Paulo Coehlo Convinces His Publisher To Offer (Almost) All Of His Ebooks For $0.99

from the wow dept

One thing that we’ve seen even among authors who totally “get” that ebook pricing is out of control, is that if they have deals with traditional publishers, those publishers are never interested in offering low ebook prices, even if there’s growing evidence on the elasticity of ebooks, showing that the maximizing price is often less than $5. Joe Konrath’s experiments showed that lowering your price significantly can create a huge uptick in net revenue. But the big publishing houses always talk about overhead and the costs of publishing a book… even to the point of claiming that $10 is too cheap.

That’s meant that authors like Paulo Coelho, one of the best selling authors of all time, had to pirate his own book, by posting it online and pretending to be someone else. Even after releasing such works for free was shown to increase sales, his publisher resisted supporting these efforts.

However, perhaps the times are changing. Somehow, Coelho has convinced the US publisher of his first 11 books, Harper Collins (his most recent book came out with a different publisher) to offer ebook versions of 10 of his 11 books with them for $0.99. Now, this only applies to US and Canada (and right now it’s only the Kindle, though other platforms should be supported soon). It also appears this is a limited time offering. Also, perhaps most importantly, Harper Collins chose not to include Coelho’s most famous book of all, The Alchemist. So it’s not a complete recognition of the way things are heading, but it is impressive. While Coelho is on the record repeatedly telling people to download unauthorized copies of his work for free, he certainly sees how this can help him “compete” with free:

This is a crucial decision for me. For years I have been advocating that free content is not a threat to the book business. In lowering the price of a book and equaling it to the price of a song in iTunes, the reader will be encouraged to pay for it, instead of downloading it for free.

[….]

It is my (open) secret wish that pricing for ebooks will follow this trend.

I think many folks would agree. It will certainly be interesting to see how well this does, though it’s (unfortunately) probably unlikely that Harper Collins will ever reveal the results of its experiment. Hopefully it realizes that many buyers are invested in the experiment as well and it’s willing to share the results. Alternatively, if Coelho really wants to get others to follow this trend, if any data he has would be useful to getting that message across, perhaps he’ll publish it himself (or, hell, send it to us to publish!)

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Comments on “Paulo Coehlo Convinces His Publisher To Offer (Almost) All Of His Ebooks For $0.99”

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58 Comments
sehlat (profile) says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

They do NOT have a “shopping cart” for Nook Books, and when you buy one, you have to sign in again for EACH book. I already had “The Alchemist,” so I only had to do that TEN times.

BTW, oh Anonymous Coward, he traded dollars he’d never see from overpriced paper for dollars he WILL see from the eBooks.

And if I like the other books as well as I did “Alchemist” you can bet I’ll be recommending them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

“BTW, oh Anonymous Coward, he traded dollars he’d never see from overpriced paper for dollars he WILL see from the eBooks.”

You honestly think he will get 10 times more sales this way? Do you honestly think that, net processing and such, that he will sell 20 or 30 times as many books (needed for him to make the same bottom line)?

Franklin G Ryzzo (profile) says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

In a word… Yes

I absolutely believe he will sell at minimum 10 times more books pricing them this way, and very possibly the 20 or 30 times more you mentioned. No one has to think about spending 0.99. Anyone interested in his book that sees this offer will purchase it without giving it a 2nd thought. If itunes hasn’t proven this along with the app stores for apple and android phones with their .99 games, then I don’t know what else to tell you.

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

Processing on ebooks is negligible; computers don’t have to be paid. At most he’d have to sell 11-13 times more.

Yes, I expect this promotion will lead to a noteworthy net gain in the short term. In the long term, after the promotional price is back up to insane levels, I expect it to boost regular price sales by 1-2% on the books that were discounted and significantly more on the one that wasn’t.

Really, this is no different than a brick and mortar having a sale. I don’t expect it to prove much of anything since the value of having a sale has long been known. Keeping them at $0.99 would be the real test.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

I remember reading about Valve and its Steam sales. They talked about how when they would do a 75% off sale for games, they would get not 4 times the sales but 40 times the sales of a normal time period when the game is full price.

