Why we need books priced over $9.99


There’s a debate ranging about pricing. I’m not trying to take sides between the parties that have been on opposite sides for the last week (Macmillan/Amazon). For the record: I am 50% less likely to buy a St. Martin’s press book, because they are pricing their e-books of mass market releases at $14, than I am to buy books from any other house. If I bother to get a St. Martins book in print, I will read it. Otherwise, sorry, too bad. Macmillan, a $14 price on a mass market release is stupid. You should never charge more for the e-book than for the print book. And you should seriously consider making the e-book more valuable to readers by allowing for limited sharing capabilities and removing DRM.

Also for the record: Nothing that I say in this post about a price point higher than $9.99 is applicable to what I think of as general-interest fiction: mainstream romance, science fiction, probably even vast swathes of literary fiction, non-fiction like biographies of famous stars… you get the drift.

Also also for the record: It’s obvious hyperbole to say publishing can’t survive at a $9.99 price point. Harlequin Enterprises (my publisher) has been very profitable in these down times. In a given month, they release hundreds of books. One or two of those–maybe–will be a hardcover or a trade paperback. So threats that publishing will disappear if prices are lowered are to my mind demonstrably, provably wrong. Publishing will survive. It is obviously possible to make a price point much lower than $9.99 profitable, and to run a publishing company on that basis.

But this is not to say that publishing won’t change as a result of a $9.99 price, and while some of those changes would be welcome, some of them sound pretty awful to me. In order for a publisher to decide to print a book, they create a profit/loss sheet. I have never seen one. I don’t know what it looks like. I have no idea what goes into it. But in limited form, it goes something like this:

Expected fixed costs: Editing: $W. Cover: $X. Copy-editing: $Y. Author’s advance: $Z. Marketing: $0 (ha ha, just a little joke, I’m kidding)

Expected variable costs: Printing: $A. Shipping: $B. Author royalties (once the author has earned out). (and so forth)

Expected gross income=(# of copies sold) * price * percentage that publisher takes.

The “expected gross income” will vary substantially from book to book. The publisher understands that increasing price decreases number of copies sold. The publisher (ideally) wants to set the price such that it maximizes the expected profit. If there is no price where the publisher can make a profit, the publisher will choose not to publish the book. (Incidentally, the author is making a similar calculus: she’s adding up profits and losses and figuring out if it’s worth her time to write a book. Some of the author’s profits will not be strictly monetary, but that shouldn’t stop you.)

Now, as I said earlier, I firmly believe that anything written for a general-purpose audience is such that the expected profit will be maximized at or below a price of $9.99. This is because I think general-purpose audiences read primarily for entertainment and enjoyment. When you price things within their budget, they will choose to read more; if you price things out of their budget, they’ll choose to either read other things, priced at $9.99, or will engage in some of reading’s economic substitutes, like seeing movies or going miniature golfing. Most general fiction, and certain kinds of non-fiction, have somewhat elastic demand curves: lowering price easily increases demand, and so when you’re looking at your “expected income” line above, twiggling the price down a bit gives you a corresponding twiggle up in the number of sales. You can see this effect in action:  paperback versions of most books sell way more copies than the hardcovers of the same book

But there are some books where demand is not so elastic in response to price. Take, for instance, this book: The Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Book: Partnering with Your Doctor to Get the Most from Your Medications. This is not something that I would go out and purchase, ever, whether it was priced at $9.99, $49.99, or $1.99. If I had Parkinson’s Disease, or a loved one had Parkinson’s Disease, my guess is I would not say “screw this book and its $37.95 price! I am going to go play miniature golf instead.” The number of copies the publisher can expect to sell of this book is probably small, relative to, say, Palin’s Going Rogue. If the maximum price they can choose to put on it is $9.99, do you think they’re going to publish it? My guess is no.

And even if you think that publisher would make money on that particular book about Parkinson’s above, are you sure you can say the same for books like Living with Haemophilia or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A Guide for Patients and Families?

