From Rags to Riches on the Kindle?
I read the following article by author Mike Jastrzebski with interest:
I was at a party at a friend’s house last night and as often happens when writers get together now-a-days the subject of e-books and e-book pricing came up. I mentioned that I had lowered the price of both of my books, The Storm Killer and Key Lime Blues (A Wes Darling Mystery) , to .99 cents and the conversation went something like this:
“How’s that working for you?”
“Sales are up,” I said, “But earnings are down.”
“So why do it?”
“Good question,” I said.
The self publishing dilemma… what to price the book? How many pages are enough to justify price for a new author? And what about short story collections? This is an ageless question since the dawn of eBooks – and self publishing. And while Jastrzebski’s article is addressing fiction, the pricing dilemma occurs for self published nonfiction as well.
When I first priced my How to Make Gel Candles eBook, back in 1999, I had the same question. Back then, there was no such thing as Kindle.
While the eBook itself cost me nil in publication costs, I had paid for and attended classes by Adobe to learn about pdf publishing. I then paid to attend classes on how to build a website, then signed up with Clickbank to process the orders, and created a download page for the eBook’s delivery. For many of my customers, they did not understand the concept of an eBook and I spent many hours offering technical support.
In writing the book, I spent months in gathering and researching information and testing, marketing and selling the gel candles, and in photographing the candles. How much value can one place on the author’s time?
At the time the gel candle book was the only book in any format on how to produce the newly emerging craft / home business. I was providing not only knowledge to my readers, but I felt a service as the book emphasized not only creating and marketing tips, but safety tips as well.
After selling thousands of copies of the eBook – around the globe – I contracted with a publishing house to print an actual book. I had to learn Adobe Pagemaker, then recreated the book and re-shot all the candle photos for print quality. I paid for a cover artist and typesetter. Then the publishing house asked, “What price do you want to put on the book?”
Thankfully ePublishing has progressed greatly, and the creation process has become so much easier. And Kindle opens up a whole new publishing frontier.
But still pricing is a dilemma. In the Gel Candle eBook I was not just teaching about a candle craft, but was providing marketing information as well. I had received numerous testimonials of how the book had helped setup home and small businesses. So what was it’s value?
If a book provides the information one seeks to make money – if a book provides the information one seeks to save time – what is it’s value?
If a book provides the information one seeks to make money – if a book provides the information one seeks to save time – what is it’s value?Does it really matter the number of pages?
If I can tell you how to create something – something that would save you days, weeks, months or more in time and expense – what is that worth? Does the author need to pad a 35 page book into a 350 page book in order for that book to have perceived value? Would you rather spend a week or a day getting at the essential information?
Years ago, before eBooks and the Internet, I was at a writer’s workshop and at the time the term, folio, was popular. Over the years, folios had changed from a typewritten document to a word processed document, but other than not much had changed. The author would create a how-to document and then advertise it in a classified ad. The prospect would send for the information along with a check or money order payment. The author would then send the document through the mail to the customer. It was usually a slim read – but of value to the reader. It might tell him how to make bird houses, or how to build a desk, or how to trade stocks. Whatever the information, it was of value to the reader – and certainly not very many pages. It was the core of the information, essential, quick and clean.
So how does the self publishing author price his books?
For the most part, Kindle books do not even reference number of pages. Nonfiction Kindle eBook prices are all over the map – from $0 on up. Many of those eBooks found on Kindle are created by Internet Marketers trying to drive traffic to their website; or by the trend to compile PLR (private label rights) documents into quick and easy books.
And as for fiction, as Jastrzebski states in his article, he’s pricing them at .99 cents. Best selling authors, like James Patterson’s books are selling as Kindle editions for $2.99, $5.99, $9.99 and more.
It’s tempting to price low to get a readership, and this may be a good tactic. But does the price of .99 cents devalue your book?
What do you think?