The Issue of Pricing an Ebook

I read a recent article from Forbes who, after examining the Digital Book World list, noticed that three out of the five authors listed were self published. When they got down to the crux of it, the reason they gave was price. Now, I’m not referring to quality, editing, story, formatting and sheer brilliance here, because to be on any top bestseller list you have to have all of those things.  Yes, I know what you’re going to say: 50 Shades of Grey gave us mommy porn and not only that but a wonderfully paper thin story, unbelievable characters and two more books to follow. I admit that I have not read the book in its entirety but what I did read left me shaking my head, a lot, re-reading sections to make sure the author actually meant to say that and surfing over the words like they were waves constructed out of pointy rocks.

No, what I’m wondering about is if price matters and do self publishers have an advantage over traditionally published books in that area?

My book, Becoming Human, is priced no higher than €3.99. It has been doing really well and has a number of great reviews on Amazon. That’s what I feel the book is worth. Is it priced too high? I don’t think so. Besides, I’m running periodical promotions where I drop the price well below that, so it’s fair.

Here is the article from Forbes;

In 2011, of the $14 billion trade publishing industry, roughly $100 million of it was self-published books, according to data presented at Digital Book World 2012. Less than 1%. A drop in the bucket.

In 2013, the numbers should look quite different.

In the first four months of the year, we’ve had four weeks where a self-published title was a No. 1 ebook best-seller. Last week, both the Nos. 1 and 2 spots were self-published ebooks. This week’s best-seller list brings fresh challenges to the dominance of traditional publishers.

Which Publishers Are the Best at Selling Ebooks in 2013? Jeremy Greenfield Jeremy Greenfield Contributor

Meet the Latest Self-Publishing Sensation, Rachel Van Dyken Jeremy Greenfield Jeremy Greenfield Contributor

While David Baldacci’s The Hit (Hachette) retook the No. 1 spot from self-published author H.M. Ward, five of the top ten best-selling ebooks this week were self-published. For those of you who weren’t math majors, that’s half. Six of the top-25 best-selling ebooks were self-published: 24%.

Full Forbes Article

Self publishers are coming! Lock away your valuables! They’re stealing money from hard working traditional publishers, blah blah blah.

Angry Mob

Look! The self publishers are angry. Or is this an image of the gatekeepers?

It sounds all a bit dramatic to me. Maybe we should be doing a bit more of this.

People hugging

Let’s share the space! Hey, whose hand is on my bum?

Is it such a surprise that customers are taking more notice of well written books by self published authors, or is it that the high price of some traditional published books are making them think twice about hitting that purchase button? Possibly the latter, but I would like to think its a combination of both.

Take a traditional publishing company, Hachette, Bloomsbury, Simon and Schuster, or whoever the top dogs are at the moment, and look at what prices they’re pitching their author’s novels at on Amazon: 9.99, 10.99 and 12.99. And that’s just for the e-book. So why are traditional publishers charging this amount? Let’s assume they need to make back their production and marketing costs and the advanced royalty they pay their authors. Okay, that warrants a more expensive paperback book in my mind.

But if I charged that for my ebook, I would not make any sales, nor would I expect to. Even if I had twenty bestsellers to my name, I would struggle to justify a price like that for a digital book. Production costs aside, the important thing to remember is that it’s free to publish through Kindle Direct Publishing. So why are customers expected to pay such a high price for a traditionally produced digital book? Is it fair to expect the customer to pay for the luxury of having a branded publisher on the title?

What are your thoughts on paying high prices on e-books?

P.S. read this really funny review of 50 Shades of Grey. You’ll have tea coming out of your nose!

P.P.S. Want to be the first to find out about new releases in the Trilogy? Click here

6 comments

  1. I am not involved in any way in the production or distribution of books, so I can only speak as a reader, or rather as a consumer of books. Of course I prefer a lower price for a product. For for products with high quality I am always willing to pay a higher price. Whether a book has a good quality for me personally or not, I can not possibly see by the price. Even the name of the author is not always good enough for me. A free chapter – or as at Amazon a “look inside” – is always useful.

    But if an ebook only costs one dollar for a limited period, or is even free, then I usually just buy it. And if I like the book/author, I buy the next ebook for a higher price (“Look inside” provided).

    That a paper book costs more than an ebook makes sense. The reproduction of ebooks is almost free, the “storage” on servers is also getting cheaper. For books of paper then come as aspects of environmental protection into the game, etc., and in my case problems during storage. Still, I think that the price of good eBooks should not much below that of ordinary books.

    I read mostly for entertainment. I had once listed the cost of entertainment / minute: A book I am reading in 2-6 hours (depending). An MP3 I listen to in 3 minutes and pay $1. A DVD movie takes 2 hours and costs $10. So for a dollar I get three minutes of music, 12 minutes of film and 12-36 minutes of reading pleasure. The eBooks can therefore be, in my view, more expensive (or the music cheaper).

    And I make no distinction between Indie and established authors. Why should I?

    PS. I have not read Shades Of Grey, didn’t plan to, and will certainly never do after reading this post.

    1. Yes, you make a good point about the ‘Look Inside’ feature. It’s important for authors to provide a taster of their work. It can be a make or break deal for some customers, but they have to be allowed try the merchandise. How long would a clothes shop last if you couldn’t try on the clothes, or iTunes if you couldn’t sample a tracK? It makes good business sense.
      The impulse purchase price for readers is 99c. There is very little risk but there is also the risk that a reader might bulk buy from other authors, too, and never get around to reading the book you want them to. 1.99 is also a good price for a promotion but readers tend to think about the purchase before hitting the ‘buy’ button. Anything higher, and that’s where the sample comes in handy.
      As for ebooks being the same price as printed or close to, I think that could be a bigger sticking point for some. As a reader, I think I would prefer to shell out 10 dollars/euro/pounds for a print book than a digital copy for my Kindle. It just doesn’t seem to have the same worth, even though the content is identical.
      Thank you for not making any distinction between indie and establised authors. It’s the right attitude to have. But unfortunately, the negative stereotype still follows us around. Not from readers – they have been very open to the process – but from the heavy hitters in the industry. Attitudes will change. They are already changing, in my mind.

    1. There is an option at the back end of sales channels to do that. Not Amazon, but Smashwords. But if you select the option that allows the customer to pay what they feel the book is worth, you won’t qualify for premium sites such as Barnes and Noble. Plus, there is little to protect the seller if the reader decides to pay nothing at all. It’s a risky strategy and I like to have my book in as many stores as possible, so the reader has choice.

    1. I think I enjoyed the review more than I would have enjoyed the book. I was reading it in work and laughing to myself, like a crazy person. The tears fell shortly after :-)

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