Guest Post: What’s Hot in Romance? from All Romance eBooks
Jane kindly invited me to share a bit of what we at AllRomance.com learned about reader preferences in 2012. For those of you who aren’t familiar with All Romance (also known as ARe), we are a niche on-line bookstore that specializes in the sale of…. Yes, you’ve guessed it, Romance eBooks
This past fall we completed a survey of close to 6000 digital romance readers that dealt with the subjects of piracy, file sharing, and DRM stripping. So, I thought I’d hit some of the highlights based on our initial analysis of that as well as our 2012 sales experience in general
So, here’s our top 10!
- Inventory grew 40% in 2012 to just under 100,000 titles.
- According to Bowker® Market Research, Q2 2012, New Books Purchased and RWA’s 2012 Romance Book Consumer survey, the U.S. romance book buyer is most likely to be between 30 and 54 years of age.
Most of the digital romance readers who took our survey reported being between 40 and 49 years of age. We’ve also seen a significant increase in our over-50 readers, who were responsible for 26.3% of our survey population.
- Male readership increased 18% in 2012.
- The infographic below based on ARe’s 2012 sales shows the Top 10 bestselling romance genres, which included some interesting take-aways about buying trends for BDSM, Multiple Partners, and Male/Male Romance.
- 97% of sales are on eBooks rated 3 flames or higher. Of significance is that the 5 flame sales have seen a drop of 10% over last year with most of the difference shifting to the 3 and 4 flame rating.
- Problems with downloading and accessing DRM files are responsible for more than half of our customer service complaints. Since DRM products represent less than 8% of our sales, this is quite disproportionate. Customers who download a DRM file were almost 12 times as likely to require customer support than customers who download a non-DRM or open format book.
- The second most frequently received customer complaint was around territory rights issues. Readers feel strongly that eBooks should be available worldwide. Many self-disclosed that the inability to purchase certain titles has driven them to piracy.
- 5.5% of our respondents reported they discover books through unauthorized file sharing sites, boards, forums, etc., commonly referred to as “pirate sites”.
But approximately 19.3% of those respondents, or about 1% of the total survey population, don’t download books from those sites.
All of the respondents who reported posting to and the majority of the respondents who reported downloading from unauthorized sharing sites also expressed intent to strip DRM.
The number of non-pirating respondents who reported they would strip DRM was approximately 5 TIMES the number of pirating respondents who reported they would strip DRM.
Our findings indicate that it’s the intent of most users who strip DRM to do it after purchasing.
Does DRM deter piracy? Since such a large number of those who strip don’t pirate AND almost all of those who pirate do strip, our conclusion is NO.
- Since 2010, we’ve seen a steady trend toward a decrease in the average retail price of eBooks, from $4.66 in 2010 down to $4.13 in 2012.
Has the lowering of the price point sparked a significant increase in unit sales and therefore a reader’s overall spending?.
Not according to our analysis. Although there are certainly exceptions to every rule, the 11.6% drop in price from 2010 to 2012 didn’t result in an overall increase. Rather, there has been a resulting 8% decline in terms of revenue and unit sales per purchase.
Since the number of potential new eBook customers is beginning to shrink and the number of books a reader can realistically purchase and consume are both relatively finite—publishers cannot continue to rely on burgeoning unit sales.
In the past year we’ve seen an increase in refund requests for short stories priced at $2.99 due to customer complaints around poor formatting, insufficient editing, and inadequate word count. Many of these books were in the 2000 – 5000 word length AND reported as such. We’re also getting more questions from readers about full-length novels that are priced at $2.99 or lower (excluding discounts and promotions) indicating they believe the quality to be suspect. In 2013 we believe publishers and self-publishing authors will begin to see significant backlash from undervaluing quality books and overvaluing short stories of poor-to-mediocre quality.
- What are we seeing in terms of best-practice (read “best-selling”) pricing?
- Short Stories: $0.00 – $2.99 per book
- Novellas: $3.00 – $4.99 per book
- Novels: $5.00 – $6.99 per book
- Long Novels: $7.00 – $9.99 per book
1% of sales were of books priced over $9.99.
Does any of this data surprise you?
Chief Operating Officer
All Romance eBooks, LLC
I just wanted to comment to say I think ARe has excellent customer service. I haven’t had any DRM issues, but on the rare times I have had to email them, they always respond promptly and actually read the email and address the issue(s).
I once tried do buy a digital book from Barnes & Noble, that was available to US residents only (and not available on Kobo). I had to download a virtual shield (so I could trick their server into believing that I was in the US) and had to use a fake address. Funnily enough, my non-US registered credit card was accepted without incident. Just too much hassle to buy a book, I do think that territory rights are doing more harm than good.
