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.
It may well be because I am coming to this from Norway, where books (and everything) is generally fairly expensive, but for me, any book below $10 is considered cheap. (If I recall right, the last translated-to-Norwegian Harlequin novel I bought cost just around $10 from the grocery store… about a year ago. )
I have bought ebooks from Siren through Amazon occasionally, and I’m not adverse to the higher pricing, as long as the authors are getting their share, and the cost of an ebook is significant lower than the paper version. (I have spotted several examples of paper copies being cheaper than electronic on Amazon, and then I don’t buy on principle.)
I’m not buying from several different retailers. If I have found a book by an author one place, I’m not going to go chase around the web looking for where they might be selling their next book.
I think part of the problem with Agency pricing, for me, is that I can get a real copy of the book for the same price. I know that it’s unrealistic for ebooks to be *massively* cheaper than paper copies because most of the charges still apply, but pricing them the same just seems wrong. After all, I have rights to a paper copy, and barring a physical disaster of some sort, I will always have it, and can resell it, give it to people, and so on, as you say. I don’t feel I own ebooks in the same way, and I know I don’t for my Kindle, so paying the same just doesn’t make sense.
For a digital first book, I don’t think that logic applies, because if you want to read that book you don’t have much choice. Saying that, I’ve not bought from the publishers you mention except Carina Press, so I can’t speak from experience. But if that’s the price you *must* pay to get the book regardless, I suppose you just deal with it and pay it, or don’t read the book.
It is interesting, but I have the same cut off level for books in Swedish and English, and it is around 12 dollar.
I used to buy Leah Brooke’s novels, but I stopped.The price that Siren wanted was one reason, the lack of availablity another. I would have bought them, if I felt they were worth the price but in my opinion they aren’t.
I’ll admit that both the prices and the lack of availablity baffles me. A lot of readers have their favorite stores and rarely visits a publisher’s webpage. I visit two publishers: Carina Press and Samhain. But that is rare, most of my books I get from e-bookstores. And I don’t think I am alone in that.
I forgot to mention that with the rise in Indie publishing, the digital first publishers cannot afford to have high prices. But that is just my opinion.
Have to admit I rarely now buy from loose ID or Elloras cave for some of the above mentioned reasons. I think they do charge too highly for the quality of the books they produce. I have specific authors that I’ll buy, usually those that I have managed to try with a cheap ebook first. I won’t pay 7.99 for an author that I haven’t read before as I’ve been burnt with crap books too many times. I also think that generally the quality of books at Ellora’s Cave has deteriorated from several years ago. I don’t know if this is a reflection of a lot of their authors going “mainstream” or a reflection of editing but I certainly seem to be buying a lot less.
@Anne: I’m not going to go chase around the web looking for where they might be selling their next book Yes, this.
I read for pleasure not to improve my tech or research skills. Removing DRM, side-loading, looking at where a book or back list is available makes it a job not a hobby.
I’ll pay the equivalent of paperback for digital but certainly not more. I think twice, maybe three times before buying tradesize (priced) books. I’ve noticed some pricing for digital first or self-pubs (again, not my job to know or care) books are not only full hardcover prices but sometimes even more. Ridiculous.
I’ve stopped buying from several of Digital First Publishers that were once “go to first” places.
1. price does play a role in this but also,
2. Quality plays a bigger role.
I’ve been burned too many times with either a book that was not as expected, typos/formatting errors, shorter than expected, or just plain crappy. I’ll check in once in a while looking for the next book in a series but that’s about it.
I’m still happy with Torquere Press
You have to watch that the other non-agency books aren’t higher priced on kobo. I know it’s a trade in paper, but it’s in “e” and I’m not interested in paying trade price for an “e” book.
I tend to use the kobo for backlisted hqn’s that I am interested in. Even then I try to find them used since they are so much cheaper that way. Lately I have bought a bunch of “e” books but I’ve gotten some good coupons – 35% and 20% off – in kobo’s Xmas puzzle but still have only bought hqn’s and others I wish to try. Was going to buy Thea Harrison’s novella but it’s too expensive and I bought an Anne Calhoun instead.
Otherwise it’s library – paper, have yet to use the reader – or used. I admit to spontaneously buying hqn’s at 25% off in the store – and end up reading about half and need to stop doing that. The other’s I buy from Chapters or Amazon online are those I know I’ll keep.
I can’t afford my book habit – according to goodreads I’ll make 300 books this year and that doesn’t include DNF’s nor re-reads. It’s the publisher and authors loss… they chose the prices.
I have been very happy with the loose-id titles I have purchased (based on good reviews, usually from this site) but I don’t casually shop there because of the price point. I’ve had less success with my Ellor’s Cave purchases so I hardly buy there, review or not now.
Carina and Samhain get a great deal of my money exactly for the reason that I can try their authors out without breaking the bank.
I don’t have much experience with digital-first companies-to be honest, today is the first time I’ve heard of it-but I had a thought concerning that. I won’t buy a Big Six e-book at agency pricing because I know the print book is the same price or lower (if the bookstore is running coupons or deals) but there’s no way I would know if the digital-first e-books are priced outrageously higher. Maybe other readers have the same idea.
While we’re talking e-book prices, there’s something I noticed about the small press e-books I read. Sometimes you can get a full-length novel between 2.99 and 6.99 and that’s a pleasant surprise, but more often the books are 4.99 and are short story/novella length. If I like the author enough or think “Okay, 4.99 for less then fifty pages is a rip-off, but I know this author can deliver a decent story” then I’ll still pay the money. Anyone else noticed high pricing for short e-books?
Speaking from an author’s point of view who has gone from a traditional print publisher to Samhain who puts out ebook first and follows with print, the 5 to 7 price point is reasonable because there are still editing, cover art, and other overhead plus the author now receives a higher royalty per book. More for anthologies is understandable because of there being multiple authors to coordinate and pay. Charging greater than $10 in my opinion at this point is greed. I also self pub. I have full length books at .99 and 3.99 and 4.99 because those are reasonable prices to me. I am even going back and adding more to an previously publish story from an anthology because I don’t feel it would be fair to charge .99 cent for a minimal page story. I suppose it’s personal ethics on my part but I want a reader to get their money’s worth a great story with enough meat to sink their teeth into at a good price. That’s my two cents. Great blog post. Thank you
Great post! I just ignore these books, frankly. Because of the higher prices, I don’t even try them, so have no reason to go to their sites. I also generally won’t go chasing around the Internet looking for books but I might if there was a price advantage.
I read in digital primarily now, but am buying less than I used to, especially from publishers like LooseId, MLR, and Dreamspinner. The prices are too high when compared to content and length for me to be willing to try new authors. It’s not that I expect every ebook to cost $4.99 or less; it’s that I hate spending $8.99 on what turns out to be a poorly edited, category length book. Only reviews from people with similar taste or a book from a known author will get me to pay their prices.
I rarely buy from Ellora’s Cave or Loose ID now, not because of price but because most of their stories feel like soft core porn now (especially looking at some of the covers). If I find one that I want to read, their price doesn’t honestly bother me simply because I know that when it hits print, it’s going to be almost twice that price, so I can justify it. $6.99- $7.99 for E-book vs. $15.99 + for print. I generally stick with Carina Press and Samhain now due to quality and variety.
I don’t expect the big 6 to charge half the price for an Ebook that they do for print, but certainly $1-$2 less is fair (much like Avon is trying out) and to allow me to use a coupon just like I can for print.
My pricing limits appear to be in line with everyone else here.Price is important to me. There have been 4 books in recent months I would have purchased from Loose-Id, but the price stopped me. I rarely buy directly from EC, but I will buy their books at All Romance when the discount is right. I have learned to watch the word count at ARe and it has helped me avoid feeling ripped off. I can’t understand $2.99+ for a 6,000 word story. Sorry, I’m just not buying it.
