Cost per word

Yesterday, after reading a positive review of an ebook in my feed reader, I hied me off to Amazon to buy a copy.  The title is a fairly common one and that particular book isn’t available for Kindle yet, but I clicked on a similarly titled book and was taken to what amounts to written porn (that title/setting is apparently a popular one for porn, who knew?).  I have no objection to porn, and might actually have bought a copy until I read in the description that the collection included “over 15,000 words” — as if that is a high word count — for only $6.99.

Okay, let me put that price in context.  A Harlequin Presents category clocks in at ~180 pages and 50,000 or so words, and is priced at $3.29.  So Amzn and/or the publisher want me to pay twice that for a quarter of the, er, output?  I don’t think so.

Now, I know that the romance publishing industry and the porn publishing industry are not synonymous, although arguably there is some overlap in light of the popularity of erotic romance and erotica.  But are the price points that different?  Is $6.99 for what amounts to about 30 pages the standard?

Are books commodities to be weighed by word or sold by the pound?  As a consumer, is it fair for me to treat the purchase of a book, the distillation of an idea into a package, the same way I treat the purchase of other goods?  Maybe not, but there has to be some sort of benchmark for what I’ll pay and what is too much.

Certainly in the context of other goods and services I’m willing to pay more for what I perceive as quality or simply a taste or style that suits my taste, otherwise why would I buy Diet Coke rather than generic diet cola?  Or prefer one type of oatmeal to another?  I pay more for hardbacks for certain authors than I’m willing to spend on others; some books I’ve got in more than one format (ebook, mass market, trade, *cough*The Curse of Chalion*cough*).  But I’m not at the point where I’m ready to pay $7 for a very short bit of wank material that appears to be poorly edited based on the sample I downloaded.

On this same subject, I tweeted the other day about another a 66 page book (length given in the publication information) priced at $3.99.  Vacuous Minx noted that she might pay that much for the work of an author she trusted; it’s a reasonable position and I agree.  But in that case, there were direct address commas missing and punctuation and spelling errors in the sample, which had me deleting the sample and clicking away from the buy button.

Where is your line in terms of price and book length?

~~~

And on a similar note:  making a sample available for download that includes ABSOLUTELY NOTHING except the copyright information and author bio is totally fucking useless as a PR or marketing move.  To me as a reader in terms of judging the quality of the writing as a basis for then buying the book, it is an utter failure.  In fact, I’ll decide NFW and spend my book budget elsewhere.

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