Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why I sell books for 99 Cents on Kindle

I've had a number of people suggest that I am naïve or maybe just plain crazy to sell everything from a 30 page Bible study to a 600 page three-novel bundle for just 99 cents. While I do have some sound business reasons for setting that price point, I also have an underlying philosophy that makes me determined to keep that price as long as it is economically possible for me to do so.

To understand a bit about this, I would like you to go back in time with me to when I was in junior high. When I went to the grocery store right after payday, I'd make a beeline
 My Amazon Author Page
for the paperback book rack. It was filled with wonderful stories of mystery and suspense and the future. They derisively called it "pulp fiction" because of the low quality paper the stories were printed on. Admittedly, this was not great literature. These were wonderfully light adventures whose sole purpose was to entertain the reader and lift her out of the sometimes difficult life of being part of a class we would today call the "working poor." Out of my $3.00 every two-week allowance, I couldn't afford much, especially since that also had to take care of lunches at school on "turkey days." But for just 35 to 50 cents I could fly to Mars with Edgar Rice Burroughs or work out the Three Laws of Robotics with Isaac Asimov or be on the case with Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot.

For those hours with those friends, I didn't have to think about having to save the tea bag for the next meal or the fact that we could only afford soda once a week. For the price of a loaf of bread, I could escape my troubles for a few hours.

Today, bread has gone up from 35 cents a loaf to $3.50 and the price of "pulp fiction" is close to $10 a book. Reading is no longer a treat available even to someone on a low income. It is fast becoming a luxury. At least in the print world.

Online, though, the cost of production is low. Admittedly, authors and publishers need to be compensated for their time, but still the cost of production is low enough that those of us who publish direct to the reader can bring back prices that make reading a treat and not a luxury.

As one of those who do not depend on a publisher to edit, format and publish my books, I can offer a price point, and still show a reasonable profit on each sale, of 99 Cents. Many other authors are doing the same. We may not be big names, but I doubt our writing is 10x worse than that of those authors offering their ebooks at $9.95 or more.

I don't pretend to any greatness. I write "pulp fiction." I don't pretend that my stories will change anyone's life, inspire them to greatness or achieve critical acclaim. I don't write for that. I write that people may be entertained and like that child scanning the grocery store rack for a new adventure, maybe just help someone escape their own problems for a few hours without having to figure out how they are going to afford to do so. 


  1. This is such a good idea! I never thought about it in that way. I have to start thinking this way. You always have such great ideas.

    You brought back some memories as well. I was raised by grandparents and like you, we have limited means. I got a dollar a week. I'd hoard those dollars for weeks for an album I wanted or for those 50 cent books you mention. I remember going on vacation to my other grandmother, who had more money and a grandpa who slipped me a $20 as long as I didn't "tell your grandma". That money often went to a pile of books. Don't know if you remember the prolific W.E.D Ross from the 60's and 70s but I must have bought every book he wrote (+300) under every pseudonym he used. (Clarissa Ross, Marilyn Ross, et al.) All between 50 and 75 cents!

  2. I do want to emphasize that this is my personal journey. Everyone has to find their own path. At the risk of sounding overly mystical, I feel this is what God has called me to do at this point in my life. For me, it is turned out to be a bit of enlightened self-interest. It's been good business for me in addition to a philosophical position. However, I would not prescribe this. I do believe, in the principle that one should not follow the principle of charging whatever the market will bear. I hope the principle of charging the lease that you can and still show a reasonable profit. I can do that at 99 cents. So, I do.

  3. Thanks for sharing your heart and enlightening us. A very good idea.