We Need To Talk About Book Pricing

We Need To Talk About Book Pricing

Yesterday I was briefly let out of my cage to do a bit of investigating in 3 bookshops. The first was a big Irish chain. The second was a very big independent bookshop. The third was a very small independent bookshop.

I went about each shop idly picking up titles to see how they were priced (because I am a nerd, and I find myself doing that sort of thing when I should be doing other things, such as following the person I’m with around the shop and piling more and more books into their arms until they have the To Be Read Pile from hell and they are creatively plotting my demise).

Prices were all over the place. There was as much of a pattern to them as a toddler’s leftovers. So as a control example, I picked up a standard paperback version of My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, published in 2012.

Both independent bookshops priced it in the same range – expensive, for a paperback, at around the 12.99 euro level, but not necessarily an eyebrow-raising price in Ireland.

The big chain had it at 17.99.

17. Effing. 99.

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking dollars, euros or sterling here. 17.99 is a ridiculous price in all three currencies for a standard paperback which was published 5 years ago. And yet someone in this shop thought it was a lovely idea to price it right there.

We Need To Talk About Book Pricing

It’s by no means the only pricing strategy that makes my head hurt. Trade paperback pricing drives me to drink. Trade paperbacks, in case you’re wondering, are those revolting, annoyingly huge paperback formats which are the preferred domain of the new release since the hardback was deemed too expensive to produce. Trade paperbacks won’t fit in your bag. They give you RSI, are eye-wateringly expensive, and you can’t read them in bed. But when you’re the sort of masochist who attends a lot of book launches, they’re all you’re going to get. I hate them. And the only people they’re hurting are the authors who desperately need their books to sell straight out of the gate.

Okay, But Where Am I Going With This

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how much authors aren’t earning, at least on this side of the pond. I won’t rehash the entire debate, but it pretty much boils down to this: once upon a time, popular authors whose books sold in the tens of thousands made a living from writing books. Now they don’t. The End.

There is more than one reason for this, but many newspaper articles about this in the last couple of weeks mentioned the discounting model set in motion by certain gigantic companies over the past 20 years or so. The upshot is that the mean retail price of books is supposed to be far lower than it once was, taking everything into account, such as sales promotions, which include special offers and discounting, and the distribution model, which factors in seismic industry changes such as the development of self-publishing, and behemoths like Amazon.

When a book is priced at wildly different levels from different retailers, and the customer can see it’s not consistent, it looks terrible. So who’s paying for it?

Is it the publishers, spending large on discount promotions? Independent bookshops, through shrinking margins? Or just the author, who wrote the bloody thing in the first place and is lucky to come out with royalties of less than 5% of the total retail price no matter what that is?

We Need To Talk About Book Pricing

One thing is clear in the book industry at the moment. And that is that nobody is happy.

Publishers complain about the untamed beast that is self-publishing. Independent bookshops complain about non-independent bookshops. Small-ish chain bookshops complain about the crushing purchasing power and influence of the larger chains. Larger chains complain about Amazon. Blockbuster authors complain about discounters and online pirates. Mid-list authors could complain about everything, but nobody can hear them, because they’re all buried under a ton of ghost-written sludge released under the deciduous brand of some YouTube vlogger who really loves whatever free shit s/he was sent this week.

So could it be that the reader is the only winner?

Yet Another Survey Of Myself

I asked myself this question, because under the glare of an interrogation lamp, and with my hands cuffed to a wasp’s nest, it turned out that I am, (in my capacity as a blogger at least), a reader such as would be targeted by publishers and authors alike, and prone to buying books as opposed to seeking or getting them for free.

And I answered: No. Neither the glut of author-killer cheap books nor ridiculously expensive books are doing me any good whatsoever.

It’s a conflicted answer, because I am biased. I intend on entering the market myself as an author soon. For now, mid-list authors are my fodder. If they can’t make a living from writing, they’re going to have to do something else. In the meantime, they’ll write less and less, and eventually, I won’t even hear of them again, because their publisher will probably have dropped them, despite the fact that part of the reason they didn’t sell more books was because their publishers dedicated their entire marketing budget to “The Z-List Celebrity’s Guide To Curing Depression With Facials And A Blue Kitten”.

However, I’m also conflicted because cheaper books changed my life. The day that the 3 for 2 tables arrived in Irish bookshops was a day when my love affair with books turned into a total slutfest. I gorged on them. I went into bookshops to buy one book and walked out with six. I spread myself so thinly amongst my literary paramours that I frequently had three of them on the go at one time. Not only that, but I got to choose my own conquests instead of taking other people’s sloppy seconds – because I could finally afford to.

We Need To Talk About Book Pricing

And The Dubious Conclusion Of The Day Is…

So where is the sweet spot when it comes to book pricing? I think it’s somewhere in the middle. It’s not 99c. It’s certainly not 17 effing 99. But anywhere between 7 and 13 euros, and a book has a dashing good chance of taking me home.

There’s also a sweet spot in bundled promotions which encourage people to buy more books. There is nothing sweet about free books which only encourage people to want more free books.

