09 September, 2011

Price Points

Since I've sort of lumbered into the self-publishing arena with the short stories (again, they're still available for FREE at http://tambowrites.blogspot.com/p/downloads.html) and listed them all for 99¢ at online retailers, I've noticed a few things.

Online sales - not the freebies. Btw, I do not track the freebies in ANY WAY, there are no counters at all and I don't even pay attention to how many people visit my blog or any page on it - show that FIRE sells about four copies for any single copy of the others. ENDORPHINS sells better than SID (more than twice as many). While I understand how fans are more likely to buy the story featuring Lars Hargrove, and 4:1 sounds like a reasonable ratio, I assumed the other two would sell at about the same rate. Nope. The lighter story of Edyth and her chomping quest for happy weight loss totally trumps the gruesome price of Theo facing his writer's block.


Is this due to the covers? The 'free sample' pages? The concept? Do readers care more about fat farms than writer angst? I dunno. But I find it very interesting. While I do write primarily to please myself and keep my own 'Sid' quiet and well fed, I also want to keep the fans happy. So I wonder.

I also wonder, especially after reading Chuck Wendig's essay on pricing ebooks at 99¢, if the perceived value of 99¢ or free is working against me and the stories. None have received any reviews anywhere that I have seen - despite dozens and dozens of paid downloads (and I can only assume even more free ones). Are they great? Are they crappy? Are they - most likely - somewhere between? Is there a stigma associated with reading, or reviewing, or, hell, enjoying, a super-cheap story? All things to ponder as I contemplate another Dubric short and the future completion of Stain of Corruption.

I'd like to try an experiment, but I'd also like some input beforehand. So, how do you all value free and cheap ebooks? Would they be more desirable if they were a bit more expensive - say $1.49 - $1.99 for short stories, more for novel length? Are you more inclined to read or review something you paid for vs something you picked up for free? If an author has a selection of super-cheap ebooks, does that make you more or less inclined to purchase their traditionally published works? Does the fact that I send all of my ebook royalties to charity make any difference at all? (John Hopkins Burn Unit is the fall recipient, btw.) Do you have any other comments or concerns as an ebook buyer?

How about I turn this into a contest? Anyone who leaves a comment answering questions about ebooks in general - or mine in particular - on the blog or facebook will be entered into a drawing to receive one of my table-topper quilts. I actually have four here ready to go. One's black, white and red, one's kinda purple, teal, and green, one's Christmas, and the other is neutrals and browns. So note a color scheme with your comments and I'll leave the contest open until Saturday September 17, at midnight.

Thanks for your help!!  {{huggs}}


Jean said...

Covers are important in the following respects: 1) Unless I know I'm looking for an out of print book from decades ago, a blank or generic cover is a turnoff. 2)Some small independent publishers and some individuals are using the same cover for everything they publish -- that's a non-starter. 3) An attractive, creative, professional looking cover will help.

I DO read free e-books. I prowl Amazon's free e-book listing for books of potential interest. I think the only books I buy for nook and iBooks are free books.

As for 99cents? If it's a shorter work, make sure it clearly states it. I'm not all that thrilled to download what I think is a full work only to find out it's an excerpt or a short story or novella. From some reviews, I've noticed that ticks off other people, too (but at least they'll complain in the review and I'll find out before I download).

I don't typically review a book unless I've received the book as part of Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program (that's the condition for receiving the book for free).

These comments are how I view books in general -- not necessarily your books. Sadly, even if the price is great, if I don't already have an arrangement with a source, I am unlikely to create one for a 99cent or free book. Meaning, I've passed on great book prices because I couldn't get them at Amazon, iBooks, or B&N. On the other hand, plenty of people have established accounts with Smashwords and other small presses, so they will pick up great books (it's bad enough those three have my credit card on file -- I don't want to spread the info any further).

Anonymous said...

I am more old school and have avoided e-books for a few reasons. I loved the smell and feel of a real book. I love to read in the pool or a hot bath. I spend 8 hours a day in front of a computer so I do not find it relaxing to read e-books. And I am not very experienced in downloading things.

That said I realize I am missing out on some great novels and stories that are only available as e-books.

As I am forced to embrace this new format I will be looking for free e-books to begin with. I normally read my favorite novels several times. I enjoy revisiting these beloved characters. But I don't see myself doing this with e-books. So I do not want to invest in an e-book I may only read once.


Kat BM said...

I have only bought ebooks that are 3.99 or less. I am "new" to digital readers (as I got my cell phone just in the last 2 months) and I'm getting confy with it. But it bugs me to pay full price or near full price. When I buy a book I can read it and lend it out, can't really do that from my iphone. and there is something very satifisfing about reading paper books.

Out of curisoity I checked out the info on your short stories on itunes. Maybe if you punch up the short story discription? Unless I knew you as an author, I don't think I'ld buy them even at .99 from that 1 sentence discription. The art for the 2 non lar's stories are not something that catches my eye. ( the lars cover is much more engaging)

I'm not really a short story reader, I like novels, and serials.

I will say that I've bought 5 books from this 1 author now, because the first book was free. I read the free book and loved it, so I bought the rest( only available on line ) and they were only 2.99 to 3.99. At the end of the free book ( and every other one) had a link to her website, and a 10-15 page preview of one of the other books... very smart..

I've been tempted to buy a few other books by favorite authors online, but they are either the same price as the paper version or just a buck or 2 off. I realize that publishers spend alot of dough on promotions etc, but they are not out the cost of printing and paper.. surely they could past on at least some of that savings to the consumer, probably increasing sales and there for the bottom line. I think ebooks should be 25-50% cheaper to tempt me to buy online on a regular basis.
When shopping on amazon I've actually seen books that were *more* expensive in the digital formats, because amazon discounts books already!

Joely Sue Burkhart said...

I'm all over the place as far as prices. I definitely have a problem paying more than around $5.99 for an ebook unless it's a full-length meaty fantasy or something. But I don't really want a full-length for .99 either, unless it's the first in a series or something. .99-2.99 is a great range for me as a buyer.

It's so hard to judge how a book will sell. Great covers certainly help, but I've seen books with great covers that don't sell that well either. It's a mystery to me why one book will sell 3-5 times more each month, even more than a year after release! While other books I think will sell like gangbusters are instead more like molasses in January.

Mikaela said...

Yes, I look at prices and length when I shop for e-books. A short story or novelette priced at 2.99? Uhm. No thank you. Oh, and the cover must look nice, since I hate covers that look like they have taken a stockphoto and just slapped the title and authors name on it. I think part of the reason is that I start wonder what else they have skimped on....