Trad Publishers and E-book Pricing

I often hear people complaining about traditional publishers ebook pricing. They had a huge fight over pricing and eventually settled. In the end, the traditional publishers received the rights to do something called “agency pricing” where they get to set the price of their ebooks.

Immediately, the ebook prices shot up. A hardback book comes out priced at $12.00 and the ebook version is priced at $13.00. This has the writer community up in arms with all sorts of accusations of nefarious dealings, ignorance or just downright spite. I wanted to clear up something that most folks just don’t think about.

Print publishers are not fools; they are not evil sociopaths who care for nothing but wringing the last penny out of their customers. They are scrambling to save their jobs. One thing everyone forgets, is their (print publishers) primary concern is protecting their existing asset base. They have a huge investment in printed book manufacturing that they can’t just let sit idle because they switched to ebooks. They have to print books to cover the cost of those factories (even though the margins are low).

Transitioning a company manufacturing base is quite a challenge. I was consulting to the world’s largest manufacturer of VHS video cassettes. They saw DVD coming and needed to find a use for billions of dollars’ worth of web coaters (the machines that made the tape). They KNEW the market was going to disappear, but scrapping those factories and cutting a workforce of tens of thousands of people would have been a disaster.

Fortunately, there was an answer. The coaters were switched over to produce Lithium Polymer batteries, a technology on the rise. Factory saved, workers jobs saved and business saved.

The print manufacturers face the same problem. They can’t simply shut down the print factories and switch over. Running them at lower capacity may even be enough to kill the profit. You can’t simply dial back a knob and slow manufacturing down. They plants are designed to be efficient at a certain capacity. Slow them down and all sorts of economics fall apart.

Thinking the print manufacturers are doing this because they are ignorant is missing the point. They are acting in their best interest. They have priced ebooks to such a high level that they can drive readers to buy the print books. That’s the strategy, and they will keep doing it until they can find an alternative. I am certain they have a lot of smart people running spread-sheet models that tell them this is the optimal strategy for the moment.

There is no nefarious or sinister motive, only a panicked scramble to salvage a business that is on the down-swing because of a technological innovation that threatens it. This is something not uncommon. Surviving one of these transitions is tough. I’m sure that a lot of folks working for these guys are agonizing over how to make the transition. Once they do, they will probably drop the price of ebooks to take advantage of demand elasticity and get their volumes up, but not until that move won’t idle their huge print factories.

One of the start-up companies I was with faces just such a shift in the market. I was with a new division they had just started and fresh out of the Navy. The company had succeeded but faced a change in the market. The original business was thriving, but the leadership saw the writing on the wall. They had started the division I was with as their bet to save the company when ultimately their original business faded. They were successful, saved the business and a lot of jobs. They were written up as a successful business case for students at Harvard to study. They were one of the rare ones who survived when the market changed. The print publishers face no greater challenges.

So be sureI won’t buy an eBook priced at $12.00 when the print book is $11.00. Unfortunately for me, my eyesight is failing and I have no alternative but to buy the ebook. I simply can’t read the print books because of size, and not many books come out in large print.

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Facing Mortality

Facing mortality is a part of growing up. I remember the first time someone I actually knew died. We were in high school, and one of the kids was born the same day as I was. My parents came to tell me he had drowned. My first question was “Is he OK?”. Right, kids don’t really appreciate the fact that life has a beginning and an end.

I’m hoping my youngest son had that same realization this week, but I’m afraid he may not have. I was in bed early when my wife came to tell me that he was in the hospital after a motorcycle accident. It’s the call every parent dreads. You hear that your kid has been in a serious accident and all of your alarms go off.

We ran to the hospital and found him in the ER. He had a handful of broken bones and was pretty much out of it on pain killers. They did surgery all the next day, and that evening when we went see him. Again he was pretty subdued and sort of out of it. I guess that’s all part of surgery recovery.

Last night he was back to his normal optimistic self. He thanks the nurses whenever they come and do anything for him and talks about how he is going to expedite his recovery and therapy. I guess that’s a good sign, but I expected him to be a little more shaken up by the whole thing. He’s already bored of laying in bed and wondering when he is going to get on with the recovery. I think it’s going to be a long six months as he recovers.