The people who need these books really need them, and the people who don’t won’t buy them at any price. Publishers will only publish books that they believe (however rightly or wrongly) will make money. Authors will want to get some minimum compensation for their time–and will at least hope that their advance covers their fixed costs. If there is a book that holds a tremendous appeal for a small demographic, a set $9.99 price tag might not cover costs (either author costs or publisher costs). Books that are needed (or wanted) by a small segment of the population will cease to be profitable, and a $9.99 price tag means we’ll stop seeing some of these books altogether.

Likewise, there are some kinds of fiction that do not usually appeal to the general population. The audience for these books is small, but their demand is insatiable. They would rather pay $14.99, or $19.99, or even $29.99 for these books, than not have them appear at all. The general population usually won’t pick up these books for any number of reasons. Today, these books get published because publishers can charge $29.99 for them and recoup the editing investment–hoping that the small group of insatiable fans of these sorts of work will buy enough copies to make their money back. In a world where books cost $9.99, I’m not sure that will be true.

And maybe you’re thinking–well, so what, Courtney? If most people don’t want to buy those books, why should we care about them?

Well. That’s because those are going to be books written overwhelmingly by minorities: gays and lesbians, african americans, latinos and latinas, certain religious groups. Walk through the African American Studies section sometime, and count how many mass market paperbacks there are–and then compare that to the number of mass market paperbacks there are in the general “romance” or “mystery” sections. Count the number of hardcovers and trade paperbacks. (It’s the hardcover releases that are the true bellwether here: if a book has a planned release that is hardcover only, it is because the publisher doesn’t think a trade/mass market release will be profitable.)

It breaks my heart that books written by and about black people (and by and about other minority groups) are not usually purchased by the general population. But it’s true. And so when people start saying that categorically, no books should ever cost more than $9.99, and state with certainty that all purchases would increase if the price point were just low enough, to the point where it would make up the difference in sales… I just have to wonder if those people are considering the sort of books where you aren’t going to get those extra numbers, anywhere, no matter where you set the price.

A $9.99 price wouldn’t kill publishing. But it would change it. In some ways–in many ways–it would be a good thing. But I think that a hard price ceiling would kill diversity in publishing. It would mean that the only market rational business people could go after was a general purpose market. And I think that would leave us, as a society, impoverished.

I’m not saying that Macmillan is right–far from it. I’m not saying that Amazon is wrong–far from it. I am saying that we need to avoid categorical statements. Some books really do need to be priced over $9.99, or it simply won’t be profitable to produce them. And if we drive those books out, publishing will adapt by not selling them.

(Before you say the solution is then to self-publish, do keep in mind that the author is making the same calculus as the publisher. This is especially true for nonfiction. If the maximum price is one where it’s not worth the author’s time and effort, there is no point publishing whether as a self-publisher or otherwise. Self-publishing may be the answer for some of this, but it’s not the answer for many of these books. If we relied on self-publishing, I suspect that investigative nonfiction would disappear–nobody is going to spend 8 years figuring things out if they can’t get compensation. Self-help books based on useful facts and studies will disappear, for a similar reason. But even authors of fiction written for small demographics will find themselves writing fewer books, as they have to work more to compensate for the reduced income. Self-publishing might save some of the books that would otherwise get priced out of the market, but it won’t save all of them.)

Before I end, I want to repeat what I said at the beginning: This isn’t about Macmillan/Amazon. My goal is not to defend either Macmillan’s or Amazon’s current pricing practices. I have no financial dog in this race: my books (in North America[1]) are already priced below $9.99, and my publisher already prices the e-book version of my book below the print version of the book. I do not imagine a future when a book I write will be released in hardcover. But I do think that it’s naive to think that all hardcover releases are like Stephen King hardcover releases: books set at a price point designed to gouge the public into price discrimination. Some of them are priced at that point because it is the only profitable price at which that book can be produced, and removing the price point means the book won’t be published.

