Is a Book Worth More than a Greeting Card?

Greeting Card

I was shopping for greeting cards at Hallmark a couple of days ago.

It really got me thinking about book prices.

At first, I was thinking, “$3.99 for a greeting card? I have a book that I spent months on selling for $2.99.”

But then I realized that I had paid $3.99 for greeting cards long before I published my first book.

It’s not that greeting prices have gone up so much.

It’s more that book prices have come down so much.

A greeting card is basically a book cover.

So surely if we squeeze a hundred or more pages into that space, it should be worth more… Right?

99-cent books. Think about it. Are these books not even worth as much as a greeting card?

At least, old-fashioned printed greeting cards.

There are many free e-greeting cards.

When print-on-demand greeting cards become popular, I guess those prices will drastically drop, too. At least, if indie p-o-d greeting cards ever become as popular as Kindle e-books.

A more popular comparison is between an e-book and a cup of coffee.

But greeting cards left a stronger impression with me. It’s basically a book cover!

I know, book covers are worth a lot of money. Great book covers often cost $200 to $1000 to make. Even so, those books still often sell for 99 cents to $3.99, much like greeting card prices.

It’s almost like writing a hundred thousand words is worth nothing at all.

(Now just wait until some ‘author’ publishes a fifty-word ‘book’ on Kindle and markets it as a ‘greeting card’ that you can ‘gift’ to friends and family. I hope I didn’t just give anyone a ‘bright’ idea…)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Amazon, Hachette, & Underwear!

Amazon Hachette Underwear


In the red corner stands the reigning world champion, weighing in at ninety billion: Amazon.

And in the blue corner stands tonight’s challenger, weighing in at four hundred million: Hachette.

In a nutshell:

  • Amazon would like to see lower fiction e-book prices, i.e. $9.99.
  • Hachette wants to control e-book prices, e.g. $14.99 to $19.99.

For a balanced introduction, see this article.

Imagine that Amazon was a chain underwear store. You could find one in just about every mall in America.

Imagine that Hachette was a popular underwear distributor.

Amazon is where people shop for underwear. Hachette has the underwear that people want to wear.

Suppose that Hachette decides to set its wholesale price at $14.99.

Suppose that Amazon refuses to buy underwear at a price above $9.99.

Should Amazon be forced to stock Hachette’s underwear and sell it at higher prices?

  • No. It’s crazy to think that an underwear store would be required to stock every single kind of underwear.
  • Each store has the choice to stock whatever items it wishes to sell.

Should Hachette be forced to lower the price of their underwear?

  • No. It’s crazy to think that the store should be able to dictate the distributor’s prices.
  • Each distributor has the choice to set whatever wholesale price it wishes.

So who’s right?

  • The consumers, of course.
  • They decide which underwear they would like to wear.
  • They decide where they would like to shop for underwear.
  • They decide how much they are willing to pay for underwear.

In these terms, Amazon is lobbying on behalf of the consumer, trying to get the consumer the underwear he wants at a more affordable price.

But Hachette must decide how profitable that price is and if it’s willing to sell underwear at that price.

Nobody, especially underwear designers, wants to sacrifice the value of art that goes into underwear.

It’s a negotiation:

  • Amazon wants to stock all the underwear, including Hachette’s special brand.
  • Hachette wants to sell its underwear everywhere, including Amazon.
  • Many consumers would like to buy Hachette underwear at Amazon.

Latest developments:

In the meantime, all consumers should run around naked! Send a positive message to the corporations. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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A Model for Pricing Books

Pick two.

If you want to go out to eat, the best you can hope for is two out of three.

The three options are:

  • Quality
  • Service
  • Price

If you want top quality – i.e. excellent taste, fresh food, amazing cleanliness, incredible ambiance, superb view – and awesome service – i.e. friendly greeting, quick seating, fantastic personality, everything you want just when you want it – then you should expect to pay for it.

It’s not reasonable to expect perfect quality, perfect service, and super low prices.

So if you want low prices, you should expect to sacrifice either quality or service to some extent.

Pick two. If you can get two of the three, that’s very good.

Sometimes you only get one. When it’s really bad, you strike out.

The ‘pick two’ idea has been around for some time. It’s worth considering when pricing books.

The first step regarding price is to try to find other books that are very similar to what you’re selling. Customers will be comparing your book to other books like yours when they shop.

Now the question is whether you should be at the high end or low end of this price range – or somewhere in between.

Don’t assume that you need to be at the bottom end of this price range in order to sell books. Don’t assume that you can’t compete with top selling authors or big publishers.

It’s intuitive to most people that a lower price should lead to more sales. It seems like a basic law of economics, right? But it often doesn’t work out that way.

One major reason is that so many people believe that you get what you pay for. Another issue is that several buyers have some experience with poor quality.

Thus, there are cases of authors selling fewer books after lowering the price or actually selling more books after raising the price. It doesn’t always work out this way, but sometimes it does.

Price doesn’t drive sales.

Look at it as two out of three. Price is only one factor.

Quality and service are two other factors.

If you have a high-quality book, setting the price at the low end of the range for similar books may be a problem. People who are looking for better quality may not be browsing the low end of the price range. Where are the readers who are thinking, “Nah, I don’t want quality”? Readers who’ve had a poor experience at the low end of the price range may be exploring somewhat higher prices, hoping to get something better.

Quality doesn’t just mean one thing. It includes good editing, good writing style, good formatting, good characterization, good plot, ease of understanding, entertaining, creativity, professional touches, evoking strong feelings, etc. It also includes a great cover, great blurb, and great Look Inside – since these features help readers judge quality when they’re about to make a purchase.

Then there is also service. For authors, this comes through marketing.

Marketing drives sales. Price doesn’t drive sales. Price may deter sales, if too low or too high. But price doesn’t create sales. Quality and service (i.e. marketing) help to stimulate book sales.

Marketing can be a service. For one, marketing helps bring the book to the customer, whereas it’s such a challenge to find the right book through a search.

A good review online or at a blog from a credible source helps customers find a book in a genre that they read, which may potentially be high in quality. That’s two out of three already, so the price shouldn’t be at the bottom end of the spectrum.

Personal interaction helps to sell books. Interact with the target audience in person. That’s a service that the author provides to the reader.

Readings and signings are services, too.

If you have a quality book and you market effectively, your book shouldn’t be at the bottom end of the price range.

If your book is at the bottom end of the price range, shoppers may be wondering what the book may be lacking. If it’s not lacking anything, it should be worth paying for.

If a cup of coffee made in less than a minute can sell for three bucks, a book that reflects months of hard work should be worth more than that. 🙂

One last word about price. Just having a low price doesn’t suggest a great deal. It suggests that quality is lacking.

But having a sale may stimulate sales. If the price is normally higher, a temporary reduction in price may have this effect. Not from the random customer who just discovered the book – this customer doesn’t know that the price is usually higher. You have to promote a sale for this to work.

Promotion is a form of marketing. As long as you’re going to the trouble to spread the word about your book, you might want to earn a higher royalty for your effort.

A sale can be useful if the copies sold at the promotional price are likely to draw in additional sales. Promoting the first book in a series or discounting an omnibus may have such an effect, especially when the first book is very good at compelling readers to want more (this isn’t the case with all series).

A sale is also more effective when it’s not too frequent. Otherwise, people will just wait for the sale, and it will be hard to sell books in between sales.

Finally, you want your promotion to be targeted at new customers. If you’re advertising your sale to people who’ve already bought your book, you’re not reaching new customers – instead, you might be frustrating buyers who’ve paid more.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon