Interview with Elizabeth Scott. Thoughts on Piracy.

Pam:Is it true that publisher’s who aren’t making their money back on their investments will publish less debut authors and create a lack of good fiction for all of us by only publishing people of James Patterson’s status?

Elizabeth:Well, to be honest, it’s people like James Patterson, who are perennial bestsellers, that make it possible for publishers to take chances on debut authors. Publishing is a business, like any others, and established bestsellers who bring in a constant stream of money are what they want and need.
Having said that, you are right that authors who don’t make money for their publishers won’t have a career for very long because, as I mentioned before, publishing is a business. And an author who isn’t profitable is an author that is a liability instead of an asset.

Pam:Should e-books be cheaper than hardcovers? Why or why not?

Elizabeth:I do think e-books should be cheaper than hardcovers, but I am coming to this question from the young adult market, where e-book sales aremuch, much lower than they are for adult books.
Past the price of e-books, I think the best thing publishers could do to sell more hardcovers–in both young adult and adult fiction, is to lower hardcover prices. When an adult hardcover edges over the $25 mark, I have a hard time truly considering it, and I know many teen readers don’t like paying, on average, about $17 for a hardcover young adult book. I’d love to see the prices of hardcover books come down because I think your average book buyer is going to be far more
likely to try a new author–or even an established one–if their hardcover books is priced at say, $17 for an adult book, and $12 for a young adult.

Pam:What costs go into releasing a digital release?

Elizabeth:I can’t speak for those who do it on their own, but I know that
creating an e-book version of a published book isn’t as easy as simply sending a file from the publisher to or e-book vendor of choice. In fact, there’s an interesting look at the actual costs–and how an e-book isn’t just “free” money for a publisher here: ebook price war.
I don’t agree with everything the article says, but creating an ebook? Not free for publishers. Not free at all.

Pam:How does sharing copies of your e-book illegally hurt you as an author?

Elizabeth:Pirated books–e-books versions, or in my case, mostly scanned copies that have been turned to .pdf files–hurt me because if I don’t make my publisher money, where’s there incentive to keep me? I’m not a bestseller, and so I don’t have the luxury of having a book or two fail.
Bottom line: If I don’t make my publisher money, they have absolutely no reason to keep me on. It’s like any other business–would you want to work with someone who did nothing? And that’s what a non-profitable author is to a publishing house–someone who brings nothing to work.

Pam:How is sharing illegal copies of your book different than loaning a hardback to a friend?

Elizabeth:Loaning a book to a friend means you a. liked the book enough to buy and better yet, b. liked it enough to want your friend to read it. Throwing up a pirated copy for people to download means you think my work is not worth paying for.
And it’s your right to think that. But it could–and very well might–cost me my job.

Pam:No trees had to die for this, so I should only have to pay $5.00 at most for your book. Your reaction?

Elizabeth:I’m assuming this is an e-book question and again, it’s not something
I have lot of experience with. But I look at it like this:

What do you do for a living? And how would you feel if your boss came in and told you, “Sorry, but we don’t want to pay you more than $5 for every project/job you do.”

Would you think that was fair? To get paid $5 per job/project? To get a salary of $5 a year? Because that’s what you’re saying when you tell authors you don’t want to pay $5 for their e-book. (Or regular
book, for that matter!)

photo: Matt Mendelsohn

Elizabeth Scott is a fantastic writer of YA fiction. I agree with every bit of what she has said in this interview. e-books are the same as MP3′s in my book. You don’t expect to pay nothing for an album from your favorite musical artist now do you? Check Elizabeth out on the web and on Twitter

6 Responses so far

  1. Gravatar

    If I could walk into my local Borders and buy YA hardcovers for 12, you better believe I would buy a whole lot more than I already do.

    On the ebooks being 5$, do you think if there is a mass market edition of the book out, the ebook should be cheaper than mass market? I ask because mmpbs usually sell for 6.99-7.99 range, and you can pass on your copy or toss it up on book mooch, whereas you can’t do that with an ebook, so in this situation, is it okay for an ebook to be 5$? Mind you this isn’t comparing hardcover and ebook, I think when only the hardcover is out and the ebook is out then clearly the ebook price should be more than $5. Please tell me this question makes some sense, ha ha.

  2. Gravatar

    I like April’s question. My initial thoughts are that the ebook should be a bit less than the paperback version. If the pb isn’t out yet, then the price should be a bit less than the hardcover. But I’m biased in favor of print copies.

  3. Gravatar

    When I read the break down of prices, paper is almost nothing. So what does the e-book not have besides paper that the hard copy has? These are the questions that need to be answered. I would love one of the big six to put out a pricing guide of what goes into it down to the details.

  4. Gravatar

    These days its not uncommon for an ebook to be the same price at the mass market paperback. I would love to buy more ebooks but if I’m going to pay the same price for an ebook as I would in a store then I’d want to be able to share it with my friends as I would that physical book. I think that if more ebooks were able to be shared, as one would a regular book, then overall sales of them would increase – regardless of the price. Although I think that in general the cost of the ebook should be less than the physical book.

  5. Gravatar

    Excellent interview on an important matter. I try to purchase several ebooks (and you know I take home my share of hardcovers) each month to support all formats. Ms. Scott makes excellent points about the worth of purchase and the ultimate effects on debut authors and their ability to remain published.

  6. Gravatar

    Excellent interview and I agree with her on most points (piracy is evil; authors have to make money and so do publishers) but that last bit about the $5 doesn’t make sense. If an ebook is $5, that doesn’t mean the author’s pay is $5 or that she’s making $5 for the entire project or $5 per year, so it’s illogical to say readers think that’s what her pay is worth; rather, an entire step is left out of the process.

    When there is no physical object printed, there is also no cost for paper or printing. I think the concern is that electronic books should be reduced to reflect the reduction in the cost of production caused by skipping the printing process. Personally, I’m not concerned about whether or not I can pass an ebook on to others, although I think it’s understandable that the concept enters into a buyer’s concern if he or she is paying as much for an electronic copy as she would for a physical object.

    I also don’t think readers are dim enough to assume that producing an ebook costs nothing. But, we’re savvy enough to realize that something is not quite right when an electronic item’s final cost is as much as that of a book that is tangible and requires paper, ink, glue and the use of a press to produce.

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