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Tuesday News: Changes at Ellora’s Cave, Pew research on libraries and...

To All Ellora’s Cave authors:

You are probably aware of the quick, sharp decline of ebook sales via Amazon in recent months. EC is not the only publisher experiencing this sudden decrease, and interestingly, we are not seeing the same drastic dip from other vendors. But Amazon is our largest vendor, so we are having to make some fairly large changes quickly to deal with the situation until we can understand it and turn it around.

We have already cut staff, special EC projects and other expenses, but the drastic drop in sales has resulted in large net short-term variable production losses and slow and often negative return on investment for EC on almost every new book we publish, with the exception of a handful of the highest sellers. For that reason, for the foreseeable future almost all manuscripts will be edited by in-house editors, and covers designed by in-house artists.

We know that many of you love your current editors and covers, and we are very sorry to lose this dedicated group of talented people (and hope to be able to offer them other opportunities in future). The good news is that our staff editors and designers are highly skilled and deeply experienced, and will bring new perspectives to your books. We are looking forward to this creating a more direct relationship with our authors so we can be more aware of and thus more quickly responsive to your needs, questions and concerns.

If you have a book currently in edits or awaiting edits with a freelance editor, Managing Editor Whitney Mihalik will contact you within the next few weeks about its status.

Ellora’s Cave has weathered storms before and we will this one as well. We are aggressively adjusting our business to the current publishing environment. We will fill you in with our endeavors as they are unveiled­hopefully with the first exciting news later this week.

In the meantime, since these declines are primarily related to Amazon, it is a good idea to encourage your readers to purchase ebooks from the Ellora’s Cave site because it benefits you and your readers. Prices of books on our site are often lower, your royalty rate is higher and you get paid faster for books purchased through our site. You and your books are also much easier to find on our site.

Even readers with Kindles and Nooks can purchase on our site and load onto their devices. The process is not difficult. Our site has instructions on how to do it: http://www.ellorascave.com/downloads-support/. We are also working on some fun videos to show people how to do it and will put them on YouTube so you can link to them when they are done.

It is also important to support and promote Barnes & Noble and All Romance Ebooks as well until we are able to determine the reasons for Amazon’s declining sales. Hopefully we will be able to work with Amazon to correct the inconsistencies quickly. However, in the short run your net royalties per book are consistently higher in the following order: 1) Ellora’s Cave, 2) Barnes and Noble, AllRomance, and probably Kobo 3) Amazon, and 4) Google. It would certainly make fiscal sense for you to send your fans to those first venues.

This is by no means meant to be a statement about Amazon. We are not at this time coming to any conclusions regarding the many negative rumors and articles about Amazon­the Gazelle Project, their disputes with Disney and Hachette, and the 900 authors’ open letter in the New York Times­which we have been made aware of over and over again. For many years we have had a reasonable business relationship with Amazon, up until this drastic drop in sales, and we are certainly hoping that it will all be resolved as we present discrepancies that we are identifying. We have not completed our analysis at this point and therefore have not had any direct communication with Amazon regarding these issues. We are just saying in the meantime that it makes sense for you to promote your books to be purchased through the venues that are most profitable to you on a per-copy basis (and of course to Ellora’s Cave). This benefits all of us. That way you will make more per sale and, in the unthinkable event that the sales at Amazon continue to decline, your fans will be aware of other venues that are out there for them. Hopefully though, this is temporary and not a continuing trend and Amazon will go back to being as profitable for us as it has been in the past.

I know that there has been some discussion and concern about a new project announced by Jaid Black. We will make an announcement soon with details, but please be assured that no EC funds are being invested in this venture, that it is in no way a publishing company, and that my full attention and loyalty remain to Ellora’s Cave and its authors. We are looking at the new venture as a means to enhance the opportunities and options that are available to our authors­not to take away funds from Ellora’s Cave­and are very excited about releasing the news to you soon. We are always looking at new projects and interests as they present themselves to us­some connected to the publishing industry and some not. Please be assured, however, that EC always has been and remains our main focus. With the help of our fantastic staff and authors, we are working very hard to adjust to the current publishing environment and remain the premier publisher of erotic romance.

Also, please note that almost all the royalty checks have been mailed, with the exception of a handful that should be out by end of week. We are not bankrupt (rumors) and are not in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy. While we have had some issues getting the royalty checks out as quickly as we have in the past, we are still within our contracts. We certainly understand why you are concerned and appreciate those of you who have asked questions rather than spreading conspiracy theories and propagating rumors that are only detrimental to fellow authors. We hope all of this does not detract from what all of you do best­WRITING. Rumors are distracting and disconcerting and all of you deserve better.

