His statement about providing cheap applications for smartphones made me think a lot about the correlation to the 99 cents pricing of e-books. I’m a huge advocate of the idea that e-books should be cheap. It’s the reason why I don’t buy e-books from major publishers that are $9 and above. I have done the upload process and know that there is no additional cost for a publisher once an e-book is available. It’s different from the printing and distribution of a paperback or hardcover, where there is a manufacturing process involved in producing a bound copy of a book. Basically, large publishers will never be able to defend their high prices on e-books to me.
But when we’re talking cheap, how competitive is cheap? I’ve heard varying opinions on books priced 99 cents:
“It’s cheap, so not a big deal if I don’t like it.”
“If it’s only 99 cents, how good can it be?”
“If it’s any good, I might be another one from the author.”
In most of what I hear is the underlying but common opinion that it can’t be any good if the author is willing to sell for 99 cents. Yet, I know so many readers like myself who balk at buying an e-book or sometimes a paperback that costs more than $8. What is the perfect price of an e-book?
Last month I experimented with 99 cents pricing for On Falcon’s Wings, in the same way that other self published authors have, just to see if I could produce similar results, i.e. more sales. I did. March has been one of my best sales months. Still, I noticed something. When I reduced the price on Amazon to 99 cents, the same book still sold on Smashwords for $2.99. Sultana, which was released one month earlier at $3.99, continued to sell consistently. Its sales also picked up in March. One month later, both e-books are continuing the upward trend. Still, at the 99 cents pricing, I started thinking about the types of readers I might be attracting. By offering a book at a ridiculously cheap price, was I also feeding into readers' poor expectations? Told you this was related to Patrick Mork’s quote.
Were those readers who bought my book thinking that 99 cents fit the amount of risk they were willing to take on an unknown author? If so, did they actually read it? Or, did they buy it because it was 99 cents with the intention of getting to it eventually? Did they decide to buy Sultana too? Or, had they looked at both my offerings and decided 99 cents was worth the risk, but $3.99 was not? I’ll never know unless I actually get some reader feedback. The question that arose for me was: do I want people who will purchase something, anything just because it’s 99 cents, or do I want readers who might think, “I liked this book based on what I’ve read so far. I might buy another from this author, even if it’s a couple of bucks more.” Can you guess which kind of reader I’d prefer?
So, I’ve since raised the price of On Falcon’s Wings back to $2.99 and it will stay there, in part because I had so much trouble with Amazon getting the new price shown on the Web. That’s another discussion for another time. The other point is I want readers who are motivated to buy based on the sampling of the book or my other books, not just because of the pricing. Like many of them, I think pricing is a crucial factor but ultimately, it should not be the only factor motivating readers to open their wallets.
I’d love to know what blog visitors think of e-book costs. I encourage you to share your experiences.
- What are your expectations as a reader of books priced at 99 cents or those that offered at $10 or more?
- How much does pricing affect your decision to buy?
- Do you search Amazon and other sites looking for books by their pricing, or do other factors influence your choices?
- As an author, have you experimented with the pricing of your books and what were the results, if any, that you can share?