Jilly: How Much Would You Pay For a Book?

Is there a maximum price you’re prepared to pay for a novel?

Is it different for an e-book or a dead tree version?

Would you pay the same for a newbie as you would for a much-loved auto-buy author?

Before the digital revolution I considered it perfectly normal to pay $7.99 or even $11.99 for a book, but I realized recently that I don’t feel that way any more.

I think there are a number of reasons:

If the book is by an author I love, love, love, I don’t even look at the price. Trouble is, I don’t seem to have so many must-buy authors these days. Last week I bought Magic Binds, Ilona Andrews’ latest Kate Daniels novel, and next March I will definitely buy Anne Bishop’s Etched in Bone, the latest in her series about the Others (I’d pay double to get it early), but that’s the end of my mental shopping list. I’ll buy anything Jenny Crusie writes, but it will likely be awhile before her new book is available.

I have fewer must-buy authors partly because I’m a more critical reader since I started writing, but mostly because I don’t have a place to find great recommendations any more. The best resource ever was Jenny Crusie’s Cherry Forums, where members of her community would start a thread to recommend a great book, and others would chime in with their thoughts. Since the group was mostly Crusie fans, their taste often suited mine. It was a golden period in my reading history. Now I’m bombarded with reviews and recommendations, from Amazon, Goodreads, Smartbitches, BookBub and the rest, but I haven’t found a group or review site that’s a good match for my tastes, so my purchases are more hit-and-miss.

I’m reading fewer new books, because I don’t allow myself to start one unless I know I have time to binge-read it. I don’t have the self-restraint to nibble a few pages in a controlled manner. I use them as a weekend treat, when I can spend four hours without guilt, because if the book is worth reading I’ll have my nose in it until I reach the end, no matter what else I should be doing (like working on my own WIP). If I have a spare half an hour or hour during the week, I’ll cherry-pick a favorite section of a book I already know well and re-read that instead. If that story gets its hooks into me, I can skim to the end and read the last few pages because I know what happens in between.

In the new digital world there are thousands of e-books available for free or heavily discounted – new books by indie authors who use low pricing for discoverability, backlist by hybrid authors who have reverted rights on traditionally published titles, and successful books by established authors whose publishers are using them as part of a larger marketing strategy. A selection of those hits my in-box every day, and every few days I notice a title that looks interesting. I don’t make a distinction between traditionally published or indie. If it attracts my attention and it’s cheap enough to take a risk on, I buy it and add it to my digital TBR pile.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of this for my future as a newbie author and a total unknown quantity. One way or another I intend to make sure my romantic fantasy series gets published, but getting read is another matter. Price is just one factor, but I’m wondering how important it will be in the battle to tempt new readers to give me a try.

What do you think? How much would you pay for a book by your most favorite author? And who are your auto-buy writers?

What about a debut author? Would price be a factor in your decision about whether to give them a try or not?


7 thoughts on “Jilly: How Much Would You Pay For a Book?

  1. I pay full price for books by friends, even for hardbacks. (Of course, I want autographs in those.)

    For ebooks, I have such a TBR pile, I rarely buy anything these days unless it’s by an acquaintance or it’s free. I’ll pay up to $2.99 for stuff by an author I’ve liked in the past, but rarely more than that.

    I’d pay full price for anything by Jenny, or SEP or Kristan Higgins. There are probably a few others on that list, but not many.

    When the time comes, I’ll pay full price for anything by you!

    • I’m looking forward to the day when I can buy books by friends (I have Kay’s Loving Lucy, Betting on Hope, and Zero Gravity Outcasts, but I’m greedy for more). The ebook TBR pile is another thing on my mind. Authors assume that if a reader has downloaded their book it will be read, and book promotion sites use download statistics to promote their offering, but almost everyone I know has a huge TBR pile of unread free and cheap ebooks. Since the books are often on promotion for a brief period it makes sense to take the low price and read later, but I wonder how many of those books will never make it to the ‘read later’ window?

      Thank you for offering to buy Alexis when she finally makes it to market. After all the great ideas you’ve given me, I owe you a copy, gift-wrapped and autographed, but I’ll gladly take a word of mouth recommendation or two 😀 .

  2. Like Jeanne, my TBR pile is so large that I rarely by anything unless it is by an author I adore. Periodically I pick up free eBooks from new authors (that I’ll read *someday*), but I’m unlikely to buy any, unless they are by new authors I know / am trying to support.

