Publishers: Take my Money. Please.

kindlebooksDisclaimer:  This is a rant from a consumer’s point of view.  No wait, a pissed off consumer’s point of view.

Dear Publishers:

As one of your very best customers who routinely buys multiple books each month, you should care what I think, right?

So, here goes:  Stop making me feel as if I’m doing something wrong – something lesser – when I buy an eBook.  That’s exactly how I feel when you:

  • Hold back an eBook release date until after a print book is published.
  • Eliminate any discounts – the kind of discounts found everywhere on print books – by your stupid Agency Pricing model.
  • And, God forbid, charge more for an eBook than a print book. What – I mean what the hell – are you thinking?

None of this makes any sense, hide-bound (ha!) publishers.  The very first thing you learn on the very first day of Marketing 101 is this:  Your best customer is the one you already have. Yet, you routinely kick to the curb customers involved and committed enough to reading to have laid out $100 + on the purchase of a device that will allow them to read the books they love.  Hello, publishers. We bought an eReader. We are willing to spend money on books.  But you think we’re lesser because we don’t buy dead tree books, the Holy Grail of publishing.

And since drawing lines in the sand is something publishers seem to specialize in, know this:

  • Just because I prefer to read in the eBook format, I am not a pirate waiting to happen and I resent like hell the implication.
  • I will not – repeat, I will not – pay more for an eBook than a print book.  Will. Not. Do. It. And, guess what? More often than not, I will not default to a paper copy and will instead not read the book at all.  Why?  Because this pisses me off.  Make that really pisses me off.
  • When I see discounts available on print books and not on eBooks, I get an attitude and start thinking about how much I don’t really need to read the book in question.  Now, who do you think that hurts, huh?

As of last summer, Amazon reports that sales of eBooks outstripped sales of hardbacks for the first time – and surely it’s not the last.  It’s a watershed and if publishers don’t change their attitudes, they are going to drown.

Dear Author recently launched Lost Book Sales,  a site that gives readers an easy way to document why they didn’t buy a book – be it geographic, price, or whatever – that I hope provides publishers with the kick in the pants that they really, really need.  As soon as I am done with  my Top 100 Poll this weekend, I’m heading on over there to document some of my own lost sales.  Hey, whether you publishers listen or not – and I hope you do – it surely will be cathartic for me.

So, in conclusion, I offer you the following advice: Take your lumps, learn from them and we can all be friends again.  I know that you really don’t want to lose me and readers like me, dear publishers.  But it’s more than past time to get with the program.  Readers are readers and a sale is a sale. All will be forgiven when you start pricing  eBooks fairly and stop treating them – and me – as the unwanted stepchild.

Yours sincerely,


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39 Responses to Publishers: Take my Money. Please.

  1. Lori L says:

    I agree Sandy! When I first bought my K2 over a year ago, I bought everything, even if it just looked like a good book. What the heck, they were $4-5 or less! I was trying lots of new to me authors. Now, at $7.99 or worse $9.99 my book buying has dropped way back. Now, if I can’t get a book at the library, I just won’t read it. It’s a loose/loose situation all the way around.

  2. farmwifetwo says:

    I said the same things on the Dear Author posts. Library or nada. Part that gets me going is when authors think we should lobby the publishers for them – dear Author post and – or when authors complain about how much or little they are paid. I’m not the one negotiating the contracts…. they are. If they don’t want sales… they don’t want royalty cheques… they can keep doing things the way they always have been.

    JD Robb was actually out in “e” on my kobo Nov 2 – release date. It was $14 in “e” or $30+ in h/c. I bought the “e”. If Nora can negotiate that kind of contract…. all the rest can as well. Robb and GA McKevett’s are my remaining h/c holdouts. Even JAK came via the library this last year after being auto buy for the JAK’s/JAC’s (not a Quick fan)….

    I read 300 books or so a year….. just think of the lost sales and royalties.

    • Sandy AAR says:


      farmwifetwo: If Nora can negotiate that kind of contract…. all the rest can as well.

      Farmwifetoo, no other romance author has the same clout as Nora Roberts when it comes to negotiation. I think it’s unfair to make the assumption that all could negotiate the same.

      And, JML, I agree that publishers don’t think of readers as their customers — they’ve NEVER learned how to sell to us. And most seem resistant as hell to learning, don’t they?

  3. Leigh says:

    Amen. . .

    When I first purchased my Kindle I purchased a lot more then I am doing now. Because of publishers pricing especially the agency five I use the library for hb. And now mass market releases I will buy new e-books if they are discounted but I am not paying full price for an e-book.

