Friday, October 23, 2009

A Big Name Speaks Up

Today, we continue the talk about the price slashing by the big block stores, Wal-Mart, Target and the online store Amazon. Only this time, a big name author weighs in. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Stephen King’s publisher is holding the release of the e-book edition of King’s novel, Under the Dome, until the day before Christmas, six weeks after the $35 hardcover hits the bookstores.
In an interview, Mr. King said that he wanted to delay the e-book edition in hopes of helping independent bookstores and the national bookstore chains sell the hardcover edition.
Well, it didn’t work. Wal-Mart, Target and Amazon are still going to slash the hardcover price, using it, along with the other best-sellers they’ve targeted, to act as loss leaders to get shoppers to buy online.
Walmart.com, for example, is taking preorders for "Under the Dome" for $8.98, a 74% discount off the cover price, while Target.com is charging $8.99 and Amazon.com has priced the hardcover at $9.
These prices even beat what will probably be the e-book price.
The e-book edition of "Under the Dome," which has a list price of $35, will probably retail for $9.99. Mr. King said that those who receive e-book readers for Christmas gifts will be able to download the book on Christmas day.
While King admits that the price cuts will probably sell more books, there is this:
[King] expressed concern for the impact the sharp discounting may have on other writers--established authors as well as up-and-comers--saying, "Who is going to buy a book for $25 when you can preorder a best seller for $9?" He noted that at $9, a new hardcover will be cheaper than the later fancy paperback edition.

"All the guys in ties want to talk about is whether a new delivery system is going to work," he added. "Nobody seems to care about the book.
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28 comments:

  1. WOW, that's a lot of talking about price... maybe they should just get the writers to do it for free? Then they could really make some money by putting what ever price they want on the book for a total profit. Does anyone one out there in consumer land care about the words anymore.. you know, the stuff between the pages... I don't think the bog companies do somehow.

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  2. Helen, how can Target/Walmart/Amazon offer them for so little? Where do they get their supply and what are they paying for the books?

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  3. Nice to see a big named author worried about the impact on the rest of us!

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  4. Wow, very enlightening posts here this week. And unsettling. The writer, and the craft, really seem to be completely disregarded with this pricing issue. It's almost as though we're the mere pawns being moved to better position the giants :(

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  5. The only salvation I think is that the title range should be extremely limited. It may only be limited to bestsellers that have received a lot of publicity...or am I reading that wrong?

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  6. As a buyer, it's great. But dang... it doesn't make for an environment to create a book. Why should authors write if they can't make a living. Granted, people will always write, because the muse won't be ignored, but to make a living? It's as if the value isn't being given for the serious effort.

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  7. "In an interview, Mr. King said that he wanted to delay the e-book edition in hopes of helping independent bookstores and the national bookstore chains sell the hardcover edition."

    This doesn't make any sense. It's akin to delaying the introduction of diet cola in a bid to help corner stores sell more regular cola, while Walmart is selling cola for less than the corner store is paying for it.

    Just sounds like a way to justify a bias against ebooks.

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  8. I'm glad King has spoken up. More big names need to step in and take a stand. I'm telling you- writers are going to be the big losers here. You can count on it.

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  9. This is so very sad, because it seems as if very little can be done about it. Or am I missing something?
    karen

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  10. Its all about money. When it comes right down to the final denominator, this is still a business and retailers will do whatever they think is necessary to increase over all sales. Bur hey, he's selling a lot of books this way. Its a nice problem to have.

    Stephen Tremp

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  11. Anton, I could be mistaken since I'm not a bit King reader, but I believe he was one of the first authors to do a serial book online and to offer his books in e-form, so I don't think he has a bias against e-books. My guess is that the decision to hold on the e-version was made long before this price war began, and he thought his fans would go to their local bookstore and buy the paper version instead of waiting for the e-version. They will probably do that, but they'll be rushing to Target, Wal-Mart or Amazon and getting the cheap price. (And it's hard to blame the consumer - we all want the lower price for the same product.)

    But it will be the writer hurt in the end.

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  13. The prices for the hardcovers are absurd! Paperbacks are more than that. Something is going to break...

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  14. One more punch from big box retailers to the little guy...

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  15. Elizabeth's probably right. This will only work for big name books with a good deal of publicity. It doesn't make it less annoying, though, and I'm glad King recognizes the problem. Even if there's nothing he can do about it.

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  16. This scenario could turn out to be scarier than anything Mr. King has ever put into one of his books.

    Elspetn

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  17. Are Target and Walmart trying to break the publishing industries back? I agree with Lauri, this will not bode well for writers. They get such a small piece of the pie as it is.

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  18. I love King's last comment, "Nobody seems to care about the book." That is so true on many levels. An editor who spoke at a conference about 25 years ago said that publishing will never be the same once it is completely taken over by marketing.

    She said that she was no longer able to discover a book, fall in love with it and make an offer. Submissions had to go from her to the marketing department, and if they couldn't come up with a way to market the book, they would pass.

    She said they never actually read the book to determine the quality of writing. It was all about concept and cover art and how they could promote the book and the author.

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  19. I can see that Stephen King wants to help out the small publishers and such but can't he see how it might hurt authors who maybe aren't multi-millionaires like him??? Degrading the hardcover novel by slashing the price could have long-lasting impact.

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  20. I don't particularly like this, but publishers feel they make their money on the big names with the built-in platforms. They offer them big bucks in the hopes they'll make big bucks. Even with the big marts selling big names at a loss, the publisher will still make money. But if people buy the big books for a cheap price and continue to do that, they may put their money there instead of buying the smaller books they could have gotten for about the same money. If I can buy Dan Brown for the same price I could buy a Average-Joe book, I'd probably buy Brown. What does that mean for the future Average-Joes who hope a publisher will take him on or for Average-Joes who would like to sell out their advance and get another book out?

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  21. OMG... when even the big name authors are pushed to the wall by big retailers, what does that say about the future of publishing and the future of actual books? On top of that, how in the name of Pete can the smaller independent book stores compete.

    I am brand new to this industry - my first book will be published next month and the learning curve over the last while has been eye-opening.

    Yikes.

    Jill
    www.jilledmondson.blogspot.com

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  22. I saw a news spot today that some independent booksellers are asking the Justice Department to look into predatory pricing practices by the big boys. I think they have an actual chance of making that stick. If you are selling books at retail below wholesale prices, that seems pretty predatory to me. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
    ~jon

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  23. This is the first time I've thought about the effect this will have on the writer. When I owned a store, we sometimes bought books at huge discounts and passed the savings on to the customer hoping to encourage more book sales. Hmmm.

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