MarionGropen’s Techdirt Profile


About MarionGropen

I have been helping book publishing companies become more effective and financially sound for more than 20 years. In 2003, I formed Gropen Associates, a financial and management consulting firm that works exclusively with small, micro- and self-publishers. Check my website,, for free resources that support this community, and my blog,, for articles on topics such as a typical trade title's P&L, or ways to estimate future book sales.

MarionGropen’s Comments comment rss

  • Jul 9th, 2015 @ 7:19am

    It's shameful

    The purchase of AS by a large publisher, and the ownership of other Pay to Publish companies by other large houses, are one of the few things that make me ashamed of publishing and publishers.
  • Jul 6th, 2015 @ 8:02pm

    Re: Publishers Knew They Were Encouraging Piracy, Didn't Care

    Publishers are constrained by things you don't know about, such as agreements with the important reviewers, like the PW, Library Journal and Kirkus, to see that the reviewers have the book a certain length of time before any format is released to the public.

    Review journals need a couple of months to get the book, decide to review it, assign it to the reviewer, have them read it, and write the review, then to get the reviews into print and distributed.

    Then their customers (librarians and bookstores) need a certain amount of time to read the reviews and decide which books to stock, and to get their orders in before the pub date, so that the books are available everywhere on the day of release.

    So, no, they're not being stupid and stubborn and ignoring the brave new world.

    They're dealing with something important, but invisible to you.
  • Jul 6th, 2015 @ 7:57pm


    Friends sharing physical books are not committing piracy. But when a friend shares an ebook, another copy is created. That is an infringement. It's a **copy**right.

    Libraries are different. They're very careful to see that the new copy is deleted after a certain time, and that they have no more copies on loan at any one time than the total they own.

    On the other hand, it may well be an infringement for libraries to create an electronic copy of a book that they own in print. That is a subject of much legal wrangling, and different courts have taken different perspectives at different times.
  • Jul 6th, 2015 @ 7:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: The "sweet" price

    Nasch: I think publishers are torn.

    The factors in favor of higher prices:

    -- It does no publisher, author, or reader any good for Amazon to become a monopsony, as has already almost happened. If publishers make ebooks too inexpensive, they are in danger of killing off the competition for Amazon.

    -- If readers become accustomed to expecting prices that **can** be done if print editions carry most of the cost of preparing that edition, then when/if print dies, everyone in publishing and writing will have a hard time covering costs.

    Factors favoring lower prices:

    -- Dropping the prices increases the sales volume to some extent, and for most books, the elasticity makes total revenues increase.

    -- Dropping prices makes piracy less attractive.

    In the end, it's a balancing act.
  • Jul 6th, 2015 @ 7:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ford Motors fails to provide me with Crown Vic for $1, therefore I'm justified in stealing one. Those bastards. Not even end of year models at convenient price.

    What makes you think that any book that only sells 25 copies at $25 (a very uncommon price for a consumer ebook) has **any chance** of selling 20,000 copies at any price, including free?
  • Jul 6th, 2015 @ 4:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ford Motors fails to provide me with Crown Vic for $1, therefore I'm justified in stealing one. Those bastards. Not even end of year models at convenient price.

    PaulT: the fixed costs of producing an ebook are **huge**. Almost all of them are exactly what they would be for a print book.

    A content edit costs about $1200 to $2000 per manuscript.
    A line edit costs about $12 to $16 per thousand words (and a book tends to run upwards of 80,000 words).
    A copyedit tends to run $9 to $12 per thousand words
    A decent cover image tends to go from $1500 to $5,000
    And the list rolls on.

    Yes, some of those things can be had, in a substandard way, for much less. But if you have a book that might sell 10,000 copies in a half baked version with $5,000 in fixed costs, and might sell 40,000 copies if you invest $15,000 in it, then you run the numbers and make your choices.

    It's a business. It's run by hundreds of VERY smart people who love books, and who are not the luddites or dinosaurs that people here seem to see.

    If you think they're doing something incredibly stupid, then the chances are that you're missing information.