Fortunately, since Kobo showed up on the horizon, territory rights aren’t that much of an issue anymore, but I still think that the whole geographical restriction thing is so 1999!
The only reason I’ve contacted customer support is also for help with DMR issues. Adobe is the bane of my existance.
“DRM products represent less than 8% of our sales”
I’m curious how the publishers break down for DMR vs. non-DMR. Is that 8% composed of Big 6, and the 92% online and self-pub? I’m always willing to go to ARe, and pay a bit more than I would at Amazon or B&N, if I can get a book without DMR. However, Big 6 most often have DMR everywhere, and have significantly better sale prices at the other sites. My purchases have been slowly shifting away from the Big 6, or at least widening to include many more publishers, and although certainly not a decisive factor, when I’m choosing between two authors I haven’t tried before, DMR or the lack there-of does have an impact.
Geoblocking hasn’t driven me to piracy, but it has driven me away from ARE, because no matter how good the customer service is for buyers, I can’t order books there. Books that are available to me from other, perfectly legal places, like Amazon and BoB. I have no idea why this is, but since I do have other options, there’s no real reason for me to look into it further.
“97% of sales are on eBooks rated 3 flames or higher.”
Ouch. I mean, I knew sex sells. But 97%? That doesn’t leave much at all for the non-sexy-times books.
Also, as a direct result of reading this post, I have increased the prices of all my self-published books. The short is now $1.49 (from 0.99) and the novellas are $3.99 (from $2.99). I shall be very interested to see what, if any, effect this has on sales/revenue.
Excellent information. I know I’m extremely reluctant to pay less than $5 (unless it’s on sale) or more than $7 for any novel. In particular, I will NOT buy any ebook that costs more than a print copy of the same book (and I’ve often seen ebooks priced higher than paperbacks from big publishers).
The DRM findings are exactly what I would expect. It doesn’t deter pirates one bit, and it only annoys paying customers. Bad risk-benefit ratio. DRM needs to go.
I am surprised at the surge in M/M to the top, but I knew sales had gone up a bit. I did think BDSM and multiple partner would be higher though.
For my self-published books, I refuse to use DRM. As everyone says, it doesn’t stop pirates and annoys readers.
I have heard the same from my readers about ARe’s customer service. Always polite and fast and willing to work with you.
I personally stick to authors I know and purchased in the past. As for new authors I use this site the Romance Forums at Amazon and Goodreads and most of those books are priced at 4.99 or less.
I will and do buy books priced 9.99 or more but they are authors that are on my auto buy list like Linda Howard, Karen Marie Moning, Beth Kery, funny thing is I stopped buying my monthly Harlequin Presents now that I have my kindle because those books can be bought months later because in eform they will be there to be read.
I wish the article would have delved into the serial format because that’s is my only complaint with is buying a book reading it and finding out that its one of three or more.
@Ros: I only recently started to go to All Romance and did not really pay attention to their heat rating, but isn’t she saying that their highest rating is five flames and it went a bit down? Maybe I misunderstood. But yes, not too optimistic for somebody like me, who often looks for less sex rather than more.
And boy am I pleased to see M/M as the most selling genre :)
Most of it reflects what I’ve seen in my own sales. I’m doing almost exclusively m/f now, partly because my sales are better and partly because that’s what I enjoy writing the most.
The DRM findings don’t surprise me. I’m not the only person who reads on ereader, phone and tablet, and needs the format suitable for each. I just try not to buy DRM’ed books and I have walked away from a purchase before now if I can’t find it un-DRM’ed.
Price, yes, interesting. I’ve self-published some of my backlist that I got the rights back to, and I’m seeing increased sales at $3.99. I’m trying out 99 cents for short stories. $3.99 for republished backlist and $4.99 for new releases (none of those yet, but there are a couple in edits). I do think prices will rise, but not dramatically and $5 seems to be the point with most ebooks, whatever length and genre where readers think more seriously about the purchase.
@Sirius: Yes, she is, but it still doesn’t bode well for my 1 and 2 flame books!
Thanks for this–I was curious about the results of that survey.
While I like spending as little as possible, I’m one of those readers that won’t buy very cheap books unless a)the cheap price is due to a sale, b)I’m already a fan of the authors’ works, or c)they come recommended by people I trust. The only times I won’t spend more than $6.99 on an e-book is if it’s a new-to-me author.
I’ve never illegally downloaded a book, but if I lived in a country where geo-restrictions were an issue, I’d be all over that.
Wonderful post! Even though the majority of what I do read is M/M books, I’m very surprised that it’s such a popular genre. For some reason, I thought that BDSM and Historical Romance would be the top categories.
I don’t pay more than $8 for a book.
