Back in the summer of 1988, my brother and I started a lawn service. He'd taken care of several lawns when he was in high school in the late '70s/early '80s, and figured I needed a job. I was fresh out of seventh grade and wanted a Nintendo (original 8-bit variety).
Our base price? $5 a lawn. The going rate at the time started at $10. Of course we charged more for bigger lawns, but never more than $15. We worked together. He mowed around trees and did the trimming; I tackled the big, wide-open spaces. It was hard work. By mid July, I had my Nintendo.
Why charge less than competitors?
Volume, I guess. At the apex of our business, we managed something like 35 lawns a week.
Here's the e-book connection: volume = more readers. More readers means more potential fans. More potential fans means more potential "built-in" sales for your next book.
I've just released Borrowed Saints at $2.99. It's a YA novel, right around 50,000 words, and I spent plenty of time polishing it. Sales have been weak. Very weak. Sure, I need to so some more promotion, etc. Whatever one wants to argue about value and how much a consumer should pay--I believe e-book readers have come to expect $0.99 books from Indies. I didn't start it, and I sure didn't make it happen by myself.
Let's look at the math:
One e-book at $2.99 nets the author around $2 at 70% royalty rate. An author would need to sell six times as many books at $0.99 cents (35% royalty) to make (roughly) the same amount of money.
The math seems to argue for the higher rate, right?
But I think something else is going on, something more important. Even if you only make four sales at $0.99 to each one at $2.99, you've quadrupled your readers (or potential fans). Yes, less money now, but more potential money in the future. Like an investment, right?
When VT managed The House Eaters I sold one e-book at $4.99 in two months. Since they folded, I've sold more than 30 in a month. And yes, I'm only selling it for $0.99.
Volume can work wonders, even at very low prices.
Victorine E. Lieske has sold more than 100,000 copies of Not What She Seems at $0.99. That's a success story I'd take all the way to the bank. Granted, I don't write in the same genre and Victorine has spent a good amount of time marketing her book. But wow.
So what will I do with Borrowed Saints? What do you think I should do?
(Well, I did redo the cover. It will take a while to show on Amazon.)