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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Is the 99 cent eBook ruining the game for other writers?

There are some writers today complaining that the 99 cent eBook is ruining the game for them.

I’m sorry but that’s bullshit.

This isn’t a new argument. In fact, it’s just another re-hash of an old argument that goes back as far as the early 2000s.

Back then when iUniverse was self-publishing authors books in paperback for the low price $99 at the start of this century, there was a group of authors from publishing houses ranting and raving about how self-published Print-On-Demand books were going to ruin the game for them. How Print-On-Demand self-published authors were producing lots of poor quality books and how they were going to ruin the book market for everyone.

Ten years later, most of them and their books are gone. Their self-published paperbacks went out of print after a year or so, and the mid-card authors with titles from the publishing houses who whined and moaned about the books of POD authors went out of print six months before them.

And in the Mid-2000s there was another group of authors (myself included) ranting about how the Street Lit authors were ruining African-American book market. How authors were producing lots of poor quality book and how they were ruining the book market.

Five years later, The Street Lit craze is just about over. And most of the authors who came in for a fast buck are gone and most of their titles are out of print.

But I’m still here.

What happened to me? Over the past five years as I’ve adapted to the changing publishing landscape I learned a lot of hard lessons. And the first of which is authors who bitch and moan about insignificant things like how a book is published, who publishes a book, or the price of an eBook are usually people who won’t last long in the business of publishing. All the time they take to whine and complain about the quality of someone elses’ writing or the quality of their books is time they could be taking to do things to improve their own.

The only person ruining the game for them is themselves. These writers are their own worst enemies.

Many writers can publish a book, but most of those writers lack the business skills to sell a book. That’s why most of these authors who bitch and moan about other writers fall by the wayside. Instead of working on a business strategy to sell their books to a targeted audience they’re online looking for someone to scapegoat for the failure of their book.

What these people are afraid of is competition. And because they’re intimidated by the millions of authors out there with books just like theirs, they do things to hate on the next man, like saying that 99 cent eBooks are ruining the game.

Because it’s ruining the game for THEM. What they want is for the competition to go away so they can have a bigger chunk of the marketplace to take up space in and do nothing with. Basically, these authors are TOO LAZY to put in the effort and WORK towards building an audience for their books.

Now I’ll admit there are a lot of terrible eBooks out there. But I’ve read eBooks that cost $3.99 from trade houses that were absolute garbage. I’ve read $2.99 eBooks from some of these Black authors that were total crap.

But I’ve also read eBooks for free on Smashwords that were great. And I’ve read some 99 cent eBooks on Kindle and Barnes & Noble that I’d recommend others give a try. There are some great writers out there, and sometimes, a low price is the only way unknown authors like myself can get readers to notice us and give us a try. There are close to five million books published in the United States in a calendar year and in order to get the attention of those customers, a publisher had to do something to get readers’ attention like cutting the price.

I’ve been in publishing for over a decade now. And I can tell you 99 cent eBook isn’t ruining the game for me. In fact, if it weren’t for a 99 cent price tag or free promotional programs like Amazon’s KDP Select, I wouldn’t have been able to expand my reading audience.

A 99 cent price tag is only one of the tools I use in promoting books and getting them in the hands of new readers. As a publisher, I use it in combination with other promotional efforts like seasonal campaigns, free promotions, social media like blogging, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, along with the release of new titles. My mission as a businessman is to always be on the lookout for new readers, and finding new ways to reach them.

Because new readers are the lifeblood of a publishing business. It’s new readers who build the word-of mouth that sell books long-term.

As a businessman, I understand many readers won’t try a book by some authors because they’re by a new unknown author. Others won’t try a book because it’s self-published. So I have to give them some sort of incentive to try my work.

And I’ve found that when I priced my eBooks at 99 cents or offered them for free, people came and tried my work. And when they liked what they read, they went to buy other titles in my catalog.

All these self-published authors need to ask themselves: What is the real price of an eBook? How much is a story worth if there are no customers to demand it? And what value can be put on a story if no one cares about it?

Sure there’s a $3.99 price tag on your eBook. But if the customer doesn’t want it enough to pay that price for it, then it’s not worth anything in the marketplace.

We writers sometimes value our work higher than what it is actually worth. If you’re an unknown among five million other unknowns, you can’t go around insisting people pay $3.99 for your work in digital format. Until you can establish enough of an audience that knows you and your work, you can only charge what the market will bear.

In economics, the price is what the customer is willing to pay for a product. And until an author can build enough of an audience where they can establish a set value for their work that the market will pay, then maybe it’s only worth 99 cents right now.

Let me tell you a story: Five years ago I put a $9.99 price tag on my first eBook All About Marilyn on Kindle. It didn’t sell for a year. I dropped the price to $4.99. No sales. Dropped it to $2.99 no sales. And this was a book which was critically acclaimed with numerous positive reviews from book clubs and readers.

But no one was willing to buy it because:

1) I was an unknown author to them,
2)Because I was an unkown author to them the book had no value to them.

A year later I put a $2.99 price tag on the digital version of The Temptation of John Haynes. Even with great five-star reviews the book still did slow sales.

That same year I put a $2.99 price tag on the Fabulous First Season of All About Nikki. The book didn’t sell for six months. In fact the paperback still hasn’t sold a single copy to this day.

But when I lowered the price of all those books to 99 cents, people started buying them. In fact, All About Nikki-The Fabulous First season has become one of my best-selling eBooks thanks to that 99 cent price tag.

And moving All About Marilyn to KDP Select and offering it as a free eBook has led to that book becoming the #1 ebook in screenwriting every time I offer it.

Last year I started the Isis series with Amari's Revenge. Again, offering the title for Free on KDP Select to give readers an incentive to try the books. To my surprise readers have come back for other titles in the series buying four and five eBooks at a time to finish the story!

An author has to take the time to build their brand. To get the customer paying the price of $3.99 or $4.99 an author has to sell persuade enough people that their books have a value at 99 cents. Once a writer gets 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 or 100,000 readers, then maybe they can leverage a higher price for their books from their customers. But until they can establish that brand name, I say start at 99 cents. See where that takes you, then raise the price on the next book. Hook the customers, then see if they value your writing enough to pay more for it.

Don’t hate on 99 cent price tags on eBooks. Learn how to make it work for you.

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