    For physical books, I’ve bought a few recently by authors that I’ve read before and liked, but even those purchases are slowing down. Exceptions would be anything by Jenny Crusie or Loretta Chase. I’ve bought a few books by new authors – impulse buys on vacation or triggered by an interesting cover – but I’ve been disappointed by most of them. I have a few books by new-to-me authors that I’ve picked up second hand. For less than a dollar, I’m willing t give them a try.

    I find I’m hard pressed to find sites or people whose recommendations for new books / authors match my preferences. I think the little blurbs on BookBub do a disservice to the books they list – the blurbs tend to make the stories sound so trite / repetitive. The ability on Amazon to read an initial pages/chapter of a potential new books is helpful though. I’m much more likely to give a new author a chance if I’ve been been able to see a bit of their writing style.

    That said, if a book includes billionaires, pirates, or a cowboy/mail-order-bride plot, I’m going to walk on by, no matter how good the writing might be.

    • It’s depressing that you haven’t found any keepers from your free book and second hand impulse buys. I do agree with you about the BookBub blurbs. BookBub seem like very smart people, they do a lot of research and they say that their blurbs get results, but I agree that a lot of them read as generic. I tend to buy offers from well-known and bestselling authors I haven’t tried before. They’re often really old backlist titles but I don’t mind.

      I think a high price is definitely a barrier to a newbie author. I just wish a low price (or free) was an easy path to getting read and reviewed, but I fear those days are gone.

    • How funny that the books I’m turning to now, for something completely different from what I’m trying to write, are the billionaire/pirate (sometimes)/cowboy plots. Nothing I’ve read so far is worth writing home about, but it’s entertaining enough and I’m learning what I *don’t* want to write.

      I’m trying to stay away from historical, because it’s what I should be writing (keyword: “should”). Plus, at least with what I’m picking up lately, a lot of the billionaire-cowboy-pirate books are shorter (a la Harlequin-sized, 60K words or so). Easier to get through, and less likely that I’ll stay up till 2 a.m. Maybe just 12:30 a.m.

      I did go through a list on Goodreads or something of the “classic historical novels.” I’ll have to find the list and share. Woodiwiss’ “The Flame and the Flower” was on that, as well as Loretta Chase’s “LOS.” If I find the list again, I’ll post it. I only downloaded a few of the books on the list that looked interesting to me, read a couple, then switched to billionare cowboys who moonlight as pirates.

  3. Has anyone else had problems finding time to read since taking the class? I used to read at least two or three books a week (often more). But since the course, I find I read more slowly, and I “don’t have time” — I do spend a lot of time on YouTube, thinking it’s only going to be 10 or 15 minutes, and then I find I’ve watched for an hour or more.

    I binge-read, too, so I like to have four or five hours of freetime in order to read.

    For the first time since I was a teenager, I have a To-Be-Read pile — it’s about 20 books. Books in my genre that I want to read but haven’t gotten around to, as well as other books.

    The books I do read are often books linked to research for my book, so . . . I’m quite willing to pay $20 or $30 for a book if I think it’ll help me understand something better.

    I’m all over the place on pricing. For a favorite author, I will buy an eARC and the hardcover (for keeps). This is what, $35 or $40?

    I get a little mad when I see Kindle prices as more expensive than the paperback prices for a novel I’m interested in . . . and mad and confused when one click gives me the Kindle Price as more expensive, and the other click gives me the Paperback as more expensive. I’ve given up on books for such nonsense.

    For an unknown-to-me writer with a good word-of-mouth rec, I’m willing to pay about $8 for their regular-length story. Of course, I’d rather read it for free — and if I love it, I’ll buy the rest (once I get through my to-be-read pile). No word-of-mouth from anyone? I just don’t want to risk it . . . I’ve got way too much to read as it is. Unless, of course, the blurb, cover and reviews (in that order) are fabulous. Then I might go up to $8.

    The $7.99 pricepoint is a bit old-fashioned, though, I think. E-books are less, and paperbacks are more . . . .

    • I went through a period a couple years ago where I didn’t read anything. For a long time. Like a year. I’m not sure why, either. I think I was afraid to get emotionally invested in a character. Or I was too emotionally drained to get emotionally invested in a character.

      In any case, I’m over it and reading a lot again, which I’m enjoying. I missed having something else to occupy my mind and someone else’s life to live through vicariously.

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