Book Publishing: Two Ravens’ View

This is an unusually frank and very disturbing post from a small publisher.

Two Ravens Press: The real story: publishing, four and a half years on

Okay, so promotions really aren’t the answer either. I know – reviews. Get the books reviewed, and they’ll sell. Right? – Wrong. Almost all of our books have had serious and positive reviews in major national newspapers and literary magazines. And in other publications. And on blogs. And even on Radio 4. And only three of our novels have ever sold more than 1000 copies, no matter how glowing the reviews and how extensive the publicity.

And:

But you’ve missed the obvious solution! – we’re told. Make e-books, and then you’ll have no print costs! Right. But you have fixed costs to make the e-book file in the first place, and the ongoing costs of secure storage facilities, and distributors and wholesalers still take the same percentages for e-books as for print books, and there are still royalties to be paid, and the overheads for running the business don’t much change … just missing out on print costs doesn’t help nearly as much as you’d imagine. And besides – whatever the publishing ‘experts’ would like to tell us, e-book sales are still pretty slim in this country – especially for literary fiction. We’ve had e-books for a couple of years now, sold through our website and also fully distributed through a major wholesaler, and our bestselling e-book has sold about ten copies.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

This is a book you must read: Senseless by Stona Fitch, which is also available in ePub.

It took guts to publish that one. Scariest book I’ve ever read.

Update: Well, well, well. Now we can understand why Two Ravens’ eBooks have sold so few! Moriah Jovan left a Comment which I’m moving up into this post too:

Okay, I went there to get SENSELESS. I’ll get it, make no mistake. But the buying rigmarole you have to go through is bullshit.

Not only do they put DRM on the file, but they individually number and watermark the EPUBs and PDFs. Thus…

They have to email you the file… and it MIGHT take 24 hours for you to get something whose raison d’etre is instant gratification.

No wonder they aren’t making any money. They aren’t visible and the customer has to work too hard to give them money.

If it didn’t come without a rec from you, I wouldn’t have bothered, and then I would have written a scathing WTFery post on how NOT to treat ebook customers.

Well, now if you do a post, you can go into the details. Meanwhile, this now exists as an explanation for part of their troubles.

14 Comments

Filed under Books: General, eBooks: General, Writer

14 responses to “Book Publishing: Two Ravens’ View

  1. Thanks for the interesting blogpost. And I just ordered Senseless, after reading the book description.

  2. Pretty scary post too! Very disturbing, as you say. Thanks for mentioning Senseless again. You tweeted it once, and I was going to look for it, but I forgot and then couldn’t find the title later. By the way, the first link (on the title of the book) seems to be broken.

  3. I think Two Ravens Press have encountered a common thing in marketing – you listen to received “wisdom” and follow it and don’t make any fucking money.

    The best game is to observe, see how the land lies with readers, then be yourself and act on your own ideas and creativity.

    The other crucial thing is NOT to listen to the media.

    I’ve dealt with people in lots of publishing houses, from Random House and Orion to St. Martins. One time, I think it was someone from Random House, told me they had one author that was adored by the media, endless glowing reviews…NO SALES!

    Then they had someone totally ignored by the media and BIG SALES.

    They couldn’t understand it. But they should have tried. The best bet being TALK TO READERS….Publishers need to hang out with book buyers NOT the media. After all, the media don’t pay for books, they get review copies, freebies.

    But TWO RAVENS just doesn’t sound promising. It’s grim talk. they’ll crash and burn if they don’t start hustling their titles…best bet is to get those damn books and ebooks directly to readers.

    I’d better check out that book you mention… you kinda have to when someone says it’s the scariest book they ever read…though I might come back saying, man, that MC is a pussy ;-)

  4. kittent

    you have said epub is crap…maybe, maybe not. If I can’t read it on my kindle I’m not buying it.

  5. I hate to say this, but I think that sometimes just plain luck plays into it. The “right” person retweets a review, the “right” person mentions it in the “right” venue, and so on. That’s not the kind of thing you can count on, either. As said above, you have to reach out to readers.

  6. Okay, I went there to get SENSELESS. I’ll get it, make no mistake. But the buying rigmarole you have to go through is bullshit.

    Not only do they put DRM on the file, but they individually number and watermark the EPUBs and PDFs. Thus…

    They have to email you the file… and it MIGHT take 24 hours for you to get something whose raison d’etre is instant gratification.

    No wonder they aren’t making any money. They aren’t visible and the customer has to work too hard to give them money.

    If it didn’t come without a rec from you, I wouldn’t have bothered, and then I would have written a scathing WTFery post on how NOT to treat ebook customers.

    • I had a similar experience and the same impression. I had to email them to ask for payment options. Got the answer a day later and haven’t had a chance to go back yet to see if I can actually buy a copy. If it’d been easier, I’d have already paid for and received my copy by now. As it is, the order isn’t even placed yet…

      • mikecane

        That is not good business and should have told them something was frikkin wrong with the way they’ve been doing things.

      • Just to be clear. The problem was not that I couldn’t find a way to pay. I sent an email because I found only one payment option, and it wasn’t the one I preferred to use.

  7. Pingback: Concord ePress Is Announced | The Digital Reader

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