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[1] A footnote: I started thinking about this question because I discovered my debut novel will be out from Mira in Australia/New Zealand in March of this year. Which is great! And they’ve featured the Anna Campbell quote, which is doubly great. The price tag, however, absolutely shocked me. A friend of mine from Down Under assured me that this was normal: the market there is 7% of the size of the North American market, and so the fixed costs for the books get averaged out over fewer books, resulting in what looks to my US-trained eye like fairly hefty prices. I’m very curious to see how AU/NZ pricing will hold up under increased pressure from global bookstores.

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22 Responses to “Why we need books priced over $9.99”

  1. Interesting analysis, CM! I’d say a dynamic pricing model that allows us to value different books differently makes a lot of sense. Here’s hoping we’re heading in that direction–including the pricing of mainstream fiction at way lower than $9.99! Which, incidentally, my SMP book at Amazon no longer has a digital list price of $14–SMP has it priced now at $6.99, which let Amazon discount it to $5.59. All of that is brand new since the buy buttons went back up, and seems to indicate new thinking on the part of both Macmillan and Amazon…

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  2. Great point! A lot of non-fiction has a very narrow market and would suffer under an enforced price ceiling.

    As for the AU/NZ pricing issue, you also have to figure in the exchange rate. It fluctuates greatly, but the AUD usually runs about 70-80% to the USD.

    For romance, at least, Aussies are voracious readers. Probably more so than Americans. I sell internationally, and of the countries I ship to, Australia is #1. They’re willing to pay $10 shipping per book to get their hands on books not released in AU or priced too far out of their reach. And they’re willing to overlook the US spelling and usage rather than pay the higher prices or wait the year or two before the AU edition is available. Even for Australian authors.

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  3. Louisa, I do want to say that I bought your book. I just did it in paperback. Which is what I do with Lisa Kleypas, too. It’s just other SMP books–where I’m not as eager to read them, but might have otherwise picked them up–where I don’t.

    If SMP’s mass market e-books come out at mass market prices, I’ll buy them again.

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  4. Edie says:

    You forgot to mention that in Australia hardcovers are 30-55$ so we would kill for a $15 ebook copy. :P

    And our dollar is running a bit better now buried.
    But you are right on a large number of Aussie romance readers turning online for their needs. Which probably keeps our local releases pretty much limited to Mills and Boon.. the vicious circle of life. *shrug*

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  5. Oh, I know. I looked at the prices for Australian books and made a pitiful little sound in the back of my throat.

    But please don’t knock Mills and Boon! They’re producing my book down there (through their Mira imprint).

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  6. Edie says:

    Thank goodness for the interwebs is about all I can say as a voracious reader. LOL

    Yeah they are, but I have brought the US Harlequin MME edition for less than half the cost.
    I a bad aussie reader.

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  7. katiebabs says:

    Unfortunately, the average everyday reader doesn’t understand these reasons. They want to buy something at the lowest price possible. The big question is, how can you reason with someone to buy something at $15 when they can get it elsewhere for under $10?

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  8. Kathleen says:

    Good analysis and thoughts, Courtney! I was thinking along similar lines re: the e-book pricing debate. It’s one thing to say that e-books should cost the same as print books minus the printing and return costs. But the problem with that is this: I’m assuming that a certain (large) portion of the printing costs is fixed per title. Therefore, when 30,000 of a book is going to be printed, that fixed portion can be spread between 30,000 books, and therefore the publisher might not need to cover any of it with ebook sales. But what about if/when ebook sales get large enough that only 3,000 print copies are needed? the publishers will then have to either increase the cost of the print books, or make sure the price of ebooks will cover some of it. Or not publish in print at all. Or (for a third option) utilize POD for print copies.

    It’ll be interesting to watch how all this unfolds over the next few years.

    It’s also interesting how, a year ago, most of the publishing world pretty much ignored ebooks. They’re not now!

