The Silliness Of It All

Okay, over the last two years I’ve taken a ton of flack from writers by suggesting they don’t need to spend a year writing a book, that all they have to do is spend more time actually typing and a book gets done faster.

And over the last year I’ve gotten a ton of grief from writers when I suggested that not all writers are the same and thus some of us don’t need to rewrite something into plain white nothingness.

And now I am taking a ton of grief from people thinking that it is all right for a novelist to undervalue their work and sell it for 99 cents.

So let me add all this up:

A writer should spend a year-plus to write a novel, spend another couple years rewriting and rewriting it, then sell it for 99 cents, of which the writer gets 35 cents.

Yup, all that makes sense to me.

That’s a great way to make a living with your fiction.

“Took me three years

to write a book,

all I got was

this cheap bottle of wine.”

Cartoon copyright @ 2011 FacesgroupDreamstime

This entry was posted in On Writing, publishing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to The Silliness Of It All

  1. Mark Jones says:

    I’ve mostly got short stories out at this point, at $0.99 each. One collection of five shorts, and one short novel, both at $2.99. I know some writers on other forums who price their novels at $0.99, sometimes permanently, sometimes for sales. But that strikes me as undervaluing the work. I won’t be doing that. Reading about the “mid-list” self-publishers was good–it reminds me that I don’t need to be a breakout success to make money, just consistent about writing and publishing.

    Also, I know you’ve said that you never know what will take off and what won’t. I have one short story selling far and away better than any of the others (several times better than the next closest one). I have no idea why. Was it the cover? The blurb? The story? No clue–except that it’s the most recent one I posted, so maybe it’s the result of all the practice (writing, covers, blurbs) on earlier works. Which means, more practice and more stories posted.

    • dwsmith says:

      Mark J, isn’t it strange when one story or book sells even more than others for no logical reason? I had a publisher of a major imprint once tell me that if he could figure out what would sell and what wouldn’t sell, he’d be president of the company instead of just publisher. No one can.

      That’s one reason I keep harping on the price. John Locke clearly has written some fine books that a lot of people want. I just wish he was rich doing it.

  2. SL Clark says:

    $0.99 = getting your audience to pay you while gaining market share. Giant publishers pay out of pocket for shelf space. 35% margin is a much better proposition.

    If we’re in it for the long haul, I see little harm to the brand in setting a low price while the backlist is put up. I can assure you, when Heart Press is selling 1,000+ a month, our prices will begin creeping higher; a title here, another there. It will depend on the title & series. Your prices are set right for your company, you have a history and some name recognition. -Steve

  3. Sofie says:

    Dean, welcome to the internet. Whatever you say, it’s going to upset somebody, especially if you’re saying it with conviction. I give you the comic that explains 90% of online discussions:
    http://xkcd.com/386/

  4. Glynn says:

    I did start off selling my books at 99c.
    It was gutting to earn just 35 cents.
    I have increased them to $1.49 for now and sales have gone up. I’ve been keeping the prices low because I’m an unknown author. I certainly don’t intend to keep it that way.
    I looked at the pricing structure that you put on another page and agree with that completely in the long term. Most of my books are short novels (45-60k) , so $2.99 seems the obvious choice because of the huge profit % jump.
    I’ve just released a bundle of two of them plus some short stories at $2.99.
    If (hopefully) and when my sales get better and I start finding an audience for them (I think 12,000 free downloads of my first book is going to help this) I will put the prices up to reasonable levels, but I don’t think I’ll be doing any $4.99 ones unless I’m bundling them together. I think only authors with a fan base can do that.

  5. Just Passing Through says:

    In regards to the spending a year writing a novel, I just got done reading Robert Heinlein’s “The Door into Summer” (excellent book, by the way. I’ve only read one other of Mr. Heinlein’s books and that one, as well as this one, I finished in under a week because I HAD TO!) and so I looked it up to read the story behind the book and found that Mr. Heinlein wrote what some consider his best book in… 13 days.

