When I published Screenwriting Down to the Atoms, I knew I would have difficulty getting recognition – or even visibility – in a market already crowded with fifteen year-old standbys and dozens of hackneyed imitators. Part of this challenge comes from the fact that I decided, for a number of good reasons, to publish independently. Unless you are an author or work in publishing, you are probably unaware that right now, like the music and film industry ten years ago, the publishing industry is going through a Digital Revolution. This means the old way of doing things is collapsing fast. With shrinking profits and a panic to survive, most publishers are unwilling to take on any title with a niche audience as small and specific as the screenwriting community. Although I doubt they would know how to market such a title even if they did. Of the smaller publishers who have served the screenwriting community in the past, things look even more dire. Of the top three, one has gone out of business, another has stopped publishing new titles, and the less said about the third the better.
However, there are great advantages to publishing independently. Along with them, one big disadvantage when it comes to Amazon.com. Pricing.
Take a look at the listed cover price of the five top-selling paperbacks on screenwriting:
Save the Cat! by Blake Synder (195 pages) – $19.95
The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier (424 pages) – $23.95
Screenplay by Syd Field (320 pages) – $16.00
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler (300 pages) – $26.95
Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions.... by Jennifer Van Sijll (257 pages) – $24.95
With the exception of Syd Field, I think these cover prices are ridiculously high (though Trottier’s is probably acceptable for the sake of sheer mass.) Independent publishing allows me to set my book’s own price, so I set my 268-page work at a rather reasonable $17.99. Seems pretty competitive, right?
However, as you undoubtedly know, rarely does anyone pay full price on Amazon. Next to nearly every retail price tag is that nice little
strikethrough, followed by the discounted, exclusive to Amazon price.
Here are the same five books after the Amazon discount:
Save the Cat! – $12.36
The Screenwriter’s Bible – $16.29
Screenplay – $10.23
The Writer’s Journey – $17.79
Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions.... – $24.95
And here is mine after the Amazon discount:
Screenwriting Down to the Atoms – $17.99
You see, Amazon only discounts books from big publishers. Independent works get no extra attention at all. This, as you can guess, stacks the deck against them. Nine times out of ten, anyone looking for a deal online who sees a new title at full price next to an established title at a steep discount will go for the cheaper option, even if they have heard good things about the new title or if that title has got dozens of great reviews. Amazon’s pricing policy creates a fight the little guys cannot win.
Well, you know what? Two can play at that game.
For the next few months, I am taking price out of the equation!
Whatever the average sale price is for the ten top-selling paperbacks on Amazon, I will match it. In fact, I will do better. As of 3/1/13, the top ten screenwriting paperbacks have an average sale price of $14.96. I am listing Atoms at $12.99 – even though this means I will hardly receive anything in terms of royalties per copy.
Why? Because the only consideration for purchase should be content, not price. I am so confident in my method and the guide to this method I have written that I am willing to take it toe-to-toe with anything else out there. I am leveling the playing field in order to issue an open challenge. You like Field? McKee? Synder? I can do better. Bring it on. Read it and judge for yourself. Whoever the “guru,” I’m ready to take all comers.