Book price discussion


Just a quick post this Saturday morning, brought on by a sequence of emails from friends and family about Kindle pricing.

The Big Five Publishers –

Penguin & Random House
Simon & Schuster

are increasing their Kindle & ebook prices. The examples recently sent to me show $14 is a common launch price. It is strange that they all, independently, came to this figure. We know it’s independent because if they consulted each other over the pricing, that would be a cartel, and it would be illegal. The same Big Five are trumpeting through the media that the ebook boom is over and print books are making a comeback.

This is all so much marketing s**t. The reason ebook sales are falling for the Big Five is because they are charging as much for an electronic download as they do for a hardcover. When challenged, they go on about marketing, promotion, blah, blah, blah, and forget to talk about print costs, storage costs, shipping costs, fixed asset costs and a slew of others. Ebook sales overall are rising, so the independents are more than making up for the Big Five’s ‘losses’. Go look at the AuthorEarnings website for the skinny.

The particular books that were drawn to my attention include Patricia Briggs (you know her), Robin Hobbs (you should know her) and John Burdett (you probably don’t know him). The point I’m making is that the $14 goes across the board. If perchance you don’t know Robin Hobbs and like Epic Fantasy, go look up the Assassin’s Apprentice. If perchance you don’t know John Burdett, he writes Crime Fiction set in Bangkok – go search out his Thai detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, or the amiable low-life PI Poke Rafferty. All recommended (when the price is right).

These three are apparently under different publishers, but that is marketing smoke and mirrors. Briggs is with Ace which is part of Penguin which is part of Penguin & Random House. Hobbs is with Del Rey which is part of Random House which is part of Penguin & Random House. Burdett is with Corsair, which is part of Little, Brown which is part of Hachette.

The core question is what does this mean for me? Little or nothing at the moment. There is a different ceiling set for independents. This is not to do with popularity or sales (my reviews aren’t that far below Burdett’s) it’s simply a law of the market.

I will keep my eyes on the average price of reasonably popular, independently published ebooks, but unless that moves, it seems my prices will remain where they are.

Quick updates:

Angel Stakes – Lauren has the second draft of the first half of the book, and I’m about half way through what I need to do on the second half. More news soon.

Wild Card audio – I have the recording. I need to listen to it (20 hours) and then the only remaining delay is ACX/Audible’s internal procedures. (!)

Wild Card in German – last run through with Heike, so not too long.


About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first books are available on Amazon at

10 responses to “Book price discussion”

  1. Shana Pare says :

    Thanks, Mark, for keeping your readers updated. I can’t speak for others, but the extra effort you put in like this is just one of the reasons I continue to read your books.

    *****Well that and the fact you write books which are absolutely great fun to read and have in my personal library.

  2. Amanda Taggart says :

    I’m glad you raised this (again) Mark – there are several authors who I used to have on my “auto buy” list and which have since been removed due to the high price of their eBooks – I cannot, for the life of me, justify paying $12-$14 for an ebook when the overheads to produce said book is minimal compared to printed versions. I’m not going to name and shame here – I will say that two that spring to mind are well-known and currently have a series going in excess of 7 books. When I first started on these particular ones, the price for their ebooks were $4-$6 and paperbacks were a few dollars more. The paperbacks are still the same price and ebooks are now almost triple that.

    Funnily enough, when you talk about cost of promotion blah blah blah, I did end up buying these books from Amazon UK (at the same time they were launched in the US) and the ebook price was £3.99 vs $12.99 – and the author was promoting her latest release as being on Sale – grab it quick!!!

    So a good opportunity for outstanding Indie authors to capitalise, methinks – as long as Amazon doesn’t adopt the same standards as the big 5!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Amazon sort-of follow what indies set as their prices. They have rules and procedures, but if I say I want the books sold for $4, they generally stick to that. If they were to change that and charge a premium for new books over and above what the author wanted, then we might have a problem!

      At the moment, the independents are still increasing ebook sales.

      I will not give my books away, other than as a time-limited special offer or a read-for-review type offer, but as you will see on Amazon, SoH is cheaper than the rest of the series and is available on KU. This sort of marketing is something I haven’t put enough effort into.

  3. Rocky Wells says :

    The last time I purchased a book from a big publisher was just before Baen joined the dark side a few years ago. Now that I’m a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, there are only a handful of authors outside of that service that I follow and purchase regularly, all independent. When you read as many books as I do it doesn’t make sense to spend more on one book that does not entertain you any more than a selection already paid for by subscription. Occasionally there’s a book that I will read on KU that I will subsequently buy to have permanently on my Kindle. You would likely be one of those should you ever choose to offer through KU.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      KU certainly makes sense for avid readers. The German language version are both on KU, and so are Raw Deal, Sleight of Hand and The Biting Cold.

      I admit I’m nervous of KU. Outside of KU, I control the price of the book and I know what return I will get from a given number of sales. Inside KU, I have to grant Amazon exclusivity, the book is ‘free’, and Amazon control what I get paid. Now that algorithm is based on ‘pages read’, but that doesn’t mean I’m worried my books won’t get read through. No, it’s the price per page read, which Amazon controls, which worries me. Currently, they’re in ‘promotional phase’ and it makes me more money to have a book read through KU than to have it purchased. That, I’m fairly sure, will not last.

  4. Patience says :

    Great to hear about progress on Angel Stakes. I await with bated breath! I enjoy this series so much.

    Re the other. There is nothing I can do about pricing, but I can hv some impact, albeit almost negligible. It will take me longer to get it, but I can and will get a hardback from my local library before I pay $14 for a download. I’m sure Amazon will hv some input unless they own the publishing companies, which wouldn’t surprise me.

    • Mark Henwick says :


      In my youth, back in Northern Rhodesia / Zambia, we moved regularly and I was strictly limited as to the number of books I was allowed to own. Lusaka library hooked me on Roger Zelazny (Princes in Amber) and Robert Heinlein for instance. I was allowed to own a paperback of Starship Troopers, but the rest were library borrows.

  5. Dee DenBleyker says :

    Good Morning Mark or actually for you it’s afternoon. Thank you for the post. It’s nice that you keep your readers up to date and well informed. For whatever it’s worth I disagree with the publishers that ebook sales are down. I personally rarely and almost never purchase print books anymore and with the technological world we live in I can’t imagine that many young people do either. I have some young friends that won’t even take my paperbacks for free. I imagine some of the older generation still like the feel of an actual book but I am not one of them. The other issue I see is cost. Most of us have to maintain a budget (unless you are the government) so the relative low cost of ebooks is a huge factor. I believe independent authors such as yourself are the future. Once again thank you for your input. Dee DenBleyker

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