    I can go to Target or Wal-Mart and pay less.

    I would just like to not buy anything from these publishers. But many of my favorite authors write for them.

  4. JML says:

    Absolutely! But the publishers don’t think of readers as their customers- they think of book sellers as their customers. Of course they’re wrong and it brings us to the constant whining by publishers about sales being down. Huh? Hello, anyone home in the pub houses that can think?

    Unfortunately the BIG (tongue in cheek) publishers are too locked into their past business plan to look at companies like Harlequin that ‘get’ ebook readers. Actually, Harlequin ‘gets’ all it’s readers since most of their books are discounted in some form. (no, I don’t work for Harlequin, more’s the pity)

  5. Patricia says:

    I completely agree. I have watched the pricing on e-books and I will not pay the same for an e-book, let alone more for an e-book. It just does not cost the publishers the same amount so they are making more. It completely offends my sense of fair play. Add it that the potential issues as to whether you have really “bought” the book or only a license to read the book, and its attendent legal restrictions, and it is just too much for me. E-book sales are big enough that the New York Times is about to launch a best seller list just for them, according to an announcement on their website so, publishers, get with the program or just get out of your own way.

  6. Jo-Ann W. says:

    I’m on board with all of that. I have written Amazon and I have written many publishers and told them this – I will not buy an ebook that is priced the same or more as the print book. I will not buy an ebook that is priced less than a dollar of the paper book and even at a dollar, it will depend on the book. I told Amazon I bought their Kindle on their promise that I would reap substantial savings on ebooks (pre-Agency Model). Um, not. To add to that, if I don’t like the ebook pricing, I will not then buy the paper book from Amazon or ANY retailer where the publisher (sorry authors) will get my money. I don’t deprive myself of the book, but I’ll buy it from an independent seller on Half, eBay or ABE or from a UBS (not even Amazon Marketplace). I won’t even buy from a power seller. I won’t even get it from the library since THEY buy from the publishers. I’m mad and I told them so. Like they care, but I did say I would spread the word. So here’s me spreading the word. Buy used and don’t give them your money in any way, shape or form if the ebook pricing is not to your liking.

    And here’s the other thing. How stupid are they? They should price the ebooks to sell more than print books. Why? Um, I can resell my print books at Half, ebay or wherever. A lost sale for them. I can’t do that with the ebook. Oh, look a sale for them. I can easily lend my print book to a friend. A lost sale for them. Can’t do that so easily with an ebook. Oh, look another sale for them. Etc. Pushing ebooks will create more sales for them. This is so not rocket science here.

    Can’t wait to check out the Lost Book Sale link. Thanks.

  7. Valarie P. says:

    BRAVA!!!!!!!! I have this exact same rant with publishers and I won’t read my favorite authors anymore because I won’t pay that price for the ebook. Instead I have found new favorite authors from publishers that want me to buy their books.

  8. Rike says:

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. There are customers – worldwide customers – who are used to spending lots of money on books, who get an ebook reader because it’s convenient or because they run out of shelves, and then they find out that some of the books they are interested it are actually more expensive now, or not available at all.

    Harlequin/Carina get it: Their websites are easy to navigate, Harlequin publishes many ebooks a month ahead of street sale dates, and prices are reasonable, with lots of attractive offers. As a result, once a month I buy from them big: six to twelve ebooks. Make that each site, and do the maths yourselves.

    Hachette don’t get it at all: Their ebook editions are not available outside the US. Meaning, while I can buy the paper copies as often as I want, both from sellers in Europe and the USA, I am prevented from buying the digital edition. This is particularly annoying in the case of The Ice Princess, only available as ebook, which I cannot buy legally in any way. This means I am just not reading Gail Carriger’s books, or Elizabeth Hoyt’s later ones, unless I review them, and then I get an ARC. Sorry ladies. There are just so many other interesting books out there that are available in digital format.

    Mind you, Amazon don’t get it either. If I buy ebooks from their site, I must pay an additional $2 for the honor of having Whispernet available internationally – which I don’t use anyway, as I don’t have a Kindle. This means that in all cases the paper copies from are cheaper than the digital versions from And I just don’t see the point of buying from if I can get the same book for a reasonable price (sans Whispernet fee) from any other ebook retailer. So no Kindle, and no Kindle ebooks.

    I hope that the publishing houses will come around and see reason. During the last six months or so, many of them have made their digital books available internationally, for example Avon. But to hook me in to spend big, you must offer me the full range of your books, in various formats and at no more cost than the paper copies.

