American Idol And The Pricing E-Books Debate …by Susan Lute

American Idol is over. A new idol has been chosen, and this year more than any other, it was hard to pick a favorite. Jessica and Phillip are powerhouse talents. Both will go far. Will I rush out to buy Phillip’s first CD. You bet ‘ya. In line already.

No one can predict why a singing artist, or author sells. Many make their living trying to do just that – Simon Cowell (who seems to have a natural gift for finding talent), American Idol, and the Legacy Publishers. “Nobody has gotten rich from guessing what the American public will buy.” (a line, or close enough, from Working Girl, I think).

In my travels this week, I saw a great post at The Ruby-Slipper Sisterhood about pricing e-books. This debate is raging on all the indie author blogs I visit, and I must say, I lean toward Tomas DePrima’s take, though I can certainly see the value of lowering the price of the first book in a series to spur sales. Free? I’m not sure. Writing a novel is damn hard work.

So I want to do a survey. What kind of e-book buyer are you? Do you get only free or $.99 e-books? Is there a cap at what you would pay? Will you read ANY book that’s $.99? Or does it depend on who the author is? Will you read any book, $.99 – $5.99, by your favorite author, or one you’ve enjoyed reading before? How ‘picky’, and I don’t mean that rudely, but in a non-scientific survey kind of way, are you about the books you read. I know many of you check out content before you buy. Does the ‘free’ or $.99 purchase make that line in the sand a little more vague when making a decision to try a book or new author?

When do you become a fan? I’m curious.

For me, I don’t clutter my Kindle with a lot of titles I haven’t read, like I do my print to-be-read pile, which really is ranging in the 150 – 200 area. I’ve been collecting those books for years, thinking I’ll read them, but then along comes another one I must read first. I’m not one of those who will pick up an e-book just because it’s free. Mostly I need a relationship of some sort with the author. Either I follow their blog, like Joe Konrath (I read The List, and loved it! If there’s a sequel – and there might be, I’ll have to look into that – I’d read it in a heartbeat, even though he’s not my usual reading fare). Or I personally know the author. Many of my friends (and acquaintances from a variety of writing communities) self-publish. I just finished Marie Force’s Hoping For Love (Book 5 in The McCarthys of Gansett Island series), and Diana Duncan’s Devil May Care (Devilish Devlins series), and I can tell you quite honestly, I can’t wait for the next books in these series. And I will pay whatever the author wants.

I guess my question still is, what makes you a lifetime reader and fan of an author’s work? I know story is part of the answer, but what’s the rest? Will you pay the price for it?

And with that last question, in total blatant self-promotion, The Return of Benjamin Quincy is going on tour at the same time as Phillip Phillips and the rest of the top twelve American Idols. You can get information on that – Ben Q, not the American Idols tour <g> – at my website. The tour starts June 4th. Hope to see you there. And good reading this week. I’m turning my sights to something non-fiction.


About Susan

Author, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, dreamer.

Posted on June 3, 2012, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Not Amanda H, Gina. I can’t remember her name,but first book. Self-published. On the USA Today list. $.99.


  2. Great question and discussions!

    When I first got my Nook, I downloaded lots of free books or 99 cent offerings–maybe 30 or 40. What I learned is that there was a mix of good and bad, but it seemed the bad were the majority. Also, there were a number of books I downloaded I thought were novels and ended up to be short stories. Not that I mind a short story, but I get mad if I expected to get a novel.

    Now, I don’t ever download 99 cent or free books unless it’s an author I know or one that has been recommended. Even though its inexpensive, my time is worth a lot more than 99 cents and when I spend an hour trying to get into a book that is just bad writing, It’s cost me closer to $50 for that time. Definitely not worth it!

    As for overall pricing. Maybe it’s my age showing, but in my mind mass market paperbacks were in the $4.99-$6.99 range for a long time. I know it’s closer to $8 now but I haven’t bought a mass market paperback for at least two years. So, I equate the $4.99-$6.99 range as a fair price for my Nook books that are full-length novels.

    However, I don’t have a problem paying $9-$10 for a book when it’s warranted. I’ve noticed that a lot of YA from traditional publishers are in the upper ranges on initial release. Are teens willing to pay more than the rest of us?

    Outside of YA, I’m willing to pay $8-$10 for a book from an author I LOVE or if I’m excited about a series I’ve been reading and just can’t wait to read the next book. Notice the word LOVE there. Usually, books that start in that price range come down within six months to a year. So, if I can wait or I know I won’t get to it immediately, then I’ll put it on a “think about it” list to check in six months or more.

    Sweet Spot? The sweet spot for me is if I spent three to four hours of my life reading the book, it needs to be good enough that when I come to the end I don’t begrudge having spent the time.


  3. This has been an interesting discussion. I didn’t start reading romances until the early 2000’s. How I choose books in the beginning was by reading anthologies. If you could hold my interest for 40 pages, I might give you a shot at a longer book. Now, it is still difficult for me to choose a new author. With an ebook the blurb and the excerpt plays an important part in whether or not I purchase a book. But in the past couple of years with the advent of self-publishing I pay close attention to length of the story verses price. I do want to know what I am getting for my money


    • Nancy, It’s interesting to me (in a good way, lol) that you equate length with $ value. I love this discussion, because hearing from readers is a lot different than what authors and publishing professionals are saying. I’m also thinking of the author – I’m sorry I can’t remember her name – who sold 400K of her first novel, and self published book – at $.99.