    Don't be so contemptuous.
  • Jul 6th, 2015 @ 4:30pm

    Re: Re: Ford Motors fails to provide me with Crown Vic for $1, therefore I'm justified in stealing one. Those bastards. Not even end of year models at convenient price.

    AC: the marginal cost may be zero, but you can't go to infinite volume.

    Somewhere, somehow, the producer has to cover the fixed costs of production as well as the variable ones.

    Books are low priced, low margin items, with **very high** fixed costs of production.

    You need content editors, line editing, copyediting, cover design, file conversion for an ebook, and after the conversion, each ebook format has to be proofread. Soon, with greater sophistication in e-reading software, we'll need text layout again, too.

    Each of those things must be done by a human, who has to spend many hours on the book-to-be.

    A solid book might sell 5,000 or 10,000 copies.

    Publishers also get only a fraction of the sale price, and pay a hefty chunk of that to the author.

    Somewhere, somehow, if you want books to continue to be high quality, you need to be willing to cover the costs.
  • Jul 6th, 2015 @ 4:25pm

    Re: Re: The "sweet" price

    The sweet spot is partly a function of demand elasticity. Not all ebooks are created equal in this regard.

    For example: the increase in sales for every dollar in reduced price is greater for a novel by an unknown author will be far, far greater than the increase in sales for every dollar the price is reduced for the book that just won the Booker Prize or a National Book Award, or the long-awaited sequel to a book that spent many months on the NYT list.

    Those are extremes, but they're illustrative.

    There is no one sweet spot for all ebooks. There is no one strategy that works for all ebooks.
  • Dec 14th, 2010 @ 8:28am

    Re: Re: Copyright isn't just about selfish corporations

    "Good! That means there's a better field of competition! But the focus here was who owns the copyright holders and why it's ever anyone other than the creator of the work."

    In the book publishing field, copyrights are almost never sold to the publisher. They're licensed to them for a period, but owned by the author or illustrator. And, as I said earlier, even when the corporation is the publisher, the majority of the little profit there is, goes as royalties to the author.
    an illegal download of a digital copy is never a lost sale. The logic behind that claim is fallacious.

    I beg to differ. I think we all know that some of the people who download now would buy a copy if they couldn't pirate. Not all, but certainly some. And so, some of the downloads really are lost sales.
  • Apr 10th, 2010 @ 9:12am

    No Loss? (as Marion Gropen)

    Overlooked in many of the arguments about copyright violation is the issue of control.

    The short version: If I make it, and I want to restrict the way I offer it to you, you have no right to force me to do otherwise.

    I believe that an author or other creator has the right to control how their work is sold and distributed, where substantial parts of it get used in mash-ups and other ways, and many other things. Of course, many authors choose to release that control. Some offer their work under various copyleft licenses. Some renounce their rights explicitly, but if they do not, then we don't have the right to take their work and do as we will with it.

    That said, I also believe that US practice is fair: you can extract content from one version and move it to others for your own personal use. However, the minute you offer to share it, or take that sharing from someone else, you are violating the creators' and rightsholders' control.
  • Dec 20th, 2007 @ 7:44am

    Re: cost of publishing an ebook? (as Marion Gropen)

    First, if you want basic typesetting (which makes a text MUCH easier on the eyes), or any of the other myriad things that publishers contribute to a work, then ebook publishing costs quite a bit. The only things missing are PPB (paper, printing and binding) and warehouse/shipping costs. Those are less than half the COGS (Cost of Goods Sold) on most titles.

    Second, any author/rights-holder should have the absolute right to say how his or her work is published. We may really, really want it in another form, but that's our problem. You don't always get what you want.

    Analogy: Suppose I don't like a girl's hairstyle. Maybe she's a rock star and I'm her biggest fan. Do I have the right to walk up to her and change it? Because I really, really want to? And I know she'll get better press? Of course not. Same thing with the presentation of an author's work. It comes out in their choice of formats, no matter how stupid we think the decision is.

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it