The other night, I managed to get into a debate over the same thing twice - the price of ebooks!
In the early indie days, the $0.99 price tag was a jumping point for several now indie publishing rock stars, most of which have now signed up with one of the New York big boy publishing houses. But while they've all jumped off the indie bandwagon, they've left the rest of us floundering around in a market place saturated with low price (and often low quality) indie books. That in itself is fine - everyone has an equal right to publish in this day and age - but the affect it has had on the readers is more important. Readers now expect to pay no more than a couple of dollars for an indie novel, yet will happily compare that indie novel to one of the New York published novels which would set them back $10 and more!
I read a post on Amanda Hocking's blog that one of the reasons she took a big publishing contract was because she knew, however hard she worked, the editing would never be good enough unless she had someone who was at the top of their game working on her books. I can understand this thinking, especially when readers pick up an indie book and read it expecting the same sort of editing that the book would have received if published by a big house.
I am a big believer (now) that a book shouldn't be published unless it's been edited professionally. An author should try to save every penny to pay for the editing. However, I didn't always have this opinion. When I first got on the indie train I thought just having another author edit my work would be perfectly fine. It wasn't.
So what is the right price to charge for an ebook? Let's look at the costs. (The following are an approximation and obviously do vary!)
Editing - $300 - $500
Proofreading $75- $150
Cover design $120
Isbns $30 (for two - one for ebook, another for paperback)
Paperback upload (Lightning Source) - $60
Advertising/email subs/website/hootsuite etc. (optional, but neccessary!) $100 per month approx.
Before the book is even published an author is looking at an outlay of up to $760, and then another $100 a month going forward. If an author prices their book at $0.99, they would need to sell well over 2000 copies just to break even. In the indie world, with so much competition, most indie authors don't even earn $500 a month!
So what is the right price for an indie novel and did those early pricing strategies set the rest of us up for failure?
Yes, and no. Unfortunately pricing is still the biggest tool indies have against the mighty power of the big six. I price my novels at $4.99, but I don't think I would put them much higher, even though traditionally published indie books charge more. Is this because I think my books are worth less? In a word, yes, I do. I'm not saying that my story or writing is worth less, but I'm not dividing my profit between a number of people. Once my costs have been paid off, the profit goes in my pocket, unlike a traditional publisher who have on-going costs including paying staff and royalties to the author.
So do I think $0.99 is too low a price for a novel? Yes, definitely. $0.99 should be a price reserved for short stories. I even think $2.99 is too little, but I can understand authors using that pricing in the hope people might try out the novel of an author they've never heard of.
Pricing will continue to be an issue, with some readers steering clear of low priced ebooks because they automatically think the books will be poor quality, and some readers even refusing to pay for an ebook because there are so many free ones out there. (This actually happened to me - someone read one of my books, loved it, and then actually laughed at the idea of paying for another one... like authors don't deserve to be paid for their work, unlike any other industry out there!).
What do you think is a reasonable price for an ebook? If you're a reader, do you tend to try out the cheaper books, or try to steer clear?