Sunday, March 13, 2016

Self Publishing - Price Matters

When I was in Junior High I would buy almost every comic Marvel put out.  I then limited myself to anything with Spider-Man, Punisher, or Wolverine, which was still pretty much everything.  I cut down again when comics went up to 75 cents, and dropped the habit completely when they got to a dollar.

Fast forward a few years.  I had caught the comic bug again and hit my old comic book store, ready to clean it out now that my paycheck dwarfed my old allowance.  Until I saw the price tag.

Even before considering inflation, the cover price had more than doubled.  You also got less value for money, as stories were being dragged out to six issues to fit them in trade paperbacks.

What I think happened to comics is that the audience had changed - or rather stayed the same.  Comics weren't being bought by kids - they were being bought (mostly) by men in their 30s, people like me that read them as kids.  The audience was shrinking but they also were becoming more affluent and demanded things like multiple covers, big panels, and glossy pages.

Me, I was happy to collect the giant, newsprint, phonebook style reprints Marvel and DC were putting out.  I could never understand who bought these limited edition hardcover reprints with useless extras, until I hung out at some IT guy's house and saw bookshelves of them.  All unopened.

A lot of the stuff I'm into has a limited audience, and a lot of that audience has money to burn.  If your total audience is 200 people and 150 of them are willing to shell out extra for a premium edition, it doesn't make financial sense to come out with a paperback edition.

Recently there were a lot of articles about how ebook sales for traditional publishers went down after they got Amazon to raise their prices.  Sounds like basic economics to me, but the publishers were flabbergasted.  Many of them had even previously gone on the record saying book price doesn't matter.

There is one pulp reprint company that only releases limited edition hardcovers.  Luckily, they're massive, so the price-per-story comes out reasonable, but I don't shop there a lot.  I don't care if it's cloth bound or signed (By who?  These authors have been dead for decades.)

I recognize there is a market for premium hardcover.

There is no such thing as a premium ebook.

At least, there shouldn't be.  People who collect and display these things, or grab them for the perceived resale value, are not interested in expensive ebooks.  In theory you could have a version with extras but people buy ebooks to read, not to put on their shelf.

I have a lot of pulp reprint collections in my Wish List on Amazon and I check it regularly for price drops.  I could tell one company was experimenting with prices.  Newer titles went from $5.99 to $7.99, then $9.99.  Then they had a $2.99 sale.  I went mental and got about twenty titles.  The price has leveled out at $4.99 to $5.99 and I noticed they have more premium physical printings.

I don't have their ledgers, but I think they figured out their sweet spot for ebook prices.  Other publishers, not so much.

Another company that puts out pulp reprints charges $6.99 a title.  I've bought a couple and have many more in my wish list.  A lot of the titles are less than 200 pages, and seven bucks is just too much for me.  They aren't on Kindle Unlimited and they're not available to be ordered by my library.  This tells me they went out of their way to make sure you pay that seven bucks or you ain't reading it.  Looks like I ain't reading it.

In this instance I do know a little about their sales because they complain about it on social media.   Yeah, don't complain about sales in your official social media channel.

The place seems to average way less than one copy sold a month per title.  The moan in question was about a month they made less than $200 for their couple hundred titles.  Checking some random Amazon rankings, it looks about right.  Some titles have never sold a copy.

Lower your damn prices!

You literally have nothing to lose.  You might go too low and miss the opportunity of selling at a higher price, but you'd have to sell something at all before you worry about that.  In this case I think it's sheer stubbornness.  I'll keep their titles in my Wish List, though, in case they wise up.

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