HOW MUCH IS IT WORTH? – May 26, 2014
I recently heard high praise for a book by a new author and immediately went online to purchase the ebook. When I saw the price however, I was shocked. $12.99 for an ebook?! The Bird Box by Josh Malerman, and published by HarperCollins, was so highly praised, I thought it was bound to be great. But that price completely turned me off. The publisher wisely dropped the price after only a week, to $9.99 and even though I felt that was still a high price for an ebook, I went ahead and bought it. After reading it, I wish I’d waited a bit longer.
The experience led me to ask, what’s a book worth?
Last fall, I took part in my first book festival as an indie published author. I spent a great deal of time thinking about my table display, thinking about how I would process payments and track sales. I also spent a lot of time thinking about how I would price my books. While I hoped to at least break even, making money wasn’t one of my goals.
My first goal was to build my mailing list. A fairly easy prospect. I had a drawing to give away a basket of books and the entry form included a request to be included on the mailing list. I was surprised by the number of people who made the request.
The second goal, of getting my books in as many hands as possible, was a bit more difficult.
There were around 75 vendors at the festival, all with piles of books to sell. I figured the best way to ensure sales was to price the books in a way that let people know they were getting a bargain. If you’re going to the trouble of attending a book festival, one might expect to get the book for a cheaper price than what you would find online.
Everyone around me had priced their paperbacks at $15 to $20 each. Hardcovers were $25 to $30. I cringed when I saw those prices. I had hoped to do some book shopping myself but at those prices I could only afford to buy one or two. Since I had four titles to sell, I wanted someone to feel as if they could afford to buy all of them and not feel poor.
I sold my paperbacks for $8 each and my hardcover for $10. The authors sitting to the left and right of me were horrified by my prices. One author told me I was selling myself short, that I wasn’t valuing my work. She shook her head and walked away disgusted.
Her reaction made me worry but I reminded myself of my initial goal. Selling books for $15 might have made me feel good, but I would be asking people to spend a tidy sum on an author they didn’t know. Better to ensure the purchase with a price that made the decision easier.
The result was, I sold just about every book I brought with me. Many of the people who made a purchase bought more than one title. I met lots of readers, autographed lots of books and made at least a handful of new fans.
Could I have sold as many books for $15? Doubtful. Was I selling myself short? I’m not sure. Russell Blake wrote a brilliant post on book pricing that deserves a read and some consideration. What’s the most you would be willing to pay for an unknown author’s ebook with a bunch of five star reviews? What do you think of authors who charge less? If a book is .99 do you assume it’s too cheap to be good? And are the major publishing houses, the ones charging $11 or more for an ebook, making a mistake? Or should indie authors follow their lead and crank up what we ask for our work?