Recently there has been a lot of discussion about ebook prices in the circles I move in online. The gist of these discussions tends to be one of two things:

  • Readers complaining about ebooks being priced too high, and making statements like “I’d never spend X amount of dollars on a book that’s only Y pages!”
  • Authors complaining that nobody will buy their book that’s priced at X dollars anymore, because there are too many books priced at 99c and they can’t compete with that.

Readers complaining about how authors/publishers price their books come across as entitled because nobody is forcing them to buy that book. If you don’t feel a certain book is good value for money, then you can give it a miss and buy something else.

I’d like to point out that publishers or self-published authors don’t just pull a book out of their arse and stick it on Amazon. All publishers and all reputable self-publishers invest a lot of time and money in publishing. Even on a tight budget, you’re looking at something in the region of $400-$600 minimum to publish a novel by the time you’ve paid an editor and a cover artist. Many authors and publishers struggle to cover those costs. The sad fact is that it’s getting increasingly difficult to do so, which is why we’ve seen many small to medium publishing houses go bust in the last few years.

FYI, Amazon’s royalty structure is such that authors/publishers only get 35% on a 99c book – so 35c of royalties per sale. Whereas books priced at $2.99+ get 70% royalties, so just over $2 per sale. That’s a huge difference when you look at those numbers against the production costs. This is the reason that many publishers and self-pubbed authors don’t price below the $2.99 price point.

On the flip side, though, authors complaining that readers won’t pay X dollars for their latest novel also come across as entitled. Most readers are on a budget, and they get to choose how they spend their hard-earned cash. Berating readers for choosing cheaper books over yours is never going to bring you more sales, and only makes you look bad.

Authors don’t owe readers 99c ebooks, and readers don’t owe authors sales.

At the end of the day, authors/publishers can price their books however the hell they like, and readers choose whether to buy them or not.

However, the trend for slashing prices is a worrying one, because it’s unsustainable for romance publishing houses, and for full-time self-published authors who have made writing their career. Soon there will be nothing left for romance readers to buy, other than 99c books that have been rushed out on a low budget by people looking to make a quick buck. And how many of them will be worth reading?