10 August, 2011

"The 99 Cent Club"

Commentary by Cherie Jung

No, I'm not talking about the latest turkey, bacon, and cheese sandwich at the local Jack-in-the-Box restaurant. I'm talking about the unhealthy trend in 99 cent e-book sales. Unhealthy you ask? Let me explain.

I've gathered from some online forums and chatting with authors that there seems to be some pressure for authors who have control of the pricing of their books to band together and set the price at 99 cents. (Isn't that a wee bit like price-fixing?) Some publishers also choose to reduce the back-list titles of an author when they release the author's new book. Some of those books are priced at $1.99 for a limited time. (That seems reasonable, in a marketing sense.)

My experience with 99 cent books is that many are not worth the 99 cent price tag. But that's another can of worms. I'll deal with that aspect in a future commentary. For now, my concern over 99 cent pricing of e-books is more selfish.

I presume that as a reader, you would like your favorite authors to keep writing, yes?

Well, have you considered that the royalties paid to authors from a 99 cent sale will only amount to pennies per book sold? Not a problem if you are one of the authors selling millions of copies of each of your books but what about the authors who used to be called "mid-list?" I don't know what they are being called now. Broke? Destitute? Crazy?

As a reader, I read many books for review but I also read books for my own personal pleasure; books that I purchase, not free galleys or reading copies supplied by publishers. I read some best-selling authors but I also read many — if not more — mid-list and new authors.

In my way of thinking, if months — or years, for some authors — go into writing a book that we, as readers, want to read, how can we expect the author to sell us that book for only 99 cents? If you ask me, $2.99 is not an unreasonable price to pay for a book. I even think $4.95 or $6.95 is not an unreasonable price for a book. I think 99 cents is a reasonable amount to charge for a short story, not a book.

I think it shows a lack of respect to the author to pay only 99 cents for an e-book. And I won't do it. If given the choice of paying 99 cents for an e-book or purchasing the same book in print form for a higher price, I'm going to purchase the print book. I want my favorite authors and other authors I discover that I enjoy reading to get as much in royalties as they can. I want them to keep writing! Is it not unfair of readers to expect them to write for pennies?


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