ARe is a fantastic site. In the nearly 5 years I’ve been a customer, there’s only been one incident when I’ve had a problem and it was promptly resolved. In addition, they’ve got a neat reward program (buy 10 books, get the next one free). It’s by using this reward program that I can get around my not purchasing books over $8. ARe has a non-romance book side which is called OmniLit and offers other types of titles too. :)
@Mel: I’m sure that m/m reading has increased over the last year, but this is only what is happening at ARe. If you looked at what Fictionwise was doing in 2012, or Books on Board, or another ebook retailer, you wouldn’t necessarily get the same results. It could be that readers of m/m disproportionately buy from ARe, for example.
@Ros: I think this just means that patrons of ARe are less likely to buy your books (given that m/m and Erotica are their top two sellers, that’s not surprising). It doesn’t mean ebook readers in general have those buying patterns; we can only know that buy looking at all ebook sales.
I’m not trying to discount what ARe has discovered. The results are interesting in and of themselves. But they’re not generalizable to romance ebook buyers as a whole.
I am not surprised by this as I have done this myself, but not through ARe but rather through Amazon. I have created my own chart of minimum word count v. price point that I am willing to pay. Most recently I was pretty pissed to find that a book that cost $4.99 ended at location 879 on my kindle. I love ARe b/c they give word counts and that almost as much as the blurb will determine whether or not I purchase the book.
eta: also re the flame ratings, related to what Sunita said, I am more likely to shop and buy at ARe if I am actively looking for an Erotica book because of the combination of the granular categories & the flame ratings. So If I am in the mood for an M/M shifter Interracial book with 4 flames, I know exactly where to find it.
$2.99 is expensive for a short story. If it’s less than 10k, I hesitate to pay anything, even .99. My rule of thumb is about $1 per 10k. Readers seem reluctant to spend $10 for a 100k length novel, but they will buy pricy short stories and novellas. I’m guilty of this myself. The last time I bought a 14-page story for $2.99, I was annoyed even though I enjoyed it.
@Jill Sorenson: Totally agree that $2.99 is expensive for short story. I do not care how popular of the author you (generic you) is too much in my opinion. And I am the kind of the reader who will spend ten bucks for a long novel without hesitation if I know or at least pretty sure that I will love the book, I know not all readers can afford to do that, but I did and will do that often enough. On occassion (that was really on occassion and it was not mm book) I had been known to spend 14.99 for a book I really really wanted, but that was Jim Butcher and the likes :).
At the same time, I bark at $2.99 price for a very short story, I remember seeing a really really short story for that price by popular mm author whose books I really love and for the first time ever borrowed that story on kindle without any hesitation whatsoever. You want to charge me 3 bucks for an extremely short short and I am not buying :).
@Ros: Oh I see. well if you ever write mm with that rating, let me know, I will be there :).
Like several others, I’m less likely to buy a very long book if the price seems too good to be true (100K for $3 makes me nervous about editing, unless that’s a sale price). I very much appreciate ARe keeping word counts and other metadata handy, not to mention the free book discounts. It’s a lot easier to shop with you guys than with other retailers.
My only couple of customer service contacts were promptly resolved, but weren’t about DRM – of late I only make one exception to my refusal to buy books with DRM, but I pick those up from Amazon because I didn’t feel like loading other reading software.
Would love additional options for sorting my crazy-long wish list.
Love all of this information. It is particularly interesting to see the readers’ opinions on pricing (relative to length, perception of quality, etc.). I’m also surprised at the average age of the romance reader. I’d have guessed it at slightly younger, especially the digital reading group. Thanks for sharing this with us.
@Sunita: That’s a good point.
I’ve paid $2.99 for a short story, but only when I know in advance that the author is skilled at the form. Too many pieces that are called short stories today, are just short. They’re more like vignettes, or even worse, they’re teasers for longer novels. Writing a good short story is an art, and I’ll happily pay a premium to read one because they’re hard to come by. But most of the stuff we see in the genre these days, especially since the advent of fanfic-derived work, bears little or no resemblance to a short story in the traditional sense of the term.
Ebook unavailability has only once really angered me: Halfway through the Kate Daniels series the books stopped being available in e format. I mean what was that about? All of a sudden I can only have the book if I ordered a hard copy and had it shipped? As shipping to South Africa is kinda expensive, I just decided not to ever touch anything by the authors again.*
While geo restrictions seldom bother me (except if they happen halfway through a series, obviously) I really hate it when discounts are offered on websites that turn out not to apply if you happen to be buying from Africa. The whole “oooh, this sounds great and it’s only $2.99” that turns into “oh, wait, for me it’s $10.99” gets seriously old, very quickly. If you only discount titles for a certain region you send a pretty clear message to everyone outside that region about how much you value their custom.