But in the meantime, we have an entire spectrum of unhappy people, and at least one very unhappy blogger.

Sort it out.

  79 comments for “We Need To Talk About Book Pricing

  1. Liberty On the Lighter Side
    February 21, 2017 at 8:01 am

    Did you point out the price difference to the staff at the shop as compared to their competitors? Although they wouldn’t care, being the largest retailer, but just wondering whether it was a labeling error. How about you use some clout and write to them directly maybe? Tell them you could have an army of revolting followers to back you up. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 21, 2017 at 8:53 am

      Safe to say there is no point in pointing anything out to this particular shop whatsoever, sadly. I tend to spend my time on more rewarding pursuits, such as counting dust mites, or relieving myself into the wind. The only thing I have resolved to do is to stop buying books there altogether. I’ve heard so many terrible stories of them mistreating authors I should never have darkened their door in the first place.

      Liked by 5 people

  2. February 21, 2017 at 8:04 am

    “When a book is priced at wildly different levels from different retailers, and the customer can see it’s not consistent, it looks terrible. So who’s paying for it?” Retailers who discount from the get-go will probably sell more books than other retailers because they will be riding on the marketing campaign of the newly released books. I’m not sure there is anyway around it, unless the publishers make the books exclusive to retailers who won’t discount (for a limited period). Can’t see that happening unless the book is a blockbuster.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 21, 2017 at 8:59 am

      So many of the discount promotions are actually paid for directly by the publishers, Kathy, that I’m not sure who’s benefiting from them at all, other than the reader in at least some cases. Retailers don’t even have to manage their own strategy other than demand that someone else pays for it. Even in the event that they result in a spike in sales, they eat away at the author’s earnings in the end.


  3. February 21, 2017 at 8:10 am

    I used to exclusively read books in the ‘bundle offers’ although ‘bundle offers’ is how I tend to purchase everything in my life (food, clothes, medication…). It’s ironic that our purchasing habits are what’s making the market so inaccessible to new authors, so I’m abandoning my plan to write quality literary fiction and I’m just going to copy Dan Brown, but maybe slightly less cerebral. Although I am also going to start vlogging about kittens as back-up plan…

    Liked by 3 people

    • February 21, 2017 at 8:56 am

      Hmmm. I literally cannot wait to see your less cerebral Dan Brown fan-fic. Can I vlog from your book launch? I’ll even buy the trade paperback, I promise?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. February 21, 2017 at 8:12 am

    To honest, I can’t remember the last time I bought a book from an actual bookshop. It’s all Amazon et al these days. Sad, in’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 21, 2017 at 9:00 am

      Yes, Colin, it is. For your penance, you must enter an independent bookshop before the week is out. I did think it was remarkable that in my very unscientific book pricing study, the large chain was the one screwing the customer, not the tiny little independent.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. tbrpiledotcom
    February 21, 2017 at 9:27 am

    I love books and the book trade and want to support both as much as possible. (Some authors are OK too.) My order of buying preference (within my limited budget) is: 1) direct from the author, 2) an independent bookshop; 3) (and actually where I buy most of my books) Kenny’s in Ireland (which has free worldwide shipping; 4) Book Depository; 5) Amazon. As a blogger, I get some books for free, but I rarely ask for them unless it is a book I want to review but wouldn’t buy for myself. (NB Don’t let that stop anyone sending me them though!)

    Kenny’s is brilliant. As long as a book from them is no more than about 75c more expensive than elsewhere, I will buy from them. Often, though, they are cheaper anyway. And they sell second-hand books – again with free shipping.

    I get quite cross when I hear authors complain about prices in book shops or at the margin they have to give them. They are businesses and have massive overheads. Maybe there is a case against the cut for authors from publishers and packagers and maybe the relationship between the shops and publishers needs to be looked at, but authors selling direct to book shops set their own price and have to expect to give a discount to the shop, and to respect that the shop will be taking a risk on shelf space. I am lucky in that my local shops all give a lot of shelf space to local authors.

    Supermarket shelves are my bugbear. On the one hand, maybe people are buying from them that wouldn’t normally go to a book shop and therefore there are readers who might otherwise not be. On the other, they twist massive discounts from publishers (who accept it because the few titles they can sell to the supermarket, they sell in such huge numbers).

    Liked by 3 people

    • focalmeister
      February 21, 2017 at 1:26 pm

      One problem is the lack of unionisation of writers, and the lack of networks of writers internationally. Public lending rights – what you’re paid when your book is borrowed from a library – is risibly small in Ireland and has actually been cut by the government. In some countries it’s paid only to writers from that country, so that translators and illustrators of foreign books loaned out by libraries there can get the fee, but the original foreign writer won’t get a cent. There needs to be an international standard that’s paid honestly, fairly, at a decent rate and without question to all writers.
      Public lending rights came to the fore when Dutch writers stormed the libraries in the 1960s, shouting “Lending is stealing”, and removed their books. After that, PLR happened in one country after another as writers demanded it, and formed associations to defend their rights. Writers won’t get anywhere without that kind of radicalisation.
      Another is the fact that a writer gets a (tiny) fee for every *new* book sold, but not a penny from secondhand sales. In contrast, artists have negotiated a deal where every time a painting changes hands, the artist gets part of the sale price.
      And the most sinister of all is the EU’s attempt to conflate the notion of copyright – an author’s right to profit from his or her creation – with patents – the buying and selling of patterns for engines, pills, software, etc, usually by big corporations. This risks taking away the writer’s ability to make a living altogether.
      Writers, be wise – unionise!

