Natasha McNeely triggered a lengthy tangent in my mind; one I’ve been considering rather in-depth for a long time, and moreso in the last few days as I truly begin to weigh my options in publishing. Natasha talks about e-book prices, and her take on appropriate cost.
Firstly, you all get a disclaimer: this is just my thoughts, from a personally inexperienced perspective, yet with the backing of a whole lot of research and sense of pride in storytelling. There. Now, onto my rambling.
There’s nothing wrong with the $0.99 price point. There are valid reasons for using it, including drawing in new readers, and letting people get a relatively risk-free taste of your work. After all, isn’t it exceptionally easy to justify dropping a dollar on an e-book, just to see if you like the writer’s style? I know I’ve done it.
However, there is a catch. Many, in fact.
As I outlined to my husband when we were setting up his freelance illustrator rates, you need a wide scope for what the client, or consumer, is actually paying for. When you are an artist, whether through images or words, you have years of experience and learning behind you. The buyer is purchasing a quality product because you have a decade or more practice put into your craft. By asking for a fair price, you are giving value to the sheer amount of dedication necessary to perfect your art.
Then there are subtle overheads. The tools required to produce your product. A computer, with peripherals and software; a desk, pens, paper. Electricity, an internet connection, and a workspace. Even if you had all of these things before you started writing, using the home computer in your lounge room, they are still business costs. You could not offer an e-book without paying for those things at some point.
There are also literal costs in producing and marketing a finished e-book. You might get lucky and not have to pay for all of them, or you might go all-out and use most of the following (and more): cover art, editing, formatting, uploading/account fees, advertising including business cards or other little handouts like bookmarks (which require design and printing), a dedicated website, the list goes on.
After all that, the writing itself must have value. It must. You did not spend a year or longer writing this one specific book, to see no returns on your personal effort. Now, that’s not to say value is inherent in money (quite the opposite), but this is an important element to consider when offering your e-book for under a dollar.
I believe an e-book novella deserves to cost up to $5.00, with novel-length works going anything up to $15.00. I’ve been happy to pay $15.00 for an e-book I especially wanted, and will probably do so again. I also believe the lure of a cheap first book should come when you already have a backlog of work available; that way, readers can buy more of your writing while it’s still fresh in their mind. Will they remember to come back in a few months time, even if they liked their $0.99 purchase?
Just as a new author releasing a paperback will not sell their first book for less than its worth, as a book, as a complicated, dedicated creation, independent writers most certainly shouldn’t be expected to sell their e-books at a devaluing rate.