Huge Discounts! Hmmm.
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.