What is the right price of a book, print or digital, part one.
Pricing of books is a very important topic, both to readers and authors. With the rise of self publishing, finding the right price for a book falls heavily on the shoulders of the author. There is much discussion about the right price of books. Stephanie Laurens blog seems heavily devoted to exploring the topic of price and she brings up a variety of issues to consider from the author point of view when considering pricing such as market reach and type of commodity being sold. Zoe Winters contemplated whether low pricing, such as 99c pricing, attracts the “wrong” kind of reader. Joe Konrath posts regularly about his pricing experiences. There’s a lot of food for thought in all of these aforementioned posts but I am not unpacking any of them today. Instead, today I want to talk about value because value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
In economics there is a term called price discrimination. In ideal market conditions and if the seller has sizeable market power, everyone pays a different price for a commodity based on their “willingness and ability” to pay. (See Dr. Hughes, I did pay attention during three semesters of economics classes with you). The airlines employ price discrimination by selling seats on the plane at different prices.
Every reader has a different price they are willing and able to pay for a book. I believe that price represents the value a reader places on a book at the time of purchase. However, value can vary over the course of time from when the reader first becomes aware of the book to after the book is read, increasing and decreasing based on different variables. When readers speak about price, they are talking about the amount that they are willing and able to pay at the particular time that they are expressing the opinion about price. Willingness includes the measurement of time.
Let’s assume that the reader is willing and able to pay for 10 books a month with a budget of $50. This means at current mass market print prices, a reader can afford to purchase 5 new books at 7.99 with a little over $7 left over. In order to meet her budget & book quantity requirement (as most reader’s resources are finite), this means she will only be able to buy 3 new books and 7 at the price of 3.99, either used or with a coupon. (Willingness + ability). Here’s the value scale that I’ve come up with:
- Full value = one new book.
- Half value = used book, book with coupon.
- Slighty greater than zero value = paperback swap, library, borrow from a friend.
- Zero value = no purchase.
Scenario 1. We don’t know the author. Zero value.
Scenario 2. We’ve heard of the author. Slightly greater than zero.
Scenario 3. We’ve heard of the author because someone recommended the book to us. Between slightly greater than zero and half value.
Scenario 4. We’ve heard of the author because someone we trust recommended the book to us. Between half value and full value. (depending on the source, whether the book is outside reading comfort zone, whether it has trigger tropes, etc).
Scenario 5. We’ve read the author before and did not like the book. The value of the author’s next book is zero value or slightly greater than zero.
Scenario 6. We’ve read the author before and she has been hit or miss for us. The value of the author’s next book is slightly greater than zero to half value.
Scenario 7. We’ve read the author before and her last book has worked for us. The value of next book is full value.
Scenario 8. We’ve read the author and she consistently delivers what we are looking for in a read. The value of next book is not only full value but can take the place of other purchases for that month (i.e., a hardcover purchase which is equal to the value of three full priced mass market books).
Once we’ve determined value, we can talk about price. How do you readers value books? If you notice, nowhere in my valuation spectrum do I include “supporting the author” or “considering the cost of production”. Do you readers think about that? What else do you take into consideration when valuing a book? Does your value change at different points pre sale, post sale, pre read, post read? In what ways?