Christmas Shopping and the Failing Publication Market
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
As a blogger, writer, and reader, I’m constantly analyzing the current book market in an (usually feeble) attempt to discern the causes for its dismal state. Today, I was buying a book for my mother (Sue Grafton’s U is for Undertow) and was generally astounded by the book prices.
I read a great deal, and I’m in the book store quite frequently, but I usually buy classics. Classics are always cheap, and hardly run me more than $10.00. I also borrow a lot of books.
It appears that I’ve remained partially oblivious to the rising, staggering current prices of new publications. For example, Sue Grafton’s novel ran $30.00. The other books I inspected were around the same price. $30.00 is a great deal of money for a 400 pg. text. Arguably, the book’s entertainment value does not merit the cost.
Why so expensive? Well, there are a lot of reasons. Most can be boiled down to simple business and economic principles. The demand for books is at an all time low. For publishers to break even on publication expenses, the few units they sell need to produce a greater profit.
And while it seems that authors are the greedy ones, this is not the case. Authors earn just cents on every dollar for books that are sold. Books are expensive because their sales have to reimburse the publishers for marketing, distribution, design, and printing.
What does determine a books price?
-The author’s advance. Yes, authors do need a little money to get by. Keep in mind, for most authors this is only a few thousand dollars.
-Marketing. Publisher’s marketing departments produce advertisements, book tours, and hype for upcoming books. This can get pricey.
-Design. The aesthetic production values are vital to its sales. Not cheap, either.
-Distribution. It costs to get books out there. Publishers also have to pay if they want their clients book at the front of the store.
-Printing. Printing costs around $3 a book. That adds up.
-Commission. The store selling a book charges anywhere from 40% to 55% commission.
-Profit. The author and publisher might earn some money?
That’s seven different variables that add up to the book’s cover price. Even with the more expensive, popular books, authors aren’t making yacht-buying, hooker-harassing, house-building money. They might make enough to put food on the table.
This spells bad news for an already fading market. It’s a Catch 22. If publishers lower book prices to move more units, they’ll take brutal beatings on their profit margins. If publishers maintain book prices, the few people that still buy will be discouraged. Not to mention the current economic state of America.
Now, I know it’s the Christmas season; that always hikes up the prices of products in any market. Also, many of the books I looked at were brand new. Still, this has me worrying. Anyway, the best advice I can give for your holiday; don’t get mad at the authors, or the publishers. It’s fiscally out of their control.
Also, buy classics. They’re cheap.
God Save the Books,