  4. Almost every author I collect, I have first read free or cheap – library, friend, free ebook, whatever. Once I’m hooked, like any other addiction, I’ll pay more. How much depends on the budget, which is low. There are a lot of us low-income readers out here and we need books too! OTOH, if the books become repetitive I drop the series entirely. My To-Read list, on and off kindle, is just too big for my spare time.
    Writing is hard work. I think e-books should be priced so the author gets whatever the author would have gotten on a physical book. Which should come in less than the physical book as there are no materials or printing to pay for.


    • Jane, I’m so glad you stopped by. I appreciate your insight. I have a dear friend who is a voracious reader. She will read a book a day, and if she had a reader she would want her books to be priced less than $2.99.


  5. I’ll pay the price for authors whose work I’m totally compelled by. I read one of Amanda Kyle Williams’ books last year, for example, and loved it so much, I’ll read her next books regardless of the cost. I don’t even finish books I’m offset by anymore, unless I have some odd urge to learn how it pans out. (That’s happened, too. ;)) This is one reason those free samples of e-books are valuable.


    • August, I love finding an author I haven’t read before. And I will stay with them a long time. I don’t read the free samples, not because I’m opposed, but because there’s not enough time in my day 🙂


  6. Gina Fluharty

    I got Heather Hiestand’s novella for free during a promo and she is someone I will pay for going forward. Alexandra Sokolov offered up “The Harrowing” for free and I won’t download her again. George RR Martin, Kresley Cole and Elizabeth Hoyt I will pay over $10 for their new releases on my Kindle because I want them NOW and don’t want to wait. Not every author is granted that, however. I will pay up to $7.99 for authors I love if I don’t want to drive to the mall to pick up their paperback. And I have considered buying physical books even though I have them on my Kindle. Steven Tyler’s autobiography is the one that tempts me the most to do this. As for what makes me a fan: story. A well-written story that makes me laugh, scares me, excites me or makes me want to jump the Mr. The free and .99 lure has the potential to get me to love you, which means I may pay for you later. And it seems that how much I will pay is determined by how much I love you. I think I’m skewing your curve. Sorry!


    • I want to read Steven Tyler’s biography 😀 Gina, I think you and Jane are in total agreement. I love finding out the ‘professional’ supposition is wrong. It seems the free and $.99 books have a lot of value to the reader. Interesting. And kind of makes sense, though I’ve been hearing lately that free downloads have been dropping off.


      • When I first found the Facebook page that publishes links to free books on Amazon, they posted them one at a time and I downloaded ones that sounded interesting. Now they post that there are some, you go to their page and hunt them down, and I just haven’t got time so I don’t. That and I have a bunch of them still waiting to be read. Probably there are others like me, which could explain free downloads dropping off.


  7. Su, you totally should post results later – this is a good survey. For me, while I don’t limit myself to free or .99 books, I will gravitate toward them for the main reason that trying new authors at these prices are low risk. In other words, I feel less upset that I’ve wasted money on a book, e or otherwise, if it’s cheaper. And I will pick up a new to me author just to try them out if the cost is free. I have a fair number of free and .99 books on my Kindle. I’ve started all of them. Some, I just haven’t been able to read and the reason ranges from story to quality of writing. However, there have been a couple of gems in the bunch that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. For them, I’ll pay more for their next book. That’s the value in free and .99. To get readers like me who aren’t constrained by cost and if I like you, I’ll pay for more you other books. For known names, there are less than 5 I will pay full price for – Jim Butcher’s Dresden series, Darynda Jones and I just paid $7.99 for the digital copy of Katherine Allred who I just discovered (via paperback) and love her.

    Overall, paying more than $4.99 for a ebook is a problem for something I don’t “own”. I will do it, rarely, and when I make that choice, I’m okay with it but overall, I’m just not going to pay those high prices for a book that isn’t mine. I read a lot – not all authors, in fact, most, don’t make an autobuy. I just like to read widely across genres and lower ebook prices allow me to do that without risk.


    • Cassiel, a good idea about posting the results. I will. Already my idea of pricing e-books is changing. This is of course, unofficial, and a small sampling, but wow. Interesting.


  8. Great questions, Su! No, I don’t limit myself to free or 99cent ebooks. In fact, I’m not sure I ever bought a 99cent ebook, but I may have bought a 99 cent novella. I’m relatively new to ebooks – had a no-name reader that could only buy from the Kobo Bookstore and was very klunky and hard to use. Now I have a Kindle Fire and love it, and I’m buying more ebooks.

    When the price goes above 9.99, I balk – although I will buy a friend’s debut book at a higher price to be supportive. A GOOD friend’s!

    I believe the 2.99 to 4.99 price-range is the ‘sweet spot’ at this time.


    • I agree, Sarah. 2.99, but I’d say to 5.99. I’d pay that for a book I want. I LOVE my Fire, too! That sounds like a title to a song, doesn’t it, lol?


Thanks for your comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: