- Pricing their eBooks between $2.99 and $9.99
- Setting the prices of their eBooks at least 20% below the price of their lowest-priced print versions of the same titles
- Giving Amazon "most favored nation" pricing status (the price that the author or publisher sells the titles for at Amazon has to be the same or lower than the price offered through any other reseller)
- Allowing Amazon to offer features such as text-to-speech on their eBooks
Seventeen years ago, my first book (an introduction to Windows NT) was published by Sams, an imprint now owned by Pearson. The book sold a bit more than 10,000 copies, the minimum sales target for most computer book publishers back then. I earned out my advance ($8,000, as I recall), and made a few thousand more. However, given the amount of time I spent researching, writing and promoting the book, I could have worked at Burger King and made the same amount of money.
Also, I was responsible for promoting the book myself. When people say that one of the big reasons for publishing a book through a major publisher is their ability to promote books, don't believe them. Unless you're one of the publisher's top authors, you'll get little or no promotional support. I had to pay to fly myself around the country to promote the book, and a friend in Public Relations scored interviews for me with PBS' "Nightly Business Report" and other outlets.
So what does all this have to do with Amazon's announcement? I ran the numbers, and the economics are strongly in favor of an author self-publishing eBooks with Amazon or a similar service rather than going with a big publishing house. Here's an analysis that I did, comparing my book, originally priced at $19.95 and selling 10,000 copies in print, against the same title priced at $9.95 and selling 5,000 copies as an eBook:
|Royalty Revenues Per Copy||$1.20||$6.97|
|Royalty Revenues ($)||$11,970||$34,825|
|Less: Editorial & Design Costs||$0.00||($5,000.00)|
|Net Author Revenues||$11,970||$29,825|
Companies such as Lulu, iUniverse and Amazon's own CreateSpace offer editorial and design services for self-publishers. $5,000 is at the high side of what those companies charge for a complete editorial and design package. Even with the author paying for the editorial and design work that the publisher would ordinarily do, they'd still end up making 2.5 times as much money on an eBook priced half as much and selling half as many copies as the print version. That's amazingly compelling.
Amazon will try to steer as many of those self-publishing authors as it can to CreateSpace, where Amazon gets a cut of the editorial and graphics services as well. It means that the 30% that Amazon gets is just the start...and the fees paid to CreateSpace are paid upfront by the author, no matter how many copies the author sells. In essence, the authors are paying Amazon an advance for its services, and they're hoping to earn back the advance and make more through sales of the eBooks. It's a plan that could make your chin drop.
It's far too early to give the game to Amazon, but in many ways, they're moving beyond Apple in their integration of production services, distribution and delivery devices.