There's been a lot of chatter over the 99 cent eBook debate. (Actually, it could be more aptly described as hysteria rather than chatter...). In case you haven't been plugged into it, here's the high points of the controversy:
1) A handful of authors, mostly ones who have written series, priced their eBooks at 99 cents early in the digital-and-self-published-book game and suddenly became best-selling authors.
2) Publishing houses and some independent authors are upset about this because - and I know this is going to surprise you - you don't really make a lot of money by selling a copy of your book for 99 cents.
3) However, readers really love this pricing model because you get to try out new, unproved authors and their books for little to no remorse-buying risk.
4) BUT IT'S CHANGING EVERYTHING THAT WE KNOW ABOUT PUBLISHING AND BUYING BOOKS! AND IF WE CHANGE EVERYTHING ABOUT THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY, THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT WILL END... OR, EVEN WORSE, PUBLISHING WILL BECOME LIKE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, WHERE PEOPLE NOW ACTUALLY HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE THEIR OWN ALBUMS AND/OR INFORMED CHOICES ABOUT WHAT THEY CHOOSE TO LISTEN TO.
In January, I changed my Holiday Chick eBook pricing from $1.99 to 99 cents and saw an immediate spike in sales (aka, my eBook sales for the month of January was over half the total number of eBooks that I sold in 2011). However, it *was* hard to not to look at the numbers sold and calculate inside my head how many more royalties I would have earned if I would have sold that number for $1.99. I make 34 cents every time I sell an eBook on Amazon. 56 cents if I sell it on Smashwords (which makes it available on the NOOK, iPad, Sony readers, as well as via PDF version and other this-might-be-compatible-with-what-you're-rockin' versions). In laymen terms? Selling 20 books on Kindle will barely get me a seasonal beverage at Starbucks...and it definitely will NOT get YOU a seasonal beverage at Starbucks if you happen to be accompanying me.
But the thing is, I know myself and how I operate as a reader: If I know and love an author, $1.99 is nothing to me when it comes to buying their book. However, if I have no clue who this person is, $1.99 and 99 cents could be the difference between whether I give them a chance and whether I don't. Cheap? Maybe. I also take into account that I value paper copies over digital...and I've also been known to buy an eBook on the cheap, read it, and if I love it, I'll buy the paper version to put in my library. That's two sales for one person, neither of which would have happened if that 99 cent price point hadn't gotten me in the door.
I understand and sympathize with the arguments about value of work. It took me a long feckin' time to write Holiday Chick. It's a big-ass book, and I worked really, really hard on it. I understand where authors are coming from who argue that their price should reflect that value. But the answer to that is: No, it shouldn't, because the reader doesn't give a shit about how long it took or how hard it was for you to write that book, just like how I don't really give a shit about how it long or hard (heh) it was for a production company to make my favorite movie. If you are offering more value in the actual product than other are - such as visuals, photos, or salacious gossip about people I hate, etc - than yeah...your price point could arguably be higher. But then the real question all comes down to this: Do you want to sell your books? Do you want to sell them to a lot of people? Or do you just want to make a lot of money off of any single book that is sold?
I started out wanting to make the most money I rationally could from a single book sold. When you're a first-time author, sometimes you have the mentality of "Let's try to make as much money as we can before people realize we're a hack and run us out of town!" Yet the more I learned and the longer I was in the game, I started to realize an unshakeable rule about the buying and reading of books: People who love books, talk about them. They tell their moms, their buddies, their sisters, their husbands, their kids: I just read this book. I loved it. You should check it out. And the easier you make it for their moms, buddies, sisters, husbands, and kids to pick that book up, the more you're going to sell. And you're going to make it easier by putting your book on accessible, multiple platforms and pricing it at a point that's an absolute no-brainer.
Or just do what you want. I guess I don't really care - this is just what I'm doing, and it's working for me, so.
Talk to you guys some more tomorrow.