My sister and I were having a discussion the other day about the cost of e-books. One of the draws of the readers or apps is being able to get books at a discounted price. After all, you aren't getting a physical book. That was my theory, especially since companies are asking you to first spend a couple hundred dollars on a reader, to me the books should be less than buying a bound copy. Wow, was I wrong. I do like the convenience of e-books and being able to download a book instantly and start reading it, so I found a book I wanted to read and went to one of my handy apps to price the book. That particular book was $12 in e-book format. Amazon was selling a used paperback version for $2.58. Even with shipping and tax it was going to be $5.00. Why would I pay $12 for a digital copy that I can't put on my shelf, or loan to friends, or even read while sitting in the bathtub. (The latter doesn't really happen as often as I fantasize.) So this led my sister and I into the discussion of what is a good e-book price. I personally don't want to spend more than $5 on an e-book. I have spent up to $9 on one, but it was an author I trusted would be worth it, and my mommy gave me a nook gift card. (Yes, I'm a cheap skate.) My sister said she doesn't want to pay anymore for a digital version than she would on a paperback. My cheap skate habits have led me to alot of free or $.99 books. Yes, quite often the quality is lacking, but I'm sometimes willing to overlook that for the discount. This leads me to wonder if readers are going to begin to lower their standards in their reading choices and choose thrift over quality.
Now I know the publishing companies have lots of reasons as to why the e-books are so expensive even though the publishing costs are next to none. But that isn't to say the publishing companies don't do alot to get these books ready. All those other services like editing, marketing, etc. deserves compensation. Though I don't think publishing companies have hit the right formula yet when it comes to computing those costs and still making e-books worth the price.
What about a writer's point of view? How do we meet this new market head on and find pricing that is right for our books? Now if we are publishing with a company than we won't have a say on this aspect. But if we are self-publishing we have the power. So do you put your story out for free hoping to get your name out there? Do you go with $.99 for the first book and $2.99 for each other book in the series like Amanda Hocking did? I get an e-mail once a week from David Farland called the "Daily Kick in the Pants". In this past one he talks about how to sell e-books. I really enjoyed all the information, but I'm just going to share with you the part about pricing. Please go to his website and sign up for his weekly e-mail, it's definitely worth it.
"Price them cheap. Note that the authors who have succeeded have priced them at 99 cents. No one has gone out yet and self-published a novel at $15 and sold a million copies. No one has done it even at $3. The authors who use this method are trying to build an audience. They’re sacrificing short-term profits in the hopes of building a long-term audience.
If you give your novel away, no one is likely to read it. Why? Because you’ve just told us that your novel has no value.
Years ago, my family had the misfortune of having a litter of extremely ugly kittens. They were all calicos with grisly markings. Their fur was more like bristles than anything else. They were bony creatures, scrappy and altogether unlovely.
One Saturday morning, my wife came to me crying and begged, “Take these kittens up into the hills and put them out of their misery. I’ve gone all through the neighborhood, and no one will take any of them!”
Well, I didn’t want to commit felineocide, especially with kittens, so I came up with a plan. I dressed my daughters—age 6 and 8—up in nice clothes, then had them go down to the supermarket and try to give away the kittens. Now, my daughters were cute, so having them give away the kittens was the equivalent of trying to put a nice cover on a crummy book.
Well, my daughters went out, determined to give away the kittens, but after four hours they came home in tears. No one wanted our ugly cats. You just couldn’t con them into it. You couldn’t beg, whine, or wheedle.
So I wondered, maybe I could get rid of the cats if I suggested that they had a real value? I decided to sell the darned things. At the time, we were thinking of buying a beautiful little kitten for $200. I decided to sell the ugly kittens at a bargain price. On the cutest of them, I put a price tag of $20. Now, you have to understand, the cutest of them was still hideous. It’s uglier kin cost only $10. My daughters went out and SOLD all six kittens within a twenty minutes. As my wife put it, “People crowded around, fighting to buy those ugly kittens.” Why? Because I had the temerity to suggest that they had value.
Don’t let this lesson be lost on you. Charge for your novels.
Now I’m going to tell you a secret. This tactic won’t work on everyone: I won’t read novels that people are giving away. The author is telling me that “This book is such an eyesore, it’s not worth anything.”
In fact, I’m such a snob that I won’t even look at novels priced at 99 cents. You’ve got to raise your prices to convince me that you’ve got anything interesting.
So what’s your price point? I have a friend who runs a small publishing company. He told me last December that he was making about $7,000 per month off of three thriller novels, which he was selling for $10 each. In January he dropped the price to $3 each, and made $18,000—while selling seven times as many books.
Now, there are a lot of people who do buy 99-cent books and who read free books. I’ve read articles by people who say, “After getting my e-reader, I’ve bought 300 books in the past three months, and I only paid $325 for them.” Well, if you’re buying 100 books per month, you’re not really reading them all, are you?
If I sell you a book at that price, the chances are great that you will have wasted your money and I still won’t get a new reader. So I probably don’t want to go that low on my pricing.
Besides, I’m a multiple award-winning New York Times bestselling author. I think my books are worth more than a dollar. I might be willing to buy books for as little as $2.99, so that might be a better entry price for people like me.
But you can’t argue with success. The 99 cent price point is working for some authors. A lot of readers apparently will buy books at that price. So give it a try." -David Farland "Daily Kick--How to Sell a Million E-Books" July 2, 2011.
I really enjoyed reading his opinion and it has made wonder, "What is my price point as a writer and as a reader?" How do I reconcile these two roles? That leads me to ask, what are your opinions on the prices of e-books? What are you willing to pay for e-books? What would you want to sell your books for if you were self-publishing e-books?