I get that it is never the authors decision to do these things. Unfortunately their name is on the cover so I do end up associating my disappointment with them.** However unfair that is, I think it is also pretty unfair that being from a third world country puts me in the third rate reader slot.
Edited to add caveats:
* This resolve only lasted until I found other works by the authors that were available in e format. They are just to good to pass up.
**On the whole this doesn’t bother me long term because I can hold a grudge for all of five minutes. I still end up buying the non discounted book about 20% of the time.
@Sunita: “Too many pieces that are called short stories today, are just short’ – OMG this is so so true, but while I agree with what you said, I guess at certain page count I will still bark at that price.
I think “Pearl” by Kelly Rand is a gem of a short story and I just checked, Amazon lists it count at 26 pages and it costs 1.49. I happily paid it (because Pearl was recommended) and I think it was a perfect price for such a short story because it was so good. Anything more for something which is not even a short novellette and I say bye bye. As I said, I will happily pay ten dollars and even more for a good book I know I will like (I reviewed a lot of YA books this year and a lot of them I purchased myself and most of them were close to ten bucks), but I guess there is a certain page count where in my head quality stops being a factor, I will feel overcharged no matter how good story is if I am charged 2.99 for 20 pages. It is different for every reader, I know. Even though I drastically decreased my paperback purchases for the last few years, there was more than one book which I loved so much that I bought a paperback after reviewing free ARC, because I wanted to support the author.
But charge me 2.99 for a short, and I am usually very unhappy. Go figure.
@Sirius: Hey, no one said we had to be consistent, right? And given pricing variations it’s a good thing. When books range from .99 to over 12.99 within the genre, it becomes pretty much impossible for a reader to stick to a consistent pricing strategy, unless you set an unbreakable upper bound and either don’t read or borrow from the library when a book exceeds that.
I know I’m in the minority on the short stories, and given how hard it is to tell a good one from a bad one, I don’t buy very many.
So… ya see what you perverted women have done to the reading genre?
You make me and all real men SICK. Go pet you cats, no one will marry into your sickened world.
Sunita made a great point and I’m going to prove it. I buy most of my books from Books on Board – if I can get it from there, I prefer to, because they have excellent discounts and rewards and generally, their prices are better. If I can’t get it from there or I can’t get it from there for the right price, I look to Amazon, Kobo or ARe. Kobo most especially if there is a coupon because I don’t like shopping there much and geo restrictions are an issue. Amazon is easy to buy from but there are the geo restrictions and the incomprehensible whispersync international fees so if the price is no good, I go to ARe. ARe sell ePub, my preferred format. They also take PayPal and their shopfront is easy to navigate. If I can buy a book from ARe for the same price as from the publisher, who may or may not take PayPal or whose shopfront may be difficult to navigate, I choose ARe. Also, if the price is the same, I get the benefit of their buy 10 get 1 free deal which I don’t get at many publisher sites. So, by process of elimination, much of my m/m reading is purchased from ARe. M/M however represents approximately 30% of my reading – I just buy 90% of it from ARe.
It’s a similar story with heat levels too.
For me, that’s too expensive. My range is more:
Short stories $0.00-$1.99
Long novels up to $7.99
It’s a very rare day that I spend more than $8 on an ebook. It has to be something extra special. If it’s dearer, I’ll get it in print from the Book Depository, borrow it from the library or just read something else.
“My rule of thumb is about $1 per 10k. ”
I got an *amazing* amount of shit from an anti-BBA campaigner on Amazon for daring to price my books by length. Apparently the value to the customer and the extra work involved shouldn’t be reflected in the price at *all*, according to her. After that I’ve felt rather guilty for pricing books that run to nearly 200k over $4.
And then I see some f/f piece of erotica on Smashwords asking $9.99 or more for 5k, and I wonder, am I in the wrong business?
[PS jlhappymeal – real men don’t need to troll romance forums to make themselves feel butch. They’re too busy marrying and making love to romance loving women – and men.]
I hope that’s true.
I love the conversation on price – it’s hard to know where you’re market is as a newbie writer. Many of us are struggling to understand value for money. I wrote three x 40,000 word long novellas in 2012 and priced them at $2.99 (one reviewed here) because I was a debut author with Kensington and my eBook sold at $8.59 – as I’m also a reader I know that price is a big ask when readers don’t know me or my voice at all! And it worked. It has helped the sales of my other traditional books. I’ve even put all the novellas into one ebook and book and priced it at $7.99 and $11.99 and they are selling…
I also love the sample facility you get with an eBook. This immediately tells me, before I buy, whether I will like a book or not. This takes away the price issue. If I like it, if the author has hooked me, it doesn’t matter what the price is, I’ll buy it. Just shows, as usual, we’re all so different. It’s what makes the world fun and interesting…
I think it’s reasonable to price at least partially by length. I get very annoyed by high prices on very short ebooks and I know others do too. If we want to pay less for short books, it’s only reasonable that we would pay more for longer books. I suspect this stops at some point though.
