Okay, the book’s written, edited, reviewed, edited some more, reviewed again, bit more editing, bit more reviewing, fixed, edited, reviewed, the cover’s picked and we’re ready to go.
Now we have to decide on the price.
The magic number for buying anything intangible on the internet these days seems to be 99 cents. I guess the notion is that if it isn’t carved onto a DVD or a printed on paper then it didn’t cost anything to produce (taken from the Internet Piracy Bible). Now, I agree that eBooks should be priced lower than their printed equivalents; after all, once the book is written there are no real costs for distribution or production, right? But what about the marketing? What about storage, transmission and payment processing?
Every so often an author will rise up and challenge this notion when his readership asks why his eBook costs (gasp!) the same as the hardback. He’ll sit back, puff sagely on his ornamental clay pipe and say, ‘It’s not about the paper, my young friend; it’s about the words,’ and he may add, ‘written with my own sweat and blood’ – just for good measure. I’ve always thought this was an odd sort of argument because I enjoy writing and never really see it as a yolk I’m slaving under. Anyway, this reasoning is carrying decreasing weight in front of an online public used to buying internet stuff for under a dollar (even if a lot of it is junk).
So is 99 cents a good place to start? For the new author, yes.
Or possibly, no.
At such a low price then the more adventurous reader will pick up a download just to try it out. If they leave good reviews, then others will buy it and before too long, you have a hit read on your hands. That’s the thinking that usually accompanies the Amazon bargain bin eBook drop, but unfortunately, this is rarely how it pans out. In most cases, the book is simply lost in a pile of thousands. Occasionally, through shrewd marketing, sheer hard work and, yes, writing talent, one or two writers rise to the top, but as I said, these are the exception, not the rule.
Now, I’ve actually bought a sub-dollar eBook. Having read a mountain of five-star reviews I thought it was well worth a shot, especially at that price. As it turned out, the book was awful. Quite possibly the worst example of creative writing I have ever seen. The characters were bland beyond belief, sex scenes were dropped in, it seemed, when the writer needed a break to think what should happen next. There was no variation in sentence structure so the whole book read like a ‘to do’ list in which an inexhaustible supply of ridiculously pliant women were ‘entered’ by our chiselled one-dimensional hero. (No spelling mistakes though, which I thought was odd. ) There were three reviews out of about sixty that gave it a single star and said they were baffled as to what the other folk were reading.
So I started to wonder if prices are unconsciously factored into Amazon reviews: cheaper books will be critiqued less harshly than ones that cost more. After all, if you buy a book for 99 cents, do you really have a right to expect very much from it? If this is the case then as a budding writer are you really doing yourself any favours by pitching to this market?