Let me explain a little more detail:

A game is normally $20. They have a 75% off sale, meaning the game now costs $5. They would have to sell 4 times as many copies to make the same amount of money as at $20. In stead they sold 40 times.

So on a normal weekend they would sell say 1000 copies at $20. That is $20,000. On a sale weekend, they would sell 40,000 copies at $5. That is $200,000. That is a HUGE jump in profits for the game developer.

I don’t see why games would be any different.

Noah Callaway says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

“You honestly think he will get 10 times more sales this way?” Yes, very much so. We’ve seen this in many other businesses. Take a look at Valve’s *deep* discounts they sometimes offer on games. From an article on the Penny-Arcade Report:

“Valve?s Gabe Newell once spoke about a series of pricing experiments on Steam, and stated that a price reduction of 75 percent should mean gross revenue remains constant, based on their prior experience. ‘Instead what we saw was our gross revenue increased by a factor of 40,’ he said. ‘Not 40 percent, but a factor of 40. Which is completely not predicted by our previous experience with silent price variation.’ “
http://www.penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/how-valve-devalued-video-games-and-why-thats-good-news-for-developers-and-p

I think he will sell many, many, many times more than 10x the number of books he would sell at $10.

Anonymous Coward says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

Well, it’s not really that simple.

Out od the 40,000 at $5, how many would have bought them over time at $20?

One of the big issues of dropping price isn’t that you attract new customers, but also that you tend to cannibalize your existing sales channels. So the real question would be how many the sold in the weeks after the sale was over – did they keep selling the 1000 units a weekend, or did that dip down to near 0? Did they basically just flood the market and suck up all the potential sales at a significantly lower price.

Further, if they make this a normal part of their business (a celebrated annual sale, example) will people hold off buying leading up to the “event”, and thus taking potential full price sales off the table?

There is a whole lot at play here. It’s not just one weekend, it’s the life cycle of the product.

Anonymous Coward says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

“Out od the 40,000 at $5, how many would have bought them over time at $20?”

That goes back to the issue of spending your money on a product when you have enough of it to actually spend. People are more inclined to spend money on sale items than normally priced items.

How would they cannibalize their other sales channels. They have a large enough catalog of games that a small portion saled out would probably have little to no effect on the other sales.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

Let me use another example for a different company, Zeyboyd Games. They have a pairing of games on Steam that they sell together for $2.99. They had a sale in which they sold the pair for $0.99. I cannot remember the exact numbers, but it was something like they sold 200 copies the weekend before the sale, sold 3000 copies the sale weekend, and every day after the sale saw around 300 sales at $2.99 for about a weeks time.

So they saw an uptick in sales at the higher price the days following the sale weekend. No cannibalizing there. They not only gained more customers but more revenue as well.

Keroberos (profile) says:

Re:

So the question will be this: Does he get more than 10 times more sales? Otherwise, he just traded dollars for pennies.

That only matters if you see things the way they were during the plant fiber based publishing era, with digital publishing you can “print” and sell as many copies as you like with very little added overhead per unit. Plus with digital publishing, books will never go out of print and can be sold until the heat death of the universe (can you say the same about paper book bestsellers from even ten or twenty years ago?). You have to look at profits over time as opposed to profits on whatever you physically printed. Valve has learned this with their digital game publishing on Steam, the lower the cost of the game the greater the sales–and the greater the profit. Also any profit lost on the sales of current and back catalog books can be regained on increased sales on future books, 99 cent e-books will bring in a ton of new readers (I’d probably pick up some if not all of them if they weren’t also riddled with DRM).

