Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Young Writers and Price Points

I annoyed Steve Weddle over the weekend saying that the idea that a reader is more likely to buy and not read a .99 cent book is false. I have bought plenty of books that were higher priced and never read them. It's the luck of the draw, I said.

And I stand by that.

People buy books for a bunch of reasons: the cover looks cool, the plot sounds great, someone recommended an author to them. After they buy that book, it's up to them whether or not they read it and when they decide to read it. I don't think price point plays into that as much as other reasons.

But I will say this... a cheaper price point helps a new writer. If a book is priced inexpensively, more people are going to buy it. If more people buy it, the odds are better that more people are going to read that book. If a book is priced at 17.99 on the Kindle for a first time author, fewer people are going to be willing to try out that book and that new author. Therefore, more readers.

As far as the 99 cent price point, writers like to complain that's lowering the price of art... or something to that effect. Readers don't care. Honestly, put yourself in a reader's point of view. A casual reader. Not someone who combs the blogs and Twitter follow their favorite writers. Just someone who picks up a few books a month on a whim.

Do you think they consider that the price of "art" is being degenegrated (or whatever the argument is)?


They care they get a good yarn. A good read.

I know this because people who don't worry about following writers and just bought a Kindle come to me asking for suggestions for 99 cent authors. They love trying someone new, because it's affordable.

Cheaper sells more. And if more people buy your book, the odds are more people will read your book.

Indie booksellers are starting to adopt to this too. They are selling ebooks at inexpensive prices... the e-pub generation--it's going to help a lot of writers get a bigger audience..


Gerald So said...

I can't speak about the ebook-buying public in general. I haven't bought many ebooks yet, but I used to be more willing to buy paperbacks by authors new to me when they were $4.99, $5.99, $6.99.

That said, I think it's every author's ambition to sell books for what the author thinks they're worth, not solely what might be an attractive price to buyers.

I may be alone on this, but if a more realistic, higher price is one's ultimate goal, I prefer the books be priced realistically from the beginning and not jump. As a buyer in a sea of 99-cent books, sometimes I am inclined to think a higher-priced book is of superior quality anyway.

Personally, I've priced my ebooks from 99 cents to $2.99. The 99-cent books contain three short stories each. I also have a $1.99 book of 24 poems, and I've published a $2.99 book of 32 poems, many by well-known authors. I think I've priced each book realistically and fairly based on amount of content.

Laura Roberts said...

I think 99-cent books are pretty much the only way to go for unknown authors. I'm willing to take a chance at $1, or even $2.99, but $10 for a brand new book that I can't even sample beyond the first page or two? Not going to happen.

To me, the only real issue with 99-cent books is that Amazon's pricing structure takes 70% on anything less than $2.99, which is completely ridiculous. I still did all the work, as the author and editor and publisher, so why should Amazon (the distributor) get the majority of the money? I'd really like to see this cut reversed.

L.J. Sellers said...

I'm with you Laura. I finally gave in to the $.99 price for my novels to stay competitive, but I'd be doing a lot better if Amazon would give me a 70% royalty. I expect that eventually Amazon will do away with the dual structure and simply give everyone 50%. I could live with that.

Chris said...

I come down on the side that thinks .99 is conditioning people that that's all a book is worth to them. I wish writers wouldn't go below the 2.99 price point for that reason. I've heard the arguments, and it just doesn't jive for me. I'm okay with .99 for a story, or short collection, but not a complete novel.

For the record I'm in favor of $5 cover charges and $10 CDs too. People will pay $6 for a stupid beer and $8 for a freakin' cocktail, or drop $50 on an evening at the movies. They can pay the same for books and music too, in my opinion.

Dave White said...

Chris, my counter-argument to you is this: While prices raise on everything else, inexpensive books could bring more people back to reading.

Chris said...

Dave, I guess the curmudgeon in me takes a "I'd have to see that to believe it" view. How many more readers? Three times more, because it's 1/3 the price? Maybe more, but maybe less too, right?

For the people who know, I'm curious: if I sell 10 books at 2.99 on Amazon, that nets me . . . $20-ish? How many do I need to sell at .99 for the same $20? Will the 30 books I sell (assuming 1/3 the price will sell 3x the books) get me that number? If it's equal, or close, I'd say it might be worth it. If not, I'll never buy the argument.

I realize that putting price tags on readers is kind of crass, but I'm more interested in writers making a living maybe on fewer readers, if that's what it takes. If writers drop all the way to .99 now, where do you go from there? I think that's great for special sales or whatever, but as a go-to price, I just can't get on board with it.

Dave White said...

Chris, you and I disagree. I'd rather more readers than more money.

Gerald So said...

As I see it, price alone is no guarantee more people will read your book. The difference in price between 99 cents, $1.99, and $2.99 doesn't seem great enough to make a difference. Would many people really say, "Here's a book by an author I like for $2.99, but I'm going to pass it up for one by an author I haven't heard of because that one's only 99 cents"?

As Chris said, maybe you do get more purchases, but at 99 cents, you need more purchases to make the same profit. And it's still no guarantee people will read your book.

It's a credit to you, Dave, that your 99-cent book has sold well and been well reviewed, but you had two print books under your belt when Witness to Death was published. I don't think your results hold true for every new author.

Al Tucher said...

Laura's point reveals one of the functions of public libraries. I was always reluctant to ten or twenty dollars on a new author, but I wouldn't hesitate to borrow it from the library. If I liked it enough, I sometimes bought the book after I had read it. I was certainly more likely to buy the author's next book.

I think we should be encouraging public libraries to lend e-books. Many already do.