You buy cheap, you get cheap.

I used to work for a locksmith company that prided itself on being the cheapest in town.  My boss would routinely call other companies and ask for quotes, and then price his own service calls less than the competition.

I realized something important about business while I was working for him.

“If you buy cheap, you get cheap” applies to customers.   People who want the lowest price are a terrible customer base.   Why? Because it’s a terrible basis for a relationship.  Customers who want to save money, first and foremost aren’t loyal to you as a vendor, they are loyal to your prices.  Someone else offers them a lower service call, or a lower hourly rate, or a steeper discount on parts, and poof, they’re gone.

There are a lot of philosophies regarding pricing of e-books.  One writer, who I admire quite a bit, believes strongly in offering his work for free.  I think I understand his reasoning, I just don’t happen to agree with it.  (I do, however, appreciate the benefit for me personally–free books!)

What I would caution against is what I would term reactive pricing.  I price Catskinner’s Book at $2.99 for an e-book and $9.99 for a trade paperback.  I think that is reasonable.

I have run a number of promotions where I gave away the e-book. I have given away a number of paperbacks.  However, I still believe that the book is worth what I have priced it at.  In my mind, I wasn’t lowering the value of the book by promoting it via KDP free download days, I was giving away something of value as an advertising expense.

That distinction may not seem significant to many, but it is to me.  I don’t want to compete with other authors on price.  I don’t think that’s productive.  I want to build a readership that has a relationship with me as a writer.  I believe that my novel isn’t perfect, but is worth at least the price of a Banana-Pepper Jack-Half-Decaf-Frappuccino at Starbucks.  I want readers who feel the same way.

To be honest, I will probably launch Cannibal Hearts at $4.99.  Right now it looks like it’s going to be longer, and I honestly believe that I have gotten better as a writer.   I’m not going to release the book until I feel that it’s worth five bucks.

Am I limiting my readership?  I certainly hope so.  I want to limit my readership to people who enjoy reading my stories as much as I enjoy telling them.  Will I be doing free promotions for my next book?  Sure, that’s part of the business.  I’ll enroll Cannibal Hearts in KDP, I’ll be offering it on StoryCartel.  Heck, if someone writes me and tells me that she or he really wants to read my book and can’t afford it, I’ll probably comp them a copy.  It’s not all about money.

It is about value, though. I am an honest tradesman, and I believe in offering a fair product for a fair price.  I’m not going to keep raising my prices, even if demand increases, above what I feel is reasonable.  For a self-published e-book, I can’t see going above the $4.99 price.

I can’t control how many people want my work or how much they want it.  I can, however, control the value that I put into it.  If I offer my work for less than I feel it is worth, then I am doing a disservice to it.  I can’t be true to my art and not believe that it is worth paying for.  Nor can I be true to my art and accept more than I think it is worth.

My own thoughts.

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About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to You buy cheap, you get cheap.

  1. Okay. Now, I see where you’re coming from and it makes sense. My tactics differ, but one has to do what’s comfortable and fits their own beliefs. I’m curious about something. How did you make sure that you got reviews in exchange for the free copies? I did that and most of the people ran off with the book never to talk to me again.

    • MishaBurnett says:

      Honestly, you can’t. However, I do really like what SoryCartel.com does. Authors offer the e-book for free download, and those who review the book (and submit a link to the review) are entered into a drawing for copies of the trade paperback. The owner of the site says he gets about a ten percent of those who download writing a review with that method, which is a darned good return.

      • Not bad. Do they have to write that they got the book for free in exchange for a review? I saw that on a few of your reviews. It was uniform too, which is why it struck me as odd.

      • MishaBurnett says:

        Not all of them do, no, but I think that some people feel obligated to say that.

      • Dave Higgins says:

        Goodreads has a mandatory free-for-fair review paragraph in the T&C of the official giveaway section which refers to Federal law, so it seems the US has some sort of regulation (possibly related to truth in advertising) that make it something you disclose.

      • MishaBurnett says:

        Interesting. None of the winners of my GoodReads giveaway reviewed my book–or even so much as acknowledged that they received it. Of all the promotional venues I’ve tried, GoodReads was by far the least useful.

    • Dave Higgins says:

      The Goodreads Giveaway terms could be tighter: from memory they say that you do not have to review the book but it would be nice if you did; I believe whether you review is one factor in the algorithm to calculate the winners.

      Maybe it would be fairer if you could not win a Giveaway if you had not posted a review of previous winnings.

      • From what I’ve read and been told, the Goodreads Giveaway is more for potential readers. If you join the giveaway, the book goes into your ‘to read’ list. So, a person who doesn’t win might decide to get the book at a later date since it’s on the list. It’s still a gamble, but what in self-publishing isn’t a risk.

  2. fortyoneteen says:

    Secretly, I am one of those people that will look at a book, read the synopsis and then wonder why it’s free… is there something wrong with it is the thought that crosses my mind.

    • MishaBurnett says:

      I don’t do that with free books so much–there are so many promotions where a book is offered for free for a limited time. But I do tend to think that about novel length works priced at 99 cents.

  3. I think the pursuit of cheap, devalues the marketplace in general, but is also terrible for artists and craftspeople. When I was a photographer bidding on jobs, the lowballers eventually and collectively brought the value of photography down, considerably so, and it effected all photographers and photography jobs in my area. The pursuit of cheap has created a marketplace of cheap goods that have eliminated many hand made, and goods made in people’s respective countries. It has done damage to independent stores that can’t compete with the chains that sell cheap, etc. My photography teacher used to say, always be the most expensive, because while people think they want cheap, they will be reluctant to hire you if you are too cheap.

  4. Dave Higgins says:

    Many e-book marketing articles talk about a low-value strip where you should never price your book. There are so many books priced at below £2.00/$2.00 on Amazon that anything below that price gets lost in the morass; the cost of promoting is allegedly so likely to be greater than the return that giving it away for free and forgetting about it is more profitable both in money and advertising.

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