Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Author Pays the Price

During this morning's long, snow-bound commute, I read this article in the New York Times, the latest on the rising cost of e-books.  The topic's been in the news lately, feed by the brouhaha between Amazon and McMillan.  Some vocal readers are making their disgruntled feelings known, by going online to leave one-star ratings and negative reviews if the price is too high or the digital version is delayed.  For authors who've developed a loyal following, the loss of a few potential customers aren't going to put a dent, if any, in their sales.  But I've still gotta ask, why blame the author at all?  I understand angry readers' sentiments, being an avid book buyer myself, and the owner of a few e-book titles - I say a few because I only got into them last summer, while still being very attached to the traditional printing formats.  Sorry, but there something about the smell  and feel of a newly printed book...ok, back to topic.

This backlash on e-book prices and delays can only harm the author, who is often blameless. Despite the talk about Stephen King's Under The Dome last fall, in a traditional publishing model, you won't find many authors who have any say in the prices or release versions.  For books produced in any format, the author's time, the editor's energy and the publisher's money all play a part in the final product and its pricing.  Regardless of opinions about the quality of the writing, editing and promotion, there's still a bunch of hard-working people to be paid for their involvement in each aspect of publishing.  Besides, how is a publisher releasing the digital format of a book after several months, any less forgivable or unfair than a mass market paperback that comes out a year after the hardcover release? 

Leaving negative comments for authors because of their pricing or delays in digital delivery format, is unfair and harmful because it damages the author brand.  If you don't buy a book because it's overpriced, then the author has just lost a potential sale.  But if you buy the book, and trash the author over the pricing, maybe the book performs poorly and now that author is associated with poor sales and slammed by readers who may swear off buying or recommending his or her other books. For a newbie author, that's death, and almost assures that the next contract, advance or potential royalties are that much harder to get.          

Readers can get the best pricing by comparison shopping.  We all have choices in when and where we part with our hard-earned cash. If I think something is ridiculously priced, I don't buy it.  But, I also take it one step further and shop around, and you can bet if Amazon, or Borders or B&, or a brick and mortar store has something cheaper, then that's where I'll go to buy it.   

By all means, readers, vote with your wallet. I do the same. But please, don't hate the authors for issues beyond their control. And yes, I'd still say that even if I wasn't trying to join their ranks.


Mirella Patzer said...

Thank you so much for writing this post. I strongly agree with everything you said. People are too callous sometimes and often there is no need for it.

Thank you very much for saying it so eloquently.

Anonymous said...

thank for share, it is very important . ̄︿ ̄

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