In response to Kaetrin (and others discussing pricing).
I find the pricing arguments here especially fascinating. People will easily pay $2+/day for bottled water (when they can get water for free)…or more for coffee.
But, readers complain about spending $5-$10 for an entire book. To put this in perspective, the average book (say, in the romance genre, 75,000+ words) might take an author 4-6 months to write (from idea to rough draft to final ‘draft’). Then there will be more weeks/months of editing via an agent and/or editor. Don’t forget about the money spent on cover art, formatting, printing, advertising, website/blog maintenance, etc. By the time a book is available, well over a year or more of many people’s blood, sweat, tears AND money has been spent.
If an author sells 20,000 books (thus, not a best selling author…and MOST authors are not best sellers…and by the way, the average self-published author will sell less than 500 copies of his or her book.) at $5/book…that’s revenue of $100,ooo. Now, the author might get anywhere from 70% to 25% of that revenue (depending on their contract/self-publishing or traditional, etc.). Let’s go with an average of 40% (or $40,ooo)…then back out what they have to give their agent (or, if self-published, what they spend on cover art, formatting, etc., etc.), then take out taxes, and so on. Let’s just say that year-plus of effort isn’t making the author rich. In fact, if you divide the time spent writing/editing/marketing into the paycheck, some might make less than minimum wage. Most self-published authors will even lose money.
When you devalue the effort and demand that books cost no more than a cup of coffee…the product will eventually suffer. It will not be worth it for anyone to take the time to really craft a great story because they will lose money regardless. The market will shift and you will see a lot of cheap books that won’t be worth the $0.99 charged. When that happens, we will know why.
Just food for thought.
Oh God, not the coffee argument again…
I’ve pulled this off your site:
Authors should understand that readers like me don’t really care how much effort they put into writing a book. All they care about is whether they enjoyed it or not.
Like you (and every reader), I want to enjoy a book, whether I paid $3 or $13, and I feel cheated when I don’t like it (at any price). As a new writer, I can only hope that I will entertain more people than I will bore.
What I was trying to point out with my offending ‘coffee argument’ is that a good story takes a lot of time to create/write/edit. More time = More Expense. I’m unaware of any profession or business that has no interest in any profit. Thus, if I want to ‘enjoy’ the book, shouldn’t I expect it to cost a little bit more than…a cup of coffee? ;-)
I know you agree, since you’ve already admitted to thinking it fair to pay by the word count (although word count doesn’t equate to quality…but that’s a debate for a different thread).
PS I see you’re a Scandal fan. Love that show…although recent events left me very torn.
@Jamie Beck: You really went there?
OK then. Yes, it’s food for thought.
We thought about it here.
And again here.
It’s come up before. We’ve thought about it. Our conclusion: it’s not a good comparison.
[ETA to fix broken link.]
@Sunita:I was just thinking of your awesome response to this tiresome argument.
@Jamie Beck: You’re not quoting me. “Karen Knows Best” is a group blog. I use the same name there, so it’s easy to tell what’s written by me. (And I’ve never watched “Scandal.”)
Why are you surprised that the audience for e-books is older? If you are a reader, your bookshelves are full, by the time you are in out of your 20s. You have a house and have probably graduated from Ikea. A Kindle costs as much as a bookshelf from Ikea and a lot less than a bookshelf from Pottery Barn. It holds more. Further, you can adjust the font size, so my reading relatives in their 80s are turning to E.
Lord save us all from the daft “cup of coffee” argument. I’m embarrassed to see it yet again.
@Jamie Beck: As many other commenters have said, the coffee/water argument is old and does not win fans. You have just guaranteed I won’t be buying your book by the way. Pissing off readers is not a good way to make money either.
@SAo: You pretty much summarized exactly why I got a kindle :) Although in my case I had run out of space for more book shelves too.
Re the coffee thing: Fastest way of reminding me how different different parts of the world can be. Around here books and coffee just aren’t in the same price range: about R20 to R30 for coffee and about R130 to R180 for a new book. Even second hand books tend to cost more than coffee.
“Lord save us all from the daft “cup of coffee” argument. I’m embarrassed to see it yet again. ”
If authors are going to compare their books prices with anything, why not other forms of entertainment? A novella takes me 1-2 hours to read, so let’s compare that with a movie. If I go to the cinema to see a first release, it costs me $18. If I wait until it’s on DVD, I get it for $10-12. If I wait three years for it to come to TV, it’s free.
So based on the amount of entertainment, a good novella is eitherh worth $18, or you should pay nothing for it.
I think most people would say that either position is ridiculous.