I would much rather have digital pennies forever versus physical dollars that will dry up in a couple of years.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

Ok. I was a bit off and Zeboyd did not provide hard numbers only percentages, but the trend is pretty much the same:

http://zeboyd.com/2012/04/19/the-effect-of-short-term-sales-on-quantity-sold-a-case-studio-on-zeboyds-deal-of-the-day/

During our 24-hour sale on Steam, we sold approximately 125 times our daily average from the week prior to the sale (when articles about our new game started coming out and gave us a sales boost) and approximately 230 times our daily average from the week before that (when we had no such boost).

Not only that, but in the week immediately following the sale, our daily average was about 35% better than it was immediately before the sale.

AzureSky (profile) says:

Re:

another important thing to note, as Baen found out in their free library experiment, free or cheap ebooks lead to higher sales of physical books, so he may not make as much directly on ebooks as he could have, but very likely he and his publisher will make more on physical book sale then they would have otherwise.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baen_Books

a few of my favorite authors are under Baen πŸ™‚

Anonymous Coward says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

Does it matter what he thinks?
Paulo Coelho on the other hand is no fool is it?
The guy is a best selling author, rich and well advised and by his own experiences he saw growth possibilities and is going for it, and have been doing it for years now, so something most be working.

So when others are seeing a decline, you have this guy embracing piracy to the point of creating his own pirate webiste called piratecoelho.com, making millions and gasp growing his market share to places he didn’t even had any revenues to speak of and you are saying it is a lie?

Please show us the evidence you have, I am sure you have hard proof of Paulo Coelho misleading statements and can prove his is a freetard pirate apologist lying scum right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

The DRM is not free you know.

Quote:

Jason K. says:
September 23, 2011 at 10:48 am

It costs $0.25 per download, so every time someone buys a copy of a book that has DRM, the publisher gets charged that fee.

You also have to set up a special Adobe DRM server, which cost $6,500 for the initial setup and then there is a $1,500 a year maintenance fee. Those numbers are approximations, but close.

Best practice is to try and partner with a company that is set up to do that (i.e. has their own server). We haven?t found a good partner yet though. Overdrive is the big one, but it was a 6 month wait to even get a meeting with them.

http://www.teleread.com/copy-right/does-anybody-know-what-is-the-cost-of-adobe-drm/

Cost per book $0.22~$0.50
Cost per year $1500
Cost initial $ $6500

See there, even some authors are freetards trying to leech from the platform of others that already have the “servers” so they don’t have to pay up for the cost stealing money from the other guys.

AzureSky (profile) says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

steam sales tend to boost sales at full price after sale.

I know this sounds counter intuitive, but many games that have gone on sale have been gifted to me or i grabbed them up.

well thanks to word of mouth, for example on dungeon defenders(gifted when the full bundle was like 8 bucks), thanks to my word of mouth alone, I can count over 30 sales they got AT FULL PRICE($14.99)+ DLC($13+ at the time)

thats a huge boost to sales, all thanks to a steam sale and a buddy giving me a copy(like many people do when they see a great steam sale) these sales give amazing word of mouth.

another example of a game i never would have touched was battle field: bad company 2, same guy gifted that to me when it was like 12bucks, and thanks to that, when the price went back up, they made at least 8-9 full priced sales of the game+expansion.

and the games riddled with aimbotters and hackers(why we all eventually quit)

AzureSky (profile) says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

steam sales tend to boost sales at full price after sale.

I know this sounds counter intuitive, but many games that have gone on sale have been gifted to me or i grabbed them up.

well thanks to word of mouth, for example on dungeon defenders(gifted when the full bundle was like 8 bucks), thanks to my word of mouth alone, I can count over 30 sales they got AT FULL PRICE($14.99)+ DLC($13+ at the time)

thats a huge boost to sales, all thanks to a steam sale and a buddy giving me a copy(like many people do when they see a great steam sale) these sales give amazing word of mouth.

another example of a game i never would have touched was battle field: bad company 2, same guy gifted that to me when it was like 12bucks, and thanks to that, when the price went back up, they made at least 8-9 full priced sales of the game+expansion.

and the games riddled with aimbotters and hackers(why we all eventually quit)

still they got sales they never would have….at full price and at sale price.

