On the blog The Bliss Quest, a blogger who goes by Athena writes a lengthy, thoughtful post looking setting a price for her self-published book. After her last publisher offered her a contract that would only pay her 5% of the book’s cover price (and her editor actually told her “Writers don’t write to make money, they write because they must”), she started looking longingly at the 70% revenue that self-publishing would offer her, and trying to figure out just how many copies she would need to sell at what price in order to make back minimum wage for the time spent writing the book.
She was looking at pricing it at $6, but the problem she runs into is that a lot of the people she talked to who might be inclined to read e-books are cheapskates—they only want to pay $4.99 or less. Athena finds this rather frustrating—as she points out, depending on reading speed, $6 for a book is often less than $1 per hour of entertainment, and people pay a lot more than that for movies.
If writing (my book) does not pay for me to survive well enough to write the next one and the next one – I’m clearly in the wrong profession. If my writing can’t entice people to pay $1 an hour for entertainment – then I might as well be doing something else. If people will pay 12$ for a two hour movie like Transformers 3 or the newest haunted flick, but they won’t pay 6$ for a book – then I’m not doing my job well enough.
I can certainly sympathize. As an unknown independent author, the problem she faces is not just a matter of price, of course. It’s a matter of all the competition out there at all price ranges, and the competition for people’s time from non-book-related activities. And from an economic point of view, it’s hard to figure out how to reach the optimum point on a price-demand curve since every book is going to have a different appeal and thus different demand.
But the question of what price to set is one that every self-publishing author is going to have to face, and nonetheless it’s interesting to see Athena’s thoughts on how to approach it. Hopefully she can get some good advice from writers who’ve gone that way before.