Monday, June 15, 2015

My Thought Monday #8 (The Rising Cost of eBooks)

Hey readers! Welcome to another thrilling installment of My Thought Monday. A weekly post where I get to rant and/or rave about happenings in the book world. I have received lots of positive feedback from my previous posts and want to keep the momentum going. This week I'll be touching on another topic that's important to all authors and bloggers. 

I'd like to offer up my thoughts for discussion among authors, bloggers, readers, and all members of the literary community. I understand that my views may be in the minority on some fronts and would love to hear your thoughts. Please note that while I would love to hear your thoughts, I will not tolerate this as a place of hate and negativity. If you so choose to put forward your thoughts via comment, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc, please do so professionally. I am fully aware that sometimes the bookish world is the last place you want to put your personal thoughts, but I, for one, am tired of being quiet. It's time for me to take a stand on issues that are important to me in this community. It is my belief that, only as a community, can we pull together and make real change in this bookish world we all know and love.

This week's topic:
The Rising Cost of eBooks

**I'd first like to start this rant off with a disclaimer. Here at One Guy's Guide to Good Reads, I am a huge supporter of debut and indie authors. All authors have to start somewhere, and I'm always beyond honored to help share a new release. Marketing is hard, selling books is hard. In this extremely over-saturated market, every aspect of publishing is hard. I have nothing but respect for every author who's hit that shiny 'publish' button on retailers online. Please do not take any of my rantings as being against indie publishing in any way, shape, or capacity.**

This week I had about 10 different topics to pick from for my MTM post and all of them are important to me. I couldn't decide what to post about until I checked my inbox this morning and inspiration struck. Let me set up the situation for you guys:

This morning I received an automated email from a publicity company about promoting a new novel. This particular novel is the debut work from an independently published author. The premise sounded interesting enough so I decided to check out the 'pre-reviews' before offering to promote it on the blog for myself. One quick click to Amazon left me speechless: $6.99. SEVEN DOLLARS?! And that's for the ebook version folks. It isn't yet available in print. I didn't even bother to read the reviews, I x'd out of that page, then deleted the email. Brash? Probably. But why should I spend time promoting a novel I can't sell? Sorry folks, we've got a problem here today. 

After exiting Amazon's sale page, I looked up the author. This brand new author has no website of her own and a very minuscule Facebook following, as would be expected from a brand new debut author. The 'novel' itself was only 155 pages (according to the Amazon description). Am I wrong in saying there is absolutely no way I would buy this novel? I think not.

At this point in my reading career, I pretty much read ebooks exclusively. Not that I don't love the feel and smell of a physical copy, it comes down to two solid points for me. 1) I cannot afford $15-$20/book with the amount of reading I do and 2) I simply don't have the space. Apartment life is fun, but I just don't have the room for numerous bookshelves. Have you guys ever tried traveling with boxes full of books? It's awful. Books are ridiculously heavy and having lots of them become a HUGE pain in the rear. This being said, I read almost exclusively on my Nook. 

One of the biggest appeals to owning an ereader is the cheaper price of books. In most cases this is definitely true. Not only for books, but for other media such as Newspaper and Magazines as well (I have multiple magazine subscriptions on my Nook that I pay next to nothing for). When the price of an ebook becomes 1/10 the cost of the eReader itself, who can justify paying it? This is why people pirate. 

Not only will this high price point effect your sales, it'll effect your readers thoughts as well, I can guarantee it. If I pay that much for an ebook and I end up hating it, I'm not going to go easy on my reviewing. I will light into that book, and I know most others would too. It's a sad fact, money doesn't grow on trees and I certainly can't afford to waste it. 

In addition to the lower sales, it's just bad marketing, in my opinion. You mean to tell me that ANYBODY thinks that paying $6.99 for a debut novel from an independently published author is a good idea? I can assure you, very few will think so. Every seasoned author or industry professional that I approached on this topic was astounded to hear of this issue. Selling is not an easy thing to rein in, but it's an easy enough concept to understand: lower price = more sales. Duh. 

At the point in which you are charging $7 and up for your ebook, I would just assume have the physical copy. Is that the goal of such authors? They'd rather see fans purchase the print copies instead? I can't say if this is true, and I doubt it, but seriously. For that price, I'll take the print copy or none at all, thanks.

So what is a reasonable price? I consulted Google who informed me that the AVERAGE price of a bestselling ebook IS INDEED $6.99. I'm still blown away. Are you kidding me? How do Indie authors make ANY money at this rate? They don't. Crazy, but true. This average can only make sense to me in the following scenario: big name authors and publishers sell enough of the higher priced books to raise the average from the millions of novels that are sold at or below a $5 price point. In fact, most all ebooks I see on my end of the market are reasonably priced at $3.99 and below. I very seldom see any novels higher that that.

For a DEBUT novel, I am a big believer in the $2.99 and lower price range, preferably free, especially if it's the first novel in a series. There's a great chance you won't be making your first million here, so why not get your feet wet and build a following, then up your price! I can promise you that you'll have many, many more biters at $1.99 than you will at $6.99. That's a check you can take to the bank!

