Giving your opinion used to be putting in your two cents worth, but ninety-nine cents worth is where it’s at now. Why 99c? That’s the lowest price Amazon will let me sell my books at, US99c. Free is not for sale, let’s make that clear. I have given away a lot of books. To be honest, I’ve given away more books than I’ve sold. In order to gift a book, I have to buy it. You might think that’s weird, and that I should just gift direct to e-reader copies or something. Yeah, I did that, and it got me pirated. Pass.
I want people to read me, and giveaways are supposed to be a way for that to happen. But in over 95 percent of cases, I never hear from the person I gifted to again and it’s obvious that they either didn’t read it or didn’t like it. They’re in a giveaway to get something for nothing, not necessarily because they’re particularly interested in that something. I’m selling my soul here. Every book is a piece of my soul. I devote hours to telling stories that I want people to hear and it’s a tough gig. Ninety-nine cents. What can you get for ninety-nine cents these days? Even a packet of Tic-Tacs is over a dollar.
We’ve done this to ourselves. We’ve undervalued ourselves and set up this expectation that our books are worth less than a cup of coffee. The hours of entertainment we can provide, the life-changing messages we can bring, the thought-invoking words strung together over hundreds of pages . . . not even worth ninety-nine cents. Not even valued when received free. Stuck somewhere in a TBR pile because it was free and people like free stuff.
Authors have put their heads together and said ‘look, if we set a reasonable price for full length novels and stick to it then people will understand that’s the price’ but then the reality kicks in. ‘If you do that, there will always be authors who undersell you and no one will be bothered spending money on you when they get something else for less or for free.’ Sigh. It makes you feel like all books are exactly the same. They’re not. I write in the crime/family life genre and it’s nothing like a romance novel.
99c sales are great. It gives people an opportunity to buy books that they honestly couldn’t afford paying more for, and I’m fine with that. But constantly feeling like you’re in the bargain bin and still not getting sales OR giving away books that people never actually wanted or read – sucks.
We need to bring the value back. We need to value what it is we’re receiving and be thankful for it. We need to appreciate the work that goes into producing a book and realise what it’s worth. We need to encourage writers to keep writing, and readers to keep reading, and find a happy balance. We need each other. Let’s work this out. If you get a gift, be grateful. If you like something you read, tell the author. If you have no interest in a prize, don’t enter a competition. That’s my 99c worth.