Sunday, March 4, 2012

Earning My Keep

[caption id="attachment_2391" align="alignleft" width="640" caption="Photo © Steve Johnson"][/caption]

Recently, Dean Wesley Smith posted his thoughts on a pricing structure for ebooks. The article is a great read, and explains the reasoning behind his pricing.

What I took away from it is that an author should be careful about putting ebooks up for sale at bargain bin pricing. Since I'm in this for the long haul, I completely agree. I adopted Dean's pricing structure for my books. Before I list out that pricing, I want you to understand my reasoning for it.

As you know, I'm an independent author. Some would say self-published. I'm not here to argue semantics, though. I'm here to explain why I have raised the pricing on everything from my short stories to my novels. You might think the prices are high when you read them, especially since they are not traditionally published books. But think about this:

For my latest novel, Miscorrection: Dimensions I put a lot of work into it. I can write about 1,400 words an hour. Besides that, I spent countless hours thinking about the story and how it would progress. This includes before I wrote a single word and while I wrote the book. I would spend my commute to work considering how I needed to fine tune the plot and other aspects of the story. When I completed the writing, I then went through the book four times, proofing and editing the work. I also had to create the cover and format the eBook for publication on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. In total, I estimate I spent in the neighborhood of 102 hours on the book.

At that point, I asked myself the questions, "How much is my time worth?" and "What would I expect to be a reasonable return on my investment?"

I pegged my worth at $20 dollars per hour. I think this is more than reasonable. If that is my hourly rate, I need to price my eBooks to earn that back. Anything I make after reaching my goal is icing on the cake. It also means I could lower my price because I have made back the money. In this case, I would need to make $2,040.

With that goal, the lower I price my eBooks, the longer it will take to earn that money back. At the same time, I don't want to price my eBooks into a range that nobody will buy them. The key is finding a happy middle ground that readers won't balk at, and that is where Dean's post came into play.

In the case of Miscorrection: Dimensions, the cost is $7.99 for the eBook. In order to make back that $2,040, I need to sell 375 copies of the novel. Now, imagine if I priced it at $3.99 under my old pricing structure. I would have to sell 750 copies! At $0.99 I would have to sell 5,828!!!

I think you get the point. My time writing and creating a story is valuable to me. Why would I want to cheapen that by starting off with a bargain bin price? I wouldn't. In some ways, this is like an employee asking for a raise. They feel they are worth more and the boss has to agree to it. As the "employee", I'm asking my "boss", the readers, to give me a raise.

When I reach my goal for each story, I will then discount the regular price. Of course, I might run promotions in the meantime. The price allows me a lot wiggle room with that, as you can see with my promotions on Smashwords for Read An E-Book Week.

Given all of the above, here is the pricing structure for all my eBooks:

Short Fiction (Under 3,000 words) $1.49

Short Fiction (3,000-6000 words) $1.99

Fiction (6,000-9,000 words) $2.99

Fiction (9,000 to 15,000 words) $3.49

Fiction (15,000 to 20,000 words) $3.99

Fiction (20,000 to 30,000 words) $4.99

Fiction (30,000 to 50,000 words) $5.99

Fiction (above 50,000 words if backlist) $6.99

Fiction (above 50,000 words if brand new) $7.99-$8.99

What do you think? Is this revised pricing fair or unfair? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


B.C. Young is the author of many science fiction eBooks available on the Amazon Kindle, Nook, and other eReader devices. He also writes under the pen name Desmond Shepherd. He enjoys spending time with his family, reading,  and watching movies.

He hopes you agree with his knew pricing structure, though he's sure a few of you will complain.