Sunday, August 17, 2014

What Are You Worth?

A point seemingly lost in the whole Amazon/Hachette kerfuffle is that, at its base, it comes down to the price of ebooks.  We all know that most people simply aren't going to pay $14.99 for a download.  There might be a few, very rare exceptions to this - a long anticipated Stephen King novel, or if JK Rowling were to ever write another book set in the Harry Potter universe - but it's not a viable economic prospect to most folks outside of the publishing houses in New York.

That said, writing is still a business, and as such, it has to make money.  Fantasies are great, but I can't feed my family on fantasies, no matter how rich.  That means that we have to be able to make money and adapt to the market.  My new worry is that while we all know that no one in their right mind will pay the outrageous prices traditional houses want to charge, a lot of indie writers are undervaluing their work.

When indie was a new phenomenon, the $0.99 novel was all the rage.  Buyers would gobble them up like candy, secure in the knowledge that if it sucked, they wasted little.  However, the market has moved past this testing phase, and those that price their work at such prices are now likely to be ignored.

Why is that, you might ask?  Well, quite simply, the public has come to associate the $0.99 novel as a trash piece.  Yes, that might be harsh, but most people now believe that any book trying to pawn itself off for $0.99 must have something wrong with it.  It's akin to looking for a house in a certain neighborhood and finding out it's priced about $100,000 below everyone else.  The natural response is to wonder what's wrong with it.

This price point is creeping further north.  It won't reach the stratospheric numbers of $14.99 and higher anytime soon - although the reality of inflation dictates that such things will eventually happen - but it is heading higher.  People are becoming more and more acquainted with the indie market and are starting to believe in its worth.  And with expectations of quality come expectations of price.  An ebook price of between $3.99 and $7.99 is now expected for something that is worth a damn.  Novels priced higher are still viable, but not by much(depending on their price point), and novels priced lower are beginning to be looked at the same way you might look at a steak priced $1 per pound.

None of this is to say you shouldn't take advantage of marketing gimmicks like free giveaways every now and then, or that you shouldn't try to undercut your competition so that readers are drawn more to your work.  However, it does mean that you have to be cognizant of the market and how being too cheap can actually turn readers away.  Yes, it's perverse, but it's also reality, and it should be taken as a sign of success - readers are willing to pay for indie work, and they disdain overly cheap stuff.  Make sure you know what you're worth, for if you don't, then surely no one else will.

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