Amazon’s Latest Idea (that’s actually from like three months ago)

As a self-published author I have a ridiculous array of things to keep track of, from possible user comments at about twenty different locations, to new formats that my works should be available in to constant news and updates from any number of sites whose services I employ. Generally speaking I’m terrible at keeping up with these things and most of it slips through the cracks.

Recently I did, however, revisit an old email from the Amazon digital publishing department. It seems that over the summer (or possibly in the Spring) Amazon began offering the option for authors published via the Kindle to receive a 70% royalty rate on all sales.

This is ridiculous. The normal royalty rate usually hovers around 10-15%. At 70% With this change I can sell my books for $2.99 and still receive a higher cut per sale than through my paperbacks. $2.99!

This is also one of the first major moves I’ve heard of that acknowledges the fundamental changes that publishing is going through. There’s tons of talk all the time about digital publishing and worldwide rights and embracing new forms of content but generally it boils down to just that, talk. Which is annoying. Because things really are different. To put it simply, ten years ago in order for me to get my story to someone I would have had to print my story out on a paper product produced from wood pulp and mail a physical copy to them. In order to get more people my story I would have had to produce more copies, then mail those copies individually to each reader. This no longer is necessary. Now a massless copy can be sent to a reader electronically, no need to first produce and then move a 13.6 ounce stack of papers across any distance. The difference is a MASSIVE altering in how these stories ought to be priced. I mean, my god, over the past ten years we’re talking about changing from the same basic shipping method that has been in use since ancient Rome to something very close to teleportation. If apples could suddenly be cloned instantly and shipped instantly to your refrigerator, you had better believe that the price of apples would plummet as the majority of the costs in that equation would suddenly have vanished. That’s exactly what has happened to books, yet the price has barely shifted. Or rather, large scale distribution methods have barely shifted their prices, there is of course the smaller scale distribution method, this website, which offers all of my works in various formats for free. Truth be told, my gut tells me that this second option is a lot closer to where the price will eventually wind up. Which isn’t to say I plan on giving away my work for free forever, but I do think alternate revenue streams, such as ad sales, will be more important than an actual cost-per-book structure.

Aaaaaand that’s way more consultant-speak than I’m usually allowed in a week so we’ll just end there with a, “Well done, Amazon.”

Also, if you haven’t yet (and if you haven’t what on earth is wrong with you?) go read Probability Angels or go buy Probability Angels. The sequel is on its way and it’s going to be ridiculous.