So what *is* the best thing to compare book prices to? Why do we object to paying $8-$10 for a full length ebook novel when it can be ‘replayed’ as many times as you want (and you get it – usually – as a new release) but $8 -$10 for a DVD is just fine?
I suspect part of this is geographic. To an aussie, a new novel for $10 is absolutely amazingly good value, given that our paperbacks are $30 and hard covers are $50-$60. Americans pay far, far less.
But our coffee, as far as I can tell, is the same price as yours :)
@Christina Auret: Christina, I can totally relate as I’m a German reader solely reading in English these days and georestrictions are a pure pain in the posterior.
A question: Can South-African readers buy from Amazon.co.uk? Because the Andrews’ decided to self-publish their ebooks in the UK when their UK publisher didn’t buy the remaining books in their series.
So you have (much prettier to my mind) UK covers for the Edge series, as well as Gunmetal Magic and the other Kate Daniels books there.
At Kobo I don’t have to jump through those hoops, as the US publishers are happy to sell me the US versions of the series – to be quite precise, they’re selling it to me at Amazon.com in Kindle format, too (I strip DRM and convert into .epub as a matter of course, once I’ve bought an ebook) with a German credit card.
Other than that, there’s still the fake US address for BooksonBoard and buying yourself gift cards with Paypal and then crediting them to your own account – if BoB has the book that has gotten me around georestrictions reliably so far. It’s just a pain, true.
I think you don’t really look at it from a business point of view.
I happily paid a tenner for Iced and will happily pay the same or more for the next Kate Daniels. Why? Because I knew these authors, know what they are delivering. The same doesn’t apply to a new author, who might have invested the same amount of time – or more – in crafting her story. It’s like putting my money in a black box.
In other words I think that as a new author, you have to speculate to accumalate. I’m not saying that you have to give it away for free, but – like any other business – you might initially have to accept operating at a loss, before you can turn it around and make a profit. It wilk take time.
It might not be fair, but it’s just the way it is.
I think the discussion on price is incredibly fascinating. I’m pretty inconsistent when it comes to my buying habits. I’ll pay anything for the new releases on my favorite authors – to the point where I buy the ebook and hardcover for Nalini Singh (for example) on release day. New to me authors, and authors that I kind of enjoy vary widely on what I’m willing to pay.
I wish that more places were accurate about word-count in ebooks. It would be a very large factor in how much I was willing to spend, though obviously not a hard and fast rule.
My general spending habits – where I’m satisfied in the length of what I paid for – tends to be:
Short Stories: $0.00 to $0.99
Novellas: $0.99 to $2.99
Novels: $2.99 to $6.99
Long Novels: $5.99 to $9.99
Though, again, my favorite authors I routinely pay $7.99 to $14.99 for their novels… (and to expand on what Lia said; they weren’t in that category before I ever read them.
@Ann Somerville: The movie comparison doesn’t really work for me either. My biggest problem with your comparison is that going to a movie at the theater near me is priced much differently than it is where you are. The cost of many things is priced differently based on where you live: gas, groceries, movies, etc. Even in the US these prices vary widely, but not books. For me, a movie – at the theater – costs me anywhere from $5-$10 (depending on the time of day I go). If I wait for it to come out on video, I can rent it, for as little as $1.20 (at Redbox), though I usually pay around $2.50 at my local video store. I rarely buy a movie on DVD or Blu-ray before renting/seeing it to be sure that I’ll enjoy re-watching it.
A novella takes me about a half hour to finish, so right there it’s also not comparable to a movie for me. A novel takes me about 2-3 hours to finish, and that would be more in line. In that instance I find the current pricing of novels at around $6.99-$8.99 to be reasonable (especially so if I enjoy it), because I’ll often re-read and that’s a hell of a lot more value for my money than a movie at the theater that I only see once.
Pricing’s much more complicated than the “cup of coffee” argument gives it credence for. It just doesn’t work. n a capitalist society, the market is charged what it can bear, ie not what the product is actually worth, or the work that went into it, but what the buyer is willing to pay for it.
Then we get to the old “it depends” hurdle.
The hardback policy can mitigate against an author. I can think of two authors whose work I was crazy enough about to get the hardbacks, too anxious to wait for the e-release or the paperback. The books just weren’t as good as I was expecting, and the author dropped off my autobuy list. You ask that kind of money and change in habits (hate hardbacks – they awkward and they hurt my arthritic hands after a while holding them) you give me the quality I’m looking for.
When I used to have to commute on the train every weekend, I’d usually buy a book at the stand at the station. And what competed with books? Magazines. I could usually get 2 chunky mags like Cosmo (sorry!) or GH or Vogue or something for the price of a book, or 3 flimsier magazines. So if I didn’t see a book that interested me, I’d get magazines. I wouldn’t think, “Oh, I don’t like these books, I’ll get a cup of coffee.” I’d get the coffee as well, but it didn’t compare to the book choice.
