Brand Loyalty and Book Loyalty

After a full weekend of ZOMG on Twitter about the Macmillan/Amazon showdown, where Amazon did the hokey pokey with the buy links for Macmillan authors, I was having a hard time articulating why this didn’t send me into rage and ire. I’m horrified for authors whose books are no longer on sale from what I’m told is the largest independent bookseller in the US, and I’m sorry that people looking for books from Macmillan authors on Kindle will not find them and likely move onto something else. But I’m not angry at one party over another. Mostly I want to throw my hands up in the air similar to when my children are fighting over a small pile of Cheerios while I’m holding a full box.

Why? Because I don’t harbor any particular feelings of loyalty toward Amazon or toward Macmillan. As I said on Twitter:

My brand loyalty: to authors who write good books. Not to publisher, not to bookstore, not to vendor. Author. And Book. That is all.

I care who wrote the book, and I develop loyalty towards authors and towards specific books they’ve written. I could give a rat’s ass who published it. I suspect the only people who pay attention to what house published whom is someone who works in publishing. I couldn’t tell you who writes for Pocket or who writes for Tor – except now I can find one author’s books in Kindle and not the other. I don’t know who is a Macmillan author and who isn’t – and even when I started searching for books to see who was and was not available at Amazon, I had to stop and think which book and which authors would be affected because I honestly didn’t remember.


I have no brand loyalty towards a specific house or imprint. Increased transparency for editors online is a good thing for readers like me because I’m more likely to learn about their tastes, and see where they align with mine. I don’t necessarily remember if something is an Avon book, but I might care that Esi Sogah edited it because I know her taste from following her on Twitter and reading what she says on the Avon editor’s blog. I’m not impressed with Macmillan’s positions on ebooks, and know that if I am looking for a book published by a Macmillan author online in digital format, I likely will have a devil of a time finding it.

The exception to the publisher house brand loyalty oblivion are small presses who’ve consistently impressed or horrified me. Most of the time, if it’s a big publishing house or an imprint of one? I couldn’t tell one from another and don’t care to, either.

I don’t have any terrible brand loyalty to Amazon, though. I don’t care where I buy my books. I care about price and whether I can get them digitally in the format I want. I am discerning about the books and the authors and the prices I pay. And I don’t buy books all that often from Amazon. I buy groceries, children supplies and electronics, but books? Hardly ever. I use a Kindle, as I said earlier, but I bought it used and rarely do I put Amazon books on it, even though buying my books from other sources means I don’t have access to the additional features like syncing across devices. I’m more likely to buy from eHarlequin or than Amazon.

I don’t think either Amazon or Macmillan is thinking about the consumer in any of their tree-pissing positioning. I understand intellectually what they’re doing, but in the end, since I look for books and authors, not publishers and stores, their showdown only strengthens my deep and bubbly apathy towards publishers and vendors.

It doesn’t change much of my shopping habits, though it prods my empathy in a big way for the authors caught in the middle of this face-off. My loyalty is to them, and to the books that they write that I love. I don’t care where they come from, and I don’t care where I buy them, so long as I can have them. Neither Amazon nor Macmillan have stirred my loyalty as a reader such that I’m going to change anything.

What about you? Do you notice which publisher published what? Do you shop at more than one bookstore? What’s most important, the author and the book, or the publisher or the store – or none of the above? 

Comments are Closed

  1. 41

    @SB Sarah

    question for authors – does this price war maneuvering make you more or less likely to want to publish with Macmillan? Does it make a difference at all?

    Right now, I don’t know what I’d do-I’m in the middle of a project for Ballantine, writing for Berkley, and my head explodeth at thought of trying to write for another big place.

    At some point, I’d love to work with Monique who edits @ St. Martins and if I have that chance, this isn’t likely to affect that decision.  But as I’m not there…I dunno.

  2. 42
    EliG says:

    In general I’m not going to care the publisher/imprint for an author I know, that I already buy.  But I do look at the publisher/imprint when considering an author I don’t have experience with.  I am much more likely to pick up an unknown with a Berkley imprint because many of the authors I follow are with Berkley.  I avoided Tor for a while following a bad experience early on with their Romance line.  So I can see where the MacMillan v Amazon issue could hurt some authors.  I don’t typically buy from Amazon unless they’re the only option because I prefer to buy from the local Borders.  The local Borders gets my business because of a dedicated, knowledgable bookseller.  If she wasn’t working there I would probably go to the Barnes and Noble that is geographically mroe convenient. They aren’t particularly romance friendly, but I can request just about anything to pick up.