      Liked by 2 people

      • February 21, 2017 at 2:07 pm

        It’s interesting that this is one problem that the digital revolution has neither made worse nor made better. It’s a tough situation indeed.


    • February 21, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      I keep forgetting about Kenny’s, and I’m glad you’ve reminded me. I try to go mainly to independent bookshops myself, but the pull of Amazon when I’m at home in my PJs with my Kindle in my hands is very strong. I don’t for a second begrudge any bookshop whatever margin they’re earning on their stock. Street retailing is a desperate business. When it comes to books, if I had one culprit to put front and centre before the firing squad, it would be the marketers who are playing God with the success of a book before it even makes it onto a shelf. And supermarkets are part of this nonsense.

      Liked by 1 person

    • February 21, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      Agree, I try to buy as many books as poss from local and independent bookshops. I buy from Book Depository if I can’t get a book in Ireland or the price difference is considerable. Love Kenny’s for second hand / older books.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. February 21, 2017 at 10:06 am

    I tried to interest my local bookshop in barter. It’s run by a Polish gentleman who misunderstood me when I said ‘do you fancy trying some barter’ as ‘butter’ and assumed it was a perverted past time that English men of a certain age and schooling indulge in. Eventually we reached an understanding (at least he semed keen) so 2 cinnabuns gets me a reject Dorothy L sayers and a vanilla chai for a spicy anthology of bollywood song titles. Maybe that’s the way we should go.

    Liked by 3 people

    • February 21, 2017 at 2:08 pm

      As long as he’s not coming at you hungrily with a butter knife, Geoff, I’ll assume you’re okay. Otherwise, your system makes about as much sense to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. February 21, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Given that I have started writing poetry instead of fiction, I’ve discovered that it is ridiculously expensive compared to airline fodder. Most independents don’t carry it much because of the low markup. My friends who have published poetry say their payout is peanuts. But since I wasn’t making any money as a novelist, I figured I’d rather not make money as a poet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 21, 2017 at 2:09 pm

      Poetry is notoriously difficult to sell. But like all literary things, I hope it’s due a renaissance.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. February 21, 2017 at 11:06 am

    I must say, it hurt me in the heart to hear your hatred of trade paperbacks. I had no clue it was part of the whole discounting problem. I’ve ALWAYS hungered to be published in trade size (as an end-product), and with my failing eyesight the larger print is a bonus. But mostly, it’s just a great size to read (outside the bed), especially when you consider the chance for full-page illustrations: that has such a long tradition going back to the heroic tales in hardcover with Pyle and Wyeth drawings. Yeah, if I get to trade paper with drawings I’ll have arrived.

    Just have to think of something else to do in bed, I suppose…

    As long as we’re sharing our pet carps about pricing (I’m sure you must have given that permission somewhere in the piece…), how about the inflated price of e-books from Big-Pub/Big-Author? You’ve never seen pricing gone mad like that, factor of six to ten times or more for a same genre, similar length book, and as for quality don’t go there, but the indie is languishing down around $2.99 while the e-book version of FAD (famous author dude) is nailed right up with the price of the paperback, say $12.99 or more. You want to find the unfairness in publisher discounts, consider for a moment what they’re using to subsidize it with. The incremental cost of printing and selling another copy of that bestselling e-book and the percent chance I have of starting a torrid affair with Scarlett Johanssen are both expressed by the same number.

    Not that I WANT an affair with Ms. Johanssen, by the bye. I hear she reads in bed…

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 21, 2017 at 2:36 pm

      I like big books in small packages, Will, so it’s the unwieldiness of the trade paperback which offends me most (and when I end up having to pay 17.99 for the privilege of muscle strain, it makes it all worse).

      But I’m with you too on the Kindle pricing. I can understand having to pay more for a new release, especially a famous one, and it’s my choice if I don’t want to wait, but if a digital book costs more than 10 EUR/USD over a year after it’s been published, I feel like someone’s stealing my lunch money. It’s ridiculous given the lack of overhead.

      I see indie pricing as a different animal altogether. Given that one of the most important components of price is demand, it’s a moving target at best (a mixed metaphor at worst). Will Scarlett, eh?!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. February 21, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    A timely article. I couldn’t agree more. I try to support bookshops always, but sometimes I balk at the prices and/or am stopped dead in my tracks at the price of a book (as you clearly were!) There are so many different channels now for selling, all doing their own thing. As you say….sort it out sellers and publishers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 21, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      You get the placards, Scarlett, and I’ll get the cattle prods. Er, I mean the megaphone.


