A Response to “At What Price”

I was recently informed of a post on newpulpfiction.com entitled Table Talk: At What Price? wherein one of the participants, Barry Reese, decided to passive-aggressively complain about the price point or our books, based mainly on conjecture and made-up quotes. I posted a response on that site, and I’ve also posted it here, as I fully expect it to be removed.


C’mon Barry, at least show some bravery and at least call out the novel as The Desert Demons, as published by me. After all, it’s quite evident you’ve got an axe to grind regarding my company and our books’ prices. I thought the complaint sounded familiar, and I realized you’d made the same gripe in a comment left on the DD’s page on Amazon.

Is this the same Barry Reese who just 24 hours ago was lamenting the “attack” by Tony Davis on New Pulp stories, only to hear you turn around today and call another New Pulp story, The Desert Demons, “inane” and a “ripoff”?

Your quote:

“The publisher’s response is that the economics of Print on Demand forces those prices. … It’s simply a case of them wanting to boost their bottom line.”

…borders on libel. Please tell me where I ever mentioned such reasoning. If anything, it’s clear you deliberately took passages out of context in order to validate your screed.

I’m temped to detail our rationale for the new Doc Savage novels’ pricing, but frankly, it’s none of your business. No one’s getting rich off these books. And when you get your books carried by major distributors, the vast majority of room for profit is gone. Mr. Reese, since I’ve never heard of you being a writer before, and I had to look up your books, I can safely say you have little experience with such elements of the publishing world, regardless of your claim of being “around POD publishers for years.”

Your boasts that “no paperback is worth” $24.95, and that “the market will correct itself as publishers discover the limits for what the public will pay” only show your naivety even more. We brought scores of copies of the new Doc books to PulpFest and had them all sold in less than a day. If you put out a quality product, featuring a beloved character, people will buy it. The $40 hardcover you bemoaned has sold better than the paperback edition. You’re backwardly right: indeed, the market has spoken.

Perhaps you should listen to the fans a bit more. People wanted a deluxe keepsake edition, a cheaper hardcopy alternative, and a super-cheap e-book. We created all three types (the e-book is coming this month) to meet every price point. No other publisher is doing more to reach more readers. We were happy to do it and we’re grateful to every one who bought a copy. Based on our offerings, it seems that Altus Press is in reality the publisher whose “primary concern is maximizing readership,” to quote you. And I look forward to your eventual rant that our $4.99 e-book is too expensive for your tastes.

It’s too bad you have little foresight, Barry, which is surprising, given your claimed years of experience in publishing. Doc Savage is the most well-known property of all the New Pulp properties. It’s getting a lot of exposure. Just this week it had a 1/4-page color spotlight feature in Previews. It stands to reason that pushing these new Doc Savage novels to achieve success would only help all the other New Pulp authors. A rising tide lifts all boats. Yet you’ve felt it was more important to rant about the pricing based on uninformed conclusions.

I wish to thank Bobby and Mike for a fair, even-handed debate on the logistics that go into a book’s price.

Barry, I look forward to reading more of your sales and marketing expertise on the world of publishing.

Matt Moring
Altus Press

11 Comments

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  1. Not sure if you’ve been back to the New Pulp site to see my response but here ’tis.

    Matt, thanks for the comments — the reason I didn’t “call you out” in this article is that a number of folks didn’t like me doing so in previous columns and reviews. To placate them, I decided to not mention anyone by name in this one. I don’t doubt that you’re selling lots of copies — hell, I bought one at full price! I love Doc and as I’ve said again and again, I want to support Doc, even if I feel the pricing is out of whack. As for the part about the economics of POD, that came from someone (I assume Will Murray) responding to a question about the pricing of the book on the Wild Adventures of Doc Savage FB page. I had originally assumed that you were posting there but that was probably Will, so my attribution of that quote to the publisher was obviously in error.

    I *do* obviously feel that the book is overpriced. I feel that way about most of the books you publish, even though I’ve bought several — the Seekay book is actually one of my favorite collections of all time, even though I paid too much for it 😉

    As I’ve said again and again, if people are willing to pay what you charge, then maybe you’re in the right — but I have the right to say I think it’s too much and that I don’t buy as many Altus books as I would otherwise because of that.

    In terms of my publishing experience, I oversee Old Capital Press, which publishes POD history books for the middle Georgia area and have done so for about five years. That’s outside of my writing career that you’ve never heard of. 🙂

    “But it feels like a ripoff to me” is what I said and that’s what it feels like to me when I’m asked to pay that much for a paperback book. That’s my opinion and one that I’ve more than earned the right to give, since I paid my hard earned money for the book. And, as I said on Amazon, the book was a damned good read and well worthy of the Doc tradition.

    But I wish it had cost less.

    And $4.95 for an ebook sounds fine to me. I don’t go that route because I do want a physical Doc book to go on my shelf beside the others — but that’s my decision and I have to weight all the factors involved (quality, price, etc.)

    Take Care.
    August 11, 2011 5:20 AM
    The Rook said…

    On July 25, a FB user named Danny posted: “As much as I love Doc Savage, it had better be printed in bronze to pay $24.00 for a less than 300 page book.” The response from the Facebook page’s owner was “The economics of POD printing dictate the price. And we’re selling many more copies of the $35.00 hardcover than the softcover. Not what I expected. So go figure.” I apologize for attributing that quote to the publisher. It was an erroneous assumption on my part.