  3. 43
    Brenda B. Hill says:

    I AGREE WITH YOU:  My brand loyalty: to authors who write good books. Not to publisher, not to bookstore, not to vendor. Author. And Book. That is all. 
    I don’t think either Amazon or Macmillan is thinking about the consumer in any of their tree-pissing positioning.  They just want it all in their ballpark.

    Why can’t the authors add links to other book sites where the reader can just buy from their web site?? Is this possible?  I don’t look to see who the publisher is when I buy a book but this may make me start to look.
    Looks like someone is trying to play the monopoly game.

  4. 44
    fshk says:

    Just to be contrary, I do notice publishers, and I know which imprints belong to which houses, and I always look at spines when I buy books. I work in publishing, though, so I’m not disproving your point. 😀 I used to work for a big house, and I don’t anymore, but I’m always curious.

    Amazon and Macmillan both acted poorly here, and I struggled all weekend with who to be angrier at: Amazon for depriving authors of sales or Macmillan for being so fool-headed about ebook pricing (not to mention John Sergeant’s mind-boggling antipathy towards ebooks). And it does affect yours truly as a consumer, since I own a Kindle (which is the only reason I’m a regular Amazon customer; I rarely purchased anything from Amazon before that, but I live in a big city with lots of nifty indie bookstores). Although, half of what’s on my Kindle came from epubs, not Amazon, so I’m not totally Amazon loyal.

    I don’t have any particular brand loyalty towards publishers, I base most of my purchases on author loyalty and tend to try new authors based on reviews. (The exception here is epubs, which I have some loyalty to based on past experience, editorial standards, etc. I’m more inclined to try a book put out by an epub that also publishes an author I like, but I don’t make that same determination with the big publishers because I find there’s more variability.)

  5. 45
    Lyvvie says:

    Ditto. I have no clue about publishers. I find an author who gives me a good read I’ll cling to them, defend them and be loyal until they seriously disappoint and even then I’ll simply turn the other way but not really trash them behind their back. I respect that they were there for me once and have gone off to pastures new. It’s like any friendship. I look forward to their return should they choose to come back.

  6. 46
    Gwen says:

    Loyalty to the books/authors always.  I’m not going to buy a book I don’t want just because I feel loyalty to a seller or publisher.  Actually, I have a great fabulous best ever indie bookstore nearby that I’m very loyal too (other than convenience purchases at Borders) (see?), but there’s always too many books I want to buy.  I rarely notice publisher.  Except buying the Georgette Heyer reprints.  The quality of the physical book is better from (oh dear, I can’t think of the name) (see?) than Harlequin.

  7. 47
    CaseyL says:

    “Why should I support Macmillan when it wants to charge me more money for a book, versus Amazon who wants to charge me less?”

    It’s not that simple.

    Printed books come out in HC first, usually priced in the mid-$20s.  There are certain writers I like enough that I’ll buy their books in HC because I want to read them that much.

    About 6-12 months after the HC, the mmpb or tpb is published, usually priced at under $10.  Most people wait for the book to come out in pb, because it costs less.  They are willing to give up the instant access – the “Read it Now!” – for that price reduction.

    As I understand it, what Amazon was insisting on doing was publish eBooks *at HC dates but charging pb prices.*  That is, the eBook would be available as soon as the initial HC printing, but would only cost as much as a pb.

    And yer durn tootin most people will want to buy that:  get the benefit of early-access without paying for early-access?  Sign me up!

    But the money comes out of the author’s pocket, and the publisher’s pocket.  Not Amazon’s.  The writer makes money on HC, which enables the writer to write another book.  The publisher makes money on HC, which enables the publisher to, well, edit, read, review, find new writers, and keep established writers happy… and, again, Amazon doesn’t do any of that.

    Remember the kerfuffle over Harlequin directing slushpile writers to its vanity-publishing arm?  Remember how one of the concerns was that the reading public wouldn’t be able to tell which authors were worth reading and which ones were DIY hacks?  If the Amazonian sell-for-less model is the Next Big Thing, where do you think publishers are going to make up for the lost revenue?  I’ll tell you:  in the quality and care of the writers and books they publish.

  8. 48
    liz m says:

    @ CaseyL – it is rather that simple, akshully.

    Macmillian is charging double the mass market paperback price for many ebooks released only in mass market. There never was a hardcover. You can pay twice the price for the ebook or half the price (or less with store discounts) for the paperback.

    The hardcover argument is the slight of hand (look here!) they’re using to distract from that and make it seem a valid marketing policy. This has been discussed many places, many times, but their excellent PR on the issue obscures it.

