You Are Overpaying For Your E-Books

When we first relocated to Omaha, my wife continued her pre-workday morning routine. A stop at Starbucks on the way to work to drop $10 on a coffee and a blueberry oatmeal.

But one day we pulled up and found the drive-thru 15 cars deep and a line out the door. So we drove across the street to a local place called Scooters. She got a coffee, a milk and a breakfast burrito. And only spent $7.

That’s right, she got more for less. Better yet, the coffee and food at Scooters was better than any Starbucks she’d ever visited. Over the space of one work-year, she’ll spend $1,000 less. Think of what we can use that extra grand for.

Right now, you’re trying to figure out what this post’s headline has to do with saving $3 every morning. Well, let me tell you.

If you buy e-books from the bigger traditional publishers, or those smaller ones that charge the same as the “Big” boys do, you are spending anywhere from $9.99 and up on an e-book.

Mind you, that e-book does not require production costs of paper and ink. Nor does it need to be physically shipped. It does not require a warehouse to be stored in or a bookshop to find a shelf to rest upon until it is purchased.

Anyone charging more than $4.99 for an e-book should be ashamed of themselves. And yes, I know that three anthologies I am in are running above that price. I know the publisher of those anthologies. They are nice people. They are also dead wrong about the pricing. I can still like them and call them out for what I feel is a bad business practice.

What is even worse is a publisher charging nearly $9 for an e-book from a novel released years, sometimes even decades, before. For example, Tor is charging $8.99 for John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, a 300-page novel released in 2005.

Seriously? This one should be $3.99 at most. Because every sale is just gravy on top of the gravy already poured on the money made off of the book over the last 13 years. Then again, Tor has been throwing around money on advances that would make Paul Manafort blush. But why should you the consumer have to pick up the tab for their poor business decision making?

No. The price of e-books are ridiculously out of whack. Most of my books – the ones that I have direct control over the pricing – run $2.99. The most expensive one you’ll find is $5.99 and that is an e-book containing ALL three Del Rio novels. So you are basically buying two books out of the series and getting the third one for free when you buy that one.

Those are fair prices, for both you the reader and me the author. I don’t expect you to pick up the tab for me to eat filet mignon and drink champagne every day. Many small publishers and Indie authors get this. They offer their e-books from as low as $0.99 on up to $4.99.

My upcoming six-book Timeless novella series will run $0.99 each for the e-books. Because they are aimed at younger readers I want them to be able to easily get them without breaking their parents’ bank accounts.

Sadly, not every publisher or author seems to care about the readers they are, in my opinion, fleecing like a flock of sheep.

For example, one Nick Mamatas – who claims to be a writer – released a new book the other day for $9.99 and promptly got taken to task by the very first reviewer to comment on his book’s Amazon page.

The reviewer made the point that the price tag for the work was well more than the reviewer considered appropriate and listed several other authors that the reviewer felt provided better content for a much fairer price.

That was it. No personal attack on the author, just a valid observation on a perceived lack of value in return for the amount spent on the product in question. Nick, reportedly, lost his shit. Wailing to the cosmos at large on his social media about how unfair this criticism was.

First, Nick violated the first rule of reviews for authors. Never respond to the negative reviews – aside from thanks for reading it. You never look good when you attack a reviewer for giving their honest opinion – whether you feel it is justified or not.

Second, maybe Nick should have taken a second or two to consider this from the reviewer’s point of view. Maybe this person has a limited budget to devote to their book buying.

With the same $10 bucks that person just dropped on your one book, they could buy three of mine and walk away with at least a dollar ($4 if they bought the All-in-one Del Rio series e-book) in their pocket. Getting more for less is always attractive, especially when the quality of the less costly product is the superior of the two.

So the question those of you charging $9 or more for one e-book is this: Why? You don’t have to. You really don’t.

Amazon pays a royalty of  70% or roughly $6.90 for every e-book copy sold. If you are an Indie author, you’d get the full amount. A publisher like Tor gets the full amount and pays the author a percentage out of that royalty. It doesn’t take many sales for that to add up to a large chunk of cheddar.

At $2.99 each, as I am full-Indie, I get about $2 a book. And that’s just fine for me. Better yet, my readers get a great story and have some money left over. Say, to buy a coffee at Starbucks (or your local equivalent of Scooters) to sip while they are reading one of my books, perhaps?

So what do you say Nick? Tor? All of the other larger presses overcharging for something that you can’t even hold in your hand by itself? What say you all?

Let’s bring those sky-high e-book prices back down to Earth and give the readers out there more for their money. Before we price our readers out of the market.

Because without them we have nothing.



12 thoughts on “You Are Overpaying For Your E-Books

  1. I chalk it up to a get rich quick mentality which nearly always ends in pain. Make a good living slower is better. The one thing I see some indies not do is offer paperback in addition to ebook. On my first book, I did both, and about 30% of my meager royalties come from the paperback priced at 9.97. Some people just gotta have paper.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Richard,

    And in Europe it’s on purpose. Spain is particularly egregious with ebook prices. There’s a book I’d like to buy. The paperback is 8,95 euros( while the ebook is 9,99 (
    A lot of books are in the 7,99-9,99 or higher. And then the publishers complain that no one reads enough

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, how’s Jon doing at WorldCon so far. I’ve followed the Con on twitter just for giggles, but obviously that’s only going to give me the official version. Email me if you don’t want to discuss it publicly.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So far, he’s okay. He went to purchase a ticket and before he could even finish sitting down at the table to put his ticket order into the computer some official named Lori or Laurie (?) approached and told him to leave. She then followed Jon and the person with him who was taping the entire encounter to the front door of the venue and stood guard at the doorway until they had walked out of sight. It was being lived streamed so everyone could see what went down. For a group of people who “claim” to be anti-Nazi those folks running WorldCon sure seem to act a whole lot like Nazis, in my opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with cometely on this point. I also think Nick loses his sh!t a lot.

    There is an author I’ve been reading since the 70’s when I was a kid. He has a new book out in hardcover. When I checked the price, the ebook was half the hardcover. One lost sale.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Richard,

    The problem is that the big publishers have successfully conned the govts that saving the bookstores from eeeeeevil Amazon will protect the culture and cultural industries. It’s an utter lie. Because in Spain, in Catalunya the sudden collapse of the main book distributor several years caused such dislocation, that a lot of serious economic problems ensued.
    To reiterate the books are overpriced and I bet a lot of authors don’t get paid much either and people spend their beer money elsewhere
    All this to force everyone to subsidize the lumber distributon oligopoly

    Liked by 1 person

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