Fair pricing

The fair pricing debate is cropping up again.

According to the author of that post, e-books should be priced very low indeed, at 99c to $2.99, because the overhead is low, the author is usually unknown and working in a niche environment, and because they don’t have the expense of an agent or publisher.

What if there is a publisher involved? According to that writer, that adds only 10% to the price. For all that editing, layout, design, marketing, etc. Hmmm. Something tells me that writer has never been on the other side of the table.

But still. Okay, let’s assume that the 10% was just a convenient number. We’re still talking an e-book price of perhaps $4.99 at most.

Now, that’s great – I’d love to pay no more than $4.99 for all my books. I’d love to sell books for that little. But in order to make up the amount of money that goes into a book – the editing, proofreading, typesetting, design, marketing, the ISBN, etc. – you need to charge enough to get it back. And you should really be charging enough that the author can make a few bucks, too.

Yes, authors write because they have to, because they’ve got voices and stories in their heads that need to come out. Publishing is just a happy byproduct of a necessary creative urge. But it’s only fair and right that authors be compensated for their creations – and hey, it benefits the readers, too, if the author can make enough money to start concentrating more on creating things than on the day job.

I know I’ve harped on this before, and I’ll probably continue to do so in the future, but…super-low e-book prices don’t necessarily make sense. You can sell some books, sure, but can you sell enough at that price to make back your investment, and your publisher’s investment? JA Konrath can earn a damn fine living selling books for $1.99, but let’s face it – you’re not JA Konrath.

More than that, there’s another important question here. By pricing your novel so low, are you devaluing your work? This is something you see a lot on Etsy – newbie sellers pricing their art or handicrafts at barely above the cost of materials, if at all above it. This makes it terribly, terribly difficult for serious artisans to command appropriate prices for their work.

Think about it – if a hobbyist is charging $5 for a hand-knitted scarf that took them 5 hours and $3 in cheap yarn to make, they’re not making a lot. But they are making it extremely difficult for a serious artisan to get an appropriate amount for the scarf they hand-knitted out of organically dyed alpaca.

Same thing with books. You can charge 99c or $1.99 for a novel…but you’re gonna have to sell an awful lot of novels to make up the time and energy you and/or your publisher put into bringing that book to market.

Or you can sell your novel for $10, and be realistic about how many copies you’ll likely sell, and break even on fewer units sold.

Honestly, I’m not sure how many copies Candlemark & Gleam books are going to sell. I’d like to believe that it’ll be a lot – we’re a niche genre publisher, and a new one at that, but we have some impossibly good work to bring you, and one hopes that quality wins out. But it’ll be a slog to get the word of mouth, and to raise awareness of the books, and so I don’t expect that either publisher or author will do all that well on $1.99 novels. Or even $4.99 novels. $7.99? Maybe. $10, I think we can manage.

Perhaps in the future, prices will drop. But perhaps in the future, we’ll be doing the volume to sustain that drop. For now, we’re going to have to make the best guess we can on pricing, based on volume expectations, the fact that we’re totally DRM-free, and on what we think the value and quality of our books warrant.

And if you say that isn’t fair, well, can’t help ya.

Still, I’ll put the question out there: What do YOU think is a fair price for an e-book – a DRM-free, professionally edited, designed, and laid out book that’s up the standards of anything in the industry? What would you pay? Why?

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One Response to “Fair pricing”

  1. Patti June 30, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    $10, or $9.99 if you’re going to play that game, seems like a perfectly reasonable price to me for an e-book. Considering how much hard copy books cost, especially hardbacks, this is a bargain, especially given that it would be “a DRM-free, professionally edited, designed, and laid out book that’s up the standards of anything in the industry.” Works for me. Now if I can just find an e-reader I like.

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