When I discuss self-publishing with other writers, one question I'm often asked is, "Are you going to put out a paper book or an e-book first - or both?" Granted, a lot of debut authors going the self-pub route see e-books, whether through Kindle or Smashwords, as an easier, lower cost option. Without a publisher (and all their inherent expenses) to set pricing for them, that leaves the question of what to price an e-book wide open for the self-pub author. Ultimately, yes, I do plan to put my books out as e-books, but first I'll introduce them as p-books (lingo for 'paper books'), primarily because most of the people I personally know don't yet own an e-reader and don't read enough to warrant them buying one.
Recently, Amazon announced that starting in June it will pay authors 70% of the Kindle list price. This deal states that the list price must be between $2.99 and $9.99. Currently, many self-published authors are offering their Kindle titles at very low prices, like 99 cents... or even free - the logic being that readers are more likely to sample a new author if they can get the book for practically nothing. Their plan then is to build a readership base, in the hopes that they can later charge more for subsequent works. While I follow this logic, I can't say I agree with it, for the simple fact that it devalues the artist's efforts and the product they have to offer. There is also the problem of perceived value and 'you get what you pay for'. I just can't go there. To research, write and polish a work of historical fiction can take me up to two years (although I'm sure if I had a deadline of any sort, I could drastically reduce that time-frame). I believe the product I put out at the end of that time is worth something more than pennies.
Anita Davison's blog, in her post An End to Those Pesky Rejection Letters?, talks about whether this door to publishing for writers is a good or bad thing. And Mirella Patzer analyzes the emergence of e-book readers and their impact on the future of how we read in her blog post Reading, Then and Now.
Traditional publishers have been arguing that even though printing, shipping and warehousing costs are eliminated with e-books, there's still a lot of expense associated with them, like editing, cover art, marketing, and physical overhead (those Manhattan offices aren't exactly cheap). A recent New York Times article explores the dilemma of e-book pricing by traditional publishers.
How much would you shell out for a self-published e-book? $9.99, $4.99, $1.99 or would you only try it if it was free? Art Edwards discusses e-book pricing in his post: "How Much Would you Pay for a Self-Published E-book?".
So folks, that's a lot to digest. The bottomline is that publishing is in a state of fluctuation. Technology is changing so fast that by the time I get one thing figured out, it becomes obsolete. The economy is putting a squeeze on publishers and consumers and that all trickles down to the would-be author, as well as established authors.