Digital First Publishers: High Price Points and Limited Availability
Readers dislike Agency pricing a lot complaining that the 7.99 price point for a digital book that has limited sharing options and no resale. I don’t hear a lot of complaints about the digital first publishers and their high prices. I’m not sure if it is because of the following:
- Limited audience
- Speciality publishing
Digital first publishers like Loose Id and Ellora’s Cave, among others, price their stories very high. Loose Id prices novellas at $4.99 and their full length books at $7.99. Ellora’s Cave charges $7.50 for full novels at their own site and $9.99 at third party retailers. The price isn’t deterring many readers from buying Laurann Dohner’s books. Brawn is a pre order and ranked in the top 50 of romances at Kindle with a digital list price of $8.75 and $6.65 discounted. To Command and Collar by Cherise Sinclair published by LooseId is No. 66. The digital list price is $7.99 and the discounted price it $6.39.
Riptide Publishing came out of the gate with high prices arguing that you were getting a superior product and thus you needed to pay a premium price. Sarah Frantz said:
Almost all of the initial offerings so far listed are under 30K words. And honestly, $2.99 for 10K words seems utterly ridiculous to me. $4.99 for under 30K words? $10 for 100K words? I mean, 100K words is a great story, but $10? Really?! While the stories are great and the idea behind the new press is admirable, with price points like that, I can’t see it getting very far.
These prices don’t decline over time either.
I still remember Angela James stating that for Carina Press, a high quality product in terms of editing and production value, that the highest price they can charge is 5.99. For specialty collections such as their holiday anthologies, they charge $8.99. Samhain’s highest priced book appears to be $5.50. Carolyn Crane’s “Head Rush” is a full length novel and priced at $5.50. For their Retro Romance line, the pricing is as follows:
- Plus Novel: $4.99
- Novel: $3.99
- Category Length: $2.99
When Entangled Publishing launched, it’s full length novellas (some of which clocked in under 80,000 words) were priced at $7.99. Since then I’ve seen the prices of those books drop dramatically. When I first read Rosalie Lario’s Blood of the Demon, the book was priced at $7.99. Now it is priced at $2.99 and it’s sequels are listed at $4.99.
Sarah and I discussed backlist pricing in September 14 podcast and we both agreed that 2.99 to 3.99 was our discovery price.
I saw a review for Caught by Cassandra Carr at Romance Novel News. I went looking for the book and the price was $4.99 and only at $4.99. It’s a novella and for an author I’ve never read before. Jennifer Porter, a reviewer at RNN, noted that she couldn’t review Debbie Macomber’s “Family Affair” because it was 112 pages and priced at $16.99.
In this case, I was so bothered by the price that I decided I couldn’t read the book. I figured that my negative reaction would most likely color my reading experience. I didn’t want to deal with the issues, so I chose to avoid it entirely. Admittedly, the fact that Macomber has such a large fan base played a role in my decision to just leave the whole thing alone. And FYI, I absolutely respect the fact that her fans might not find the $16.99 price tag problematic.
As for me, I didn’t want to spend $4.99 on a novella of an author I had never read before. Instead I purchased Talk to Me by the same author at $5.80. (It’s a book that features a creepy sexual harasser but I didn’t realize that until I had read the first three chapters). Interestingly, I went to lend this book to another Kindle reader and I found that it a) was not lendable and b) it was only sold at Amazon and Siren’s Bookstrand Store.
I noticed that LooseId, Siren, and other digital first publishers don’t have partnerships with a wide range of retailers. Sourcebooks, for example, has this great graphic that shows where all their books are available for purchase.
I tried to find “Caught” at Fictionwise, All Romance eBooks, and Kobo, but it was only available at Loose Id and Amazon. Interestingly, I searched Carr’s other titles. Some were available at Barnes and Noble (Head Games, pubbed by Siren), Fictionwise (Talk to Me, pubbed by Loose Id), Fictionwise (Talk To Me), Kobo (Head Games). Amazon had Caught, Head Games, Talk to Me. Isn’t this a problem? A reader might assume that the one book is all that Carr has published. There appears to be no consistency. Other Loose Id books are available at Barnes & Noble whereas other Siren books are available at Fictionwise.
The Rifter by Ginn Hale was favorably reviewed by Sunita here at DA. The serial was only for sale at Blind Eye books and it cost $3.99 per entry or $29,95 overall. Each entry ran around 10-15,000 words.
It’s hard to say what the features of ebooks are across the board for Loose Id or Siren or other ebook titles. Loose Id and Ellora’s Cave appears to allow lending of its books but Siren does not. They all have Text to Speech enabled and they are available DRM free.
Carina Press does not allow lending of its titles but does have Text to Speech enabled. CP books are available DRM free.
For these digital first publishers that are charging high prices and limiting their retail partners, I’m interested in hearing from readers about whether that has value for them and why? Are there lessons to be extrapolated here? Are these publishing houses offering something unique? I noticed that Loose Id sells primarily M/M stories. Siren is well known for the menage and more titles.
For authors, does it matter where your book is sold or the price point? Perhaps these digital first houses have built up such an audience, limiting its retail partnerships has no adverse affect. I’ve heard that Siren authors are making significant money.
But we often hear readers complaining about the Agency priced books. How about these? Is the discounting sufficient? Do you mind that you have to buy these books from several different retailers? Any insight is welcome.