I read a couple of things in reviews earlier this week that really ground my gears. I know this is a review site, but I’ve got a category called “rants” and oh boy, I’m going to use it for this post!
It has long been known that folks don’t like to pay much for books. I don’t know if we get to blame indie-publishing and the free book landslide for this, or KU (Kindle Unlimited) and a fundamental devaluation of fiction. What I do know, is people need to pull their heads out of their backsides, and understand how they sound when they say “that book costs too much” no matter what your apparently well-reasoned intention.
The book is too short. I’d only pay 99c for a 15K word book.
This isn’t a verbatim quote, but it’s pretty damned close to a comment in a review I saw on Amazon US, and I’m sure there are hundreds if not thousands of similar comments across the Kindle Store, if I choose to look (and make myself go all She-Hulk about life).
What the reader (possibly) thinks
A short book doesn’t take me long to read. Therefore I shouldn’t pay very much for it.
*at average reading speed, it would probably take you around an hour to read, and take in, a 15K word piece.
What the author sees
An unfair judge of worth, compared in no way to the return on investment you get, and unfairly judged based on what people spend on similar products.
A tall flat coffee from… oh, somewhere, will cost you $1.45 and won’t take you an hour to drink, but you don’t take it back to the barista complaining about that, asking for a refund, and giving them a bad review on Tripadvisor. Nor will that anonymous coffee have the potential to change your emotions, transporting you to another world, even if it’s only for a short time (unless they’ve spiked it).
So, what we see is, despite the fact you’re happy to throw money for a caffeine hit with no meaningful overall value (other than making you not want to throat-punch things on aMonday morning), you are not willing to pay often less than that for a piece of fiction which has potentially taken the author upwards of 20 hours to write, not including edits.
You might read at a bajillion words an hour, but an author that outputs 1,000 readable, finished words of fiction in one hour will often be seen doing a dance like this
Whereas most of us, most of the time, are like this:
Don’t ignore a short book because of its price – because that heinous cost is, when you actually look at it, virtually nothing at all.
I’m not paying that much for a book from a debut author.
This is another nearly-verbatim quote. The only reason I didn’t punch the monitor, was because I was on a new device, and I was being really careful. My next approximate response to this gem was:
Is writing the only industry where this insanity happens?
Would you refuse to pay less for the second album by Bastille, because they’re a new band? That’s the logic these people are using. Do I really need to explain my “DAFUQ” any more than the picture above?
What the reader thinks
I can’t even begin to guess. I suppose cost justification is all personal. If you’re down to your last dollar, you’re going to spend it on water or food before you spend it on a book. But, again, people will throw money at caffeine and fast food that’s just going to pass through their system and come out the other end, gracefully or not, without changing anyone or anything (apart from perhaps the aroma in the loo).
If you don’t trust the author, then there are loads of facilities for you to sneak read the book. Amazon has a “preview” facility where you can read the start of the book. Read the reviews. Check out blogs. We’re in the information age, no one has to buy anything blind any more.
What the author sees
“I’m just going to wait until you put your book on a sale”
Which means less royalties. Which means less pay. Which means we have to sell more. But we can’t sell more until people buy them. People won’t buy them because they cost too much. We need to earn money to pay our bills and survive, to write more books. You get the cycle I’m hinting at?
Is dropping $5, even up to $8, on a full length novel by an author you’ve read a snippet of, a book you like the look of, really going to end your world?
Reading: the real world ROI
The average reading speed (for mathematical and blogging purposes) is 250 words per minute, at the upper level. This works out to 15,000 words per hour. What kind of value for money do you get from your favourite books?
The Complete Harry Potter on Kindle will set you back $58 and is an approximate total of some 1,084,170 words.
This will take the average reader around 72 hours to complete. So, this box set, whilst seemingly a massive cost, will only actually cost you 80 cents per hour to read and enjoy.
Stephen King’s The Stand will set you back $6.55 but checks in an approximate word count of 464218.
This will take you 30 hours to read (with a good headwind), so The Stand will only cost you 22 cents per hour.
Authors: how much does your book cost, per hour?
You get where I’m going with this. When you say that book is too expensive, you sound like a douchnozzle.
If books don’t sell, authors can’t write, it’s as simple as that.
Give it a thought. Support an author you think is promising. You might actually change someone’s life.