    • dwsmith says:

      Just Passing Through… Shhhhhh…… Don’t tell anyone with a belief in the myth, or they will never read that wonderful book. (grin)

  6. Orin says:

    What might kill the 99 cent thing will be the amount of spam being posted for that price.

    I do like the “I’m Mike Stackpole and I charge more for my ebooks because I’m awesome ;-)” approach as well.

  7. Catana says:

    I published my first novel yesterday, on Smashwords. The regular price is 2.99, but the people who read the early version that I serialized on Live Journal will be offered a coupon for .99. That will last for two weeks, and is an expression of gratitude for their support. I’ll be earning about .80 even from those .99 sales. I’ll never make as much money as Locke does, but I’ll never devalue my work.

    • dwsmith says:

      Catana, a great and professional attitude. And a great way to discount through coupons. Well done.

      k.a…. LOL. Spot on.

      Randy… I love that.

      Mark, yup you sure do. I have a friend who gave away some short-short stories (and if I ever write any short-short fiction in my challenge, I more than likely will do the same) and she talks about how people return her story even though they got it for free and complain it was too short even though they got it for free. She finds it funny.

  8. k.a.jordan says:

    Some people are in love with the angst of being an ‘artist’ so years of work, low pay and so forth are ‘suffering for their art.’

    Other people are good at math.

  9. Dean, don’t let the nattering nabobs of ninety-nine cents get to you. 8-)

    You do attract a different sort of reader at that price. If you don’t value your work the customer won’t either. (I deliberately said customer, not reader, because this is a business.) I see the same thing in my graphic arts business. If I lower my prices to compete against all of these other people selling their work on the cheap then I attract the kind of customers who complain about every little thing.

  10. Jeff Ambrose says:

    Dean wrote: “isn’t it strange when one story or book sells even more than others for no logical reason?”

    Oh my gosh, this is, for me, the hardest adjustment I’ve had to make — especially when a story that’s sold well suddenly goes cold. I panic. I wonder if I’ve exhausted the audience for that story (which, in a saner moment, is always good for a laugh, considering the number of readers there are in the world).

    Still, this is one of the mental issues indie writers have to overcome. Thank goodness for Kris’s great post on promotion she did a few months back. Every time I slip and think I need to spend more time on the Internet selling my wares — and sometimes I fall into it for a few days or so — I go back and reread that post.

    Then I’m sane again.

  11. Randy says:

    Reminds me of the old story about the two guys selling apples.

    One man has an apple cart loaded with apples with a sign reading, “Apples, five cents.” He is working feverishly to take care of his customers.

    The second man is across the street, relaxing in front of his cart with a sign that reads, “Apples, one hundred dollars each.”

    A customer comes up to the second man and says, “Your competitor is selling apples a lot cheaper than you, and look at all the business he has.”

    The man with the expensive apples replies, “Yeah, but people see the high price and figure my apples are something special. Besides, I only have to sell one apple.”

  12. Paul Sadler says:

    Hi Dean,

    If you follow the logic that the writer should price it according to time spent, then the writer should charge $50K for the book if it took them a year. And in traditional publishing, writers sort of did that — they sold it for the advance (of whatever size). Except now they’re selling to individual readers now, not to a single publisher. And by basic micro-econ theory, the lower the price, the longer the tail until free is equal to whatever the market size is.

    Assuming Locke was selling his 1M books at 99 cents each and taking 35%, he’d have $350K. But if he doubled his price to $2, most of the “impulse” buyers would disappear — likely by more than half. So he’d have 400K sales at $1.99 and be out $70K in profit.

    Numbers don’t lie — those selling at $1 are selling more than those selling at $5 or $10, with some outliers like you with blips when raising to $1.49. Yet most “new-to-us” authors need those impulse buyers to get hooked for the long-run. So price segmentation reduced to lowest common denominator is “working” for them in the short-term and about all their business model allows them to envision/handle when they need to spend more time writing and producing.