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Almost Famous

For a while my oldest son wanted to be in the movies. At the time I was working in Hollywood, and was somewhat connected to the business. He got an audition and did well, but didn’t get the part. You always wonder what things would be like if something like that happened.

Now, years later, I got a call from my youngest. We restored a 1967 Camaro for his High School Senior Year and he’s been working on it off and on for a few years. He needed to get rid of it to pay off some bills and was tired of the 4 MPG with gas prices so high.

He texted me the other day and told me a movie company had purchased it. Because it was in such good shape and because it was a real 1967 Camaro, they think it will become the “hero”. That’s the one that gets cleaned up and survives. They will crash a few of the cars they bought in the process. The guy told him that they were having a hard time finding 1967 models and had to buy a bunch of later models. Those can’t be the close up ones because they changed the windows in the second model year and it’s obvious.

The good thing? They told him that after the movie, they would sell it back to him for a discount on what they paid, so we may get it back all prettied up and famous. Finally I have a kid who will appear in the movies, now if I could only find a way to get a book promo tied into that film.

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I released Wizard Pair and helped a friend release Before they were Silver. It was a lot of work and a lot of details. I had a custom cover made with dragons and Wizards and all. The Before they were Silver has a pair of engaging green eyes. You can find both of them on Amazon right now.

Wizard Pair

Before they were Silver

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Wizard Pair Final Proof

Wizard Pair is almost ready. I have the first print copy in hand for final mark-up.

I decided to go with a different style of cover this time. I had my artist draw up a dragon and the Wizard and Sorceress. Here is a copy of the cover that will go on the kindle version.


The target for release if 3/1/2103. I’m really excited to get this out. It’s a prequel to the Foundling Wizard and really explores the relationship between Zhimosom and Rotiaqua when they first meet and run afoul of Sulrad and the Temple.

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Being A Dragon

I read an article the other day about how a writer keeps herself motivated with a calendar and a highlighter. She writes down the word count every day, and when she writes enough, highlights the date with a color representing success.

I made a calendar today to try it out. I was busy all day, and spent a lot of time revising (you know that book III is just about ready and it needs to be polished to a high gloss just like the finish on a hot rod).

I got back home tonight and thought… I should really get some writing in so I can put a green smiley face on my calendar.

I picked through the un-written scenes until I found one I have really been itching to write. It says “Lorit learns about the dragons.” In my mind, it started as a dull boring conversation where someone tells him what happened, but once I got into it, I realized it was best told if Lorit *became* the dragon and experienced the information first hand.

Wow! What a cool scene. I spent the last hour *being the dragon*. It was so cool to draw on the memories of flight and try to portray what it would feel like to be the dragon. I pulled up a lot of old memories of flying out of the grass strip back on the farm and out of the air strip in Tennessee way back when.

It was the most fun I’ve had writing in a long time. Now I can go to bed happy.

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Revision Class

On Saturday the 12th of January, I will be teaching a class on How to Revise Your Novel (Even if you are still writing it.)

Once the class is finished, I will make the document available for anyone who wants it.

If you are local to the Temecula California area, we still have seats open and there is no charge.

Find info about the class here

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Support for the Nook

Foundling Wizard and Wizard’s Education are both live on the Barnes and Noble’s site as of today. Finally available for the nook. If you’ve been waiting, the wait is over.

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Wizard’s Education Available

Wizard’s Education went live just before Thanksgiving.

You can explore more of Lorit and Chihon’s adventures as they make their way to Amedon and earn a seat on the Wizard’s Council.

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Coming Soon – Wizard’s Education

Today was a great big happy dance. I put the final revisions into the Wizard’s Education.

These are the edits that we worked out with the Editor in the UK last month.

Now all I have left to do is to type in the editorial changes (spelling and grammar etc.) then release to beta reads and editorial.

It feels so great to have this to this point. I think we are on track for a release in November.

Once I get a time estimate from my editor, I can nail down a release date and start making noise.

Wizards Education Cover

Wizard’s Education Cover for Kindle

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