I am not referring to the rainstorms lashing Arizona, though I could be. Weird thing, rainstorms in a desert. Having grown up in New England, I’m used to rain. The ground usually soaks it in. Not here. The ground is like adobe brick, so the water sheets off. Now I enjoy hydroplaning down the highway as much as the next guy—unless that next guy is a Phoenix native or one of our ancient winter visitors. They don’t like driving in the rain at all, and protest by driving badly. (Despite this statement, I made it across town to the Draco Vista Studios and recorded two weeks worth of Dragonpage Cover to Cover episodes, including the 8th Anniversary show.)
The stormy weather is in the realm of digital books. Amazon announced yesterday that, beginning after June, that they’d be offering a 70% royalty on ebooks, which is double what they currently offer to independents and 20% more than they offer to traditional publishers. The books have to be priced within certain parameters, and must be in-copyright. Authors who provide such work will be paid in 60 days after the sale. The reason this is significant is because mainstream publishers are offering authors half to a quarter of that much on electronic books, paid 6 to 9 months after the sale.
Amazon took this drastic step because next week, on the 27th, they expect Apple to announce their tablet computer. Rumors have been flying that Apple is in negotiations with mainstream publishers to put their work for sale on the new Apple device. Anything sold through iTunes is split 30-70 between Apple and the content provider, so Amazon had to quickly match the Apple price. (Prior to this Amazon paid mainstream publishers 50% of cover; independent authors like me, 35% of cover.) Amazon’s delaying the royalty raise until June coincides with rumors that June is when Apple will begin to deliver their device.
You can bet that other publishers and ebook providers will be adjusting their price structures, too, to reflect this new reality.
And make no mistake about it, this new reality is great news for authors. The work needed to turn out a Kindle-ready copy of a story or novel is not difficult and will take maybe a couple hours the first time you do it. (Longer if you have to scan a copy of an old book in, granted.) I’ve priced short stories at $2-3 dollars and they sell fine, novels at $5, and these move rather briskly. In fact, in January I’ve watched novel sales triple on several books. The folks who got Kindles for Christmas clearly are needing things to fill it up.
I’ll also be adding epub versions of my work to my store. Epub is a new, universal format which will be the lingua franca of ebooks until the next format comes along to replace it. Turning those documents out is the work of an hour or so per, so it will take me some time to get everything made over into that format. The advantage of epub is that readers (like the Sony) handle it better than they handle PDFs. Epub also allows some formatting tricks that make the books look really slick.
This really is a great time for authors, if the authors are willing to do a couple of things. First, set up a website and utilize social networking software to give your audience a place to find you. Second, get involved on the net and show your potential audience that you can be entertaining. Third, provide good content for sale and samples for free to get your audience invested in your writing. Fourth, and perhaps the most important, realize that what you’re doing is a business. Make sound business decisions (hint: not making work available in electronic formats is not a good decision) and the aftermath of the stormy transition will reward you very well.