Carina Press, Samhain, and a few others have been getting my money.
Ellora’s Cave reprinted part of Roberta Gellis’ back list at way too high a price. While I’m always happy to support Ms Gellis and would have bought her books again in e form, I wasn’t going to pay the prices EC wanted. When they were reduced I did buy several. I’ve never bought anything else from EC.
Not really interested in the other digital first publishers. If it isn’t price then it’s because I don’t care to spread my credit card number across the internet.
I bought three books, including two by Gin Hale, in trade paperback from Blind Eye Books a few years ago– I just checked and I actually found them on Amazon.. They were handsomely done but I didn’t buy any more and I’m not interested in buying their ebooks due to price. One the paperbacks I bought (Archer’s Heart) has been split into three downloads for $3.99 each, which I think is too much.
Back ages ago in the pre-web era when Amazon was the name of a Lesbian/feminist bookstore in Minneapolis, you expected to pay more for small press books– short print run meant higher costs, fewer sales outlets and no real publicity outside the alternative publications. Supporting the small presses was considered a political act. However in the current situation the higher prices on ebooks make very little sense.
(By the way Amazon book store sued Amazon.com in the later 90’s for trademark infringement. It ended in a settlement after Amazon.com’s lawyers made the fatal misstep of trying to bring the sexual orientation of the bookstore owners into it. I hope the bookstore got boatloads of money. )
You know, those price points are my personal idea of what I am willing to spend on ebooks in terms of maximum prices. Also, the offerings from both EC and LI continue to be DRM free. My experience with Siren has been mixed. Am not familiar with the other epubs you mentioned. To me, the fact that I don’t have to bother with the DRM is a very good thing, so that is attractive to me, but only if the prices don’t exceed their price points. I do remember that the prices for EC’s books, for example, were not exactly cheap back when they were pretty much the only game in town, and even when everyone wanted to jump on the erotic romance bandwagon and there were erotic romance epubs sprouting (and shutting down) like weeds.
As a disclaimer, I do have to say that I pretty much stopped reading erotic romance on a regular basis over two years ago. Now I only read erotic romance from my standard autobuy authors like my friend Judy Mays, and authors like N.J. Walters, Lauren Dane or Jet Mykles. That means I don’t spend that much in that particular sub-genre and I don’t particularly look at prices as I know and trust the stories from my fave authors in that sub-genre.
I am much more aware of who publishers are now than I was before Big 6 pricing, and not just that I know who the Big 6 are, but that I track my want to buy list by publisher. They way too high prices don’t feel as bad when I’m getting a 50% rebate at ARe.
I don’t shop around a lot, I more just make my list and wait for a sale. So, i can say that I don’t like EC’s high pricing, but I’ve got a bit of a work around, which is more than I get from the bigger publishers.
I used to buy directly from EC and Loose-id and a few others that may not even exist anymore. Like many others, it was a combination of price and quality that drove me away. They weren’t selling their authors who I knew to be good, and the ones they were selling that I had read were not very good. The rest that I hadn’t read, I wasn’t exactly in the mood to pay through the nose for an experiment.
After awhile, I totally even stopped looking.
I suppose if you look at it from a business standpoint, the price model of digital-first publishers make sense. If a traditional publisher is going to charge 9.99 for an ebook, a digital-first publisher can offer their product for 4.99 and people are going to buy it. Because it’s not 9.99, it seems reasonable at first. If traditional publishers were setting their prices at 3.99, then to remain competitive, ebook-only publishers would probably be forced to drop their prices, as well. That said, as someone who makes her living off ebooks right now, I know that I wouldn’t be willing to sell a 30k or 40k novella, which, while shorter, still takes the same amount of work in terms of storytelling, for .99. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be able to support myself, and I’d have to quit writing and get a job that requires me to wear pants.
I buy Loose Id’s books from AllRomance (which means that I probably won’t get any that aren’t available there). I have noticed that Loose Id titles sit in my wishlist a LOT longer than books by any other publisher, and I usually only buy Loose Id titles during sales (the 50% rebate sales, for example, since I can’t remember having seen a Loose Id-only sale). Enjoying a Loose Id author seems to make no difference on my buying habits. I love Z.A. Maxfield’s books, for instance, but I still haven’t bought Maxfield’s entire Loose Id backlist.
Even with other publishers who have lower price points, I tend to buy during sales. Ever since I figured out that Samhain prices its new titles at 30% off when they’re first released, I started haunting their site and buying the things I wanted as they came out. My Samhain wishlist is therefore a lot smaller – I bought most of the older stuff I wanted a while back during a sale.
As for the whole Agency pricing vs. higher priced digital first publishers… well, I don’t buy Agency at all. I don’t even look at their e-books anymore, because 1) the prices I was seeing were way higher than $7.99 and 2) I couldn’t figure out if it was possible to get them without DRM (I refuse to even look like I’m supporting DRM by paying for books that have it). I read the print version of Agency books, if I want to read them, so my reading spheres are entirely different. I only compare high priced digital first publishers to other digital first publishers, and, like I said, I’ve noticed that the higher priced ones sit in my wishlist longer.
As an author published by digital-first publishers, I can add that part of the reason you’re finding an “unevenness” in distribution is that some publishers delay sending books to 3rd party distributors by as long as 3 months. You might find Cassandra Carr’s book is only available at Loose Id and Amazon today, but tomorrow is available at another couple of places. From a buyer’s standpoint it might be frustrating, but from an author’s standpoint, s/he stands to earn more in royalties when books are purchased directly from the publisher. Again, keep in mind that two years ago, options for purchasing ebooks were a lot more limited than they are today (so this set up made some sense then). Publishers and authors will need to decide what changes need to be implemented to keep up with the growing/changing atmosphere.
Also–I couldn’t tell–did your analysis take into account that EC recently significantly dropped their MSRP for books?
@Meghan: “For a digital first book, I don’t think that logic applies, because if you want to read that book you don’t have much choice.”
Oh, this too. This is also one of the reasons I broke down and got an e-reader. Sites like DA got me interested in digital first publishers, and I even bought a few books in paperback form, but the prices of the paperback books ($12 to $20) did horrible things to my book budget. Plus, it hurt more if I turned out not to like the books. Then there are those books that are only available in e-form, not paper. If I wanted to read any of these books, it started to make more sense to get an e-reader (I didn’t want to read on my computer), and I had the horrible paperback prices as comparison – $7.99 is not quite so bad when you’ve paid $13.00 for a book that’s barely over 200 pages.
@Dee I thought that might be the case with royalties for the author, plus I’d rather the publisher get more of the money as opposed to a middle man, so I tend to buy direct from the digital first publishers. I did sneak a Carina Press title from Amazon last week only because their price was a bit less than CP’s release week price, which made no sense to me.
Also when I spot something on Amazon and it’s not a digital first pub, I tend to hit Smashwords to see if they have it so that not only does the author get more in royalties but there’s the added bonus of being DRM free.
I’ve been reading a lot of m/m romance this year, which means I’ve been buying books a LOT of books from digital first publishers. There are a number of books that I’ve gotten samples of from Amazon, thought were worth continuing, and then compared the word count on ARe and the price and responded with a flat “no way in HELL.” But because Amazon doesn’t list word counts, this requires an extra step that I’m willing to take (though many probably aren’t).
I do shop at a number of different online bookstores because I buy so many books that it’s worth it for me to try and find a deal. If a book is highly priced, but I really really want it, I generally try and get it at Fictionwise with a coupon, or wait until I get a coupon directly from the press itself. If a book I want isn’t sufficiently discounted at Amazon, and isn’t available at Fictionwise and I forget about it before ARe offers one of their rebate deals or the press site itself has a sale . . . no sale.
