Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Epub's- ebook Price Comparisons

In my last review, the comments morphed into a different topic than the book itself and it brought up some issues that have been bothering me about the price of ebooks and how they affect my feelings about a book.

Lately, in my search for F/F books I've been getting more and more pissed off with the cost per word count in ebooks. This is especially noticeable in the lesbian/ F/F-bi genre because of its unpopularity and therefore lack of choice and availability.


At first I was not too aware of WC (word count) to price ratio because, as most readers, I'm used to thinking in terms of average mass market paperback of 250- 500 pgs. being all the same price. So I never thought in terms of WC.


With ebooks and epubs though, as Kirsten pointed out to me, there are all kinds of book lengths available and many 3K-10K short stories are being sold for almost the same price as a 100K paperback or even a 30K-40K ebook at some epubs. It's ridiculous!


Because the F/F genre doesn't have a huge amount of selections compared to M/M and M/F, we readers are often stuck with very short stories that are: not well written, edited badly and way over priced for that. Basically, we're screwed.

I'm getting fed up with it and am less willing to pay out that kind of money for crap, or something I can read in an hour. There are many free sites with often much better writing and story quality.


As far as lesbian and other f/f books go, even paper costs way more because it's a specialized niche market. So even if I want to go strictly paper, I have to fork out over $12-$16 for trade size 150-200+ page book.

Those pubs that specialize in lesbian/alternative fiction also do ebooks at times and charge the same $12-$16 for the ebook version. What...are they thinking?


So I've decided to rate different epubs based on cost per WC/page.
One thing I'd like to point out is that many epubs don't give a word count. I think it's very tricky of them. However, if you wish to know, often those books are sold on sites like Fictionwise, which do list a word count for every book. And just for the record, I'm only doing epubs that offer the most f/f- Lesbian books.

I feel that Samhain Publishing is one of the fairest in its WC/ cost pricing so I set its pricing as my standard on which to judge others by.


Below is a general chart that I made up. I think if you click on it you can see it better. What it shows is that while a 20K story is 1/5 of a 100K, the cost is 1/3 to 2/3 of 100K story. I know that some would argue that the cost for a publisher is the same for a short story as a full length novel and therefore the cost has to be higher per word since the return is not the same. But as many point out, short stories and novellas sell a lot more, so the return is made up in volume. So I don't see why the cost needs to be so high for some epubs when others are keeping it at a fair and reasonable price.



Edited- MY BAD-- It was pointed out to me that Total-E-Bound prices were cheaper on their site than Fictionwise. I did get the prices for TEB from FW mainly because FW usually shows the epub price and then their price, which is cheaper.

Also, TEB has no price code per word count like Samhain does. Nor does it list WC on their book pages. So I literally would have had to open many books to get a WC to price range and I admit I was lazy on that part.

I did check with books I've bought from TEB and what they do is list the price, but when I get the CC statement, it shows that the list price is lower with a currency exchange amount, which totals the price given.

I didn't think about that this is a British company and that the exchange rate would affect the prices. Still though, they do appear to be very reasonable if you buy direct from them.


Samhain's WC/Cost key:


Short Stories: $2.50- (12-18K words)

Novellas: $3.50- (18-35K words)

Category: $4.40- (35-60K words)

Novel: $ $5.50- (60-100K words)

Plus Novel: $6.50- (over 100K words)


$
= fair price, close to Samhain's prices---I choose these sites and books over others first.
$$ = A little expensive, but still acceptable-- I'll still buy these books
$$$= Too expensive--- but for a good book I'd spend the money.
$$$$= Over the top ridiculous price for an ebook- Forget about it. I'm not spending that kind of money for any ebook, even if it's highly coveted.


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$$$
-
Amber Quill Press- They don't have too many f/f books offered, but I find them to be fairly expensive for WC. Shows word count on books.