Anonymous Coward says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

Correction:

Digital distribution has costs, the servers are not free and DRM is not free either.

Adobe charges per copy, the servers for the DRM also cost money to maintain and the servers for downloads also cost, which most writers can’t afford, so they leech off of others from whom they can get it for free.

Musicians and filmakers are no different if you want DRM you will pay for it and if you can’t you will try to get it for free without having to pay those costs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I prefer the Nook versions for this reason. I have a Nook Color and while I have no problem buying any ebook as long as I can read it (I’m a reader first and foremost, I’ll deal with DRM if I have to, but I do try and avoid it), it’s easiest to strip the DRM from their books.

If you download Calibre, a great ebook manager which works with most devices, there are plugins available that do all the work for you, insofar as stripping DRM goes. There’s basically an all-in-one that covers most of the major DRM, from Adobe, B&N, Amazon, etc. Of course, with each version there are some different aspects you have to manually tweak yourself (but the instructions are included). The only one I regularly use, rather obviously, is for B&N’s content and on that one you are correct, you just need your account info (usually whatever email you registered with at B&N) and your credit card number (which is the one also registered with B&N, not 100% sure on if it’s the whole number or just the last 4 digits, but I can say if it’s not one it’s the other).

For the info/tools (for those who are interested) go to http://www.apprenticealf.wordpress.com

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Oops. Looks like I was wrong on the email part, but right on the credit card number (it has to be the full number).

“If you have ePub ebooks from Barnes and Noble (e.g. for nook), you must enter your name (NOT YOUR E_MAIL ADDRESS) and full credit card number into the customisation field of the Ignoble Epub DeDRM plugin. The name and credit card number should be the ones set as part of the Credit Card unlock code on your Nook Library page. Separate the name from the number with a comma and do not put any spaces in the card number or around the comma.”

It’s worth pointing out that all the various DRM removal plug-ins are basically like this and what you specifically need is listed on that site. Once set, that’s it. Never need to mess with again and it WILL work. I know I’ve been using it for over a year now. Going on 2 come Christmas time as I was an early adopter for the Nook Color.

Anonymous Coward says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

I really think so too.

If I want one of his books, I could go downtown and pick one up in print. I’ll drop around 10 bucks, factoring in the cost of gas, etc. OR, I can relax at home and download it it for 99 cents. No brainer. Heck, at that price, I’m far more likely to buy all 10 of the 99 cent titles–I will have spent the same money, but I have a lot more to show for it.

Now let’s talk about piracy. I’m sure people who would have simply pirated the book would rather just pay the 99 cents for a legit copy. Finding a safe and reliable torrent, and circumventing the DRM and whatnot is tedious. The publisher will reach customers they wouldn’t have been able to with a print copy. Everybody wins.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

+1. It shows that those publishers simply don’t get it. Technology has reduced their production cost closer to zero than it has ever been, and somehow they feel perfectly justified in charging me more.

It’s not just books on Amazon–it’s magazines, too. Even magazines aimed at tech-minded people. I’m looking at YOU, Wired. I already subscribe to the print copy, and you want to charge me more to download a digital copy?

Keroberos (profile) says:

Re:

their drm is easily stripped

I know this. All DRM is easily stripped (I think the DRM at all e-book stores and Overdrive for library lending has been cracked). I will not support a company that tries to limit what their paying customers can do with their legitimately purchased product (since it doesn’t stop the pirates at all I can’t see any other reason for it). At least there are signs that some publishers are understanding this. Tor will be dropping DRM in July ( http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2012/04/tor-drops-drm-from-ebooks-unlocking-digital-controls.html ), so if they don’t add ridiculous watermarking they will gain me as a customer again. Baen already has me as one for this very reason.

Benjo (profile) says:

Re:

“No matter the what the cost of the books, I spend about the same amount per month.”

