In my last post, I asked how much people would be willing to pay for ebooks. Most comments agreed with my thoughts: Ebooks should be less expensive than paper books because of DRM, ownership, quality, and physicality issues. What surprised me, however, was the number of people turned off by $0.99 ebooks.
The comment section of that post turned into a great conversation about how new owners of ebook readers typically go through a phase where they jump on all the free and cheap ebooks they can find. I know I did. I even wrote a post last year about where to find legal copies of free Kindle ebooks.
Yet once I filled my Kindle with more ebooks than I’d be able to read in a year, I stopped looking for those bargains. I still haven’t read most of those free and cheap books I picked up, and I probably won’t ever read them.
Like many other people, I’m too busy to waste time reading a so-so story, and many of the free or cheap books aren’t worth my time. This attitude was reflected over and over again in the comments of my last post.
People have been burned by low-quality cheap ebooks and are now wary of buying any ebook priced at $0.99.
What Does that Attitude Mean for Readers?
I fear some self-published authors will increase their prices simply to create the appearance of quality and avoid any $0.99 stigma. However, cost does not create value.
If a story is worth more than $0.99, great. Those authors aren’t doing themselves any favors by branding themselves as a $0.99 ebook writer. But if a story isn’t worth the increase, the higher price will move the stigma line and create an incentive for disappointed readers to post bad reviews.
If the new cost floor for ebooks becomes $2.99 instead of $0.99 as everyone rushes to avoid the stigma, readers will have to become more discerning with their purchases. Most of us don’t want to throw away several dollars on a dud.
How Can We Separate the Good Stories from the Crap?
This is the question of the year, and sometimes it seems as difficult as the brain teaser in the picture. I’m not the only one who’s learned not to trust Amazon reviews because too many authors have their friends stack the deck. (Besides, I’ll admit I’m pickier about grammar than most, so what a random reader might not notice might drive me crazy—er, crazier. *smile*)
From now on, I want to see a sample of the writing first. Authors should enable the ability for Amazon to show a free sample and/or use the “look inside” feature. Book listings on other sites should include a link to the author’s webpage with the first chapter.
If I’m going to pay $2.99 for an ebook, I want to know if craft or formatting issues will impair my enjoyment. More importantly, I want to see whether I’m hooked by the story. A good beginning is critical for all authors, including those who self-publish.
No free sample on Kindle or author website? No “look inside”? No purchase.
How to Keep a “Try Me” Price and Avoid the Stigma
I’ve read several good self-published stories, and yes, they were priced at $0.99. So I don’t think a cheap price automatically indicates bad quality. However, those authors were ones I got to know through their blogs and Twitter, so I had a pretty good idea of their potential for quality.
On the other hand, the chances of me buying a random $0.99 ebook are fairly low. A low price might be enough for a new Kindle owner caught up in the shiny, but for most readers, $0.99 isn’t enough to get readers to try an unknown author. All the platform advice of blogging, Twittering, and whatnot applies here for the author to make themselves known. But what’s most important is a book so good that those who read it want to tell others about it.
Buzz from others, real recommendations from people I know, tweets gushing about the great book they just read, all those things will get me to check out a book. Only then will the “try me” price of $0.99 come into play to tempt me to take a chance.
Yes, it’s hard for authors to get their names out there and to convince readers to give them a try. No one said this was going to be easy. But the good news is if an author is good enough to justify higher prices, readers are willing to pay for quality.
What do you think? Are all cheap/free ebooks crap? If you’ve found some good ones, how did you discover them? Have you used the “look inside” or free sample options to check out a book before buying it?Pin It