Thanks for your support and understanding. We do appreciate all of you and respect your talents, your pride in your work and your concern for your careers. Please do not EVER sell yourselves short! What you do is valuable to everyone who comes in contact with you through your stories.

I emailed and received the following response from Ms. Marks:

We will have three in-house content editors plus a managing editor, as well as utilizing contract final line editors. We also have two full-time in-house artists and one part-time assisting artist.

The venture we are planning to unveil shortly is being created to enhance opportunities for EC authors.

Instructions have been given to all editors regarding submissions, accepted manuscripts, as well as works in progress.

I am certainly not denying this is a downsize. As you are well aware, there has been a major shift in the digital publishing environment and we must reevaluate our business accordingly. We will still certainly be focusing on properly editing and promoting our titles.

Thank you for your inquiry. I hope this answers your questions.

Patty Marks CEO
Ellora’s Cave Publishing Inc.

Other activity not noted in the email include the sale of many warehouse items including items which seem to be art props both on in a yardsale and on eBay. Per the above email, EC still is catching up on royalties. The downsizing of the company may jeopardize the quality of forthcoming books.  It should also be noted that the owner of EC is opening yet another publishing venture.

As noted in the above email, EC’s sales are down dramatically at Amazon. Likely this is due to self publishing, the introduction of Kindle Unlimited which is currently affecting other small digital publishers, and EC’s inability to adapt.

Likely the success of Laurann Dohner as well as backlist titles of authors who started with EC and have gone on to create large fanbases for themselves are keeping the doors open but whenever a company has to assert that they are not going bankrupt, that’s disconcerting for everyone. –Absolute Write

Print is still the anchor of Americans’ reading habits, but e-reading is growing more popular.

Most adults read a book in the last year, and almost half of readers under 30 read an e-book in the past year.

As tablet ownership grows, more Americans use them for e-books. –Pew Internet

In most respects, there was no significant difference between the Kindle readers and the paper readers: the emotional measures were roughly the same, and both groups of readers responded almost equally to questions dealing with the setting of the story, the characters and other plot details. But, the Kindle readers scored significantly lower on questions about when events in the story occurred. They also performed almost twice as poorly when asked to arrange 14 plot points in the correct sequence. –New York Times

From allowing young people to socialize without the chaperoning of clergymen and other merchants of morality to finally liberating women from the constraints of corsets and giant skirts (the “rational dress” pioneered by bike-riding women cut the weight of their undergarments to a “mere” 7 pounds), the velocipede made possible previously unthinkable actions and interactions that we now for granted to the point of forgetting the turbulence they once incited. –Brain Pickings

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

39 Comments

  1. Amanda
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 07:42:23

    The Ellora Caver news is worrisome. I do buy the majority of my eBooks through Amazon and while I have enjoyed EC authors in the past I have stopped buying their new releases because the prices are to steep for my budget.

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  2. Andrea T
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 08:12:34

    I agree with Amanda. I rarely buy books published by Ellora’s Cave bc of the price. I’ve seen novella-length ebooks for nearly $7.

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  3. Cynthia Sax
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 08:18:10

    Ellora’s Cave occupies an unique place in the SciFi erotic romance subgenre, a not always so lucrative place that self-publishing writers might not be attracted to. I suspect if they go away, these types of stories will also go away.

    They have other innovative lines like horror erotic romance, a line dedicated to married couples, etc.

    As I love having variety in Romanceland, this saddens me.

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  4. Joanne
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 10:45:59

    I have to admit that I, too, stopped buying EC stories largely because of the price. I enjoyed EC books for a long time. Before online publishing really took off and EC was one of the few even out there. But over the last few years, I’ve noticed the quality of writing seemed to be going down. I’ll fully admit I’m a picky reader, but for the kind of prices they’re charging now, it’s just not worth it to me.

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  5. Meg Cooper
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 11:25:12

    EC has also been putting backlist titles on sale, on Amazon and other distributors (ARe, I believe someone mentioned). The sale price puts those titles down to a reasonable price. I hope that’s enough for them.

    I wonder what the plans are for RomantiCon? That might be a very sobering conference.

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  6. Michele Mills
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 11:35:13

    @Cynthia Sax: I know….I love EC’s Aeon line. I’d be sad to see it go.

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  7. ruth
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 11:49:34

    I stopped buying EC because the price is just too high on their new releases. I also think that Ms. Marks suggestion that readers should download from EC is laughable! I don’t have time to do that. I download via Amazon, I don’t really care if that makes EC less money. That is not my problem. EC has always been greedy in my opinion. I am sure they are not passing that money on to their authors. I also must say that Jaid Black’s actions do effect my willingness to buy books from her company. Now I am just a reader, maybe my low opinion of EC is just poor PR they can’t overcome, but either way it does effect my likelihood of paying $11 for a new release or $6 for a book that I own in paperback and just want to have on my kindle for ease of use. If they started slashing prices on Amazon they might be able to perk things up a bit.

