Open Floor Friday: E-book pricing

With the rising popularity of e-readers, writers and publishers are considering releasing e-books, either in tandem with the print version or, in some cases, as the primary or sole medium of publication. There have been several articles and blog postings about the pricing of e-books. If one were to browse online bookstores like Amazon, BN.com,  and Smashwords, one will find that the prices range from free to $9.99 or more. $9.99 tends to be the standard for major publishers while indie writers and smaller publishers are more open to pricing towards the bottom end of the spectrum.

Here is the question: What is a good price for an e-book? On the business end, $0.99 is a great way to push a lot of units very quickly. Even if the book sucks, the reader hasn’t really lost much (except for time wasted reading such an awful book). However, as the writer who has spent months, years even, crafting that story, is it fair to cheapen the price just to drive sales?

I can understand both sides of the coin. The entrepreneur in me says that pricing is key. You want to sell the book, right? You can market, tweet, blog, and promote all you want, but if the price is too high, it’s not going to sell. However, the artist in me says I’ve spent way too long working on this book to sell it for under a buck. On the other hand, I’m not opposed to mixing up the pricing and running promotions. But setting my suggested retail price at 99 cents? I’m not sure about that…

Writers: You’ve worked hard on your book. For some of you, that book is your baby. What would be a fair e-book price to compensate you for the time, care, and money you’ve invested while also being mindful of the reader who has to buy it?

Readers: Do you feel that a book priced so cheaply automatically cheapens its quality in your mind? When is the price too high? Does price always correlate with quality? You’ve already spent about 100 bucks on that e-reader, what would you feel comfortable with paying to fill it?

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7 comments

  1. It is a problem I have at the moment – what is a realistic price for e-book versionsof my printed books – my situation is a little different in that I’m well into retirement so am not looking for a career – howver I don’t really want to give my hard work away. When Ellen’s Tale was offered free for a week – it was downloaded in dozens – going back to it’s 4.99 price has stopped the flow.
    The point of the free offer was to hopefully introduce folk to the first in a series now that the second was also an e-book – will it work? – who knows – I wan’t people to read my books and hopefully enjoy them but they need to know they are there so I blog and push and mention them always.

    I do think tho’ if they are produced by the author they must be priced at way below the printed version (in some places they are even more!!!) to account for the lower costs on production and selling after all there are no publishers, distributers, transport, shop buyers, sellers and shelf stockers to pay

    I doubt there is a correct answer to the problem – but if anyone has it I for one would like clarification

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  2. I think the price should not say how good or bad the book is…A lot of the time price is set by a publisher to their standard…It is hard to price a book at 99 cents…People don’t really get that an author gets very little cut from each book..sometimes you are lucky to get 50 cents from a book had is prced at a few dollars….

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  3. Mine was very recently e-published, and I set the price for $4.99. The first week it was published was also the publisher’s Read An E-Book Week campaign, and I participated in that, which meant a 20-something percent discount. I thought that was reasonable, since it was the first week the book was published. Right now I am offering a 10% discount coupon through that same e-publisher, which won’t be available when people purchase through larger outlets like Barnes & Noble. I think my pricing is reasonable because I am an unknown author at the moment, while at the same time my work has value. As a consumer, I would buy a 99-cent book for my Kindle with no qualms, as it is less than a lottery ticket but more worthwhile. If I enjoyed the author, I would then be willing to purchase subsequent, more expensive books.

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  4. Because authors put their all into book and get very little monetary return, it is not a good idea to price it low as 99 cents. Although, it will increase unit sales. From a reader’s perspective, I will not pay more than $9.99 for an eBook. I’m almost more likely to purchase MORE books for less.

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  5. As a reader, I won’t pay over $10. On Friday though, I read an article that broke down the pricing and showed why the big publishers can’t charge less than $13.99 unless they want to lose money. Seems crazy, huh?

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  6. Thanks for a though-provoking post. I just discovered your blog via Literary Cold Cuts for Toasty Buns.

    For my part, I always look for a good buy! I often wait until a hardbound comes out in paperback, and I comb used book stores regularly. So, no, I wouldn’t say a low price cheapens the book for me. The book’s appearance, cover, comments about it, etc., all influence me.

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