    Personally, I prefer two alternate methods of price segmentation — tiered pricing like hardcover/paperback in that titles debut at slightly higher prices (gouging those willing to pay full retail) and then dropping over time to capture whatever the market is willing to pay at each price point (also like TVs dropping in price as new models come out); or setting the price at $2.99 for example and then using the “GROUPON” industry approach of attracting new customers through discounts, giveaways, temporary sales, etc.

    But as you keep saying, every writer is different — and their entrepreneurial approach should be different too.

    P.

    • dwsmith says:

      Paul, why anyone would price a book at $1.99 is beyond me. There can be discussions about 99 cents vs $2.99, but $1.99 is just stupid. You still get 35% on Kindle and you are correct that you would lose customers and make no real different. However, at $2.99 you make $2.00 per copy instead of 35 cents and at $4.99 you make $3.50 instead of 35 cents. So to make the same money, you only need to sell 1/10th as many.

      But that said, I stand by my statement that the reason Locke sold so many was that his books are damn fine reads. He would have eventually sold a million copies (maybe over years) at $4.99 and made three million instead of three hundred grand. Why do I believe that? Because it is quality that sells books. Sure, you’ll get discount buyers at 99 cents, but trust me, my discount store here in our discount mall is full of books discounted way, way down and they still get trashed. And my local Goodwill has a huge book section of books discounted way down and those books mostly still end up being pulped because no one will buy them.

      Price might be a factor, a small factor in book purchasing, but quality story will always win out.

    • dwsmith says:

      Hey, Paul, actually, the 50K is about right. I tend to get from $25,000 to more than 50K per book. Under any of my names, although the Dean Wesley Smith name because media has declined can’t demand that kind of money anymore, which is why I don’t write media. But I get that at least for ghosting a novel.

      But I value my work and make my living at writing. And I have never once, for any reason, discounted my work. (I may have made some really bad choices in projects I took, but that’s another stupidity on my part. (grin))

      I have one question for all of you discounters. If price is the only factor, how come all of you are not selling a million copies????

      Answer: As it has always been in publishing, quality of storytelling, timing of type of story selling with a modern trend, and some luck are the factors. If it was as easy as all of you say and all anyone would have to do is lower the price to 99 cents to sell a million copies, hell, I’d even think about it and so would every traditional publisher in New York.

      But guess what, folks? You discounters can all make up as many reasons as you want to lower the price, but it is your stories that will sell your books. Not your price.

  13. Or, if they want to disparage genre work when you bring up Heinlein, you could always mention that Dickens wrote”A Christmas Carol,” in six weeks. But hey, he’s a hack too.

    (And considering the length of that book, he was dinking around on time as well.)

  14. JR Tomlin says:

    Insomnia making you a bit cranky, Dean? (grin)

    Speaking of cranky, it makes me cranky every time I have to open Tweetdeck and do copy and pastes to tweet a link to your articles. You COULD put one of those twitter widgets on your page, you know.

    *cough* I’m not taking your advice. I still think there is an argument to be made for having a single novel at 99 cents as a loss leader to increase market share.

    As for writing novels in a week or two, that depends on the novel and the genre. Anyone who researches a historical novel in that length of time… well, they won’t.

  15. g says:

    Dean, Out of the mountain of great advice you’ve given me (and other writers), the MOST HELPFUL has been making me understand that I both could and SHOULD be writing/publishing 3-4 novel-lengths per year!

    It’s my birthday today. I want to thank you (again) for giving me all the advice, correction and inspiration necessary for me to become successful at what I love to do … write (as a profession)!

    That’s the best b’day present any writer can ask for!

    Note to the naysayers:
    Before I came across Dean’s posts:
    I spent 24 years writing with nothing to show for it – not one published work.

    Just 30 days after reading and following every sentence of Dean’s suggestions:
    I published my first novel in January; I’m publishing my second one in September and aiming to publish #3 by December.

    If I can do it … anyone can do it!

    • dwsmith says:

      g… Wow, that’s cool! Thank you for the kind comments, but always remember I had little or nothing to do with it. You are the one who made the decision to get out of your own way and you are the one who had done the work. And let me say Congratulations!!!! That is way, way cool!!! Keep going! It’s great fun, isn’t it?

