It's tinfoil hat time again. I snuck into Mr. Quack's secret room and borrowed one of his. To get it I had to break the code to unlock the secret box where he stores the alien abduction/blocking government surveillance gear (most of it is multi-purpose). Chasing the snark I sent him after won't take long, so I better make this post quick.
For some time I've been checking my book and ebook sales with a fervor and dedication unmatched by most religions. But as time passes it has perturbed me more and more that so few of those sales are for the paperback versions of my books available through Amazon's Createspace. I sell a couple of paperbacks a month and that number should be much, much higher.
CS now distributes paperbacks to other retailers, so my paper books are not just available at Amazon, they're sold at bookstores across the net - from Barnes and Noble to Books a Million and to scores of other retailers. So the books are out there for purchase in lots of places. Plus, not everybody owns an ereader (yet) but everybody can read paperpacks. Everybody has bought paperbacks for years.
So why is it that my ebooks far, far, FAR outsell the paperbacks?
It's the price. CS is a POD (print on demand) company. Under the old system, indie authors had to pay big up front fees and pay to have their books mass produced. Then they had to market and sell the books themselves. I understand that Dan Brown used to sell paperbacks out of his automobile trunk. But under the new POD systems, there are no upfront fees and the company will market and distribute your books if you enroll in the "pro" plan for $39 per year. So most folks - nearly all indie authors these days - have long ago dumped the old paperback companies and are going with one of the POD companies.
It's a great idea in theory and it would be a great idea in practice - except for the price structure. A writer could opt out of the pro plan and put the books up on just Amazon and charge a "fairly" reasonable rate for them. But everyone wants their books out in more venues. So we opt into the distribution system. That comes with big old royalties to Amazon. Under the structure, a paperback that a writer could buy directly for just over $4 has to be sold for like $16.99 to net a writer $2.75 in royalties. Ouch.
And you know what? $16.99 is a hell of a lot of money to pay for a paperback. So very few buyers purchase indie paperbacks. They skim over them and wonder what kind of nut thinks their book is worth that kind of money. Most probably have a vision of authors expecting the Brinks truck to drive to their house and drop off money. The big price tag keeps sales of indie paperbacks low.