Huge Discounts! Hmmm.

Posted on October 15th, 2012 in ebooks, news, opinion, process, reviews

Good news!  Red Country is out in the UK in three days time!

More good news!  It’s an amazon book of the week, and they’ve slash, slash, slashed the price of the hardcover to an it-should-be-criminal £7.64, that’s 55% off, or a saving of a stonking £9.35 on the RRP of £16.99.  It’s a fair bit cheaper than the mass market paperback RRP will be when it comes out.  £7.64 seems to me a fantastic price for a beautiful brand new hardcover, especially a book of this incontestably extremely high quality.  Just look at Simon Appleby’s BookGeeks review of it:

“Bloody, unheroic, compelling – Red Country is all of these things, a real page-turning fantasy. Abercrombie co-opts the best elements of the Western without pastiche or mockery, and delivers a massively enjoyable read, combining action and genuine emotion to great effect.”

You like the sound of that?  So do I!  It even has coloured end-papers like some kind of collector’s edition, for heaven’s sake, and it’s a full cup of frothy coffee cheaper than Iain M. Banks’ new hardcover on amazon, even with a meaty 50% discount of its own.  It’s a good four quid cheaper than Peter F. Hamilton’s.  I’m cutting my own throat here.  Or at least amazon are cutting theirs, especially since their normal policy is to refund the difference on a drop in price to everyone who’s pre-ordered the book, so I imagine a good few of you will notch up a refund of a couple of her Majesty’s finest British Pounds along with your purchase.  We’re paying you to read it!  You lucky, lucky consumers!

Slightly less good news.  The kindle edition remains at £8.99.  Which looks kinda silly.  And I can pretty much guarantee there’ll now be a few folks one-starring the book on account of how unfair they feel someone or other’s pricing is, as they have with Banks’ book.  Because e-books cost nothing to make, don’t you know.  Sigh.  On the one hand I think, yeah, the e-book should always be cheaper than the hardcover, and that I’d rather see the e-book a bit cheaper anyway, more round the £7-8 mark on a new book, obviously dropping off over time as the mass-market edition appears to more the £4-5 mark.  On the other I can’t help feeling this shit is really tiresome, that the paper and digital versions are different products, and that the model of heavy discounting on hardcovers is always going to produce some brief anomalies.  If the hardcover weren’t so scandalously discounted, after all, and remained a bit more than the e-book, would anyone complain?  After the week promotion, precisely as happened with Banks’ book, the price will bounce back to a more routine gigantic discount of 35%-40% ish, about a tenner, say, and the kindle edition will once again be a pound cheaper, and I will more than likely be left with a clutch of one-star reviews by folks who haven’t read the book complaining at a nebulous someone’s long-vanished pricing policy, like sea garbage left rotting up the beach after the storm has receded.

Still, what can one do but tiredly express one’s feelings to one’s editor, who can tiredly relay them to their publishing director, who can tiredly relay them to the head of fiction, who can have a monthly tired discussion about it with the board, who can kick it upstairs to guys whose pricing policy is set worldwide in consultation with shareholders and whose decision making processes cannot but move at an utterly glacial pace.  Safe to say, the kindle price of Red Country ain’t likely to be coming down this week, whatever you or I may think about it.

I guess a lot of these pricing issues on e-books, deeply frustrating though they are for writers and readers, will gradually sort themselves out.  Be nice if they sorted themselves out faster, but such is life.  For some time the approach of publishers seems to have been to deliberately make e-books as unattractive as possible in the hope of protecting their hardcover market, and fighting for their lives in an unfamiliar fog as they are, I guess you can somewhat understand their reticence.  But as the e-book sector becomes a bigger and bigger slice of the pie that approach just ain’t going to wash.  The agency pricing model which ensured publishers could keep the prices of e-books high is collapsing in the US, and Europe surely will follow, allowing much greater flexibility on promotions of e-books, currently quite strictly regulated, and opening the door for discounts on e-books even more massive than those on paper ones (since even if the development costs of an e-book are just as high as a paper book, the unit costs are undoubtedly much lower).  On the one hand, yee-ha!  Cheap stuff for consumers!

On the other hand, hmmm.  You can bet the result will be an extension of the tendency towards heavy discounting of the most successful few titles that has been going on over the last couple of decades, since supermarkets and amazon came to dominate the market.  That’s great for the big phenom writers who shift gazillions and are starting to become a standard part of the marketplace.  It’s fine for the established front listers who’ll get the big promotions and the big discounts and the big support, like Iain Banks, and Peter Hamilton, and, well, me, it would appear, fingers crossed.  It’s not so great for the big majority of writers, though, who don’t necessarily sell enough to warrant the big discount or a place on the supermarket shelves, and whose books are going to get progressively more expensive and less competitive.  Even worse, I fear, with margins so squeezed, for new writers, especially those who might be writing something uncommercial, difficult, challenging.  I tend to be optimistic with these things.  Maybe self-publishing really will become the way for new writers to flourish.  No doubt it works for some.  I remain a little dubious, though.

Still, in the meantime, Red Country for £7.64!  Woooooooooooot!

A little later: Amazon sales ranks are an arcane and secretive business, heavily affected by recency, but they’re still quite an interesting indication of what’s selling right now.  This discounting evidently works, and fast, because in the last few hours, Red Country’s Amazon UK sales rank has shot up from somewhere around 300, where it’s been for the past couple of weeks, to 47.

