Why I'm Selling My E-book for $3.99 (and bucking the trend)

06/08/2011 04:06 pm ET | Updated Aug 08, 2011
  • Karen Dionne Author, Freezing Point, Boiling Point; organizer, Backspace Writers Conference, Salt Cay Writers Retreat

When my first environmental thriller published in mass market paperback in October 2008 from Berkley, it had a good run. Freezing Point is about a solar energy company melting Antarctic icebergs into drinking water whose plan goes terribly wrong -- think "Jurassic Park on Ice" -- and my publisher selected the book as one of three lead titles for the month.

The subsequent front-of-store placement and extra large print run meant that when my novel hit the shelves, it was everywhere. I could walk into any Barnes & Noble and find eight to a dozen copies on the "new paperbacks" tower. Borders showcased my novel on their front table. Friends reported seeing Freezing Point in airports, bus stations, train stations, bookstores, grocery stores and drug stores across the United States and Canada.

But mass market paperbacks have a short shelf life. "To the making of many books, there is no end," Solomon wrote, a proverb that, when it comes to mass market, is never more true. My publisher puts out a new catalog every month, which means that every month, there are new books to promote, and the older titles have to yield. 

As often happens with mass market paperbacks, eventually, my publisher decided they would no longer warehouse the book. Freezing Point was out of print.

In a pre-electronic world, that would have been the end of the story. But now, thanks to digital self-publishing, authors who have gotten the rights back to their out-of-print titles are able to make their books available electronically themselves.

And so this spring, I did what every other smart author is doing with their backlist: I published Freezing Point electronically. With a beautiful new cover and a digital copy of the manuscript, I am now in the publishing business. But how much should my lovely new e-book cost?

Many self-published authors sell their e-books for $2.99, $1.99 -- even 99 cents. There's a lot of pressure on authors to follow the crowd, as if these price points are somehow the "right" amounts. But the bargain-basement pricing strategy bothers me. E-books have value. They're not second cousins to print. Just like their print counterparts, e-books provide hours of reading pleasure. My electronic version of Freezing Point is the same story that tens of thousands of readers bought in paperback and enjoyed. The same story reviewers praised, and that was nominated by RT Book Reviews for a Reviewers' Choice Best First Mystery Award.

Freezing Point's subject matter remains timely as well. "Just Thaw and Serve," a recent article in TIME magazine, explores the possibilities of melting icebergs into drinking water to alleviate the world's fresh water crisis -- proving that interest in my novel's central topic hasn't diminished.

What's more, Freezing Point published this spring in mass market paperback in Germany, where the book is rapidly gaining new fans. Reviews in that country are solid, and on one popular website, as of this writing, 141 readers have posted their opinion, with the vast majority enthusiastic.

And so in view of all of that, I decided to sell my new electronic version of Freezing Point for $3.99. Freezing Point's original cover price was $7.99. With no printing or warehousing expenses, it seems reasonable that the e-version should cost half of that.

Freezing Point was a good story when it first published in print. It still is. $3.99 is a good e-book price.

"Palpably exciting. A scientific thriller about a looming global crisis far more critical than oil. Karen Dionne is the new Michael Crichton." -- New York Times bestselling author David Morrell

"What a ripper of a story! I loved every page." -- New York Times bestselling author Douglas Preston

"A terrific read!" -- New York Times bestselling author James Rollins

"a timely, terrifying thriller . . Filled with fascinating science and thorny ethical questions, Freezing Point takes horror to a chilling new degree." -- Dame Magazine

"FREEZING POINT by Karen Dionne is an ecological thriller that reads like a disaster movie...a mysterious, speedy virus killing off researchers; madness; hordes of man-eating rats; explosions; fires; tidal waves; an executive with a murderous lust for money and power; eco-terrorists...balls-out chaos...Roland Emmerich, are you listening? Scoop this one up!" - Blog Critics Magazine

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