The 20p digital book

Philip Jones writes in futurebook.net that “the growth in e-books, and 20p hits, gives the impression that instant hits are instantly created. But this is rarely the case, and rarer still for books where the author and publisher want to build a sustainable fan-base.”

The whole concept of selling an e-book for 20p had me thinking whether it is a good thing or bad thing for the author and the reader. One could say these e-books give value for money, increase competition and they may encourage more people to take up reading. However I believe selling an e-book at this price is detrimental for the author and I think it is a bad thing for readers.

Money is an exchange of energy. I use energy to create my books and stories. When I put a price on my book, I put a price on my energy and by setting a price that low I am saying my energy, my time and my creativity are of low worth. In turn the person buying it that cheaply is not going to treat my book as well as the one they purchased for £9 or €9 or $9. It is impossible for me to make a profit if I sell my book at that rate and I believe that the only reason to set a price that low is to increase the number of readers which brings me back to Philip Jones’s quote.

The 20p e-book has the potential to create an instant bestseller but I see them as the McDonalds hamburger of the literary world; quick to consume and quick to forget. It is about the momentary hit not the steady dedication towards creating a book, building a readership via word of mouth and patient marketing. I may be a writer but I am in the business of making a profit too. I don’t give a fig about being an instant bestseller based purely on the knockdown price of my book. I am taking the steady eddy approach. It took me a long time to write Tales from Aulora consisting of several years faffing around, one year of hard writing and two and half years of editing. I put heart, energy and material costs into my book so for me to sell it for 20p is bad business and devalues books in general. I would rather gift my book to readers than sell it for 20p.

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2 comments on “The 20p digital book

  1. The above link is a well argued case for the benefits of the 20p / 30c digital book citing it as a useful marketing strategy, increased exposure for the author and they state that ‘sometimes selling digital books at a discounted price is a more economical choice, because any profit, even if it is only a few cents per book, is better than none at all’.

    It is a compelling argument but as for making a profit at 20p/ 30c a book minus expenses…I don’t think so when one factors in taxes, digital distribution costs, marketing costs, etc as well as the self-published authors time.

    I currently have priced Tales from Aulora at $4.50 on http://www.smashwords.com with commission rates etc varying between 15% to 30% depending on distributor. Lets say I sell 100 e-books at this rate, that is $450 less 30% (I am being conservative here) so I am left with $315 and as I am based in Ireland I do not have to pay the US 30% withholding tax ((to claim it is a long drawn out process but well worth it). In order to make the same amount of money by selling them at 30c I would have to sell 1,500 books and out of that would come the 15 – 30% commission etc.

    The proof is in the numbers fellow authors.

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