Another pricing post – yeah, I know

I’m a little tired of them, too. But it’s still a big question. I was reading Nathan Bransford’s blog this morning and he has a poll asking people what they think an ebook should cost. Well, here’s my greedy, whorish, completely money-grubbing response to that question.

An ebook should cost whatever makes the author and publisher the most money. If that means $2.99 maximizes sales without costing profit, then it should cost $2.99. If that means $4.99, then it should cost $4.99. If the most beneficial sales quantity v. revenue per sale price point is $14.99, then a book should cost $14.99. I personally feel like about $5-7 is about right for most ebooks. But that’s my opinion, and means nothing to anyone but me.

But here’s my suggestion to the big publishing houses for a pricing schedule that I think would make most people, if not happy, then at least less whiny than they are now.I have a theory that there should be a sliding scale for ebook prices (and I’m totally stealing this from someone, but I can’t remember who, so forgive me) based on release date. Since it is a lot quicker to get ebooks into stores than hard copies, let’s look at a release calendar like this.

We shall assume a Hardcover release, and a hardcover price of $25.

$30 – 1st Tier – Pre-Release – Sneak Peek – Exclusive Subscriber Release – Whatever you want to call it – This is for the TRUE FANS of an author, the people who stand in line on release day and pay full retail for a book. They pay a premium to be the early adopters, and will happily pay a few bucks extra to know what happens before anyone else.This comes out 1-2 weeks before the hardcover release. Early, but not so early that all the spoilers are out to wreck the HC release.

$20 – 2nd Tier – Timed to coincide with the Hardcover release date. This price is 20% off the HC price, and is for the people who are hungry for the release, but not quite as hungry as the top 1% of fans.This price also won’t hold for long, just for the first few weeks of a book’s life when the biggest marketing push is in effect.

$9.99 – 3rd Tier – As soon as the HC gets remaindered, about 90 days after release. This is where the bulk of sales will land for ebooks, because it’s a significant dip from the HC price, and the mass market paperback isn’t out yet. There may be a $12-15 price in between these Tiers if there is a trade paperback release.

$6.99 – Or whatever matches the Paperback price. This coincides with the paperback release, and matches the paperback price for the first few weeks/months of a paperback release.

$4.99 – Whenever the paperbacks get shipped back to the publisher. Once the bulk of the books are stripped and returned, then the bookstore price is dead for the most part, so make what you can.

$2.99-$3.99 – One year after release, or when the next book in a series comes out. This will feed the series and help the next title.

This is just what I think people might want to look at doing, and just for big releases that are going to get a HC run. If you’re not going to get a HC run, then drop a $10-12 pre-release book a couple weeks before the paperback release, drop the price to match the paperback once it hits, then follow the latter steps. Or don’t.

This is just an idea that big publishers could utilize to mitigate reader angst at ebooks being priced higher than paperbacks, or whatever angst they have about pricing this week. At the end of the day, pricing is a moving target that we’re all playing with – self-pubbed authors, big publishing, Amazon, everyone is still figuring it out. Eventually it’ll all get worked out, but not this week.

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3 thoughts on “Another pricing post – yeah, I know

  1. I see you noticed that some e-books are priced higher than the paper version. When you couple the fact there is a DRM and license instead of a physically owned product carrying more rights, it looks obscene.

    Business plans come and go. You can still buy a buggy whip but it isn’t enjoying the volume it once was. The cost for one is substantially more as a result.

    Books are grossly overpriced. The old saw was they had to do that to support great books that weren’t going to garner NYT numbers. But, when you look at college textbooks, that seems specious.

    Copyrights, due to lobbying pressure, has gone from the original 7 years when the country was founded to 100 years. And fair use has been damaged beyond understanding.

    I don’t know what the price of a book should be. But I do know there isn’t a DRM out there that isn’t cracked; torrents abound; legal checkout sites do too even while the publisher’s try to cripple them. When a person’s view is that something is unfair/overpriced, they consider alternatives more.

    One of the best selling e-book authors (Amazon), sells $4 or less. He’s outdoing some published authors who, I understand, make about a buck a book. And, his products will never go out of print which turns revenue to zip. He no longer has an agent or the need to deal with the publisher and is loving it.

    I think what you are really talking about is an author’s version of seller’s remorse. You price it; it sells; you think you might have gotten more. Maybe. This time hindsight isn’t 20:20. Suck it up and live with it. :)-

  2. Ken –

    I hate DRM with a passion, both as a publisher and as an end user. I don’t DRM any of my books, because it’s ineffective and only punishes the law-abiding consumer. The pricing question is one that’s widespread and has a lot of moving parts, and we’re all trying to figure things out.

    Thanks, pal!

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