Amber Brief:
(2,500 - 4,999 words)- $1
Amber Kiss: (5,000 - 10,000 words)- $2.50
Extended Amber Kiss: (11,000 - 17,000 words) $3-$4

Novella: (18,000 - 29,000 words) - $5

Extended Novella: (30,000 - 40,000 words) -$6

Novel: (41,000 - 70,000 words)- $7

Extended Novel: (71,000+ words)
$8

I think Amber Quill charges too much money for what they offer and I probably won't buy from them in the future unless they are selling an author I really want to read.
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$$ -Phaze- I like Phaze in general because they do offer a lot of f/f and they label it clearly, but their prices can be a high and the writing quality can be a bit iffy. Gives word count on most books.

Short story:
(5, 000-12,000 words)-- $2-$2.50
Short / novella: (5,000-18,000 words
)- $2- $3
Novella:
(12, 000- 30,000 words)-$3- $4
Category:
(30,000-60,000 words)- $5- $6
Novel:
(60,000-90,000 words
)-$6-
Mega-novel: (90,000 + words
)- $6-

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$($)-Total-E-Bound- Doesn't hardly have any f/f, but there are a few f/f authors who I like that are pubbed through here, so I do buy from them. Doesn't show word count on their books, which I don't like.

Edited- These prices below are taken from Fictionwise, which has been pointed out to me to be higher than if you buy direct from TEB even with the exchange rate taken into account. I still don't want to slog through many of their books to get an exact price range, but on average they are $1-$2 cheaper if you buy direct from TEB.

Short Story
- (10,000 to 15,000 words) - $3.06-$3.47
Novella
- (15,001 - 30,000 words)-$5.11-$6.13
Novel
- (30,001 - 60,000 words)-$6.09-$9.28
Super Novel
- (60,001 - 100,000 words)- $7.16-$11.69
Super Plus Novel
- (100,001+ words)-$11.69



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$$$-Loose-Id-- Only has a few f/f titles so I don't normally go there for f/f. Also, I just don't like their site. They don't give much info at all. They have no key code for WC to catagory, so when they list "Novel" on a book page, I have no clue what they are talking about. Going to fictionwise, this is what I came up with:

(20,000 -30,000 +/- words) -
$4.99

(40,000 + words) - $5.99

(50,000 -60,000+ words)- $6.99

(70,000+ words)- $7.99


They don't sell short stories, so it looks like the lowest WC is around 20K.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$- Torquere Books- I've never bought from them so I don't have a clue about quality but I did some research. I had to go to Submissions section to get this info. It's not on their book pages. No WC or length info offered. Just price.

Sips:
(3,000-8,000 words)-$1.29

Novelette:
(10,000-15,000 words)- $2.49

Novella:
(20,000+ words)- $3.95

Novel:
(45,000+ words)- $5.95

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$$- Excessica- I've never bought from this pub either, so I can't speak to quality. They do have a book length chart, which is nice, although WC is not posted on the actual book page. Their web site is very slow to load, too slow. I would have given up if I wanted to buy something. As with a lot of epubs, the shorter the story, the more expensive in WC/cost ratio.

Short Shorts:
(under 3K words)- $.99

Shorts:
(3-7K words) -$1.99

Short stories:
(7-15K words)- $2.99

Novella
- (15-35K words)-$3.99

Novel- (35-70K words)- $4.99
Super novels
- (70-150K words)- $5.99

Super XL Novels
- (150-250K words)- None show up in this category.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$$($)- Loveyoudivine Alterotica press- I only bought one book from them, which was OK. They have no WC chart, but do list word count on the book page. And they are all over the place in WC/ price. There doesn't seem to be a standard. Just some examples:

2,461 words- $2.75

3,702 words- $2

5,676 words- $2.75

9,067 words-$3
12,811 words-$3.50

10K- $4.49

14,267 words-$4



I think this press charges way too much for WC and I might, but probably won't, buy from them again unless I'm desperate for a f/f book. They do have their books through Fictionwise, which sells them much cheaper.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$- I'll throw in Ellora's Cave even though as of this moment they don't have any f/f. It's going to change though, I hope. But they are one of the top epubs, so their stats are good to know.

