Chronicles of Lost Ebook Sales

Since this week I made some waves about ebook pricing, I wanted to blog while it was fresh another example of exactly what I was talking about, how money I was willing to toss a publisher’s way stayed in my pocket.

Chronicles of Lost Ebook Sales

This morning I listened to Edward Champion’s Bat Segundo Show #367, on which he interviewed Susan Straight. Her new book is Take One Candle Light a Room. From hearing this very interesting interview, I learned the novel is set in and around New Orleans before and after Katrina, and deals with troubled people trying not to screw up their lives. If you know my life history, my interests and taste in reading, you know this is basically a made sale. I spent a few years in Lafayette LA going to graduate school, visited New Orleans frequently and have a great affection for the region. Also, as a barely functioning fuck up myself I love stories about fuck ups. OK, let’s light this candle.

I went to Amazon, searched on her name and pulled up the novel. The price for the hardcover is $17.13, the (not yet published) paperback is $15.00 and the Kindle edition is $14.27. Oh boy. I was so willing to buy this book and now I won’t. The odds of me ever remembering to check back later when the price is more reasonable (if ever) are so small you can assume it is zero. Pantheon Books could have gotten some money out of me but the $14.27 is just too ridiculous.

At the time of this writing, the sales rank for the hardcover edition is #184,115 and the Kindle edition is #38,665. I don’t know what expectations were for this book and how it has performed for them in the 3 months it has been published but I think you can safely assume this is under the blockbuster level. For promotion that was to them effectively free – a podcast interview – they could have made a sale to me on a book that is not burning up the Amazon charts. Because of the pricing policy, they didn’t. There’s money that fails to go to Pantheon Books and Ms. Straight. Sorry, y’all.

Chronicles of Lost Ebook Sales

“Would you like to buy a box of Thin Mints from the Girl Scouts?”
“OK, that will be $8.25.”
“Ummm …”

I can afford $14.27 for the Kindle novel and I could afford $8.25 for a box of cookies. Will I pay that? Barring some freakish external circumstances, no, not either. If I were desperate for either, maybe my perceived value would rise. As the 200th novel bought on a whim on a Kindle chocked full of stuff to read – no thank you.

After the thought that went into this weeks previous pricing blog post, as well as the comment thread on Teleread’s republishing of it, I realized there is an important flip side to my data argument. If I don’t like the pricing policies of electronic books, it’s really incumbent on me not to pay them. Otherwise, I become one of those data points on the higher end and I become part of the reason justifying the higher prices. I spent a lot of time and words telling publishers they should analyze that data. If I want to like the conclusion they reach, I have to make my tiny portion of the data match that conclusion. So, rather than loosening up I’m clamping down on the perceived value argument.

Ms. Straight, your books sounds wonderful. I wish your publisher did better by you. Good luck out there.

PS – Want to read a really great book that is reasonably priced? Try by Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge. You’ll be glad you did.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

5 thoughts on “Chronicles of Lost Ebook Sales”

  1. Lindsay says:

    Yeah, I blog about kindle ebooks, but I usually don’t even mention reads over $10 unless they’re solid nonfiction reference books. Too expensive for most tastes, and there are too many indies out there with $3 ebooks I can mention.

  2. Ken Kennedy says:

    Can’t say anything but that I agree 110%, Dave. This happens to me with depressing regularity. I simply don’t understand the thought process that prices books like this.

    Another online example is something like Steam for videogames. Not only do games tend to drop in price at least a bit (usually $10-20) after they’ve been out a while, Steam is known for completely outrageous 50%, 60%, or even greater sales that occur over a holiday or weekend period. And guess what? People buy the hell out of games during those sales (including me). Money that would have othewise been left on the table.

  3. rebecca says:

    rather than buy that book–because you’re right, the price sucks–do like i did, and check it out from the public library. it was a great read. i bet you’d like it. Susan Straight is a fabulous writer. don’t miss out on her writing just because you’re pissed about ebook pricing models.

  4. dave says:

    Rebecca, that is always a reply I get to such posts. Is it an assumption people have that every book is universally available in every library system? I checked and this book is nowhere in our county system. After a while I take this sort of reply to be a kind of insult, like I’m too dumb to consider the library. If it was available in my system, I would have done that.

  5. Jim Scarborough says:

    Interestingly, in the past four months since your post, Amazon reports that this book has now fallen from #184,115 to #248,389 in Books and from #38,665 to #82,333 in the Kindle Store, while the price for the hardbound has increased to from $17.13 to $18.94 and the Kindle price has dropped from $14.27 to $12.99.

    There’s still no paperback release and no telling if one is planned but it’s obvious that the publisher still doesn’t get it and unfortunately the book will probably never get the success it deserves even if it is released in paperback with a further reduction in the ebook price.

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