  9. 49
    Kaitune says:

    I didn’t really notice anything about the different between each publisher until I started thinking of becoming an amateur writer. I, then, started to notice how some publishers deal with their covers better or how the writers get more control over her book format and so on. (That knowledge is strictly limited to publishers in Thailand though, I am still entirely clueless about US publishers.)

    I don’t think that this issue is something I would generally recognize as a consumer. I don’t care about the publisher or any retailer as long as I get to read the book that I want.

  10. 50
    Deb says:

    I find myself increasingly frustrated and angry over this issue. My first loyalty is to myself. It has to be, I have financial responsibilities which must be met before I can even think about “supporting” the author, publisher, bookseller, industry. Not poking you Sarah, but this raises a very unfair view of priorities, albeit a distinction which we engage in every time we discuss the prejudicial view of the romance genre itself.

    I have found myself questioned re: sense of entitlement due to shopping for the best price, my unrealistic & unfair “expectations” of release dates and mode of delivery and format. I have found myself feeling apologetic for choosing to read ebooks vs. print published as the latter is the preferred sale within the industry.

    The biggest casualty in this whole mess is author vs. reader.

  11. 51
    Jenny says:

    I don’t care about publisher when it comes to my paperbacks, but if you step into the manga (Japanese comics) scene, you’ll discover publisher is huge. All of the publishers have different ways of translating the books for the English market (translated sound effects or no? Leave in the Japanese honorifics or switch them out for Mr/Mrs/Miss/etc? how many translators notes? paper quality? strict translation or loose? and so on and on…) and the fans pick up on them fast. Plus, if they really don’t like a publisher’s efforts, there’s usually a pirated version online translated by fans that, if not better, is at least different and an alternative.

    While the most popular titles naturally still follow author-book loyalty, when it comes to the middle of the road stuff a lot of it’s interchangable, and then the advertisments in the backs of the books actually become important, as does building up a presence at the book stores. The little logos of most sci-fi publishers are nothing on manga spine logos. These are more like when Fabio took up a good inch and half of spine space.

  12. 52
    Amy! says:

    I’m loyal to a couple or three publishers (two of them technical, pragmatic and o’reilly, and one not-usually-romance, baen).  That’s because I can get stuff for value there, and I can find it.

    I’ve always liked amazon; even when they were at their most raging-dickish, I couldn’t find it in me to completely abandon the ease of use.  That’s a point for my loyal-to publishers to keep in mind: their websites suck, from my point of view.  There’s no way they would scale to the size of amazon.  All three are fine for the small collections that they have, but not for finding books.  Poor search, worse reviews (if they have reviews at all), generally non-existent previews, like that.

    If I didn’t have to find publishers to buy ebooks from, I’d buy more.  I won’t buy DRM, and I won’t buy proprietary-format.  I won’t buy from a company that has proven it’s willing to destroy parts of my collection.  That all sounds aimed at Amazon … I own around 12000 songs, all ripped from CDs that I own; I have never seen or heard of anything on the iTunes store that I’d want to buy enough to hand over a credit card (even though I own three apple computers and an ipod, and was waiting for the apple tablet with ‘bated breath).

    I saw some statistics on how poorly ebooks sell, compared to print (in the blog crawl from the amazon/macmillan kerfluffle).  I was interested to see how much it costs to prepare a book, and what the breakdown is (and was saddened to see authors insist that print-only expenses *must* be included in the cost for ebooks).  I was surprised by how *well* they sell—I mean, *I’ve* never bought an ebook that cost $10 to rent.  There’s actually a market out there for that?

    All of which is a roundabout way of saying: the publishers that I remember, and that I listed above, are DRM-free … and more than that.  Their commitment to providing books to readers infuses their catalog (including the pre-ebook catalog).  I’ve encountered some other publishers that I thought were similar (technical and other genres), and found that the DRM issue was a sort of touch-stone.  If they’re determined (or even merely willing) to pretend to copy-protect 0s and 1s, the confrontational, even hostile attitude toward customers soon surfaces in other areas.

    So … no thanks to that.  The publishers whose houses I remember—the ones I’m willing to visit, house by house, to see if they have something for me to read—are the ones that want me to find something.  Their search may suck, and recommendations may suck worse, and production values may be less than stellar … but they care enough to find the good books and deliver them to me, to be mine all mine, no compromise, and they’re worth remembering and revisiting for that.


