How Good Does a Book Have to Be At 99 cents?
The 99 cent book is becoming a mainstay of the publishing landscape. Pioneered by self published authors, the 99 cent price may be reshaping customer expectations. John Locke, the eighth author to achieve Kindle Millionaire status, once famously told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that at $.99, the other authors have to be 10 times (or more) better than he.
“When I saw that highly successful authors were charging $9.99 for an e-book, I thought that if I can make a profit at 99 cents, I no longer have to prove I’m as good as them,” says Mr. Locke. “Rather, they have to prove they are ten times better than me.”
Is that a truism? In other words, does this apply to all books across the board? Does the 99c self published Regency Historical only need to be 1/8th as good as the $7.99 Regency Historical? I suspect no and here are my two anecdotes. I would love to hear your own opinions in the comments.
I bought The Heat by Heather Killough-Walden in May (which is no longer for sale in the Kindle store as far as I can see). There were several problems in the book but there was definitely something compelling in the story that made me wonder about the other characters. I’ve purchased one other by her but I have yet to read it because, for me, it was just okay. Instead, I’ve been trying out other authors at $.99 instead, hoping to see if I can find a hidden gem.
Ned finished Joe Ambercrombie’s Last Argument Of Kings: The First Law: Book Three and didn’t know what to buy. He hasn’t found a fantasy blog that fits his tastes and it is hard for him to find the next book to read. He decided to buy a $.99 book that was highly rated in the fantasy section: Mageborn: The Blacksmith’s Son by Michael G. Manning. He reported that he couldn’t get past the first chapter and abandoned the book. (It’s easier to do when you only pay $.99) He then decided to re-read the first book in George RR Martin’s series which cost him $7.99 (and he already owns the series in paperback) rather than try another $.99 book. Martin was a sure thing, Ned told me.
The difference between Ned and I is primarily one of volume. I read nearly a book a night. Ned reads one book a month, maybe two at the most. My conclusion is that for volume readers, the $.99 price point is really important. For the casual reader, price isn’t as important.
What do you think?