I am pleased to have Robin Spano as a guest blogger. Robin recently published Dead Politician Society, her first book in the Clare Vengel series. Book two will be in stores before you know it! Here's what Robin has to say about ebooks and pricing:
I love my publisher – a Canadian house called ECW Press. They're smart, supportive, and seriously cutting edge. We see eye-to-eye on most things.
But we've been having this little discussion lately:
ECW's List Price for the Dead Politician Society ebook: $10.99
Me: Hey, can we lower the price, to maybe $4.99?
ECW: No. People don't buy books because they're cheap – they buy them because they want that book.
Me: Sure, but you can buy the paperback from Amazon for $10.79. No one's going to say, Oh, I'll buy the ebook for 20 cents more. Are they?
ECW: We think they'll buy the format that works best for their lifestyle – as long as it's affordably priced, which it is in both cases. We worry that slashing the price devalues literature. If the ebook is under $5, it means the work of that writer is worth under $5.
Me: Really? So it's a moral argument?
ECW: Kind of. We love books, and we love writers. We don't want to devalue either. Until the market shows us what the accepted valuation of an ebook is, we'll keep them priced on a par with paperbacks.
Me: So you're interested in what the market says?
ECW: Of course. But what we've found so far is that if someone wants a book – if they think it looks cool or interesting – they're willing to pay $10 or more, just like they would for a movie or a couple of cocktails. If they don't want a book, they won't buy it for $1.99, or any price.
Me: But an ebook isn't a movie or a cocktail – those have exciting, fast payoffs, which people are happy to pay for. I think the price should be relative to a print book – its closest competition. Since ebooks can't be loaned or shared as easily as print books can, and they can't be autographed, I put their valuation at about half what a paperback is worth. And come on – ebooks are way cheaper to produce, right?
ECW: Okay, Hot Shot. We'll try this experiment: For one week – Tues. Dec. 7–Mon. Dec.13 – we'll make Dead Politician Society available from iBooks, Kindle, and Kobo for $1.99. We'll see if sales jump – but we're pretty sure they won't.
Me: I'm pretty sure they will. Hey, how about a challenge – if x number of ebooks sell that week – say 100 or more – you'll concede the point and lower the price permanently. To, say, $4.99.
ECW: Ha ha. We don't make our business plans based on online gambling games with writers. And there's still that moral dilemma – the valuation of the writer's work. But our minds are open. We'll talk when the experiment's done.
Me: Awesome – let's see what the book-buying community has to say.
What this week's results will tell us:
If Dead Politician Society sales jump dramatically: it will show that price does matter. It may or may not convince ECW to lower the e-book price permanently, but their minds are open – they're interested in what the public has to say.
If sales don't increase, I'll concede their point: Price is not a primary factor in e-book sales.
How to make your voice heard:
If you agree with ECW that price is not an issue, do nothing. (Or better yet - buy the book at full price when the promotion is over.)
If price is important – and you think ebooks should cost dramatically less than print books – there are 2 ways you can help get that message to my publisher (and ultimately the publishing industry):
1. Buy the Dead Politician Society ebook from Kobo, Kindle, or iBooks (or anywhere else that it's $1.99 this week)
2. Share a link to this challenge on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or anywhere you think mystery-lovers will see it.
I'll keep results updated at Facebook and Goodreads – come by and say hello!
About the Book
Dead Politician Society is lighthearted crime fiction - think Charlie's Angels meets Janet Evanovich. A young female cop poses as a university student to penetrate a secret student society that's been claiming credit for the deaths of local politicians. Most readers so far find this a good, fun read.