Round up #28: Draculas, Negroponte, life-destroying piracy?

Round up #28: Draculas, Negroponte, life-destroying piracy?

Want to fight the Agency Model?

The Agency Model is working. 

At least, it isn’t destroying e-book sales.  Sales are great…up to over 9% of US publishing.  Could the sales be better?  Maybe…it’s a bit hard to tell.  When the firehose hits you in the gross income, it’s hard to argue that maybe it’s only at 98% efficiency.  🙂

You aren’t going to convince the publishers that people won’t buy bestsellers that are over $9.99 when people are buying them.

But sales going to somebody else?  That they understand.

Let’s say you are a movie studio and you have an actor who has made five successful movies with you.  You wanted that actor for your next blockbuster…but the talent goes with another studio, makes another tentpole picture.  It opens at $70 million…you know at least fifty of that is due to the star.  That could have been yours.

The tradpubs (traditional publishers) have been like those studios.  They lock in authors to multi-book deals.  If it’s a “brand name author”, you know a certain amount of sales are guaranteed.

Jack Kilborn (AKA J.A. Konrath) is one of those authors who has had success through tradpubs.  So is F. Paul Wilson (The Keep, the Repairman Jack books).  Now they, along with Blake Crouch and Jeff Strand, have potentially done what the tradpubs fear most…published a bestseller without them.

Not only that, they’ve priced it at $2.99.

Konrath/Kilborn explains the economics in this

Huffington Post article

Even splitting it four ways, even paying a cover artist and a formatter, they won’t make that much less per copy than they would with a typical paperback.

At $2.99 (compared to $12.38…that was the average when I last ran the New York Times bestseller hardback fiction equivalents), they could sell a lot of them. 

I don’t believe it can get on the New York Times bestseller list (I don’t think they count e-books), but if it sells really well, I think we’ll know it.  🙂

Oh, and they are releasing it without Digital Rights Management (DRM).  That means you can buy it from Amazon and convert it for other devices. 

They were nice enough to send me a review copy (which I’m mentioning for full disclosure), and I’m about halfway through.  It’s well-edited and well proof-read (I’ve only found a couple of little errors, which I’ll send them).  I’ll write a full review and it’s not for everybody (there is what I would consider cartoonish violence, but others might find it too gross), but I am enjoying it.

So, if you want to let the publishers know what you think about e-book prices (and read a good horror/humor novel at the same time), you may want to give


a try.

Bye-bye, paperbooks?

Thanks to Sheryl K. Wetmore of the Amazon Kindle community for calling my attention to a

CNN video interview

with tech expert Nicholas Negroponte.  In the interview, he suggests that physical books could be gone in five years.

I don’t see that happening.  Mass market paperbacks are losing ground pretty quickly.  I could see it being unusual that books are released in that format five years from now.

But I think that, while the market for hardbacks may contract, they’ll stick around.  I expect them to go up in price, and increase in physical quality as well.  They’ll be luxury items…having them will show you have money.

Trade paperbacks may certainly become the cheaper physical alterative. 

It’s an interesting interview.  One of the key points is that e-book adoption may be faster in developing countries.  A country like the USA has the infrastructure and can afford the expense of paperbooks.  If your nearest road is 100 kilometers away, it’s hard to have a Barnes & Noble nearby.  🙂  We may make the move more slowly…that’s what happened with cellphones. 

Does piracy destroy lives?

New reader Daz pointed me to an interesting blog post.  Deborah McGillivray wrote a guest post on Rowena Cherry’s blog:

How Piracy Hurts. 

It’s a very sad account of the difficulties an author faced.  If you read it, be prepared to be moved.

Separate from that, I don’t agree with some of the premises of the article.  One is that the suggestion that the reduction in mass market paperback sales is due in some significant part to piracy.  Book piracy certainly exists, and  I’ve written about it before.  I oppose book piracy, and theft generally.  But my guess is that the impact on mass market paperback sales is small.  The presence of legitimate e-book sales is likely to be having a much larger impact, in my opinion. 

Another suggestion in the story is that illegal downloads directly correlate to lost royalties.  That implies that people who got the e-book illegally would otherwise have purchased it.  That’s difficult to prove, and I think it’s unlikely.  When I surveyed my readers, 45% thought it was never okay to pirate (I’m in that group).  30%, though, thought it was okay if the book otherwise wasn’t available as an e-book.

As I’ve mentioned before, the publisher Dorchester has dropped mass market paperbacks in favor of e-books and trade paperbacks.  That’s the best anti-piracy move that can be made, in my opinion.  Authors and agents who work with Dorchester can be grateful to them.  Any publisher who isn’t releasing a legitimate e-book version at the same time as the paperbook version is greatly increasing the likelihood of piracy.  Pirated e-books may hurt the sale of e-books later. 