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  1. I cracked . . . pre-ordered my copy halfway through your second sentence :(

    Was going to wait until xmas, as I’ve got an exam in December . . it’ll play havoc with my studying, but sod it, I can sue if I fail right?

  2. Good-oh.
    Just had an email from Waterstones to say that your latest was posted today.

    Of discounts….. pre-order it was £10.19, but (I think) includes the extra short story – and it was post-free.

    A bargain, I calls it.

  3. I also got to paragraph two, visited the amazon site and bought the book.
    But if it wasn’t for the price difference, I’d have bought the ebook in preference.

  4. cant….fucking….wait.

    p.s http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19959565

    i always knew you where a psycho joe!

  5. What is the short story, exactly?

  6. Foul language and fist waving from America…..yet still I patiently wait.

  7. http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/400x/28509988.jpg

    Pre-ordered the book long time ago, but as I’m half a Europe away and I pre-ordered it through one bookshop, my guess is I’ll get it 2-3 weeks later and exactly when all my exams begin. Oh the fate!

  8. Joe,

    Last month I returned from honeymoon to one of those red post office card thingys. Off to the PO i trundled, getting thoroughly soaked and picked up a package.

    Got home and opened it up. Lo and behold it was a proof copy of Red Country what I won from entering one competition or another run by your esteemed publishers.

    Fantastic (belated and unintentional) wedding present. Thank you very much. I read this in about 5 minutes.

    In terms of other wedding presents the wife won’t use it and I’ve used the coffee maker more, but, it’s a fantastic read and I actually may have made some out loud noises at certain parts.

    I eny everyone who hasn’t read it, because they haev their first time to look forward to.

  9. @Joe,

    Just speaking from personal experience I find the physical prices are more expensive, as I either tend to pre-order my most wanted books (including yours of course), in which case Amazon usually runs a deal that undercuts Kindle, or for older books I tend to buy them second hand. Some people may sniff at this but I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

  10. Worth noting that the Waterstones edition contains a bonus short

  11. How short is this “short” and could I get away with reading it in my lunchbreak without buying a copy . . . ?

    ;)

  12. “avoid any imperial entanglements”

    Deliberate Star Wars reference?

  13. My pre-ordered copy arrived today… Now I am torn – do I read it immediately or save it for my long haul flight next week, especially as I’m in the middle of some re-reads… Decisions, decisions!

  14. With my grumpy hat on, yes, the Kindle prices still annoy me.
    I don’t know they can’t sort out a reduced price for both versions if they’re going to do it for one.

    Still, at least I won’t get weird line breaks and typos in my hardcover copy. The lack of care in e-book versions really pisses me off.

    Can’t wait to jump in.

  15. My strength of will shone through… Am 2 chapters in already… I have a feeling this afternoon and evening will vanish as I finish the rest of the book!

  16. Book arrived today! :D

    Read the last page and I can’t believe everyone dies at the end!

    Kidding . . :)

  17. Well, with reference to what you have written about ebooks vs paper – there’re more problems. Amazon’s deluded dreams about monopoly (proprietary format), same about B&S and their custom drm approach (though, I think lates adobe stuff supports it, so at least for most epub capable readers it’s a matter of firmware upgrade – assuming the vendors bother …), whole drm nonsense in general. Relative triviality of workarounding it giving a cute surreal touch on top of it all. And then, sometimes region locks – something making really little sense in the digital world.

    As for ebook publishing. Sure it’s not free 0 time effort, but it’s barely difficult or a rocket science. ePub in general is an open well documented standard, and it’s bloody html/xml for the most part with a few twists. [A few] random fan[s] that happen to have certain computer/ebook/web affinity, could prepare a fantastic epub version in matter of day[s], mostly or completely by hand and for free.

    I’d say self or semi-self pulbishing is a great alternative. And easy tools helping with that are only getting better with passing time for less computer-savvy folks.

    From reader’s perspective – I use kobo touch, it’s nice somewhat independent ebook reader. If I wanted to purchase a typical title now, my options are:

    – amazon: start with drm removal and conversion to epub
    – B&N: start with their custom drm removal
    – other: hopefully an ePub version – almost guaranteed to have Adobe drm – so bare with it or remove it; and bare with book’s price in most cases

    Or … just google obvious terms, click first link, get unencumbered version ready to use, in whatever format I might need. Some better made (sometimes great), some worse (sometimes horrific) – but then again, it’s the content that matters first and foremost in the books after all.

    Does that help writers ? Or am I just to geeky, as average Joe (no phun intended ;) ) just buys Kindle and welcomes all the mess he possibly doesn’t even know about with open hands ?

    On the related subject:

    Do you have a paypal account ? Mind putting it on site or even somewhere here in the blog ? Say for people … less amused with whole publishers’ approach ?

    Or do something like band “Flashbulb” – their albums can be bought directly in a very convenient way, e.g.: http://theflashbulb.bandcamp.com/album/soundtrack-to-a-vacant-life . If your books were availabe in such way directly from your site, that would be a blast …

    I won’t suggest Paulo Coelho approach, though it did wonders for him in markets he never existed to begin with … Actually aforementioned Flashbulb did something similar though went a tiny bit further – official torrent with payment info directing to more official ways if one liked the album.

    Bloody hell what a wall of text I produced …

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