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One Art, Please. I Have 99 cents.
no
catvalente
So haikujaguar  posted Novelr's post about 99 cent ebooks. She's in favor. I'm not, but that's going to get obvious. I'll just continue the dialogue here because it's too much to go into on Twitter.

Novelr gathers links about the inevitability of 99-cent e-books. I think they're right on this one. Songs are 99 cents. Why are novels $15? (Please don't tell me that songs don't take as long as novels to write. Some novels are written in a week; some songs take years. It's all art.)

Whoa. Let's back that truck up.

Here's the thing--the argument here is not that novels are somehow higher art than music--no one makes that argument. And a 3 minute song with pro mastering and recording probably takes a lot longer than people think, likely as long as it takes fast writers to create a novel. Not the point--the hours that go into something are not printed on the label.

The point is that the unit value of "song" is not the same as the unit value of "novel." The comparison is more song ==> short story or song ==> chapter, and album ==> novel.

Go on iTunes. Most albums? Are still about $10-$15.

A song is a part of a whole. A novel is a whole. They do not equate. Sure, there are singles, but most people still put out albums, not 14 singles all in a row. It takes three minutes on average to listen to a song. It takes hours, and often days or weeks, to read and enjoy a novel. The entertainment output is enormous. It takes longer to read a novel than to play some video games--and if you want to talk about price gouging, let's break out my XBox, shall we? Now, of course, one listens to songs more than once, and so you might end up with several hours worth of pleasure out of a single song. Many people also read novels more than once, and you can never tell when you click the buy button if this book/song will be one you love forever and read/listen to over and over, or one you get bored with and forget about after a week.

Ultimately, I'm a little tired of people telling me my work isn't worth very much. That we should accept Apple--APPLE--price points without hesitation or consideration, that all units are the same units, all art is the same art. Obviously, sculpture, paintings, murals, and jewelry should also all cost 99 cents each. Actors should only get paid 99 cents per performance. Dancers should only get 99 cents per dance. Architects should get 99 cents per building. Concerts should also charge 99 cents admission. It's all art--the units are all interchangeable, and should all be tied to iTunes pricing.

This is madness, to me.

Because of the 99 cents model on iTunes (and piracy), most musicians who are not the Black Eyed Peas or some such have moved to a donations model to support themselves and continue to make albums. Writers do this too--we all have tip jars, but far fewer people throw in because writing in general gets a bit shat upon as an art form. (And the fact that it takes longer to consume means many people just download a file and never look at it again. Don't think your piracy figures equate to actual readers.) Anyone can do it, obviously. They're all greedy hacks. That's why Amazon users figure ebooks should be free. You're not doing anything special, how dare you ask for money for it? That's like begging.

Do I think ebooks are priced too high? Probably. I think the price should be more like a mass market paperback--which is not 99 cents, you'll notice.

You pay 5.99 for a mocha, dude. Why would you not pay it for a book?

Moreover, why would anyone insist that everyone charge the same for their books, that the "market" settle out to conform to Apple's idea of pricing circa 2001? What that's actually saying is: no one should make more than a little bit of money from writing. It's a hobby, not a job anyone needs to be compensated for. You need that skilled barista to make your fancy mocha, but a writer? Unless the idea is that publishers would still pay advances as they do now, but only charge 99 cents for the ebooks. Which does not compute. Or that publishers should vanish altogether, which point we have already discussed ad nauseam. Of course even at 99 cents, some people will be successful, but that number will be even smaller than it is now.

No one benefits from a field that is bled dry of talent and especially risk-taking talent so that downloads can be brought down to 99 cents. I am not cool with this, and you shouldn't be either. I will happily overpay for every ebook if it means writers get to eat and feed their families. I overpay for shit all the time without making righteous judgments about what it "should" cost in some impossibly ideal world where everyone has insurance and no one is hungry and everything in the entire universe costs 99 cents.

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(Disclaimer: I am neither a professional author nor the owner of an e-reader, so I don’t really have a dog in this hunt, except that if there were a lot of good 99¢ ebooks out there, I would be more likely to drop $140 on a Kindle.)

This strikes me as fundamentally an empirical question rather than a moral question. If 10,000 people would be willing to buy your next ebook for $5.99, but 50,000 would be willing to buy it for $1.99... you may wish the other 40,000 valued your work more highly, but if you ended up with more in your pocket at the end of the day, you’d rather take their money, right?

You could argue that all this discussion about what an ebook “should” cost is influencing consumer judgements about what they are willing to pay, and if it weren’t for the gripers and the techno-utopians, everyone would be paying more. I doubt these people have influence on the market in proportion to the noise that they make, though—and their influence is likely to decline as ebooks continue along the path from geek toy to mainstream consumer product. I mean, there’s been a noisy “free software” movement for quite a few decades, but Microsoft hasn’t gone down the tubes yet.

"This strikes me as fundamentally an empirical question rather than a moral question. If 10,000 people would be willing to buy your next ebook for $5.99, but 50,000 would be willing to buy it for $1.99... you may wish the other 40,000 valued your work more highly, but if you ended up with more in your pocket at the end of the day, you’d rather take their money, right?"

A small point here --

In terms of e-book pricing and royalties, you'd actually still make more money at 10,000/$5.99. That isn't true if the author nets the entire value, of course, but felt like that's worth noting. Amazon only gives the 70% royalty on $2.99 and up.

The meaningful divide here is $0.99 versus $2.99.

Let's say I want to make a thousand dollars from my e-book. I'd then need to sell ~3,330 to make that.

To make a thousand dollars at $2.99, however, I'd need to sell ~483.

Pretty significant difference. The ninety-nine cent price point only works if we're assuming that the dollar confirms I'm going to sell a metric shitload of copies.

Anyway. Just my two cents. Which means you'd need to buy 50,000 of this comment for me to earn a grand. ;)

-- c.

Thanks for your correction.

Anyway, my point is that if you think you can maximize your total profit by selling your ebook for 99¢, do that; if you think you can maximize it by selling it for $2.99, do that; heck, if you think you can maximize your profits by selling it for $50.00, do that. (I suppose one of the advantages of this whole self-published ebook trend is that if you take this route, you can experiment with different price points and get some very rapid feedback on what is more effective.) People who think you’re overpricing your work don’t have to buy it.

Look at Apple: people have been accusing them of pushing overpriced stuff since the days of the first Mac, if not since the days of the Apple ][, and now Apple is worth about 50% more than Microsoft.

I don’t believe in the maxim “greed is good”, but I do believe in “don’t leave money on the table”.

I think people who go out and buy a ton of 99 cent ebooks aren't reading all of them; they're hoarding them. I know I do. I haven't read half of my 99c purchases.

Every book I buy over $3? I read, because it's not an impulse purchase, it's a considered purchase. I bought it because I really wanted to read it, right then.

Also, I don't see any reason why every author should consider the entire reading public to be the target audience. If I can make a decent living selling to people who want to read MY work at a fair price and I don't have to surround myself with bad cover art and poorly edited books as my neighbors on Amazon, why the heck would I want to try and sustain 6 times the amount of sales at 99c?

Finally, I fundamentally object to the 'value' of a book to me as a writer being tied solely to the money. I'm familiar with J. A. Konrath's recent and older pricing experiments. He makes more money off his 2.99 books than his .99 cent ones usually. Loss leaders are okay, but what happens when there are 5 million books priced at 99 cents? There's nowhere to discount from there.

We're in a period of massive ebook adoption, and it may last for a while yet. But I'm not going to price a year of my sweat and blood cheaper than a Frosty to gain readers who don't think books are worth more than fast food. As Zoe Winters said, it's invariably the people who are willing to pay the least who complain the most.

Those aren't the readers I want. It's precisely because I believe art is important and hard to put a monetary value on that it should be valued enough for artists to make a living wage.