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  8. P. J. Dean
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 11:59:53

    Makes me a little sad about EC. High prices and poor quality writing. Bummer. But then again a lot of Amazon’s self published books are of poor quality too. I suppose readers don’t mind poor quality if it’s acquired at a cheaper price. Plus Kindle Unlimited may offer a ton of books for a low monthly price but it only offers Amazon imprints. For me KU is not worth it if only Amazon books are in the program. I really don’t like seeing Amazon possibly becoming the only game in town because of low prices.

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  9. Maite
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 12:23:30

    On EC lines:
    This probably exists somewhere, but couldn’t there be a blog somewhere where people could mention what they’d like to read? Sort of like the Alchemy page Etsy once had?
    So, if someone wanted to write a sci-fi erotic romance, they could go check that blog and see that there are at least a hundred people who would like to read that, and at what price point. And, with that information, see if it’s worth it. And if they write it, submit the book to the blog so that it can be added to the list. This would require some checking, as there will be people who will submit books to the “funny” section just because there’s one joke somewhere, so maybe it is too much work.

    I’ve got a couple books in writing (nothing actually published),

    On e-reading:
    Maybe it’s because I’ve always read skipping half the text (descriptions tend to bore me), but I’m more likely to notice details while e-reading than print reading.

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  10. Anne
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 12:54:49

    @P. J. Dean: Even though none of the Big 5 are available, Kindle Unlimited is not limited to just Amazon imprints or KDP titles. I keep thinking I could survive a long time on the Open Road titles alone. Please don’t consider this an endorsement as I haven’t tried any of the subscription services. I’m not a big fan of reading on backlit devices (Oyster, Scribd) and I’ve never gotten the hang of audio books (Amazon) so I keep wondering why I even look at the different options.

    http://dearauthor.com/ebooks/kindle-unlimited-600000-ebooks-and-7000-audiobooks-for-9-99/

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  11. Lori
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 13:18:21

    The EC letter is so interesting because they’re looking everywhere to point a blame finger and not at themselves.

    When you price yourself out of the market, don’t be surprised that your sales suck.

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  12. Marc Cabot
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 13:45:21

    @Cynthia Sax: I sell a lot of erotic sci-fi/fantasy, including romance, and my sales are experiencing no worse than the typical summer slump. (I sell at a lower price than EC, I hasten to admit.) Don’t know what she’s on about but I hope it turns around and authors get paid.

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  13. Marc Cabot
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 13:47:10

    @Joanne: Sadly for EC, the better writers are probably doing more and more self-publishing, which means that they get the lower-quality stuff for new lines, which is a self-perpetuating problem.

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  14. Anne Kane
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 15:53:29

    @Cynthia Sax: I too love the Sci Fi romance genre, and I think we need to realize that competition in the marketplace is a good thing. EC has always put out a good product that paid the authors a reasonable wage for their work. You can’t do that if you give the books away for free. I do know some people who brag they haven’t paid for a book in years. I wonder if they ever consider that the author might have to eat, and pay rent and clothe their children…

    I hope EC manages to survive this storm.

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  15. CC
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 15:55:12

    I rarely buy .99¢ books because I’ve found the adage “you get what you pay for” applies in the digital book world. So while I’m willing to pay decent money for well-written/edited/proofread books, I’m unwilling to pay $7+ for so-so books, which is where EC falls for me these days.

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  16. Anne Kane
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 15:56:31

    @Meg Cooper: My sister and I were planning to go to RomantiCon next year (It’s just not in my budget this year) I hope it makes a strong comeback in 2015!

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  17. Nikki
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 16:11:36

    I remember when EC was at the forefront of the ebook and erotic romance field. I have not purchased any of their books in years mostly because they are far too expensive for what is being provided. And the authors I would have considered buying have actually shifted away from EC to Samhain or to self-publishing. I wish them luck but perhaps a self-analysis would be a good place to start at.

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  18. Samantha
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 16:24:34

    EC has a lot of explicit covers and blurbs. It wouldn’t surprise me if a large part of their catalog got adult filtered by Amazon this summer.

    From what I hear, though, Amazon is just a tiny part of the problems going on at EC.

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  19. P. J. Dean
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 17:48:23

    @Anne thanks for the link.

