Thursday, September 8, 2011

Do You Notice the Publisher? On EBooks, Money, and Publishers

***Just to clarify--I'm not trying to disparage self published authors with this post. The point of my post was to just extend the conversation; I was curious to see YOUR thoughts.

Even though I'm still in my debut year as an author (holy cow, that's insane, no?!), I've been writing for ten years and reading for most of my life. And I'm an avid reader--constantly seeking the next book, with a veritable of TBR books and even more already-read shelves of books.

So: I'm completely aware of books, authors, and--the subject of what I want to talk about today--publishers.

As you can probably guess: I'm a somewhat unusual reader. I definitely pay attention to who publishes what, and I have very clear, distinct opinions on publishers. Through years of reading and paying attention to who published what, I know that some publishers tend to publish books that I will universally like--and some publish books I universally don't. When it comes to buying a book, I first weigh the story: if I love the premise, I buy the book, if not, I put it back down. If I'm on the fence, though, I'll consider the author--if I know him/her (even just through online stuff), I'll buy the book. If not, or if I'm still on the fence, I look at the publisher. If it's from an imprint that I usually like--I buy the book. If not, I don't. There's one imprint in particular--and, merely because I've been paying attention to this stuff for so long--there's one editor in particular at that imprint, whose books I just don't like. It's not that they're bad--it's that this editor and I clearly have very different tastes. There were agents who I didn't query before I signed because I just didn't like the books that thanked that agent in the acknowledgements--and I could safely assume that our tastes were so different that those agents wouldn't have liked my book, either.

But as I've said: I'm an unusual reader. Most people, don't know the editor at a publishing house at all. Most readers, I think, don't even pay attention to who publishes what.

I'm thinking about all this today because of a post Nathan Bransford recently had on his blog.  In reference to ebooks in particular, I think that if readers are not currently looking at who publishes what, they will be soon. Right now, we're in a weird sort of "anything goes" age of epublishing--people are trying new things (different price points, established authors self-pubbing ebooks, interactive content, etc.) to see what will stick and what will be the best method in this new epublishing age.

Not too long ago, there were a lot of fight about what the maximum price an ebook should be. Many publishers and professionals insisted on a $9.99 price point--and Amazon, notably, was in favor of a lower price point. This is me just spit-balling here, but from that debate, it seemed to me that Amazon figured it would make more money with ereaders than with the sale of ebooks.

Recently, Amazon announced that they will be developing a new tablet (think: iPad, but with an Amazon brand name), and I read an article that speculated that the tablets will likely be sold at cost or even at a loss to Amazon in an effort to drive more sales to ebooks--which seems to me to indicate that Amazon now sees ebooks as the driving source of funds, not ereaders.

I think the shift has come from people who are burnt out of the 99-cent price point. Speaking on solely a personal level, I got an ebook reader for Christmas last year. I downloaded a crap-ton of free and 99-cent ebooks...and quickly became really rather disgusted by them. It became a matter, to me, not of how much money I was willing to spend, but how much time. To put it frankly, many of the cheap or free books were not worth the pennies I paid for them. I became the type of ebook reader who would rather take a chance on a $9.99 book than on a 99-cent book: I valued my time in reading the book more than the money I spent to purchase it.

Personally, I think a lot of people are going to end up doing the same. They are going to seek out quality over quantity--rather than buying many cheap books, they'll spend more money on fewer books of quality.

As Nathan points out in his article, one way that people can distinguish quality is through a publisher--it's a type of cachet, a sort of assurance that the book has been vetted in some way. A quality seal.

But of course, that only works if people actually notice who a publisher is.

So, I wanted to turn to you, fair readers: Do you notice who publishes a book?

And, to go along with that: What influences your purchase of an ebook? Please note: I've allowed multiple answers for this one!
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