Scarlet Letters

The not-so-private thoughts and rants of Elizabeth Donald, journalist/author and founder of the Literary Underworld.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Post-Christmas Sales... and an explanation of LitUnd

No, this isn't just ads, I swear. You can trust me!

First, the ads. *ducks* Seventh Star Press is putting my latest on sale for the post-Christmas season: Nocturne Infernum for 99c. Ninety-nine cents, people. That's three novels, an entire trilogy, for less than a dollar. I personally am pretty proud of this book, which is really three books. If you bought the original trilogy, know that this isn't the Lucas Edition with extra CGI and annoying plot changes. It's the Director's Cut, with the dreck cleared out. Buy it on Kindle, or better yet: gift it to a friend. (Yeah, you can do that with ebooks, and it's awesome.) The ebook is regularly $4.99 - still a bargain for three novels. The paperback is $21.95 if you buy it from Amazon, $20 if you buy it from Literary Underworld.

Which leads me to the real purpose of today's post. I think I've done a poor job in telling people what the hell LitUnd is, and that's ironic for someone in the communications business. Literary Underworld is not a publisher, not a traditional bookseller, not a clearinghouse or reseller. It is a cooperative of authors and publishers, trying to eliminate some of the waste in book sales by selling directly to the public online and at conventions.

The vast majority of Literary Underworld authors (we call them Underlords) are traditionally published or hybrid published (as in, they started in traditional press and have also self-published some of their work). They apply to be included and are selected by a committee of authors. The member small presses place their work with us on consignment, with a focus on science fiction, fantasy, horror, steampunk and similar speculative fiction with related nonfiction.

It started as most good ideas start, with authors bored in the dealer's room. I looked around the room one day and realized that there were five or six authors in the room, each with exactly one or two books in front of us. Running a table by yourself sucks. It's hard to draw in a customer when they've never heard of you and you only have one book to sell. You have to shut down whenever you need food or have to run to a panel, and it clogs the dealer's room with miserable, one-book authors when you could be far more efficient by sharing space and time. You have more fun and sell more books.

So three of us got together and started sharing a table. At first, Sara Harvey, Angelia Sparrow and I just split our costs three ways. Then others approached us: Do you mind if we join you? Soon the cost-sharing got to be awkward, especially when some authors had two or three books and others had ten. Thus the cooperative was born, and the web store soon followed.

Now we have more than 25 authors and a dozen small presses, plus comic publishers, game authors, artists, musicians and other specialities. We carry books that are out of print, whose publishers may have gone out of business, rare and unique books, first editions and the latest releases. We can do that because the books come from the authors' personal stock, and that's the real key: writers make more money that way.

Just as an example, if you really like a small press author's work, you might buy it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Let's say you paid $15 for that book. The author will receive about $1.05 on a standard 7-percent book contract. And that's assuming there aren't additional clauses for the big fat bite Amazon takes out of the book sales, or the distribution company that sends the book to Barnes and Noble.

Now take this into consideration: your average small press author you met at a convention paid $350 to $500 to be there. Sure, s/he gets a badge for free, and sometimes a table (though it can cost as much as $125 at mid-size cons or $600 at a big show like Dragoncon). But there's a hotel room, travel, food and other expenses, and for some reason you can't find a convention with room rates below $100 a night these days. Now figure how many $1.05 royalties it takes for that author to afford that convention... and multiply it by four or five cons a year.

But authors generally receive copies of their books at wholesale. That means you could pay the same $15 for the book, but by buying it directly from the author, your favorite wordsmith keeps $6. That's a big incentive for us to sell our books directly, and the reason most authors have to sell books in the dealer's room as much as possible. Oh, we still love seeing them in bookstores and hearing that people have purchased the book - $1.05 is still money in our pockets. But if you want to support an author, buy direct from them, and help feed their families.

Literary Underworld is authors and artists working together to support each other, so we can create the worlds you love to visit.

I operate LitUnd because I believe that together we can do better things than any of us can on our own. I believe that none of us are truly in competition with each other, because our voices are unique and our stories diverse. I believe that there is a richness and depth to the work in the small press, freed from marketing committees and focus groups, and it deserves to have a place of its own. I believe that my authors are some of the hardest-working, brilliant and creative minds in fiction, and I am proud to be in their company.

That's what Literary Underworld is about. Come visit us, and see what you might have missed.

Labels: , ,

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home