Once ‘professional’ level digital cameras came down to prices accessible to the masses, everyone is a photographer. Just peruse Craigslist for your city and you’ll find dozens of people offering portraits or wedding photos for cheap. While competition is great, there is a flip side to this: it devalues the work of the professionals who have put in the time to learn the craft. Add to that the huge number of users of Instagram (largely made of up photos of food, it seems) and the quality of the cameras built into modern smart phones and everyone has a camera with them all of the time.

The South Coast
by John H. Matthews
Coming Soon!

And I’m just as guilty and will say it: I’m a photographer. Though I have two degrees in photography, a portrait studio in my home, and far too much invested in equipment. I’m planning on publishing a book of photography once my first novel is done and out the door.

But this post is about writing, not shooting.

Bowker, the company responsible for selling ISBN numbers, the long string of numbers that accompanies the bar code on the back of a book, reports self-published titles have increased 287 percent in the last five years, account for 43 percent of all print books in the 2011. That’s more than 148,000 printed self-published books. And that is just PRINT books.

Bowker says eBooks ISBN registrations have increased 129 percent from 2006 to 2011, with some 87,000 eBooks coming out in that time. But that number is skewed heavily toward the low end. eBooks on the Amazon Kindle platform do not require ISBN numbers, as Amazon assigns its own ASIN number, so it’s difficult to get an accurate count of how many self-published eBooks have come out but it is likely far higher than the 87,000.

Amazon offers incentives for putting your title on their service exclusively, and it’s the largest platform for eBooks. So many authors are likely sticking to Amazon for selling their work.

This huge influx of self-published books brings up a whole other issue, which could, and probably will be, a separate posting. With all those books coming out and trying to compete with each other, it has driven the price of the books down to where many are only .99 cents.

.99 cents. That’s not a lot of money, especially if you’ve already spent $100-$500 on your preferred eBook reader. On Amazon the author receives 35 percent of the price at that level. And most self-published books sell a few hundred copies at best (once friends and family have hopefully bought them, and a few random purchasers). So if you are lucky enough to sell 300 copies you’ve made $105 minus credit card transaction fees.

$105 for writing a book. Talk about devaluing a craft.

I’m new to the book writing world and know I cannot go in at $9.99 like a John Grisham, Stephen King or James Patterson for my eBook. But I don’t think it makes sense to charge only .99 cents either.

The ‘king’ of self-publishing is John Locke. He was the first independent author to sell 1 million eBooks on Amazon. Only six other authors had done it at that time and they were all well known, best selling authors. And Locke charges .99 cents per book. So for 1 million books at .99 cents, he’s made a cool $350,000 (minus fees). But that million books is a combination of 16 different books he wrote, not just one. So that averages down to about $20,000 per book. Not bad, but that’s also a lot of writing.

If Lock had come into the market at say $3.99 (which is likely where my eBook will come in) he may have sold less books, but would have made far more money. Amazon pays the author 70% once you are above $2.99. And it would not have devalued the craft of writing. Now there are scores of wanna be writers who are selling their work for .99 cents which can make the $3.99 and $4.99 eBooks seem almost expensive.