These days, of course, I’d rock up with my Nexus packed with books I’d bought beforehand. I’ll still get the coffee. Don’t drink bottled water if I can help it. Nasty stuff.
It’s a bit like the way prices go up after you’ve gone through security at an airport. They can charge what they like, and they do. If they’re the only show in town, then sure.
I’m still testing the market for self-published stuff, but I’m not exactly diving into it and abandoning everything else. It’s an interesting exercise, and it’s reasonably lucrative. I’m not one of those authors who can suddenly move into Buckingham Palace with their new earnings, but I’m not complaining.
Wow. Lots of backlash from everyone over my post. I didn’t intend to ruffle so many feathers. I assumed this was a friendly debate and merely threw my hat in the ring.
If you take out the “coffee comparison” in my original post, I was simply discussing the amount of time and money that goes into a book, not to mention the amount of heart (at least from the writer). Those other articles you linked in talk about the businesses and employees supported by the coffee purchase, and I was just making the same point (on the publishing side).
Perhaps the real problem is that a ‘good’ book is a subjective thing (like music, movies, etc.). One person may love what another hates. Yes, some authors are consistently better than others, but I also have favorite authors who have written a book or two I really didn’t like. It is difficult to have true consistency of experience when dealing with art (compared with other consumable goods)…so pricing based on ‘quality’ or consistency seems an impossible task. The great thing about ebooks is the ability to sample before purchase (which should substantially reduce the risk of a ‘bad buy’…and ultimately help make pricing ‘fair’).
I don’t pretend to have an answer. I was genuinely interested in reading other people’s opinions and understanding their thought process, and share mine. Sorry so many participants mistook mine as argumentative or worse.
I don’t disagree with you (about new authors vs established authors price points). And writers do invest/risk their time and money, and emotions (bad reviews), into projects knowing it may not pay-off.
I think one of the best things about the ereaders/Amazon is the ability to sample a chapter or three before committing to the purchase. It is probably the best way for authors and readers to learn to judge the ‘value’ of a book. As I just replied to someone else, however, the subjectivity of art means that some may hate what others love…thus, it is not as simple a pricing matrix. And even great authors can put out a lesser quality book from time to time, leaving a loyal fan disappointed.
Ultimately, there isn’t a simple answer. Personally, I’ve paid up to $15 for an ebook. I don’t think I’ve ever bought one under $3. Some of the cheaper books have been better than some of the more expensive. Like most readers, I tend to go back to the tried and true authors whose ‘voice’ I generally like.
I guess because I think of the younger generation as being more ‘tech-savvy’ and having heightened interest in the newest technology/electronics gadgets. I bought my mother a kindle years ago and it took her quite a while to ‘want’ to learn how to use it (now, of course, she loves it). Meanwhile, where I live (greater NYC area suburb), I see lots of middle school kids with kindles and mini ipads…
As I’ve already expressed this morning in another reply, I thought we were all engaged in an interesting impersonal debate. I didn’t know that ‘coffee’ comparisons, or that outlining the risks that authors and publishers take (time/money/emotions), would offend anyone. In fact, I admit, I’m still kind of confused about why it made so many people angry. But in any case, I certainly did not intend to offend you or anyone else on the board. For that, I apologize.
I didn’t join the discussion to ‘win fans’…I was simply interested (as a writer AND avid reader) in the topic of how to effectively/fairly price something as subjective as art. I obviously threw out an unpopular opinion. Please consider my hand effectively slapped.
@Estara: Actually the books that they are self publishing in the UK are available to me from amazon.com. I am never quite sure in which region South Africa falls because for some books we get the British version and for some we get the American version. I sometimes get the idea that we get tacked on as a party favor to whomever wants us with the rest of their purchase.
As to jumping through all the fake address and multiple account hoops … I know that it’s an option, but I hardly ever bother. For the most part I would only do that to get access to authors that I know I love. And the authors I know I love are the ones that I already have access to. So the books I can’t get easily, I simply don’t get.
Still, thanks for the heads up and I hope you enjoy all the books that you have to put so much effort into getting.
We’re not offended and we’re not angry. We’re annoyed.
You’re coming in here, to a group of people you don’t know and have made no effort to familiarize yourself with, and lecturing us on how publishing works. This is exasperating to us because:
1. Jane reports on the publishing industry every. single. day. We’re up-to-snuff, tyvm.
2. Half of the people you’re lecturing are published authors.
3. Your analogy is not only dripping with false equivalence, it’s stale. It was trotted out and summarily dismantled months ago.