The situation described in the post is terrible.  In my opinion, piracy is wrong.  However, I think we have to be careful about ascribing cause and effect to piracy and lost income. 


What do you think?  Paperbooks here forever, and e-books will never catch them?  Independently publishing not the answer to the Agency Model?   Prefer the Agency Model to the Wholesale Model?  Think piracy isn’t wrong?  Feel free to let me know. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


4 Responses to “Round up #28: Draculas, Negroponte, life-destroying piracy?”

  1. Daz Says:

    I am an extremely avid reader and many years ago I ran out of room on my physical bookshelves, this with a dedicated library room in the house with close to 5000+ volumes on the shelves. Granted most of them were antique and out of print books and not current release fiction, they still took up a lot of space. When I discovered that I could free up shelf space by buying eBooks for my fiction reading, I was more than happy to give up the physical copy.

    I started reading eBooks when the now was Peanut Press, then moved onto eReader, Fictionwise and now Amazon Kindle, ‘cos since B&N bought eReader and Fictionwise selection and availability became a suckfest. It’s been close to 7 years of eReading for me and it’s now 1700+ copies of books in PDB format with Kindle books growing as well.

    I don’t miss the physical books, now prefer an eBook whenever I can get it. It’s portable – I love carrying my library around with me and read whatever the mood strikes; I read faster and with my iPhone I can even read in the dark.

    I think eBooks are here to stay. I don’t think they will replace physical books, that will always have a place, but I think that a lot more people will be buying eBooks to read and physical books to collect.

    I still have that 5000+ volume library with all my collectibles and out of print books but the fiction reading is now all eBook unless I can’t get that book in eBook format because it was written before a certain date or if the author or publisher (for whatever reason) has decided to publish print only.

    Will read a bit more on the Agency Model and comment. That one really hurt eReader and Fictionwise when it first came about – more than 18 months ago now, right? It certainly affected me a great deal as a reader and that was what prompted my move from Fictionwise and PDB books to the Kindle.

    ps. Love your work. Am telling everyone about you.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Daz!

      We sound somewhat similar. 🙂 I have something like ten thousand paperbooks on shelves in my home…and more in boxes and such. Being a former bookstore manager certainly helped in that. Some are hardbacks going back more than one hundred years, and a lot of paperbacks that would be considered ephemera.

      I also prefer reading e-books now. I haven’t bought a paperbook in quite a while, although I do read a bit from my existing libraries.

      The Agency Model only went into effect in April of this year. The rumor is that those contracts are good for a year, and then there will be a re-examination.

      Thanks for the kind words! I’m glad you are enjoying it and/or finding the blog useful. 🙂

  2. Daz Says:

    Okay, back to my comment on bailing on Fictionwise after the Agency Model came into effect – reason: Fictionwise yanked all books published the the Agency 5 as a result of the model being implemented and suddenly a lot of the authors I regularly read and other books that I wanted to read were no longer available. The books on my wish list that were available went down by 70%. I went where the books I wanted to read were still available (though at a higher price). I was willing to pay for what I wanted to read.

    When you’re the seller (in this case the publisher) I think you are entitled to set whatever price you like. If your buyer (in this case the reader) doesn’t like it, he / she can take their business elsewhere. The drop in sales and revenues would show the seller if the business model is or isn’t working.

    I know some authors who were not crazy about the Agency Model as well. Authors can change publishers if they think the model is affecting them adversely or even self-publish. If an author I liked self-published, I’d still buy their book. The only problem there is if the author I liked had to publish under a different pen name from a new publisher or when self-publishing due to whatever legal or contractual rights might be in place and I didn’t know what the new pen name was, hence not knowing to buy the new book when published.

    Overall, if the Agency Model is working to the extent that people are still buying the books, who am I to complain about someone else’s business model, when I’m willing to pay the price for the product?

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing again, Daz!

      Your approach is a reasonable one. I think that market forces may be the biggest factor…but legal action can also have an impact. The question is whether the Agency Model, although it is not price-fixing, may be in another way illegally anti-competitive. The District Attorney of Connecticut is one entity looking into it. If it looks like legal action may happen, changes to the Agency Model may take place to avoid it…if it’s also uncertain that the Agency Model has had a big positive impact on the bottom line.

      Publishers have owned pseudonyms in the past (that’s called a “house name”), and I suppose what you describe is possible. After all, that’s why Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol for a while…a music publisher owned the rights to “Prince music”. At least, that’s the way I recall the story. 🙂

      If the author has been writing under her or his own name, though, I don’t think they’d get around a contract by making up a new pen name.

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