The original title of this post was going to be "Authors Have to Eat But Price Gouging is Unacceptable" but it was too long.
I have ranted repeatedly on Facebook about publishers setting the price of ebooks at the same rate as hard cover books or at the price of trade paperbacks in an attempt to retain profit margins. To reiterate what I have always said: Pricing ebooks at unreasonable levels does NOT help your profits. Anyone looking to buy an ebook was never going to buy the hard cover anyway and all you are doing is alienating readers and losing sales in the ebook market. As that is the fastest growing market of book buyers, the attempt to keep hard cover prices intact through ebook pricing is incredibly short sighted.
Having said that, I want it to be clear that the .99 cent price point is pretty unrealistic as well. It's perfect for novellas, sales, and short term attempts to introduce new readers to an author but a full length novel takes a great deal of time and hard work by several people (not just the author) and they all need to get paid.
What triggered this rant? I saw a novella in my newsfeed that sounded great so I clicked on the link to buy it at Amazon. I assumed, it being a novella, it would be priced at .99 or $1.99 at most. I was quite surprised to find it priced at $3.99 but I thought if it was a longer novella, say 100 to 150 pages - basically half of a full length novel - that wasn't unreasonable. Then I saw that it was 31 pages long - 31 pages for $3.99!!
That is just over the top ridiculous and tells me that whoever set that price - and I'm not sure in this instance if it was the publisher or the author - holds readers in a great deal of contempt. How can anyone justify $3.99 for 31 pages? Please don't misunderstand - writing a coherent and compelling short story is probably even more difficult than writing a full length novel as you have to fit everything in to such a short space - but it is completely unrealistic to expect readers to pay nearly the price of a paperback for so few pages.
Unfortunately, the author lost not just the sale of the novella to me but all future sales as well. I'm not willing to support an author who thinks readers are there to be gouged. I work as hard for my money as any author and I want value for what I spend. I don't need books to be .99 cents but if you are going to price an ebook at $3.99, it better be a nearly full length novel. Of course, if I find out that the publisher set the price, I will certainly read the author if she should ever move to a different publisher.