Quickie
: (up to 15K words)- $2.24
Novella:
(15-30K words)-$4
Short Novel:
(30-45K)-$4.68
Novel:
(45-70K)- $5.35
Plus Novel:
(70-100K)-$6.29
Super Plus:
(100K+)- $7.19

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I've given a few examples of some more popular epubs, but there are some predominantly print pubs that do sell ebooks. Here are a couple that sell lesbian fiction.

$$$$- Bold Strokes Books- They are traditionally a niche print pub for Lesbian fiction- most of their print books cost between $12-16 in trade size for about 200+/- pages. Unfortunately, their ebooks are just as expensive, which is why I'd never buy and ebook from them.

They are all around $12.95 and they don't offer a huge download format range like epubs do. Nor do they give a word count. It's too bad because there are some good authors under Bold Strokes Books.

$$$$- L-Book Lesbian Fiction- They are also very expensive. They do give the WC on their book pages. What is nice about this pub is that they do offer many formats, even audio. I haven't bought from them, so I don't know about writing quality either.

60K -$10.95

175K- $13.95






18 comments:

M. A. said...

What an interesting post, Leah!

I honestly haven't thought much about pricing disparities at different e-publishers. Or how it could affect readers' spending choices. Very insightful.

MB (Leah) said...

You know, I did it mainly for myself; to keep track of which pubs are worth it. Most of the books I buy are ebooks and I've noticed differences but I wanted to see it all spelled out clearly so I can reference it.

Plus, it helps me to know which pubs to reward for being decent and which ones to ignore. Nasty, but the way it is for me. I'm not working for 6 months now, so my book money has to be wisely spent.

M. A. said...

I hear you. I'm on a pretty fixed income myself since I'm in school full time now.

kirsten saell said...

When I was researching publishers with submission in mind, I looked at EVERYTHING. Bought books from several top epubs to get a feel for the quality of editing, looked at all the cover art, paid attention to their online reputations and looked into the degree of experience of the people at the helm, how open they are about who runs the company, royalty rates, distribution, print program, and yes, even pricing structure. Samhain was pretty much #1 all around.

I wanted my books to be accessible to readers--that means they should be available to purchase in a lot of places, be eligible to go to print, and they should be priced attractively. I want readers to finish my book and say, "OMG, that was awesome, I can't believe I got it for only $4.50!", not, "I'm glad this book was good, cause I sure forked over enough for it," or, "This really wasn't my bag--8 bucks down the freaking toilet. I won't ever be buying this author again!"

As a new author, I'm very aware that fear of being burned is a huge disincentive for readers to try your work, and if the books are priced sky high, it's just too big a risk for most people, IMO.

I CAN understand why price/WC ratio goes up as the WC gets smaller. Publishing does have some fixed costs that WC does not have an impact on--cover art and ISBN numbers to name two. But I'm not buying the excuse that all the "fixed" costs are the same. I'm sorry, but it does not take the same time and energy to edit a 2000 word short story as it does to edit an 80k novel. (And considering the level of quality I've found in some of the short fiction offered from epubs, I sometimes wonder if they even bother with editing at all.) And some epubs like Torquere use the same cover art for all their shorts that fall within certain parameters, so that cost is spread out between many stories.

As for print pubs--especially small presses who sometimes use POD to print their books, which has a VERY slim profit margin--the prices they want for ebooks is ridiculous. I wonder what kind of royalty Bold Strokes pays on digital. The $4.50 Samhain book you buy in digital pays me 30-40% on list price, depending on where you buy it. That same book in print will cost you $12, and pay me 8%. I've heard that the majority of the money Samhain makes on a given title is on digital--despite low prices and high royalties. Whether it's because they sell more ebooks than print, or whether it's because their profit margin is higher on ebooks, or both, just tells me it's entirely possible for a publisher to make good money with decently priced ebooks, even when they're handing over a big slice of the pie to the author.

I've heard people say ebooks are cheaper to produce, and that's why they should cost less. It's not. It's why they CAN cost less. The reason they SHOULD cost less is all those rights readers give up when they choose e over print. The fact that they both should, and can, but aren't, just burns my ass.