  13. 53
    Cora says:

    I mainly care about the book and the author, but I do notice publishers and I do notice that some are more likely to publish books I enjoy than others. For example, at the moment I enjoy Roc and Juno and to some degree Orbit for urban fantasy, Tor for SF and steampunk and UK publisher Little Black Dress for contemporary romance. In these cases, seeing the publisher’s logo on the spine makes it more likely for me to pick a book from a new to me author from the shelf and read the blurb.

    What is more, Tor (Macmillan’s SFF arm) has built a strong brand loyalty in the SFF community via its website/online community. This is probably also why I had no problem coming up with several authors published by Tor without resorting to my bookshelves/database, but could only come up with one author published by St. Martin’s Press (another Macmillan imprint), even though I own and read books by several.

    Regarding the Amazon vs. Macmillan debacle, what infuriates me most about it is that Amazon not only pulled Macmillan ebooks (which were the subject of the dispute) but print books as well. I don’t own a Kindle, I don’t buy or read ebooks, so their pricing does not interest me (though I most certainly wouldn’t pay 15 dollars for one). But by pulling print books along with ebooks, Amazon punishes me as a consumer (not to mention the authors who are the ones truly hurt by this) over an issue I have no stake in. And for international readers like myself, Amazon is often the only reasonably cheap way of getting English language books.

  14. 54
    Suze says:

    Loyal to the book, and to me.  I want rewarding reads for reasonable money, when it’s convenient to me.

    I have some favourite authors I go looking for, and some I’ll pay hardcover prices for, and some I’ll pay several times for.  I won’t knowingly steal a book, but I will trade paper books with friends.  I now prefer e-books (storage issues), but damned if I’ll pay more for an e-book than I would for the paperback.

    But really, it’s all about me.  If an author consistently delivers good reads, I’ll keep looking for them, and be a squeeing fangirl who JUST CAN’T WAIT for the next book (Bujold, Briggs).  If they start to diverge from my taste, I’ll eventually drop them (LKH).

    I’ve become more aware of publishers since coming online, but I kind of resent the knowledge.  It was interesting reading about the kerfuffle this weekend, but in retrospect I’m kind of miffed that I even have to be aware of it.

    Publishers and retailers need to get their heads out of their rectums and clear up their business models.  I resent the guilt trip about not shopping at indie stores.  There are no indie stores in my town, and the ones in the nearest cities don’t have romance sections.  I resent the hue and cry about publishing companies going out of business.  It’s not my fault they can’t figure out how to publish, market, and price their products. 

    I even resent being made aware of the financial realities of professional authors.  I feel for them, and I hope to be one of them one day.  But I don’t want to be guilted into buying books I don’t particularly want, just to support them in their careers.

    As a consumer, I’ll buy the books I want to read, at a price I can stand to pay.  Anybody who makes it hard for me to do that will lose the sale.  The end.

    I may feel differently tomorrow, but that’s my take right now.

  15. 55

    I have never bought a book because of who the publisher was or wasn’t. It’s author, all the way.
    I’ve ordered books from Amazon—not e-books, I prefer print—and I’m sure I will again. I’m not going to hold this fiasco against them as if they were selling blood diamonds.
    Same with Macmillan. If they want to delay the release of e-book titles, fine. I don’t see how that’s any different than waiting for the lower cost paperback edition after the HC release.

  16. 56
    Becca says:

    Same with Macmillan. If they want to delay the release of e-book titles, fine. I don’t see how that’s any different than waiting for the lower cost paperback edition after the HC release.

    If Macmillan actually remembered to lower the prices, that would be one thing. But they have a habit of leaving the ebook price high, even for books that never went into hc, or so I’m told.

  17. 57
    dunnettreader says:

    Amazon just won me as a loyal ebook customer, and Steve Jobs just got a big black mark next to the iPad in my book.

    As I see Amazon’s strategy as it has played out over the past few months—and its new alternative pricing offer for publishers—it’s pushing a pricing structure for ebooks that recognizes what nearly all of us consumers of ebooks believe—a license to a digital copy is something quite a bit different than a physical book in terms of value to the reader, Cost of Goods Sold to the manufacturer (publisher), and distribution costs to the retailer (Amazon). Amazon is looking ahead to build an ebook industry based on higher volumes of a larger universe of books (like backlists) at low enough prices that they can be impulse buys—about the price of a movie and instantaneous to buy and receive. Amazon is fighting the big publishers who live off of a few megahits, want to milk as much as they can from that handful of titles, and are terrified that ebooks will cannibalize their hardback sales.