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  20. azteclady
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 19:29:33

    @Anne Kane: Forgive the bluntness, but I fail to see how it’s the consumers’ problem whether or not EC makes money and/or pays its authors–I don’t believe readers are forcing anyone to give books away for free or at reduced prices, either individually or through major distributors (like amazon).

    And I would imagine that those readers who only read free stuff don’t get to choose the author or titles they get–it’s whatever it’s offered to them–so again, can’t see how the burden is on the readers.

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  21. Michael
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 19:47:30

    EC owner Tina Engler / Jaid Black: “I’ve got… a new publishing company coming your way within a couple weeks.”

    EC CEO Patty Marks: “…a new project announced by Jaid Black… is in no way a publishing company”

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  22. MaryK
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 23:10:44

    @Anne Kane: “I think we need to realize that competition in the marketplace is a good thing.” That seems to be the problem. They’re in competition for readers and not faring well.

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  23. Lana Baker
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 23:48:15

    Quite by accident, I’ve gotten my hands on several print copies of EC books in the last couple of years, and haven’t been able to finish a single one because of the poor editing. Yes, I realize that as the daughter of an English teacher, I might be a wee bit persnickety.

    If they downsize, and the editing gets even worse (strictly through lack of hours in a day), it’s 90% odds against me ever buying an EC book. Add in the ridiculously high prices, and it’s 100%. I’ve got thousands of better-edited books on which to spend my very limited book budget.

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  24. Fran Lee
    Aug 20, 2014 @ 01:03:15

    @Amanda: I have encouraged readers to buy from the publisher’s website because the vendors must raise the price to make a profit. The books are always priced lower at the Ellora’s Cave sales website. All third party vendors use the MSRP, while EC is able to discount the books.

    Some vendors even increase the MRSP. I check out book sales on all the vendors. I would suggest buying direct. They can provide readers with all the major reader formats.

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  25. Fran Lee
    Aug 20, 2014 @ 01:08:37

    @Meg Cooper: Meg, they have reduced the price on most books written and published before 2013. The 50% sale prices make it very affordable for readers to go in and buy all those books they wanted to, but couldn’t see their way clear to pay higher prices. Now is your chance to go on a shopping spree. :)

    As one of EC’s authors, I want the company to succeed. They have been good to me. I urge readers to buy direct and save money.

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  26. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 20, 2014 @ 12:38:21

    Not sure if you’ve seen this yet, as it was posted in the comments of Passive Guy’s scrape of this post:

    “The City of Akron in April 2014 received a Judgement in their favor against Jasmine Jade Enterprises, LLC and its owner for $29,679.52. There’s also an unreleased state tax lien against Elloras Cave from September 2013 for $7779.91.”

    That looks pretty ominous to me.

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  27. Theresa M. Moore
    Aug 20, 2014 @ 14:10:16

    I read here that there are many readers who think it’s not their problem if EC goes under and stops publishing books they like to read. I would suggest that you will get what you want to pay nothing for. Nothing. As for those who think EC is being “greedy” for charging a price for a decent profit margin, it is you that is greedy, in that you don’t take the trouble to learn why the price is set as high as it is. Ellora’s Cave, like many other small publishers, must be able to pay its bills. This means charging a reasonable price for a new release. I don’t see $7.00 as inordinately high. But you would pay $14.99 for a book you can’t get anywhere else, would you? Think about how much your comments make you look, and stop acting like you know everything, because you don’t.

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  28. MrsJoseph
    Aug 20, 2014 @ 14:27:37

    @Theresa M. Moore: Sure. Whatever you want to say. But while EC is floundering…I’m still reading great books for great prices and I don’t miss EC at all.

    Maybe YOU don’t see $7 as high but…I guess the rest of us power buyers who are leaving EC in droves do. So, attitude all you want, EC either gets it shit together or it goes out of business.

    And I’ll STILL read great books for great prices.

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  29. Ros
    Aug 20, 2014 @ 15:33:56

    @Theresa M. Moore: I think you’re confusing price with revenue. If EC priced its books lower, they might well find that their total revenue increases and thus they are more easily able to pay their bills. Selling a few books at a high price isn’t always better than selling a lot of books at a lower price.

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  30. hapax
    Aug 20, 2014 @ 15:37:58

    there are many readers who think it’s not their problem if EC goes under and stops publishing books they like to read.

    You seem to have a reading comprehension difficulty. All I see here are many readers who think it is not their problem if EC goes under and stops publishing books they think aren’t worth the price — whether it’s due to content, editing, or any other reason.

    EC isn’t providing humanitarian aid or a public service. They’re a business. If they can’t deliver a product the customers want for a price the market will bear, they’re going to be a FAILED business.

