We’ve been getting feedback from our Top 10 Predictions For Taboo Authors In 2018. One response though, really stood out to us. Why? Because it was from one of our authors, Gerry Maxwell. We thought his observations were worth highlighting, so we asked for his permission to share them with all of you!
“Your analyses also remind me of the axiom in marketing: You can market on the basis of only three elements — quality, price and time – but you can only market on the basis of two at a time. In e-book publishing/distribution, nobody can compete on time. Everybody has to make the book immediately available for download or you’ll lose the sale. Which means all competition has to be based on quality and price, meaning either low quality/lower price, or high quality/higher price. A business based on low quality/higher price or high quality/lower price would not be sustainable.”
Lot’s Cave thought Gerry Maxwell’s comments were so pertinent, we created an entire post around it and highlighted five important points from Gerry Maxwell’s insights. Lot’s Cave would like to start by saying thanks to him for the opportunity to do so.
Five Highlights From Gery Maxwell’s E-Mail On Marketing
1. You Can Only Select Two Items From The Combination Of Price, Quality, Or Time
Gerry Maxwell’s comment on the self-publishing industry is essential, so essential that it bears repeating. You can only have two of the three options, quality, price, or time. What’s interesting to note is that one of these variables is always fixed. In other words, it’s the one of these three variables you can do absolutely nothing about, leaving you with a choice between the other two. This then, is what determines your actual choices. You let one slide in favor of the other. Confused yet? I promise it’ll get easier in a moment. The marketing axiom of quality, price, and time actually shapes entire industries in impactful but seemingly unimportant ways. Take for example, traditionally published books.
The market of traditional publishing is rife with debate at the moment. Some feel their books are priced too high, while others feel the time between books is a bit cumbersome. Why is that? Well, it has everything to do with the market axiom Gerry Maxwell mentioned. In traditional publishing the fixed variable is quality. No one can essentially change the quality of what you get. Every Anne Rice, Stephen King, or Dan Brown book will have the same quality of printing, at least it’s supposed to. What this means is that the price you pay or the time it takes to publish is variable. The complaints you hear are customers who feel the ‘sacrificed’ variable was the wrong one.
This ‘sacrificed’ variable, in a way, is actually what created the e-book industry, or at least allowed for it. That is why Gerry Maxwell is correct when he says, “In e-book publishing/distribution, nobody can compete on time.” In this case, time is the fixed variable. Why is time the fixed variable? Well, probably because traditional publishers ‘took too long’ and the e-book industry grew to fill the gap. Suddenly readers could get books where quality or price were the fluctuating variables… and that changed everything. Readers can now observe the drastic change in the market axiom emphasis.
2. Pre-Sale Doesn’t Work In Self-Publishing… Especially For Erotica
Alright, this one took us three readings of Gerry Maxwell’s comments to piece together. It’s not that difficult once you see it, but getting to the conclusion can seem a bit overwhelming. Pre-sales are actually a big deal in the e-book industry right now. The option is said to be a great marketing strategy, and authors are highly encouraged to utilize pre-sales. But, when Gerry Maxwell says, “Everybody has to make the book immediately available for download or you’ll lose the sale.” he means it. This logic has a great impact on pre-sales and if an author should utilize them at all. Under a marketing lens, pre-sales don’t actually seem to hold much value for the vast majority of authors.
Customers looking at e-books want the book immediately, and this is the ultimate flaw of pre-sales. This is especially true when it comes to Erotica, no one wants to wait for their e-book. Quite honestly, who can really blame them? Pre-sales only put distance between a reader and the sale. All momentum, all interest generated up to the point of ‘pre-sale’ is lost when the reader chooses to get another book… because it is available the instant they want it. In fact, it is fair to say that pre-sales don’t really favor the reader, but the author. The marketing strategy behind this is clearly to boost a book’s rankings the day of release, and therefore, a somewhat arguable disservice to readers.
But why then are pre-sales the hot marketing strategy? Because they work for traditional publishers. There’s no real way to sugar coat this, so we won’t try to. Pre-sales work when you have an established readership and a stabilized and steady publishing schedule. Loyal readers will then be more likely to purchase the new book on pre-sale, probably so they don’t forget. But, this strategy is almost exclusively successful to those authors of some notoriety. It’s not really a matter of if the reader will purchase the book, but how and when. The pre-sale captures that reader and makes the sale before they forget to spend their money. But when it comes to Erotica… it’s not very helpful… exactly because of that time variable being fixed.
3. High Quality Lower Price Is Not Sustainable
At Lot’s Cave, we see authors striving to implement the strategy of high quality at a low price quite often. It is always surprising to us, because we don’t understand the thought behind the submission. Many authors at the moment seem to think that high quality and lower price is the way to go. To them it is a ‘marketing strategy’, and the best one at that. Many publishers would say they don’t judge an author’s marketing strategy, but at Lot’s Cave, we do have some concerns. When authors utilize failed strategies, we believe it is a disservice at the very least not to inform them of the fact. High quality lower price is not sustainable for many reasons, but we can share an example that is well-known by many in the industry. In fact, it is the problem we see going on right now.
