The 99-Cent eBook Dilemma
Book Marketing Plans
After packing and then hauling my laptop all the way down to the Dominican Republic for Christmas vacation with family this year, I ended up not writing a single word. While planning for my trip, I truly had thought I’d write at least a little bit. I’d just assumed that I would sneak off to jot down a few notes, maybe a paragraph…probably not an entire chapter, but something nonetheless. After all, I have two manuscripts in progress and two entirely new books outlined just waiting in the wings. And I told myself logically, I have a self-imposed publishing schedule to keep. A schedule where I’ve started to miss the deadlines marked so thoughtfully on my Google calendar. So, it made sense to carefully fold my laptop between the bathing suits, shorts, and sundresses because all my writing of late has been geared toward making my deadlines, expanding my brand, and growing my literary empire. But in truth, I didn’t even crack the laptop open to check my emails. I can, of course, do that on my phone.
Okay, don’t laugh. I do have dreams of one day being a best-seller. Though, when or how that will happen is still a mystery to me. I did the usual steps of cultivating book reviews and gathering awards for my website to bolster my own validation and to give my career as an indie author legitimacy. But, I struggle almost daily between the dilemma of giving my work away because I want to be read by a wide audience and valuing my time and talent by keeping my books priced (ebooks at least) just under well-known authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan, Karen Marie Moning, and Patricia Briggs. These are other paranormal romance authors who I read, love, and want to one day be listed among.
So which is it? Do I spend a year or more writing, crafting, editing, producing, and designing a product only to slap a 99-cent price tag on it so readers are more likely to take a risk by purchasing a work of an unknown author? Or do I value the time and effort that went into bringing a book to the marketplace by keeping my ebooks at $3.99 and hope that the right book-influencer stumbles across it? Then reads it. And hopefully, tells others how awesome it is?
Do I write to be read? Or, do I write to make a small income?
I know I’m not the only indie author to struggle with this dilemma. The prevailing thought is that in giving our work away we gain access to more readers. But, this strategy also hurts the ebook marketplace as a whole. How are any of us going to make a living if all ebooks, except for the publishing industries’ chosen darlings, are just 99-cents? That’s less than the price of a cup of coffee. And, there’s also that lingering assumption by readers that 99-cent ebook isn’t well-written. If it were, then why is it so cheap?
It’s a catch 22. I’m damned no matter what marketing plan I choose and that best-seller label seems even further away every year.
So, I find myself stumbling back to my original question. Why do I write? Is it because I must write. Would I be writing if I weren’t publishing? Well, the resounding answer is YES. I’ve been writing for my entire life. So why do I find it so hard to just lower my prices? After all, I’m not living off my writing right now. After Covid, my book sales are in the toilet. Why not just say fuck it and give the books away. At least then they’ll get read by someone. Anyone.
Here’s the rub and my other problem with the 99-cent plan. The few times I’ve discounted my books to that low, low price, I didn’t see the upswing in sales that the marketing “experts” promised would happen. And when I look at friends of mine who are authors trying to earn a living by keeping their ebook prices at the standard average of $3.99, I felt like I am betraying them in some way. Call me crazy. (I’m beginning to think anyone who publishes in today’s industry must be just a little nuts.)
Unlike most of my posts, this entry doesn’t have a tidy conclusion. This is me thinking out loud and sharing thoughts that plague so many other authors. If you have a suggestion for escaping this catch-22, please feel free to leave a comment below. I welcome your wisdom. And of course, look for me to run the occasional discounted price on my catalog of titles throughout the coming year. Cause when in doubt, choose the middle ground.
Thanks for listening.