  10. Bob Johnston
    February 21, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Ok, for what it’s worth (as a small indie bookshop owner) I’ll try to explain a little bit without making any excuses! Sterling to Euro pricing is a constant bugbear for all of us!The Elena Ferrante books are priced at £12 which on today’s rate is worth about €14.20, this title wouldn’t be discounted as it’s older so we’ll leave that part out of the equation. However, as we know, the sterling exchange rate is all over the place at the minute which means that when I actually pay for that book in a month’s time (30 days credit) it may cost up to €15 minus our standard discount. Which is exactly what we’d price it at if it arrived today. But that book may have arrived 10 months ago on a different exchange rate and therefore cost substantially more (or less) – obviously, we can’t reprice everything when exchange rates changed and this is what we paid for it 10 months ago. Now… it is known that large Irish chains have a habit of raising prices on older titles to cover the heavy discounts on new titles that entice people in… which is a business decision we may or may not agree with! The largest Irish chain also have to fix their pricing 6 months in advance of publication when they’re doing their buying which may also have an effect. There is an age-old battle still going on around how books are priced and supplied into bookshops – standard in retail is that you have a cost price for something and a retailer decides what he thinks a customer will pay and marks it up accordingly; in the book world a sterling price is printed on the book and the publisher gives a discount on that price (big discounts to the big boys (which allows them to offer special deals like 3 for 2) and little discounts to the little boys) which means a bookshop has very little say in their pricing. Anyway, I’m not saying you’re wrong for being annoyed – just wanted to add a little context! Bx

    Liked by 4 people

    • February 21, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      That makes more sense to me, Bob, but only in that bookshops are doing their best to deal with an unnecessarily complicated system. Ireland has a long history of being screwed on exchange rate movements with sterling no matter which way they were going. All of the risk hedging seems to be in the UK distributor’s favour, in that there’s too much cushion built in against the euro regardless of the curve. No company trading in actual currency rather than goods would trade on this basis. On the other hand, price fixing 6 months in advance is another problem entirely that even I can’t pontificate to the better of.

      Whatever about the individual relationships between booksellers and distributors/publishers, I thought it was most interesting that the most ridiculous prices I found were in a large and powerful Irish chain. People assume independent bookshops are more expensive, but I think this proves that there is no such thing as a cheap book. Deep discounting hits the pocket in other sneaky ways.


  11. February 21, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    I’m afraid as my Kindle is my right arm now, I’m not a great person to enter this debate, although I make sure most gifts I give are books and from the most beautiful little book shop we have around here. I’d say your price suggestion is bang on, before I started using an e reader I had ten euro as my ceiling, generally waiting until anything I wanted was discounted. I’m afraid I also to be one of those pieces of scum who used to buy from Tesco, simply because it’s hidden in the cost of a weekly shopping and we were on quite a strict budget! On Amazon I’ll generally pay up to a fiver for a book, mostly less, mainly because I’m chick lit, and all of the books I enjoy are at that price (most of them from imprints such as Carina and bookouture, or imprints of Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster etc) or from Netgalley. I buy a lot of 99c books, which is handy given I review and read two to three books some weeks, but they’re ones I want to read (and promote!) so I would buy them at a higher price if required or else get them in the library. Now, just going to cower here for a while and wait for people to throw rotten fruit at me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 21, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      They’ll have to get through me first, Bernadette! You are a book reviewer, I’m not. Therefore I believe it’s your prerogative to get discounted or even free books, because at the end of the day, you’re providing a vital service to authors which they depend upon, particularly if their publishers aren’t giving them much marketing support.

      What really gets my goat are the people who don’t write reviews but insist on going on Netgalley or requesting ARCs from publishers – and then somehow get them, because the publishers aren’t vetting who they’re sending free books to. I was going to do a post on it, but others have beaten me to the punch, and there was too much steam coming out of my ears anyway. As someone who buys her books precisely because I’m not a reviewer and I don’t do authors or publishers any favours, non-book reviewer people who think they’re entitled to free books make me very cross.

      Liked by 2 people

      • February 22, 2017 at 1:04 am

        It could be that the vetting only comes into play on the huge authors for some reason, but it’s strange that that’s happening as there’s generally a day or so time delay between requests and approvals which would insinuate that someone out there is performing a check. Also you’d assume it’d all be easy enough to monitor with a designee from each of the publishing houses/ indie groups, but then I suppose everything in life seems easy until you’re on the other side!

