Authors: Stop Selling Short

 

Today, I wish to talk about something that has been bothering me for a while. Time and time again I notice that books are being sold for as cheap as 99 cents. I am not talking about the used or unwanted books you sometimes see at the entrance of libraries. I am discussing the ones that are being sold online, brand new and in various formats.

Why would an author sell years of his hard work, hours on end sitting, pondering, late-night struggling while going over his written work, and paying thousands of dollars to have it edited only to then sell it for 99 cents?

 

Do we have such an abundance of books out there that their work is only worth 99 cents after everything they go through to publish it? If yes, why bother?

Are they playing the number game? Assuming they will sell in millions and so 99 cents will still make them a profit?

Are they just doing all this for fun? They don’t anticipate any sales, and so they do not care what the outcome is after it is published?

If you value and deem all this hard work to be worth only 99 cents, why would anyone else value it any higher?

In fact, if you dig deeper into the psychological influence you make in having a potential reader ponder over buying your 99-cent book or someone else’s 10-dollar book, you will notice that the buyer will pick the 10 dollar one.

This is because they unconsciously believe that if they buy a book that is 10 dollars, then it must have something more to offer than a 99-cent book.

It is like the catch and chase theory. If you offer something for free, then it is not that appealing. If you make it a challenge, then everyone will be interested and will want to know what all the fuss is about.

People don’t buy a book because it is cheap, they buy it because it sounds good, the reviews are good, and the cover is appealing. So in my opinion, you are selling short on everything you sacrificed in producing. Why should you not enjoy having the satisfaction of expressing your thoughts in your book and also enjoy the exposure of it alongside the financial security of which it brings?

Next time you wish to give away something for free, please consider it may be worth more than that.

Written by Jeyran Main

 

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8 replies »

  1. You make a valid point here. However, some authors do sell quite a few copies at that price and some have even made the New York Times Bestsellers List doing that. Now that everyone has hopped on the $.99 bandwagon I don’t see this happening again anytime soon. 🙂

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  2. You make some valid points but books are placed at that price point for a lot of reasons, and in truth, a $12 e-book is going to be annoying to most people. Electronic copies of things are not viewed with the same value as paper copies. The two are not equal.

    The other question of course, is on the content itself. Lot’s of ebooks are priced at the 99cent point (comparable to 10 cent publications of old) because they are short, and designed specifically for “give this author a chance” bait. When they over deliver, you’ve made a new fan, and they look at your other books.

    Now, a 99cent paperback? You would have me stumped there, no matter how many pages. The setup costs for a POD printer alone would be enough to make it impossible to break even at that price point. Maybe if it’s a pamphlet? I dunno.

    You definitely have a good point, that there is a lot of stuff out there that’s undervalued, but in the end, who’s it hurting, other than the author’s pocket book? I like the post, definitely something worth thinking about.

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  3. I disagree with most of this post.

    “Why would an author sell years of his hard work, hours on end sitting, pondering, late night struggling while going over his written work, and paying thousands of dollars to have it edited only to then sell it for 99 cents?”

    The time and effort you spend on a project doesn’t decide its value – the market does.

    Saying “I spent a year writing this, therefore it’s worth $5.99 as an ebook,” isn’t going to cut it – UNLESS you can command that price. If you can, go for it. Price your ebooks at $5.99, $9.99, $19.99 or whatever. But most indie authors don’t have the fanbase to justify such prices.

    As spottedgecko said, pricing an ebook at 99 cents entices people to give someone a chance. Another example is if you have a series, giving away the first book for free will hook the reader, and they’ll most likely purchase the remainder of the series. There are numerous pricing strategies to get your work in the hands of readers.

    99 cent ebooks are a thing. As authors, we can either accept this or stop writing.

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  4. Ursula Le Guin had a similar argument about digitalized books on Google when she resigned from the Authors’ Guild: that if the work of writers is simply given away, to be published for nothing on the internet, how is any writer supposed to make a living? I’ve also heard the opposite from younger writers who have grown up with the internet: that if you distribute your work widely and for free or cheap, you get your name out in the world quicker. Word of mouth can sell books—Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist comes to mind—and once a writer becomes popular, s/he can set the price of her/his books. See J.K. Rowling, whose Kindle books are priced as much as her paperbacks. But for those writers who aren’t Rowling, Coelho, or for that matter, Le Guin, it may come down to a choice between zero sales and the book being dropped by the publisher, or selling a book for 99 cents and hoping enough people like it, so that the next book sells better.

    As other comments have said, the market drives the price of books, and it is a cruel, cruel world for the majority of writers.

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  5. I struggle with this all the time, Jeyran. I have two series and price the first book in the series at 99 cents hoping that people will try it out, like it, and purchase the rest of the series at a higher price. The strategy seems to work, I have to be honest. If someone buys the whole series, the 99 cents is recaptured. Other than that, I don’t price at 99 cents, but then I do giveaways. I look at it as a way to find readers who may not glance my way otherwise. And fortunately, I do have repeat readers. The most I’ve paid for an ebook is 5.99 and I’m happy to do it too.

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