Nadia Lee | NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author of Contemporary Romance » Writing and Publishing

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DOJ Antitrust Treble Damage Math Examples

I thought it was cool that Courtney Milan talked about what kind of damages (treble damage) could be imposed on the Settling Three if they fought and lost.

I thought maybe the concept was still a bit vague for some to grasp without a concrete example or two, since antitrust isn’t something you see on TV all the time, so here is some basic hypothetical math (simplified for easier understanding; the actual calculation may have other variables involved):

Hypothetical Scenario One:

Big Pub prices all its ebook editions of HC cover releases at $12.99.

If Amazon had been able to discount, many of those ebooks would’ve been sold at $9.99, since Amazon sold all major bestsellers at $9.99 before the Agency stuff.

So the difference between the agency price and the pre-agency price is $3. That is the harm that’s been done to ebook buyers.

Since this is a price-fixing case, which makes it antitrust, the treble damage rule applies.

So the publisher pays $9 for every copy of an ebook sold that Amazon would’ve discounted (as in, all of its major bestsellers that were released as hardback or trade during this time).

Let’s see if these damages are affordable for this publisher.

Under the agency model, the publisher gave 30% of its cover price to ebook retailers.

30% of $12.99 is $4.20.

So the publisher received $8.79.

Out of that, the publisher paid 25% to its authors ($2.20). So the publisher netted a total of $6.59 per ebook.

Forget the attorney’s fees or the rent, utility, employee salaries, etc. Let’s even assume that all those are $0. Even then the publisher loses $2.41 on every e-book copy sold at $12.99 that would’ve been discounted to $9.99 under the wholesale model.

Hypothetical Scenario Two:

Big Pub prices all its ebook edition of MMPBs (mass-market paperbacks) at $7.99.

Amazon routinely discounted those to $6.39 (about a 20% discount), regardless of their bestseller status.

The difference between $7.99 and $6.39 is $1.60.

If you triple this amount, it’s $4.80 (the treble damage for antitrust).

The publisher received only $5.59 from ebook vendors. Out of that, it paid $1.40 to the authors, which leaves the publisher with $4.19.

So no matter what price you use, the publisher is set to pay more than it ever made on ebook sales under agency if it loses the price-fixing case. And no, they can’t say, “We’re too poor to pay, so give us a break.” It doesn’t work that way.

That’s why some aren’t willing to fight the lawsuit — because a settlement does not require them to pay damages that can destroy them (ie, will probably bankrupt them).

You may wonder why the other three are fighting. Maybe Penguin and Macmillan think they have a real chance at winning and so are willing to risk it. As for Apple, it has more money than it knows what to do with, so it’s probably not a big deal to lose. (And e-book sales was never its main business.)

Never-ending Revision & Tweaking

Recently, I happened to look at two blog posts on related themes — the ability to endlessly revise, tweak and change your published story on KDP, PubIt, etc. if you self-publish.

One posted on Dear Author was written from a reader’s point of view, who basically does not like this practice at all.

Another is posted on The Passive Voice, written from the point of view of mostly writers who have self-published, whether or not they have traditional publishing experience.

I can’t imagine trolling the web for reviews and endlessly tweaking and revising my books, reformatting them and re-uploading them over and over and over again. Firstly, it’s unfair to ask my readers to re-read the book they’ve read once just because I revised it. (That’s what betas and critique partners are for.) Secondly, I have other books I need to work on.

I guess in a way it’s really tempting to revise when you get a lot of less-than-flattering comments on some particular aspect of your story. But that’s supposed to be done before you publish and charge people money, not after.

I have, however, re-uploaded my books before, and it was due to some improvements I made in formatting, to update my bio, etc. So no, my readers don’t have to re-read my books to get the latest version of the story.

And now, excuse me while I go try to progress in my work on my works in progress.

Romance & SFF Readers Don’t Care About Cover Design or Good Writing?

From “The Amazon Effect” written by Steve Wasserman:

But as Amazon’s six other publishing imprints (Montlake Romance, AmazonCrossing, Thomas & Mercer, 47North, Amazon Encore, The Domino Project) have discovered, in certain genres (romance, science fiction and fantasy) formerly relegated to the moribund mass-market paperback, readers care not a whit about cover design or even good writing, and have no attachment at all to the book as object. Like addicts, they just want their fix at the lowest possible price, and Amazon is happy to be their online dealer.

As a romance writer, I find the comment offensive.

As a reader of romance, fantasy and SF, I find the assertion that I don’t care about cover or writing at all doubly offensive. What am I? A drug addict desperate for the cheapest dope I can find regardless of the quality?

I really hope it reflects the personal belief of Steve Wasserman, not other publishing professionals he’s interviewed for the article. Otherwise, publishing’s in trouble, not because of Amazon, but because they don’t respect their readers.

Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Speech


Guest Blog Post: How to Build an eBook on the Cheap by Alina Adams

Today, I have a special guest Alina Adams, discussing self-publishing her backlist titles.