    Macmillan isn’t fighting for a higher ebook price when the book is first issued and comes down later—Amazon already offers a “dynamic” pricing for ebooks. The ebook price is higher while the book is only available in hardback, and should (if the publishers aren’t dunderheads) come down when the MPP is issued. What Macmillan is insisting on is that the ebook price be 40-50% higher than the price Amazon wants to offer. And as hard as it is to believe, Amazon’s proposals to Macmillan were better in terms of the publisher’s revenues than Macmillan is going to get when it forces Amazon to charge the higher price. I quote from the letter from Macmillan:

    The agency model [which Macmillan has insisted on] would allow Amazon to make more money selling our books, not less. We would make less money in our dealings with Amazon under the new model. Our disagreement is not about short-term profitability but rather about the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market.

    Yes, indeed! The entire difference in the higher price will come straight out of the reader’s pocketbook, not Amazon’s, and all goes to Amazon, not the publisher. All the price hike does is discourage the purchase of an ebook relative to the physical book. Oh, and make price room for new online retailers to not have to compete with Amazon. Any news this week of a new retailer come to mind?

    So, along comes Steve Jobs who has to have lots of bestseller content on opening day of the iPad at a competitive price with Amazon. But he can’t meet Amazon’s low prices on the bestsellers. So he has to get the retail prices on popular items raised—which is the deal he offered the six biggest publishers this week. Macmillan then used the fact the Apple iBookstore will be available to mass market their ebooks and used it to force Amazon to raise its prices.

    I understand why the authors are irritated—though jeez louise there are a host of alternatives if someone wanted to order one of those books online this weekend, so their sales shouldn’t have tanked. But they really should direct their ire at Macmillan, who is so committed to their current business model they’re going to sell a lot fewer books in the long run, which isn’t good for the authors or the publishing industry. To say nothing of the readers on whom their livelihoods depend.

    There’s a reason Amazon doesn’t want to price popular books for more than $9.99 even when it takes a loss on those items—the value proposition it offers its ebook customers. And it’s not simply to peddle their Kindle devices, since increasingly you don’t have to have a Kindle to read Amazon’s ebooks. You’ll even be able to read Amazon ebooks on the new iPad since it runs all iPhone apps.

    Thanks a bunch, Apple, for being so concerned about your new iPad customers! And thanks a bunch, Steve Jobs, for enabling heads-in-the-sand publishers like Macmillan who don’t “get” ebooks at all to keep running their business the same self-defeating ways.

  18. 58
    Castiron says:

    I’m aware of some publishers (Tor, Baen, Interweave Press, several university presses, the classic Penguin monochrome bindings) and completely oblivious to others.  I know that Lois McMaster Bujold is published by Baen and Eos, and that most of Madeleine L’Engle’s fiction was published by FS&G,  but I can’t tell you off the top of my head who publishes Loretta Chase, and four of her books are sitting ten feet from me.

    As a reader, my loyalty is to a good read. I buy very few books cold; either I’ve read the book at the library, I’m familiar with the author and trust them to give me a decent read, or I like the author personally and am buying the book to support them.  (And that last won’t happen more than once if I read the book and think it stinks.)  Publisher isn’t a factor; a given publisher can produce both books I love and books convincing me the editor was high when they accepted that manuscript.  Vendor—I’ll pay more for a book at the local big indie or at the yarn shop when they have the book I want on hand, because I want the book now and because I like having them around to browse in; I’m also perfectly happy to order from Book Depository or Knit Picks.  (Amazon lost my book custom after the GLBT edition of AmazonFail, though I still buy MP3s and DVDs through them.)

    As a publishing employee, while I’m certainly happy when a reader decides to buy a hardcover directly from us at full price, I expect readers to buy when they think the format and content are worth the money, and to not buy when they think it isn’t.  You’d rather buy a hardcover from a discounter than from an indie bookstore?  Then do it. You don’t want to pay $15 for an ebook?  Save your money for ebooks from other publishers who charge less.  You think a book is worth buying as a paperback but not as a hardcover?  Buy the paperback and enjoy.  You want to just check it out from the library?  Go to it.  Used book store?  Fine.  Find a beat-up copy for ten cents at a rummage sale, decide that fills your moral obligation, rip up the pbook, and torrent the pirated version?  Just don’t brag about it in front of the publisher ;-).

  19. 59
    liz m says:

    The entire difference in the higher price will come straight out of the reader’s pocketbook, not Amazon’s, and all goes to Amazon, not the publisher. All the price hike does is discourage the purchase of an ebook relative to the physical book.

    I’m following this discussion in several places on the web and I really, truly do not understand the dynamic at work. It’s clearly spelled out in the publishers own statements, the fact that this does not increase author revenue, the history of pricing the paperbacks at twice mass market is easy to verify, and STILL the conversation from the readers goes back over and over to hardcovers and the $10 price point and author loyalty / income.

