How Much Are You Selling Your eBook For?!

I was going through my timeline the other day on FaceBook and came across a post someone had placed, another author even, who said she would “… never again spend $9.99 for an ebook.”  are-eBooks-worth-the-moneyApparently she had recently purchased an eBook at that price and, it wasn’t that she thought the book was bad – Not.At.All – in fact, she thought the book she had just finished was good but, still, she felt she had been a victim of price-gouging. Paying that price for a paperback? Not a problem. In a heartbeat she wouldn’t have had a second thought.

Others chimed in to support her, agreeing that eBooks priced beyond $3.99 were too high since the cost is minimal to produce and there were no recurring costs; another, stated the only purpose of even having an eReader was to be able to buy books at a low price – unless it was for a non-fiction book.


Is it just me that thinks this is ludicrous? I certainly hope not.  

If consumers (and that includes authors since we are readers as well) feel it’s not only fair, but Justified, to pay an author of a book anywhere from zero to less than $4.00 a book, we will NEVER get the price point up to where it deserves to be. I was one of the schlups who bought the hype and paid $9.99 for the Fifty Shades eBook. After I read the first book, I couldn’t believe the poor writing, and figured heck, she’s got to have improved by Book 2, so I paid another $9.99 for that one. (And no, I didn’t give her a third chance.) Not once, and I’m going to repeat that…not one time, did I regret spending the money – only the time I devoted in reading it.

minimum wage(1)And, let me put this out there before anyone thinks otherwise: I work a 9 – 5 job each week, come home and write sometimes until almost daybreak. I’m not rich by any standards. But, here’s another thing about me: Writing is not a hobby, I HAVE to write. It’s my passion. Maybe those fellow authors who complained choose to write as a hobby and they don’t see their time and effort worth any more than a couple of bucks. I don’t know – I just don’t get it. I hope that my books, the ones I toil over, become sleep deprived over, have little contact with friends and family because of, can support me one day. That’s my goal and, I believe, most serious writers’ goal, but we’re not going to meet that goal on being paid less than minimum wage for each eBook sold.

In case you weren’t familiar with the latest info, the Federal Minimum Wage is now $7.25 for ONE hour’s work. So, in essence, the price of an eBook doesn’t even merit a one hour’s worth of pay at minimum wage. Minimal cost to produce? (If I could embed a laugh track here, I would.) How about the umm, I don’t know, five hundred+++ hours it took to write the book from conception to editing to the formatting that goes into uploading onto the various outlets for sale; the author’s own out-of-pocket cost for a proofreader, an editor, a cover designer; and, at the end of the road, the split you give to the eBook retailers for their share to sell on their site. And, I haven’t even gotten to the cost of advertising a book.

I’m not throwing it out there that the cost of eBooks should be a standard $9.99 but I AM saying, why not? Why should the price differential be significantly different from the paperback? I beg to differ that the (only) reason you own an eReader is to buy books at a cheaper price. ebooks and paperbooksI bought mine for the convenience of downloading a book right then and there when I wanted it; to be able to read it outside in the sun; to read it in bed with no lights on; for the light-weight feeling compared to the weight of a 400+ page book; to be able to place it in a stand and touch the screen to flip a page while I’m eating dinner or, putting together a recipe from a cookbook I’ve downloaded; and all the other amenities included: highlighting, instant dictionary, instant find; all my books stored in one handheld tablet. You’ll notice I didn’t mention any reason was because the price of the book was lower. What kind of sense does that statement even MAKE when you’ve shelled out anywhere from $100 – $200 alone for your eReader.

I haven’t even touched on being able to lend books you’ve bought with another friend; to check-out eBooks from your local library; to join Amazon Prime and “borrow” one book a month. eReaders offer so much more than to just “download cheap books”. For not having any kind of wait time to receive and begin reading your book within minutes of purchase; and/or, to receive a book within minutes of its publication should in and of itself justify a price-point equal to a paperback. Your cost benefit? No shipping and handling. 

We’re getting there. Two years ago, it wasn’t even called a promo for your book to be in the “Free” bin. It was where everyone started, particularly if you were new to publishing. Those days are now a bad memory. Even now, 99₵ is only seen when you have it on promo and frankly, I hope to see that go by the wayside within the next year as well. With the “Click to Look Inside” feature on Amazon and B&N, readers are becoming accustomed to the fact that they don’t have to take a chance on an unknown book or author anymore.

Click-to-look-insideI can’t tell you how many books whose description enticed me, ready to buy it, only to use the “Click”, read a few chapters, and change my mind. Money, and reading time, saved.

As independent authors, I would hope some unification could be achieved to continually keep the price train on a forward incline; and, to support each other in this effort. While I don’t expect a huge royalty with each eBook sold, neither do I expect that a fellow author consider any price as gouging. 

Never Enough Books

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10 Responses to How Much Are You Selling Your eBook For?!

  1. robakers says:

    I totally agree. Authors should have the right to be rewarded for their hard work. Writing isn’t free and music isn’t free. When it is free it is stolen.

    On the other side of the coin, is the reader’s right to get full value for their money. Nothing harms the authors more than fellow authors putting complete garbage out there. My goal is to put a novel out that is comparable in quality to any book in a brick and mortar store. It takes more time and work, but it is the right thing to do.

