There’s a lot of talk about whether books are priced fairly. Ebooks especially get a lot of flak for being .99c or free.
Various arguments are made for paying a fair price, not flooding the market, quality control. A popular one is that people value things based on how much they pay for them.
The truth is all this fretting has nothing to do with money. It’s got to do with how you feel about yourself as a writer. It’s got to do with how you think other’s see you. It’s got to do with being valued as a person, and worrying that you're not.
The market has changed and you can’t control what other people do. If they want to give away free books, that’s the world you have to live in. If what others do impacts you negatively, that’s how the market operates. That’s how competition works.
But the price point of books isn’t really the issue. Whether you sell a hundred books at $10 each, or a thousand books at $2.99 each, or even ten thousand at a buck a pop, you’re overall profit is what it is. The method that makes you the most money is probably the one you should go with. There’s nothing very difficult to understand about that.
I know in your heart you feel like, But if I sell ten thousand books at $10... but that’s not how economics works. It’s like thinking, But if we just print more money the recession would be over...
The truth of why writers feel so reluctant to see the price of books as just another variable to play with is insecurity. We all have that fear in our hearts that when people finally see this thing we’ve been toiling away at in our little rooms, they’ll think we’ve been wasting our time.
And if the book is free or very cheap, we won’t even make any money. All that work for nothing.
The idea that somebody reads your book and hates it, after they’ve forked over their cash, is somehow comforting. It soothes the ego. They may think you can’t write, but they had to pay for the privilege of forming that opinion. You may not win, but at least you come out even. Something to show for your trouble.
The idea that someone gets to judge you for free? That’s scary. What do you get out of it? Why would you even want to put yourself in that position? You should get paid based on your effort, not their opinion. It’s only fair.
Sadly, art does not work that way. It never has. McDonald’s does though.
It’s fine to feel insecure, it’s normal, but using it as the basis of your business plan may not be the best idea ever.
A lot of the arguments I see are of this type: No other product gives away stuff for free. They might offer a sample, a test ride, but totally free in the hope you might come back and pay full price next time? Who does that?
Again, this is based on insecurity. What if they don’t like it? What if I’m not good enough? What if I’m found out? What if I get left with nothing?
And let’s not mince words, in the case of most writers, they won’t be good enough. Most books are rejected by most readers. Even if a million people love your writing, far more will hate it. Or ignore it. And that’s the best case scenario.
Books are not the same as other products. Want me to prove it? Libraries. What other product is set up like that?
Publishers have always hated libraries. In their minds if people can get the book for free that must mean fewer people will pay to buy them.
That seems logical, right?
One small problem: it isn’t true.
Libraries make us buy more books. Why? I have no idea, but they do. Always have done.
Right now publishers are fighting to limit the loaning of ebooks through libraries. Why? Because obviously it must be bad for their business. Just like it’s obvious libraries cut into their profits. They have to, it’s obvious.
No, it isn’t obvious. It’s wrong.
Is all the hard work you’ve put into writing worth .99c? No. Is it worth $9.99? No. A measly ten bucks for a year’s worth of effort? How is that fair or reasonable? But of course ten bucks doesn’t mean just ten bucks. It’s ten bucks multiplied by the amount of books you sell. That’s how you work out how much money you get, by looking at it in holistic terms, not by what you get for one book.
And if you can sell a million copies for a buck each, but you choose to sell a hundred copies at 5.99, then you’ve made a bad business decision, and all because of your need for validation to shore up your self-worth. I know, But what if I could sell a million copies at 5.99? You can’t. Get over it.
Charge what you want. If your stories are no good, people will find out, no matter what the price point. You can’t avoid it. And if your stories are good, people will come back and want to read more. Make no mistake though, you are operating in a world where you can’t control what other people do.
It’s a business model, it either works for you or it doesn’t. Not opinions, not value judgements – bottom line. Cold, hard numbers. Is it right thing to do for you as a writer? That’s up to you. However you choose to proceed there will be no guarantees, plenty of risk. Make an informed decision based on common sense, not anxiety.
Failure or success will be based on your choice, nobody else's.
You can watch and learn and make use of new techniques to get your books out there, or you can plough your own furrow. You can experiment. No one can pull the plug and throw you out of the game. Screwed up and made no money on the last book? Do it differently with the next one.
But the one thing you can’t do is change things back to the way they were. Evolution doesn’t work backwards.
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