The Glory of the $0.99 Ebook


Sermonizing time. The ninety nine cent ebook is something I am passionate about, and here is why: reading is one of my greatest pleasures. I learned how to follow a story line while being interrupted every few minutes by horrors such as poop, property destruction, interpersonal violence, and unsanctioned nudity (all performed by tiny people). Reading is that important to me.

My beliefs are sometimes conflicting things, though. I believe in free stuff online. I believe that I should not have to fork over $8.99 for a work of fiction by an author I don’t know and which I might not enjoy. I believe that he or she deserves to be compensated for his or her work, BUT he or she is not giving me a physical product. I mean, really! You are selling the physical book for $10 and you want me to pay only two dollars less for it when you don’t actually have to print it?

I know how just how free ebooks are. I published some. The entire cost of the book is what its worth for you to write it and what it cost to edit and maybe make cover art. I’m not asking any more from other authors than I am expected to give myself.

I have paid $8.99 for ebooks–don’t get me wrong. These were books that I knew I’d like, that I’d been waiting for. They were ones I paid for because I was treating myself to the privilege of reading it right away rather than waiting it to be uploaded onto my library website. That doesn’t mean I think that it was a good deal.

Lets be honest, folks. This is fiction. The ideas are real and important, but nobody’s life is depending on my novel. Nobody will die if I write it wrong or misspell a word. If a giant electromagnetic pulse hit the city like in the movies, my entire body of work would be gone, except for the three print volumes on my mantel (one of which has a coffee stain.) It’s better for everyone if my work slips smoothly onto your ereader or hard drive without pain to your wallet.

If you are writing “The Idiot’s Guide to Emergency Heart Surgery With Household Tools” then please, write carefully, spell everything right, and charge however much you like. You spent all that time in medical school and you know how to save lives. We get that and are willing to pay.

If you are writing, “Sexy Vampire Chronicles” then you should be ashamed of yourself for charging more than $0.99 for an ebook. I’m serious! Your brainchild is the equivalent of Dove bars for your brain. Would you pay $8.99 for a Dove bar? I love Dove bars but I wouldn’t pay $8.99 for one.

$0.99 is a beautiful price. You can get two Dove bars for that price and they will live in your fat cells forever.

Low-priced ebooks are good for the environment! Think of all the paper that is not being used, the inks, the power to move the printing machines. Encouraging people to turn to ebooks instead of a pricey print book is good for the economy. Plus, if your ebook is almost as much as your print book it won’t be worth it to a buyer. They will buy the print book, or more likely, skip it and pick a cheaper book. You evil tree killer!

I respect the preferences of the people who love a physical book. Hey! I printed my book didn’t I? I’m just not going to expect my profit margin to be four times as large with an ebook.

You can all rub this blog post in my face one day if my ebook for my seventeenth novel is $8.99 (because I’m very susceptible to ironic life coincidences), but I’m thinking by then that Dove bars will cost $8.99. Inflation, you know. For now I stick by the $0.99 ebook and I appreciate all the authors who agree.

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Categories: Self-Publishing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “The Glory of the $0.99 Ebook

  1. From my wallet’s POV, I like 99c books too, of course, but I think that price should be only for either short, poor quality, or an introduction to an author’s work. An author can’t make a living on 99c ebooks alone and we aren’t all doing it as a hobby. Some of our work has to be priced higher, at least $2.99, but only if it’s professionally done, of course, other wise it isn’t worth it . We need something by authors at 99c so we know whether the higher purchase price for another book is worth it.

    I don’t enjoy bad writing and misspelled words, & regardless of how cheap it is, I would never read more of an authors’s work if my first taste proved them a poor writer. It defeats the purpose of a 99c book which surely is to introduce people to your work and encourage them to read more.

    I have a free short story out and a book of short stories out for 99c, but if I publish my novel myself, apart from a special release price for a short period of time for my fans to pick it up cheap, I wouldn’t charge less than $3.99 because it’s 4 years of my life and 95,000 properly edited words.