  9. Karen says:

    I also think that publishers aren’t looking at paperback sales. When most publishers hear the word “book”, they automatically think, “$25 hardback book”. Everything else is just filler. So in their view, if they’re selling an eBook for $7.99, that is a discount because “real books” cost $20 or more. They look down on people who buy paperbacks and don’t think their opinions (or dollars) are important. I think one reason Harlequin is a leader in ebook sales is because their attentions aren’t focused on hardcovers, so they have to think about paperback readers and what they want.

  10. Lea AAR says:

    I have to jump on this bandwagon with great enthusiasm. Hey, after all, they helped create me, an ebook fan. Now they think they can take advantage of my preference for ebooks?? Someone, somewhere is thinking – she’ll pay it. Just give her time. She’s hooked.

    This reminds me of a situation a few years back when Blockbuster moved into our small town and put all of our local movie rental outlets out of business with their much lower pricing. Three years later we were all paying twice to Blockbuster what we paid when they arrived like gangbusters into town.

  11. Kate says:

    What I think is the most aggravating/unfair part? How much MORE profit publishers make per book on e-book sales than on a physical book. If you think about it, they already have the story in digital format (b/c how else are they getting it to the printer) then there is the fact that you are not paying for paper, ink, labor..etc. So when they charge the same (if not more) for e-books, just think about how much publishers are actually ripping off their consumers. I’d almost rather buy the paper books b/c I know it will cost THEM more and thus take a smidgen out of their profits. And I do mean smidgen; but I am petty enough to do it on principle.

    However, after finally cleaning out my keeper “closet”, I have found that when you read a book every 2-3 days, e-books take up a lot less space…and weigh a lot less when going on vacation. So for me, now I have to weigh the increased monetary cost in e-books versus the time, effort, and space it costs to get a physical book.

  12. Leigh says:

    quoting Rike:

    Harlequin/Carina get it: Their websites are easy to navigate, Harlequin publishes many ebooks a month ahead of street sale dates, and prices are reasonable, with lots of attractive offers. As a result, once a month I buy from them big: six to twelve ebooks. Make that each site, and do the maths yourselves.

    I agree. . . .Harlequin has become one of my favorite publishers. . .

  13. Vi says:

    Random House, which does not use the Agency pricing model,gets it too. I recently purchased 5 books by Monica McCarty on a whim because her ebooks were so reasonably priced by her publisher, Ballantine, which is owned by Random House.
    I want to buy ebooks of my beloved Lisa Kleypas, Loretta Chase and many, many others. However I refuse to pay $7.99 for an ebook, especially when I already have the pb copy of it. Thus, instead of buying the backplate of authors I love, I will try to new authors from non-agency publishing houses, like McCarty.

  14. Tee says:

    All these negative posts make me happy that my eyes don’t handle these contraptions as well as others can. Besides, the library has served me well for all these years with the printed books. If I ever buy an electronic reading device, they also have the e-downloads.

  15. Statch says:

    It’s been quite some time since the Agency pricing model came out, and I’m STILL mad. Not just upset, but mad. In fiction, I converted to ebook-only a couple of years ago. I swore at the time Agency pricing came out that I wouldn’t buy any ebooks priced the same as the print version, and for the most part I’ve held to that. I posted this on Dear Author too…I’m keeping a wishlist of ebooks by ‘big name’ authors that I would have bought immediately pre-Agency-pricing without even thinking about it. In the last 7 months, I’ve recorded 44 books. Of those:

    26 – not bought because ebook was same price as print version (may buy if prices go down again but only then)
    2 – not bought because ebook price was same as print (and never will buy because of bad reviews in the meantime)
    4 – bought even though ebook was same price as print, just because I wanted them
    12 – published by publishers who allow discounts – bought them all

    That doesn’t count all the new authors I didn’t try because the publisher wanted $6.99 or more, sometimes much more, for a new author…and all the subsequent sales lost because I didn’t try that first book.

    I read fast, and often. Harlequin is getting a lot of my money these days.

  16. Sandir says:

    Amen! I stopped reading Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips because their Kindle books are the same price as the paperback versions.

    Before the Agency Model catastrophe, I spent over $100 a month on ebooks. Now I’m spending about $30 and I’m discovering a lot of new-to-me authors. I guess I win and the publishers lose!

