don’t understand the audience their work is getting to. The expectations thus are wrong. You focus your books to people who only get their books for free (and are trained that should be the price of a book) and you must depend on the publisher (Amazon KU) to pay the bills and get you your money.

I at least knew I was writing into the discount market. And I was paid before I wrote a word and knew I would never seen another dime.