Two summers ago, I was on a panel at Comic-Con in San Diego, talking about writing tie-in books (in my case to a pair of soap operas, As the World Turns and Guiding Light).

The moderator asked a question about future projects, and I mentioned that I was taking my series of Figure Skating Murder Mysteries, originally published as paperbacks by Berkley Prime Crime, and turning them into enhanced e-books, where not only did you get all the text of the original but, in partnership with The Ice Theatre of New York, I was adding professional skating videos to represent my fictional characters.

Afterwards, a fellow writer from the panel came up and told me she too had been thinking of doing a multimedia book, but she’d priced out the necessary technical services, and “Those IT guys are just so expensive.”

I pointed to my husband, standing nearby, and explained, “I sleep with my IT guy.”

“Oh!” She exclaimed. “That’s so much cheaper!”

Indeed. I highly recommended it. (Not that there aren’t many wonderful companies out there that could get the job done for you. Many of them even charge reasonable prices. But, even a reasonable price is an expenditure I’d rather avoid.)

When I first decided, in 2011, to get the rights back to not only my previously published figure skating series, but to my romance titles, as well, and turn them into enhanced e-books, it was only because I knew my husband had the technical know-how to physically build them.

When a Man Loves a WomanAnd if he didn’t have the technical know-how, he’d educate himself until he did. Or deal with my complaining about it. (And no one wants that.)

When it came to my romance novel, When a Man Loves a Woman, originally published by DELL in 2000, he literally ripped the book at the spine, then sat up several nights in a row, scanning each page by hand while he watched TV (and I went to bed).

I proofed it, compiled it, added a name to each chapter that corresponded to a popular song that could comment and compliment the action, found the songs on-line, created links to them, and handed the whole thing back to my husband. Who spent many more late nights formatting the book according to Amazon specs, and testing and retesting it in a variety of machines, according to the way he’d been taught at MIT. (Nuclear engineering… Building enhanced e-books… Practically the same thing, no?)

With my figure skating mysteries, Murder on Ice, On Thin Ice, Axel of Evil, Death Drop, and Skate Crime, he taught himself how to transfer videos from DVD into a format compatible with both mobi (for Amazon) and ePub (for Nook). He also figured out how to build the table of contents the platform required, not to mention indent, bold, italicize, and double-space. (Sounds simple. I gather it is not.)

CounterpointWe’ve been married for almost fourteen years. My romance writing career actually predates our meeting.

Back then, when I wrote about romantic heroes, they were either witty, urbane, Regency-era Marquis, or dashing fighter pilots, or sensitive, sexy surgeons.

Little did I know at the time, that the most romantic thing a man can do is sit up for hours tediously scanning pages torn from a tattered book, then spend hours pouring through coding specs in tiny font, followed by going back and redoing a day’s worth of work because I found a misplaced comma and really, really need it fixed. Now.

My latest enhanced e-book is Counterpoint: An Interactive Family Saga. It is a romantic serial where, at the end of Volume One, I ask readers to tell me what they’d like to see happen in Volume Two. I incorporate their suggestions into Volume Two, and ask them for input regarding Volume Three. And so on.

I am really looking forward to what my readers come up with.

But, if I may offer a bit of friendly advice based on life experience, if you truly want a Happily Ever After – go for the IT guy.

You won’t regret it.

Alina AdamsAlina Adams is the New York Times’ best selling author of soap opera tie-ins, figure skating mysteries, and romances, including Annie’s Wild Ride and When a Man Loves a Woman. Her latest project is Counterpoint: An Interactive Family Saga. In addition to turning her own backlist into enhanced e-books, she has produced enhanced e-books for others, including Dan Elish, whose middle-grade fantasy novel, The Worldwide Dessert Contest, now includes its own original musical score. Learn more at

500 Words a Day Challenge

I just started the 500 Words a Day Challenge that runs from July 23 until the end of the year. A few writers are doing 1,000 words a day, and I wish I could do that, too. But with the Boy and all, I don’t want to commit to writing 1,000 words when I’m not sure I can meet the goal. There are days when he’s a perfect angel, but there are also days when he is just impossible to please or creates lots of work. For example, on Saturday he was responsible for creating three loads of urgent laundry. (I never thought a human being that weighs only twelve pounds could do that!)

I suppose I could take time off until the end of the year, but I’m afraid that I might get rusty. I can’t speak for others, but for me writing is like playing the piano. The more I write, the better I become.

500 words is doable if I manage what free time I have carefully. If I must, I can stay up after the Boy has fallen asleep at night (he doesn’t sleep much during the day). 500 words seems so much more manageable than 1,000 words, and the psychological effect can make me knock out those words even though I’m tired.

It may not seem like a lot to those who are really prolific, but if I write at least 500 words a day until December 31, I’ll have 81,000 words written. And that’s a novel.