A Year in the Life: Week 10

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Apparently we will also begin Week 10 by forgetting to post, to the degree that I looked at the calendar last week, thought, “It must be my turn to post on Thursday,” then counted the dates up wrong and concluded incorrectly that no, this week was mine. And then I looked again today and was like “…crap.”

So. Ahem. *clears throat* Today I will post Week 10, and next week I will post Week 11, and after that I should be back on track. O.O

Today’s topics include Whining: A Writer’s Right and Pricing: the Sticky Subject of E-Book Costs!

Writing: Very slow writing month. Working on the proposal for Walker Papers #9, which is going less well than I wish. I have, in fact, messed it up. I know exactly how and I know how to fix it, but it means cutting a few thousand words and, whine, I don’t wanna. I will, of course, probably sooner rather than later, because 1. I have now confessed my whinyness in public and will need to redeem myself, and 2. they will pay me when I turn an acceptable proposal in, so it behooves me to get it done.

(Muse, my lily white…aunt. You want inspiration, go look at the mortgage, that’ll inspire you. :p)

Work That Isn’t Writing: Lots and lots of discussion and questions about e-book pricing, what with the Old Races collections coming out soon (the first is out next Friday! Squee!), so I ended up writing a long piece about e-book pricing and I’m still loving the conversations coming out of it, so I’m going to ask you guys to chime in too:

Getting ready to release the Old Races short stories has got me thinking hard about e-book pricing, so I’m going to talk about it a lot now. πŸ™‚

First off, where I’m coming from: Amazon, B&N and possibly Smashwords don’t kick in their 70% royalty rate until $2.99, so from where I’m sitting except for an occasional Special Offer, anything below that price seems like wasting my time (because I can’t really imagine selling SO MANY copies of something at $.99 or $1.99 to make up for the loss, though who knows, maybe I’m totally wrong about that).

To my mind, at $2.99 a reader deserves at least a SFWA-standard “novelette”‘s worth of words–around 17.5K. That’s 5 or so 3-5K short stories, or one longer-but-not-novella-length story. We’re talking about, say, 30-50 pages of story.

Novellas, which range from 17.5-40K by SFWA standards–well, we priced “Easy Pickings” at $2.99, but in retrospect I think maybe something in that range ought to be $3.99, perhaps. That would be somewhere in the 50-150 pages of story length.

Novels, by SFWA standards, are 40K+ (150+ pages, more or less). This is where it starts to get hairy for me, because does one price a short novel, say, NO DOMINION, which is 60K, at the same rate one prices a 150K novel? My inclination is no. And this is difficult to determine because in the print world, 60K novels are scarce on the ground except in category romance, where they in fact cost around $5.

So okay. Say I price NO DOMINION at $4.99, which I think is a pretty fair price. Then let’s say I write THE REGENT’S FOOL, which would have been book 3 of the Inheritors’ Cycle. If it stayed in line with the other two Inheritors’ books, it would be 150-170K, which is more than twice the length of NO DOMINION. If you were to get a mass market paperback of that, it would cost either $7.99 or $8.99. So would I (theoretically) price that at $7.99, and a middle-length novel like a Walker Papers, which ranges from 100-115K, at $6.99?

Well, no, actually, I probably wouldn’t. I’d probably set them at $5.99 and $6.99, although in my opinion we’re getting into a hazy grey area here, because while I can hear you protesting that e-books cost less to produce, and that’s true because there’s no physical book to print, the flip side is that the book still requires the same *work* that the printed edition costs. And those are things like this:

– me to write the book
– someone to edit the book
– cover art
– book design
– marketing

With the exception of marketing (which I haven’t properly figured out yet), those same costs are much inherent in any e-book I’d put out, except it’s my own money paying for cover art, editing and possibly book design, rather than my publisher’s money. This is probably in itself reason enough to argue for a further markup of the price to match publishing house prices, but OTOH, the publishing house is also printing books, which costs (as far as I can tell from the invoices I’ve gotten on my own author copies of books over the years) about 20% of the cover price. So okay, for a 100K+ novel I set the price a dollar below what a mass market would cost, and that more or less covers the “bargain rate because there’s no print edition” percentage of the cost.

I suppose the point of all this is that figuring out the e-pricing is tricky, and that I’m actively interested in how writers are approaching it and what readers think is fair. So talk to me! πŸ™‚

Self-publishing efforts:

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5 comments to A Year in the Life: Week 10

  • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with whining, if done sparingly and applied right. For me, the act of complaining (hopefully privately or at least semi-privately) often helps me realize what needs to be done.

    And I think your e-book prices sound *very* reasonable.

  • lillian

    We recently bought and sold a house. Crazy, in this market. Our realtor kept telling us, “Your house is worth what someone’s willing to pay for it.” Not what WE paid, not adding what the cost of renovations were that WE performed. Those calculations were acceptable in pricing a house ten years ago, but not now. I think the same “mantra” is true for ebooks- because the consumer “feels” they should not be as expensive as a physical paper entity, that is what drives the pricing. I personally agree with Catie’s schematics of the work involved to produce the book, but in the end it is the consumer who decides. Another issue is that no matter how long the book is, it feels the same in the consumers hands in ebook format. So I think that is why the breakdown of price by length loosely works, but ultimately does not matter to the consumer. All the books are reformatted to individual taste on e-readers, so page count is not a consideration. It is a tricky proposition to hit the sweet spot on pricing and still feel that the price is “right” for the work involved.

  • sagablessed

    I have not commented much on this series, but have followed them closely. The more I hear, the more I am considering self e-pub…though still as a last resort. I do appreciate you candor and realistic portrayal of the issue, and hope to hear more about the subject.
    I am blessed to part of this wonderful resource for we laymen in the authors’ world: both published and yet-unpublished authors. Thank you all. πŸ™‚

  • Hepseba ALHH

    I agree with Laura that your ebook prices sound very fair. Also, I really think that we (readers) should consider the intrinsic *worth* of a thing. The worth of a paperback is primarily in the story it contains. Much less of the worth resides in the fact that it is a physical object, and price differences between physical and non-physical should reflect primarily the intrinsic worth of the physical object. Also! there is intrinsic worth in *timing*, which I wish more consumers would acknowledge openly (though video gamers acknowledge this very openly). If a book is coming out in hardback, you pay more not just for a fancier physical object, but for the opportunity to read it right away! No one has the *right* to read something *right now!* just because they want to; that right has to be purchased – though the intrinsic value of timing, apparently, varies wildly from book to book.

  • Catie, I think the pricing sounds very reasonable. Also, I am happy with the $2.00 price for Easy Pickings because if we ever do, say, Easier Pickings, (rolls eyes) we can charge a buck more because we have a built in audience. Just sayin’.