I realize that sounds strange, but I am much more willing to give my art away to people who can't afford to pay than I am to discount new work to bargain bin prices. If I can't make a living at 4.99, 5.99, or 6.99 books once I'm well established, then I will find a new freelancing job and write part-time, if my health will allow me to do so. Right now I'm averaging six hours a day of productive time. That's my daily allotment of spoons.

Right now, we don't live in utopian societies that allow us to barter and give at will. I can't opt out of capitalism and expect for someone to pay my health care tab or my rent or to put food on my table.

It's a lot safer, in my mind, to rely on a niche demographic who reads the kind of stories I write who are willing to pay a reasonable sum for them than it is to rely on droves of bargain bin shoppers and early adopters to snatch up cheap books in handfuls month after month, year after year.

Just to clarify: Are you concerned that selling your work cheaply will hurt you financially in the long run even if there is a short-term advatnage, or are you concerned that seeking a mass audience will interfere with your artistic development, or do you just not want to be cheap, period?

Hubby got a new Kindle for Christmas and has been experimenting with it. He's in a phase right now where he's looking at ebooks and reading samples and deciding what to buy and for how much.

He stumbled onto an author whose name I really will not repeat here but who is an aggressive marketer. SOmewhere int his preambles and advertisements etc it says that one of his books is downloaded somewhere every ten seconds (or something like that). He quotes SHITLOADS of five-star reviews for those books. He has at least a dozen of them up, many of them at 99c.

Well, he downloaded a sample of one of the 99c books just to get a sense of the style and substance of this writer.

His reaction? "I wouldn't read this if he GAVE it away. Those five-star reviews must have been written by his mother."

In other words, it isn't the amount, it's the VALUE. Really. Some books are just worth $2 or $3 in ebook format. Some - well - I don't know if he's telling porkies and he really IS selling these things by the metric ton but I don't know that I want the kind of reader who would buy a book which got THAT reaction from my husband (and who would then GO BACK AFTER THAT EXPERIENCE to buy a second book from that same author). Surely at some point what kicks in is the fact that yes, you might have paid less 99c for a novel - but it is A BAD NOVEL. Are there no readers out there who have any discernment at all any more or do we all just write drivel, price it at less than a dollar, and watch the money rolling in?

Okay.

1) Yes. This.

2) That being said: While I don't do ebooks - for a wodge of reasons inclduing everything from "I spend enough time staring at a screen already" to "I don't trust this stuff (yet)" - I would *totally* buy a $0.99 paper book. In hard-back. From the remainder bin.

I've found gems in the remainder bins at big-box book stores that I never would have found at full price. I'm not exactly rolling in dough here, so my book money - when I have it - tends to go to authors I already like or genre-writers on-whom I'm willing to take a chance because they sound like they might be good and I like the genre already.


But I won't, for example, go hunting for undiscovered magical realism in the "Literature" section because chances are I won't find it and it'll be a huge heap of frustration and, even if I do find something, I'm way more hesitant to drop $10-$15 on a total crap-shoot. Yeah, I might get Midnight on the Avenue of Faith (which I found in a remainder bin for $3.00 and decided to try specifically because of the low, low price), which was phenomenal. But I might also get Recipe for Bees - a novel that I sought out on the rec of a friend, only to find boring and depressing and kind of a waste of my time.

And, yeah, the same thing could happen in my genre-of-choice (heaven knows, I'm regretting dropping the hard-cover price for Kushiel's Scion...) but I'm a lot more willing to take that risk when I'm familiar enough with the sandbox to find what I'm likely to want in it. Y'know?

So... I guess my point is: While, yes, I typically like to pay $6-$12 for a paper-back novel and $18-$30 for a hardcover (and heaven knows I'd like to be making a chunk of *my* living doing this, eventually, so)... I'm also more likely to take risks on unknown (to me) authors when I can get a "first one's free" (or, well, the cost of an extra-dry mocha) kind of deal.
E.G.: Idioglossia linked me to an excerpt of your short story in Paper Cities. That freebee was why I bought Palimpsest, and how I became a fangirl. As such, I can see the point of $0.99 books, but I think that expecting authors to make their *living* off the royalties that come from $0.99 books? Bloody ridiculous.

