99-cent ebooks: yay or nay?

| Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Today's Tune: Sea of Love

Aaaaaaaaaaaand TODAY I'd like to discuss this interesting interview about how low-balling one's ebook prices might not be the best idea in the world. Excite? SO EXCITE.

Winters touches on a lot of points in this interview that I myself have been concerned about with the emerging ebook market. Is selling 99-cent ebooks a sustainable business model? Does such a low price devalue or color the expectation of the work (aka, "So what if it sucks, it's only 99 cents")? Can you actually make reasonable money selling ebooks for so little? Do people who buy "cheap" books display an attitude of entitlement and expect more for less?

All totally valid questions. Another big concern of mine is the "hoarding" aspect she mentions. People often compare ebooks to the evolution of music purchases, which is a reasonable comparison to make, but I don't think they're as similar as they appear. Music is easily consumed. You can listen to 100 songs in a few days. You can't read 100 books in a few days. Unless your super power is Speed Reading. Are you The Speed Reader? I'm not The Speed Reader. I'm fast, but I'm not that fast. So what happens if people develop the "99 cents, why not" attitude? Will they buy buy buy, but never read? If you can get 30 books for 30 bucks, how fast will you read them? More importantly, will you read them at all?

Personally, I'd rather not boil down years of work into something that can be purchased for 99 cents. I think my work is worth more than that. IT'S WORTH A MILLION CENTS just kidding. But really, I think it's worth at least $4.99. I worry about authors undercutting one another for numbers, rather than trying to find a good, sustainable model that will benefit all. Sure, we can pull out our Amanda Hocking examples, but she's the exception, not the rule. She's also not making her money on one or even two books - she has several currently available.

What do you think, gentle readers good buddies?


{ Old Kitty } at: March 23, 2011 at 5:37 AM said...

Personally if I ever did have an ebook out (let's go deep into my fantasy! LOL!) I'd like a price set by the big name establish publisher that I've gotten signed up to by my fabulous agent! :-)

But seriously ebook writers - if you love and value your work - price yourself accordingly!!! That just makes sense to me!

Take care

{ Keri } at: March 23, 2011 at 8:37 AM said...

I like the idea of a short story compilation with a few short stories for 99 cents that gives you quality but for a decent price. It would help to give the author a little boost on their writing profile, while pricing their novels to a standard that suits.

{ Magan } at: March 23, 2011 at 8:45 AM said...

I have a few friends that have gone through small publishers and had romance Ebooks published for prices like 4.99. After reading Nathan Bransford's blog on how publishers work the Ebook model on pricing it kind of leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Why don't authors get paid more for all of the work that we do? It's like teachers...it seems that the hardest jobs can get paid the least...

{ Brad Jaeger } at: March 23, 2011 at 12:45 PM said...

Just be thankful that most self published titles won't sell more than 200-500 copies ;)

I think $0.99 cents is balls, myself, and am indeed leery of any e-book set at that price.

{ Andrew Leon } at: March 23, 2011 at 3:31 PM said...

This is a topic of great interest to me and one I've been thinking about it. As consumers, we are often quite, I don't know, just stingy. Let's look at music, I have a number of cds I bought at concerts from various groups/singers. Some of those singers went on to "make it," got signed by a label, and have "real" cds out, now. Most of those people I own cds for didn't make it. Some of them were really good, though, and, probably, really deserved to make it. For a long time (at least 2 decades), I've felt that it's important to support artists in their work, especially when they're just starting out. Could some of those musicians have lasted long enough to get signed if more people had bought their little independently produced cds? But we, as a general rule, look down on those independently produced cds and hesitate to buy them. What we forget is that buying -those- cds is more than just about getting the cd; it's about investing in the future of that musician.

It's the same with writers. As readers, we should be willing to support new authors and help them get established. No, you don't want to buy "crap," so you should certainly research the author you thinking about supporting, but no author should feel like they have to value him/herself at the "crap" level, either.

Just my 2 cents.


{ Tiger } at: March 25, 2011 at 1:40 PM said...

I've heard the music comparison a lot lately and I don't think it jives. Yes, I can buy a single song on say, itunes, for 0.99. But if I want the whole album, it's usually about ten dollars. The same price your average Amazon ebook is.

Here's the thing. A book is a product, but not just any product. Not everyone can craft one. Not everyone can craft me a perfect espresso, either, and I pay the barista who can at least 3.50$. Yet people expect me to offer my book, this thing I have slaved over for almost two years now, for a dollar.

I think it most certainly devalues the craft and effort that went in to that product when you charge that little. It doesn't speak of confidence in one's work. I read an article recently that suggested we expect art for free because it's an indulgence. But it's not just an indulgence. I still think art can change lives, open minds, and all those other starry eyed things I could continue with. And even our indulgences cost money. A pie at the grocery store costs 12$ and that was made to formula. My book costs less than that and will entertain and hopefully nourish some part of you longer than that pie will. So pay up. Because you get in return as much as you invest.

{ Andrew Leon } at: March 27, 2011 at 12:15 AM said...

Maybe authors should start offering their books up at $0.99 a chapter. That would be more equivalent to the song thing. Then the whole book for $9.99.

{ Rose Transpose } at: March 27, 2011 at 4:45 PM said...

I worry about book prices becoming too low. Can you even get a pack of gum for 99 cents? It just sounds odd to think that's what an entire novel is worth.
- Nicholas

{ Andrew Leon } at: March 27, 2011 at 6:55 PM said...

Yeah, and imagine the average consumer standing in line at the grocery store and they have the choice between a book for a buck or a candy bar. Which do you think most of them would pick?

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