Independent publishers shouldn’t overlook this week’s announcement that the European Commission is to investigate ebook price fixing by Apple and five major publishers. The implication is that the agreement between the publishers and Apple has forced up the prices of e-books in Europe, leading to higher profits for the publishers and book sellers.
You might think this is good news for independent publishers. After all, if mainstream publishers have hiked their prices, then we have a competitive advantage- we can set much lower prices. But it doesn’t work like that. If ebook prices in Europe are high, there is less incentive for people to buy ebook readers. And if sales of ebook readers are sluggish, then the market for independent publishers is smaller, and we sell less.
So the investigation by the European Commission is important for independents. As is the class action lawsuit launched against Apple and the same five publishers in the Northern District of California earlier this summer. After all, we want as big an ebook market as we can get, worldwide.
A year or so ago the ebook market was in pioneer mode. The big publishers had been slow in getting going, the field was wide open for indies to make their mark. It’s different now. Ebooks are big business, and the established players in the book industry want the market for themselves. Over the coming months indies are going to find themselves being squeezed by the giants. If you’ve ever been squeezed in business, you’ll know what that’s like. If you haven’t, you’re about to find out.
Amazon are getting tough too. Their new KDP Select programme offers indies fees if they make their books available for free to the Kindle Owners Lending Library, plus the opportunity to host free promotions of their books on Amazon. The catch? Amazon get exclusivity on our books for 90 days. We have to take them down from Apple, B&N, Smashwords, everywhere. Except Amazon.
Is the Amazon offer good for indies? I don’t know. It might be. Time will tell. For now, it’s just more evidence that the ebook world is getting tougher. That if we are to survive we need to shape up to it. We need to know what we want, and to articulate it. Writing books is fun. Selling them is business. We need to excel at both.
That’s why the time has come for indies to make our voices heard. We need a conversation amongst ourselves about where we would like to sit in the new digital literary world. Right now there are loads of indy websites and blogs, each with its own audience. We need to start to bring them together, to establish dialogues across cliques, across different interest groups.
We may decide we need a formal organisation, an association of indy publishers. That’s my view. But if so we will need to collaborate well, with proper budgets and technology. Or we may just decide to choose to drift along as we are, enjoying ourselves, with less regard to the business aspect. Or we may decide something else altogether.
Of course most of us just want to write; we see marketing our work as a necessary evil, a consequence of what we do, not why we do it. But many of us have skills that we can bring to bear in making the publishing world a good place for indies to be. And some of us would welcome the opportunity to offer those skills.
So, if you agree with me that indy authors should be talking and collaborating more, let me know. You can comment on this blog or send me an e-mail, to firstname.lastname@example.org. If enough people respond we can get together and take things forward. If no-one agrees, I’ll find another drum to beat; the world’s not short of things that need fixing.
Please circulate this blog, tweet it, facebook it, do whatever you can to get as many indies as possible involved. Let’s see if we can talk as well as we can write.
Thanks for reading, thanks for listening,