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Industry news: Amazon may sell used ebooks, Hachette’s ebook sales hurt the bottom line, and 50 Shades of Alice in Wonderland (I’m not making that up)

February 9, 2013

Amazon may be looking into used e-book sales

In a move that’s sure to make publishers love it even more than they already do, Amazon may be looking to sell used e-books. According to a patent filing in Reno, Nevada, Amazon is looking to develop technology that would “create a secondary market for digital objects” that users have purchased from a content vendor. In other words, they’re trying to  resell digital content you and other people have purchased, the same way they resell used physical books. The content would likely not be limited to ebooks, though. Anything digital and downloadable would be fair game. A company with a similar business model, ReDigi, is already trying to enter that market, but is currently limited by a lawsuit filed against it by Capitol Records.

What this means to you: You don’t make any money on the sales of used content. Period. It’s legal for physical books, CDs, and DVDs, and odds are it’s probably legal for downloaded content, as long as it’s a one-for-one sale–that is, you’re downloading it once and reselling it once. But with several publishers starting to remove digital-rights management (DRM) protections on their books, the question arises (again) whether this is good for authors. It’s certainly good for people who want free content. It would also probably reduce backlist sales, though perhaps not substantially.

Hachette’s eBook sales hurt overall revenue

Hachette’s sales for last year were up 1.2%, but revenue fell 3.4%. According to the publisher, the rise in ebook sales is hurting revenue. Revenues fell 5.7% for the fourth quarter. eBook sales now make up 26% of the company’s total revenue, up 3% from 2011. If you’re into that kind of thing, here’s a link to Hachette’s parent company’s (Lagardere’s) press release announcing the results.

What this means to you: More pressure on one of the Big Five. The traditional publishing model continues to struggle because of downward pressure on prices, combined with increased competition from source like Amazon, and all the free or very cheap online content available to consumers.

50 Shades of Alice in Wonderland? Seriously? (Yup.)

I used to think that the Tom Petty video Don’t Come Around Here No More was kind of odd in a Stanley Kubrick meets nursery school sort of way. It was a…unique take on Alice in Wonderland, but it was 1985 and I was young and you just didn’t see women dressed completely in spandex that much. Well, now there’s something that makes the Tom Petty video look like, well, nursery school: 50 Shades of Alice in Wonderland. A romance author using the pen name Melinda DuChamp decided she wanted to give erotica a try. So she wrote the book, did minimal marketing–including a mention by Joe Konrath, and after hitting some level of critical momentum, she made about $15,000 over three weeks. So, she did what anyone else who’s written a mildly successful derivative of a derivative of Twilight would do. She wrote a sequel.

What this means to you: As much as it would be fun to treat this as a fluff story, there’s a lot of moving pieces that require a second look here. This story shows the importance of networking. At least some of DuChamp’s sales came because she knew and was mentioned on Konrath’s blog. Love him or hate him, he has a following. She also got an assist from a best-selling author who included her book as part of a giveaway. DuChamp also had a backlist of mildly successful books. But she didn’t bring her success from her previous works. DuChamp is her name for this series only. Also, she gave away her book for free for a while to build a following. Finally, the books are cheap ($2.99 for download) and they have a hook that will instantly capture people who might be fans–Alice in Wonderland meets 50 Shades of Grey. It’s not high art, but it’s something to learn from.

  1. Susan permalink
    February 12, 2013 7:34 pm

    Its a good thing she wrote her version of 50 Shades of Grey before Amazon started the ebook reselling. Because then she would have sold 100 ebooks that Amazon would resell 1,000 times.

    Ebooks have allowed writers to actually make money, and they should be able to. They write for hours, go to book signings, and market themselves, and if they are worth their salt, they should be able to make a living at it. For probably the first time in writing history, writers have had hope.

    Editors can edit all day and earn a living; publishers can publish all day and make a living. But a good midlist writer will work for as many hours and still need a job on the side to pay the bills.

    I’ve been hearing from several midlist writers with a backlist averaging 10-15 books who are now able to ‘pay the bills’ as long as their bills are fairly low. Because of ebooks and the ability to put more profits into their own pockets, with less to publishers.

    Publishers and editors go to writing conferences and become cheerleaders. “You LOVE writing. Sure, there isn’t any money in it, but you don’t write for money! You write because you LOVE to write!” They make it sound shameful to want to be paid for your imagination and time. Perhaps they should start publishing because they love to publish, and give the money to charity. No less shameful?

    Wow, thanks Amazon for finding yet another way to screw writers over. In a short time, we go back to writing for almost free.

  2. February 13, 2013 5:54 am

    Good for you for saying it all, Susan. Excellent.

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