Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The value of compilations

From the point of view of a publisher (as opposed to an individual self-publishing author), Amazon's Kindle program has created hosts of new problems and possibilities. Unsurprisingly, one of the major dilemmas centers around book pricing and the now notorious $2.99 price threshold above which the book publisher receives 70% royalties and below which that rate is halved.

All logic screams “Price your book at $2.99 (or above)!” but, of course, life is never that simple. The book-buying public have become spoiled with Amazon's KDP freebies (authors are allowed to offer their book for free for up to 5 days in a 90-day period) – a gesture which has allowed hundreds of thousands of readers to collect whole libraries of free books. Thus, if a book publisher actually wants to charge for their book, they have to not only contend with Amazon's $2.99 threshold, but also with the very clear need to be providing real value for money.

Weld your books together and reap the rewards
The definition of what constitutes value for money is, of course, a tricky one. For a famous author, this might mean ‘offering’ their latest novel for ‘under $10’. For the rest of us, though, the idea of charging that sort of money for a single book is a pleasant pipe-dream but we'll come back to that in a moment.

Looking at a typical book, research (reading reviews across a multitude of genres), suggests people are prepared to pay around $2 for a 20,000-word novella. If you want to charge $2.99, you'll need to increase the word count to 60,000 words or more. Surely, though, if it's $2 per 20,000 words, shouldn’t it be $3 for 30,000 words and $6 for 60,000 words or (even) $15 for 150,000 words?

The reason why not is because there are different types of book-buyer ranging from people looking for a quick and cheap read to those who want a mid-length novel which will be enough to absorb them (but not so long as to make them feel daunted about ever finishing it) and others who aren't happy unless they've got a 500-page plus blockbuster. Each customer has their own expectations regarding an appropriate price to pay per book and will generally exclude books outside of that range.

If a publisher is to take advantage of this, they need to cater for all three types for each book that they produce.

Taking the case of a 30,000-word novella priced at $2.00, this would net the book publisher $0.70 per copy sold. Now, put two of these books together and retail the compilation for $3.00, and it will generate $2.10 per book sold or $1.05 per each of the 30,000-word component books.

Finally, if four books are put together in a bumper compilation and $5.00 charged for all four, this would earn $3.50 in royalties, working out at $0.875 per book.

Thus by using compilations, the same book has been sold in three different ways to three different types of reader. There's nothing wrong with doing this as long as it's made clear to book-buyers what the compilation consists of.

Any Subject Books publishes a wide range of e-books as well as providing a full-range of competitively-priced book publishing services to self-publishing authors.

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