Episode 71 – Price Wars, Gender Bias, and MasterClasses

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Question of the Week: Would you buy an e-book if it was priced higher than the paperback or hardcover? Why or why not?

After Bryan talked dictation and Jim put out a call for developers, the terrific twosome tackled the best tips and news of the week. The three tips included advice on pre-orders, lessons to learn from James Patterson’s Masterclass, and how to start off right in self-publishing. The compelling news stories included male pen names, comparisons between print journalism and traditional publishing, author displeasure with Audible, Fantasy-Faction’s post on why you shouldn’t self publish, and a massive story on agency pricing. This week’s Question of the Week is “Would you buy an e-book if it was priced higher than the paperback or hardcover? Why or why not?”
What You’ll Learn: 
  • Bryan’s latest thoughts on dictation for his fiction
  • How you can help Jim on his latest project
  • Why you should consider pre-orders for your book
  • What one writer learned from James Patterson
  • How to start self-publishing on the right foot
  • What a little name change can do for your fiction
  • How self-publishing compares to blogging journalism
  • Why some authors aren’t happy with Audible
  • One blogger’s opinion about the drawbacks of self publishing
  • How trad pubs may be losing the pricing war
Question of the Week: Would you buy an e-book if it was priced higher than the paperback or hardcover? Why or why not?

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  • There are several series that I really enjoyed but stopped reading because the ebooks were priced way too high. I will occasionally pay up to $7.99 for a Kindle version from my favorite trad pub authors, but never more than that. Books of $11.99 -$13.99 are just ridiculous, and there are too many reasonably priced books by both indies and trad authors that I can spend my money on. I would buy an ebook priced higher than the paperback if both were low, just for convenience.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, $11.99 is crazy. I won’t even buy $7.99 normally.

  • QOTW: It just depends on the price of the ebook. How it compares to the paper book is irrelevant to me. However, if it’s more than the paper book, it’s almost certainly too expensive. I don’t buy paper books these days unless they’re too old to be available as ebooks.

    • Bryan

      Definitely. Unless the paperback is $0.99 plus shipping :).

      • Honestly, I’d rather pay £1.99 for an ebook than £0.99 for a paperback, even assuming postage was free. I’m much more likely to actually read the ebook.

  • Crissy Moss

    QOTW – There is a stack of books held in my wish list that have been sitting there for ages. I keep waiting for the ebook to go down below five dollars, but that doesn’t happen very often.

    It wasn’t that long ago that a paperback book was just $7. Now they come in a size that is closer to hardback size and are $12. I don’t buy those either. What happened to the pocket sized fiction that I could slip inside my purse to take on the bus with me? Now my kindle is smaller than most books.

    Regardless, no I won’t pay more than $7 for a kindle book unless it is several books in a series. Even then I’m really reluctant to pay more than $10. And if the kindle book is more expensive than the ebook I won’t even give it a chance, though I might order it from my local library.

    • Just a quick note – do you know about http://www.ereaderiq.com/ ? You can get them to send you an email when ebooks you want go down to a specified price.

      • Crissy Moss

        No I did not. Thank you I will be using that.

    • Bryan

      Ooh, sounds like that tool could be helpful then :).

  • QOTW – I rarely look at the hardcopy price, but if an ebook is priced really high I click on the paper version to see what’s what. If the book has been out for a while, I try to find a used (on Amazon) copy, but only if the ebook price is ridiculous. If the ebook is the right price, I go with that, despite the paper price.

    • Bryan

      We need some of those used ebooks!

      • Spider McGee

        I’d love to open a used e-book store. I hate it when my favorite e-book goes out of e-print or Amazon sells out and there are no more copies left.

  • QOTW – On the flip side, with non-fiction I prefer paper, but only because most traditionally published non-fiction books are done pretty poorly on kindle. No links, bad links, images and charts you can’t even read and with no way to enlarge them or click to the chart or download on their site.

    For non-fiction (with charts, graphs, etc.) I’ll actually only choose an ebook if the ebook price is significantly lower than paper. Many trad books don’t use Matchbook, either, so you can’t even get the ebook for a deal when you buy paper. 🙁

    • I also prefer non-fiction in paper because it’s just easier to flip through a paperback to refer to something. I buy virtually all my writing books in paperback so I can physically highlight, underline, and bookmark. I hate doing those things on a Kindle.

    • Bryan

      Audio all the way!

  • Dear Mr. Kukral – on behalf of the Mohagany Desk Supporters Union, we require that you immediately cease and desist with your disparaging remarks regarding our fine brand of smooth wooden desks. We believe there is finer choice of wood on the market.
    Jim Heskett

    • Dr. Mr. Heskett,

      I prefer Ikea furniture. It’s sturdy, and is more affordably priced for everyone. Your Mahogany desks are outdated and frankly, smell like oppression. 🙂


      Jim Kukral

    • Bryan

      Ahh. This joke makes me smile.