And to have some pompous ass tell me (I think it was on DA), that I ought to just suck it up and pay $13 for an ebook from a LGBT print press because that's just what you have to do to support LGBT authors? Um, no. Just no. I don't read out of some saintly sense of philanthropy. Book purchasing does not equal social activism for me. If I wanted to do my part for LGBT authors, I'd send them each a check for $12, with a note attached saying their publisher would not be getting one thin dime out of me until they change the pricing on their ebooks. At least I'd be guaranteed to feel satisfied afterward.

MB (Leah) said...

"This really wasn't my bag--8 bucks down the freaking toilet. I won't ever be buying this author again!"

I think if a reader is blown away, they might be forgiving of a higher priced book. But not the other way around. They do remember. I don't associate the author with a high priced book if I'm not happy, I think of the publisher screwing me over. As far as the author goes, I probably wouldn't buy her/him again because their book sucked in general.

And to have some pompous ass tell me (I think it was on DA), that I ought to just suck it up and pay $13 for an ebook from a LGBT print press because that's just what you have to do to support LGBT authors?

Whoa... no, just no. I buy books for entertainment. An author writes a book and I buy it. End of transaction. If I want to read in a certain genre that's not popular enough to get mass produced making it cheaper, well then I pay the price that they sell it at. But I'm not paying that money out of the kindness of my heart. And if I can get books in my preferred genre at a cheaper cost I will.

Frankly, even in non GLBT books I think very hard before plunking down $15 for trade PB. I can get several ebooks for that or even 2 MM books for that. And get way more to read because trades are usually large print and average 200 pgs.

I'd rather support authors who are willing to write GLBT, specifically f/f, for epresses that sell books at a cheaper price.

kirsten saell said...

I don't associate the author with a high priced book if I'm not happy, I think of the publisher screwing me over.

See, with me, I don't always remember what I didn't like about a book--unless it was truly stunning--but if I associate an author's name with feeling cheated, even if the book wasn't bad, per se, just not necessarily my kinda book, but the price was high enough that I felt like I got the shaft? It might not be the author's fault, but that association will still be there.

I check out my profile on Goodreads occasionally, and I've seen one reader rate Crossing Swords a 4, Bound by Steel a 5, and Healer's Touch a 2. Obviously she likes my writing, there was just something that didn't resonate with her in that one book.

If she'd chosen it first, she might not have read the other two. Or she might not have remembered my name when she stumbled across them, and bought them anyway. But if she associated my name with feeling like she got shafted because HT cost her 8 bucks and she didn't like it, that might make my name more memorable--and not in a good way.

I mean, there is something to this name association thing. I still have to make an effort to like women whose names start with J because of shit that went down 30 years ago. It's a daily struggle, but I soldier on...

M. A. said...

I'm published at more than one epress, but I sincerely appreciate Amber Quill Press for accepting and publishing my first work. The owner and all the staff are very pleasant and professional to work with.

That said, I understand the concerns attached to the pricing issue. Kirsten's point is well-made. Readers expect more from a $6 novella than a $4 novella.

I admit that, for me, writing is more a hobby than a career. I'm presently in school to study for a profession that will offer me better compensation and fulfillment than a full-time writing career. If my sales figures ever hit six figures, I might reconsider that philosophy.

M. A. said...

ER...For clarity's sake, I wasn't trying to sound like a pompous butt in my previous post. My first novel was published by Amber Quill when my coauthor entered a manuscript into a writing contest held by the publisher. I care a lot about writing for writing's sake, but I didn't go into epublishing looking for a career.

kirsten saell said...

Dude, no worries. I'm definitely at the hobby stage myself, in that I don't earn remotely enough yet to quit my day job.

But at the same time, I do see it as a career. It may always only be a supplementary income, but I enjoy every aspect of it and I am in it for the long haul. I knew going in that it would probably never make me rich. But it's nice to make money (any amount) doing something you love...