This is largely true for all forms of entertainment. People have a set amount they can spend on entertainment, be it movies/books/bars/shows/etc. One of the things that can significantly affect this number is a) marketing and b) making it easy for a consumer to buy.

It is incredibly easy to justify on a whim buying a 1.00$ ebook, a 1-2$ tv show episode, or a 2-5$ movie/game. Most studies show that buying at these prices can easily become habitual and consistent. Just look at ringtones in the 90’s and smartphone/tablet apps today. Angry birds priced at .99$ pretty much feels free.

Habitual / consistent buying patterns function very similarly to subscription based revenue streams, which is the bread & butter of so many businesses. I guess the point is you can attract many new buyers with low priced digital goods, who will then often buy more digital goods and in the meantime be exposed to the other products your website offers.

Amazon does a pretty good job of this, as they know these offerings increase the value of their service. These days, whenever I need to buy something, I usually just assume Amazon will have it. And so they get my money.

Anonymous Coward says:

And the DRM...

I’m curious why you would feel this way. At 99c, does it really matter if you’re only hiring the book as long as you have time to read it? If you find that you like the book enough that you expect to read it over and over, and you really don’t trust the DRM scheme, you are still allowed to buy a physical copy. Realistically, the author probably gets a comparable dividend from each purchase.

If you’re saying that you don’t want to be seen to be even implicitly supporting DRM by paying for stricken products then that’s a different matter and I respect that. Not everything on Amazon/Kindle includes DRM though, that is at the discretion of the publisher. For example, Aaron Pogue releases his books on Amazon through his own publishing company and he is committed to publishing without DRM.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Re:

I’m amazed that the dollars for pennies post took so long to appear. None of the ACs that use this phrase understand the concept of elasticity in economics.

My personal theory on this is that because of IP Law there isn’t usually any need to learn about elasticity in the content industry. Having a monopoly gives a false sense of value.

The absolutely AMAZING thing is that even when the content industry sees the results of lowering price to increase profit, they still laugh and say its trading dollars for pennies.

I think we can safely say that a large portion of the “lost sales” in the content industry are due to poor pricing decisions.

Conscious (user link) says:

In most cases especially with something like an ebook the consumption of something free generally leads to sales. I’m sure some would love to make comparisons to music and piracy or what have you but it’s not the same. The old publishing industry like most old industry models have issues embracing the way things are now because of the vast changes in technology. Ultimately creating value and giving people something tangible does in fact matter. But even when a physical representation is not available people are willing to spend.

AzureSky (profile) says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

its a mix im sure, doing regular sales makes money for steam, and im sure it would make money for ebook vendors/publishers as well.

and note: my numbers dont count anything but people who directly got the game due to my influence, each of those sales has a whole slew of people who bought thanks to them.

the sames true for books(ebook or pulp dosnt matter) if people are talking about it, more people will buy it….

AzureSky (profile) says:

Barnes and Ignoble Screws Up

with ebooks its not so much safety thats the issue or drm, its quality thats the issue with p2p copies, most of them are hand scanned by people and then converted to a text based file by a program.

many of them are un-proofed or poorly proofed full of messed up words and random characters.

I know this because a few out of print books I wanted where only available via torrents(couldn’t even find used copies in reasonable condition).

I ended up having to proof them myself as i read the best I could….quite annoying……

thats also another reason some people turn to p2p for ebooks, you just cant get some books in ebook or even print format anymore, now the books i was talking about above came back into print 2 years after i torrented them, but still have no official ebooks….

I even emailed the author and he said he had been fighting with is publisher for years trying to get his stuff out in ebook format and they wouldnt do it without re-negotiating his contract….(they wanted the bulk of the money from ebook sales, with his current contract he would get more then them)

AzureSky (profile) says:

Re:

depends on where you live and what context its used in what # means.

to people who use the phone alot its the “pound sign” to people who use the computer alot it depends on country and vocation, most people i know call it the number sign.

the comment was ment to be smart ass since, as i said my grand mother would have called that the pound sign.

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