Mark Terry

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Self-Published E-Books, $2.99

February 13, 2011
I, like many others, have published several books on Kindle, etc., as e-books and published them at $2.99. (I've also re-published out of print books as e-books and priced them at $2.99). Within the industry there's a fair amount of fighting over e-book pricing, with one business model hitting on $9.99.

Anyway, I was reading Rick Riordan's blog today and he made this comment:

I don’t talk about books that I didn’t like, but I must mention that I read a very hyped e-book on my Kindle – or tried to read it. About a hundred pages in, I started wondering why it seemed so poorly written. How did this get past an editor? Then I looked at the Kindle site and realized it was published straight to e-book. Ah, it didn’t get past an editor because apparently it never had one. I will be more careful in the future to check the provenance of e-books. Don’t get me wrong. While I still buy a huge quantity of physical books, I love my Kindle and my iPad, too. They are great for travel especially. But publishers and editors do serve a vital role in shaping manuscripts and making sure they are ready for prime time. It’s possible to circumvent this process with the advent of e-reading, but that’s not necessarily a good thing for readers. Caveat emptor.

Indeed. Which caused me to rant a bit to a writer friend of mine about how... Oh hell, I'll just cut & paste the relevant statement:

I read Rick Riordan's blog today and he commented about books he'd been reading, and he read a Kindle title that he'd been hearing great things about and about a third of the way through he thought, "The writing is really lousy on this book," and went back and noticed it was self-published for the Kindle. Granted, Rick's a writer, so he's fairly attuned to bad writing, but one of the things I think XXXXXX and some of the others aren't tuning into is the fact that, yes, there IS a huge amount of self-published dreck out there and the amount is increasing and how can you identify most of that self-published dreck?

I'll tell you how people might start identifying it: it has a $2.99 price tag on it. If readers start getting burned by self-published crap that's priced at $2.99, they're going to start associating the price with self-published dreck and this whole "the market will sort itself out" philosophy could burn people. Granted, that's a negative POV, but I can easily see how people like myself and others might view it.

Hmmm. Well, I was spending a lot of time today doing work that I had to do, but was annoying and mind-numbing, so maybe that explains the rant, but what do you guys think?


Blogger Aimless Writer said...

I've read crap from very popular traditionally published authors and paid full price for it. I've read excellent self pub books (even before the ebook/kindle rage). I think what we have to remember is there are good books and there are bad books and they come from all venues.
I'd feel worse if I paid 15 bucks for a book and it sucked than if I only paid 2.99. I blow that much getting coffee and a newspaper in the morning.
I think we have to remember the Author, not the price.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Well, I was cranky. Nonetheless, I spent a couple years reviewing books for ForeWord Magazine, which was sort of the Publishers Weekly for independent and often self-published books, and although I often found very good books there--especially the few nonfiction books I reviewed--I would argue that the bar for line-by-line quality of writing was lower than it is for the big NY publishers overall.

My experience with the big NY publishers' products is that there's a baseline of writing quality that you don't always see in self-published books. Sometimes you do, but often you don't. I discriminate between line-by-line writing and overall story structure, which is to say, on a line-by-line basis you're looking for grace, active tense, basic grammar like verb tense agreement and issues with plurals, as well as word repetition and word choice.

From the big NY publishers and most indie publishers, it's all there, that line-by-line nuts-and-bolts ability to string words together. It's not always there with self-published writers, but they don't realize it. Sometimes they'll have such a great story, such a strong voice, or such a strong narrative drive that it overcomes the weaknesses in their writing. Same is true in the big publishers, too, of course, but generally speaking you're more likely to find technical competence coming out of the big publishers than you are from self-published authors.

5:57 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

I agree that books from the biggies are more likely to be technically competent. And also that sometimes other qualities in a book can overcome technical failings, but not usually. For the most part technical incompetence overwhelms good qualities.

I doubt that a low price is going to become associated in people's mind with bad books. People are too cheap! I don't know how to sort the wheat from the chaff. Maybe books need an FDA seal or something.

7:09 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I think it's got to be figured out with excerpts. I think anyone who doesn't provide an excerpt on Kindle, especially when they're a nobody, is killing their chances.

Could be a pricing issue at some point, too, though.

5:56 PM  
Blogger JaxPop said...

It's possible to check a sample first so buying a crappy book is avoidable. If it takes 100 pages to figure out the writing sucks ... well...? Since I write YA, I make sure to read YA & I've read a couple of Riordon's books & paid full price for them. They would have been better if priced at $2.99.

6:48 PM  

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