      • Spider McGee

        Hemingway had a mahogany standing desk. Or at least I choose to believe he did, starting right now.

    • Eddie Jakes

      I have a $35 writing desk I bought at Target and so help me I will make magic with it! lol

  • No, I won’t buy an overpriced ebook. In fact, I’ve purchased a couple paperbacks recently because I refused to pay 9.99 for a kindle book. I really wanted those two books – usually, I’ll just ignore an expensive ebook. I already have more books on my kindle than I could read in my lifetime.

    • Bryan


  • I actually might pay more for the eBook than the paper version if it was a book I REALLY wanted, for the simple reason that the cost of shipping a physical item from Amazon to Australia is usually significantly more than the price of the item. It would depend on whether I could source the book locally, and how it compared in price.

    However, clearly eBooks should not be priced higher than the paperback or hard-cover versions. It defies logic.

    • I understand your point about more expensive ebooks defying logic, but ultimately, anything is worth what you can get someone to pay for it. If you can get someone to pay more for the ebook, why not take the extra money?

      I actively prefer ebooks, so if the price is right, I’ll pay more for an ebook than for a paper book.

    • Bryan

      This makes sense. Stinks to see folks overseas getting the price jacked on them though.

  • No. I prefer paperback anyway. The only way I could conceive buying an overpriced ebook is for the search function, where I could easily find what I am looking for. But that’s about it.

    • Spider McGee

      Paperbacks are the way to go, and you can’t go wrong with a 99-cent e-book. However, as the prices go up and up, you can go very wrong indeed.

    • Bryan

      That better be some rockin’ search.

  • Just to comment on the WhisperSync thing… I totally understand why a narrator getting a royalty share would hate it, but I just don’t see the downside for the author. Yes, you’re going to make significantly less… but you’re also going to sell more audiobooks. I know that, as a reader, 95% of the time when I see that “Add Narration for $1.99” button, I hit it. Additionally, it has actually swayed me to buying certain eBooks over others. It’s one of those things that’s great for readers/listeners, but not the best for authors and especially narrators… but I basically just look at my audiobooks as extra money since most of them are royalty share and I really didn’t do anything to produce them except listen to the book.

    Where I do 100% agree is that I wish we had pricing control. Even if they set a minimum (similar to CreateSpace), that would be nice. But, at the end of the day, ACX has made it possible for ANYONE to get an audiobook out to the market, and it’s a beautiful thing.

    • Bryan

      For the author, it isn’t a big loss. But if it loses us quality narrators, that’s not a good thing.

      • Nah, it just means that less narrators will take royalty share deals, at least without a PFH stipend. They won’t go away, just more of them will want up-front money, which is fine.

  • Paying more for a digital copy over a physical one???? I….but…you see…that can’t possibly be…


    • Bryan

      Oh, but it is!

  • Megan Haskell

    Nope. I pretty much won’t touch any ebook over $6.99, with just a couple of exceptions: 1) If it’s by an author I absolutely adore AND in a series I’ve been reading for a long time, then I won’t look at price (I mostly read fantasy), 2) It’s non-fiction in a topic that I’m really interested in, but even then I don’t usually want to pay more than $10 or $12.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, I’d pay more for a non-fiction book I don’t feel like getting the audio for.

  • Trudi Jaye

    No, I wouldn’t, it would annoy me too much. At least, as long as I noticed… I don’t actually buy many print books any more, and I don’t always notice what the print version costs. But I am also reluctant to buy books that cost more than $5 these days anyway. Clearly we’ve been spoiled…

    • Bryan

      Definitely spoiled!

  • Spider McGee

    The most I’ve ever paid for an e-book is about $10. I’m not cheap, necessarily…but I have a bias for actual physical books and if I’m going to be spending more than that I’d just as soon buy the real book. I mostly read trashy old paperbacks and pulps, and most of those will never be e-books at all. It just seems like a cynical cash grab to charge more for an e-book than the print version of the same title, and I shan’t abide it.

    • Bryan

      You shan’t, Spider, you shan’t!

  • Eddie Jakes

    Ask anyone who has owned a Nook and they will tell you that they have paid more for an E-Book than the hardcover. B&N is horrible with their pricing structure because it’s never in line with their promotions for hardcover sales. This is mostly due to the fact that their membership discounts don’t apply to the digital store, it’s frustrating I stopped using Nook even though I liked the reader better and switched to Kindle because of this.

    • Bryan

      Oh man. Haven’t even looked at B&N pricing in ages.

      • Eddie Jakes

        It’s terrible, any new releases will be at sale price (which there is nothing wrong with that) but in the Nook store the E-Book will be full price. The two divisions do not compliment each other and that is a big problem. This is exactly what is killing the last company I worked for. Their online business was set up as a completely separate entity and they went from being the top e-seller to dead last in under a year. Now they are trying to combine them but it’s really too late at this point. B&N will end up the same way.

