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Friday, April 08, 2011

Poll Results (and My Thoughts): Do you think the $0.99 ebook will hurt authors?

Another poll down with some very interesting results. Here's what you all had to say:

  • 50% of you said they will hurt authors.
  • 0% of you said maybe.
  • 50% of you said no.
That's a very interesting divide.  People are very sure of themselves.

I'm one of those sure people.  I think the $0.99 ebook will hurt authors, but not because it will hurt publishers.  My problem with the $0.99 ebook is that it limits the ability for authors to make a living off their work and further erodes the potential for midlist authors (however you want to define that category in this new digital age) to fit within that "living writers" group.  Midlist authors have been well served by digital publishing, particularly as it pertains to self-publishing.  Being able to make 70% on a $2.99 book means they make a lot more money than they would with some traditional publishers provided they maintain that "midlist" status.  That's a good thing.  Let the big fellas handle the bestselling authors and let the smaller guys take their work to the digital stream to make a living too.

Maybe the $0.99 ebook will prove beneficial for midlist authors.  I certainly hope so.  Their numbers might go up, they might end up making more money in the long run, and so on.  But if not, what we'll end up with is a new price-point that consumers will demand.  There's nothing wrong with a demand, but part of the reason for keeping ebooks reasonably priced (in both directions) is to set a standard for consumers that is good for everyone else too.  I don't much care for the agency model in terms of its implementation, but it does give publishers more control over their properties.  Amazon's ebook model gives many writers more control over theirs (sort of).  All these models are useful, and need to be played with, manipulated, changed, and so on until we come up with something that is good for everyone.  I don't think the $0.99 ebook is necessarily a good thing for everyone.  It's good for a few, sure.  Amanda Hocking and others are bringing in huge sales and money from using that model.  But they are a minority that will always exist.  The rest will have to contend with increasing their sales by quite a bit to reach the same monetary level as before.

But, again, I could be very wrong.  I hope I'm wrong.  $0.99 ebooks are far more likely to sell than $7 ones.  Let's hope what is happening right now turns out for the best.

What are your extended thoughts on this issue?

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  1. I think the $0.99 ebook price is great for introducing an author's work to reader who've never read their books or even (more likely) heard of them. It isn't a viable long-term strategy, for the exact monetary reason you've stated.

    I'm not expecting all ebooks to retail for 0.99 either. However I wouldn't want to pay the same for an ebook as I do for a paper copy--there's still benefits to hard copies that ebooks don't lend themselves to (an example is loaning). My happy point would be a couple bucks less than the hard copy.

  2. Drey: I absolutely agree and probably should have brought that into my discussion when I wrote this post. As a way to introduce writers to an author, selling earlier books at 99c is probably a very good idea.

    The problem I see is that a lot of people do see it as a viable long-term strategy. If enough people think like that and consumers buy into it, I can't imagine how that will be good for authors.

    And I agree about not wanting to pay the same price as you would for a hard copy. My cap for ebooks is $5-7. I won't pay over that unless I'm getting something other than electronic text. This is why I do like the basic principle behind the agency model, which is supposed to show the price of ebooks depreciate over time. It doesn't always work that way, but the idea is smart. You start it at half the cost of the hardcover, drop it to half the trade, and then half the mass market. I don't think that is a sustainable model, but it's at least a smart way to think about things.

    Thanks for the comment!