Digital pricing: The e-book sweet spot [Updated]

So, last week Mark Millar complained that while his digital comics sold well, the cover price was less than that of the print comics, and once Apple and comiXology took their cuts, there wasn't much left for the creators.

Millar seems to think that if his comics were priced higher, the creators would make more money, a blogger who did some analysis on e-book pricing has a different take.* Although it sounds like a paradox, creators may make more money by lowering prices in order to make more sales, according to one blogger's analysis of e-book pricing. David Slusher looked at the prices and sales numbers that writer Joe Konrath posted at his blog in 2009. Some of Konrath's thrillers are published by Hyperion and he self-publishes others, which means he could compare his sales on Kindle for both sets. What he found is that cheaper books sold better. Slusher graphed the numbers and after some additional analysis, came up with $2.99 as the sweet spot at which the price and sales balance out to maximize the author's take.

This is, admittedly, a single data set, but the books were all comparable; there was no promotional push on any one of them to make it stand out from the others. Given the different type of market, the sweet spot might be different for comics. But Slusher's point is just the opposite of Millar's: The cost of producing your book (creative team, typesetting, whatever) is the same whether you sell 10 copies or 10,000. Distributors, be they Apple or Diamond, take a percentage, so that doesn't change the picture either. And what Slusher is arguing is that you make more money by keeping the price low and selling more units than charging a lot and only selling a few. If anything, it seems to me this would go double for comics, which are to some extent a disposable medium. It's a lot easier to justify spending one dollar than three on 20 minutes' worth of entertainment; the question is whether lowering the price will bring in two extra readers — or four.

Edit: Millar didn't say he wanted prices to go up; I inferred it from his comments. Robot 6 regrets the error.

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