Elle Casey recently had an online conversation with an agent about the state of fiction publishing.

The entire thing is a bit long but kind of comprehensively states issues about accessibility, gate-keeping, and rights management in a clear way.

The most interesting parts for me were the way she concretely identified the three tracks to publishing I had been noticing in a kind of off-hand way:

“First, we have the traditionally published writer (TPW) who will always be with a traditional publisher. We have the Hybrid Traditional to Indie (HTI)–someone who started out as a traditionally published writer and then either bought rights back to self-publish or wrote some new books and self-published them. We’ve heard some big names going that way. Barbara Freethy has sold 2.6 million books using rights she bought back, and she’s not selling at 99 cents! We have the Hybrid Indie to Traditional (HIT) –someone who wrote a self-published book and then was picked up by a traditional publisher. And finally, we have the Indie, someone who has only self-published. ”

And then, finally, the way she focuses on how Traditional Publishing can sour a successful Indie writer’s book publishing due to old ways of thinking about pricing:

“This is why you as an agent feel justified in thinking that we still need agents and editors as gatekeepers for what people should read. Publishers do not get the pricing issue at all. And how can they? They have overhead to pay. They’re pushing high price instead of volume, ignoring the fact that many of these authors are selling millions of copies of their work because they have it priced reasonably. $2.99 or $3.99 may sound like peanuts to a publisher, but to many readers, it’s the sweet spot–the place where they can find great reads over and over again. A publisher who thinks it can take a book that was selling a million copies at $2.99 and then jack the price up to $9.99 or higher and have the same results is insane. You don’t even have to be a college grad to know this dog won’t hunt.”

I was just talking with my mom last night about how the way you buy ebooks is totally different from the way you go about buying paperbacks. I think from a reader’s point of view, I’m less likely to spend more than 4.99 on an ebook, even if its an author I like. I get those books from the library. When I buy ebooks I’m willing to take a chance on Indie authors as well as buy a first book in a series that’s priced lower.