    It deeply confuses me. Its like an abusive relationship. They (Macmillian) are not treating us well, they are not treating us like the value us,  they prefer other people to us, and we’re (readers) rushing to explain and defend that like we ‘walked into a door’.

  20. 60
    Susan Chambers says:

    My loyalty is to the authors.  I feel used by the publishers because I think they are pricing ebooks way too high.  I absolutely refuse to pay more for an ebook than a print copy.  Ebooks don’t have the production costs that print books do.  I’m not going to just lie there and let them rape me.  Okay, I’m exaggerating there, but I’m offended.

    I only buy print books from Amazon because I’m not interested in the Kindle.  I don’t have an ebook reader, I have several apps for my Palm and I’m happy with that. 

    I’ll buy ebooks that I like the price of or I’ll buy a print copy.

  21. 61
    Jes1 says:

    I would not have as much of a problem with the Macmillan position on this if they did not have such a bad history of charging much more for the ebook version than the paper version of a book.  I firmly believe they are lying outright when they say they will charge less when the paper back comes out.  They are one of the publishers that treats those of us who prefer ebooks the worst.  I know Amazon is no hero in this, but I have to say I think Macmillan is more of a villain in this particular issue.

  22. 62
    Kooritsuki says:

    For me, it’s author and book first and then price. But then, I do prefer to shop at Amazon more than any other online stores. I like their customer service people, and their easy return policy, though I do not exclusively shop there.

    However, for me, what Macmillan did was not acceptable. To charge $12.99 – $14.99 for an ebook with absolutely no resell value and minimum publishing cost on their part is completely unreasonable. If they succeed in forcing the price up, other publishers will follow suite. And then a couple of years down the road, they’ll do it again. That is why, on principle, I will no longer be purchasing their books.

    And no, I’ve never bothered to look at who was the publisher before this, but from now on, I will.

  23. 63
    Pat L. says:

    Frankly I dont care who the publisher is and since I have a Borders 5 mins away that is where I go. I also have a b&n about 10 mins away, so if I am in that area or feel like browsing there, that is where I go. I also use paperbackswap and occas a used bk store. Author and back blurb determine whether I buy a book. Sometimes recommendations or reading reviews on various sites will spur me to purchase a book.

  24. 64
    Ulrike says:

    There are three authors whose blogs I follow. For two of them, I could tell you who published their books. The 3rd has two different publishers; I know the small, indie press, but not the larger, big name press. Of the hundreds of other books in my house, even the ones I’ve read repeatedly, I couldn’t name the publisher of a single one! Like you, I’m all about the books and the authors. I only know the publishers I do know because the *authors* have mentioned them enough for the names to stick, not because I actually *care* about who published what.

  25. 65
    Brian says:

    Just some thoughts, which may or may not make sense to everyone. 🙂

    I used to not care or know who the publisher of the books I bought were.  That all changed when I went exclusively ebook in ‘07 (and spend over a thousand a year).  Because of the vast discrepancies in the quality pricing and availability of books in electronic format I’ve found it’s more necessary for me to know who’s publishing it.

    As far as Macmillan specifically it’s kinda scary for them to get such a heavy hand in pricing.  They already have scary ideas on what to charge for ebooks.  For example ‘The Eye of the World’ by Robert Jordan was first published 20 years ago.  It’s been reprinted many many times and copies can be found in used books stores across the country very cheap (for which the publisher and author’s estate get $0).  I can buy a new copy in paperback for $7.99 yet if I want it as an ebook (which is finally available) the book has a list price of $15.  How does this make sense?  They done the same thing with countless Tor and St. Martin’s titles ($15 ebook .vs $8 paperback).  Now if you’re telling me this new pricing setup will lower prices on books like this to a more rational level then it’s something to take a look at.

    I’m not as hung up as some on the whole ‘ebooks must not cost more than $9.99’ thing.  If it’s an author I want and the options are a hardcover for $16-$20 ($25-$30 list) or and ebook for $12-$15 I’ll take the ebook.  I am however more selective the higher the prices get.  I can think of at least 10 books from unfamiliar authors I bought last year at $9.99 that I wouldn’t have at a higher price and of those at least half the authors have gone on my buy list.

    Publishers.  Look at Baen (and the other pubs at  Offer us a decent product with no DRM (DRM doesn’t work anyway) so we actually feel we own the book and let us download/re-download them in various formats so they’ll hopefully be usable on whatever device we might get next.  Price them well (most books $6) and you’ll be successful.  You can even price books getting a HC release at $12-$15 for those that want it right away (kind of like Baen does w/ eArcs) and it would be successful.