M. A. said...

But at the same time, I do see it as a career. It may always only be a supplementary income, but I enjoy every aspect of it and I am in it for the long haul. I knew going in that it would probably never make me rich. But it's nice to make money (any amount) doing something you love...


:) Yeah. I understand exactly. I've always written and I've always loved writing. LOL...Seriously, when I was a kid, my favorite aunt would buy me packages of pens and notebooks for surprise presents.

That said, I have a very cold-blooded practical streak. Unless a writer is in that upper 50% of top earning authors (who're usually in print,) he's not earning a self-supporting income. Most writers, even moderately well-known and respected ones, write as a second job.

I do take my obligations to my publishers seriously and I appreciate my readers. I really enjoy the opportunity to interact with other authors (I never had any writer friends when I was growing up and my writing was always treated as a kind of "charming eccentricty" -- "Oh, that's (Mia,) she writes.") There's a lot of satisfaction in it for me on that score. But I still hit the books hard and look forward to establishing myself in other venues that offer greater security.

kirsten saell said...

(I never had any writer friends when I was growing up and my writing was always treated as a kind of "charming eccentricty" -- "Oh, that's (Mia,) she writes.")

Oddly, I didn't even really consider writing seriously until I was an adult. I'd been scribbling kind of haphazardly for a couple of years in my late teens, mostly first chapters that never went anywhere (although I did pick the opening for Crossing Swords back up 18 years later and finally finished it, lol).

My first ill-fated attempt at university, my English Lit prof read my first essay and told me in front of everyone in the class that if I didn't write I'd be wasting my life. My second (also ill-fated, lol) attempt--at a university college--another English Lit prof told me I had an amazing talent and if I didn't do anything with it, she'd be very disappointed in me.

Who was I to argue with them?

But the eccentricity part, oy. My (ex) in-laws, when my (now) ex-husband told them I was writing a book, gave me that condescending "Isn't that nice, dear. You know, it's not easy to get published. Good luck with that." Grrr. Whereas my own family has been incredibly supportive, even when I tell them that I likely won't ever make a living at it.

At the moment, I work part time as a waitress and make just enough to cover my bills. I anticipate there will be a time in the next couple years when I can stick my writing income in a tax-free savings account or something and use it to start saving for the future, or to purchase luxury items or whatever. But I'm realistic, and lucky for me, my tastes lean toward the simple and affordable, lol.

M. A. said...

My first ill-fated attempt at university, my English Lit prof read my first essay and told me in front of everyone in the class that if I didn't write I'd be wasting my life. My second (also ill-fated, lol) attempt--at a university college--another English Lit prof told me I had an amazing talent and if I didn't do anything with it, she'd be very disappointed in me.

Who was I to argue with them?


I really do believe God/Higher Power/Fate/Whatever-You-Wanna-Call-It puts people in our way to guide us to our proper place.

My situation was kind of different. Writing is sort of a "family trait." I have ancestors in my geneaology who were published writers, and I have living relatives who are published writers now. So, for my family, it was more, "OK, she's a writer, too." And everyone was very loving and encouraging about it since I was really little.

It was situations outside my family that made me feel like an oddity. In kindergarten, I was asked to write a brief story, so I did. My teacher contacted my parents regarding my (correct) word usage of terms like "incensed" and "unexcited." I guess since the teacher hadn't taught me the words yet I wasn't supposed to know them? Aren't teachers supposed to call your folks when you DON'T do an assignement well? *sighs*

With my friends, it wasn't "weird" that I wrote; it was "weird" that I wrote well. They were supportive, but it wasn't a hobby they shared so they couldn't identify with it much, I guess.

I'm sad to say I've also had a friend or two who I think might have been a little jealous or intimidated by my talent. You know the type, being nice in a very left-handed way about it? Like your former in-laws, I guess. "Oh, I know you're supposed to be this great writer and all...So where's your Pulitzer Prise?" "Well, you know, it's on the back burner while I keep my name on the Dean's List."