I like the comparison with movies. They're both "full-length" stories, right? So the comparison makes sense.
I think that the whole book/song thing happened because they're both available for download. It doesn't make sense, but I think that's why it happened. (It might also relate to things like fanfic and blogs and newspapers online for free? Or because "book" has always been a tangible thing you can pick up and... a file download? Feels like "nothing" in comparison, even when it's exactly the same content? Maybe?)

I have no idea how temporary/timed book downloads would work, but I think the "netboox" idea (whoever brought that up, uhm) is a good one.


Anyway. Blather-blather.


- Amazon.

Go not to the <lj user="amberite"> for counsel, for zie will say both no and yes

amberite

2011-03-21 08:11 am (UTC)

I think this is one of those things again where the massive divide between the rich and the poor in the US shows its face. There are many people out there who read a book a day, can't afford to *buy* a book a day, and wind up borrowing/librarying (some of them are pirating now, some not) and currently almost the entire model for the book market assumes that richer readers will buy lots of books and poorer readers mostly won't.

A low price point for ebooks - I agree that 99 cents is too low, but let's just say a low price point and leave it at that; say $3 - across the board would have the effect of making them viable impulse purchases for people in an economic category. If the author and publisher get 1/4 as much per book, but 4 times more people are buying books...

...Of course, the problem with this leap of faith is that there's no guarantee that 4 times more people would buy books: or that the transition period wouldn't require a whole new generation to become socialized to the idea. And not all books are made alike: there are books that take the free time of a day to read, and others that take the free time of a week or more.

As usual, not knowing whether people will run north or south if put on the spot is where utopian logic breaks down.

(Utopian thinking, in general = the assumption that other people would react to a situation in the same way as oneself. F'rex, I can say that the availability of more low-ticket ebooks would mean that more of *my* money went to authors directly, because right now so much of my book purchasing is from thrift stores and other secondary sources that authors mostly see precious little of it, but I can't speak for the populace at large. Which means it's not a model I'll stand behind, or rule out, without more evidence.)

My partner is a musician. He sells his music on Bandcamp, where you can pay as little as you want, or as much. He also gives his music away. In the last year, the readership of the blog where he promotes his music, and therefore his downloads and puts music up for free, have tripled.

I would very rarely buy a coffee for that much. I can't buy an ebook in Australia for the price I would pay for that coffee. I can on Amazon, where I can buy books for $1, but if I went onto a (very rare) Australian site that sells ebooks (Borders, for example) ebooks are costing $15.

I think an ebook should be priced for *less* than the mass produced paperback. For one, you don't have the actual cost of producing the book. The Author's take Should Not Change. A paperback book in Australia costs around $16.95 - $25.95. Would I pay that much for an ebook? No.

Book prices in Australia are absolutely absurd, and I'm amazed anyone reads for what it costs--I couldn't afford a single book while I was there.

However, I certainly paid $5-6 for coffee. ;)

Why I Will Cheerfully Buy 99 Cent Ebooks From Unknowns

kinfae

2011-03-21 10:57 am (UTC)

I think that cheaper ebook pricing is important, primarily because it's not like physical books in that you don't know what kind of crap you're purchasing before you do it.

I've made the mistake of purchasing non-publisher Ebooks directly from the author at RealBook prices, and found much to my woe that the quality was way, way down.

An Ebook often means that no one has edited the author. It also often means no publisher wants to publish that book, often for good reason. It is caveat emptor, and I am just not willing to spend 15 dollars to roll those dice. I may not be willing to pay six.

When I pay 6 dollars for a delicious coffee beverage (and I do) I know what I'll be receiving, and I deem it of enough value to purchase. When I buy an ebook directly from the author, I'm putting my hand into the dustbin and hoping I come out with treasure instead of still-wet verbal diarrhea clinging to my hand.