  26. 66
    Keishon says:

    Yep, I pay attention to the publisher. In fact, Macmillan was the publisher I was buying hardcovers from until I started buying ebooks on a regular basis. My loyalty is to the authors as well but with Macmillan’s discouraging ebook prices, it’s kind hard to ignore them because their ebooks has consistently been high. I’m still waiting for JSF’s ebook prices to come down. Bottom line: I’m looking at Macmillan as an entity that wants to inhibit the growth of ebooks and it makes me not want to support this publisher at all. But rest assured, I’ll probably buy Julia Spencer-Fleming’s next hardcover book anyway because I can’t quit that series. On the other hand, I can quit Chelsea Cain.

  27. 67
    liz m says:

    Someone should make a list of authors we found we could quit due to e-book pricing. For me, it’s Kleypas, Alexander, and a few more of my former automatic purchase authors. It might be interesting to examine who we stopped buying and who (if anyone) we’re willing to pay a premium for as an ebook.

  28. 68
    sweetsiouxsie says:

    When I retired, I decided that my reading material would be mostly romance novels because I had always loved them and their happy endings. Looking for authors was a challenge. I didn’t know what would be good or not so good. My mom gave me some books by Johanna Lindsay. In a short time I read every book that author had in print. Then I went to B&N and found the romance section. I looked for an author who had a huge selection of books, a whole shelf full. I picked a book that had a nice color cover and I read it and loved. It was by Stephanie Laurens. I read everything she had in print. I noticed that other authors were advertised in the book so I tried some of those. That’s how I found Lisa Kleypas. All of those books were published by Avon. Hmmmm!
    Thanks to the SmartBitches website and the people who write on the site, I have discovered some other wonderful authors like Loretta Chase and Laura Kinsale. I don’t pay much attention to the publisher anymore.
    I prefer buying books from used book stores because all I want is the story. At this point, I don’t have a keeper shelf, I have a keeper shed. It’s 9×12 feet. Happy reading!

  29. 69
    Flo says:

    I notice the publisher on graphic novels.  Really because they tend to employ a specific type of genre story and particular artists.  If I don’t like the style or genre I won’t buy it.

    With books I rely solely on the author’s work.  If it turns shitty, I drop them with a vengeance.  If they improve I make sure to buy them in hardback on the opening selling day.

    Perhaps that makes me picky.  But if I believe in their story I’ll stick with them no matter who publishes them.  I’m stilling waiting on the sequel to Dragon Tongue which was dropped from a crumbling publishing house.  I keep hoping it will be published someday since it was such a fun story.

  30. 70
    Christine says:

    I will not be buying anything from Macmillan until they lower their ebook prices.  Charging more for an eBook than for a hardback seriously!?!  My loyalty is to Amazon which has awesome customer service by the way.  I do wish that Amazon had held out and not given into Macmillan’s ridiculous demands by selling their e-or paper books.

  31. 71

    Who gives a rat’s ass who publishes a book. Not readers for sure. Author and pricing is ALL we look at.  And I’m damn sure not going to pay the same or more for an ebook than a print copy. Not in my lifetime. The only time I’m aware of who publishes a book is when I see that they have a whole book free to read online (usually when the 3rd or 4th in the series comes out). And other than HarperTeen does anyone else do that?

  32. 72
    Laine says:

    On my reader book files are organised in a folder labelled epub. The subfolders are one per month.
    Except for the folder labelled pubishers which has subfolders labelled Baen, Harlequin, Regency Romance and Smashwords.
    Every month I buy the Baen Webscription, at least 25 Harlequins, the 5 new Regency Romances and I’m just getting started buying from Smashwords.
    So I have developed a loyalty to some publishers. I will always buy the Baen Webscription even if I don’t read any of the books that month. Same for Regency reads.
    Generally with other publishers I go by author and recommendtions.
    However I am developing a strong dislike for Tor and am disinlined to even look at their books.


  33. 73
    Rose says:

    I think most readers are loyal to authors—and that’s as it should be. Books aren’t pickles. Some imprints (Harlequin, Baen) have branded themselves well enough to have a following.

    I find it interesting that so many people on Team Author, but chastising Macmillan for trying to charge more for ebooks (or, more accurately trying to institute a variable pricing system similar to paper books), when they’re actually the author’s advocates in this case. Money to the publisher includes author’s royalties, and investment capital to buy more books.

