Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Ongoing Dilemma of Ebook Pricing

First, thanks to everyone for posting your thoughtful comments on last week's topic about spamming. I really appreciate it! Now, onto new issues:

Since my first two mysteries, Taxed to Death and Fatal Encryption were published three years ago, I’ve been reading lots of internet discussion and articles about ebook pricing. Since that time, I’ve learned two things: the range in book prices is wider than ever and opinions about how much e-books should cost are stronger than ever. Here’s a sample of what I’ve been hearing:

Self-publishers were saying (generally speaking—there are always exceptions) that an unknown author with a new book should charge .99 cents (and sometimes even free) to entice new readers. Well, that worked well for a while and many of my colleagues were selling quite a few copies per month, but the game has changed, partly because of Amazon. Unfortunately, too many indie authors were using amazon’s forums to promote their books on the wrong threads which offended enough readers to launch complaints. So, amazon tightened the rules significantly about where and how much authors can promote.

The other factor is that the enormous number of .99 books has created what some readers/writers now refer to at the “.99 cent ghetto”. What this means is that a .99 cent book is automatically assumed to be self-published and of poor quality. To combat this growing attitude, some authors are raising their prices to $2.99 or even higher. As I write this, these folks are still generating sales, but the experiments I’m following are fairly new, so we’ll see how it goes.

Here’s the other side of the coin. A lower priced book, indie published or not, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as there are plenty of readers looking for new authors and a bargain. In fact, there are many readers who refuse to pay more than $3.00 no matter whose name is on the cover. You can see where the dilemma rises when trying to find the right price point for your own book.

There are also readers who assume, rightly or wrongly, that a book priced at $6.99 or more is a traditionally published book and therefore less prone to the grammar, spelling, and formatting glitches of self-published books and, believe me, this is a common complaint! It’s true that traditional publishers are pricing their books higher partly because they have overhead: hiring professionals to format in different platforms, as well as experienced book jacket designers, and so on. The other reason is that publishers tend to believe that books have value (again, there are probably exceptions). In other words, why should their products be the same price as a pack of gum? Publishing isn’t just about mass market thrillers, but about art, creativity, and thought-provoking, helpful information, for starters. Let’s think about it: how much do we pay to invest two hours of our time at a movie theatre? My last 3D movie (Harry Potter) was $13.50! The price of popcorn cost more expensive than most ebooks! Needless to say, this is a topic that’s ripe for debate.

And then there’s the backlash syndrome. One famous author who’s received his share of great reviews over the years commented that his ebooks were receiving 1-star ratings as a backlash for the book’s high price, which was $16.99, a price set by his publisher. Book piracy is now flourishing partly because people simply refuse to pay that kind of money for a virtual book. Even readers who don’t want anything to do with the .99 cent ghetto might still refuse to pay more than $10 for an ebook. And so, the dilemma rages on. I’ve love to hear your thoughts on this. How much do you charge for your books? How much are you willing to pay for someone else’s? Have you thought about changing your price, up or down, and if so, why?

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, Chapters/Indigo

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