Price point for me: I won’t pay more than $6 for a full-length e-book. I’m flexible on novellas depending on length and how much I already love the author. Reasoning: I don’t own the book, I have no guarantee that as technology changes I will be able to re-read the book for years in the future, I can’t give it away or sell it . . . an e-book has severely limited utility and while I don’t think publishers are required to take that into account, I sure do.
I download them by the hundreds so don’t mind buying one occasionally. But when I used to buy them all the time I was furious and felt defrauded when I paid such a high price for what turned out to be a short story (I knew nothing of word counts). And the quality was so utterly lacking and I was burned so many times I began searching for reviews, discovered pirate sites and blogs like this.
So the reason no one has ever heard me complain about those sites is by the time I found a community of readers online to complain to I was already pirating them. Not so for agency pricing. So to sum it up, I think the people buying those books for the most part aren’t part of the online romance community.
and I am still bitter about that. I did catch a few of her titles on sale somewhere else. Bottom line for me about backlists is this: do you want readers to discover your work or not? Pricing your backlist titles at $17.99 (hello Penelope Williamson) isn’t going to achieve it and that price says to me you are more interested in the money than having readers discover your work. What galls me is when the author sell their ebooks at such high prices that results in less than impressive sales the whole thing is deemed a failure and then they pull them. Backlist titles should not be as a rule priced more than $4.99. Other authors seem to have success at those price points so other authors need to get with the program. If you want us to read it then price it at a price that is reasonable. /rant over
@Dee Carney I wasn’t sure if the MSRP dropped. I know that they were 18.99 there for a while but I think the MSRP is still fairly high.
Actually, “because they’re crap I’m entitled to steal them” isn’t a good defense in court.
Just wanted to mention that as of October 2010, Ellora’s Cave ebooks are down to $8 (for the longest ones) and less at third party sites like Amazon. The average book will cost you around $5. We’re already seeing the difference in sales. So the $9.99 reference is outdated. They brought the prices down precisely for the reasons in the article – to stimulate sales, and it’s worked.
You can get free and very cheap EC stories, too, tasters, at around the £1 price point. They used to be free, but we found that people were downloading scads of them and not going on to buy anything, so it does seem to follow that free isn’t always the best option. Odd, that.
@Keishon When I was researching this article, I found that a number of the Gellis books have been reduced in price. I need to do some links up for that.
You may be right but I think it is still interesting to read the responses of other readers. I guess the next question is, “were these readers buying traditionally published books and moved away or had they never been reading trad books and found books that met a need.”
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.
You’ll see a few books in the future that have some higher variable pricing than $5.99, but that will be a fraction of a percentage. I think it’s also worth pointing out that the (small correction) $9.99 base anthology pricing is for 4 novellas that readers can alternately purchase for $2.99 each, so the anthology pricing is more along the lines of purchasing a bundle at a reduced price.
I don’t have a problem with ebooks costing as much as print books or, in general, costing a lot. No one’s forcing people to buy them, and if they truly don’t sell, the prices will go down. The thing that really bugged the crap out of me is when a book cost more at Amazon than at a third party site, particularly when that drove the price up well past what a reasonable cost should be, like $7 for a novella. A certain well-known e-publisher recently did away with that practice, but it would make me nervous as an author to submit there, knowing they might do it again. Actually, it makes me nervous that any publisher might do something that I consider not-reader-friendly, and that’s part of the allure of self-publishing.
I think the reason why I do less open “complaining” about digital first pricing is because it’s small. Maybe it’s misguided, but my sense is that I simply don’t buy from those publishers at those prices. I guess I feel like the “hit ’em where it hurts, in the pocketbook” theory is more realistic for these smaller publishers. Agency publishers I think are so huge, they need the masses screaming at them for anyone to hear?
I honestly don’t know. But I do agree with everything said in the original post. Further, with most of these high-priced digital first companies, the quality is contrary to the pricing. The covers at Elloras are still a bizarre mess that look like a 90s digital throwback, and the other companies aren’t much better. Loose Id has some nice covers for Cherise Sinclair’s books (I don’t know much about the others, since I generally stay away due to pricing. I’ve had to stop buying Ms. Sinclair’s books and just wait until I can earn a freebie at All Romance or something.). But I and my friends have made prettier graphics with more polish to them in our spare time as hobbyists. Most of the covers from these companies look like they made an office lackey take a course in PhotoShop and hoisted the job on them.
Tempting as it is, I’ll leave the topic of formatting to someone else, since I don’t have specific example in front of me. But it does seem like a lot of these high-priced digital-first pubs are lacking in that department, too. I download a book, and the metadata is a mess that I have to fix myself in Calibre. I shouldn’t have to do that with any e-book I pay for.
So, yeah. I’m sure there are many great authors out there that I’m maybe missing out on because my price limit is right around $5.99. But there are enough Zoe Archers and Courtney Milans out there to keep me in quality, well-crafted reading material for a long, long time.
And yay Samhain and Carina.
@Annonymous: Are you implying that most of the online romance community is involved in piracy? Because that’s what it sounded like to me. And if so, I’d be interested to know what evidence you have for that. I’m involved in the online romance community and I have never downloaded a pirated book. I don’t think I’m alone in that.
For the most part, I’m buying Agency books at agency prices. I’ll pay up to a regular paperback price (under $8) for a book, with a few exceptions for a couple of favorite authors. I think the prices are too high, but I knew that going in when I switched to buying ebooks. However, I find that I’m pickier about which books I will buy. When I first bought my eReader it was very easy to buy any book that looked interesting, but I found that I was spending too much and not always enjoying the books I was buying. Back when I was buying paper books, if I didn’t finish a book, at least I could trade it in at the UBS and get some credit for it. Now I’m trying not to buy those books in the first place. I will put a book on my wish list and then go back and reconsider a couple of times before I buy it. That may have made me less adventurous as a reader.
The lower prices make me want to try small press and digital first books, but I’m just not finding the books I want to read. My tastes don’t seem to match what’s selling in the digital arena – they just seem to have too much sexual content and not enough story and character development for me. After being burned too many times by books that I ended up skimming or not finishing, I’ve become reluctant to buy books from certain publishers, unless they’re highly recommended by several people – and that’s pretty rare. I’m more likely to find the stories I want to read in books from the major publishers, at least for now. For me, time is more limiting than money, so buying a cheap book that I don’t enjoy is not worthwhile.
This is a great post. I understand that both publishers and authors want to make money as the reading public slowly but surely is enjoying reading ebooks. However, the prices for some of the books are seriously outrageous.
IMHO, the publishers wouldn’t be getting away with their ridiculously high prices if they posted word counts.
I buy all of my M/M books at ARe because they post word counts. There’s no way I’ll pay $5 for a 10k-word novella. FWIW, I rarely (if ever) buy novellas unless they’re from one my auto-buy authors (Alex Beecroft and Tamara Allen, for example.) On the rare occasion that I really want a book that’s over 9 dollars, I’ll just wait until I’ve purchased enough books to get a ‘free’ one. For those who don’t know, ARe offers points that you can redeem for a free book once you’ve bought 10.
As for the rest of the ebooks in my nook, they come from Barnes and Noble.
My price point wobbles between 8 and 9 dollars and only for full novels (meaning 80k words plus.) Luckily for me, the majority of what I read is YA and M/M romance versus more mainstream/bestseller titles. From what I’ve seen, there are plenty of books to read (in those specific genres) that won’t break the bank. I think I’d burst a vein if I had to pay $15 for an ebook.
As an author I cannot tell you the depth of how much the lack of distribution and/or immediate distribution frustrates me. On release day if my books aren’t at a minimum available on Amazon and B&N I am getting frustrated emails from readers wanting to know why and when. And telling them they can get it in any format at the publisher’s website and sideload it to their reader is not enough. I feel that one of my latest releases being only available at the publisher website and amazon is an insult to my Nook readers and from the feedback I get I think they agree.
