Note: I mentioned below that several ebook vendors were having big sales this week including BooksonBoard. I read the BoB promotion to require a minimum of $100 to get the 50% rebate. This is not accurate. There is a 50% rebate/reward for each book purchased through today regardless of what you spend.
Arstechnica, one of my favorite tech blogs, had an article up last week about EMI’s decision to open an EMI only music store. Ars argued that an EMI only music store was doomed to fail for two basic reasons
- most music customers don’t know the label of their favorite musician
- music buyers want to find their favorite music easily and in one place. “Research has shown that when consumers are looking for music they want it all in one place.”
These assumptions don’t necessarily carry over to the niche romance ebook reading market. Ellora’s Cave has a brand name in erotic romance of which most ebook readers are aware. For several years, EC was really the only game in town and thus it made sense to drive readers to its exclusive portal. But the ebook market and ebook publishing has evolved since 2001, the birth of Ellora’s Cave. There are over 60 epublishers in business today. Fictionwise, eBookwise, BooksonBoard, eReader, Mobipocket, All Romance eBooks, and Kindle serve as legitimate retail outlets for ebooks.
There is a push from major forces in the entertainment industry such as Amazon and Sony to increase ebook reading. Even the iPhone has created still another avenue for ebook readers. But Amazon, Sony, iPhone, Fictionwise, eBookwise, BooksonBoard, eReader, Mobipocket, and others have one thing in common. They still do not sell every ebook published today.
Part of that is due to self imposed limits. For example, Fictionwise “partners with publishers who can provide 25 or more titles by at least five different established, professional authors.” But some of the problem is that e-publishers are self limiting. Ellora’s Cave, for example, does not list its titles at any other vendor. The only way to purchase EC books is directly from the EC site.
EC’s webtraffic, according to one independent metric, has a ranking of 55,719. Fictionwise.com has an Alexa rating of 30,164. In a google search for “romance ebooks”, All Romance eBooks shows up first. The first epublisher to show up in that same google search is Alinar Publishing followed by Liquid Silver. I browsed through the first ten pages of search results. Ellora’s Cave didn’t show up. Neither did EC show up on any of the paid advertisements that appear on the right hand side of the search results
What about the search term erotic romance? Ellora’s Cave is missing from the first page of those search results. Hot romance reads? New Concepts shows up. Sexy romance reads? Amazon. BDSM books? Nope. BDSM romance books? Nope (DearAuthor has the second link on this search result).
Erotica ebooks is the first search where EC appears and it’s the very last of the front page search results. Liquid Silver shows up before EC. How about “romantica ebooks” since EC has trademarked that term? Diesel eBooks, an etailer, shows up first.
Apparently part of the reason that EC books do not appear on websites like Fictionwise.com is due to the fact that these e-vendors take a high rate of the royalty. Fictionwise, it is reported, takes 50% of a small print publishers royalty. If a publisher’s contract does not take into consideration third party retailers, then the publisher’s cut is reduced decreasing its willingness to see sales escape from its exclusive portal. But the question is really whether the loss of sales from lack of widespread distribution is made up by increased royalties at the exclusive portal.
Obviously, that is not an answer that I can give hard numbers to as I don’t have sales figures from Fictionwise and an ebook publisher to compare. Anectodotal evidence given in this thread suggests both that authors are better off being sold through a publisher’s exclusive portal and that the widespread distribution means better sales overall.
I can say from personal experience that I would buy more Ellora’s Cave books if they were made available at Fictionwise or some other retailer and it is because, as stated in the ArsTechnica article, I like a one stop shopping place. More and more e-vendors are building up loyalty programs to encourage readers to buy from one store. Fictionwise has its micropay rebates. BooksonBoard and eReader have reward dollars. These programs are designed to reward customer loyalty by giving back a percentage of a sale to use toward a future sale.
Further, e-vendors offer sales and loss leaders to encourage more purchasing. Fictionwise has its weekly 100% micropay rebate offers whereby you get the entire book’s purchase price rebated back to you in the form of a credit to be used later. Currently Fictionwise, eReader, and BooksonBoard* are offering 50% rebates on their entire catalog of books.
No epublisher’s exclusive portal offers these constant discounts, not even Harlequin who does offer the occassional coupon. These vendor promotions do not decrease an ebook author’s royalty as the promotions are absorbed by the vendor. But sales and promotions do increase reader purchases. How many Ellora’s Cave authors are missing out on sales at these vendors during these promotions? That is true for any number of epublishers who don’t have their entire catalogs on these e-vendor sites. (I.e., Josh Lanyon’s book, Death of a Pirate King, still is not in the Fictionwise or BooksonBoard catalog).
K.Z. Snow commented that epublishers might strike a balance by driving traffic directly to the publishers exclusive portals for the new releases and allowing the old releases to gain new readership by allowing those to go to the third party vendors. I think that is what is happening with Lanyon’s book. But for this one reader, I won’t be buying the book from Loose Id’s site. I’ll wait for it to show up at Fictionwise where I am flush with micropay rebate dollars I’ve earned from previous purchases.
When EC was the only erotic romance epublisher in town, selling your books only at Ellora’s Cave made sense. Seven years later, does exclusive publisher portals mean more money or lost sales?
*The 51% rebte applies for purchases totaling $100 or more. For those who do not like the rebates and rewards programs, the normal straight discounts will return after this program ends. BooksonBoard also allow readers to get Rewards Dollars on purchases made exclusively with Rewards Dollars, a double-dipping option not available elsewhere.