Also, since you love silly “food for thought” analogies, I bought Terraria a month ago for $9.99 and have played it instead of reading since that day. We’re probably talking a good 50-60 hours played in that period. Would you like to compete with that on price/hr. enjoyment?
I’m really enjoying the pricing discussion! And, I’m hoping that both publishers and self-published authors are listening. Some very good points are being made.
It’s occurring to me as I’m reading comments by others that it might be beneficial to agree to some word length cut offs so that when we reference a “short story” or “novel” we are referring to the same thing. In the model we used:
Short Story – up to 19,999
Novella – up to 49,999
Novel – up to 79,999
Long Novel – over 80,000
We can certainly argue where those cut-offs should or could be. But that’s how we ended up bucketing the books for our analysis. I’d love to know if that changes anything for those of you who have posted your buying practices.
@liz – Although not absolute, the breakdown between DRM and Non-DRM does tend to be divided along Big Six and Larger NY Pubs vs Small to Mid-sized Press and Indies.
@Meri – If you are unable to purchase a book from ARe due to GeoRestrictions that you are able to purchase on BooksonBoard or Amazon U.S. please let me know. Since those restrictions are imposed based on contract terms with the authors, that shouldn’t be the case.
@Maddie – We do have a serial enhancement on the books to better identify these for readers.
Duly noted. I did not mean to lecture, annoy, offend or otherwise bother anyone. You are correct, I am new to this forum. I was directed here by another post elsewhere and thought the original article was very interesting. I found the posted comments to be equally engaging, so I wanted to join the discussion.
I did not mean to be combative or condescending, or to infringe upon anyone’s time with my own “daft, silly, tiresome, redundant” thoughts. Pardon my ignorance.
The price that I would pay for any type of ebook is wholly dependent on how much I want to read it. BUT I do want to know what I am paying for and this is what always gets me about ending up with short stories and novellas when I think I have purchased a novel. Kobo does not list the length of anything and I have often been fooled into buying something much shorter than what I thought I was purchasing, in which case, I am always annoyed. Perhaps it would be helpful if the author indicated the length of the work in the description.
As an indie author, I consider the higher prices traditional publishers charge to be the major way I can compete. As an ebook reader, I agree with @Bronwen Evens that the free sample solves a lot of my issues with being unhappy with the price of a specific book. If I read the sample and like it, I generally buy it, unless it’s over $9.99. The exceptions are those instances where the author either lets the quality of the writing slip or ends the book in a way that I hate. When that happens, it’s the time lost I resent more than the money.
For the price conscious, an excellent site, if you don’t already know it, is ereaderiq.com, which lets you select a book in the Kindle store and get an email notice if the price drops to a point you specify. You can also use it when you want to know a print-only book is added to the Kindle store. Sadly, it only works for the US Kindle store right now.
A refreshing, no-holds barred article based on real stats. Thanks for this. None of it was surprising, especially #9, all of which verifies my own research the past year.
Really interesting stats and breakdown. Thanks!
This number isn’t necessarily as bad as it sounds, because (unless I missed it) we weren’t given the total number or percentage of books in each flame category that ARe sells. If only 25% of the books available are 2 flames or less, it’s less significant that the other 75% of the books account for 97% percent of purchases. (I just made that number up, of course.) It’s still disproportionate, but not as drastic.
@Ann Somerville: Thank you Ann for your comment because like you I never buy books unless they meet my word count per dollar standard which is for every 10,000 words I will pay up to a dollar. So I can get bang for buck so to speak. The only time I don’t do that is if on ARE the book sounds to good to pass up and I wait till I’ve got a buy 10 get 1 free code on hand then lump it in with a book that fits my criteria. Because for 10,000 words on my reader it’s usually only about 25-30 pages and to me that is not a short story in my book that’s a reader digest magazine article or per-view of an up coming book.
And also forgot to state that if the e book exceeds the price of the equivalent size book in paperback I will not buy it because there is no printing cost so we should not have to pay more then a print book cost at anytime for a electronic one, I have seen printed hardback & paperback books selling for 7.99 up to 12.99 then turn around to find it in electronic format and it’s still those same prices that’s way to much especially if it’s an older publish from several years ago. I consider that gouging and that’s just wrong. I will not pay that no matter what the book is about. And usually the editing is worse then the printed version because I already own it and am trying to get a e book version for my reader to carry around with me when it’s not feasible to carry the printed. What makes printed books so expensive is the publisher/publishing and printing cost and shipping costs, with electronic books there is no paper or ink or shipping to stores or where ever the book is sold from involved, so the price should be cheaper then the printed edition even when it is a new e book release.
I’ve had to give up on DRM books and therefor that means the Big Five are not going to get my spending dollars because they make books too hard to download plus the geographic restriction garbage although I know how to get around that.