Why My eBook isn’t $1.99

Why My Ebook Isn't $1.99

I’ve debated writing about this for awhile. But…well…I’m just going to say it. (Don’t hate me.)

If you don’t know, I write novels and music. I’ve been writing music for quite a bit longer, so I’ve published far more songs than novels. I’m fairly comfortable as a composer. As an author though, even though it’s been two years since I published my first novel, I still feel new to the whole book industry. Crazy industry, btw.

This last year I decided to branch out and try self-publishing with both my music and my latest novel. Self-publishing is really taking off in the world for many reasons:

  • It’s easy
  • It pays higher royalties
  • The author/composer is in control of the content, start to finish

There are also cons to self-publishing. You probably already know these, so I’m not going to delve into them.

Well, I’m going to delve into one.

As I put my latest novel Augustina up on Amazon and B&N, I had this big debate within myself:

What price should I choose for my ebook?

I had a pretty good idea on the paperback price based on the price of my first novel. Plus, CreateSpace had a minimum price I had to charge, so that gave me a good baseline to work from.

But as I researched ebook prices, they seemed to be all over the place. $7.99 to $0.99. Some were FREE (a lot were free), while others were up around $12.99. All for books similar in length.

So…I picked a spot somewhere in between: $2.99. Sounded reasonable. I’d self-published, which for some reason made me feel like the price needed to be lower (even though the work on my part was MUCH higher). But $2.99 it was.

Last week, I finished up some new arrangements of How Great Thou Art, and I went to upload the digital version onto Sheet Music Plus.

As I did, I noticed the minimum price set by Sheet Music Plus is $3.99. They don’t allow me to sell my sheet music for less than that. No discussions. $3.99 is the minimum. That’s fine with me. My songs have been selling well on their site, and I’ve never complained about that price. Four dollars seems fair for a song.

Here’s the thing though.

It takes me a week or two to write a song. Maybe a little more if it’s complicated or has several different parts, like a choral number.

I spent four years working on my novel.

Four.

Years. Not weeks. Not months.

And I’m supposed to sell it for less than my songs? I’m sorry, but I just can’t, people. And honestly, I don’t think other authors should have to either.

*deep breath*

*still don’t kill me*

I didn’t twiddle my thumbs for four years on Augustina. I edited and edited, and had friends read it, and English grammar people read it, and I edited it more. I had a publisher willing to publish it, but for various reasons, I decided to self-publish. I’m glad I did.

I think.

Look, I’m as cheap as the next person. Probably cheaper. I’ve bought plenty of cheap ebooks. I’ve downloaded many FREE ones, too. But looking at the trend happening on Amazon and in the book world in general makes me sick.

What are we doing to authors by cheapening four years of hard work and selling it for $1.99? Are ebooks easier to write than paperbacks? Nope. They take just as much work. 

I don’t mind the occasional sale. In fact, I look forward to it. Books go on sale. Food goes on sale. Even sheet music goes on sale. Just last week I offered some of my sheet music for free.

But to set your base price at $1.99 or $0.99 is just so sad to me! I love books too much to cheapen them like that. And yet, in the ridiculously huge world of 8 million books on Amazon alone, authors are forced to do just that to get ahead (or to get more readers).

My husband likes to tease that I’d make more per hour working at McDonald’s than I do as an author. Sadly, that’s true for most authors. Unlike J K Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, the typical author gets paid pennies per hour.

So…

I’m expanding my wallet. If I can pay $10 for a movie ticket that entertains me for 2 hours, I can pay more than $2 for a book that entertains me for 7-8.

I’m willing to invest more in an author’s time so they won’t quit their pathetic-paying writing job and give me more wonderful stories to immerse myself in.

Are you?

*rant officially over*

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I’m really curious to know what you think on this topic either as a reader or writer (or both).

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Author: Rebecca Belliston @rlbelliston

Hopeless romantic and author of CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND, SADIE and AUGUSTINA. Music nerd and composer of RELIGIOUS and CLASSICAL-STYLE music. I live in Michigan with my husband and five kids.

13 thoughts on “Why My eBook isn’t $1.99”

    1. Thanks! I truly debated writing about this because I think I’m in the minority here. But in my opinion, it’s just because authors don’t feel like they can charge enough for their own works, like they don’t have enough confidence in their story. I don’t know. Like I said. The whole industry is crazy right now. I don’t think anyone knows where it’s headed.

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  1. $2.99 is a fair price for ebooks. I’m willing to go up to $4.99 for an exceptional book by an author I already know and love…but not over that. Paper books are more because of the printing, so I don’t think authors and publishers should go over the $5 mark for ebooks (because that’s just being greedy). There are no printing costs associated to warrant the high price for ebooks. I sometimes feel annoyed about the cost of my story being so cheap…but then I get over it when I want to buy a book. Since I read over 60 books a year, I’m grateful for sales promotions and deals to help me get books by new authors I’m not familiar with, and think $2.99 is a good price that says–“Hey, this isn’t crap. I’m proud of it and it is worth more than a small fries at McDonalds.”

