Marchbooks' Blog

January 13, 2010

Pricing eBooks

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 11:37 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Recently, the question of eBook pricing came up in a forum that I follow. It was suggested that the publisher should set one price for all ebook formats. I disagree. This is my response.

I have not done it yet, but my understanding is that a Kindle conversion entails more than just throwing my PDF up on Amazon. Such a file, although it could be read on a Kindle would not allow text flow or change of font sizes, etc.

For me, it is very simple – a new file requires a conversion and that requires effort – some conversions require more effort, some require less. I am currently converting my novels to flipbooks. They are not suited to the ereaders. There is no text flow as with the ereaders. Surely I could, and some publishers do, just import their text and throw their books out there. I’m not willing to do that. Whatever format I choose for my books, I want the end products to look as clean and aesthetically pleasing as I can make them. That takes time and effort.

If I chose to make my PDF book files available on Smarshwords, I would not charge the same as I would for a flipbook that required hours of formatting and design, nor would I charge the same as for a proper Kindle or Nook version that I paid a service to convert for me.

Likewise, I think that the venue’s percentage should be a consideration. It is one of the many things about the publishing industry that I think is outdated. Why should the intellectual property holder be the last one to have a say about the end cost to the consumer? Big companies like Amazon and Wal Mart want to have it all. They want to tell you what % they will take up front (LSI exceptions noted), they want to decide how much of that percentage they pass on to the consumer – something that can change on a monthly basis, and they want to dictate what you sell to other vendors for.

The thingamajig maker who needs widgets does not go to the widget maker and tell them what they will pay for their widgets, nor do they dictate who and what price that company can sell widgets to other companies for. As authors, we are the supplier (the widget makers). As publishers, we are the manufacturers (the thingamajig makers), so why are we at the sales venue’s mercy? I am just saying that the author/publisher should not be at the bottom of the food chain.

In the end, it becomes a question of ‘buyer beware’. At any one time, you will find most books available for a wide range of prices on the internet – most often, none of that is the function of what price the author/publisher has set for their book.

I’ll end this little tirade with a personal example of how business is being done these days. I recently bought carpeting for one of my properties. I requested quotes from two nationally recognized chains. Both reps came out to the condo, took their measurements and gave me their quote. Quality of the carpet was comparable for both companies. The first company quoted me a price of almost $7500 – a price that I knew was grossly inflated, but I did not know how much as it had been over 10 years since I had carpeted this property. A week later, a member of their capture team, supposedly a supervisor, called and we talked at length. At the end of the call, this man offered to do the job for $2600. I declined. (I, personally, will not deal with a company that does business this way). The second company’s rep came out and went through the same machinations before tending his quote of $2945. We talked for a while about installation, padding, furniture moving, etc and ultimately settled on a price of $2600 for the job.

The first company is a thriving, although unethical, business so there is no question in my mind that there are customers falling prey to their blatantly userous tactics. The seller does not always do their due diligence, if they don’t they have no one to blame…Had I ignorantly accepted the $7500 quote I would be outraged, but I would have no recourse and no one to blame but myself.

I am not offering this to suggest that two wrongs make a right. What I am saying is that I am not going to undercut my contributions, significant as they are, to my end product when there is so much blantant gluttony both in and out of the industry. I believe that I can comfortably defend any price discrepancy that I might choose to impose.

I sincerely hope that some day we can see all authors elevated above their current position at the bottom of the food chain. Then, perhaps, more than just the top 5% could actually make a living in this business.

Let me know what you think.



November 30, 2009

Putting A Price On Your Masterpiece

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 5:19 pm
Tags: , ,

I have participated in many discussions about how to set pricing for your book. There is much talk about ‘crunching the numbers’. Certainly that is an important part of setting a price for a new title. Any publisher (unless they are publishing out of purely philanthropic motives) must look at the cost of the book, discounts being offered and expenditures to date, to know what they should charge for their book. At the end of the day, the numbers must work so that there is adequate compensation for your efforts. If not, you have basically embarked on a fool’s errand. I don’t know of many people who can afford to be upside down on their figures, to the point where they are losing money on each sale. However, if you don’t look at the numbers, that is exactly what might happen.

If that were the only factor, pricing calculations would be easy enough. Unfortunately, that is only part of the equation. Once we have an idea what we WANT to get for our book, we need to look at what the market will bear. This is not an easy task. With prices running the gamut from Wal-Mart discounts to small indie stores that can only survive by charging full retail, it is not always easy to get a grip on the quickly changing market.

But, that isn’t even the end of it. Add the unpredictable nature of discounting (will Amazon discount my book or not?), a buyer’s perceived value of what you are offering and economic fluctuations, you have got yourself a herculean task. After all, short of a crystal ball, some of these variables are beyond our grasp. For instance, is the current economic situation helping or hurting the book trade? Will a person think twice, or more, before laying down a twenty dollar bill for a book or will they consider it a sound alternative to a much pricier video game or iPod? How much of a price incentive does a publisher have to offer to get a consumer to take a chance on an unknown author? Not to mention the obvious difficulty a small publisher will encounter while promoting a new author. It is not easy to be price competitive with big names which warrant huge print runs by large publishing houses.

Discounts pose another inscrutable mystery. With similar discounts, we see these differences in pricing between Amazon and Barnes and Noble on our first two titles; The Little Insanity – B & N  —  The Little Insanity – Amazon  and Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow – B & N  —  Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow – Amazon  Go figure. As you can see, Barnes and Noble offered significant discounts where Amazon offers none. There is no way of predicting how a vendor will, or if they will apply discounts to your title.

Is it an impossible task? Difficult, but not impossible. As with most things, you have to do your homework. Crunch your numbers, check your competition and get as much feedback as you can from your intended readership. If you can overcome a reader’s reluctance to open their wallet for a new author, I personally do not believe that a dollar or two difference will make or break the deal.

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