We can talk about "not everyone can write a book", but it's just not true. Everyone /can/ write an ebook. It's just that a lot of them will be crap. And with ebooks, there's really very little way to tell them apart.

Re: Why I Will Cheerfully Buy 99 Cent Ebooks From Unknowns

svrowle

2011-03-22 05:38 am (UTC)

Not trying to be snarky, I swear -- but do you read the free samples first? Besides Amazon, a lot of authors now host up to 50% of a given book online for free on their blogs and websites. I know I've found sizeable samples beyond the Kindle limits on blogs sometimes when I look for reviews of books. :)

The problem with ebooks right now is that they are genuinely worth less than other forms of the same work. Why? Because of DRM and proprietary formats. So right now, I don't buy ebooks, and I won't until they either are a) with the current model, less expensive than the same work in paperback, or b) in a DRM-free format which can be easily moved from device to device.

I'm really hoping the publishers come around to point b rather than sticking with a -- I'd be willing to pay paperback price or maybe somewhere in between paperback and hardcover for an ebook I could keep even after the Kindle has gone the way of the dodo.

I strongly believe that artists should be compensated from their work, but at the same time, I also strongly believe that if I'm going to spend my money on something, it shouldn't be crippled to the point of unusability.

Why is a song necessarily "part of a whole"? There is nothing inherent to a song that makes it less than a complete work of art. The album format is an artifact of how the music industry structured itself over time. Historical classical music composers did not think in terms of albums (though of course many classical pieces are as long as or longer than a modern album).

Just off the top of my head, perhaps audience commitment is a better metric to use. One can listen to a song in the car, on public transportation, or while doing other things. Books require the reader's complete attention. This doesn't make one inherently worth more than the other, but it may be that consumers expect more from something to which they have to devote their full attention, so they'll be willing to pay more for higher quality writing in order to get the most out of that time spent. It sounds like dry economics, but it's worth studying, I think.

Heck, when we go out to eat, we pay more than 99 cents to the person who walks our order 10 feet to the chef and walks our food 10 feet back to us. Heck--even if that's 100 feet, it takes more time than that to write a piece of flash fiction.

The difference? If you don't tip, people frown at you, tell you you're a cheapskate, tell you that the waitress has bills to pay and possibly kids to feed, et cetera ad nauseam.

My point isn't to object to any of that (except perhaps the repeat until boring part). My point is that writers have bills and families too. And not all of them have day jobs.

Heck--of the writers you read who do have day jobs, how many of them are people that you've wished could write more books, faster, so you wouldn't have to wait a year or more for the next one?

I suppose every product and service might have its innate value, but in the end, art is only worth as much (economically) as people are willing to pay for it. Like Dutch tulip bulbs. Which sucks, but, them's the apples.

Luckily, people are willing to pay for books. People who spend 99 cents on a book are less likely to read it. So why do we want them to buy our books anyway? People who value books will continue to buy them, an everyone else can keep stealing them from the Internet and never read them.

Actually, in the 2 1/2 months since I wrote that comment, I've had excellent success with a $0.99 ebook. However, it was nonfiction (about Ubuntu Linux) rather than fiction. So I suspect the dynamic may be different.

Благодарю за блог

gennavur

2011-06-07 04:20 pm (UTC)

И не думала про такое. Расскажу маме, она не поверит!

A song and a book is hardly comparable. How about 99 cents per chapter? That makes more sense and is bound to be much more expensive. A single song may take as long at it takes to write a book (doubt it), but that's about 20% brainpower and 80% details. More mental effort goes into writing a book, and that's that.

Спасибо за инфу

etheldaxikab

2011-07-11 07:44 am (UTC)

Прочитал, конечно, далеко от моей темы. Но, все же, можно с вами сотрудничать. Как вы сами относитесь к доверительному управлению?

Не помню где я уже встречал такую же тему хотя пофиг

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