Let’s consider a completely fictional Amazon story, but one that has a ring of truthiness.
Mrs. Average Kindle User just got a Kindle for Christmas and absolutely loves it. At first she downloads a few authors that she knows from print, but she has to pay $9.99 or more for each title. She loves their books, and downloading book is much cheaper than hardcover, so she’s happy with what she’s getting. But after a month or two, she starts to look at Amazon’s book recommendations or the eBestsellers lists and notices other authors that she’s never seen before. She has no idea whether these are “real” authors or not, but if their books are in the top 10 of all bestsellers then they must be worth trying right? Plus they only charge $.99, which makes her suspicious, but that also makes purchasing less risky. She decides to go ahead and buy it. She reads the book, finishes in two days actually. It was a quick read. And not too bad, at the very least it was worth a buck.
When in need of a quick read down the road, can you guess which novel she’ll buy? Will she buy James Patterson for $12.99 OR will she go for John Locke or Jack Kilborn or Victorine Leiske at $.99 each? Now her brain must do some interesting math. She must decided, usually sub-consciously, whether reading Patterson gives her 13 times more enjoyment than the other books. Unless an Expensive Book is HIGHLY recommended by a friend, I predict Mrs. Average Kindle User will begin to choose the less expensive authors more often.
I think that a majority of readers will pay more attention to the price of the work as opposed to whether or not it has a publisher. And instead of being a deterrent, signaling a poor-quality work, the $.99 – $2.99 prices will draw people in at an ever quickening pace. If the quality matches the price then why pay more?
So, most people don’t have a bias toward self-published books in an electronic format. This is why currently, James Patterson is #12 on the Amazon eBestseller list and John Locke is #1, and #4, and #9. And all seven of his books are in the top 100. Locke is self-published but he’s sold 350,000 copies in the last 2 months, and his popularity is growing. And I’ll let you in on a secret… his writing is not great. But people BUY what is popular. That may change someday but for now I think self-publishing in the electronic format is the way to go.