Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Twenty-Eight: The Data Is A Lie!
I know, I know, the Views are supposed to be on hiatus, but I just couldn’t let this one go. Read on, fearless warriors!
If you are a writer then you probably heard about Amazon sending out an email over the weekend. Yeah, it was a bit surreal, to say the least. A lot of propaganda and misdirection and all that other giant corporation stuff.
Chuck Wendig and Matt Wallace did a great job dissecting the email in their posts. You should go have a read. It was also covered by Time, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, and fifty trillion other online word pukers. (I include myself in the “word puker” category, so nobody get offended, alright? We’ve all had too much prose and ended up getting sick all over our stack of unread New Yorkers. No shame there.)
There is a lot of back and forth spittle and hissing between the Team Amazon authors and the Team Hachette authors. There is also a lot of stepping in the middle with T hands and a referee’s whistle telling everyone to chill and realize this has nothing to do with authors, but everything to do with mega corporations and profit.
I agree with a little on one side, a little on the other, and a whole lot of the middle.
But there is one thing I have yet to see anyone touch on that is really the absolute crux of this matter: Amazon’s ebook sales data.
Now, before you start pointing at the links to those blogposts, hear me out. I concede that several authors and reporters have mentioned that Amazon can easily be cherry picking their data and only showing what they want us all to see. I agree with that. Example (directly from Amazon’s email):
“Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.“
Good numbers, right? Maybe. Plenty of people have wondered how many ebooks sell at $10.99 or $11.99, but Amazon doesn’t release that info. Authors want the full numbers to analyze and that ain’t happening.
The problem is no one is realizing that the data they want means absolutely zero. You see, folks, the data Amazon releases to the public is rigged from the beginning. They could print their entire database and it makes no difference.
Why? Simple: Amazon controls what sells on Amazon.
Chew on that for a second.
Sure, people have free will and can buy whatever they want, but it has been proven time and time again that when Amazon markets something specifically that something sells like crazy. That means, if Amazon wants $9.99 ebooks to be the bestsellers then they can tweak their marketing, promotions, and search algorithms to make damn sure $9.99 ebooks sell more than other price points.
How about a metaphor/analogy!
A farmer sells apples. He has tons and tons of different apples. The guy grows it all, yo, from Red Delicious to Arkansas Black. This farmer is your go-to apple guy, right? So you head to his farm and he has barrels and barrels of all the different apples for sale out front for $9.99 a pound. Seems a little spendy, but you’re all “Gotta have my apples!” and you buy a couple pounds of this and a couple pounds of that then head on home for the apple enjoyment portion of life.
Now, are you the farmer’s only customer? Heck to the no! Lots of people dig this farmer’s apples so they go to his farm and see the barrels and barrels of $9.99 apples. Some people see that there are other barrels of apples tucked away in the barn behind the farmer, but only a couple of folks go check those out. Why bother hunting for other apples when you can get the yummy ones in front of you for $9.99? So, folks be buying some $9.99 apples and when the local news station comes by to do a happy, feel-good piece, they ask the farmer which apples sell the best.
“Oh, lots sell, but folks like the ones right here for $9.99 the most,” the farmer grins. “Who doesn’t like $9.99 apples?”
See where I’m going with this? There were other apples tucked away for different prices. I’m not saying those apples were better quality or worse quality, or even different apples, but they were shoved out of sight and out of mind by the farmer so all his customers saw were the $9.99 a pound barrels.
That’s what Amazon can do; they can make sure you, and everyone else, buy ebooks at the price point they want. And that is what makes their data worthless when proving anything regarding readers’ buying habits. You want to know what price readers want? Then get sales data from ALL the ebook retailers and compile that. Then you’ll have some true data and something to talk about.
Until then, all anyone is doing is pointing at the news clip of that farmer saying “Folks like the ones right here for $9.99 the most” and calling it cherry picking when the truth is there isn’t even a cherry in the bunch.
I’ll let y’all ponder that for a while. Good luck.
Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.
Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.
Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.
He is the author of the bestselling Z-Burbia series for Severed Press as well as the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash), Mega,AntiBio, and the YA zombie novel Little Dead Man, as well as the forthcoming (October) Teen horror novel Intentional Haunting (both by Permuted Press).
Posted on August 13, 2014, in Views From The Captain's Chair! and tagged bible, fiction, future, genre, horror, indie publishing, jake, Jake Bible, novel, publishing, science fiction, scifi, traditional publishing, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.