Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Thursday, June 30, 2011

What's it worth to you?

eBook Pricing...Say What?
So there's this huge debate going on in the ether (otherwise known as the Internet) about the pricing of ebooks, and I'm like...huh? You don't have enough to worry about?

We're talking unit price, not overall earnings. That's the part that makes this ridiculous. Who cares what the unit price is? Other than the readers, of course, who are always scrounging for another dime to buy something to read and appreciate getting good books el cheapo. There's already a long, well-established tradition of used bookstores and libraries (free books! What a deal!) that some of us use to try to stretch our dimes a bit further.

Here's the argument:
If you sell your book for $.99, you devalue it.

Really? You mean that book I got last weekend from the Waccamaw Boys & Girls School Thrift Store for $.25 has less value to me as a reader than it would if I had to pay $9.99 (and frankly, couldn't afford to buy it)?

I don't think so.

First off, you can't force a reader to value you, or your work, more by forcing them to pay more for it. They just won't buy it. You can enjoy your ego-trip thinking about how to make people pay more so they will know how much work you put into your product, but the reality is: if you're a writer, you have other things to worry about, including: writing the next book; writing the next book better than the previous book; and royalties.

Your focus should be on royalties, not unit price. Historically, you've never been able to set or control the unit price if you're traditionally published, why do you worry about it in relation to some theoretical "value" placed upon your work? There is no relationship between the two. Except what your ego places there.

Royalties = the money you earn on that book (of course, with an advance if you get one). That's your revenue stream.

The unit price that generates that revenue stream is irrelevant, except in dinking around with it to generate the largest revenue stream possible.

I would rather make $20,000 selling books for $.99 than $1,000 selling books for $24.95 for my traditionally published book. Because it's not the unit price that interests me (or any businessman or businesswoman); it's the revenue stream.

Which brings me to the second flaw in this thought process that focuses on unit price: if you set the price higher, you'll make more.

Probably not.

Again, you're making assumptions with no facts to back them. There's no such thing as a gauranteed sale unless you're like...Rowlings or someone like that. But we're not talking about a mega-super-star, here. We talking about John and Jane Doe-Author. Just because you can sell 1 million books at $.99 does NOT mean you will sell 1 million books at $9.99. In fact, odds are good you will sell sufficiently less to make the $9.99 per unit revenue stream less profitable than the $.99 per unit stream.

Am I saying that all books should be priced at $.99 if you want to sell a million?
Heck, no. I'm not insane (even if I sound that way).

What I'm saying is that pricing is not an exact art. There are times when you may want to use the $.99 price as an "intro" or "sales" price to generate interest. You may want to use it for the first book in a series to entice readers. You then may want to use a strategy such as:
$.99 - first book in series/short stories
$1.99 - novellas
$2.99 - full lenth novels/2nd and subsequent books in a series

Or higher prices. It's up to you. Do what works for you and your audience. But my advice is: leave your ego at the door.
This should be a business decision. It should not be about making readers value your work.

Only your work can make readers value your work, regardless of price.


Anonymous said...

I'm not a published author, just an ebook reader, but I totally agree with the use of the .99 to get me 'hooked' on a series or author, and then graduated prices to keep me reading them. I have gotten into several authors whose first books in series were free or .99. In order to follow the storyline, I will pay for all of the older books in order to know how the characters get to the point of the new/current book.

Amy said...

Thank you very much! I am extremely interested in the views of readers and I'm very glad you posted!