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Pricing E-books and a Facebook Rant

Hey Writing Etc. Subscriber,

I’m mounting my high horse today. I don’t do this often, but here goes. You’ve been warned. 🙂

I dislike Facebook. Drives me nuts.

In what other place on Earth can every single person be an expert on every conceivable subject? Not only can anyone be an expert on anything, they can form groups where they can shepherd their “flock” in all things wise. To make matters worse, they can randomly insert ME into their group without my permission. Which is exactly what happened.

One day I logged onto Facebook and discovered I was a member of a group of newbie copywriters. I should have deleted my membership the minute I saw the slick owner standing next to an antique sports car (turns out it wasn’t his), but I didn’t.

I haven’t written for many clients lately, but after over a dozen years in the biz, I kinda know how to not only write copy, but I’ve seen the realities of the industry, the underbelly, the smoke and mirrors (like posing in front of vehicles you don’t own), the incredible greed behind many of the “gurus,” the false friendliness/”professionalism.”

Against my better judgment, I hung out there for a while, only to see if anything has changed since the last time I watched newby copywriters scrambling, racing to the top of the money-making heap. Overall, it was the same old, same old… until the owners trod on my territory: Publishing. Here’s what went down. Note, I’ve done some light editing for clarification purposes.

Facebook owner:

For those of us authoring books, I just stumbled across a pretty interesting resource: Beth’s note: (I deleted the link because I find the guy skuzzy.)

The author is on both sides of the coin: Former Christian publisher and current author. He is one who formerly exercised his power to reject books.

♥ Hugs!

I click the link. The dude has a super slick website, blazing white smile, and is selling a 20 page e-book about writing book proposals for 20 bucks. His information is so fabulous that he’s able to charge a buck a page, plus he gets another publishing credit on his resume. Wow.

I jump into the discussion:

I’m not impressed with the link. As a current working publisher (over ten years now), I’ve found if a reader doesn’t find your price point agreeable, you’d better clear out some room for returns and/or prepare for your merchant account to ask some tough questions. I’d never charge 20 bucks for a 20 page e-book, especially when you can pick up the same (probably better) information by Bob Bly on Amazon for often a penny.

Facebook owner replied to my post:

He mentioned in the article that he made clear all of those points in the sales letter: The page length, the price point and the no hassle 100% money back guarantee. He even pointed to the several buyers who were satisfied with the content. Quality I believe is always left up to interpretation. He’s focusing on impact. If the impact of 20 pages in electronic form is worth $20, then why not? If it’s crap then of course, $20 would have to be refunded without blinking twice. I think his point is the correlation of price should be between quality and not quantity as with everything. 🙂

I’m sighing now, not sure if I really want to get into a weird Facebook debate. But I trudge onward hoping common sense will prevail:

Agreed, however most people don’t read sales letters thoroughly. You’re actually lucky if they read the headline, skim the subheads, then hit the PS.

“Know me, like me, trust me, buy from me,” is the online marketer’s mantra. If a customer thinks your product is lacking in any way, you’ve not only lost a sale, you’ve lost a customer who probably won’t hesitate to head to Twitter and/or Facebook to express their opinion. Plus, with this guy’s subject matter, it’s highly doubtful he’s sharing anything that isn’t already available on Amazon for a fraction of the price, covered in a more thorough manner. There are very few, if any, top secret techniques to succeed in the book biz. But yes… if your content is THAT good, you can probably charge a premium price. However, publishing isn’t one of those niches, IMHO.

I’m evidently not able to make my points clear because I received an instant reply (I will admit, she does respond with kindness, however I sensed a potential hint of sarcasm. I ignored it.):

I love having your point of view Beth! ♥ With 10 years + in publishing, would you consider yourself an expert? (Because I’m going to call you one! lol) With your expert opinion in publishing, what would qualify content as quality? Is there a “litmus” test of some sorts that aspiring writers should consider? Not only would knowing this information help with upping the ante in quality, it could definitely help self-publishers better determine price. I know it’s impossible to please an entire audience, and negative reviews as well as dissatisfied customers always occur. What can the aspiring self-published author use as a guide to assess quality vs. page length vs. cost? ♥

Here’s my thoughts on the subject:

It’s a balancing act. Yes, you need top notch content, editing, design. Our nonfiction runs 20k to 80k words. Anything longer than 80k creates printing costs that’ll cut into the profit margin too much.

E-books are a different animal. There you’re competing with an incredible range of competition from .99 to the Internet Marketers selling their “top secret” info for hundreds of dollars. The trick is to give solid information and keep your prices in line with the peers you want to be associated with. I avoid associating with IMs so my pricing is in line with traditional, reputable book publishers.

Assume your content always has to be spectacular then find your price point by researching your peers. The guy in the article is selling a booklet for a full e-book price. For example, one of the people I admire is Bob Bly who consistently produces very good products, fair prices, and he maintains a solid following. His e-book prices run in the same range as this guy, but provide enough information to fill 100+ pages. Plus, when we published one of his trade paperbacks, I discovered he’s nice, genuine, and gracious as he is professional. From what I’ve observed, that’s a rarity in this biz.

She says:

Us IMer’s (I could be considered one…) have a wild beast that is hard to tame: Speed and profit. I find that many IM’ers are looking just for that. How to produce a gazillion business assets simply to make money. That’s why I admire the skill of copywriting soooooooooo much because knowing how to craft quality, useful and valuable content is oftentimes overlooked as a critical skill. I appreciate your analysis of Bob Bly. I’ll need to study him more ♥ Thanks again for your feedback! ♥ (Maybe I’ll be able to author a course called “Grounded Internet Marketing 101) ♥

I’ve basically said all I want on this subject so I give my final reply:

“Grounded Internet Marketing” sounds like a viable project. Keep us all posted on its progress. Oh, and not all IMers are unscrupulous. Sorry I gave that impression of my opinion. Some are fab, funny, and a joy to work with. The folks I was talking about are the ones highlighted by Salty Droid. Those guys are scary.

Her reply:

I have no clue who Salty Droid is O_o… Just tried to do a google search for it and various results came back. No worries! I’ll put that idea on the list of many! Thanks again for your feedback. ♥

My final thoughts:

If you’re in the writing biz to get rick quick, leave. It’s not gonna happen. Plus, you cheapen the profession.

I’ve been at this along time and can report that success usually comes slow… depending on how you define “success.” Every overnight successful author I know has years of work behind them, they write daily, query regularly, sharpen their skills and simply never give up.

I wish I could tell you there’s a secret formula/shortcut that would make hoards of people flock to your writing. I really wish I could, but there isn’t.

But life’s an adventure and so is your writing career.

I’ll dismount my high horse now,

Beth 🙂

P.S. Hey… want to sell your writing? My book’s 450+ pages AND it’s only 14.95. Can’t beat that. 🙂 We’re talking three volumes of hard core freelance information in one handy download. I appreciate your support for this project. 🙂

Just click here.


Writing Etc./Filbert Publishing News – September 15, 2012

ISSN: 1545-5580

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