Self Published Authors are Hurting the Industry

How many of you are giving free ebooks as gifts to your friends and loved ones this holiday season? None of you, is the answer. That’s because with the price tag of “free”, they can get it themselves, so most likely you’ll purchase the book that they really want. It seems that indie and self-published authors drop the price of their ebooks to “free” as a sales gimmick to gain readers and create a name for themselves. However, what happens in reality is that they just want as many downloads as possible so they can shoot up the ranks of the Top “Purchased” (and I use that word loosely) novel in their genre. But do the ends justify the means? In this case, no. No they don’t.

I can understand how a new author that has no reputation and is trying to make a name for themselves could see that the price of $0.99 or Free make sense for their self-published ebooks. However, an author that sells 100,000 copies at $0.99 will only earn ~$12,000. Earlier, I described what the average income is for authors here, and contrary to popular belief, authors earn very little (especially the self-published ones). Here, take a look at CreateSpace’s (the popular self-publishing service provided by Amazon) royalty calculator here to see for yourself. So if you still think it’s possible to make some money by pricing your book cheap, how many authors do you think have actually sold over 100,000 copies in a year? Take a guess. A whopping 30. I think $0.99 would be a great promotional price, but doesn’t do anyone any good as a permanent price.

Indie and self-published authors are focusing on the wrong thing. They believe that price is the important factor, when I say it is quality that counts. There is no doubt in my mind that when you have a quality product, readers will pay a higher price and will also become returning customers. Not only are many indie and self-published authors reducing the price of books, they are publishing books that don’t have the same level of quality that traditional published works have. I’m referring to editing, fact checking, etc. I’ve downloaded quite a few free ebooks myself, and I’ve come across a lot of novels that I stopped reading due to their need for a copy editor. I’m not exactly sure why, but perhaps some indie authors are just too excited to press “publish” that they don’t want to do another round of editing? My book has been “complete” (and I use that word loosely) for 8 months, and I’m still finding things that I want to edit or emphasize.

So, do the ends justify the means? Let’s consider the super success stories of John Locke and Amanda Hocking, each selling over 1 million ebooks. They might be what keeps you motivated, and may be the proof that you’ll use to debunk my opinion, but if choosing the $0.99 price point was used to gain a following, a reputation, and an easy way to enter the market, then why do these mega-authors still keep their books at $0.99 today? Are they afraid they won’t sell if they raise the price? There is no doubt that the publishing industry is in flux and no one knows where it will land, but if more and more quality novels are self-published and sold for $0.99, then they are setting the expectation for the consumer and are therefor hurting the industry. If the market is expecting prices to be that low, then how are authors ever supposed to make a living selling books? Are we destined to always hold a day-job and write at night? Books are something that can take a year’s worth of our time to write (sometimes more), so we shouldn’t be selling them for $0.99. Our time is more valuable than that.

For further insight and detail into this highly sensitive topic, please read through these two articles:

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Awesome Apps for Authors

Technology has been the greatest enabler for authors. It has drastically improved productivity when going from typewriters to the personal PC, and now with Amazon’s CreateSpace plus the advent of e-readers, it has never been easier for an author to publish their work. There is no doubt that technology has made the life of all authors easier, but what about being more organized? Below, I’ve compiled a list of some software and iPad/iPhone apps that can do just that.

  • Name Dice for iPad/iPhone, by Thinkamingo. If your creativity is fleeting, then this free random name generator can help you come up with a character name on the spot.
  • Final Draft Writer by Final Draft, Inc. This is the premier composition software for screenwriters, and the iPad app is available for $49.99. Personally, I don’t know how anyone can be as productive on an iPad as they can on a laptop/PC with a full operating system, but I know Final Draft 8 software is available for $249.95 on PC and Mac as well.
  • iBookWriterLite for iPad, by AgileBoard.com. This free app allows you to compose your story and then instantly publish your work to various self-pub markets once complete.
  • Subscribe to Writing Magazine on the iPad. Filled with useful articles for fiction, short story and poetry topics. $20.99 for 6 month subscription or $39.99 for a 12 month subscription.
  • My Writing for iPad, by 21×20 Media, Inc. This free app helps you keep track of all your published works.
  • Writer’s App for iPad, by Thomas Sillmann. For only $0.99, this app gives you a book composition/organization tool. You can track your synopsis, Premise, Plot, Chapters, Characters (bio, description, etc), Places, and Notes for your novel. I, for one, would have loved a character-tracker app during my first novel!
  • Literary Agents and Publishers Database for iPhone/iPad, by BookCaps. It’s a free app that lists agents and publishers based on Genre. This might be handy for the iPad, but I still prefer queryagent.com for their database and submission tracking system.
  • Manuscript for iPad by Black Mana Studios. This app costs $6.99 and takes you from pitch to a publication-ready document in 4 steps.
  • Total Recall for iPhone/iPad by Zyense. This free app lets you organize your thoughts via mindmapping. It is a great tool for any author that likes to visualize the story or see character relationships and motivations. Great for outlining your novel, as I previously mentioned here.

For those of you that have found other useful apps or software, please feel free to share! Leave a comment below! I personally used Microsoft Skydrive to write my novel. Not only that, with Skydrive, you can edit your documents right in the web browser. I found this extremely useful so that I can work on my book from anywhere, and I prevent the risk of data loss by saving it in the cloud.