As a reader both price and distribution affect 95% of my purchases. The list of authors I will autobuy no matter what is very short. I tend to buy all my books from three online bookstores, so if the book I want is not at one of those it’s probably not going to happen. I’ve read about 70 books this year but bought easily 4 times that. We can thank those awesome under $5 prices that are everywhere. Anything over $5 – $6 I read some reviews. If I’m still interested, I will download a sample so I remember to check it out later. It’s amazing how many I never go back to. Why would I when there is a huge supply of lower priced books that are very good. Agency priced books are an extremely rare buy for me due to price.
I only buy from the pricey epubs if there’s a sale or coupon and then from either ARe or Fictionwise. Those are the only ebook stores I use besides Amazon; I don’t like having tons of accounts all over the web.
I generally buy directly from Carina and used to buy directly from Samhain ’til their website started giving me trouble. I don’t really keep track of them any more and was trying to figure out why when I realized I stopped getting a their newsletter. Either they stopped sending one or I fell of their list. Which is ironic because I can’t get rid of the Changeling Press newsletter that I signed up for when they first opened.
I straddle the fence between e and paper. So far, I haven’t been able to give up paper. I like to see and physically browse my library. (Plus, I don’t think I’m capable of giving up library sales, not just because of the price, but because of all the old books that aren’t and may never be in e.) So for the most part, I don’t buy e from paper first pubs. HQN categories being a notable exception because of their price and space issues.
Before Agency pricing, I bought Big 6 books almost exclusively. Now I download them from the library. The ones I like are just too damn expensive. Penguin is asking $9.99 for the ebook of Storm Front by Jim Butcher– a book that’s more than 10 years old!
Now most of what I read is published by LooseId or Dreamspinner. Dreamspinner is, miracle of miracles, available for download from my library, so I read some of their books that way. Probably 90% of what I buy comes from Fictionwise. They run a 60% off coupon every 2-3 months, so unless I OMG HAVE TO READ IT RIGHT NOW, I stock the wishlist and wait. I try to check out the samples and reviews from my friends on Goodreads, but at under $3 (under $4 for MLR), I’m cool with taking a few chances.
Would I be willing to pay more than $3-4 per book if the coupons weren’t an option? Yes, definitely. I’d prefer to keep them at or under $5.99, and at that price point I’ll be taking a look at the word count. Where I tend to balk is with the shorter stories, 50-60 pages, for $2.99. I’m not a huge fan of anything under novella length anyway, and I can get something 3-4 times that length for just a couple dollars more.
Also, despite the controversy of piracy, @annonymous provides a valid point. One that’s been discussed many times, but never really has a resolution. Overpricing only encourages piracy. It’s been this way for longer than digital media has been around. (See used bookstores and used music stores.) Heck, at least download sites aren’t actually *reselling* digital media like used bookstores are. But that’s a different debate entirely. Point being, it’s still beyond me that publishers think it’s acceptable to charge outlandish prices for sub-par product and then they’re surprised to find people pirating that product instead.
@Cara – There’s nothing debatable about it. Buying used products is not piracy.
You’d have to work pretty hard to convince me that used book stores or used music stores are engaging in piracy.
On topic: I pretty much only buy from AllRomance, partly because of the word count feature, but mostly because my brain is made of swiss cheese. Buying all my ebooks from the same site prevents me from buying duplicates, because there’s a little message that pops up telling me that the book I’m adding to my cart is already in my library. I really like that feature.
I will not buy an ebook if I know the paper version is available locally for less money, and I won’t buy the paper version because I spent money on an e-reader for a reason.
So price, availability, and convenience. I used to get really impatient and angsty waiting for a new book from my favourite authors, but as I get older, I care less (because I can’t remember the books after I read them…) So now I just find something else to read, or something else to do.
I’ve been reading a lot of m/m romance this year, so I’ve been buying a lot of books from the digital only publishers, and the pricing is a real stopping point for me when it comes to trying new authors. I’m pretty willing to pay up to $5 or so for an unfamiliar author if the summary and excerpt sound intriguing. I’ll only pay more if there’s a great review or the author is an autobuy for me.
I also don’t like having to go to a lot of different websites to get new books. I have a Kindle, so I buy from Amazon when the book I want is available there, because I like the convenience of being able to download books to my Kindle or phone without needing to get the laptop and cable out to sideload them. Now that I’ve got Calibre set up on Dropbox with an OPDS catalog (thanks to this site!) that’s become less of an issue, but I still like not having books scattered all over the Internet. I do buy from Fictionwise when they have coupons, and it sounds like I should check out ARe as well – I very much like the idea of getting word counts before I buy.
I have no qualms about stripping DRM from books that I buy so I can convert them to read on whatever ereader device I choose. I’ve been in the IT field a long time, and formats change over time. I want to be able to continue to read books that I’ve legally purchased. We’re already seeing this with the .lit format being discontinued.
I ignore those publishers, honestly. So that’s a market share they are willing to lose through the pricing strategies.
I try to support Carina because I like their goals and business plan, but honestly I don’t find many titles that lean toward my reading interests. I appreciate the quality of the ones I have purchased, they meet what I consider professional standards for a book. Unfortunately I come across a lot of Big Six e-books that seem to have left editing and formatting at home. Since I went digital HQN has taken a far bigger slice of my dollar and Digital First none at all.
I assume that publishers like EC and Loose-ID charge those prices because there are enough customers willing to pay them. And there are enough customers willing to pay those prices because EC et al. are publishing the kinds of books (m/m, menage, etc.) that people can’t by at most bookstores, supermarkets, big box stores.
Maybe they would make more sales if their prices were lower, but maybe they have decided that the increased sales would not be sufficient to provide equivalent profits. I don’t imagine the sales of even their most popular authors are ever going to be in the Nora Roberts range, or in the Harlequin range for that matter.
If their prices are ever going to come down, I suspect it will have to be because books of at least similar quality are available elsewhere at lower prices—i.e., self-published books. At the moment that doesn’t seem to be the case. At least, most of the self-pubbed books I have seen are severely deficient in quality in terms of both content and production.
I use to only ever buy from Samhain when a few of my then favourite authors would release a book. That stopped a few years in since I felt those author I enjoyed at the start their book quality was dwindling. However, ever since they rebooted the website and have started the 30% off new releases promotion, I have bought a lot more books from new authors. It’s such a great thing to buy a novel for £2.50.
Loose Id…I have no idea how they’re in business with their prices. Take this for example, Sloan Parker released her new book at Loose Id touted as being novel plus (I think it’s 245 pages in pdf according to Goodreads) and it costs $7.99. Now take The Archer by Abigail Roux from Dreamspinner Press costs $8.99 – that book is (in pages) 576 in pdf.
I remember emailing a publisher (I won’t say who) and did put my point across that their prices were pretty steep. They like Riptide Publishing said the same thing, but also emphasised the point they wanted their authors to make as much profit as they could.
For well over a year now, I’ve used the word count vs price to determine whether I ultimately buy a book or not. It doesn’t matter who is the author. If word count is not available, I simply don’t buy, which is why ARe is my default store. My friends and I have grumbled about EC and Loose prices for a while and it turns out we just don’t buy it unless there is a rebate/coupon, etc. One click convenience is great when money is not an issue, but when you are trying to stretch your dollar to the max, it’s worth going the extra 3 or 4 steps.
I’m intrigued (and a tad concerned) because no one’s mentioned Amber Quill Press, my publisher. AQP routinely discounts their new releases, so a 90K ebook that would retail for $7.00, like Sea Change, is selling for $5.25. Amazon’s Kindle price is $5.60.
I realize Amber Quill isn’t one of the big dogs like Carina or EC, but they’re in the game and I like their model for pricing their digital editions. The paper editions are standard trade prices, so clearly the digital edition is the better bargain.
