Yesterday, Hubs and I were talking about pricing and marketing and ebooks. As has happened before - because I'm the reader in the family and I know these things - Hubs wanted to know about traditionally published book pricing vs self-published pricing.
Basically it started out with me talking about my own books' pricing, and how much, as a reader, I'm willing to pay for an ebook and why. (I mean besides the obvious reason that my book buying budget is dinky because I'm funneling most incoming fundage into the book publishing budget.)
Me: I have a tough time spending more than $3.99 for an ebook, unless it's the next in a series from an author I really love. And there's only one series I have to have immediately, so I spend $9.99* when they come out because I don't want to wait for the paperback.
Hubs: And how much are the paperbacks?
Me: Usually? $7.99 or $8.99 but they come out like a year later. I think (name withheld) puts his paperbacks out at $9.99, so I'm not paying more to have it early.
Hubs: So, let me get this straight. The paperback - which costs the publisher more money to produce than the ebook - is more expensive than the paperback. No wonder they're screaming so hard about keeping ebook pricing high. That's where they're making all their money.
We didn't devolve this time into how much of that price the traditionally published author actually takes home. For them what don't know, it's typically 15% minus the agent's 15% minus any marketing pay for themselves. (Someone will correct me if this has changed recently.)
So, I walk into our office/library to check something out. Another author I generally buy in paperback - because Walmart always stocks her new releases - has the list price at $7.99. I paid like $5.99 at Walmart. I went on Amazon to check the list price of the paperback against the list price of the Kindle version. Same same. $7.99 either way. Unless you're getting the Wallyworld discount. Same book but with the paperback, the publisher has printing costs and labor and shipping and overhead - in addition to the across-the-board costs of editing, cover art, etc. that all versions of this book bear.
Then I went to see what a big-name traditionally published author charges for his books. For his most recent release, MSRP list price = $28.00. Amazon is selling it for $16.80. Kindle price? $14.99. The paperbacks aren't due to be released until February and they're listed at $15.99 a pop (or Amazon rate of $12.60). Wow. But he's really popular and people will shell that out. Too bad he's only getting a fraction of that with a fraction taken out of it.
It's really not surprising that the traditional publishers are pissed at the indies. We undercut their pricing by around 60% ($3.99 vs $9.99 = $6 difference. If my math is wrong, shoot me.), produce a comparable quality piece of merchandise, and have little overhead. Rascally upstarts that we are. What I'm kind of surprised about is that the authors aren't pissed at their publishers who are making loads off the ebook sales and not sharing a larger portion of the pie. :shrug: Maybe someday publishing contracts will catch up with new technology, but that's a discussion for another time.
One of these days, I'll have to do some more research into how much it costs to produce hardcopy books vs the cost of producing an ebook. I think the readers might like to know. But right now, I have work to do. These books aren't writing themselves.
*This author's Kindle book prices drop after they've been out for a while. The last one I bought for Kindle is now $7.99. It was worth the $2 difference to have it on release day, imo.