Tag Archives: amazon

AmazonEncore, J.A. Konrath, and the $2.99 eBook

"Shaken" by J.A. KonrathAmazonEncore announced this week that they’ll be releasing Shaken by J.A. Konrath. The ebook will come out in October, and in an interesting twist the paperback will follow four months later. According to Konrath: “It’s easier to release an ebook than a print book. Print books require printing, shipping, warehousing, pre-orders from bookstores, etc.”

Shaken is the seventh novel in the Jack Daniel’s mystery series by Konrath. The previous six books were published by Hyperion, which dropped its entire mystery line including this series. Apparently Shaken is a bit of a departure for AmazonEncore as it will be the first entirely new title that they publish. The recent imprint instead focuses on publishing books already available on Kindle, either those by new authors or re-releases from traditional publishers that have since gone out of print.

Konrath has long been a proponent for authors to self publish their back list, and he’s documented his own growing stream of revenue on his blog. According to his most recent post on the subject, his self-published titles on Kindle are now generating a staggering $472 per day. That works out to an annualized income of over $120,000 assuming that no books at all are sold over the weekend, an unlikely scenario considering when readers use Kindles most–all this from books that traditional publishers passed on.

As for the Shaken deal with AmazonEncore, while Konrath is bypassing a traditional publisher, his agent has been involved every step of the way. On his blog, he frequently encourages new writers to take their lumps, put in the effort, and hone their writing chops until they land an agent to champion their work–and he often takes some heat for it due to his own experiences with self publishing.

This success and his sometimes outspoken blog on the traditional publishing industry makes Konrath a no-brainer choice for AmazonEncore. It’s an interesting partnership. As part of the deal, Amazon gets to sell an original title in an established series for only $2.99. (The paperback version, when available, will sell for $10.17.) This super low price is one of the hallmarks of Konrath’s other Kindle titles. He’s extensively tested different prices, and found that low prices drive enough incremental sales to grow overall revenue. He can prove this with the fact that he’s making a killing off of books that New York publishers didn’t want.

There’s no question that Amazon will use this as a case study to show publishers that their concerns over low ebook prices and windowing are baseless, if in fact that turns out to be the case with this book. At just $2.99 a pop, this new title isn’t in the ballpark of the $9.99 price that was so hotly contested, and not even in the same universe as the $27 hardback price, where it would be if it had gone the traditional route.

Ironically, Hyperion will likely to see a boost to their Kindle sales for the earlier books in the series, though they may have trouble explaining why these older titles are priced at two to three times the cost of the latest book. Konrath will also will also likely see his self publishing numbers grow at an even faster rate. It’s far from chump change. More than a few established midlist writers must be taking a second look at those manuscripts they have filed away in a drawer somewhere.

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Beating Buy Button Banishment

j0441439At a writer’s conference I attended a little less than a year ago, the general consensus amongst editors was that ebooks were nothing to fret about. The chorus went something like: parents will never read to their kids from a Kindle. Maybe. But as the feud between Amazon and Macmillan has shown, publishers have started to pay a whole lot of attention to them.

One of the most surprising things about the scuffle was how much it went largely unnoticed by just everyone who isn’t a writer, agent, editor, or publisher. In casual conversation over the course of the week, I met no one who knew about it. I live in Seattle, home of the mighty beast. The husband of one of my coworkers works at Amazon. I asked what he had to say about the delisting, and apparently, nada. It was news to my coworker. The battle didn’t even buzz throughout all of Amazon, though it’s hard to imagine a single Macmillan employee who didn’t follow it closely.

This seems to be what Amazon counts on. They only mentioned the delisting of Macmillan titles in their Kindle boards, presumably assuming that only Kindle customers were likely to notice. Author blogs brought some attention to the tactic, but it’s still surprising how much it flew below the radar. To counter, the Writer’s Guild just launched a site to help authors monitor their own buy buttons. It also details how Amazon has used this technique in the past:

Amazon often chooses to instill fear in a publisher by selectively removing only a portion of a publisher’s list from its online market. It can do this silently, changing the titles that are unavailable on a regular basis, so that only the publisher notices. Both Amazon and the publisher have solid reasons to keep the unpleasantness quiet: Amazon doesn’t really want to be seen as a bully, and the publisher doesn’t want to betray weakness as it succumbs to the pressure.

Macmillan buy buttons returned to Amazon pages last Friday, almost exactly one week after they were taken down. It’s not clear what, if any, concessions Macmillan made, but the impact on them isn’t finished yet. Their titles will take some time to make their way back on top seller lists, customers who bought this… also bought, and all the other automated promotions on the Amazon site. Big titles will return quickly, but what about the backlist? They may take months to recover. Both HarperCollins and Hachette also added their voices to the debate, indicating that they too will soon be moving to the agency pricing model for ebooks. This gives Amazon little room to maneuver. Would they delist half of all the major publishing industry to elicit concessions? No, but “selective” delisting seems a possibility.

Perhaps Amazon overplayed its hand this time. The backlash from authors was probably not expected, and the birth of a new web centric tool to monitor it as an ongoing practice seems wholly out of keeping with the somewhat rarefied Author’s Guild. It’s also interesting that Amazon’s continuous plea for writers to leave their nasty publishers, and bring their books directly to Kindle doesn’t just go unheeded, it gets outright rejected. Writers came come out almost universally in favor of those “nasty” publishers that Amazon is trying so hard to disenfranchise.

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