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  9. Jane says:

    There are literally thousands of ebooks that sell at above 9.99 at Amazon.

    @Louisa Edwards – NYTimes said that the new pricing would not go into effect until March (when the iPad comes out).

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  10. @katiebabs–I’m not sure you CAN get some of these books for $10 elsewhere. If there is a place you can get the books for $10, my guess is the books can support a $9.99 price tag. But no store is going to use a non-general-interest book as a loss leader to drive sales.

    @Jane–I know this. I have never said there are not, which is why I said this post is not about Amazon specifically, but about those who are calling for a universal $9.99 ceiling.

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  11. Evangeline says:

    I take a bit of umbrage at basing your claim on books written by minorities. For the most part, not only are the books in the ethnic/cultural/religious studies sections published by major NY publishers, but they are <non-fiction, which is a genre rarely published in mmpb. The $9.99 price point promised and delivered by Amazon is focused primarily on hardcover fiction releases and high profile non-fiction releases–which is likely to include Steve Harvey's relationship advice book, the latest release by Michael Eric Dyson, or a new reprint of Frederick Douglass's autobiography.

    Also, when you browse the African-American section of Amazon's bookstore, it is rare for the non-fiction titles listed to be released in e-book form, even if they are published by NY. Not to mention that the majority of African-American readers buy from Wal-Mart or B&N or their local black bookstore–not e-books. Plus, many, many black writers self-publish or begin their own local imprints, both of which have a slim chance of being distributed through Amazon.com. And I reckon the same can be said for Latino/Hispanic writers, or LGBT writers, feminist presses, regional presses, etc. The higher price point, particularly if author royalties do not rise, serve no one but publishers. And if readers are likely to overlook Francis Ray or Tavis Smiley, whether the book is $9.99 or $25.99, it will not change their perception of books written by black authors.

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  12. Evangeline, I went to Barnes and Noble and Borders and looked–at both nonfiction and fiction–and what I saw was a handful of mass markets and a lot more trades and hardcovers, in both fiction and nonfiction.

    My point is not about books written solely by minorities. It’s about books that–for whatever reason–are not currently pitched at the general population. I am not sure what part of my argument you’re taking umbrage with, but I don’t disagree with anything that you’re saying. What I say is especially true if minority authors tend to go through smaller presses or self-publish, and have fewer distribution channels. You need to sell books at a higher cost to make a profit, if you have smaller distribution channels.

    I’m sure Macmillan will exist if books are priced only at $9.99. I doubt the smaller presses could survive.

    Can you explain where you disagree with me?

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  13. Robin says:

    I agree with you that not all books can be put into an identical box. But I also think there are still substantial differences between paper in digital books that should be reflected in the pricing, and corporate publishers’ persistent attachment to the trade model catalyzed a great deal of what they are now trying to stem. That doesn’t mean I think Amazon is standing up for the customer here, but I do think Amazon is eons more savvy about the digital market than corporate publishing is, and as long as that dynamic persists, I think we’re going to see this ping pong effect in book pricing on BOTH ebooks and print books.

    Which is too bad, because as someone who won’t pay print prices for digital books, I will pay a variety of prices for print books. I’ve paid 30, 40, even 50 bucks for a print book (a lot more for textbooks), and I have not begrudged (most) of those purchases.

    So I’m not sure the problem is that the public does not, per se, expect a hard price ceiling for print. I think the problem is more that the failure of publishers to differentiate between print and ebooks (thinking, for example, that if they suppress the ebook market by delaying availability, they will force readers to buy more expensive paper copies) has helped to create a somewhat illusory battle over the “value” of content. In other words, their refusal to value the differences in form outside of ‘the trade model (hardback and trade pb) rules and must not be overruled,’ has resulted in a battle artificially pitched over the value of content.