  17. Mark says:

    I have expressed very similar sentiments on several AAR Potpourri board threads since I first got a Sony Reader. I agree wholeheartedly, though I would cite Baen Books (using their Webscriptions site) as the best ebook policy of a publisher of printed books. ALL their print releases are out in ebook form on time, with NO DRM, priced at $4-$6 per book or cheaper in bundles, even if the printed release is trade paperback or hardback. Baen has been doing this for years longer than most other publishers, proving it works. Harlequin is the best at ebooks of the printed romance publishers, but they still price a few at trade paperback levels, which I won’t pay, and all their ebooks are DRM-locked.
    My tbb list currently includes 37 titles available in ebook at prices I refuse to pay, and a lot more where the ebooks has yet to show up in epub format. Those are sales the publishers will not get until they release the ebook at a mass-market paperback price.

  18. Statch says:

    I hope everyone does keep bookmarked, and record the books they didn’t buy. Jane from DearAuthor started the site, and there are a variety of reasons you can choose for the lost sale (geographic rights, format, DRM, etc), not just price. I just checked, and there are 720 lost sales recorded now. I know there must be a lot more out there, and this is our choice to have our voices heard in a quantifiable format. (I entered all the books I didn’t buy from my wishlist, and plan to keep recording all the ebooks I don’t buy because of Agency pricing there.)

  19. Becky says:

    Jo-Ann W – right on – just how stupid are they? Before I ran out of shelf space I absolutely haunted the used book stores. Some of the books I bought had probably been bought and sold 5 or 6 times, and the publisher only made a profit and the author only got royalties on the first sale. Can’t do that with e-books. Some of them can be lent – but they can control which ones and how many times – Can’t do that with dead tree books. They have the ability to DRM protect this stuff so if they could just pull their brains out of the 19th Century they would be doing everything they possibly could to encourage e-books. If a book is out in paperback that e-book price better be at least no more than the discouted Walmart price or gues what – Since I have no more shelf space – I go on the library’s waiting list ( preferably for the e -book version) and they make no money off me.

    And while I am ranting – if these publishers were really smart, they would be prctically giving libraries e-copies to encourage the sale of e-readers, cause no matter how tight fisted one is ( and I have nail marks on my palms) one will buy more books if one doesn’t have to worry about where one will put them and if the price is reasonable.

  20. Diana says:

    Amen to all of the above. I posted on the lost sale site that I had not bought Edge of Sight, the first in a new series by Roxanne St Claire for two reasons. Publsher Forever (Hachette) delayed the digital release by a week and priced it at $7.99. Double insult to this reader who has not bought a paper book in over two years. I will not go back to paper. Ever. Oddly enough, the site allows comments and someone told me l was wrong to be mad because Roxanne’s book is Awesome!!! Well, my reason is my reason and that’s that. One, I’m not mad, just disinterested and the impulse to pay $7.99 died when it wasn’t available for sale. Second, I can easily live without this Awesome (!!!) book because I have too many other choices and an impressive TBR already.

    Carina is doin’ it right. I highly recommend Fatal Affair, DC set romantic suspense by Marie Force for $3.89 in the Kindle store. I’ve also bought a book by Dee Carney for $3.99 because she’s a real charmer on Twitter. Two for less than the price of one.

    I’ve spent hundreds of dollars less than I would have by NOT buying Agency Five books since April 1. April Fools.

    • Rike says:

      Diana: Amen to all of the above. I posted on the lost sale site that I had not bought Edge of Sight, the first in a new series by Roxanne St Claire for two reasons. Publsher Forever (Hachette) delayed the digital release by a week and priced it at $7.99. Double insult to this reader who has not bought a paper book in over two years. I will not go back to paper. Ever. Oddly enough, the site allows comments and someone told me l was wrong to be mad because Roxanne’s book is Awesome!!! Well, my reason is my reason and that’s that. One, I’m not mad, just disinterested and the impulse to pay $7.99 died when it wasn’t available for sale.

      Oh, that’s why the new Roxanne St. Claire is not available digitally abroad – she’s changed publisher! (She used to be with Pocket.) What a pity, as Hachette is worst when it comes to ebooks. Well, this means I will either not get Edge of Sight at all, or wait until I can buy it reasonably priced second-hand.

  21. Diana says:

    Want to add that I’m thrilled that more and more authors are selling their backlist books in digital. Theresa Weir (Anne Frasier), Marsha Canham, Patricia Rice, Alison Kent, Kathryn Shay to name a few. Most are priced at $2.99. This is good! I’ve been buying them like mad for my reading contraption. (Sorry, Tee. I couldn’t resist.)

  22. SarannaDeWylde says:

    That’s ridiculous to see an ebook priced higher than a print book. That irks me as well. And I won’t do it. I refuse to pay more for the ebook when I can’t lend it or trade it. It doesn’t have anything extra except for the fact I can read it on a screen.

