I’ve found myself in a bit of a pricing dilemma lately. Here’s the scoop: Indie authors tend to be discriminated against by readers because they assume that the lower price indicates a lesser quality of work, but fans of Indie writers don’t want to pay more than around $5 a book. So what’s the issue? The issue is that there’s no middle ground. You can’t possibly make both sides happy.
I have an amazing and loyal fan base, who, I believe, would buy my books at nearly any price I put on them at this stage in the game. However, raising prices to be closer to traditionally published ebooks ($7.99 and up) will alienate those that are used to paying the $2.99-$4.99 price that’s usually associated with Indie novels. So I would keep my current fans, but lose potential new ones. The flipside to this is that there are Indie authors out there who published at a $7.99 price or higher and managed to blend in with the traditional books. They’re selling well and making great money, but I wonder if they’re getting the same exposure that they would at a lower price. Conundrum much?
America is a bargain society in general, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad mentality all the time, but it’s tricky in the writing world. Fans want books faster and more of them, which is doable, but authors need to be reimbursed for the expenses that go along with that. Covers can be inexpensive or cost hundreds, depending on what you want or how particular you are. Professional editing from a high quality source costs in the $1500 to $5000 range or more, if your novel is extremely long. Advertising and marketing is an investment of both money and time, which is tough for most independently published authors who have full time jobs and a budget. To be able to deliver a high quality product, some (if not all), of these expenses are necessary. To list a book for $.99 would take on average 10,000 sales to just break even. For most who aspire to write full time, breaking even isn’t going to pay the bills.
So why not try pricing it higher and see if you can fly under the radar? I think it’s a gamble, and one that has paid off for some, though not many. I’ve spent months watching the trends of sales, rankings and pricing of my books and others, and there are definite patterns. I’ve thought about pricing one of my upcoming series at a higher price point, but as I watch authors who have a foot in each side of the publishing world (indie and traditional), I’ve seen how their traditional books seem to sell less than their cheaper Indie counterparts. It, at the moment, is a risk I’m just not willing to take. I didn’t start writing to make gobs of money (and I’m not accusing anyone of charging more than me of that). I wrote because I had a story to share, and I would like to share it with as many willing readers as possible for fair and reasonable compensation.
So what’s fair and reasonable? Clearly, this is going to be a highly subjective question, and one that each individual author must answer. I don’t think that 35% of $.99 is either of those things. I priced CAGED at that in the beginning because I just wanted to get it out there and see what happened. It was never my long term plan to keep it there. I do feel that $3.99-$5.99 is a healthy range for both reader and author. It generates the amount of income an author would need to sustain a good living writing full time, but keeps the books priced at a mass market paperback level.
It’s hard to find the perfect balance between price/compensation and reaching readers. I’m certain I don’t have all of this figured out yet, and may not ever. What I do know is that I’m very conscious of not giving away my hard work, but not getting greedy in the process either 🙂 The next two series that I’ll be putting out will both have a $2.99 starting price tag (as of this moment), and will go up from there as the series progress. This isn’t to punish those that love my writing and follow my work, but more so to entice new readers to try it. If it’s not for them, they don’t feel beat up by the amount they paid for it. My personal cap on novel prices right now is $4.99; it’s just where I feel most comfortable. There’s something about that $5 mark and under that resonates to me. If I lose readers who pay more for their ebooks…oh well 🙂
As every day passes that Caged remains relevant, I’m closer and closer to having that REAL discussion with my other half about me writing part time (and not the part time that involves hiding in the bathroom with my laptop to write for thirty minutes). He’s been supportive all along, and I have no doubts that he’ll be all for the idea. I seem to be the one having trouble letting go of what’s normal and comfortable. Just another step in the growth process for me.
So…next time you want to gripe about the price of a book, or judge one because of it, remember this post. A LOT of thought goes into this process by those who take it seriously. We’re not just slapping an arbitrary number on a novel.