  16. J. Tanner says:

    It’s the wild west out there I guess. It’s interesting when you think about just the John Locke example. Was the price gimmick the thing that got the ball rolling for him? Would he experience a backlash if he tripled the price of his books now given how much he’s said publicly about his strategy? (His nonfic how-to is priced at 5 bucks, so he’s experimenting in a way.) And he’s gotten pretty darn well-off in under a year if not rich so is there a reason for him to tinker with his successful model rather than just writing more and riding out the gimmick until it falters or he really is rich?

    You don’t deserve flack for sharing your advice, but there’s at least one compelling example for discussing the alternative viewpoint and a strong anecdote is the easy road to a generalization (right or wrong).

    • dwsmith says:

      J. Tanner, as I have said a number of times, I have no problem with a writer discounting their books to 99 cents or even giving them away for free as long as the writer is aware what they are doing. You are publishing to a discount audience and that is nothing new in publishing. Again, there is an entire multi-million dollar area of traditional publishing that exists with big book fairs every year. These book fairs are made up of books published to discount with some remainders (not well-selling-books) tossed in.

      Here in our small coastal town our only new bookstore is a discount store in a discount mall. Have I had books in there over the years? Yup, the book I did for Jonathan Frakes was so overprinted it ended up in that store for a decade. And I’ve had Star Trek overprints from Pocket in there and one of my other pen names had one book get in there. Do I make a penny off the books sold in that store???? Nope, not a cent. Nature of contracts. Do I mind that my books sometimes go through there. Not really. Nature of publishing and the inability of anyone to know what really makes a book sell.

      But would I publish a book directly to that store??? Make nothing or next-to-nothing??? Not a chance. But some authors would because they like to see their name in print or whatever.

      No problem by me as long as the writer knows that’s why they are doing it and where their books are going. A 99 cent novel is a discount novel. That may insult some writer and for that I am sorry, but it is the truth in both this new world and this old world. You want to spend a month or two or six or twelve writing a novel and then make nothing on it, fine by me, but I consider myself a professional fiction writer and thus I want to get a decent amount for my work. I respect my work a lot more than than getting 35 cents.

  17. camille says:

    People tend not to be logical about things like this. They think they are, but they are often driven by parts of your brain you can’t touch with logic.

    Which means you’re shouting into the wind a lot of the time (but not all the time, so keep shouting).

    I wonder, though, if we should start to look at this through the lens of Amazon’s philosophy; what we’re seeing is the rise of the hobbyist writer.

    Amazon doesn’t see such people as vendors so much as highly engaged customers. This is how they see their Associates as well — and that’s why they are so generous in giving affiliate fees to any purchase made within 24-hours of a click on an affiliate link. Sure, the affiliate reaps rewards that weren’t actually earned – products which would have been bought anyway — but the customer loyalty they get out of that!

    I think we’re in a transitional moment, and it will take a while before the niches really shake out. But people are going to settle where they are comfortable — and I suspect the one 99 cent book every five years crowd is going to be very solid demographic. And they’re going to be customers and enthusiastic fans at least as much as they are colleagues and competitors.

    • dwsmith says:

      Camille, you are more than likely correct. And I also don’t see much wrong with that, as long as expectations are in line. But writers seldom have expectations in line because that takes a knowledge of business and you can’t apply logical business practices to writing because we’re “artists.” (grin) But I do have a hunch what you are suggesting will be a real niche area as things go along.

  18. Ty Johnston says:

    Dean, the cartoon should have read, “… a bottle of WHINE.”

    ;-)

  19. But we’re *artists* Dean. We can’t be expected to work fast. Or earn money.

    I just wrote a book in 6 weeks. And I’m not charging 99c for it. I think I’ll do okay.

  20. OliviaJordan says:

    I used to think it had to take forever to write a book. Then, I decided to try it your way. I’m going to have three novellas published before the end of the year. PUBLISHED. Before that, I was taking forever to get a book finished and had nothing published. Turns out if you really focus on writing the damn story, you can write pretty quickly.

