Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cheating the Readers

I’ve never been quiet about my initial opposition to e-readers.  I just couldn’t imagine giving up my beloved books and I wasn’t convinced it was the next big thing that industry insiders claimed it was. As time has shown, I was wrong. Electronic reading devices are everywhere, even on smart phones. 

That’s not all I was wrong about. I was wrong to oppose the e-reader without giving it a fair shot. I loved touching and feeling books, still do. I had such a hard time envisioning the loss of real books that I was probably one of the last holdouts.

Then something happened that forced my hand, or rather changed my mind. The works of more and more authors, especially emerging authors, weren’t being released in print. They were only being released for e-readers. I had a choice. I could miss out on the books or I could jump on the e-reading band wagon. I chose the latter and for those of you who know me, you know what a difficult choice that was. I don’t do well with technological change. I was still using floppies after the advent of the USB for Pete’s sake.

Since breaking down and buying an e-reader, I’ve never looked back. Most of the books I buy are e-books. I still love my hard bound and paperback books, but I have just as much love for their electronic counterparts.

As a writer, I’ve also discovered the value of e-books. They’re cheaper to produce which allows you to reach a larger audience. E-books also spend less time in production which means they can be released quicker. And writers can release e-books directly to their readers without having to secure a publisher. For an indie author, this is a godsend. It’s also the source of bone I have to pick with indie authors.

Recently, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in my indie book purchases which I’m sure you’ve noticed too. The price of the book doesn’t seem commensurate with the amount of content. For example, the other day I paid $4.99 for a book from an author I’d just discovered and really enjoyed. I was more than a little unhappy to discover the book was only sixty-three pages long on my e-reader. Five dollars for a sixty-three page novel seems a bit much to me, especially when I’d paid $2.99 for a four hundred page novel of another author.

I realize being irritated at having to pay $4.99 for a sixty-three page novel might make me sound cheap. After all, most paperbacks cost more than that. True, but those books are typically a lot longer than sixty-three pages.

In the writer’s defense, what you type in your word processing program is always longer than the formatted novel.  My last novel was more than four-hundred pages in MS Word yet the Nook version is less than two-hundred pages. I also understand indie authors are relying on royalties and higher prices net bigger royalty checks, but there’s a bigger picture to consider here.

If you want to reach more readers, keep your prices reasonable, especially if you’re a new writer. And yes, $4.99 is reasonable if your book is novel length. Novellas, at least in my opinion, should not be priced as high as full length novels are. Charging more for less content may frustrate readers who may not feel a big enough connection to your work to continue to be a faithful, purchasing reader. Worse, you can risk alienating readers who are feeling let down after spending a lot of money for what they see as little return on their investment.

As a reader, I felt cheated having spent so much for so little. I can’t change what other authors do, but I can promise you that as long as it’s up to me, I’m not going to cheat the readers. I’ll always do my best to see that you get what you paid for.

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