I’m starting to buy more digital first titles now that it seems like they’re starting to “get it” and dropping prices (my publisher being one of them, thank goodness). As readers, our expectations have changed, and I can’t imagine any house or self-pub surviving unless they adjust their price point to today’s market. As an author, I don’t see this as a bad thing. Yes, my royalties may be lower in today’s world, but I can sell more books at a lower selling price. It all works out.
“You can get free and very cheap EC stories”
Yes, and it’s usually about what they’re worth, as far as I’ve seen. If you’re going to use freebies to sell other work, you have to make sure the freebie is good. The work I’ve read from EC is not of the memorable, long-lasting, want-to-re-read quality that would send me running for more.
I’ve quit buying from EC and a couple of other places altogether these days. I can’t tolerate junk food or junk reading anymore, and I’m certainly not going to pay for it. I’m actually beginning to find a lot of it depressing to read, rather than enjoyable. Too many epubs are about quantity. I’m looking elsewhere for quality.
Everyone says quality reads are difficult to find at self-publishing sites. I think they’re just as difficult to find now at publishers’.
Pricing was one of the main reasons I decided to stop releasing books through my e-publisher and go the indie route. I thought their prices were too high. No matter how good the books might be, I get the feeling that a lot of people don’t want to spend more than $4.99 on a new-to-them author, and my full-length novels with my e-publisher are higher than that. Going indie allows me to set prices at a more reasonable level: $2.99 for novellas (up to 40K), $3.99 for shorter novels (50-90K), and $4.99 for novels longer than 90K.
@Darlene Marshall: I personally don’t know if Carina Press is a “big dog” is it? As an M/M reader I’d visit Amber Allure and I assuming they’re the same company with AQP? Anyway, I know they do discount pricing as well – but as a reader and a buyer that publisher has never taken my fancy. Plus I’m easily offended by book covers, and wow are they bad. Though I have read a few books from AA and I never did understand the publishers need to have their font size at 20.
There are loads of publishers not taken into account such as Dreamspinner Press, Torquere Press, Changeling Press, Blind Eyed Books, MLR Press. Big names in in regards to publishing gay fiction.
I’m new to e-books (bought a Nook a few months ago – partly because of e-only or e-first books reviewed here and on other sites and partly for my commute). When I finally committed to buying an e-reader, I thought the hardest part would be figuring out the technology, but honestly that hasn’t been difficult. The hard part has been figuring out out what this post is about – what to buy, at what price, and where. As a few other posters have said, reading is my hobby, not my job, so I don’t want to have to chase down books across the Internet. And while I’m learning about publishers, esp from this site, I still don’t feel like I completely understand the landscape. But I’m also relatively cheap and I’m learning to be picky about what I spend my money on.
Right now I mostly use ARe and B&N and watch for rebates and sales. I’ve bought a few Cherise Sinclair stories – actually I think she’s the author that taught me the hard way about the importance of paying attn to word count and price. After the first shock (wait I paid $5 for a short story?!), I bought the rest of her books using ARe rebates. Because I like her style.
I learned about putting things on my wishlist and waiting for a sale from this site, and that seems to work for me, except I have different wishlists on ARe and B&N and once got completely confused about what I’d actually bought and what I’d just put on my other wishlist.
I read mostly M/M, so (1) I can’t get it from the library; (2) the big six aren’t a factor; and (3) it’s all ebooks. I generally spend about $4-5 for a novel. Thus I have not bought anything yet from Riptide. I probably will at some point, but only because it’s a book I particularly want. I’m not trying anything new at those prices.
I buy most of my books from Amazon, because I can lend them (almost every book I have bought at Amazon is lendable). But if a book is over $5, chances are I won’t buy it. I’ll see if I can pick it up at Fictionwise on sale. Also, I check page counts at Goodreads, because the kilobyte size at Amazon is useless.
The other expensive choice in M/M is MLR books, but they make their books available at Fictionwise, so I wait until they show up there and there is a 50% off sale. The $9 book becomes a $4.50 book, and worth it to me.
I buy ebooks from Amazon, full stop. If an ebook’s not available there, it doesn’t exist for me. I don’t go to publisher websites, so if the book is too expensive at Amazon (today’s heebeejeebee point: 6.99), I just don’t buy it. I have time to read about 2-5 books a week. There are always 20+ books on my ‘want to read’ list so it’s no drama to me if a given book stays on my ‘want to read’ list for ever while other titles are read instead.
As far as novellas are concerned, I’ve always been a big fan and as someone indicated upthread, the story content can be just as meaty as a full length novel. I have no problem paying full novel price for one, and indeed have a well loved shelf full of extremely slender sci-fi classics. I am, however, extremely pissed off at the current trend of epubs calling short stories ‘novellas’. A novella is somewhere in the 20-50K range, epubs are selling stories that are about 10K as ‘novellas’. They are not. They are short stories. As a result, I’m off novellas at the moment and will only buy if a wordcount is included in the description.
Jane and I discussed the price of the Rifter series before they were reviewed here. There are times when I’m completely unwilling to pay even $8 for a book, but in this case I plunked down $30 for the series after reading just one installment. That’s because (a) I think Ginn Hale is a terrific author; and (b) I think Nicole Kimberling is a terrific editor and BEB is a very good small press. Same with Jordan Castillo Price’s JCP Publishing. I don’t think their prices are out of line for small presses with high quality editing and other production values. I’ve paid MLR’s high prices too for authors whose work I think is very good.
I used to buy from ECP, back when it was one of the only pubs in town for erotica and menage. But I got burned a few times, then then instituted that ridiculous pricing strategy, and now they are completely off my radar.
I hate LooseId’s policy of holding back new releases to maximize sales at their site. I just wait until the books show up elsewhere. I understand the rationale, but it doesn’t help me as a reader and it really inhibits impulse purchases.
I wonder how many sales small pubs have lost because readers get interested in a book but aren’t willing to sign up at yet another site. I know I’ve bought a few too many Kindle books late at night. I can’t be the only one.
This. I have a handful of comprehensive review sites in my feed reader, and I am taken aback on a daily basis by blurbs and reviews I read. It’s one thing to find hackneyed settings and bad characterizations in a self-pubbed book, but these are NY and e-pubs. It used to be that everyone wanted to be a published author. Now they all are, apparently, much to the detriment of readers who would prefer not to serve as slush-pile sifters.
@Bronte: “I won’t pay 7.99 for an author that I haven’t read before as I’ve been burnt with crap books too many times.” Too true!
I find my threshold is around 4 bucks. Though I have bought books at 9.99 (that price still baffles me; why not just go with 10?).
I am still gasping that the price for some ebooks of authors I love, like Patricia Briggs, who’s upcoming ebook is 12.99! So, I play the waiting game (for the price to drop) or buying from a site that may give me some extra benefits, like All Romance, Books on Board, or Samhain’s new releases, which are discounted. That’s not to say I don’t buy from Amazon too (it’s entirely too convenient when you have a Kindle). At least Amazon does price matching….
What @eggs said: “I buy ebooks from Amazon, full stop. If an ebook’s not available there, it doesn’t exist for me. I don’t go to publisher websites, so if the book is too expensive at Amazon (today’s heebeejeebee point: 6.99), I just don’t buy it. I have time to read about 2-5 books a week. There are always 20+ books on my ‘want to read’ list so it’s no drama to me if a given book stays on my ‘want to read’ list for ever while other titles are read instead.”
My hard stop price for e seems to be $3.99 altho I might have gone over that once or twice. I don’t buy a lot of novellas but you can be sure I’ll be checking word count before I hit one-click going forward. I think what Carina Press is doing — offering the stories in their Christmas anthology either as stand-alone or cheaper bundled is brilliant. Why don’t other anthology publishers get on board with that?