  21. Dean – maybe you take a ton of flak for it, but you also click on a light bulb for a lot of us. I’ve always been a self-indulgent streak writer. Either I “feel” like it or I don’t do it.

    Then I started reading your blog (thanks, Camille, for the KB posts that led me here) and saw the math: 1,000 words a day, 365,000 words a year; 1,000 words a day five days a week = 260,000 words a year. I could see the effect some really less than burdensome discipline would have on yearly output and started to settle down.

    The three books I already have out have improved my quality of life immeasurably. Advice from generous pros like you is making me confident of being able to keep things in this happy state.

    Thanks.

  22. Randy says:

    I keep coming back to the Starbucks business model.

    When they started you could buy a pound of coffee for five bucks. So why would anyone pay five bucks for a cup?

    Because people thought they were getting quality and something special.

  23. I really don’t understand the price arguments. How hard is it to change the price of an ebook? 2 clicks?

    That means that it’s easy to run an experiment. Take two equivalent books. Price Book A at 99 cents and Book B at $2.99 or $4.99. See how much money you make in six months. Then reverse the prices (Book A at $2.99 or $4.99, Book B at 99 cents). See how much money you make.

    Six months later, you have an answer on whether the lower price really makes a difference. Sure, there are other factors that might be involved and skew the results a bit, but it wouldn’t be hard to control for them. Scientists design experiments to do stuff like this all the time.

    • dwsmith says:

      Caution, Big Ed. The spiders out there make it very, very hard to raise a price back up once it is lowered. Unless you are only on one site. Experiments like you are talking about work great if you are only on Kindle. But if you are all over the world, discounting one place will spread quickly. So caution.

  24. Tom G says:

    BTW, what Amazon is paying it slightly different now for novels. No changing in short stories, but they have been charging a “delivery fee” for downloading my story to buyers of 4 cents.

    I just double checked, and my $2.99 stories earned me $2.06 and the $4.99 got me 3.46. No deliver charge for the 99 cent short stories.

    Guess a new Mercedes Benz is out of my price range now.

  25. Camille says:

    Actually, Dean, most of us have done pricing experiments, and while you can’t do it instantly, you can get that price back up in a couple of weeks, especially if you plan for the lags.

    (Remember, if the Smashwords partners lag more than a week or so, you can ask Mark for help getting the price corrected.)

    If you’re in a hurry to make a fortune, you don’t want to do it, but if you’re looking at the current time as a “learning experience” you can get some learnin’ in on those prices. (I’ve noticed that most people who have done price experiments, and actually given them some time, end up realizing that higher prices are better.)

  26. PolyWogg says:

    I really do like your post and the one on math, but unfortunately we’re all just making assumptions about the “price elasticity of demand” (the economic term).

    Those who argue in favour of the 99 cent model argue that compared with 2.97 (i.e. stlll keeping it in the 35% model), the PED is such that if I triple my price, my number of sales is going to drop by more than that…arguing that John wouldn’t have sold 1/3 of his current sales if he tripled his price. This means those who are buying are doing so the same way they do MP3 singles — you tweak the price above 99 cents a single and the market hammers your sales, unless you’re someone whose sales are already pretty strong (i..e. you’re a known brand).

    Those against “discounting” assume that the 99 cent model is like the traditional “bargain bin” model in a print store, and that the PED is actually less than that…so that if you triple your price, you might only lose half or a quarter of your sales, so you’d be better off at triple the price, or even worse (like the discount bin), reducing your price implies lower quality and will actually reduce your sales. Which is the basic inverse of your math above — would John have sold 120 novels a month at $3? Maybe. Would he have sold the 72000 at a lower price? Maybe. Will he go on in the long tail to sell 10M? Very possible.

    Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing — market research on an ebook doesn’t work like a car model where the “market” is known (we know how many cars are sold each year, no clue on # of ereaders / formats / ebooks / unique readers). We have guestimates only. Problem #1. Problem #2 is that evidence across books is weak — even in a series, book #2′s sales are not necessarily the same as #3 or #1 (kind of the George Lucas phenomenon with original Star Wars trilogy that lots of people watched TESB out of proportion to SW or RotJ for a long while). And loads of authors throughout history have had huge first and second and third books, and the fourth tanked for no apparent reason. “Reader fatigue”, they say. “Old hat, nothing new” they say. Because “they” don’t know until after the fact that it isn’t going to sell as well as the first three. Third problem is that useful comparisons between authors (with a view to predictability) is almost impossible…your sales are different from Locke’s and Kris’.

    So we actually don’t/can’t know what the PED is, and personally, I think it is different for each author (perhaps there’s an industry average, but with huge standard deviations from the norm). What we do know is that a LOT of people are buying at the 99 cent model. Just as lots of people won’t pay $25 for a hardcover by someone they’ve never heard of (and publishers use trade paperbacks for that reason in some cases), they also balk at taking risks on unknowns in the digital world, and they are far more price-conscious with numerous small transactions than single larger transactions. So they’re buying at 99 cents what they won’t buy at higher prices. Hence why sales are working for people when they drop their prices.

    Personally I don’t think the “discount bin” analogy applies to ebooks — John sold 1M copies…how many discount bins moved that volume for anyone? Buyers don’t consider 99 cents the discount bin, even if you do…and are you really saying that John’s books were in the discount bin?

    But like you say, every writer is different and every writer decides which model is best for them. I personally think your pricing model is more appropriate, but I don’t think the market will bear it for everyone…too much downward pressure by readers to have new authors differentiate themselves on price initially to catch their attention and then differentiate themselves on quality. I would still prefer sales / coupons though rather than permanent price reductions, but I’ve bought a LOT of books at 99 cents to try out that I would never have considered even at $2 or $3.

    Keep the posts coming! We need wiindmill-tilting by more working authors :)

    P.

  27. Gary Gibson says:

    A year or so back I put a friend’s unpublished novel up on Smashwords, then later on Amazon. I didn’t price it particularly high on Smashwords – I don’t think it was ever any more than maybe a dollar, or whatever their minimum price is – and although it achieved a few dozen sales and at least one very nice review (and even a fan mail), sales trickled to zero not long after. I put it up on Amazon at first for free: zero sales. Put it up to $1.00, got four or five sales, and another really nice review.

    The reason I kept the price so low had more to do with having browsed through any number of self-published books on Smashwords and on Amazon in order to get an idea of the competition, and from what I could see, the bar was pretty low; the vast majority of what I read was slushpile-level stuff.

    As a pro writer myself, I felt I had reason to think my friend’s novel was pretty damn good. Even so, how to distinguish it from the other, not so good stuff? Without the benefit of some kind of advertising campaign, I couldn’t see any way, outside of putting together what I hoped was a decent cover design and setting up a web page with some blurbs by myself and other (traditionally published) friends of the author saying ‘this is great’.

    Reading this blog entry, perhaps I had that wrong and I should be charging at least $2.99 – given how low the sales have been, I certainly don’t have anything to lose, and I am aware of the old business rule that you can devalue something with too low a price point. Even so, the reason I kept the price so low had more to do with what I felt I would be prepared to pay for a novel by an unknown author floating in a sea of slush, were I to come across it unawares. One dollar felt like an acceptably minimal risk, under the circumstances.

    So I’ll try that just now, put the price up, give it a couple of weeks and see if it makes any difference.

    • dwsmith says:

      Gary, and everyone, we all in this discussion seem to just pass over the value of the opening of a novel. As a former editor, and a reader now, it always comes down to the opening. And since sampling is everything these days, and no one I knows buys a book for any price without first looking at the sample, it seems to me that sales discussions need to be on first the blurbs, the tag lines, the quality of the cover to get a reader to open the book, then the quality and interest of the opening pages. If it’s a kick-ass read and the reader of the sample suddenly finds himself into the book and wanting to read more, the price will mean almost nothing.

