E-book pricing: Writer Beware™ Blogs!

This whole blog entry may be of interest, but what caught my attention is the discussion of pricing (scroll down the blog).

Writer Beware™ Blogs!

I've priced the e-book editions of A Gift for the Sultan at $4.99 on both Smashwords (for all e-readers: Nook, Kindle, iPad, etc.) and Amazon's Kindle. (The Amazon Kindle price may be higher if you are ordering from outside the United States — that's something I don't control, has to do with Amazon's relations with foreign distributors. The Smashwords price should be constant wherever you are.)

Was that wise? Is it really "competing" against all those e-books offered at $0.99? Or are those cheapo books in an altogether different category for potential buyers? $4.99 feels right; it's accessible to anyone really interested, and those are the people I want to buy it — those who will actually read it.  (The discussion of the difference between readers and buyers is one of the most interesting parts of this "Writer Beware" post.) So far, more people have bought the paperback ($15.70 + shipping from Amazon, or save the shipping if you order it through a bookstore). Now those buyers are almost certainly going to be readers.

I plan soon (as soon as I get it scanned and formatted) to offer my 1988 collection of short stories, Welcome to My Contri, as an e-book at $1.99. That seems pretty cheap for a book reviewed in The New York Times Book Review. But it's not such a throw-away casual purchase as a 99 cent'er.

Your thoughts?


Dirk van Nouhuys said...

I've been thinking about these questions because I am going to "reprint" through Smashwords a book I translated in the past that is available as a used book (the Publishers has folded) for about $7, sometimes more. I have no idea what to charge for it.
There is a story told in beginning marketing classes that goes something like this: Two competing brands of cheap vodka sold at the same price and shared the market evenly. Then one of them raised the price by %50 and advertised itself as "Good enough to serve your friends" without changing the product. It soon was outselling is now cheaper competitor by a healthy margin.
But they were already established brands. And does that matter? And don't we writers feel it is easier to tell our books apart than to tell vodkas apart?
By the way, I'm thinking of revolting against the 99 cents crap and charging $1, or $4 or whatever.

gef said...

Maybe Mike Shatzkin has done an analysis of the effects of different pricing strategies for e-books. He's got the best data of anybody. My impression from discussions on Shelfari, Amazon fora, etc. is that a lot of e-readers are reluctant to spend much more than $5 on an unknown product; that may change if reviews are strong. Also, as argued in the "Writer Beware" blog I cited, people who pay a little more are more likely actually to read the book. So for my book, which already has more than half a dozen good reviews (including one by Dirk), the $4.99 price seems right.