Tuesday, October 4, 2011

99 Cent Price Point

I'm not going to hammer on this again, I'm going to ask some questions pertinent to this price and see if we get anywhere.

Apparently readers are under the impression they can pay 99 cents and get a book so long it's probably unpublishable by legacy publishing standards.  Once you get into the 100,000 word range, that's long.  It's hard to ship because not as many fit in a box, they fall apart, whatever whatever.  Harry Potter tomes are an anomaly.  (Tell me you didn't skim, too.)

I've read self-published books that could have had 200 pages cut and it wouldn't have hurt, would only have helped.  I don't know what the appeal to bad writing at length is unless it's like a Director's Cut DVD which includes all the scenes that shouldn't be there and runs 3 tedious hours.

I'm going to release a novella in the next few weeks.  It will be novella length.  It will still be priced at 99 cents because Amazon doesn't give me a choice.  I noticed yesterday Konrath's new book is a novella.  I've seen more novellas coming out recently than ever before.  One reason might be that no one is going to legacy pub a novella.  You'd have to have 2 or 3 maybe with similar themes (Christmas) in order to warrant all the bother of publishing a book.

Konrath writes very fast as do some other writers.  They seem to have a lot of words in them.  But still do you want to write 1 70,000-100,000 word book for 99 cents or perhaps 2 or 3 "novellas" for 99 cents each, increasing your shelfspace presence, potential to be noticed, increase in sales ie the reader likes you so wants to buy all your books not just your 1.

Is this shortchanging the reader?  No.  They have come to expect too much.  Massive length books at 99 cents cheat the author.  It devalues their work and their worth.

When I started my writing career, my first editor (actually my best one) wisely said "A book is as long as it takes to tell the story."

I question whether 100,000 words is required to tell most stories.

I had a review that said something like "Good book but should be longer."  No, it shouldn't.  It told the story.  This is like a movie studio making a deal with McDonald's to include plastic toys in a Happy Meal that are linked to the lastest Hollywood release.  They say "this extends the experience of the movie."

I can understand that from both sides.  The movie company wants to increase awareness of the product and sell more tickets.  McDonald's wants to sell more burgers and they get free publicity every time the movie trailer runs.  The audience wants to live in the unreal world of the movie for longer than 90 minutes.  Seeing a plastic Mirror of Erised or a Spongebob gives them an alternate reality.  I won't discuss whether or not I think they should be spending so much time in alternate realities.

Readers sometimes say (so infrequently really) "I didn't want the book to end".  Okay.  I believe that.  What I don't believe is that all these long books are so marvelous the reader doesn't want them to end.  Call me a cynic but I think it's more like Dudley Dursley throwing a screaming fit when he receives less birthday presents than last year and Uncle Vernon says  "Ha ha.  The tike wants to get his money's worth."

All of which is a very extended experience of saying I think it's smarter to write short than long at this point if most readers think 99 cents is the perfect price.

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