      And it is at that point when the price will come into play. So if a book doesn’t sell at $2.99 or $4.99, maybe the author would be better served to fix the opening of the novel, add setting and gripping detail instead of lowering the price. Just a horrid thought, I know. But maybe, just maybe, all this has little to do with price and everything to do with quality of storytelling and opening samples.

      I know, I have sinned now…Such thoughts should not be allowed. All books are created equal and only pricing will make a difference in sales…

  28. John Walters says:

    Dean,

    Your qualification of Big Ed’s suggestion makes sense: as a reader I would feel burned if a writer raised his prices after keeping them at a certain level for a period of time. But there is another way to experiment, which would be easy to do if a writer is prolific enough (that is, spends enough time at the keyboard). Why not take on a few pen-names and experiment with pricing with different books under different names?

    Personally, however, I price short stories at 99 cents but would never do it for a full book. Too much of myself goes into the product. I want to make money but I don’t do it only for the money. To grow as a writer I found I had to grow as a person as well. I went out and lived life, took risks, traveled the world, met and interacted with all kinds of people. I’m not saying everyone has to do the same, but in some way you have to have something to write about. I risked my life for my writing, and my life is sure as hell worth more than 35 cents. It’s priceless, of course – but I will set a reasonable price on what I have to say and if readers are looking for what I can offer they will be willing to pay for it. I know that I personally am willing to pay top prices for writers whose works I consider indispensible, illuminating, or entertaining.

  29. Gary Gibson says:

    “But maybe, just maybe, all this has little to do with price and everything to do with quality of storytelling and opening samples.”

    That’s a valid point. I guess the whole thing about sampling is that I *don’t* that often rely on sampling myself (I usually go by a combination of subject matter + reviews + reputation + word of mouth), but I guess if someone downloads an Amazon or Smashwords sample of, say, somewhere between twenty and seventy per cent of a book and reads it all, they’re almost certainly going to stump up the price when it comes time to get the rest of the story – if not before.

  30. Annie Bellet says:

    For what it is worth, I don’t sample (I know, I know). I also rarely buy ebooks for less than 3 bucks (I know, I know). I tend to buy based on reviews, recommendations, and the description (and the cover somewhat if it catches my eye and looks neat and like something I’d want to read). I’d say I generally spend 4-7 bucks per ebook on average. And yeah, I have only ever sampled one book on my Kindle and it was a recipe book because I wanted to make sure the formatting was okay before I bought it due to the number of images etc.

    So not everyone samples, but, despite reading about 300 books a year, I think I’m not the target market for .99 books. I guess I’m always leery of a price that low (it says cheap to me, sorry) unless it is a sale or something. I do buy some .99 books (and quite a few novellas and short stories for that price) when the descriptions grab me with about the same criteria I use for free books (it isn’t like I wish they cost more, I like a bargain too), but I find I end up giving reading priority to the book I spent 6 or 9 bucks on because to spend that much, I probably REALLY wanted to read that book RIGHT NOW. The cheap books end up in the “read them whenever” pile, which sometimes never really gets read.

    That’s just my weird habits I guess, but I figured I could provide a data point since I do read a decent amount of books I think.

  31. I’ll sample for authors I’ve never read or heard of, despite glowing reviews on the website. I’ve seen too much stuff that had plenty of four and five star reviews that was — to me — almost unreadable. My standards have gone up as my free time has gone down.

    Personally I have a weird resistance to that 0.99 price point that probably comes from my computer engineer background. Part of me just flinches at the inefficiency of using a credit card on a payment that small (in terms of overhead to utility ratio). Hell, I’m reluctant to use a card to pay for anything less than five bucks (used to be more), even though it isn’t directly costing me anything more to do so. Dumb, really.

    And yeah, I’m kind of with Annie on the 0.99-implies-cheap thing. But I remember being annoyed when paperbacks went up in price from 50 to 60 cents. (Now all you kids, get off my lawn!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>