  2. And your post on the New Pulp site will most certainly not be removed — we have a comments section so people can, you know, comment. You don’t have to agree with us to be welcome.

  3. Matt,
    I own the site NewPulpFiction.com and can assure you I will not allow your post to be removed. The purpose of the column is to let others see the conversations between professionals in the industry and open discussion on the topics at hand.

    It would go against that purpose to silence a voice that has valid input to that discussion.

    My invitation to you to participate in a later installment of the column remains open as well. I hope you accept it.

    The NPF staff admires the work of Altus Press and will continue to support it, despite any personal feelings you may have about Barry and his opinions.

    However, the topic of pricing is a valid one and we won’t shy away from looking at both sides of the equation, even if it means some people may take offense. I posed the question to Barry and Bobby after hearing/reading several people in a very short time span voice displeasure at current pricing structures (this was not aimed at Altus, or any other publisher and the complaints ran the gamut from Marvel Comics to small press POD publishers from digital comics to eBooks).

    I would like to point out that Barry has very vocally endorsed the book in question on several venues, coming just short of calling it a masterpiece merely due to the cover price. If that’s the only complaint, it sounds like your efforts deserve applause.

    Thanks,
    Mike Bullock
    Runemaster Studios

  4. Hello!

    A few words in response if I may be so bold.

    I believe that part of the problem is in the inherent nepotism within the new pulp movement community.

    Compared to the cost shared amongst the new pulp author clique reading and reviewing each others books (i.e. gratis) the price for an average Altus collection must seem weighty indeed.

    In all honesty to this relatively impartial observer it sometimes seems as if the whole “New Pulp” branding was created as a means for the purveyors to “score”
    more of the recent plethora of pulp material for themselves sans actually…you know…buying it.

    Perhaps if Altus kept them supplied with an ongoing flow of complimentary copies of your fine publications the criticism would be less severe.

    I find all Altus Press publications to be worth each and every penny.

    Regards.

  5. I’ve hesitated to get involved in this price controversy, but I think all of us can agree that we don’t mind paying for good stuff. And Doc Savage definitely fits in that category, as does the books coming from Altus Press. There are publishers who charge a lot more for their books, and I haven’t heard any complaints against them, so was a little curious to see negative comments aimed at Altus Press. I’ve heard several folks in the new pulp community talk about Brad Mengel’s “Serial Vigilantes of Paperback Fiction”, and how great the book is, without any complaint for the $45.00 price tag. This is also a book I would love to have, but with a page count of a little over 200 pages, I haven’t bought the item yet. I haven’t bought the new Doc Savage yet, either, but it has nothing to do with the price. I’ve got a stack of books waiting for me to read, and I figure Doc will be around for some time. Now, if I can just get that stack of books whittled down some …

      • Thanks for the comment on “Serial Vigilantes of Paperback Fiction” I’m glasd it’s getting some good word of mouth. The price for the book was determined by the publisher.

  6. Reggie, I’m not sure who you’re referencing specifically but 99% of all the books I review I pay for. I don’t seek out anyone to give me free books. I pay them and I say whether or not I like them. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

  7. I’m only weighing in on this because of Reggie’s comments, not for the reason this was originally posted.

    I am the guy who came up with the New Pulp logo. I am the guy who suggested its use to many publishers and writers, making it available to people to use, including Altus Press on its material that includes newly written stories. And I am one of the guys/gals trying to promote it as a unifying point. To my knowledge, no one has yet asked anyone for review copies for NewPulpFiction.com. Now, I have asked and received review copies of books, including DESERT DEMONS from Altus, for the news site I am editor of, ALL PULP. (And yes, Matt, I’ll get the review up soon, sorry to be lagging behind on that:) ) And even in that capacity, i did not start asking until I started receiving digital books and/or pdfs without asking for them, once I’d established myself as a reviewer.

    You may not like the New Pulp branding. Fine. You may not support New Pulp for a variety of reasons, that’s perfectly understandable. You may not believe what I’ve said or what I’m about to say. Your choice. But the intentions of New Pulp are not to rake in free books or cheat anyone of anything.

    Tommy Hancock

  8. Thanks for the responses. As I said, this was only an observation on my part.

    I own numerous volumes from many of the “New Pulp” publishers such as Wildcat and Airship 27, besides Altus, myself.

    I have really enjoyed most of them too!

    Yet I don’t see anything that can make me say any of these were of any more “bang for the buck” than any of the Altus publications. In some cases I can definitely say the opposite. (I won’t name names but I could tell you if you want.)

    I have to say to me trying to define, label, and brand “pulp” goes against it’s very “anything goes” nature, but heck, that’s me…a reader…not a writer or publisher.

    No offense meant, just commentary from a interested consumer…

  9. Interesting that another outside commentator made some comments about “New Pulp”. He seems hung up on “pulp” mainly being low price and wide availability, so puts down “new pulp” because its pricey and limited availability. I think he’s got a limited view. There has been some comments on this and some again repeats so of the pricing criticism.

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