E-book Pricing: Are .99cent e-books good for authors?

I read a couple of articles about cheaply priced e-books lately and I am shocked at the consensus that this cheap price of .99cents is actually a good thing. Sure there is the occasionally low priced book to draw customers in, or as a blitz promotion. I have no problem with that, that actually makes marketing sense. However, that is not what is going on in the world of e-book publishing today. The mass of Indie authors have so cheaply devalued their work that the $2.99 and below is a bench mark price for the casual shopper, and anything above that, I feel, has become too much for most. After all who can resist spending .99cents on a bunch of unknown authors and fill up their e-reader with a lot of material that one can get to later on down the road? The argument in favor of this is that with more patrons dropping a dollar multiple times in the pot spreads the wealth around for all authors. What a stupid argument. Let me ask you Indie author, “How much is your book worth to you? How much did you scrape to pay that illustrator for that awesome cover? How much did you pay that editor? (I hope you had an editor) How much did you pay for that proof print if you developed a copy for print? How much did you drop down on a website? How much time did it take for you to create your world and put ink to paper (type to document)? How much does all that total? If you have done most of the above, how much e-copies will you have to sell to just to break even? Mind you your royalties from Amazon are only .35cents a copy if sold for .99cents. Tell me where that makes any kind of sense? We have had this great opportunity to be Indie Authors and avoid the big house publisher to go it our own way, and what we are doing is shooting ourselves in the foot! Sure there are some books that are worth .99cents, and sure there are books that aren’t even worth that much due to the careless Indie who is putting out garbage, but for the rest of us who take writing seriously, we are getting screwed by those that buy into the cheap is more philosophy. For many of us that are unknown there is no way to distinguish our work from the rest, but only by price and cover/blurb. If we are lumped in with the rest, who is going to take a risk on a $5.99 e-book over a .99cent ebook with the same quality cover and blurb? Bargain shoppers are now driving the market, and in most cases filling their bins with low quality writing and therefore just affirming the stereotype of the Indie author as poor writing, no structure, bad formatting, and no editing.

I’ve learned a pricing structure from successful author’s Michael A. Stackpole (Price isn’t the point) and Dean Wesley Smith (Ebook Pricing). Research them out if you want to learn about how they come up with e-book value and pricing. I can tell you it’s not .99cents.

Not sure if it was Joe Konrath who said this, but nothing says Cheap like a Cheaply priced book. If it wasn’t you Joe than sorry about that. The point is Indie authors are saying all their expenses and hard work is only worth .35cents in royalty and if they don’t believe their stuff is worth more, then what does that say for the rest of us? It says that we are overpricing. The norm is now bargain bin pricing. Read the above articles and learn about what is a reasonable price for an e-book. If we play this thing smart we can all make money selling e-books.


4 comments on “E-book Pricing: Are .99cent e-books good for authors?

  1. TAWilliams says:

    I’m releasing book 1 & 2 of a series at the same time. The 1st book is going to be .99 while the 2nd will be 2.99. I agree with a lot of the points you are making but for my series my hope is that the reader will take a chance on the 1st book an then get swept up in the series.

    For non-series releases I don’t see myself pricing at .99 for many of the reasons you posted above!

    • Short term pricing at .99cents and or free is good marketing, and offerings for the beginning of a series is fine also. Far too many books out there have caused us to devalue our work just to get buyers.

  2. alankscott says:

    Robert I am an Indie publisher and I agree 100% with you, however, the problem is market forces. I have placed my ebooks on the market for $3.50 and not sold a single copy. I drop the price to $1.50 and I get sales and reviews. Until the following problem is solved then we will always have to make our books cheap.

    The problem is simply this – How do we weed out the rubbish writers so that the customer know they have a good chance of buying a good product?

    The publishing houses do that first sift for us (the customer) when they decide what books to publish.

    Maybe we (the indie publisher) need an organisation that we can belong to, that will guarantee the customer a minimum standard, so that the customer would be willing to pay $5 etc.


    • That’s an interesting idea. I fear that might take the independence in Indie away from us, but it seems something should be done in order to ensure some kind of confidence in patrons to purchase quality work. I’ve played with my pricing also, and to get more sales the price has to drop.

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