2 Jun 2011
Any publisher will tell you that setting the right price for your book is critical. When you self-publish, and have completely free rein when it comes to pricing, there's always the temptation to add a little extra. "Great," you think. "I'll get $10 for every book I sell." Except that you end up not selling any.
There's plenty of anecdotal evidence around that setting low prices actually ends up making you more money. If the book sells for, say, $2.99, that's low enough for people to take a punt on it. They'll buy on a whim knowing that, if the book turns out to be rubbish, it's a negligible amount to lose. That's important on the Internet, where things are often bought sight unseen.
Strangely, there are some publishers who are putting out e-books that actually cost more than the print versions. This isn't just wrong, it's stupid. In their defence, you'll hear these publishers wibbling on about the fact that there are still distribution and production costs with e-books, suggesting that these higher prices are forced upon them. They are, of course, lying through their teeth.
It's far more likely that they're raking in as much profit as possible while e-books are still cool and niche (which won't be for much longer). The thought process running through what passes for the corporate mind at these publishers probably goes something like this: "E-book buyers desperately want stuff for their e-readers and tabletty things, so we can charge anything we like because they'll buy it anyway".
That phenomenon does, indeed, pertain in the early days of any new technology. When VHS, CD and DVD were all new, software for them - movies on tape, albums on CD - were very expensive. Once a technology is established and mainstream, however, software prices fall.
E-books are mainstream now. Amazon.com recently announced that e-books outsell hardback and paperback books combined. So the days of the early adopter premium are over.
So what about that excuse regarding production and distribution costs? It's a lie. Yes, there are costs involved in producing an e-book - mostly about the same as producing a print book, unless you're very unskilled and inefficient (which might apply to some publishers). In fact, it's often the same process: producing the e-book can be done alongside the print book, sharing the same material and files. At WebVivant Press, our books are produced in Adobe InDesign, using the same set of files to output a PDF for print and an ePub file for the e-book.
What you don't have with e-books is the cost of paper and printing, which are both expensive.
As for distribution, the costs for e-books (putting them in a database or on a file server) are far, far lower than the warehousing, shipping and pulping involved in distributing and selling print books.
Some publishers will probably carry on with this ridiculous pricing right up to the point they realise just how silly it is - probably at the bankruptcy hearing for the company.
There's a real opportunity with e-books. Because the overheads are much lower (and, if you self-publish, you also cut out the distributor's margin and publisher's expense account) it's possible to price books very low indeed. That not only makes it more likely that people will buy - and enjoy - your book. It might even encourage greater sales of books altogether. And that can't be a bad thing.
As we'll see in the next blog post, however, some e-book publishing services (yes, Amazon, I'm looking at you) don't make life easy when it comes to pricing.