Yup, I am going back into the pricing wars one more time. Why would I do that? Simply put, I’m nuts. And again, things have changed all over the map, so indie pricing of ebooks needs to be talked about.
All over the news sources right now are articles about the settlements going on with the government and major publishers on the agency pricing issues. Some of it is very complex, most of it will not make much difference at all to most indie publishers.
However, some changes will happen in pricing of ebooks.
Since this is not a legal blog and I will do my best here to not get too deep into the silliness of the boring details. In fact, let me say this. If you are interested in the details of all the legal aspects of the pricing lawsuits, follow ThePassiveVoice.com. He does wonderful takes with great opinions on the different aspects of the battles.
My opinion is pretty much with other people who have followed these lawsuits. Pricing for customers of electronic books will go up as this settles out over the next few years. Even with stores discounting some titles, ebook prices really can’t do anything else but go up.
There are a number of good sides of this for writers.
First, it means authors who are publishing through traditional publishers will get more money per sale because publishers will make more money from increased prices. And they do pass on, sometimes, a tiny fraction of that amount.
Second, if indie publishers are smart, they will bring their prices up slightly, but stay under the traditional discounting ranges. I will talk about this before, but it will make us all more money.
Before the publishers got together and invented agency pricing for ebooks, ebooks were sold under the old wholesale model. That means that the publisher sold the book to the bookstore for a set price with a “Suggested Retail Price” on it. The bookstore, who then owned the copy of the book (and had paid that set price), could actually sell the book at any price they wanted.
Agency pricing (which is a stupid name) was started with agreements between some of the big publishers that they would only license the books, not sell copies, and would control the price to the customer and would limit the amount of discounting allowed by any store. One consequence of this was taxes and responsibility of the taxes. There were also many other convoluted details that took time to figure out. Unraveling this could be just as interesting.
And again, I am being scary simple and general here for the sake of keeping this short and understandable to those who don’t much care.
So now the government has come in and said to the big publishers, “No, no, no. You can’t all agree to do this at the same time.” So now the publishers are being forced to back up and allow retailers to discount what they want, as it always should have been.
In response to that, publishers are raising their “suggested retail prices” expecting retail stores to discount. Some retailers will, some will not.
Some books will be discounted, some won’t. And the amount of discounts by the retailers will vary from moment to moment and book to book and agreement to agreement.
All this is going to cause all kinds of very strange price benchmarks for books. Prices like $10.14 or $12.64 for electronic books. It’s going to have readers who are used to set and standard prices shaking their heads, that’s for sure.
And it’s going to make for some interesting shopping for book buyers, who now can shop around for the best deals. Again, as it always should have been in this capitalistic country.
The Important Fact
If you read all the news sources and such, the price $9.99 as a discount price is getting tossed around a great deal. And all the articles are talking about how CHEAP $9.99 is.
Sadly, for traditional publishers, it is cheap on front list hardback and trade paper books.
Let that sink in a moment and then indie publishers, look at your own pricing of your books.
$9.99 for a electronic novel is considered CHEAP! That’s what readers are hearing.
$9.99 is cheap and almost too low.
Now we get to the point of this article. With all the big-world stuff going on, and readers being pushed to pay more, and constantly reading how $9.99 is cheap for an ebook, what should indie publishers be pricing their electronic books at?
Just slightly under that, of course. But not way under.
So here are my suggestions for fiction
pricing adjustments going into 2013
Front list, meaning brand new. Over 50,000 words. $7.99
Shorter front list novels, meaning 30,000 to 50,000 words. $6.99
Backlist novels, meaning already published by a traditional publisher. $6.99
— Short Books
Short books, meaning stories from 8,000 words to 30,000 words. $3.99
— Short Stories
Short stories … 4,000 to 8,000 words. $2.99
Short stories under 4,000 double with another bonus story… $2.99
5 stories $4.99
10 stories $7.99
That’s it. Getting simple these days.
My Reasons and Suggestions
First off, with everything possible, do a trade paper edition.
Why? Because it makes your electronic book price even more reasonable. I did an entire article about this here. But simply put, if you have a $16.99 trade paper and a $7.99 electronic novel, it looks right to buyers.
Second, stop worrying so much about tracking sales and reviews and all that silliness.
Just keep focusing on the writing and getting new books up and let the sales take care of themselves. (Yeah, that’s going to make me even more hated over on the Kindle Boards. (grin))
Third, remember that buyer perception of your book is everything.
If you have a cover that looks amateur, a passive and dull sales blurb, and a cheap price, no one is going to pick it up or buy it. You are screaming over and over that your book is bad, no matter how good it is. You have told the reader subconsciously to stay away. So learn how to do professional-looking covers where the only quibble with it is taste. Learn how to do active sales copy. And then get your price up to match your quality cover and blurb, to tell the buyer subconsciously that they are looking at a quality product. It really does work that way.
Even though I hate the pricing topic, I figured that my old prices were out-of-date enough and with all the talk on pricing coming from the lawsuits on agency pricing, it was time to redo this.
Every press is different. Every writer is different. If you believe your work is crap, then price it like crap. Not my issue. This article is for writers who believe in their own art.
Traditional publishers now are shouting over and over to the world at large that $9.99 is cheap for an electronic book and they are losing money at that level.
It is time indie publishers undercut that $9.99 price just enough to still look professional and not look like a cheap, discount book.
$5.99 to $7.99 is a great range, a professional range.
And that’s just my opinion.
Copyright © 2012 Dean Wesley Smith
Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime
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