Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

eBook Pricing, or both my eBooks are 99 cents this week

There's a lot of discussion amongst both writers and readers about the "correct" price for an eBook. Take 99 cents, for example. Some writers feel 99 cents is too low; you can't make a decent living wage without having to sell an astronomical amount of books. Some readers look on that price as an indication of lack of quality. Others see it as a benefit because they can read more books at less cost. And if a 99 cent eBook isn't good, no big loss. $2.99, in my opinion, is a fairer price for an author. Writing a book is a lot of work. At $2.99, an author makes about $2 per book sold, which is much better than the $0.35 he or she makes on a 99 cent eBook. Typically, I price my eBooks at $2.99 for this reason. While I'm not quitting my day job anytime soon, I feel that the $2.99 price point both rewards my efforts while maintaining a low enough cost for readers that they shouldn't think too hard about making the purchase. I've experimented with higher prices: $3.99 and $4.99. I've had some success with the former and a bit less with the latter. Inevitably, I seem to come back to $2.99 as my standard eBook price.

However, for this week at least, I've reduced the prices on both of my eBooks to $0.99. If you're on the fence, this is probably a good time to jump in and get each for a pretty low price. They both clock in at around 110,000-120,000 words and have been getting some pretty decent reviews. Here are the links:

The Five Elements

The Hall of the Wood 

Some Thoughts on eBook Pricing

Determining the "right" price for an eBook is hard to nail down. If you're a traditional publisher, then gouging the consumer with prices over $10 seems to be the way to go. If you're an indie writer, you're typically on the lower end of the scale, with bargain bin prices of $0.99 or maybe $2.99 to get the 70% royalty rate or, if you're courageous (or actually want to make a living at writing), $4.99 and up.

The problem with the $0.99 price is this:

  1. There's too many eBooks at that price, so finding the needle amidst the haystack is next to impossible.
  2. There's a growing consensus that eBooks at that price are crap. (I've read this here and there, and the noise seems to be growing)

You might as well throw free into that pile, too. By its very nature, a writer makes nothing off free, and as far as getting reviews or some other form of reciprocation, it doesn't work.

I've given up on the $0.99 price point except for promotional purposes. John Locke has found a lot of success at that price. In his words, though, he writes "breezy" novels. Say what you like, but I definitely don't write "breezy" novels.

I've also tried $1.99 – $2.99. I've had some success at this level, and I'll continue to offer one or both of my novels in this range. In fact, I just bumped The Hall of the Wood to $2.99. It's a well-written, fun, entertaining read, and I think it's worth that much. Maybe not more, but not any less.

I don't have a series loss-leader (yet), but I also think if The Hall of the Wood is worth $2.99, then The Five Elements, which is an infinitely better novel in just about every way, is worth at least $3.99. That's therefore what I've priced it at.

In general, I'm in the camp that believes a well-written novel is worth more than a latte (and way more than gas station coffee). I also think I work my tail off delivering the best experience possible for my readers. Most have thus far agreed with me on that. Last, if this is to become a viable second (or primary) source of income, 99 cents doesn't cut it.

All this being said, it doesn't really matter what I think my novels are worth. What really matters is what readers are willing to pay. That, my friends, is something I'm still trying to work out.