  2. What amazes me is that people don’t think twice about paying $9.99 – $12.99 to download an album on iTunes (and $1.29 for ONE SONG), nor do they harp about paying $4 for a latte at their favorite coffee joint, but it’s expected for the electronic version of a novel to sell for less than four bucks. If you look at many well-known authors, they aren’t charging $3.99 for their latest output. Stephen King’s newest book (Doctor Sleep), available this fall, is priced at $12.74 for the ebook and $17.55 for the hardback (and over $20 for the audiobook)!

    Now I’m not saying a reader should necessarily pay as much for an unknown author as one that is “proven” in their mind, but there’s a lot of pricing room between $4 and $13. Also, with the ability to sample a book, I’ve found authors that are BETTER than well-known authors—should I not be willing to pay them for the quality of their storytelling?

    Setting aside electronic versus paper for a moment, $4 for a book ten years ago would have been approaching (downwardly) garage sale prices. That’s just not enough for a quality book. And “well-known” hardly guarantees quality, yet people seem content to spend $12-15 for ebooks from known authors.

  3. A lot of the blame has to lie with Amazon. If they changed the $2.99-$9.99 range for getting a 70% royalty to $3.99 with no upper limit we’d see an immediate price jump for most books to $3.99 and more people pricing at higher prices. If they must keep an upper limit for the 70% royalty then make it a sliding scale. It’s silly that a $9.99 book makes $6.92 (assuming a $0.10 delivery fee) and by charging an extra cent the royalty is $3.50

    We’re content to pay higher prices for ebooks from well known authors simply because that is the only legal way we can get them. It’s not hard to find the illegal copies though – those higher prices encourage piracy. At the other end of the scale there are many indie authors charging $0.99 for their books. As far as I’m concerned – that’s a fair price to pay for an ebook of up to 30,000 words. Charge that price for a bigger ebook and you are not doing yourself or any other authors any favours. Free books? Maybe as a giveaway for the first book in a series or as a sample where the author has five or more books available. My experience is that for an author without a series or extensive offering available – it’s a waste of effort.

  4. Nell Rose says:

    Hi, I totally agree with you. I have written an ebook. Admittedly its my first, but I chose to sell at 99 pence or cents all depending on which country it was advertised. When I put it up to 2.99 I have hardly any sellers, yet I have good reviews. I think its the ‘easy buying’ that makes people believe they should get the book for hardly any money. Hopefully this will change, and as you said we put a lot of work into our books, and the minimum wage in other jobs is more than we earn for the whole book, well said, and thanks.

  5. Alina Szpak says:

    Let be honest, price is never established by what something cost to make but by demand! Did you ever thought about how many people work how many hours to make you a pair of jeans which you buy on sale for $20? It is mind boggling: somebody grow cotton, pick it up, made tread, fabric, color, cut, sew, sell transported….and we all complain about price. Same with books – I am not a writer (I am small publisher) and yes my writers work very hard, editing cost a lot and formatting and typesetting takes a lot of sleepless nights – but what I can do when people love the book when is free or cost close to nothing but will not spend $2.99 for it?!? I wish we all will change…

  6. Shawn Kuhn says:

    As a former retailer and now author promoter, I understand your position, but disagree. I sold bargain books in the retail store from $2.99 to $7.99 to introduce readers to a new author. Most people are willing to buy an ebook from someone they have not yet read for less than a Starbucks. 50 Shades at $9.99 has clout, no so much other authors. The only choice available for Authors is volume. A $2.99 at a 70% commission makes a $2.08 profit, that is close to what a NYTimes bestselling author makes on a $14.99 trade paper.

  7. Reblogged this on Oh Book Me and commented:
    Interesting thoughts on pricing your eBook…

  8. Interesting article and comments.

    I understand the pricing issue, both from a creative effort perspective and the ‘supply and demand’ perspective. 50 Shades moved at $9.99 because of all the hype it got. Demand was high, but now that so many were disappointed with it, continued high sales is unlikely.

    The average author getting started doesn’t have the financial clout to buy that kind of publicity, so it’s understandable why the author offers first free e-books then a higher price, say $2.99 – $3.99.

    To be honest, I can’t afford the $29.95 for new hardbacks, so I buy most of my books used. At $2 – $4 it’s a price I can afford. I buy hardbacks because paperbacks are hard on my eyes and I like collecting books. May not seem fair to the author, but I do reviews on the books I read (such as Goodreads, The Librarything and Amazon), a form of word-of-mouth advertising, which should result in additional sales for the author.

    I can understand the reluctance of a reader to pay as much for an electronic version of a book. Readers know the cost of physically producing an electronic version is much lower than the cost of a paperback or hardback, the author’s efforts not withstanding. It is what the market is willing to bear. Supply and demand.

    If a writer is very good and does what he needs to (including buying top flight marketing, like 50 Shades), demand will rise and with it, the author’s ability to raise price without losing too many sales in exchange.

  9. You make some excellent points. I’m still in the “free bin” myself, so I didn’t balk at cutting the price of one of my books to $1.99 just yesterday. And one of my books is still available for 99 cents. But yes, I hope to get to the point where my writing will support me, or at least help. I think what many people complain about is the unknown writer who puts their book out there for $9.99 from the get-go. I mean, yeah, we’ll pay $9.99 for Joyce Carol Oates or Alice Hoffman, but for Michelle Flye? Who the heck is she?

  10. Pingback: I need to be writing. Even if I sometimes ask what’s the point? | MICHELLE GARREN FLYE

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