        Liked by 1 person

        • February 22, 2017 at 8:54 am

          You’d assume that, but Facebook & Twitter at least are full of people bragging about being approved for Netgalley etc when it’s easily established they’re neither reviewers nor bloggers. I think there’s an element of scatter-gun marketing in there – a kind of loss-leader “oh well at least a percentage will review” attitude.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. February 21, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    I don’t have a problem spending money on books in that I buy books like some women buy shoes. But I totally hear you re the pricing of trade paperbacks. I don’t mind it if I really want a book and devour it immediately but if it’s €19.99, it’s a lot of dosh and as you say, often too heavy. I’ve noticed lately that books I bought as trade, I haven’t got to read them yet and now they are out in the smaller and cheaper formats – grrr. So I’ve decided to only buy the trade paperbacks if I really really want them or to support a friend.
    There is a newly published memoir that I want to read (by a farmer in the UK) and it’s €18 – I am baulking!
    I’m so glad you said €7-€13 as I felt €13 was an okay price for a book too when pricing my own. It’s what I’d pay but when it gets over €15, I think twice. As the wholesalers take 55%, I really couldn’t make the retail price any less you see but if selling at a show or something, I sell for €12 or if buy 2 or more, it’s €10 each.
    I have seen occasional ebooks priced at the same as paperbacks recently which seems daft.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 21, 2017 at 3:55 pm

      I wonder about the breakdown of the book pricing, Lorna. If wholesalers take 55% and that also covers the bookseller’s margin, that leaves 45% for authors and publishers, the lion’s share of which goes to the publisher. Of course, 45% of 19.99 is a hell of a lot more than 45% of 7.99. But when it comes to e-book pricing, they have no excuse. Where are the overheads there?


  13. February 21, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    But . . . but . . . but I was told “The Z-List Celebrity’s Guide To Curing Depression With Facials And A Blue Kitten,” was a life-affirming literary darling! You mean it wasn’t the book of the century?

    I wish that the majority of POD publishers offered mass market size & quality as a standard option as well as the trade paperback as I much prefer the size as well, but the print cost when you are only producing per individual order sadly doesn’t make it a viable business model.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 21, 2017 at 3:58 pm

      I’ve heard the industry’s reasons for issuing trade paperbacks, Allie, but none of them make sense to me. They still don’t suit authors because they put readers off, and they don’t suit readers because they’re more for display purposes than reading purposes. I have yet to hear a good argument for them. Perhaps someone will tell me that they look better on the shelf and sell more copies, but I doubt it.


      • February 21, 2017 at 4:10 pm

        I get that paper costs money which is why a larger book with less paper costs less to produce than a smaller book with more pages, but if you think about it the POD companies could be buying a bulk roll of paper, trimming it as specified, so really if they opened up the mass market size their costs could in theory come down as their purchasing power increases and would open up a larger market for the independent author which in turn only can help their business model.

        I prefer the smaller size so much I printed up one proof copy of my book just for myself in the smaller size. It was way too expensive to go to market that way, but it does look good on my shelf.

        Liked by 2 people

        • February 21, 2017 at 8:19 pm

          I’m not sure it’s down to paper, Allie: I think it’s down to marketing. Trade paperbacks are generally issued in this country because they say they won’t get reviewed otherwise, which ultimately means fewer sales in the long run. But even if that was the case, I can’t understand why people aren’t trying to change the system and are rather pandering to outdated ideas.


          • February 21, 2017 at 9:34 pm

            Ah – I didn’t think about that aspect of it. I read (and review) books of all shapes and sizes 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

    • February 22, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      Allie – I published Strongbow’s Wife at FeedARead. They use Lightning Source and I was able to do 5×8 cream (a standard, easily handled format). They also distribute through Ingram.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. February 21, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Tara, I have been pointed to popular college websites where people using their own names and having not a bit of shame, have been asking where they can get my Goddaughter books for free – meaning which pirate sites are legit – because they couldn’t possibly afford the 3.99 (US) that the publisher charges for the ebook. I suspect these readers are slurping 3.99 low fat soy caramel machwhatevers at Starbucks while posting to said websites.

    Sigh. If only they would use a library.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 21, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      Oh, for Blog’s sake. Look, Melodie, seeing as it’s yourself – do you want me to come over and sort them out? I have friends who aren’t cowed by border controls, that’s all I’m sayin’.

      Every time I see someone pointing out the comparison between Starbucks warm milk, or cinema tickets, Vs the price of books or music, another little homicidal maniac gets birthed inside me.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Ali Isaac
    February 21, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Well I must be an even bivger book-slut than you, I have been known to have 4 books on the go at once! That was in my young and foolish days though… now I limit myself to one fic and one non fic at any one time, and feel so much better about myself. Lol!

    Regarding price, books should be cheaper so more peoole can afford to read more books. End of. Publishers no longer think in economies of scale, because they have grown fat and lazy and slow and greedy. They have also become dictators, not publishers. If they weren’t any of these things, authors would not choose to self publish cos man! That is the HARD way to publish a book! They wouldn’t need to.

    They have also become dinosaurs. If they had embraced the new technologies of the digital age, quite likely Amazon wouldn’t rule the publishing world, and they would be enjoying the cruise instead of paddling up shit creek… without an oar… using their hands. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 21, 2017 at 8:21 pm

      We should have a bookslut-off, Ali. See which one of us has the looser morals! I’m in agreement on the lazy and slow theory. The lack of innovation in publishing never ceases to both amaze and annoy me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ali Isaac
        February 21, 2017 at 9:33 pm

        Are you throwing down the gauntlet???


