Article: Are eBooks Too Cheap?: Indie Authors Question 99 Cent Price

Hi All,

Check out this article from the Huffington Post.

Best Wishes!

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How come you can't be too rich or too thin, but something can be too cheap?

Not sure what expertise the author of that article has in pricing ebooks, but I remember some other dubiously-qualified articleer  saying "John Locke is an idiot" because he priced his books at 99 cents.  Pointing out that he has to sell six times as many to make the same money.

Well... can I say "duh" here?   Maybe he sells 10 times as many at that price.  Maybe he figures it more important to get three times as many fans as an extra buck fifty on his book.  And he became a household word (in writer houses, anyway) for selling a million books.  I'm thinking that notoriety didn't hurt him.

His books are awful, by the way.  He doesn't really claim to be much of a writer, and he's not.  But he's really successful and I think you'd be an idiot to nitpick him, especially without being able to offer similar (or ANY) accomplishment to back up your refute.

I get the strong impression $2.99 is the way to go, but I haven't decided yet and am certainly interested in input from people who are actually setting prices and have numbers to show for it.

By the way--I've seen a LOT of people saying why ebooks should cost more based on all sorts of oddball facts (and non-facts) but in fact there is really only one real determinant of prices in the market, and that is what the traffic will bear.   If people start reading free Kindle books and figuring they are as good as the latest $20 thing from some star author--or maybe they're too young to really care if Steven King or Tom Clancy wrote it--you might see some "downward adjustment" from major publishers.  If they can stay in business that long.

" What’s the next step in the pricing debate as it relates to Indie authors’ success? Becoming a bestselling independent author with books consistently priced above 99 cents."


Says who?  

Anybody out there who wouldn't mind be a best-selling author at about ANY price?

There is an awful lot of stuff out there, so if you want to get noticed you need a low price. That's why my stories sell for 99 cents. My full novel goes for 3 buck, still a steal if you ask me.

There's an awful lot of stuff out there, priced at 99 c.  Too much stuff.

Here was my BIG takeaway from the article:

Most independent authors will sell less than 100 copies of their ebooks

For every indie best-selling blockbuster story (who frankly are relentless in their marketing or investment in marketing) there are thousands, and I mean thousands, who are in the "100 sales or less" category.

While pricing should be part of an overall marketing strategy, pricing alone does not guarantee, nor does it prohibit, sales. I will pay $11 or $12 for a Harlan Coben ebook but I think his books are worth $11 or $12 in electronic format and twice that in hardback. At the same time, there are countless authors who I won't read in print or e-format for free - and I am much more likely to try a print book at the library than I am a free ebook.

Then there is this quote from a publisher: As a publisher I've seen books priced 99 cents sell 60K copies and I've seen books priced at that and sell none. It's all about the marketing and promoting of a book no matter what the cost is.

That's a huge problem for self-publishing, because too many don't like to promote and market, and they sure as heck won't pay my fees to promote it for them.

What the article points out, without necessarily directly saying so, is that self publishing is a business. Like a lot of people engaged in creative pursuits, though, writers fail to realize this and they follow the pack (I have to charge 99 cents for my book because "big name author" said) without realizing the average book sells less than 100 copies - regardless of its price!

Pricing is only one part of the equation to successful bookselling but too many authors are approaching sales with the mindset that pricing is the ONLY factor.

Very true.

And while we're at it:  I decided to give my series a push by lowering the price of RASHOMON GATE to 99 c. for one month.  That was two weeks ago.  The book hasn't sold any more copies than the others (priced at 4.99).  The experiment failed.


And as Clay says, I lack the expertise or time to promote the books properly.  A pity really, because once people are hooked, they are willing to pay anything for the next book.

Your experiment interests me because:

a) While you may not have a JA Konrath fan base, you do have a group of people who like your books very much.

b) You seem to have tracked your sales by price.

It is just one example, but one worth considering.

I use Novelrank and keep track of sales every day.  They go by ASIN numbers and date.  I know when I lowered the price, and the sales haven't changed.

Konrath writes thrillers and SF.  He is totally sales-oriented.  Yes, he sells massively more than I do. He'd never consider for a moment to write for a niche market.  And he attaches no value to reviews or awards.  Single-minded!  :)

I agree, Clay. Too many people think that the price alone is automatically gonna move copies.

For every indie best-selling blockbuster story (who frankly are relentless in their marketing or investment in marketing) there are thousands, and I mean thousands, who are in the "100 sales or less" category.

Despite my still cursory forays into that realm, I would have to agree. When I see descriptions on Amazon with basic typos and query letters masquerading as "pitches," it is easier to see why those numbers exist. It's a brave new world!

Cammy has a good point. The actual costs to produce a book only figure into the price up to the point where it could be so low they can't make any money from it, no matter how many sold. For anything above that, all that matters is demand, and what the traffic will bear.

It's like sports tickets. People complain all the time about how ticket prices have gone up because the athletes make so much money, while studies have shown the opposite is true. Income is up from ticket sals and TV rights, and that money raises player salaries. 

Few things have inherent value. (Including gold, Libertarians.) Things are worth whatever someone will pay for them.

It is like sports tickets. And people, including me, continue to pay those higher prices for sports tickets, movie tickets, etc.

What is it about books that makes them have to decline in price?


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