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    1. True on the printing costs and things. I don’t think ebooks should cost the same as a paperback book at all. But…I still go back to the fact that huge book stores are going out of business, publishers are going under, and agents and editors–not to mention authors–are really struggling to make ends meet. To me, that says something’s gotta give. $2.99 sounds great to me as a reader, but it sounds too low to me as a proponent of the book industry. But I don’t know. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I know you read a ton, which is great. And maybe that’s how it all balances out. Low price equals higher sales. Or…that’s the theory. In reality, it’s not happening enough, and I think authors/publishers/agents/editors are getting ripped off. Hmmmm. All of this is really making me think.

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  2. A book price set too low feels cheap. Too high, and you risk pricing yourself out of the competitive market. I feel the same as Charissa does, with one exception–I don’t purchase any e-books unless I have read something already by the author that I enjoyed. If it’s a sale on a book for .99 and I’ve read an excerpt, I’ll buy it. Usually what happens is I’ll read something free (put free as a promo), love the author, then buy more books. $2.99 is my price point. I will only pay $4.99 if it’s one of my favorite authors, and over $4.99 only if it’s one of my top five-or-so favorite authors. In that case, I usually buy it in hardcover.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Rebecca. I think you helped me figure out where my complaint is: not with individual authors because we’re all just trying to get our books out there. Not even with the readers necessarily. But with the competitive market. How did we, as a whole, ever let it drop so low???? It’s crazy. I’ve paid as much as $9.99 for an ebook of my favorite author. At the time that seemed like a lot, but sometimes when I pay $4.99 it feels like too much. And then I think, “Wait, I’ve just been conditioned to get books for dirt cheap.” So…I don’t know what’s right. .

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  3. Yes! It’s all so logical when laid out like this. If only readers could understand it. I recently self-published a scifi anthology and put it up at $1.99. My thought was it’s only 60 pages and although I worked really hard on revisions and edits, they all started as blogfest pieces. I think it’s a fair price, but for the first week it was more expensive than my novel. My publisher has control over that price. It made it hard to market though. I kept wondering what people would think when they saw the discrepancy in price.

    Can we start some kind of movement to regulate pricing? Even if it’s based on number of pages it would be helpful. :)

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    1. Yes! I think that’s a great idea for Amazon to help authors value their own work, especially if they set a minimum price based on page numbers. Wouldn’t that be nice? It’s funny/sad how little I knew and understood about book business until I jumped in, especially on pricing things. My Sadie ebook is over $10 on Amazon, but like you, my publisher set the price on that. But it really threw me when I had to price Augustina. It still does. It’s really hard to make someone put a price on their own work. Most people don’t have the confidence to value it like they should. Thanks for your thoughts!

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  4. If I know I’m going to enjoy the ebook (because I’ve enjoyed the author’s other work), or if I know it will have good information in it (and I need it for research), I’ll pay for it. Even if it’s $9.99. Over $10 and I might still buy it, but I’ll cringe. I’ve spent up to $20 for history ebooks before, even though I really think ebooks shouldn’t be more than $9.99. (Even though Covenant has both of mine listed on Amazon at over $10.)
    On the other hand, for me to take a chance on a new author, it will take someone I trust telling me it will be great, or it needs to be an incredible price ($1.99 or .99). Otherwise, my kindle is loaded up with so many freebies that I always have other choices. I think that’s the trick for authors–getting someone to give your work a try when the market is flooded. If readers aren’t picky, there are plenty of free books to read, so why pay for anything?
    What’s a fair price for an ebook? I don’t know. If I could price my own, I’d put them between $5.99 and $8.99. I’d probably have sales. But I don’t think I’d give them away for free. I hear other authors talk about how many downloads they have when their ebooks are free, but just because people are downloading a book, it doesn’t mean they’re reading it.
    I should probably mention that this is coming from someone who doesn’t have much free time, so I only read (and purchase) a few books a month. (Of course, some of those books are 600 page history books–they take a while to get through.) Things might be different if I was reading ten books a month.

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    1. Yes, you said it better than me. I’m all for temporary markdowns to attract new readers. I think promotions like that are awesome. As long as it’s a markdown. I agree that a fair price would be between $6 and $9. I don’t think anyone will listen to us though. I’m just glad my next trilogy is back with a publisher again so I don’t have to worry about pricing. :) Thanks for your thoughts!

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  5. Yes! I agree the prices are crazy. I’m always surprised to see a book that’s so cheap, whether it’s .99 or 2.99. I know what it’s like to work on a book for years and pour your heart into it. It just seems wrong to sell it for so little. I’ve bought traditionally published e-books for around $12 just because I was excited to read them and didn’t want to wait for them to be available from the library. Self-published authors put just as much work or more into their books. I’m willing to pay more.

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    1. Well said! I wonder if things will change as the book industry continues to struggle. Something’s gotta give, right? It might just be a matter of all these companies like Amazon figuring how to balance appeasing the author and the readers. There’s a balance in there somewhere–or there should be.

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  6. I don’t actually mind pricing an ebook fairly low, since I spent all that work on the manuscript and after I’ve done that I don’t have to spend even a hundredth of the effort on subsequent copies. That said, four to five dollars is reasonable. It’s what a paperback used to cost and it feels good to earn enough for a snack at the convenience store with every purchase. I also like having a book copy that won’t start cracking or get water damage so I don’t mind paying about four to five dollars, or, I would, if I wasn’t a broke author.

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