Book Pricing and Value

Posted: January 9, 2015 by ajbrown in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

Good day Faithful Readers. I would like to take a moment or two to address something that, as a writer, is important to me. Pricing of books. Uh oh. Did I just get a collective groan and roll of the eyes? Hold on. Hold on. Stick with me for a few minutes. The reason I want to talk about book pricing is because it is a hot button for a lot of readers, writers and publishers. The other reason is because of a video I watched back in December of an author who wanted to respond to what I took as a mean-spirited e-mail directed at her. Her response held all of the true emotions I think anyone would go through after reading such an e-mail. However, she doesn’t show any anger, an emotion I thought would have been justified.

The e-mail was a direct result of the Person in Question (PIQ from here on out) having to spend $4.99 on an e-book. Personally, I don’t think that is high, not for a novel and certainly not for one that the PIQ said was quite possibly the best thing that author had ever written. There are two things I really want to touch on about this particular subject based on the video response of the author.

The first is based on a statement in the e-mail:

…While the books are beautifully written, I don’t get why you have to charge so much for your books. It doesn’t take that much to write a book these days or publish it. Everyone is doing it…

I completely disagree with this statement, especially the ‘it doesn’t take much to write a book these days’ portion. And here is why: there is one component to writing a book that every author must have in order to do so. That is time. Without time there is no book. Without taking that time and placing your butt in a chair for hours on end there is no book. Without taking that time and researching the subject matter there is no book. Without taking that time and figuring out which direction to go with the storyline or which characters you really want to develop there is no story. Without taking that time to find an editor and a cover artist and beta readers and proofreaders and then doing all the edits there is no book. Without taking that time to format the book, preview it, reformat it, preview it again, the book is shoddy at best. Without taking that time and doing all the marketing and promotional work people don’t know about the book.

Here’s the thing about time: you never get it back. You never get the time invested into the book back. You never get the time away from your family and friends back. You never get the hours and hours back. I’m a firm believer in time is the greatest asset a person has, and for writers, they just don’t seem to ever have enough of it. There is no hourly wage for writers when it comes to the amount of time they spend writing, editing, and promoting books.

The other thing about that particular statement I disagree with is it doesn’t take a lot to write a book. For authors, it is not just about writing a book, but telling a story. For me, if I write a story and by the end of it, I think it sucks, well guess who never gets to read it: you, the readers. If it sucks, it sucks. That’s the bottom line. If I struggle to write a story, then I know you will struggle to read it, so it stays on my computer and never sees the light of day.

Good writers look at their work as an art form. For them, it is important that the story is pleasing to the mind. Just like a painter or a sculptor wants to wow people with visual beauty, and just like a musician wants the listeners to truly enjoy what they hear, good writers want their words to engage the readers, to be enjoyable to the readers, to be pleasing to the readers.

However, there are those out there who jot down a few words, create a cover and do no edits and throw them online for sale. They, well, they make things more difficult for the ones who put in real time and effort to bring you, the readers, an enjoyable experience. They must be the ones the PIQ refers to when she/he said, ‘everyone is doing it.’

This leads me to the second point, which is also something the PIQ said in his/her e-mail: the PIQ read the book, said it was great and then returned it because the PIQ didn’t feel he/she should have to pay $4.99 for an e-book. Let me see if I got this straight: The PIQ purchased the book. The PIQ read the book. The PIQ then returned the book after coming to the conclusion that the book was the best thing the author had ever written. It sounds to me like the PIQ quite possibly enjoyed the book.

Honestly, and maybe this is just me here, but this strikes me as very close to stealing. He/she read the book and then demanded his/her money back, not because the product wasn’t good, but because she/he felt it was overpriced. Yeah, I know there is such a thing as buyer’s remorse, but this isn’t the case. If the PIQ didn’t like the price of the book, maybe he/she shouldn’t have bought it. You’re not going to go to Barnes and Nobel or Books A Million, buy a book, read it and then take it back. You’re not going to go to a restaurant, order a meal, eat it and then refuse to pay for it, even though it was the best meal you’ve ever eaten. The PIQ essentially received the product for free by returning it.

How is that right? How is that even allowed?

You bought it. You read it. You enjoyed it. You keep it.