My book budget is 80 to 100 bucks a month. So far this December I’ve spent $35.94 on a mixture of used and new books (mostly used) and $25.72 on e books. Today I bought 8 used Betty Neels paperbacks for $26.66. Do the math: that’s about $3.33 each. I would have bought everyone of them for my kindle if it had been an option, which it wasn’t. I don’t know what Harlequin is thinking but they haven’t released a new Neels book in e for months. It’s just stupid. It’s not like Mary Balogh publishers slooooooooowly offering her backlist on e and re-release. Or at least I don’t think the comparison holds up. Harlequin lost all that money from me because I’m an impatient buyer and I don’t care whether I read used, new or e: price matters and getting my hands on the book I want when I want it matters. I can almost always wait if I think the price is too high (plus my library system is fantastic and offers all the bestsellers that I want, for the most part). Patience is on my side.
@Darlene Marshall: I read your book, Sea Change, which I got when it had the SBTB book club pricing at ARe. I liked it so much that, when an Amber Quill Press sale popped up at ARe a short time later, I bought the rest of your books. I probably wouldn’t have touched your other books if it hadn’t been for my enjoyment of Sea Change, though, because, like cs, I hate a lot of Amber Quill’s covers. They either don’t inspire me to take a second look because they look boring, or they actively turn me off the book. I took a look at Amber Quill’s site while that sale at ARe was going on, just to see if there were any other books I might want to get, and I had a horrible time sorting out the books that might appeal to me from everything else. In the end, I gave up and just bought your books. Price didn’t really figure in – I didn’t even get far enough in my selection process to start considering price.
I think this anecdote says it all about my relationship with the high-priced digital-first publishers.
I’m a huge Cara McKenna/Meg Maguire fan. Huge. Talk to her on Twitter all the time. Love her books. However, I haven’t bought any of her EC books besides Willing Victim. She sent me copies of Dirty Thirty and Ruin Me. I’ve bought her Blaze novel and her Samhain ones, though. My aversion to EC’s pricing is so strong, not even superfandom and internet friendship breaches it.
I’m not paying more than, or even equal to, what traditional publishers charge for a similar product. Digital-first publishers, to my mind, have lower costs, so they should have lower prices. They’re using blind art school rejects to generate hideous covers on the cheap, they’re not paying rent on an office on Manhattan, they don’t have the costs associated with paper books and they’re not paying advances. Why the F do they think they’re worth NYC publisher prices?
LG–Thanks for sharing that with me, and I’m going to pass along to my publisher the feedback about the covers.
And thank you very much for buying my backlist. To me, one of the best parts of digital publishing is having all of my books available for sale.
@Sunita: Absolutely, while I do buy some from small mm publishers, “sleep shopping” on Amazon is something that I do much more often ;)
Word about Rifter, I finally started reading it (yes, after looking at the last page of the last issue ;)) and so far do not regret a penny spent. I am more than happy to support BEB, because they produce quality product as far as I am concerned and for the book I really want, my price point is higher than many readers. For the new author – different story, you have to earn my trust in order for me being ready and willing to pay higher than usual price for your book.
And same with Jordan Castillo Price, totally agree as well.
Loose ID? I bought very few books from their site, because yeah delay for three months annoys me a lot. More often than not I will wait, and will buy from Amazon – or never. I wonder if the publisher thinks that lost sale is better than sale with lower royalties? So bizarre. As to their pricing? Same thing, unless you produce what I consider to be superior product, I am not interested to look at higher prices, but again, I am the reader who will buy if she really wants the book, no matter what the price is. I mean, that is reserved for few authors, but probably for my favorites I will pay even twelve – fifteen dollars. Although besides Harry Dresden books I have not had a chance to test my determination on practice yet,, thank goodness :) I guess this is my limit and I will walk after that price, with most authors 6.99 for novel is my limit I think, not sure. But definitely I am talking about novels, I am not paying nearly as much for short stories, or novellas. I actually thought Carina’s “Men under misletoe” anthology was very decently priced. Four stories – $7.99 (116000 words) and the other stories were priced $2.39, $2.69, $2.69, $2.99 (Harper Fox story, which was the longest and has word count of 35000). IMO of course.
Actually it’s $6.50 for Plus length novels.
I have less of a problem with the $7.99ish price point some digi-first’s put on some of their longer stuff than I do with $4-$6 novellas and shorts from some of them. Not that I’m thrilled with $8 or more as a price point.
At least Loose ID tends to present a quality product, although I hate the three month (or whatever length) wait thing and they’ve definately lost some sales to me because of it. I’ve tried some Siren stuff that appeared to barely be edited and their book formatting leaves something to be desired (please start including a TOC!) and they charge quite a bit for their stuff (more than Loose ID?).
I saw that the other day and was a bit shocked, then I realized they move her Alpha & Omega books to Hardcover (the HC has a $26.95 list price and is $16.89 on Amazon) so understand where Penguin got the $12.99 price, but don’t know that I’ll be buying like I would have if it was $7.99
I’m the opposite of the commenters who don’t want to (or aren’t willing to) shop around for the best price on books. I shop around when buying ebooks, just like I do when I buy my groceries, appliances, or a car. It’s online, what’s the big deal? You open a couple of windows in your browser, pull up a few e-tailers.
I buy at various sites, but unless one of the third-party stores has a coupon code or a sale, or the price is dramatically different, I buy directly from the publisher. In general, I don’t find the prices significantly higher and I like supporting the authors with higher royalties. Also, the publishers’ sites post word-counts, where Amazon does not. I have no issue with novellas or shorts, but I do like to know what length of book I’m buying.
Out of curiosity, I did a quick comparison of one of my favourite EC books, Beyond Eden, by Kele Moon (which is over 100K words, by the way).
EC $7.99, Kobo $7.39, Amazon $7.69, ARE $6.99, BN $8.49
Buying directly at the publisher isn’t the cheapest, but it isn’t the most expensive, either.
Fair Game by Patricia Briggs is a case where I am on the list at the library to read the hardcover when it releases. I can be patient until the MMPB is released at which point I assume the ebook price will come down to $7.99. That is still on the high side for me but if I love the book as much as the rest of the series, I will do it.
I just hate having to play this pricing game with everything these days…plane tickets, cars, electronics, etc. Depending on the day of the week or the season or which email list your on or if you have a friend in the business or have the branded card–different price for the exact same item.
@Karla: Unfortunately not all publishers post word counts. Dreamspinner definitely does not, Loose id does not if I remember correctly. I buy on several sites too – Fictionwise sales are good (but unfortunately it takes a while for new book to get to them), but I love the convenience of that one kindle click and want the publishers to cater to that. I mean, Blind Eye Books will get my business, amazon or no amazon. Manifold press is not on Amazon and I dont know when or ever they will be and I still buy from them, but I consider these publishers to be pretty decent ones and to me they care about their books a lot. Usually yes I want Amazon first and foremost. Say author may get a bit higher royalties on one book if I buy from publisher, but I am the kind of reader who will buy five books from the author I love, so doesnt it make up the difference?
Oh another good example – my friend who reads from ipad finds it incredibly inconvenient for some reason even to transfer kindle compatible files from publisher websites, she says she only can read if she buys those formats from amazon.
I think whatever customer finds to be convenient, publishers should try to do (in the ideal world, I know).
Oh to add, I have read that for the very short stories (priced usually 1.49 – 2.99 on most publishers websites, Amazon takes a lot, so I do understand that those are usually not available and if I want, I will buy from the publishers. Also because of the sales sometimes it is cheaper to buy direct, not more expensive, but as I said, sadly I grew too fond of that one time click. I use other methods of buying, but like this one too much.
I think more don’t than do.
I often buy direct too, unless there’s a really great coupon then I’ll buy elsewhere. It’s hard to pass up a 60% off coupon at Fictionwise (although I don’t like that they re-format the books themselves–for MultiFormat stuff–and introduce their own errors sometimes).
