Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Problem with Book Pricing

I’m not just a writer. I’m a reader as well. Sounds like the beginning of a bad public service announcement, but stick with me.

For my recent birthday, I asked my family to buy me a gift card for my favorite e-reader. My nineteen year old daughter came through and that day I promptly went out and bought four books in a series I’d just started reading. I then spent the remainder of the day reading those books in between spending time with my family.

At dinnertime, my kids asked me if I’d bought any books and if I’d finished them. I told them I’d bought four and finished two and was reading the third. My kids were impressed, but they didn’t need to be. The books weren’t novel length, more like novellas. And here we come to the problem I’m having, one I’ve noticed more and more lately.

I used my e-reader gift card to buy several books, most of which were priced at $4.99. I don’t have a problem paying five dollars for a book. Before the days of e-readers, you could expect to pay that much for a comic book and not a full length novel. With the inception of the e-reader, that’s changed. One of the things readers find so attractive about their e-readers is the bargain books. In fact, I have a friend who won’t buy books unless she gets a gift card. Otherwise, she only downloads the fee books. As a writer, this bothers me. As a fellow reader, I completely understand.

I have to admit, I was a little incensed to spend five dollars a book on an eighty-five page novella when I’ve downloaded free books that were three times that size. If I’m going to spend five dollars then I expect to get a meaty story, not something I can skate through in a few hours. Who’s to blame for the overinflated prices depends on who releases the novel.

Independent authors have the luxury of choosing their own asking price. However, the higher the retail price, the bigger the royalties an author will make from the sale of her book.  It would be easy to say it was good old fashioned greed that made some authors drive up their prices, but I don’t think that’s fair. Writing is a business and like any other business, it comes with costs. There’s the cost of paying for your website and its upkeep, the cost of promoting your work, the cost of paying a cover artist or formatting and so on.  If the royalties aren’t high enough, the author won’t turn a profit so it’s easy to understand the higher prices.

Authors who have signed a contract with a publisher have no say over the sale price. That’s determined by the publisher who not only has business expenses to pay but has to pay royalties to the author. The reason for the publisher setting higher prices is virtually identical to that of the indie author, particularly for small publishers who struggle to stay afloat.

As a writer, I understand all of this. As a reader, I can’t help feeling cheated when I spend five dollars to read a novel no bigger than that of the average comic book. I want to get my money’s worth and I don’t always feel like I do.

I don’t know what the solution is and maybe I’m the only one who truly has a problem with this. I don’t know. All I can tell you is that I have a problem with pricing. As long as I continue to be an indie author releasing my novels on my own, the prices will always be reasonable enough that readers don’t feel cheated.

1 comment:

  1. This is why I put them on my wish list... and check the list every day, waiting for them to go to 99¢ ... and THEN buy them.