    Well, I spend 15 hours a day looking at my screen, so truthfully, I’d rather read a paperback. It has to be something pretty special to make me glue my eyes to a screen. And you want me to pay a higher price? Can you hear me snorting like a truffling pig?

  23. Xina says:

    I read both print and e-book,although I really enjoy the storage capabilities on my iPad, I will not buy an e-book that is priced the same, or more than paper. And unless I can get the book used,I won’t be buying the paper either only because it really annoys me that the pricing is the same. I do love the cheaper priced books of quality authors selling their backlists. I’ve loaded my reader with those and I’ll be busy reading those books and not buying or reading the overpriced books.

  24. sue from england says:

    I so agree with this. Like Sandy I read and buy more than 300 books a year and my wonderful Kindle means instant gratification rules: if I want it I could potentially buy it straight away, no time for second thoughts, so what’s not to like from a publisher’s point of view?
    Also, while an e book belongs to me, I cannot share it with friends or donate it to my local library, ergo it is not mine in the same flexible way, plus there are no physical costs attached,so why are they not cheaper!!! This seems a total no brainer to me

  25. Pam says:

    Agreed. I am frustrated with this new pricing policy. I now search for ebooks that are discounted and skip the full price ones. So publishers who offer discount on ebooks get my business. The others do not. After all, I can only read so many books and if I miss the ones I would have read from publishers who will not discount any ebooks, oh well. Their loss.

  26. Barbara says:

    I posted about this on Romantic Reads….we all know that the majority of new books come out the last Tuesday of the month. I spend the weekend before comparing ebook prices and the dead tree pricing. I refuse to buy an ebook that is not discounted. The discount from the store on a paperback needs to be applied to the ebooks. I am also getting more and more angry about the brick and morter stores not carrying many of the new releases. Come on….Stephanie Laurens….you are not even getting a copy of her new book?!? On-line I can get the 10% discount, ebook no discount but at Target I got a 25% discount. Guess which one I purchased from.

  27. Pat says:

    I absolutely agree with this rant. As the saying should go, “From your mouth to the publishers’ ears.”

    Like many who answered, I’ve found new authors whom I now love and will buy as long as their publishers don’t get greedy and suddenly want me to pay the same or more than the print book. I loved the authors whom I have dropped, but my love doesn’t mean I’ll be made a doormat.

  28. Kaetrin says:

    What Sandy said – and it’s even worse for international buyers due to geo restrictions…. Here’s hoping that publishers start listening to sites like AAR and DA.

  29. Sarah says:

    I agree with this 100%. In fact, nothing makes me madder than browsing e-books and seeing that the company is selling the physical copy of the book at a clearance price. I literally saw one book on barnes and noble for $3.99, but the ebook was priced at $9.99.

    Needless to say, I didn’t buy the book, but it seems that it should be equal. I hope that this changes because I see no reason to pay more for something just because it’s a digital copy. We’re saving trees, aren’t we? You’d think that would account for something!

  30. Renee says:

    I agree with all of the above. I love my sony reader but I absolutely refuse to pay more for the ebook than the paperback version. That is what the library is for :). It all seems remarkably short-sighted from the publishers’ point of view. I applaud both Harlequin and Random House for their approaches which have resulted in my buying more books from them than I was in the past.

  31. LeeAnn says:

    Just a few weeks after I purchased my longed for Kindle, the ebook prices for paperback romances mysteriously were the same. Talk about feeling burned! No paper, little labor, no shipping, no COST to publishers which makes for 100% profit? And Amazon can point the finger at the smug publisher and say with fake dismay…. “THEY set the prices – we can do nothing about it” Baloney. So I go the library route or the used book route even if I end up paying shipping because I think the publishers are just gouging romance readers because they can! And the Kindle? It sits on the shelf unless I’m traveling….and with the price of plane tickets – who’s traveling? *L*

  32. EC says:

    I have the same complaint as everyone else. I love my ebook but I will NOT pay more for ebooks than a printed copy. Also, with the printed copy, I can sell back at a used bookstore or share with friends. A discount does not kill anyone and the Big 5′s pricing is hurting the authors. I wish they would band together as a group and demand the publishers stop this form of extortion. I am not reading certain authors unless I can get them at the library because I absolutely refuse to buckle under the publisher’s monopoly. As a result, I am trying other options and will continue to boycott the Big 5 until they become reasonable. No one is begrudging them or the authors making money. However, they need to keep in mind their income comes from the folks like you and me who pay for these books. End of my rant!

  33. Lada says:

    Great rant and I’m right there with you, Sandy. I’ve almost stopped buying books at all and am heading over to lostbooksales to tell them why!!!

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