An Author (And Reader’s) Response to the e-Book Price Debate

A Facebook friend made me aware of an excellent article from Nathan Bransford regarding e-Book pricing on c|net. You can read the article here, and I encourage you to do so. I agree with the article but then I started thinking about things from the author’s and readers perspectives.

Writing a book is a labor of love. When a project takes a year or more to complete only in the most extreme circumstances can the cost ever be recovered, but should we only be talking about monetary compensation? What about the enjoyment of the process and the satisfaction of completing it. Not to mention the ego boost when your friends and family say, “You wrote a book.” That all must factor into compensation on some level. Am I right? All I have read and heard was how difficult it is to make a living off of one’s writing. Only the top tier of authors can afford to live the writer’s life we dream of.  So the notion of e-books devaluing books does not play very well by me.

It is a fact of economics that competition should bring down prices. Right now publishers are competing with their worst nightmare; their own slush piles. In years past these little nuggets of creativity in the rough would have languished on some intern’s desk but now sit on the shelf, (or I should say the screen), right next to the latest works by the big publishers’ best. No one could have foreseen Amazon’s response to Apple’s entrance to the e-book market would be to turn everyone into a published author. For the most part the strategy has worked.

I am reading more than I ever have. Between my Kindle app and Aldiko reader on my phone I go through an e-book every couple of weeks. There is no way I could afford to do that at $15 a file. I turn to the library for some but not much of my reading material. I also have enjoyed trying independent authors especially with titles at $2.99 and .99. The lesson here is not that I am cheap, but that there are alternatives for my reading fix that have nothing to do with what publishers think e-books should cost. I do make exceptions and have paid $10 for an e-book or two, ones I really want to read.

I price my books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble at the bargain price of $2.99 to be attractive to readers and also because I have no overhead costs. I do all the formatting and marketing myself. My wife takes care of the editing which challenges her with my unique twist on spelling. So as an independent author this is truly a labor of love and the big publishers will never be able to compete with me on price. I will even go out on a limb and say my books provide a greater value at that price because they can go toe to toe with some of what the big publishers are putting out. If you think that sounds a bit egotistical of me then read my previous post.

One thought on “An Author (And Reader’s) Response to the e-Book Price Debate

  1. The key break off point is $2.99, as it is the lowest price at which the author gets 70% instead of 35%. I have my full length novels at $4.99, while I have my novella length and anthologies at 99 cents. At 99 cents, the author gets just under 35 cents. Kindle only sends you a commission check after you earn $100, so you have to sell around 350 to get paid. After that, you have to pay state, local and federal income tax and both halves of your Social Security and Medicare, so you are making about 20 cents a book.

    I have seen several studies, and outside those who pay zero to 99 cents, pricing does not effect sales as much as quality, interest and marketing. I worked six months on my first book, paid a cover artist, paid an editor, paid graphics designers to make it fit right into Kindle and printer demands, paid for an ISBN, paid for a barcode, etc. To do all that usually costs between $500 and $2,000 per book. I just can’t rationalize selling it for 20 cents a copy profit.

    It is like standing outside a movie theater and paying people to go see the movie you spent millions to make. A movie by the way gives you around 90 minutes of time, while a full length novel usually takes over ten hours to read…

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