How do you put a price on your work?

As independently published authors, we’re advised not to print too many copies initially – to avoid the piled-up copies in the garage syndrome – so the unit cost of our books is inevitably higher than that of traditionally published novels. Factor in the discount expected by online retailers and bookshops, plus the percentage due to the distributor, and you are faced with the choice of either pricing your book out of the market, or virtually paying readers to take it away.

Of course, indie authors have a good deal of flexibility when selling direct – doing deals with local bookshops or offering a special discount at author events – the price reflects what we think someone will be prepared to pay, or how desperate we are to offload our copies. It’s a sad fact, but consumers who pay £15 plus for a live performance at their local theatre — and considerably more for a football league match or a London show – baulk at paying £10-£15 for a paperback novel. Yet this may have taken a couple of years to write, provides many more hours of entertainment and can be shared with others, or read again.

A recent Guardian article refers to the widespread pirating of e-books, by which readers evade the typical two or three pounds price of the Kindle version. And much as authors would rather their books were read than not, they do have to eat! Writers are now facing the problem the music and film industries have had for years: modern technology makes illicit copying all too easy. With ‘free’ information and entertainment on tap on tablets and smartphones, people have become reluctant to pay,.Perhaps we need to insert lucrative advertisements in our end papers, or pop-ups after every cliff-hanging chapter-end…

There is a legal way to read your favourite authors for nothing, though; it’s called your local library, and increasingly audio and e-books are offered too.

Shhh, don’t tell the pirates!

Brenda Bannister


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