What's It Worth to You?
Recently, I read a blog post by author Roni Loren on why a good story should be worth more than a cheeseburger. And it was just one of those posts that made me stop and think. A lot. I found myself questioning my knee-jerk response and considering not only the issue discussed in the post (the pricing of ebooks and how we value an author's work) but also how the way we value another author's work reflects on how we value our work.
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First of all, Roni made the point that we're willing to shell out for fast food, delivery pizza, a movie, etc without much thought but we often grind to a halt when it comes to shelling out the same amount for a book. Why should a book we'll enjoy for hours if not days be worth less than a pizza that will likely be gone in under an hour (unless you count the time the extra calories will spend stored on our butts and/or spare tires)?
My first response was something like "heck, I only have so many dollars in the budget and I just can't justify spending $10-20 bucks on a book." I don't go to the theater all that often, preferring to wait for the DVD until I just have to see it on the big screen. We also try to limit our eating out. Buuut...I'll spend $10-20 bucks on a pizza with less anxiety than buying a book at the same price.
Okay, okay...some of that reaction is because a book is generally just for me while the pizza is for my whole family. But still...am I saying the author's work is not worth a pizza? And what does that mean for how I value my work? Is that why I'm willing to shunt aside my writing for things around the house that really could be put off or at least balanced with the writing time?
And, when it comes to ebooks, especially self-pubbed, I find that grousing about price really kicks in. Suddenly, over $4.99 for fiction ($9.99 for reference/writing craft books) feels expensive.
And obviously I'm not the only one. There seems to be a huge push for cheap or even free entertainment to the point where people are giving bad reviews for price point. Hmmm...all is not quite right with the thinking here.
If people tend to equate the price of something with its inherent value, what are we saying about a writer's work when we're only willing to pay $0.99 for a novel? A novel represents considerably more work than a dollar cheeseburger.
And, if writers accept that mindset, how will we perceive our work? Will we give our writing the respect it deserves? Treat it like an art or like a cheeseburger thrown together in a fast food joint?
I know there's other factors involved in buying a book. The VP of awesome, author Kristen Lamb explains that books are a high consideration purchase. Choosing a book tends to be emotionally driven, especially for those who do not consider themselves avid readers (that and some avid readers don't want to go bankrupt buying all the books they want to read). With ebooks, there's also the understanding that they don't incur nearly the same costs to produce as print books. And self-published books allow the author to take a much bigger cut of the profits than traditionally published books.
But if we go along with the push for cheap books are we setting the bar too low? Allowing market conditions to develop that force new writers to sell their work for bargain basement prices? Are we promoting the idea that a book is barely worth the price of a cheeseburger, no matter how excellent the story?
I'm not entirely sure where I sit on the issue. I do know that I'm thinking about it more now. What does it mean when I tell myself that $6 ebook is "too expensive" and look for the $3 one instead? What am I saying about the butt-numbing hours I spend working on my manuscript-in-progress? And asking questions is always the first step to finding the answers.
What do you think about the price of books and how it reflects on the value of the author's work? Do you find yourself looking for cheap deals or turned off by them? Do you value your work as a writer or do you consider it something of a guilty pleasure?