How NOT to Stage an E-Book Release
I saw this announcement in Publishers's Weekly a few days ago and I still can't get over it. The bottom line is the publisher of Breaking Dawn didn't want to give Kindle owners an unfair early access advantage to the book, so they delayed the release of the Kindle edition. This is a sad commentary on an outdated industry policy.
Sure, the Kindle customer base is a tiny fraction of the entire market, but still... It's basically the opposite approach used for Spirit House, a book I blogged about yesterday. I'm not saying Breaking Dawn's publisher needs to make the Kindle edition free, but jeez, do you really need to delay the release like this?
All of my marketing colleagues will surely jump down my throat because I don't understand the meaning of "promotional on-sale dates" and how it's critical to make sure the timing doesn't put any account/channel at a disadvantage. If someone is buying the book for the Kindle they're going to do so regardless of whether it's available a week before the print edition or a week later. IOW, availability isn't causing one account to lose sales to another.
The whole situation is a great example of one of the long-time rules of this industry that clearly needs to be changed. Amazon's Kindle blog said it best by noting that, "the torture has been extended," in this post. Kassia Krozser of the Booksqure blog also had an insightful post about the situation. Kassia's right...it does feel like something from 1956.
P.S. -- Yes, I realize Breaking Dawn is a much bigger title than Spirit House, but even though the stakes are higher on this one I believe the same rules can apply.
Given the incredible backlash against this book once it hit reader's hands (double digit return are reported at some Border's Bookstoresas of Sunday and there appear to be efforts to organize mass returns by unhappy fans over on Amazon's forums), it seems more likely that given a choice between annoying a relative few e-readers vs. hurting midnight sales of hardcovers (with the hope that few would return the book, no matter how unhappy - after all, most other releases that have disappointed fans simply result in low resale value), the publisher chose to try to get the highest initial hardcover sales possible. After all, they need to recover that $400K advance.
I have not read the latest book, but have earlier ones - it's not bad, but not great and certainly no Harry Potter (despite the hysteria). I don't know why anyone had such high expectations as to her writing style (unless the editor did a very, very bad job) or expect that the relationship of the main characters could remain unchanged across yet another book, when one doesn't age and the other does or be surprised that a Mormon writer would have a pro-abstinence theme in her books. However, the bad reviews of this book are almost vitriolic (more to do with the reader's expectation than the bad quality of the writing - I never felt that strongly about the few books that were so badly written that I could not even force myself to finish).
Posted by: Karen | August 04, 2008 at 04:52 PM
If any e-reader wants the book for free, check out Fictionwise. They have it with a 100% store credit rebate thru Aug 10.
Posted by: Karen | August 04, 2008 at 04:56 PM
Your marketing colleague here. Read my blog post from last week. You're right there with me.
Posted by: Ellen Gerstein | August 05, 2008 at 11:37 AM