Later I'll talk about some acceptable times for a higher priced ebook. 

I consulted with a few authors on this topic and got some incredible. 2014 debut author of Descent, Kallie Ross had a few thoughts on the subject. As a debut author, Ross had to best determine the pricing that best suited her needs. She set the price point for Descent at $2.99 for release day, but a few months later marked it down to free. Ross added this to our discussion:
"Starting out, my debut novel was priced to grow a readership. I wanted to make Descent available for everyone. From teens to grandmas, I believe a lower price point provided an opportunity to grow a fanbase, not make a quick profit."
Kallie touches on another very important aspect of the publishing industry that ties specifically into indie publishing as well. Writing is not a get-rich quick scheme. For every successful author who is able to write full time, there are thousands of other authors struggling to make ends meet while punching a clock. Writing is a passion that, with talent and the right kind of marketing, will definitely earn you a profit, but it's about so much more than just pricing your novel and reeling in the profits.

I've never published. However if I were to write a novel and consider publishing it, like many of my idols and friends, I would probably pursue the indie route. I have strong faith in indie publishing. That being said, I know this is one of those industries where you have to 'work smarter, not harder' to succeed. All of my thoughts on this topic may be completely invalid, but I have definitely seen many an authors career be forever altered by one bad marketing decision. Haven't we all?

Now that I've shared all my ranting about the topic, allow me to share some 'acceptable' times a novel may be priced at a higher point.

First, if your novel is published by a Big Six publisher, I can understand a slightly inflated price point. Not only do the profits for each book sold have to pay an author, they have to pay the publishing company and the small army that worked to get it there. This is by no means something that the author can control, as it is completely out of their hands when a publisher gets involved. Doesn't make it right, but that's the sad fact. I see authors all the time posting about "I had no idea, but apparently my book is on sale this week. Get your copy quick before the price jumps up!". I hate seeing those posts, they make me sad for a number of reasons, but that's a topic for another day.

Second, who you are. If you are Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or Nicholas Sparks, you know you're going to sell a million copies REGARDLESS of the price. These authors have massive followings. They have earned the right to charge whatever they like. I'd just like to point out that that this, however, is the reason I am so far behind on Stephen King reads. I simple cannot afford $30 for a book and I downright refuse to pay it. Just for reference, Stephen King's latest release, Finders Keepers can be purchased on ebook for $14.99 while the print is available for $17.99. Crazy, right? Either way, I'll have to wait until this read hits the bargain shelves before I fork out my dollars for it. I'm fully aware that King didn't set this price and that he probably gets less than a dollar off of each sale, but seriously. COME ON. I'm still not saying that I think this is right, just understandable.

Lastly, if this high-priced ebook is part of a collection or anthology. If I'm paying $6.99 for an ebook, I sure as heck better get $7 worth of read out of it. I recently spent $7 on an ebook and it was the most I've ever spent. It was for Sarina Bowens The Ivy Years boxed set and it included ALL FOUR novels in the series. Making them each less that $2/book. Incredible pricing if you ask me. I paid it and never thought twice about it. Nearly 1000 pages of reading that I loved every second of, it was well worth it. If you're going to sell me $7 worth of book, then I don't see a problem with the high price point! Anthologies as well. I don't read a lot of anthologies for a number of reasons, but I have purchased numerous ones that the profits went to charity. Those are great. Also you get LOTS of reads for one price. That's a great bargain!

So you see, there are always some exceptions to the rule.

Do I think this trend will change? Nope. I think ebooks, like most other things will actually continue to rise in price. And with it, piracy will also rise. Piracy is an awful, horrible thing, but good golly people, sometimes I can't say I blame them. Only time will tell for sure, however!

As you can see, my thoughts are blunt. I refuse to pay $6.99 for your ebook. I don't care how amazing it is. I love literature, and I love every single author I've met, but why should I pay that much money for one 150 page novel when for that price I can very nearly purchase the first three novels in a series? I take a lot of things into consideration when promoting works on this blog. Will my promotion help? Is this something I will enjoy? If I cannot answer yes to either of those questions, I apologize that I won't be featuring your works. If your DEBUT novel is $7 in digital format, there's nothing I can do to help your sales Mr./Mrs. Author. I just can't.

Whenever you decide that price point isn't working for you and you want to re-release with a more reasonable number, give me a ring. Until then, I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree on this one friend.

What do you guys think? how much is too much when purchasing an ebook? Sound off in the comments below! Huge thanks to my dear friend, Mrs. Kallie Ross for contributing to this post! Until next time, Happy Reading! 


1 comment:

  1. $7!!! For what is basically a novella?!? Nope and nope. $2.99 is the sweet spot that let's you earn the best percentage from retailers while staying low. The algorithms suggest I would make more revenue monthly with a higher price point, but I want to keep my book affordable for readers.