I like that Samhain discounts 30% for the first week (IIRC they discount pre-orders too) and it does cause me to check their site every Tuesday to see what’s new.
I share Karen’s predicament in that I am attracted to e-publishers’ prices, but don’t find much I’m interested in reading compared to Agency-priced, NY-published books. I actually have better luck with self-published books (original and backlist), and those are always reasonably priced.
The complaints on the various sites about Briggs’ pricing is what has kept me from starting her. I had her on my wish list, but then took her off after the hue and cry about her $$$ (and I use the pronoun loosely, I am sure it is her publisher more than her).
I am just now getting into buying from various sources. Josh Lanyon and Shannon Stacey are to thank for that. But from samples I have downloaded of other books that looked appealing, they may be the only ones I break my rules for. There is some high-priced not-for-me stuff out there. While I like m/m, I haven’t found a f/f author I like. A menage is okay, but I think one is plenty. I have no interest in the kink because I just don’t get it and haven’t found the author that has made me “get it.”
My world may be small, but I am happy here and it saves me money.
@Sirius, thanks for the word count. I was going to ask for some guidelines and then there they were.
I wonder how many sales small pubs have lost because readers get interested in a book but aren’t willing to sign up at yet another site
Count me in on this one. Plus, every site is so different and sometimes it hard to find what I want with everyone having their cutesie names for stuff. I don’t even know what that stuff means. I just don’t want to give my info anymore. It’s so much easier to download a Kindle book or go to ARe and since most books are on Kindle or ARe, I don’t bother with going to publisher sites anymore.
I’m also one that uses word count to make my decisions. If I don’t find a word count and I don’t know the author’s work, I don’t buy it. Period.
I haven’t bought an agency book in ages. But if would buy a mainstream book, I wouldn’t pay over $7.
The only ebooks I pay $9.99 for are lesbian from Bold Strokes. But if there’s one I really want, I use ARe bucks that I got from bucks back sales to buy the more expensive books.
There’s only 1 author I buy from Ellora’s Cave. I don’t go there in general. I resent that they charge more on other sites so that you go to theirs and buy it. I think that’s ridiculous and it punishes the reader.
Holey cannelloni on the Briggs book. I was looking forward to it until the price. They did the same move to HC for the Mercy Thompson series. Briggs went from an autobuy to a ‘I’ll wait for paperback’ buy. The thing is by the time they hit paperback prices, I’ve forgotten about them. I haven’t bought a Mercy book since the move to HC because I’m not paying $12.99 for an e-book.
I don’t buy many digital print ebooks. This week was the first time I have bought from Samhain’s website as I usually buy them from Amazon but the Retro Romance line and 30% off was too good to pass up. I prefer the older romances from the 90s over the modern ones of today. I buy alot of backlist titles. My price preference is $2.99 but the cut off limit for a backlist title is $3.99. The reason being the horrible formatting and all the fixing I have to do to get the book eReader ready. Only a handful of backlist titles I have purchase didn’t need much work. Now Samhain has launch its backlist line I have no problem with their prices because I find they seldom have these issues with their regular titles. Word count also plays a big role on what price I am willing to pay.
I have bought a few from Carina only to find them poorly written. One Carina’s author used the word “Uh” in every character’s dialogue in almost every sentence! I forced myself to finish that one because I paid full price for it. So now I tend to only buy from Carina’s established authors that have been published mainstream before.
I love Lendle because it allows me to try authors from these higher-priced e-pubs. If I really like an author I’ll start to buy instead of borrowing. The key point being–I would never have bought if I hadn’t been able to try for cheap/ free.
I find both Ellora’s Cave and Loose Id to be really inconsistent in terms of quality. On the one hand you have amazing authors like Cara McKenna and Heidi Cullinan–and on the other there’s sometimes just total crap. Not formatting and errors…I hate those too, but unless it’s pervasive it’s just irritating, not a dealbreaker…I’m talking about lousy storytelling.
I keep saying here (but it’s true!) that Samhain is getting most of my money these days. I find their pricing very reasonable–and just as important, their authors are telling stories I want to read. Telling them well.
I haven’t bought a Patricia Briggs book since 2009 because of the price. My library has her books available for download, but I’m not sure where the Penguin/Amazon/Overdrive situation stands. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get future releases from the library or not. If not, I guess I won’t be reading her anymore.
Briggs is one of the few authors I’m willing to go over my price max for. It still depends on how desperate I am to read at the time, though, and I don’t often get that desperate anymore.
I wanted to add that, even though I use the feature, I’m a little uncomfortable with the word-count as value thing. I’ve read some very short, very excellent little gems of books, and I’ve read some bloated, in-desperate-need-to-be-cut-down slog-fest books. Going by word-count alone, I would have passed up on the gem and felt ripped off by the bloat (and have done).
Still, I don’t see a way around it with new authors.
I haven’t had time to read any of the comments yet but I’d add that I rarely buy directly from Loose ID because they are too expensive. I have to REALLY like the author unless there’s a sale (and they happen occasionally) or otherwise, I wait until I get my 10th book free from All Romance eBooks and get it from there (although I usually have to wait about 3 months after release for it to be available there).
I would like choice to buy from multiple retailers and I can see that I would think that an author’s backlist was maybe smaller than it is if all their books weren’t available where I shop.
I think $4.99 for a novella is too much. Courtney Milan’s new full length novel was $3.99 which I thought was a steal (I know it is self pubbed but I think the analogy still applies). There are novellas I haven’t bought because they are too pricey – I wait for a sale or try and win them in a giveaway or (and this is the most common) buy something else and forget the book exists.
I think Carina’s pricing is about right.
I’ve read the comments now.
I’d like to add that one author compared a novella priced at $4.99 with the price of a cup of coffee and thought, in that sense, the price was fine. And, in that analogy, it certainly is – the novella or short is likely to last longer. The problem for me (apart from that I don’t drink coffee) is that it isn’t comparing ‘apples with apples’. My comparison point is short/novella vs. full length novel. Using the coffee analogy, I should be prepared to pay $20 or $30 for a novel – and, while those prices are charged here in Australia in e from local sites and on paper, I won’t pay them. Generally, if an MMP is $6.99 and a category novel is $4, I’d expect a short or novella to be at least less than $3.
The other thing is that I’m more likely to be comfortable buying from a smaller press if their price is right, the user interface isn’t scary AND if they accept PayPal.
Fascinating debate. I have to admit, the low price point was certainly a factor in me choosing to submit my first novel to Samhain (although not the most important one) – I wanted it to be available at a price where readers who’d never heard to me would be willing to take a chance.
I used to buy ebooks direct from the publishers as much as possible, so that the authors got a bigger slice of the royalties. However, since my ebook consumption has risen I can no longer afford this, except with publishers like Carina and Samhain, so I tend to make use of sales at ARe and Fictionwise instead.
Using high prices as a justification for piracy isn’t really good enough, IMO, but perhaps it will give the higher priced e-first publishers cause for reflection.
Not a justification so much as possibly another factor contributing to more people dipping their toes in the piracy waters and once those people try it they’re more likely to go there first the next time around.
So if the digital-first publishers are smart, they’ll check in here and see what customers want — never a bad place to start!
We want an easy book buying experience. We don’t want to hunt all over the web to find titles by an author we like.
We don’t like DRM. Eliminate it or face our wrath.
We know what we will pay for a given title, and you’re charging too much. Regardless of what you tell us about the costs of producing an e-book, if the price is too high, we’ll simply move on. ‘Nuff said.
For those of you who prefer sweeter romance, Desert Breeze’s titles are DRM free and nothing IIRC is priced over $5.99 (disclaimer: five of my books are published by Desert Breeze).
As a writer, I’m not happy about my publisher’s recent price increases, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m afraid the higher prices might drive away some readers, but there’s nothing I can do about that either.