Authors spend much of their time writing full length novels, roughly between 45,000 – 60,000 words. For this, the market price at the moment is typically about $4.95. Some authors believe a good marketing strategy is to price that book at $3.99, or even $2.99, roughly between 20% – 40% off in a misguided effort to outsell competition. But, very few authors tend to calculate the costs of doing so. We’ve done that, and we’ve discussed it many times. We also notice that very few authors look at where their books are competing as well. If you were to take a look at the top selling books in the $3.99 price point, the average word count is between 10,000 – 20,000. That means, when you write a 40,000 word book and sell it in that range… you’re undercutting your efforts. You could literally write two books (both high quality) and still make the same amount of money.
The distinction here is important, because many authors feel they have to sacrifice that quality variable. To them, writing shorter works automatically means a drop in quality. But that’s not true, or at least, it shouldn’t be. Lot’s Cave isn’t actually recommending you write shorter stories either, quite the opposite actually. What we are saying is that you should charge the correct price for your books. If the market rate is $4.95, there’s a good reason for that. The moment you decide to lower your price and call that alone your strategy… there’s an issue. Just like you can’t sustain writing 45,000 word books for $3.99, you can’t sustain writing 1,500 word books for $4.95 either. There’s a reason that it goes both ways, and that, is precisely the marketing axiom we’re talking about.
4. Lower Price Means Lower Quality
Again, this is another point we see playing out at Lot’s Cave quite often. Gerry Maxwell mentions, “All competition has to be based on quality and price, meaning either low quality/lower price or high quality/higher price.” The distinction here is really important because it gives insight into the minds of readers. If we accept that authors are competing on the terms of high quality/higher price or low quality/lower price, then we must accept that low quality and lower price go hand in hand. As we mentioned above, high quality/lower price simply isn’t sustainable. Because of that, we can get a glimpse at the implications of trying to put a book on continuous sale or a flat out lower price than is reasonable. Your book is going to shout low quality, and you may not intend it to.
Lets be honest, there is some place in the market for low quality/lower price books. But, do you really want to write for that niche? We suspect many authors bothering to read this post don’t want to be known as the ‘low quality writer’. With that out of the way, we then have to proceed with a bit of caution. Many authors don’t intend for their books to be low quality. In fact, many books in the lower price ranges are surprisingly good quality. But, that is the inherent problem. Authors competing in the lower priced ranges are automatically assumed to be low quality writers. How then do authors writing shorter works fix this issue, especially if it is what they enjoy writing most?
Well, we’ve discovered that many authors of shorter works have had success bundling their stories. Now, to be clear, we do not mean releasing singles AND bundling. No, we mean authors who release COLLECTIONS of their shorter works and nothing else. Why would an author do this? Well, it’s actually a core example of the marketing axiom playing out in practice. Time is fixed, so the only thing to fluctuate is either price or quality. Given the author wants that great quality story, then price must fluctuate. The author has chosen to charge more for the bundle than lower price for individual stories. The benefit though, is that now readers will see high quality/higher price and not low quality/lower price. Which would you buy?
5. High Quality Higher Price Means Different Things To Different People
Lot’s Cave has taken a lot of heat for stressing a high quality/higher price strategy over the years, and that’s okay. One of the biggest reasons for such a diversity in opinions is actually that high quality higher price looks different to different people. We welcome this debate because it makes our authors stronger wiser authors. In the intense debate, Lot’s Cave has come to learn that many people view high quality to mean long word count. Which, to be fair, is kind of the side we’re on too. But, every once in a great while, we have an author prove us wrong. Usually, this means a book actually falls into the low quality higher price model, but not always. At times there’s actually a disconnect between a book’s packaging and what’s inside.
For example, Lot’s Cave gets books where the kinks inside the book don’t cohesively work with the title. In this case, the writing is great, the cover art is amazing, and the metadata is all good… but the reader doesn’t get what they expected. This is a high quality story and the right price (higher price), but the reader will be unhappy. In another case, a story might be written okay, have an average cover, and metadata that needs a little polishing but is otherwise okay. To the reader, this book is actually better than the one that didn’t satisfy their expectations. For many readers, the high quality/higher price book their happy with is actually detestable to many authors. Obviously, there needs to be a greater sense of awareness when discussing what high quality means.
The most important thing regarding a book’s quality will always be its ability to satisfy readers. This is why some authors don’t make good judges of a book’s quality. We’re too attached to things like market axioms. But, for the most part, a taboo erotica author should still strive for that sweet spot, that high quality/higher price output. The great thing about this goal is that it is shaped to your niche of the market. You can write short stories and hit it. You can write novels and hit it. You can even write anything in between and hit it. But what is at the center is the idea, the axiom of time, quality, and price. Being able to articulate your strategy is the first step to having one… and that is invaluable. That’s what’s so important about Gerry Maxwell’s comment, at the core, it shows every author how to sustain themselves, their output, and enjoy writing all that much more.