Monday, September 11, 2017

Killing the Golden Goose

Last Wednesday on the blog (not that you noticed, I'm sure, though I'm writing this rebuke a month in advance--prove me wrong, assholes!) I talked about how "Goodwill" or giving shit away for free can often backfire on an author because people are assholes and just take the free shit and run.  Now here's a trend I've noticed the last couple of months that could be part of what's killing my golden goose:  it's these mega-bundles of 30, 40, 60, 80 "books" that are sold ridiculously cheap for as low as 99 cents.

Here's a case study for you: 


 At the time I'm writing this it's #1 in Victorian erotica, #2 in Transgender erotica, #2 in Historical erotica.  The page count is 370 pages, so if you do the math with 44 books that's only an average of 8 pages per "book."  Considering the real average is probably less than that these are more flash fiction stories than books.

And really you wrote 44 books of virgin taboo sex?  And this "author" has tons more of these collections.  To write that many stories you have to be even faster than me.  And far more focused on just doing one type of story over and over again.

Here's another case study just at random:
Dark Rough Erotica Sex Taboo Romance:  80 Books Mega Bundle, Deep Inside, Bisexual & Threesome Submission, Explicit Menage Stories for Women and Men  (Not so much a title as a bunch of keywords sandwiched together)

At this time it's not really doing as hot.  Only #38 in Transgender and #47 in Historical.  Unlike the other one it's a whopping 2326 pages, so the stories are more like stories at a 29 page average.  And yet think about this:  2326 fucking pages!!!  And you're selling it for 99 fucking cents?  That's like if I took my entire Transformed gender swap series and sold the thing for 99 cents instead of selling most of the book separately for $2.99.  I might make some money, but I'm still probably losing money because I'm only getting like $0.35 per copy.

And that's the whole problem.  These people are devaluing the product to such an extent that how can I possibly compete with them?  Let me put this in a simplistic example not using books.  Let's use soda pop instead.

For a couple of years I've been selling Grumpy Bulldog cola regionally and I've been doing pretty well.  I mean not as much as Coke or Pepsi, but more like RC Cola--or Faygo in Michigan.  For every 12-pack of Grumpy Bulldog cola I charge $2.99.

Now along comes some huckster selling Bubba Cola at 99 cents for a case of 80.  So what am I supposed to do?  I can't afford to sell my cola for 99 cents in a case of 80; I'd go out of business in a month because the sales couldn't possibly cover my expenses.  

And if Bubba Cola wants to actually maintain a business, they can't keep selling cases of 80 for 99 cents either.  But maybe they don't have to.  Maybe they just did something unsavory like take a bunch of flat, expired soda from a dumpster, slap a new label on it, and resell it for ridiculously cheap because they don't have much in the way of actual costs.

Or if you want another example, let's say I'm selling meth (though I'm not DEA, pinky swear) and I'm selling the pure blue Walter White shit for $2.99 a rock.  But then Gus Fring comes along and rips off my dealers and starts selling my product for 99 cents per pound.  He can do that because the product hardly cost him anything.

Which goes to my theory that I sincerely doubt these books are legit.  I think what these "authors" did is scoop up a bunch of stories off message boards or pirate sites or other books on Amazon and then slapped them together into a bundle.  I mean how else do you sell it so cheap and actually make a going concern?

The problem is like in my simplistic examples:  how can I compete with that?  Who wants to buy my one book for $2.99 when they can have 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 books for 99 cents?  Now in my cola example I would immediately think if you're selling 80 cans of soda for 99 cents there must really be something wrong with it.  Like if you say your car is is only $1 I'd immediately think there must be something terribly wrong with it.  But I don't think book readers are necessarily that discerning.  I don't think most of them really give a shit enough to think, "44 books by one author for 99 cents?  What's the catch?"  They just scoop it up because what the hell it's just something to jerk off to and if it sucks it only cost a buck, right?

Going back to Wednesday's post, this is frustrating as an author who would like to actually make some money off his writing.  This isn't exactly giving the book away for free but 99 cents for 80 books is pretty well giving it away for free.  And even I don't have 80 books a month in me.  Or even 44 "books" if they're all on the same theme.  That would just get so repetitive so fast.

Now to be fair some legitimate authors have been doing this too.  Recently Jay Noel posted about a collection of steampunk novels he contributed to that made it onto the USA Today bestseller list.  These I can be pretty sure are legit because it lists all the different authors.  It's not one person claiming to have written 22 steampunk novels.  As great as that is, though, it's largely like giving books away for free as you're hoping people will read your book in the collection and go buy more by you.  How many will?  And even when you sell a bunch of copies, at 99 cents split between the publisher and 22 authors, you're making maybe a penny on that.  Which is why I never made any money off the flash fiction collections I wrote with Neil Vogler and Sean Craven (and others on the second one); they sold it for 99 cents and when you split the 40% for the authors among three people that's 13 cents apiece.  To make $10 then we'd have to sell 77 books.  Now if you have 40% (or 40 cents per book) split 22 ways that's 1.8 cents apiece so you'd have to sell more than 500 books to make a measly $10.

You see what I'm saying there?  As a promotional tool that might be helpful--though from my last post I'm skeptical--but as a way to generate immediate money it's a losing proposition.  Unless you're getting your material for free or almost free and thus whatever you make is pretty much pure profit.  Which is great for you but now all of these collections are clogging up the bestseller categories on Amazon, making it harder for people like Yours Truly to get their books seen by readers.  It's like if I'm at a convention with my booth and this other person puts up a booth three times the size of mine smack dab in front of mine with all kinds of expensive pyrotechnics and whatnot; who the hell is going to notice my booth, right?

I'm not saying that's the only reason for a sales slump the last few months, but I think it's one reason.  I should go track down some proof and maybe convince Amazon to shut down these people, though Amazon will likely be too lazy to do anything (sellers like me they treat like garbage but scammers they just love) or the offenders will just keep coming back under other names.  Like with pirated movies, music, and so forth it's really up to the consumer to demand better product.  Drink Grumpy Bulldog Cola!  Er, buy my books!

4 comments:

  1. I'm surprised Amazon allows those taboo books on their site because I know the other vendors like Barnes and Noble are removing such books. I don't know the details, but there has been a lot of complaints about e-books with certain subjects like incest. I would boot them all off if it was up to me.

    Anyway, yes, I've noticed the trend in these huge box sets. Authors have ruined a lot of things for everyone. From what I understand (at least in other genres than erotica) part of the point is getting on the NY Times best seller list. The authors pay to be in these box sets just for that purpose because they do a lot of advertising. I don't know if anyone makes that money back.

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  2. Marketing for authors has become quite a challenge, even if you manage to land a publisher. I admire anyone trying to get their work in front of an audience.

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  3. It isn't hard to type out a short erotica story; just follow a scene from a Showtime or HBO "fake porn" and write a scene, call it a "book", but like four or five of those together, wash, rinse, repeat.

    Although there probably are some out there who do steal off message boards or whatever since many people don't use their real name/info when they post nor would they really monitor their work or look to see if someone has taken it...and would they want to claim it if they did notice??

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  4. That's a good point that the price point is hard to compete with. I imagine it's profitable if you just shovel junk into a pile, but it's harder on the legitimate writers that generate useful content. Too bad Amazon is rewarding drek and punishing good content. I'm off for a drink of that sweet, sweet Bulldog Cola.

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