Greetings and salutations!
The Amazon vs. Hachette Book Group battle has re-opened that can of worms known as the “how much should eBooks cost?” debate. Indie and self-pub writers have to make their own decisions on pricing their eBooks, and the rules for doing so constantly change. So just how much should indie writers price their eBooks?
Notable self-published writer Dean Wesley Smith suggests pricing eBooks between $2.99 – $7.99, depending on length of the title and other factors. Part of his reasoning behind his suggestions is that indie writers are competing against traditionally published books and their prices.
I have never considered my books as competing against traditionally published books because book lovers tend to read more than one book per year; meaning it isn’t a zero-sum game where if a reader buys a traditionally published book then that same reader is unable to purchase one of mine. But that doesn’t mean I disagree with Smith’s recommendations. He has sound reasons behind his suggestions.
I believe that if there is any competition between indie titles and traditional published books, it is not about prices but content. In this article, author David Biddle writes:
You can’t replace one book with another. For instance, I just bought the paperback version of Haruki Murakami’s mammoth 2011 novel 1Q84 for about $20. It’s fabulous. I also have roughly 20 books that I’ve downloaded for free this year from indie authors I know and another 50-plus that I’ve purchased for anywhere from $1 to $3.
But I’ve read very few of those downloaded ebooks. I regularly attempt to, but things keep getting in the way–yet I am reading Murakami, an established literary author, in paper.
I am exactly the same way. When I pay for a book, I feel more inclined to read it–and the more I pay, the more inclined I am. The thing is, I’ll rarely purchase an eBook over $2.99 and have never purchased one over $5. In the same article, Biddle asks a serious question: “Are we trying to sell books? Or to get people to read them–to enter the worlds we’ve created?”
My answer is both. Your answer could be different.
I just can’t get behind selling e-books. Nothing against those who do, but it’s antithetical to my “upbringing”. Unlike a lot of people, I always used to dream of books being cheap enough to produce that I could print them and just give them away, haha. . . . [E-books] are free to produce, people like to read them, and with the variety of “reader devices” for all intents and purposes one looks just as nice as any other so it makes the whole free literature thing workable, no sweat.
So, for me, the e-book revolution was a godsend because one could not ask for a more cost effective way to distribute literature for free. It costs nothing, it gains readers—and even if it doesn’t gain readers…it costs nothing, so what the hell, right?
When it comes to pricing eBooks, it should boil down to writer’s/publisher’s goals and mission. When you try to “follow the rules” the rules will end up change. There’s no wrong answer, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Most importantly: stay true to yourself.