    • As a Nook owner, I agree. It’s frustrating to see an ebook priced more than the hardcover, especially for new releases. I rooted my Nook Simple Touch so I can buy on Amazon as well, but you see the same thing there sometimes (though not as often).

  • I love audio, and like Bryan I broke WS at first, but because I didn’t go to the extremes that he did (switching full chapters around) it came back. In the end I left it alone and didn’t lose too badly by it. I’ve found less than half of readers buy using it, so although royalty per sale did fall (taken as an average) sales made up for it.

    TWO THINGS we need from ACX is price control and a better affiliate program. The one Audible has in place right now is junk. I haven’t seen a penny from it (same at Apple actually). The reason indies have done so well at KDP and elsewhere is their ability to price competitively and run promotions whenever they want. Affiliates of Amazon actively promote Amazon products. Indies could rule Audible with these two things.

    • Bryan

      Yes. I’d love a better affiliate program.

  • Carla Fredd

    Absolutely not purchase an ebook priced higher than hardback or trade paper. By the way Bryan, which microphone did you purchase?

    • Bryan

      Ars Technica 2020. I like it so far! How do I sound?

  • When I see an ebook priced higher than the print version, I feel sorry for the author. They are clearly out of control of the price of their book, and I wonder if they are a victim to some crazy clause in a contract designed to show what a great idea print books still are. (Nothing wrong with print, it’s just… ugh…) To charge more for physically less product (that doesn’t destroy trees, is lighter than a feather whether it’s 2000 or half a million words long, can fit in your pocket no matter how many are on the device..) makes no sense. Let me put it this way: Having to pay more for an ebook over print is a joke. It makes me feel like the publisher is trying to punish me for wanting the ebook instead of the print version. It screws the author out of sales that should be easier, and I feel judged by the price hike by the publisher.

    • Bryan

      Same here. Boo for a lack of control!

  • patcheschance

    As it pertains to the question of the week, I have purchased an ebook before that was more than the print version and I was very unhappy about it. In rare cases, I’d begrudgingly make the purchase. However, that tends to be a case of an absolute favorite or a book I always want to be able to look at, and I choose to buy the ebook for the benefit of constant access. Regularly, I’d never make the leap. If anything, it’d make me less likely to buy the book at all. It’d probably get relegated to my massive growing “Books” section of my Amazon Wishlist and never see the light of day.

  • Chris Syme

    I agree with the school of thought that thinks Whispersync is a bonus and helps you sell more books. I am not sure about Audible…yet. It certainly isn’t a good deal for authors…yet. My only worry is not getting on that audio book train. Are we passing on extra income? I also am like the woman who listens to an audio book multiple times. It’s a great way to fill drive time.

  • When i see an ebook that is priced more the paper book – I just get the paper from the library. Probably not the response they are looking for…. 🙂

  • Edwin Downward

    It occurs to me any discussion of print vs ebooks sales on the part of corporate publishers must take into account a clear difference between how each fornat is accounted.

    Print books are most likely managed on a we sell X books at Y price giving Z return according to schedule A. This makes it relatively easy for lesser bean counters to create future earnings reports for senior bean counters. Likewise, I’m sure they have tables for managing returns by size/nature of store. Notice how all of the above can occur up front.

    Unless I’m entirely misinformed, ebooks are sold on the same model self publishers use. That is, receive the agreed upon amount for each book when it is sold. No advance money to make the account look good when generating those reports to the senior bean counters.

    I’m pretty sure the switch in a counting models between the two formats is a source of fear for many corporate types. Hence one more factor that needs to be accounted for in any such discussion.

  • Bryan, I used Dragon D on the Mac to write the first draft of my last book (tight deadline for that one) and found it to be pretty awesome. There’s a big learning curve though, so I feel your pain there. Here’s a link to a nice cheat sheet that Nuance puts out that might help: http://www.nuance.com/ucmprod/groups/dragon/@web/documents/collateral/nc_008229.pdf. Once you get the hang of it, the program and modality works really well. For walking outside and dictating, I found ambient noise to be the problem, so gave it up. But for relaxing in a lounge chair while you write, it’s fabulous. 😉

  • To answer the question of the week… I would never buy an ebook that was more expensive than the hardcover or paperback unless it was an author I really, really liked.

    I also wanted to mention the whispersync for the audio books… if I already had the ebook I would never buy the audio version without this benefit. However, if I’ve bought the audiobook and I really enjoyed it, I sometimes buy the kindle version as well, although that is not nearly as common.

  • Considering Audiobooks are so much more expensive than Kindle books, I’m surprised that Whispersync works in the direction it does. It SHOULD include the ebook for free or discounted when you buy the audiobook, not the other way around. That’s the way Matchbook works; buy the paper version and get a deal on the ebook.

  • If you don’t WANT Whispersync, just add an extra or bonus chapter or change things around enough so it doesn’t match up. The “Annotated Ted” comes to mind.