  16. February 21, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    I have fallen for the sneaky marketing psychology ploy (SMPP) of the 3 for two deals at this price in the big brand stores. Even when I know it’s a SMPP, which leads to impulse buys (IB), and a self-inflicted mercy buy pile (SMP), that leads to a stash of unread of books and impulse buy resentment (IBR), which can often lead to shaking fist syndrome (SFS).

    To summarise, SMPP + IB + IBR = SFS.

    This was a special one-point-for-the-reading-time-of-two-get-none-free deal.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. February 21, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    You know that phrase ‘don’t get me started’… well, it’s too late. As an indie author, I’m responsible for quality control and production costs at every stage. Fair enough.

    And when my book is offered for sale locally, it’s selling price must sustain credibility in the marketplace after tax is factored in. By the way, in my city, the hugest national bookstore chain and the smaller national bookstore chain are owned by the same corporation. Fair enough.

    At this point, for simplicity’s sake, I shall refer to a ‘bookstore’ chain as BS.

    To be accepted, my physical book is vetted for a professional cover and inside formatting. Check check. It must pass inspection for quality binding. Check. Fair enough.

    To place my books in these venues means I must leave copies on consignment. The store pays nothing and displays them or one (sometimes you have to keep checking). They make 40% (although it’s often 45%) I make 60% IF they sell. I say IF because here comes the math.

    I must subtract my printing costs from my 60% (at this point it will only do my head in if I factor in the months spent writing, developmental and proofreading editors’ fees, and formatting technician’s fees.)

    Thank heavens in a former life I was a graphic designer and don’t have to pay for an artist’s conceptual design. That said, I pay by the hour for a graphic designer with the advanced software to produce my mock-ups digitally. However, as I expect them to be produced faithfully, I’m obliged to sit beside them and art direct for all those hours. Fair enough. That’s me being picky. (read professional) If I don’t (and I’ve tried) I get back a version filtered through a stranger’s brain which delivers an entirely different animal. I liken this process to that game where a phrase is whispered through a succession of ears and at the end, the last person repeats it out loud, and it’s something similar to the Rosetta Stone that defies translation. A book cover by committee (of even two) is a disastrous thing. I’ve digressed again. Sorry.

    And here’s the mathematical icing in rounded numbers because we all know that in real life, prices must end in the number 9. A long novel costs me $12 + tax to print locally. The local bricks and mortar BS must sell it at a price that compares favorably with traditionally published titles. The equation is set according to their rules. My book is X. Game on.

    A conservative price for a full-length novel in Canada is roughly $20. (which is worth less than our southern neighbors whose ginormous jungle BS treats Canada as a family member kept locked in the attic, and rather has the ring of ‘worthless’ attached to it) Famous authors’ novels run upwards of $29. Fair enough. And so it is decreed that all prices must end in 99 cents which means (whispers) $30 plus tax.

    Back to my $20 sample price= $12 minus $12 for me vs. $8 for the BS. Hurray, I have broken even (no points for me).

    So, we move on and try $24.99 (sshhh $25) which by default of being buried under books in the ‘tomb of the unknown author’, catapults my book into the parking lot.

    Back to the calculator. We try $21.99. Fair enough. Not really.

    ME= $13.20 minus $12 = $1.20 vs. BS= $8.80. Fair trading???
    It’s like some ghastly sports score.

    I take my $1.20 profit, add $3 to it, and buy a latte in the internationally famous café chain across the street where I see several authors on laptops writing novels.

    Which brings me to the lows and highs of e-book pricing. But don’t get me started.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 21, 2017 at 8:50 pm

      There’s a certain poetry in referring to a bookstore chain as a BS, Veronica. Other than that, yes, that’s a vicious circle you’ve got going right there. The sadist in me loves the circularity of winding up in the coffee shop, I’m sad to say. Of course, the only way out of that hole is to sell tens of thousands of books all over the country – but what happens then? Yep. Wholesaler’s fees.


  18. February 21, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    When I polled myself, I discovered I agreed with you, Tara, but don’t have any answers or solutions. For indie authors, paper book sell prices are essentially set by production costs. We don’t have much leeway in pricing, except upward beyond the buyers reach or interest. (When I was traditionally published, btw, my paperback books were slightly higher in price and my royalties were rock bottom. A lose-lose situation).

    Ebook pricing is all over the place. Most ebooks that I buy are 2.99-4.99 and I have no trouble doing that. I’ll buy one for $7 if I’ve heard it’s fantastic, but there’s no way I’m paying $14. That seems greedy. I know that authors are driving down book prices with free and discount books. Sadly, there are few (like none) other ways to get an unknown author in front of 3,000 readers at a clip. Like I said, I don’t have the answers.


    • February 21, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      Isn’t polling oneself incredibly satisfying, Diana? Explains why I do so much of it!

      I don’t know about you, but there are so many problems with no answers in this industry. It’s one thing to say we don’t have those answers, but what I can’t understand is how nobody outside of Amazon seems to be coming up with any solutions either. Surely some of the people who’ve been working in publishing and bookselling for decades should have at least some talent in this area?