    It happens every day to thousands of businesses.

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  31. Stacey G.
    Aug 20, 2014 @ 17:35:28

    I own a Kindle, and want to be able to lend any book that I am allowed to one time to a friend. So all other sites but Amazon, including EC’s own, are out for me for purchases. I looked back at my account and have yet to buy an EC book in 2014. I read a great deal, so yes, Ms. Moore, $7 a pop is too much for me when I can get a story just as good or even better for less than $4 from many other publishers.

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  32. Sebbie
    Aug 20, 2014 @ 18:47:49

    It seems like this is a warning to publishers to LISTEN to your authors, because from what I know EC authors have been begging EC to lower prices, and do other things self publishers did, and EC just would not. Now they’ve started and one has to fear it’s too little too late.

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  33. Sebbie
    Aug 20, 2014 @ 18:58:07

    Stacey if you read the front matter on an ebook it states it usually states it’s illegal to lend.

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  34. Sirius
    Aug 20, 2014 @ 19:45:45

    @hapax: Completely agree. During years of reading m/m romances ( and some m/f) I maybe bought five – ten Ellora Cave titles, literally and as many romance readers I have mount TBR which contains good few hundred books and as many romance readers the ones I have read would probably count to couple thousands by now. I pay seven dollars *easily* for the book from say tiny publisher like Blind Eye Books, but this would be an incorrect comparison since a) as I said they are tiny and b) the quality they provide is many times superior to Ellora Cave. The better comparison would be the m/m publisher like Dreamspinner books whose longer books usually also cost 6.99 and which I also paid 6.99 for many times. Recently they discount them to five bucks and change after few weeks the book is out but that’s besides the point. Now Dreamspinner also rarely provides good quality editing wise IMO, however what they often do ( now not as often because I became too jaded and even pickier than before but still often enough for me) – they would seduce me by their blurbs by the promise of interesting story. And occasionally it pays off because occasionally I still find gems from them. Ellora cave’s blurbs to me sound as – all sex and very little to no story. And few titles that I bought from them support that. So – no promise of interesting story and editing that sucks , I have to pay seven dollars for their books why exactly? Maybe the readers who primarily are looking for very erotic romance will miss them more than I do. My last download from them was a year or two ago and it was a freebie from amazon. I am not surprised by their troubles at all and I do not think that the price is the only factor.

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  35. Linda
    Aug 21, 2014 @ 11:10:10

    @Sebbie she’s talking about the enabled lending on amazon, Barnes, and kobo books. Not illegal file sharing.

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  36. Stacey G.
    Aug 21, 2014 @ 14:11:20

    Sorry for the confusion, Sebbie. As Linda said, I meant the lending option that Amazon has set up with some publishers that allows a buyer to loan an ebook a single time to someone else. I have a friend that I share every lendable book I can with, and she shares with me. Helps keep our costs down, but if I want to do that I can only purchase through the Amazon website.

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  37. pooks
    Aug 22, 2014 @ 08:51:23

    @Lori:

    That was my first reaction–wondering if the lower Amazon sales across the board, not just ED, etc. that they are claiming has caused the problem is real or just an excuse to hide their own poor performance. I ask this not as judgment–I’ve never read any of their books and didn’t even know they were high-priced until reading this thread. I ask in genuine curiosity what the hive mind thinks, whether this is industry-wide or an EC issue.

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  38. pooks
    Aug 22, 2014 @ 08:52:54

    @pooks:

    Ugh, typos and low-caffeine are my bane. To attempt to express this more cogently–I wonder if there really are issues with Amazon sales as they describe, or if this is something they are claiming so they don’t have to admit that they are the only ones who are having problems selling, not others.

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  39. Cynthia Sax
    Aug 22, 2014 @ 09:13:52

    IMHO… this is an industry issue.
    There’s an almost unlimited supply of books at low or no cost
    and a limited number of readers.

    Yes, some writers are doing well
    and we hear about them.
    The majority of writers aren’t.
    We don’t hear about them
    because success breeds success.
    No reader invests in a series or serial
    if she or he thought the writer might quit before the story arc is completed.

    The writing facts are…
    Free or low cost is no longer a point of differentiation marketing-wise
    (and this low cost environment is likely here to stay).
    That price point also doesn’t pay for marketing
    (which might or might not be effective).
    A digital-first story is competing with a mind-boggling number of releases on its release day alone (and a week later, this release is old news).
    Finding first readers who will spread the word about a wonderfully written release is challenging.
    What is the solution?
    I don’t know.

    This isn’t the reader’s problem.
    This is a publisher and writer problem.
    We created this situation.
    We’ll fix it.

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