    Because it’s not these specialty books that are driving this debate — if it were, we could, I think, legitimately be talking about the devaluation of content. Instead, I think this is really about

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  14. Robin,

    I completely agree with you–as far as the major corporate battle exists, the argument for pricing general fiction at $34.99 in e-format, complete with unlendability and DRM restrictions that make it impossible to even port books between computers, let alone to a few trusted friends. I think there’s a certain future-myopia that’s afflicted at least some, where they want to hold on to the old ways of doing things just because that’s what they’ve always done.

    I just don’t want small presses and niche books to become a casualty of the current corporate battle.

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  15. Robin says:

    Courtney, I think there will always be a market for niche books, because, by and large, they have never been caught in the pricing cross-fire. And I hope that smaller presses, at least those who publish in digital, will actually benefit from the myopia afflicting corporate publishing at the moment. As for small print presses, again, I think there are already pretty distinct markets for, say, a small hardcover volume of Portuguese love poetry and the new Sue Grafton alphabet book. But I completely agree with you that it will be a real tragedy if that changes substantially as corporate publishers and retailers like Amazon continue to duke it out over the trade market.

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  16. Obviously I hope you’re right, Robin!

    But if you browse through the $9.99 boycott tags, while MOST of them are applied to books that are general purpose, some are applied fairly indiscriminately, and I do worry that if consumers reach the point where they won’t pay over $9.99 for books that this could become a problem.

    I’m not saying it’s going to happen. I am not even saying it is in danger of happening. I am only saying that when talking about conglomerate book pricing, this is the footnote I have to add to the debate swirling around out there.

    It’s not unreasonable to pay more for some e-books. Just not most of them.

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  17. Sewicked says:

    Apparently, I’ve been wearing blinders. Someone actually thought that a blanket $9.99 price cap was a good idea? Really?

    I guess I never even considered it because there are some niche books that I buy priced $15 and up; and those are considered _good_ prices. Recently I bought a couple for around $50, before my good customer discount (thank you, FLGS). With the size of the book and the contents, that was judged pricey but reasonable.

    Some of those niche books are available as ebooks, too, and none of them are priced at more than the hardcopy. Many of the them are the same price & I can think of one that the ecopy is 1/3 the price of the physical book. And that last is an absolute genius of an idea. There are people who will pick up the pdf (hey, it’s only $10) and then go on to buy that $30 hardback. Thus the publisher can go on to sell those $15 supplements, both e- & hardcopy.

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  18. Evangeline says:

    I simply disagree with the usage of minority writers as part of your claim. Niche markets are niche markets, however, minority writers are pushed into being “niches” not because of obscure subject matter, but because of their ethnicity, religion, and/or sexuality. The argument for a $9.99+ price point has nothing to do with their segregation and niche-ing.

    As I said before, most black writers are published by major NY publishers, and their books are priced according to their genre and format(romance novels by Francis Ray, Brenda Jackson, et al are priced the same as those written by Lisa Kleypas or Rachel Gibson), and the latest hardcovers written by Kimberla Roby Lawson or Steve Harvey are given that $9.99 Kindle price at Amazon.com–and it certainly isn’t hurting their sales or their niche.

    Those black authors who self-publish don’t release their books in e-book format because the technology has not penetrated black fiction readers as heavily as they have non-black readers. And if books are priced at a premium, sales numbers show that black readers are willing to pay $16-25 for books written by their favorite authors.

    So using minorities (black authors, especially) as a part of your claim, when you have neglected to mention the buying patterns for the majority of their readership, pokes holes in your argument. And again, if a non-black reader does not want to purchase books written by black authors, price does not matter.

    As for niche books as a whole, they will always be more expensive because of the small audience interested in the work and the costs of printing small print runs–nothing will change that unless they begin purchasing their own printing machines (take a look at Lightning Source’s prices; it’s much cheaper to print trade paperbacks than it is to print mass market paperbacks).

