Sunday, 9 October 2011

Have Books Been Devalued by Desperate Authors?

It is a sad fact that many book stores are closing and those managing to stay afloat have to sell their books at ridiculously cheap prices in order to sell them. I am pinching this idea off Authors on Show and L Anne Carrington's post there about book shops closing down as it is something I too feel so sad about and I'm sure the answer lies in the fact so many people who are desperate to see their name in print give their books away for nothing just so they can say how many downloads they've had.

We see it every day, new books coming on sites that are free to download by unknown authors and they all tell everyone how many downloads they've had of their books thinking it's wonderful and some great achievement. Well I hate to rain on your parade, but of course you can have hundreds and even thousands of downloads - they don't cost anything. Would you still be getting as many downloads (or any in some cases) if they were a normal price? If a shop that never sold much because its stock was pretty awful to say the least was to suddenly put up a sign saying everything was for free, I could guarantee their shelves would empty by lunchtime. It doesn't mean the stock is suddenly desirable or any good, it just means people will grab anything that's free or dirt cheap. What happens in the shop can be said of the free books and the ones that cost only $0.99 - (or about 70p).

Have any of you ever noticed that the main publishing houses never sell their authors that cheaply or ever give their books away for free even when it's a new author they take on? Have you also noticed that many of these free books are advertised by those who call themselves publishers and yet they really aren't as the ones actually publishing the books are Create Space, Lulu or similar. I run a site called, Authors on Show and used to promote many authors who were desperately looking for a publishing deal. I could have taken advantage of them by taking their books, offering to 'publish' them, done it on Lulu or Create Space and taken half their royalties when they sold because I called myself a publisher. If I put a few books on the sites I mentioned, it says I can call myself a publisher as I am doing more than 2 or three. That is ridiculous to say the least and should be stopped. Doing that doesn't make me or anyone else a real publisher, it makes me someone who is taking advantage of desperate people who want to say they have a publisher rather than saying they are self-published. What is even more ridiculous is why anyone would give half their royalties to anyone for doing it and then think they've been done a favour - especially when half the books are so badly edited - if at all.

The idea of giving away something you've often worked darned hard on for quite some time is daft. So, it gets your name known, but for what? Most of those who give their books away free usually then sell their second books for the minimum $0.99 and it is now all getting to be beyond a joke. Don't they realise this is why books mean nothing to most people any more and why book shops are having to close their doors? Don't they see that by devaluing themselves they are devaluing everyone else as well? What they also don't seem to realise is that those of us who sell our books at normal prices might not sell as many, but we make more than they do because we get 70% of the royalties on a much higher sale price and we don't have to share it with anyone either. They also don't realise that if they were to get a real publishing deal by a major house, it might soon be worthless as there won't  be anywhere left to sell their books due to all the shops being closed. Besides, what publisher would take an author who gives their work away seriously?

I am not saying all small publishing houses are doing this, but there are those who are and their authors don't seem to see it - or do they and they just don't care? Whatever way it is being done, it is for this reason I believe books now mean so little to people as they know they can download hundreds of books free of charge and even if 90% of them are rubbish, they might find an odd one here and there worth reading. beats paying normal prices for one doesn't it? One thing is for certain, most of these authors might get their names known, but it certainly won't be for the right reasons. Yes there are odd exceptions, but they are odd exceptions and all we have to do is read articles everywhere to see the public aren't daft and they take no notice of most of the reviews as they know they're written by other authors supporting each other.

I know there are many who might read this who will not like what I've said, but there are also many more who I know agree with me. It is not a dig at people who are with smaller genuine publishing houses, it is aimed at those who are destroying the world of books and book sales and I just hope they haven't done so much damage that we'll never see it recover. Long live real books, book shops and libraries - I just hope they're still around for future generations to see them.


  1. I agree, totally. We have to keep upto date with current trends and technology but this should never mean that real books are undervalued. Someone left a comment on my blog recently asking if my book is available in eBook. I would rather people bought it in paperback if I'm honest, but it is for sale as an eBook even though I make very little on it.

    CJ xx

  2. Yes, I'd rather they bought a paperback copy too, but at least they pay a proper price for our downloads too Kathryn. So sad to see the decline of books isn't it?
    I can imagine a child coming across one and holding it aloft to ask their parent what it is as though it is something very strange he's stumbled upon. The parent would answer they don't know what it is either, but that they think it is something people had years ago for a purpose unknown.
    That scenario won't be too far in the future at this rate either.

  3. I don't know, Lorraine. Lamenting the surge of epublishing is probably like our grandparents/parents warning against television. And to date, there is good TV and programming that probably is contributing to the decline of civilization... As for small publishers that are springing up, bridging the gap between self-publishing and traditional publishing, I see that as an empowering thing for authors. What is your criteria for a "real" publisher, if it's not someone who does the copy editing, typesetting, cover design, etc? Marketing? Getting reviews? Lots of traditional publishers aren't great at that either. Sure, there will be fly-by-night small publishers who won't do much but take their cut, but that's for an author to investigate prior to committing. I don't know...I think the current options are exciting ones for authors--the ones who want to be involved in getting their
    book out and the ones who'd rather give up some profit and spend their time writing. Traditional publishing does a good job in some ways, but this competition can only force them to try harder.

  4. Hi Mary, I agree epublishing can be a very good thing, but it needs tighter controls as many people do talk about how much rubbish is being published now and we all know it is don't we?
    As for the publishing, it isn't the genuine ones I mean, it is the ones taking advantage of the people who are desperate not to be seen to be self-published. It happens in all walks of life - not just in publishing, but it is still sad and the authors often know it's not a 'real' publisher, they just like the fact they can say 'my publisher' rather than saying they're self-published.There are many excellent small publishers and we know some of them don't we?