Monday, March 14, 2011

.99 cent books and the apocalypse

.99 cent eBooks will destroy publishing!
.99 cent eBooks will save writers!
.99 cent eBooks are the 4th horsemen of the apocalypse!
.99 cent eBooks will save the Toronto Maple Leafs (or fill in your favourite sports team here _______)!

Okay, I don't know which (or if any) of these statements is true. The more I dig into the world of ePublishing the more arguments I hear for and against pricing eBooks as low as .99 cents (or free!). One argument is that this devalues books. Hey, that makes sense to me. eBooks should be worth something! I spent a year writing this book and I want money (preferably truckloads of money)! Another argument is that if you sell a book at 99 cents you make 35 cents. That's essentially a 35% royalty. Wow, I'd kill for a 35% royalty! Plus, the .99 cents opens up the purchaser to make an impulse buy. I love it when people follow their impulses...especially if their impulse is to buy my book.

Should I sell a book for .99 cents? I wondered. Will it devalue my book? Will it launch my books into the stratosphere? I meditated. I scattered the bones and read the pig livers (oink).

And the answer came back: yes.

I chose Dust because it is my most valuable book. It has won the most awards and has been the most successful and it would make the best impression on new readers. And that's who I am aiming the .99 cent price at. The eBook of Dust is only available in the U.S. and U.K. I am relatively unknown to the general public in these markets, so by lowering the price I am essentially saying, "hello, I'm over here. Pick me! Pick me!" Kind of like when I'd jump up and down hoping to be picked for the baseball team.

My hope is that the book will catch on and climb up to a steady sales rate. If I sell two copies that's almost the same amount that I make for selling a paperback version of the book. If I sell six copies then I am equalling the 2.01 that I was making when the ebook was priced at 2.99. If the book does gain traction I will have a choice to make, either to keep it at .99 cents or to put it back to $2.99 or $3.99 and hope the sales stay steady (I've seen both large publishers and small epubbers have success at this strategy).

The main reason I'm testing this is because if I didn't I'd always be curious. And it is a no risk situation for me. I make the vast majority of my income from my paper books (like 99.9%).


P.S. for a great argument for keeping books above .99 read Write to Publishing. For a great argument for pricing at .99 cents read this John Locke interview. For another great blog post on .99 cent books read Nathan Bransford's blog post. For a laugh read this.
P.P.S. I believe that the .99 cent book is an oddity of our times. I think Amazon/iTunes/B&N are letting it exist because they are trying to sell more and more Kindles and iPads and Nooks and the more easily available the content for their devices the more they will sell. But the profit margin is too small for them to continue with the .99 cent price forever. It does cost money to upload and download books. Once they've saturated the market they'll likely raise the price of books. Of course, I base this theory on no stats or charts or anything tangible. The pig liver told me.
P.P.P.S. I realize at the beginning of this post some people might get the impression that the Toronto Maple Leafs are my favourite team... they aren't. I have a soft spot for them. But I'm an Oilers fan. So please don't start a flame war. Or a Flames war.
P.P.P.P.S For those who have never received a real letter, P.S. stands for post script. It was something you added to the end of a letter that you forgot to write in the main text. In the old days people used pens and so words were permanent. Unlike now. : )


Christine Tripp said...

Art, I never thought I would see myself write this (as opposed to hear myself say this) but you've started me wondering about giving this ebook thing a try. I have a few dummies that didn't get anywhere publishing wise, yet one of them I still am in love with and can't give up on just yet.
Not sure how difficult this all would be but I'm certainly now curious:)

Unknown said...

It takes a bit of time. But you can also hire people to do the converting. All you need on Amazon is to sign up for a KDP account.

Melanie Cossey said...

Awww too bad I can't get the ebook here in Canada. Any idea if this will be available in the future?

Catherine Stine said...

You make some good points. For instance, I bought Amanda Hocking's 99 cent eBook mostly to find out what all of the fuss is about. That was an impulse buy for sure. Enough of those, and she's a gajillionaire. I've read the first 4 pages so far, and it's an intriguing premise for sure.
Keep us posted on that 99 cent price.
BTW, you could always start a flame-broiled war.

Unknown said...


It was very easy to buy Amanda's book, and I've probably bought 12 others that were at 99 cents. Sometimes it's just to see what style they are writing...and even to see what formatting they use.

Mmmm. Flame-broiled war. Mmmm.

Unknown said...

@ The Goddess
Alas, no idea when there will be a Canadian ebook. Has to do with contracts and ... zzzz...

Brent Hartinger said...

Your post-scripts made me laugh out loud! We've never met in person, but I suspect you and I have a lot in common.

Unknown said...

I'm sure we're both hilarious Brent! HILARIOUS!