...and why, in a while, your favorite authors will no longer be writing.
Today I was reading a post in Facebook about readers who were discussing whether a book was worth the price of a cup of coffee. Yes, really. A line caught my eye. I had to read it twice.
"It's particularly distressing to see authors telling their audiences they should never pay more than 99c for a full length novel."
The reaction of the post's readers was understandable: why would an author shoot themselves in the foot like that?
Now, before I continue, let me stress - there is a place for a book price at .99c. Maybe it's for the first weekend when it's released, or maybe when it's the first book in a series, for a limited time.
But that's not the case anymore, is it? I see more and more books out there at this low price. But how?
Ask any author - publishing a book COSTS. Editing, cover design, marketing... If you're a full time writer, you can't afford to price your books like this. So why are there so many? Do these writers not value their own work?
Just this week, I'll admit, I got very depressed about this situation. Already, established writers in my genre are trying to get back into the workforce. Why? Because they can't compete. They spend months crafting a book, getting it professionally edited, paying for a professional-looking cover - and for what? Poor sales because readers want books that cost them next-to-nothing. Are we going to get to the point where authors can no longer afford to write, because their reasonably priced and well written books aren't selling, left on the shelf by the demand for cheap - or free - reads?
Don't get me wrong. There are a LOT of readers out there who will always pay what a book is worth. They are the same readers who realize not all authors can control what price their publisher sets on a book - and they're fine with that, because they know what they're paying for is a good, well written story.
When I read the comments today, it was obvious I'm not the only one who feels strongly about this, In fact, I wanted you all to read them - so here is a wide selection from readers AND authors (who are readers too, don't forget.)
"I have to bite my freaking tongue every single time I see a brand new novel on Amazon for .99. It drives me crazy, and I believe it's going to be the death of this industry."
"Readers are being conditioned to expect low prices. it's the reason so many publishers are going under and why so many writers are flooding back into the workforce."
"I've seen 20 books for .99. No wonder readers think 3.99 for a novel us over priced. Frustrating for those of us who are trying to survive in this business."
"Consumers didn't demand novels for .99. Authors, trying to undercut other authors, gave them novels for .99. In doing so, they've conditioned readers to expect that price point."
"Totally agree that the 99c novels are killing this industry. If it's on sale for a day or so, that's different but the ones that release at 99c? Madness. And although the 99c authors might get lots of visibility, they won't even be earning much on Amazon because of the lower royalty rate on cheaper books. They'd probably earn more if they priced it at 2.99+ and sold less copies, so not only are they feeding into the culture where readers expect to get a novel for 99c, they're also shooting themselves in the foot."
"We were all paying $7.99 for paperbacks back in the 90s when that amount of money was actually worth more, and no one was throwing fits (especially not when a hardcover was $24!). People have gotten so cheap and entitled. smh."
"Something has to give if writers and publishers can't make enough profit because of piracy or readers refusing to pay more than 99c for a novel. If they're not prepared to pay, then they can't expect the same amount of work put into a book, in terms of editing and cover art. (They'd still complain of course) But decent writers and publishers are too proud to put out shoddy books. In the end it becomes not worth the work and expense to publish at all."
"Authors are to blame for this trend. If they value their own time and work they would not devalue their books or ask that others do the same. It has become a double edged sword with the readers gaining everything and the authors losing all."
"There's this unspoken belief that ephemeral materials are not worth the same as physical items. Because books are electronic, customers don't value them; they aren't "real". They don't see the amount of work it's taken to create this "not-real" book."
"When they hold a paperback or hardback in their hands they can SEE that it's work. It weighs half a kilo. Every page has words packed onto it. Suddenly there's no problem paying $10-$20 for it."
"Most of those "authors" telling people not to pay more than .99 for a book are not professional authors. They are those who simply published a book on Amazon and call themselves authors. Professional authors put the time, money, and effort into their craft and it's worth more than .00/ Each professionally written and edited books takes hours/months to produce. It's worth way more than what is being dictated by a certain big outlet to publishers as being a reasonable price. I'm praying that readers will continue to support their favorite authors. It's a struggle. Not many make it and a lot of them quit even though they've got a tremendous talent."
And some suggestions...
"I think there should be more solidarity amongst authors to cross-promote each other's works and help the industry flourish with better works as much as possible. Isn't it how it's supposed to be? More than the price, the story matters which can hook me till the end."
"If more authors would commit to appropriate pricing it would help."
Some valid points are made here, Sure, readers are demanding more and more .99 books - but who gave them the taste for it in the first place? There is blame on both sides.
Where is this going to end? I have no idea, But if changes aren't made, I can tell you now: some of your favorite authors will be disappearing - and it's already happening...