Dear Faithful Readers, I would never want you to be dissatisfied with one of my books, but is it fair to get the product, enjoy the product and then not pay for it? If you did that in the restaurant I mentioned above you would be arrested and carted off to jail. How in the world is this allowed?

This bothers me. It doesn’t anger me so much as it saddens me. The reader admittedly enjoyed the book. That’s what I keep going back to. If the PIQ enjoyed it, why would it not be worth the 4.99 price tag?

And another thing: writers don’t make that much money off a sale. So having the book returned, even though it was the best thing the author had ever written…that stings. And it’s wrong. There are no two sides of this coin. Sure, someone out there will play devil’s advocate and argue for the reader, but go back to what the PIQ said, and any argument that can be made would be invalid.

Writers don’t price books high, we price them low. The big publishers, they price books high. But us little guys and gals, we don’t. We price them low for two reasons: 1) We are mostly unknown and want readers to purchase our books and read them. (Though this is the case for many of us, and yes, we want readers, I will not give my books away for free. Free sales are not sales and many folks who get the books for free don’t read them, and even fewer leave reviews about them or tell folks about them.) And, 2) Writers understand the value of both money and time. We try to give you a good value for your hard earned dollar and we try to make sure we don’t waste your time by putting out garbage.

Sure, writing is easy. It’s as simple as putting one word after another. However, forming coherent sentences that make sense, and creating a story out of those coherent sentences is not as easy as some believe. Sure, anyone can write ‘See Spot Run,’ but telling us what Spot looks like, where he is running and why he is running is an entirely different thing…and much harder.

There is a component to everything people spend their money on. It is Value. What may be too high at 4.99 for some, isn’t high enough for others. For a writer, musician, painter, sculptor, singer and so on, we value our work much higher than what we sell it for. But we know, in order to get it into customers’ hands, we have to sell it low.

It’s all in how much you value something. I’m not a fan of porterhouse steaks, so guess what I won’t pay a lot of money for? I do, however, value a good book and will pay a little more for one of those than I would a porterhouse steak.

Let me put it another way: Do you like Starbucks coffee? Or any coffee that you buy from anywhere, for that matter? What does that generally run you? Four dollars? Five? Six? If you like that particular coffee, then there is a good chance you are going to buy it at somewhere between four and six or seven dollars. How long does it take to make that coffee? Two minutes? Four minutes? Let’s just say five minutes. How long does it take to drink that coffee? Ten minutes? Twenty Minutes? Let’s just say it takes forty minutes to drink a cup of coffee that took five minutes to make that you spent five bucks on.

How about a little perspective from a writer’s point of view? I began working on my novel, Cory’s Way, in 2008. It was released on Amazon in December of 2014 for the same amount of money ($4.99) as the young lady’s book who was told in an e-mail that someone returned her book because it was too expensive (even though she enjoyed it and thought it was the best work the writer had ever done, and that it was beautifully written, no less). What took me six years to put out cost the same price as a cup of coffee that takes five minutes to make and forty minutes to drink. A twelve ounce drink is worth $4.99, but an e-book is not? I guess it really is in how and what people value.

Let me say this last thing: If you buy a book and read it, please keep it. It’s only fair and it’s the right thing to do. As a writer, I work hard to offer you the best I can give you. Most of us do. Honestly, and again, this may be me, but when the PIQ returned the book because he/she thought it was too much, though enjoyable and the best thing that writer had ever written, he/she belittled the value of the book to the writer. Yes, I used the word belittled. Some may disagree, but that’s okay. This is how I feel. Let me tell you, the value of that book to that writer is so much more than $4.99, but the sting of having to give that little bit of money back after the book was read and loved…that just hurts…and it’s wrong. There are no two ways about this. It was wrong.

You bought it. You read it. You loved it. You keep it.

Thank you for coming by today, and I hope I didn’t bore you too much with this particular blog. Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another…

 

 

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Comments
  1. Bob Eccles says:

    $4.99 is not expensive at all, but with so much stuff priced in the $.99 range it may seem that aay to some.

    As for using a product, enjoying it, and then not paying for it, that’s a problem I faced in public radio at pledge drive time. Don’t know the answer to that problem.

    I guess some people are just cheap.

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