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Did .99 Cent Ebooks Hurt The Literary Industry?

In 2011 there was a great influx of ebooks but even more so of full-length novels being sold at .99 cents. Initially, this seemed like an effective way to grab new readers by attracting them with the cheap price. This worked for some but not for all and now 6 years later, it has hurt the industry in my opinion. I believe so because the readers are getting conditioned to these cheaper books and expect all books new and old to be priced this low.

It costs an estimated cost of $600 and up to publish an ebook and pricing an ebook that low means the author is only making .35 cents per book, so you would have to sell a LOT of books to cover your production costs. I have a short story (flash fiction) on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for .99cents but it’s a short story. I would never place a brand new full-length novel at that price.
Also, many authors do not see the long-term problems this creates especially if you are looking for bookstore placement.
You can’t expect a book vendor to buy your book at wholesale for $5-6 but sell that same book to readers for $1. The math will NEVER make sense.

I surveyed several authors and asked them the same question and here was their response.

“Yes! It made paperbacks look overrated when really; it’s the eBook that’s highly overrated. You spend the time to produce, write, edit, and put together an entire book and shortchange yourself by selling it for under a dollar. That speaks volumes as to how you value your own craft.” – Marie Antionette, Publisher

+Yes. I understand the marketing idea behind it but to de-value, your work sends a message to the readers that everybody should do the same. You don’t see that happening in the music industry (albums) for a reason.- Marlon McCaulsky, Author
It killed it. The industry was over as we once knew it. If you are not ready to set a standard of pricing through Kindle, and go out and sell your book hand to hand. You will be subject to accepting what the reader/consumer is telling you what they will pay. And what you and your product are worth.”- Aaron Bebo, Author

“I think it could have been used as a great marketing tool for exposure to find new readers, but when people started releasing new material at that price they set a trend that others followed to keep up with the competition which the word competition shouldn’t have ever been a part of the literary world. I think if an author had a book over 2 years old to push and promote it for 99 cents would be great, it is no different when you see them nice shoes for hundreds of dollars but when they been on the shelves so long or the season change the go on sale for pennies on the dollar…but Michael Kors would never make a two dollar shoe.”-Charles Burgess, Author

“I’m probably the dumbest, stupidest, most idiotic and ignorant, author out there. I’m very embarrassed to admit that I’ve never published an eBook. I just keep printing paperbacks. I’m playing myself because I can easily sit behind a computer, purchase an amazing cover, call myself a bestseller, ask 10 family members to write me a nice review on a mediocre book I wrote in 15 hrs, that sounds just like 30 other recently published books, pick a title mimicked from a popular hip-hop song, post my link in 100 book groups and make money.
Because I didn’t go that route, I ended up working harder, not smarter, by finding 2 different flea markets in 2 different cities, renting some space and I’m somehow selling my books at $10 apiece, in 2017. I didn’t mean to be different. I just couldn’t get with the program.” –Antione “Inch” Thomas, Publisher

“I think yes and no. There are many readers I’ve been able to reach as an indie author, especially when I first started publishing, but at the same time, it’s tricky with costs. An eBook has value. It’s the same story as the paperback, and even $4.99 for eBooks isn’t expensive, especially if it’s a full novel and not a novella. I think it depends on what readers find you. Some will only buy .99 while others won’t complain about a few extra dollars.”- Martha Sweeney, Author

“Yes, these new age readers think that all books no matter the word count should be .99 cents and then get upset when you put that same ebook in paperback format for $14.99. I come from a time where I paid $14.99 or more for a paperback because there was no such thing as an ebook. In current times you damn near have to sell your soul to get a decent ebook royalty check if you not out here finessing the system with numerous Amazon accounts, purchasing your own book and giving them away to every reader that drops their email address.”- Le’Vonne Barber, Author

“You know it’s a double-edged sword. Those books changed the game and allowed you to reach a massive amount of people at low-cost. As new authors entered the arena whether confident in their projects or not, it was SELL BY ANY MEANS.
As a marketing tactic and a way to acquire “new readers” and have a base, I understand it. However, I can’t see laboring over a project for a couple months; invest in a book cover, edits & other promo materials only to sell for .99 cents.
I’m sorry I will only sell short stories for that much. READERS HAVE BECOME HOARDERS OF BOOKS because of this model. At .99 cents or even giving it to them for free, it’s still hard to even get reviews. Overall, yes! .99 cent books have taken us to a place that is hard to bounce back from.”- Justin “Q” Young, Publisher

“It’s an 80/20 thing going on. 80% hell yeah! It hurt the African American literary industry really bad. The value of publishing deteriorated, the integrity of the industry took a hit and there were no longer rules in place to weed the talented from the whim takers. Now, on the other hand… that 20% lol it did allow more doors to open for people to become “authors”, people like I that would’ve more than likely not get the chance to either publish or reach the audiences I have. But, that in itself has been proven to be a blessing and a curse.”- Marie Norfleet, Author

“I enjoyed signing paperbacks and meeting people PHYSICALLY and traveling. Selling these 300-page books for $0.99 is beyond a short change. I miss those 3 to 6 thousand dollar checks for paperbacks. Also, a lot of folks that are writing books SHOULD NOT be writing them. They are writing just because and making a mockery out of it.”- Carla Pennington, Author

“It hurt the authors who failed to take the time to understand the mechanics of business/marketing. The .99 cent pricing was originally a marketing strategy implemented by Major Publishers to promote a Major Author on a grand scale. It was not intended to be adopted and utilized by the Independent Author/Publisher. By doing so equated to a Kingpin giving away the weight of drugs for pennies ,to flood interest on his product – versus a Street Dealer who has to incur all overhead costs, attempting to survive utilizing that same marketing equation. It’s financial suicide….An Independent Author whether they know it or not provides a “Commercial Product” but rather a “Novelty” item, Apples & Oranges. I have been writing/publishing for 16 years and the prices for my books have not dropped one cent. Not in my store-neither on Amazon. That’s because I control each and every aspect of my Intellectual property. That’s the only way to truly stay afloat and thrive in a manner sufficient enough to feed your family in this business.”- Isadore Johnson, Author

At the end of the day publishing is a business and once you treat it as such things will not be as complicated as they seem. To publish ANY book whether it a paperback or an ebook, it costs money and you know in business, you must spend money to make money!