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 21, 2017 at 11:35 pm

        I think reviews are supposed to parse out the great books from the good, and presumably, great books are worth more. I’d pay more for a great book than a good one. I think that’s one reason by Amazon is being such a prick about reviews. If readers can’t trust reviews they’re not going to pay as much. That hurts everyone. Just guessing here based on my polling. Ha ha.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. February 21, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    I agree. Book pricing is nuts. The big publishers are asking $14.99 (American dollars) for ebooks or putting popular authors into hardbacks at $21.99 American. As a voracious reader, I can’t afford that. As an Indie author, I’m tired of offering my novels for free or in bundles for $.99 just to promote them. You’re right. I can’t think of a more effective way to get the stories to readers. Signings and book markets are costly and don’t sell that much.

    Still, I’m enjoying the writing and making some money at it. There’s an ebb and flow to the business.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 21, 2017 at 10:10 pm

      Expensive ebooks are driving me nuts, too, Sheron. That’s probably a whole other post. Publishers don’t have a single leg to stand on as regards overheads or distribution costs with that, and yet they’re still screwing authors on ebook sales, too. At the very least, publishers could offer authors – who are doing the lion’s share of online marketing, if not all of it, anyway – a higher royalty on digital sales. But nothing in this business model makes sense any more. At least Indie authors can decide their own strategy. I’m not saying it’ll be profitable, but at least the power is yours.


  20. February 22, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Check out this post on the topic of book pricing from the Tara Sparling Writes blog

    Liked by 1 person

  21. February 22, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    I agree.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 23, 2017 at 9:25 am

      As all right-thinking people should, Hilary, but still, I’m glad you’re with me. 😉


  22. February 24, 2017 at 7:17 am

    The prices for my book are as follows: $3.99 for the ebook (because I once read on Smashwords that that is the sweet spot for ebooks) and I think $18 for the paperback because that is the absolute lowest Amazon would allow me to price it at. I would have preferred it much lower but whatever. In any case I’m making very little from it and it may be that the 200 copies that the average book is supposedly selling over its lifetime may be optimistic for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 24, 2017 at 10:07 pm

      Why in the name of all that’s wonderful are they setting a minimum price of $18 for a paperback?? I know they don’t have to give a reason because they are, you know, like, God ‘n’ stuff, but really?

      Otherwise, the 3.99 price is an interesting point. It looks good to me, although the vast majority of ebooks I buy at prices which are in some way attractive are generally odd prices, e.g. 4.53, or 5.47. When I talk about 7-13 I’m talking hard copies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 24, 2017 at 10:53 pm

        Yeah, I don’t know Tara. A friend of mine was similarly miffed at the price of his book. If I could I’d knock it down to $9 or $10. It’s some auto pricer. Maybe because Opalescence is a big book (540 pages).

        Liked by 1 person

        • February 24, 2017 at 10:55 pm

          Or maybe because you’re not paying Amazon through the back door either. I’ve been forming opinions about this sort of thing lately, which as we all know is dangerous.

          Liked by 1 person

          • February 24, 2017 at 10:57 pm


            Liked by 1 person

            • February 25, 2017 at 3:13 pm

              I’m going to try writing to Amazon and ask about lowering the price of the paperback. Will get back to you with their reply. 😓

              Liked by 1 person

              • February 25, 2017 at 9:35 pm

                That was quick. I sent Createspace, the print end of Amazon’s self-publishing business, the following query:

                “Hello Amazon/Createspace. This is Ron, the author of Opalescence. I wanted to ask you about the pricing for the print version of my book. It’s $18.33. It has been suggested that this is a very high price for a paperback, comparable to the price for a hard cover. I remember when I originally published it through you that your auto-pricer would not allow me to make the price lower than this. As one can imagine, this high cost is not helping to sell copies. I love the quality of the book (and realize that it is big for a paperback – 540 pages) but besides sacrificing quality is their any way to get the price lower (I’m thinking more like $9.99)?”

                Their answer:

                “We are unable to publish a title with a list price less than the fees due to CreateSpace for a given sale. We call this our “publish-at” rate, and you can also think of it as the minimum price. When you order copies of your title within your Member Account, you pay the cost to manufacture it.

                “The minimum price equals the manufacturing cost plus a percentage of the list price. This percentage varies, depending upon where the book or disc is sold. For example, if a customer purchases your book through the CreateSpace eStore, we keep the unit manufacturing cost, plus 20% of your list price. The publish-at rate increases if you select distribution channels with higher percentages.

                “When you add a discount to your book, there are limits to how much the book can be discounted, since the fixed manufacturing costs still need to be paid. In some cases, this can greatly reduce the amount of royalty paid on the sale.

