I’ve Contracted Stingy Book Buyers Disease

by James L. Rubart @JamesLRubart

True (embarrassing) confession. I’ve become cheap when it
comes to buying books.
What‘s wrong with me?
A few months back the e-book version of Patrick Carr’s first
novel, A Cast of Stones was offered
for free. So I downloaded it on my Kindle.
I liked it so much I bought the second book in the trilogy for my Kindle.
Cost: $4.99
I finished The Hero’s
this past Saturday. Loved it. So I jumped on the web to get book three.
Then I saw the price. $9.99?! Are you kidding? That expensive? I debated back
and forth for at least twenty minutes before buying Draw of Kings.
But I didn’t hesitate for even a second when I strolled into
Subway the other day and they wanted $9 for a flatbread pastrami sandwich.

The Conditioning Factors
We’ve torched ourselves haven’t we? If I had been buying
quality sub sandwiches for the past three years for free, or .99 cents, I’d
probably balk at paying nine bucks for a sub. But I haven’t.
We sure have been conditioned when it comes to books though. With
Bookbub, and eReaderIQ and the like, we’ve trained readers (and ourselves) to
think paying anything over five dollars for an e-book is a considerable amount
of money. (Have you balked at paying even .99 cents for a book that looked
good? I have.)
A few weekends back I flew to Oklahoma to speak at the ACFW
chapter in Oklahoma City. I sat next to a man who is a rabid Lee Child fan. Has
read every one of his Jack Reacher books. But he couldn’t imagine paying $15
for Child’s latest.

In the 80s and 90s there was a clothing store in the Seattle
area that was basically a cheap version of Nordstroms. They sold a lot of merchandise
until they implemented an advertising philosophy that was essentially to have
everything on sale all the time.
I’m not talking 20% off sales. I’m talking 70% off.  All the time. How could they sustain that type
of deep discounting? They couldn’t. Lamonts ended up filing for bankruptcy
twice during the 90s and closed their doors for the final time in 2000 when
they sold the company to Gottschalks (which went bankrupt as well in 2009.)
I Wouldn’t Want to Be
a Publisher
I love my publisher. My editor has become a dear friend. But
wow, I wouldn’t want to work there. They are up against significant challenges.
I don’t mean them specifically. I mean any publisher. That’s a battered ship at
the moment. (I do know what’d I do to turn the ship around which I’ll share in a later column.)

What’s My Point?
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. You realize we’ve
cut our own throat. When your publisher is selling your books for .99 cents,
you’re not making a lot of bank.
So what do we do? As authors I believe we need face reality
(as many of you already have) and admit the only way we’re going to find an
income is to embrace the hybrid model. I used to think it was an option. Not
Yes, I hear some of you saying, “Uh, James, where have you
been? You just now waking up to that certainty?” Yeah, I suppose I am. But I’m
guessing I’m not alone.

Three Questions
  • Have your buying habits changed?
  • Are you embracing the hybrid model? (Or the fully indie
  • How can publishers keep from becoming Lamonts? 
James L. Rubart is the best-selling and Christy
award winning author of six novels. He’s also a professional speaker, and marketer
who helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time
he dirt bikes, hikes, golfs, takes photos, and occasionally does sleight of
hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and two sons in
the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a
madman. More at http://jameslrubart.com/