I'm also kind of confused by authors who view other authors as competitors and rivals. I mean, no one writes exactly like I do and no one writes exactly what I write, so where's the competition? But I've had negative experiences with other e-authors related to that which I chalk up to feelings of inferiority.

At the moment, I work part time as a waitress and make just enough to cover my bills. I anticipate there will be a time in the next couple years when I can stick my writing income in a tax-free savings account or something and use it to start saving for the future, or to purchase luxury items or whatever. But I'm realistic, and lucky for me, my tastes lean toward the simple and affordable, lol.


One of the happiest periods of my life was when I worked as a counter girl for this really great coffee shop. I'd love to do that again, but now I've got stuffy attorney instructors handing me their cards and saying, "You know, we need more good legal writers in the field, and such. The industry is focussing more and more on writing. Give me a call when you're out of school."

As for the simple life, I know what you mean. Less is always more. LOL...When I separated from my husband, I took an overnight bag with a few changes of clothes, my "Dragonfly" DVD (my favorite film at that time,) my computer, and my cat. If you can't carry your "important stuff" away in two hands, you've got too much stuff. : )

Chaeya said...

Thanks for your work, Leah. It was very helpful.

Angelia Sparrow said...

Found this on DA. The pricing look is very interesting and you'll be pleased to know EC is taking f/f submission now.


Torquere's quality varies. But your best bet there for f/f is Jodi Payne.

I have a couple of f/f shorts there. One in TOYBOX: SAPPHO'S CHEST, which also has a Jodi Payne story. The other is a bit of steampunk horror called "Meanwhile Back at the Ranch."

German Reader said...

Total-e-bound is a UK based epub so due to exchange rate changes they can't be compared one to one. Your prices seem to be taken from fictionwise. I don't know what exchange rates FW uses but the prices are about 15 to 20% higher than directly from the pubs website.
Example of today:
Anthology Brit Party (WC 82470)
Price at FW 11.69 USD
Price at TEB 5.69 GBP / 9.47 USD
actual exchange rate 5.69 GBP = 9.18 USD

TEB is the only pub I don't buy at FW unless FW has a HUGE sale.

MB (Leah) said...

German reader-- You are correct in that I got those prices from FW and I did assume they are what Total-E-bound charges because that's the case with all the other epubs I compared to. FW usually shows a retail price, which is the actual epub price, then under it FW's price, which is usually a lot cheaper. So I did assume and that's my bad.

Total-e-Bound had no Word count to price chart like Samhain does on their web site, so I took it off of FW since it would have taken me a lot of time to open up every single book that Total-E-Bound has to see what their price range is.

Also, they do have a WC key, but don't list WC on their book pages. So it was just easier to get it straight from FW.

I checked a few books that I've bought from Total-E-Bound and you are right they are cheaper than FW.

At any rate I did this mainly to see what's what because I buy a lot of ebooks and really had no clue what I'm really paying for. And it makes a difference to me. I'm going to spend money where I get the best value.

I'll make a correction to that on this page.

Anonymous said...

I also noticed one thing about Amber Quill Press, though, that isn't mentioned...every month they have 25%-off sales, which brings down their numbers on the chart by at least $1-2 in just about every word count price range. I don't know of any other publisher that has consistent sales like that.

MB (Leah) said...

Anon- you are correct and I knew that when I did the post. They often do have many sales, which can be a good deal.

But I didn't mention it for two reasons-
1. You can't count on the sales for the particular book you might want and I did this post mainly sticking to what's offered in f/f, which are a lot rarer than other genres and therefore often are not included in the sales sections.

2. These sales only bring AmberQuill down to what I think should be their normal price. If you're getting a sale on a book that is priced too high to begin with, then really, what kind of sale is that?

I know that Phaze also has many sales and so do most of the pubs.

Samhain sells their new releases at a cheaper rate for the first week.

Extasy books, which I didn't include, also has constant sales.

All epubs have different ways to offer books cheaper, but that would mean then that I would have to include all of their different ways of discounting books and that was more than I wanted to do for this post. This post was just meant to give a general idea of what pubs are charging for word count and to bring that to readers' attention.