About availability, my publisher has said that they offer books to the vendors like Amazon and Fictionwise and such, but it’s up to the vendors what to take. ARe has all my books, but Fictionwise only has a couple (and apparently doesn’t take small press short stories at all). Some other places only have one of my books. I can’t imagine this is my publisher’s doing, since they’re losing money too if a group of readers shops only at a vendor that carries only a small fraction of their books.
One thing I’ll say for the small digital-first presses is that they don’t have the economies of scale that the big publishers do, so I don’t mind paying an extra dollar or two. Especially for the shorter lengths like short stories and novelettes, the profit margin is usually very small, even though the price per word is higher.
In the case of self published books, the cost of production can be much lower than any publisher, especially if the writer does her own cover and formatting, and trades editing services with other writers. Someone who has low or no monetary costs associated with a book can afford to price a novel at $4.99 or even $2.99 and still make a decent amount of money on 70% royalties. A publisher that has to make their own living, plus pay whatever they pay to editors and proofreaders and cover artists and people who do the formatting and marketing and such, plus pay to keep the lights on and the website up, can’t afford to put out a full length novel for $4.99.
Self publishers have very low costs if they’re smart. Big publishers have economies of scale. Small presses are in the middle, with more bills to pay than the self pubbers but much lower sales numbers than the big presses. That said, some of them do push it too far, or at least farther than I’m willing to follow them.
As a reader, despite understanding about economies of scale and such, I agree that Riptide’s prices are ridiculous. Amber’s are almost as bad, and I only buy from either of them when there’s a sale somewhere. And I avoid books with DRm on them because it’s too much hassle, and kind of insulting to the buyer.
I’m with eggs on this one: “I buy ebooks from Amazon, full stop. If an ebook’s not available there, it doesn’t exist for me. I don’t go to publisher websites, so if the book is too expensive at Amazon (today’s heebeejeebee point: 6.99), I just don’t buy it.”
My “heebeejeebee point” varies by author, but I have yet to go over $8 and don’t even get close most of the time. I’ll impulse buy at $4 and down.
I buy exclusively from Amazon because I want all my purchases to be lendable (sorry, Carina Press, I admire your pricing but not allowing lending is a deal breaker for me.) I may pay a bit more for that priviledge but it’s worth it to me to be able to share with a friend.
As an author, I want my books available to as many readers as I can. Especially in this new frontier of digital books. There are WAY too many books — and cheap quality books too — to choose from to limit my books to only one or two vendors. I’m sure the authors at these small presses are not pleased to be limited like this. Hard to build a nice fan base if you’re not selling in as many places as you can.
And as a reading, unless you’re one of my must-buy authors, I’m not hunting for your book. It has to be reasonably priced for the length and readily available. I’m not opening up a new account somewhere just to buy that book.
Very interesting conversation! As an author, I certainly don’t want readers to feel ripped off or unsatisfied. Publishers have to find the right balance in pricing, which can clearly be tricky.
As a reader, I’m okay with paying up to $7.99 for a longer novel. I just bought the Men Under the Mistletoe collection, which I believe was $9.99 at ARE. To me that seemed quite a good deal for four novellas. I’d been planning to buy Ava March’s story, and when I noticed it was in the anthology, decided to take a chance on the whole thing.
When buying a book, I think about how many hours of enjoyment I’ll get out of it. In Toronto I spend $13 (or more for IMAX or enhanced theatres) on a two-hour movie. So $6.99 for a book that’ll take me several hours to read is an entertainment bargain.
@Keira Andrews: A little OT, but you reminded me of how different some things can be depending on where you live. Granted, we only get the big blockbusters, but, in my small town’s movie theater, I pay $3 for matinee tickets. I’m not sure if they show 3D movies anymore, but, when they did, they cost $6. So, comparing the price of e-books to the price of movie theater tickets would not work out nearly as favorably in my case.
@LG: Yes, I suppose it’s all relative! The cost of living in our area definitely impacts our feelings on prices.
Pricing concerns me, too. I write novellas and often wish the pricing was a little lower for those impulse shoppers. I do like to buy from Fictionwise, with the club pricing.
One thing I always have is a free read–maybe several–on my yahoo loop, so readers can try a complete story before plunking their money down. Money is tight for so many readers. I know I am more cautious with my spending than I have been in years past.
I have a book coming from Lyrical in April. One thing(of many)that impressed me about them is that they get the ebook to third parties by release date.
Clearly I’m the odd woman out, as I have never had a problem as a reader paying mass market prices for eBooks. I do it all the time w/o batting an eye. My line in the sand–and we all have one–is paying more than $10 for an eBook. I don’t care that it’s out in HC. If that mattered to me, I’d buy the physical HC. So for those books, like the new Briggs, I’ll wait until the MM comes out and buy it then.
When I came back to reading new romance novels in the mid-2000s, it was through erotic romance available at our online library (Brava, Aphrodisia); I then found LooseID and EC and bought quite a few ebooks (mostly from LID) until their prices started first creeping up and then skyrocketing. I haven’t bought a book at LooseID in years and I don’t think I ever will again, especially after the totally disingenious tweet I got from one of their principal publishers about how they had not raised their prices at all. Calling your (ex-)customers liars, so not a good PR move!
Since the big 5-6 instituted agency pricing I’ve bought maybe a handful of ebooks and those mostly via alternative platforms (Baen, SW). Most of my ebook reading these days is via freebies and the online library (thankfully ours is pretty decent about buying romance, new and backlist, and pretty receptive to purchase suggestions). These days, if I love a book I read in e- via the library, I’ll buy a used copy in paper where before I used to buy my own e-copies and then buy a paper copy as well used.
Authors are definitely at the short end of that stick because they don’t get royalties directly from me, but my income has been dramatically reduced over the last 2 years and I just can’t afford to pay extortionist prices for my entertainment. But really, the main reason is that I dislike being fleeced and my line in the sand has been crossed not just by the pricing, but by the clear disdain most publishers seem to have no compunction to express for their customers. The older I get the less willing I am to take that.
My rule of thumb is absolutely no more than $1 per 10k and preferably less! Good thing I’m not really all that keen on novellas because they are pretty much all above that price.
@Lynne Connolly: I guess I’m the exception then…I just read EC freebie Soul Hunger by Marisa Chenery and bought the rest of the series.
I almost, almost refuse to pay 7.99 for some of these digital books. I have though in the case of the Cherise Sinclair books. I’m addicted, what can I say. Normally though, even for an author that I love I just can’t justify paying that much for a digital book, especially when I can buy the print book for the same, or sometimes even less.
The one place I do draw the line is that I don’t purchase these titles from all of these other e-tailers including Loose ID and Ellora’s (both of which are overpriced IMO). I stick to one or two e-tailers. If the book isn’t for sale on Amazon, or All Romance, then I just won’t buy it. Period. I don’t like having my financial info out to some of these companies which are small and may not have the kind of security necessary…and with so many small digital publishers who are here today, but not necessarily tomorrow I don’t want my digital library disappear (for re-downloading if/when necessary)
And while some of the publishers think that they are doing well and don’t need to sell at other venues then they are really missing out. They are relying on their current customer base for sales, not taking into account potential new readers who only shop for books at places like itunes, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. A very short sighted view IMO because I know I can’t be the only one who doesn’t like to use my credit card info on some of these small time sites (if they even know where to find them).
I totally agree with you on the freebie reads! If the free book sucks, why on earth would you want to spend $$$ high prices on other books by that author. The biggest service that they could do is offer a good representation. I too have pretty much stopped reading EC because the quality of the stories just became laughable (at least the ones I was interested in). For the last few years my digital book buying has almost exclusively been with Samhain. They have a great freebie policy by offering first in series, or early works from their authors to entice you to read their newer stories. I can’t tell you how many times this has gotten me to purchase more of their books.