I’ve long thought this position is nonsense – a narrative which plays on misplaced fears of change and a confusion of price and value, which is also based on flawed assumptions and analog, zero-sum thinking.
And, if anything, the opposite is true.
Why So Cheap?
Self-publishers are fond of 99c pricing for a number of reasons. It’s the lowest price you can set at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo without making your book free, and it has an obvious impulse buy appeal to readers. This price point is particularly popular for the first in a series or a limited-time sale in conjunction with an ad spot, but some have used it more aggressively.
I launched my latest novel Mercenary at 99c (logic here) but plan to raise it to $4.99 this week. Authors like Joanna Penn went further and kept that launch price for several months (reasoning here, stunning results here). And, of course, lots of writers like Amanda Hocking built enormous readerships with perma-cheap pricing.
The obvious downside of such an approach is a financial one. Amazon pays 35% royalties, instead of 70%, at prices below $2.99. Apple pays 70% on 99c books (curious how Amazon gets charged with encouraging a race to the bottom, rather than Apple) but the iBookstore simply doesn’t shift books in the same quantity – and particularly not for self-publishers.
As such, 99c is no magic bullet. The royalty rate disparity creates a very real chance that it can backfire in financial terms, particularly these days when more authors experiment with pricing. However, critics of aggressively cheap pricing don’t tend to center on results for the author, but rather the effect on the market as a whole. Continue reading