    Amazon’s selling those 9.99 ebooks at a loss right now, but if the marketshare grows they’re not gonna want to do that forever. Charlie Stross pointed out that the distribution chain for books used to be:


    and Amazon wants to take over all the money for points 3 & 4 of that chain. Meanwhile, Macmillan, many authors, and most readers (if they thought about it) would prefer to cut one of those points out all together, so books can be cheaper, authors can be paid more, and there’s more profit for the publisher.

    Then the market can work out what percentage each of those benefits should take. I really recommend reading Charlie’s whole post:  (and Tobias Buckell’s, which he links to at the end).

  34. 74
    Joe says:

    My loyalty goes like this ME—>author —->price.  I don’t usually consider publisher.

    But this mess with MacMillan has made me acutely aware that I need to start thinking about them.

    I don’t have a problem with their stance on pricing ebooks when it comes to a Hardcover book.  I never buy hardcover anyway, so if they want to price an ebook version of a hardcover at 15.00 I don’t care.  I think ppl who buy hardcover normally would probably welcome something like that, actually.  But like I said, I don’t buy hardcover, doesn’t interest me.

    No, my issue is that they want to charge 15.00 for the mass market book (a mass market, that incidentally, never came out in hardcover).  This is untenable.  To me, this is a conscious decision by the publisher to deter me from reading in my preferred format at a competitive price.  How many people would pay 15.00 for a mass market pb?  To me this is the same thing.  So I make a conscious decision not to reward that publisher.  If i like the author I go to the library and get the book or I buy used.

  35. 75
    Becca says:

    so – what’s Macmillan’s romance label? or do they publish romance? who are Macmillan authors?

    I hate to punish an author for the sins of their publisher.

  36. 76
    nancy v. says:

    I am a romance junky who buys books by cover blurbs and occasionally authors.  For instance if I find a great book, I’ll go back and pick up the rest of their books to read, and pull a marathon read-a-thon of romance.  I rarely look at a publisher, although I do tend to avoid some that publish things I’m not into.  (I’m not a big vampire type reader, so you won’t find me reading books in that genre at all, though I do know who publishes them, after an unfortunate purchase where I inadvertantly ended up with three of them that I couldn’t return)  So I avoid that publisher.  But I do love a book with a good blurb on the back. NOT inside.  For authors whose publishers put the info about the story inside, I leave your books in the store, your best bet to sell to me is if I download for my Kindle PC.  This is the only way the authors at Macmillan might be impacted by me because I DO download quite a bit from Amazon.

  37. 77
    lilywhite says:

    But the money comes out of the author’s pocket, and the publisher’s pocket.  Not Amazon’s.

    This is inaccurate, actually.  Amazon was still paying the same list price to MacMillan, and taking a loss on the cheap eBook.  Speculation is that it was a loss leader to sell more Kindles, and that sounds right to me.

    Publishers allegedly will make LESS money off the new pricing structure, though I don’t quite understand why that is.  This move isn’t to net the publishers more money.  Rather, this move is intended to manage consumer expectations before they get too set in stone.  The entire “agency model” is predicated on the idea that publishers don’t want consumers to get used to cheap ebooks.  It didn’t use to matter because it was such a niche market.  Now that they’ve opened their eyes and can finally see ebooks hitting it big and becoming a HUGE market, they’ve decided that they don’t like the $9.99 price point and they want to control what retailers charge.

    The principal of this thing makes me sick.  You don’t get to sell something to someone and then dictate their resale price.  That’s not how business works.  That’s not how business has ever worked, nor should it.  If Amazon wants to take a loss, that is and should be their choice.  They’ve obviously run the numbers and decided that they can afford it.

  38. 78
    ashley says:

    for me, it’s loyalty to an author.  if she writes well she’s hooked me for the entire back story, even when some of the back story sucks (hey, we all improve right?)  this actually becomes a problem because I get reluctant to try other authors and have to wait months for my faves.

    also, publisher DISLOYALTY.  I refuse to buy penguin books that are not written by American authors.  why? because I have noticed, and I’m not the only one, that when a penguin book is translated into English from a foreign language (or even from UK material)  it’s done in such a way that it reflects American styles and opinions (not to rag on Americans).  Try reading the Qur’an in Penguin edition versus any other edition.  it’s a bit insulting, and I’m not even Muslim. 
    Also, I don’t really like when North American publishers print editions of UK books and go and change all the words.  I don’t know why, it just bugs me.  It throws me out of the scene when I’m reading a book set in somethingshire and the characters are playing soccer.  maybe that’s weird.

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