                “For books: CreateSpace eStore = 20%, Amazon.com = 40%, Expanded Distribution Channel = 60%
                For discs: CreateSpace eStore = 15%, Amazon.com = 45%

                “To determine what you pay for your title, visit:

                “For books: https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/#content7
                For discs: https://www.createspace.com/Products/CD/#content2

                “To see how royalties are calculated, visit: https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/Royalties.jsp

                “Titles manufactured through Expanded Distribution incur an additional wholesaler service fee, which covers the wholesaler’s costs of distributing your work to thousands of online retailers, bookstores, libraries and academic outlets. These wholesaler service fees may alter your title’s minimum publish-at price. Therefore, since you have enabled your title for Expanded Distribution, your title’s list price must be enough to cover these costs. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this information may present.”

                Personally, I think that Createspace does a great job with the actual physical copy and value Amazon for the website exposure, so I don’t want to get into a row with them. Still, though, it’s hard for me to justify a price of $18+ for a self-pubbed paperback (as good as I think it may be). Seems self-defeating too as such a high price is a disincentive to purchases, the upshot being that neither the author, nor Amazon, is making money.

                I have noted high prices in brick & mortar bookstores for traditionally published paperbacks, but it seems unfair to hold struggling self-pubbed work to the same pricing standards as authors who were lucky enough to find representation with an outfit that can get the word out about their books much more effectively. Anyway, when you add on top of high prices the recent decision not to allow book reviews unless the buyer has made $50 in purchases it can mean failure for self-pubbed authors (though, again, I understand that something had to be done about all the fake reviews out there).

                Anyway, my 2c about pricing.

                Liked by 1 person

                • February 25, 2017 at 11:08 pm

                  Thank you for posting this – it’s very helpful information. To be fair, it does make sense, because Amazon is also your printer, your wholesaler and your distributor. The only way to get around this would be to get a cheaper print deal, buying in bulk in one lot, and then selling all paperbacks directly yourself from your website, which is not something I’d fancy doing, even in a tiny country like Ireland…

                  Liked by 1 person

  23. February 25, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Well, I’m off to slash my wrists. The thing that gets me is when you see your books listed in the amazon second hand market for £1.75 plus postage about a week after the publication of your hardback price £12.99. and find yourself buying them because (after the free ones you get) the price you get from the publisher as the author is 50% off so you can buy them cheaper on amazon than …anyway you get my drift. Your next post has got to be cheerful – VERY VERY CHEERFUL and full of the joys of spring. Tweeting birds, jumping lambs … I’m counting on you. Don’t let me down.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 25, 2017 at 11:15 pm

      Sounds like after years of trying, I’ve hit the writer-angst zenith! Or is that the nadir? Either way, I’m going to consider your suggestion to become more cheerful. Although these things tend to turn out badly where I’m concerned. If I get you some jumping lambs, do I get to eat them? Just a thought. From my bilious side.

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 27, 2017 at 8:53 am

        You get to eat them but you have to be super cheery while they sizzle … or stew … or barbecue (well not in this weather)…

        Liked by 1 person

  24. February 26, 2017 at 11:04 am

    I’m surprised to see the indie bookshops beating the bigger ones on price, although it must affects their margins. Are they sustainably low prices to stay in competition? It’s a pickle for authors and publishers but probably a golden age for readers and buyers. Maybe one day we’ll look back on all this and laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 26, 2017 at 9:09 pm

      So was I, Chris, and I should have made more of a point of it. I think the thing about book buying now is that it seems like unless you’re buying heavily discounted feature titles from the big chains, they’re going to absolutely screw you on other titles you might have actually walked in for. It might well be that indies are usually basing their titles on wholesale prices plus standard markup, as opposed to below-cost selling as loss leaders.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. February 27, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Book prices are so ridiculous nowadays that I just go to the library. I don’t feel the need to own a particular book unless it’s one that I know I will reread.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 27, 2017 at 10:23 am

      Libraries pay royalties, so at least there’s some comeback to the authors that way. It still concerns me though that authors seem to benefit least from all of the marketing strategies. And the more they get screwed, the fewer good books will be produced overall.

      Liked by 2 people

      • February 28, 2017 at 8:33 am

        Totally agree. Maybe we’ll see more and more good authors migrating to the Amazon platform

        Liked by 1 person

  26. March 1, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    You know I’m in the middle of Les Miserables now (not sure why, found myself there one day last week…) and I now believe books should be sold per weight. It might add gravitas to the profession….

    I’ve read those pieces in the Irish papers about writers whore broke and got quite disheartened.I love the 2 for 1 as much as the next fella. But I say if a fool wants to buy a hardback (and it’s not a glossy coffee table tome on fashion or David Bowie that deserves it’s own podium to lie open at a double page spread of gorgeous photography and bone structure) then let him, the eddjit. Me, I love the airport paperback size. At least that’s what I think they’re called. The tiny pocket sized books with the squint worthy type. Love the feel of them! Because I squint at traffic lights so no matter.

    Congratulations on making a book of your own, whatever the size! Keep us apprised.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 2, 2017 at 10:02 am

      I will, Jackie! And kudos to you for tackling Hugo. I thought about it once, but then had to lie down. I remember the days when I devoured Dickens like I had all the brain cells in the world to keep the plot strands together. I miss my old brain.

      Liked by 1 person

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