Pricing rules for e-books, a rant

Hi all,

a rant on today’s blog.

In early September I am publishing a short story in my Planetfall scifi trilogy. I’ve made it available on Amazon, Lulu, iTunes, Kobo and some other platforms. Primarily, it is published via Amazon KDP and Lulu, and Lulu distributes to the other platforms.

Because it’s a short story, I have priced it very low. Let’s deal with why I’ve priced it first. My writing is not a hobby. It is a second job. I put a lot of effort and time into it, and I run at a loss on it: cover art costs money, ordering paperbook proofs for physical distribution costs money, I miss out on time with friends and loved ones, and people access and enjoy what I create. I think it’s OK to be paid for that.

Now, pricing. It’s a short story, just under 10,000 words, so I want it to be affordable. After some research on what short stories are selling for, I decided on a pricing point of 77p (about US99c). This matches the price of other short stories on Amazon Kindle, and is below the 99p that Shortfire Press charges (note: I agree with their pricing policy, but I am competing with the market conditions on Amazon). So far, so so sensible. A work in an established science fiction series, it’s price matches the market, and the royalty I make is about 24p. A tiny amount, but at least it’s something for the 3.5months of development time.

So what’s the problem?

On Lulu I priced it the same: 77p. And I ticked the options to distribute to iTunes, Kobo and the other markets to which Lulu gives you access. Unfortunately, due to licensing agreements, Lulu drops the price on other platforms. So a 77p list price on Lulu drops to 49p elsewhere. OK, so what?

Here’s the rub. Amazon demands that books sold through its platform can’t be priced higher than the same book available through other platforms. Their solution is to give you a few days to re-adjust the price, otherwise they block your book.

I went back to Lulu and tried to figure out the pricing differential. I raised the Lulu list price by 26p, so that 49p + 26p = 77p. Bingo? Not bingo 😦

Lulu’s licensing agreements means that its distribution to other platforms goes at two pricing points: 49p, then 99p. There’s no in-between.

This means (sigh) I have to make a decision: raise the price on Amazon above the point set by the market, or just have Amazon the cheapest.

It doesn’t seem fair to readers on other platforms to keep the Kindle version as the cheapest. And I also know that being relatively undiscovered and pricing myself above the rest of the (Kindle) market could backfire and result in fewer sales: Kindle is still where I sell most of my books.

I suspect I am going to have to raise the Kindle price at some point though.

What I find annoying about this is that I want to get my work to readers on whichever platform they’re using, and to ensure that the pricing is fair and consistent and fits into the prices the market has settled on. But I am falling foul of the distribution platforms putting in rules that force me to either lose readers or favour one set over another.

Well, that’s today’s rant. I’d be interested if other self-published authors have come across the same issue.

Hope your writing is going well, as ever,

astro x

 

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