Authors have admitted they welcome the “huge boost” in sales when their e-books are sold at rock-bottom prices, despite concern over the long-term impact.
It is believed individual authors have earned in the hundreds of thousands from books included in the long-running 20p promotion on Sony and Amazon.
Terence Blacker, whose latest novel The Twyning (Head of Zeus) was included in Amazon’s Daily Deal for Kindle, at 99p, said: “Of course it is great that new readers are coming to the book. On the day it was included, the book went to the top of the fantasy chart and to number 13 in the overall charts, and my publishers said it equated to thousands more sales.”
But he added: “The model cannot work in the long run. At that price, people are paying 20p for every year I worked on the book.“
Crime writer Peter James, who has had two titles sold at 20p, said the pricing gave certain e-books a “huge boost”. He commented: “Huge sales volumes, for which I am on full royalty rate—what’s not to like? Well there are immediate downsides . . . Booksellers on our high streets are already an endangered species and losing their bread and butter bestsellers sales to an online campaign they cannot compete with which makes life very much harder.”
He added: “In the longer term, with e-books accounting for around 50% of our sales now, authors need to be worried . . . Author royalties have traditionally been linked to the published price of the book . . . If cheap pricing persists, the whole paradigm could change, and ultimately retailers, publishers and authors could all be losers.”
Meanwhile, Yann Martel’s Life of Pi has been sold at 20p for several weeks, and has sat at the top of the Kindle paid-for chart throughout.
Martel’s agent, Jackie Kaiser of Westwood Creative Artists in Toronto, said: “I do share the concern that this kind of unsustainable pricing is ultimately going to come back and haunt us”, and expressed worries about pushing forward selected titles at the expense of a broader midlist.
She added: “[Promotions such as 20p] will cause consumers to want and expect bargain e-book pricing, but remainder pricing also arguably contributes to the devaluing of hardback books, and with a limited range of titles available at these prices, it seems to me the more important question we need to continue to grapple with is how an average title's physical and e-book editions are priced relative to each other going forward.
“Authors need to be rewarded fairly for the work they do no matter what format their readers choose to buy, and as the consumer appetite shifts, we owe it to the creators of the books we represent, publish and sell to stay nimble, read the tea leaves, and ensure that the interests of writers aren't lost in the quest for profit in a competitive marketplace.”