    • I can understand a higher price for a 95,000 word book. Mine is significantly shorter, a first work, and didn’t take four years. I paid for my book to be edited too, mainly because I wouldn’t want anything out there with my name on it that was embarrassing. I have seen some interesting rundowns of numbers from a previously-published author going indie and he made far more with $1.99 ebooks than with $3.99 books of the same size and style. His money came in numbers sold rather than margin. http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2009/06/amazon-kindle-numbers.html

      • Konrath’s experiment comparing the sales of his books at $2.99 and higher prices, wasn’t scientific. If you’re a reader sampling Konrath’s work, and you have the chance to choose between a book at a lower price and one at a higher price, you’ll choose the cheaper book. It will then appear that $2.99 is the “sweet spot.” To evaluate sales prices he should have raised the price on ALL of his books for long enough to allow people to believe this was the new standard price.

        Conversely, Robin Sullivan has found that her husband’s books sell better at $4.99 than at a lower price point.

        I’m in agreement with Tahlia. The several hours of entertainment that I provide with one of my books is worth more than .99. Things are worth what people will pay for them, but I do believe that we teach people how to treat us, and we teach people what our work is worth. People often value more highly what they have paid more for, regardless of quality. Any well crafted story longer than a short story is worth more than .99.

      • You make a good point. You have to admit, though, that the 99 cent price eliminates almost any hesitation to purchase. Shoppers on Amazon don’t usually notice whether the book is long or short. They see if they are interested in the story or not, and how much they’ll have to shell out to see if they like the author. There are SO MANY out there now that hesitation could mean the difference between sale or no sale.

  2. What do you think of free books? I made my three novels free on smashwords without thinking much about it. I had no expectations of getting rich from my writing, and wanted to increase my readership as much as possible. Lately, however, I’ve heard other writers criticize free books as almost a betrayal of the self-publishing revolution, since many of them do expect to profit from their e-books. Does the availability of so many free books cheapen everyone’s efforts? I’d appreciate any insights about this.

    • I love free ebooks and don’t feel betrayed by them at all! I have one free ebook up, and have been looking for more among my files. Originally I intended for The Lustre to be a free ebook, but my friends who read it insisted that I charge for it because they thought it was too good to give away.
      Successful indie authors usually have at least one free ebook out there. It is an advertisement for your writing. I’m way more likely to pick up the free ebook first and come later to the books that aren’t free. It doesn’t mean I won’t buy the paid ebook if I think it sounds interesting. In my opinion, if someone has a problem with your giving away free ebooks, they don’t understand the reality of the current literary trend. None of us are working against each other. We need each other. Nobody can tell the same story the same way, and people hungry for good books (like me) want to find them.

  3. Kate, this is an important discussion. Thanks for helping me to think about this…

  4. This was an awesome post…you are soo right on target. I will pay $8.99 for a J.D. Robb In Death novel or a Janet Evanovich “Numbers” book but I cant see shelling out more than $3.00 on an unknown author and the $.99 is more in line with writers without an established fan base. I try repeatedly to let the authors that I work with know that they should not and cannot charge on the same scale as establish “Big 6” authors. Then when they are not selling their works at $9.00 a pop they wonder why not.

    I hope that one day you achieve the top tier price range – wouldnt that be a kick in the pants!

    DRS – 3D

  5. Interesting discussion. I’m toying with the idea of holding an “after-Christmas” sale for my thriller, The Seventh Stone. It sells now for $2.99, and I’m thinking about offering it for $.99. Lots of people will be getting Kindles for Christmas and will be looking for e-books. From my research, the $.99 price really shoots the ebook up the rankings, and that gets even more readers. But then can I put the price back up to $2.99? And does the $.99 make The Seventh Stone look like it’s not worth $2.99 and not on the same level as other thrillers? I wonder if Amazon will ever change their royalty plan so that we can make more on the $.99 book.

    • $2.99 isn’t really a prohibitive price, but I think that when looking at two books that look interesting, one for $2.99 and one for $0.99, I would always choose the cheaper one. I doubt whether the reader is going to change their perception of the quality of the book between the two prices. My main goal is to make a little bit of money to pay for my editing job paid for eventually. I wouldn’t say “no” to being wildly famous. When I look at the whole pricing dilemma, I have to remind myself that I write because I love it, not because I want to be rich.

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