    And you’ve forgotten about Smashwords and Amazon’s own Kindle program, to mention the two biggie indie e-book “publishers”–I’ve seen quite a few small presses, whose print books are sold for $10+, upload digital copies of their books to Smashwords and then sell the e-book versions at reasonable prices. I think you’re looking at this from the wrong end–niche books are usually self-published or derive from small presses, and the authors/owners are pretty savvy about pricing and costs (or are getting there) because they cannot take the hits Macmillan or Harper Collins can. And with more and more self-published authors and/or small presses moving to the e-publishing model (ebook release, and then print release for popular titles), the price point is a bit of a moot thing. This is strictly a battle for NY publishers to hash out, and I really don’t think indies–at least not those I’ve come across or know personally–have anything to fear since they are, at the end of the day, entrepreneurs and small-business owners as well as authors.

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  19. Evangeline, I think you are mistaking my argument as prescriptive, when it is in fact intended to be descriptive.

    I have never said that black writers SHOULD be considered niche markets. What I said is that, wrongly, they are treated as one by current publishers. I said black authors are generally put in African American studies sections, rather than in the subject matter sections where they actually belong. I have said white people as a general rule tend not to buy black authors. I don’t think any of this is factually incorrect. I don’t like the facts, but I can’t change them except as they apply to my own behavior. I am not trying to say this SHOULD be the case, nor am I trying to say that black authors SHOULD be treated this way. I am trying to say that as a matter of description, they ARE treated this way, and we should be aware of that.

    Of course there are some mass-market black authors. There are also some black authors who are very popular among people of all races. I wasn’t trying to make a statement about every black author–that’s not possible. I was trying to make a statistical statement: If you look at the African American studies section, you’ll see fewer mass markets. Statistically.

    As for the rest of your argument, I think you are attacking a different argument than I am making. What I think you are saying is, “the $9.99 price point will not apply to books written by minorities, and only applies to New York publishing.”

    That all may very well be true, but what I am saying is, “Those few people who are calling for a universal $9.99 price ceiling need to realize that this will not be possible in the future without cutting out some valuable segments of publishing.” These two arguments are not in contradiction with each other. The fact that you think black readers will pay more than $9.99 for their books doesn’t contradict the fact that IF the only books available for black readers were the ones priced at $9.99, we might lose authors.

    A few sidenotes: the current $9.99 Kindle pricing is subsidized by Amazon, and so it won’t have an effect on authors’ royalties, as the author is paid as if the price on the book were higher than the $9.99 Amazon collects. It’s well-known that Amazon loses a few dollars on those books. But Amazon cannot subsidize this price indefinitely; hence the debate about pricing that is raging now.

    As for this:

    It’s much cheaper to print trade paperbacks than it is to print mass market paperbacks.

    This is only true for print on demand, not traditional offset printing.

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  20. Audrey A says:

    It’s kind of the same thing that happened with mp3’s. Sites like Amazon and iTunes Charge 99 cents a song, less if you buy the whole album and they’re bigger than the sellers that were charging 50 and 60 cents a song. People will pay a little more for what they want but not much. I buy e-books but I’m not sure I’d be willing to pay $9.99 for an e-book version when I prefer paperbacks anyway. I think I’d just end up buying the paperback unless the e-book was a few dollars less.

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  21. Evangeline says:

    I am speaking of the readership. Point blank: the core audience for fiction written by black authors are black readers, and these readers are by and large, not reading e-books at the rate at which non-black readers are consuming them (and buying Kindles, Nooks, et al). So the $9.99+ price point has zero relevance to their book buying habits. And I know that black readers will pay a significant sum for their favorite authors–I see it, I hear it, I read it, I do it.

    Also, forming your claim on the AA cultural studies section is odd. For the most part, those non-fiction trade paperbacks and hard covers are books generally assigned for AA studies/literature college courses–hence why they would be printed in that format, since the college student is a gold mine for profits (believe me, I know, since I major in AA studies)–and as with most of the casual book-buying public, HCs and TPBs are considered more prestigious than MMPB.

