Friday, October 3, 2014

Books For the Price Of A Song

I got a glimpse into where content is heading and it is not pretty.

Songs normally can be downloaded for a buck-twenty-nine on Apple iTunes.  But my son, nine, has been looking for bargains and found a whopper: 100 songs for $6.99.  That’s seven cents a song!

Granted, these were cover versions (dance mixes as well) of popular songs, but still, that’s some crazy economics.  Think about it.  If there were 50,000 downloads of a song, it would produce $3,500 in revenue.  Then that has to be split between Apple and the record company – and then the company and artist – and the artist has production costs, PR costs, an agent…This is peanuts for one’s craft.

Will books be sold this way one day?  They already are offered for free or 99 cents in promotional e-book downloads.  But could a new norm be brewing, where authors, desperate for attention, let their books go for a song, pun intended.

There should be a law to protect authors from themselves – and from destroying the industry.  Too many books are available for cheap – and cheapens the way we see books.

Case by case, each author makes choices and decisions regarding how to be published, how much to sell a book for, and how that book will be promoted and marketed.  Many authors conclude they want to increase readership by any means necessary, even by giving away their life’s work.  The hope is it builds fans and word of mouth and that either the next book will earn sales or that others will buy the “free” book once it’s no longer free.

In many cases, the low entry price or free tag does allow an author to build up readers.  But it comes with a price.   People will stop paying a lot when they can get it for a little – and will pay nothing after being fed a diet of free books.

Authors need to unionize and hold one another accountable.  Their earnings are threatened by a congested marketplace and each other.  Too many authors compete for the attention of their readers, desperate enough that they will give away what should hold value.  As more people cross that line and just give it away, there will be no turning back.

Things don’t reverse themselves the other way.  Cover prices won’t suddenly shoot up.  No, free and cheap are becoming the norm and the expected.  Songs for seven cents may be a high point in a few years.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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