Are low ebook prices hurting writers? As I understand it, the argument for this is something like the following:
Low ebook prices are creating a race-to-the-bottom, each author charging lower ebook prices than the next, trying to attract readers. Soon it will get to the point that readers will refuse to pay anything for books and writers will have to put their books up for free in order to get read. The result: no one will be able to make a living as a writer.I read what I have just written and can't help but feel that the argument, on the face of it, doesn't seem plausible.
Here, such as it is, is my argument that low ebook prices -- even free! -- won't prevent writers from earning a living wage.
What do writers want? Writers, whether of the traditionally or independently published varieties, care about writing and being able to make enough money through writing that they don't have to do anything else.
All things being equal, how much money an author makes depends on, first, how fast they write and, second, on how big their audience is.
Now, consider these points:
1. The cheaper books are, the more books people will buy. If I have budgeted $50.00 a month for my book purchases, buying cheap ebooks means I can buy more books.
2. The cheaper books are, the more people will buy them. Folks who don't normally buy books, preferring, for example, to get them out of the library, will buy cheaply priced ebooks just for the convenience.
3. The more people who buy books, the greater the chance writers will get their books into the hands of someone who is part of their audience. That is, someone who will enjoy the book and look forward to other books by the same author.
4. People from your audience, people who love your books and want you to keep writing because they want to keep reading, will pay a decent price for your books.
That is my argument, such as it is. I think that the key to success for writers is to get their books into the hands of readers who would love them. Once that is done, those readers will pay money for the books and they will recommend the author to their friends, etc. But the key is to make that initial match between writer and reader. Giving ebooks away cheaply, or even for free, helps a writer find his or her audience.
I would be interested in hearing from anyone on either side of this issue. :)
I wrote this post after reading Joe Konrath's excellent blog post: The Race to the Bottom. I highly recommend it!