    The placement of books written by AA writers varies by location–the B&N’s nearest to me have AA fiction sections full of street lit, AA studies sections with non-fiction and classic AA literature, while the other authors are shelved in their respective genres (with mainstream authors like E. Lynn Harris, Omar Tyree, etc published in hardcover and placed in the General Fiction section). I can travel up a the highway a few miles, to a Borders located in a predominantly white area, and find a tiny AA section shoved in a corner, with a small selection of fiction, non-fiction, and genre fiction jumbled on the shelves. And if you want to pull the conversation back to Amazon.com, the only thing connecting black authors to black authors in the search box are a few tags. Stick some tags like “paranormal” or “vampire” or “football” on there, and they’ll begin to pop up when someone looks for an SEP title, or the latest Anita Blake novel.

    IF the only books available for black readers were the ones priced at $9.99, we might lose authors.

    I am honestly baffled by your argument about the $9.99 price point vis-a-vis the status of black authors in the industry. How will Kimberla Lawson Roby get squeezed out of the market when she is published by Kensington? Or Michael Eric Dyson, when his books are generally published by NY publishers? How will K’wan get lost in the shuffle? The only endangerment to their careers that black authors face is the lack of saturated distribution which their non-black counterparts receive, and the tiny opportunity they have to break out (you know, large advances, great promotion from the publisher, prominent reviews–the works).

    I just don’t understand how you went from “woe to niche markets” to “the careers of minority authors are going to be destroyed!”.

    As for printing costs, of course I was referring to POD.

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  22. Evangeline:

    1. In my local bookstores, the “African American Studies” section includes all works written by African American authors, including fiction, including even the Kimani romances produced by Harlequin. The discussions on the ghettoization of black authors online suggested to me that my experience is not unique. I suppose this says something more about the neighborhood I live in.

    2. You’re saying the danger to the careers of black authors is that they have a lack of saturated distribution. My argument is that if NY publishers feel forced to implement a $9.99 price tag, they will drop the authors that do not have saturated distribution, because authors that do not have saturated distribution will no longer be profitable at a $9.99 pricepoint.

    3. As I understand it, your argument is, “NY publishers will not feel forced to implement a $9.99 price tag for black authors for a number of reasons.” Well, that may be the case. This is not incompatible with my argument above.

    4. I am not making a statement about what WILL happen in the future. I am making a statement about what WOULD happen IF a hypothetical came into play, one that I have seen people advocate for–that is, a $9.99 price ceiling for books. You may not believe that the hypothetical situation will ever come into play. That doesn’t mean I am wrong about what would happen IF it did. It just means you think that the situation I am talking about is not a danger.

    And that is fine–that’s what Robin thinks, too.

    But I think you’re missing what my argument is: IF we had a flat $9.99 price ceiling, THEN New York publishers would publish fewer black authors.

    Saying “but we won’t have a flat $9.99 price ceiling” does not contest the IF.

    In context, I am responding to a group of people who claim that publishing will have no problem surviving with a hypothetical future $9.99 price ceiling. And my response is: yes, but it would hurt a certain segment of the market. Right now, we are talking hypothetical futures, and you’re talking about the present. So far as I can tell, what you’re saying is not responding to the argument that I’m making.

    As for not understanding how I went from “woe to niche markets” to “the careers of minority authors are going to be destroyed”… if you understand how the niche markets would be destroyed by a hypothetical $9.99 price tag, then it’s simply disingenuous to not get how it works for black authors. You didn’t say it in these words, but you have said it: In this day and age, many minority authors are marketed solely for their niche as a minority writer. Not all of them, of course. It is a travesty that this is true, and I am not advocating their continued ghettoization in the market place. I am pointing out that it is true, it happens, and if that doesn’t change, and IF there is a hard $9.99 price ceiling, some black authors will get dropped by New York.

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Courtney Milan writes historical romance novels like the ones you see to the right. She still remembers bits and pieces from her old lives, where she was (variously) a scientist and a lawyer.

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