Image courtesy of Catie Rhodes

Found a quote on Twitter that’s intriguing, to say the least.

A barista spends 3 minutes making you a $6 cup of coffee, you tip her. A writer spends a year writing a book, you complain $4.99 is too high.

My first thought about this was that it’s comparing apples to electrons. That barista is probably not being paid a living wage for their service sector job, and must make a cup for every single customer. They’re also not making any profit outside of her wage and those tips. A writer, on the other hand, gets the job done, then doesn’t need to repeat the effort for every sale (arguably, stops needing to put any effort into a work after a certain tipping point). Of course, writers struggle to make a living wage, too.

As I thought on it, though, there’s two other elements that struck me about this. Namely, entitlement from two directions.

Writers

We’re in an interesting world where any writer with the wherewithal can get their book in front of real people for almost any price they want. They can get paid for their work. That’s an awesome thing! Anyone has a shot to making it as a creative, and it’s the first time in history that’s been true.

That doesn’t mean everyone will succeed though. The market still exists, you still have external factors pressuring what you can sell for. Some of it is price anchoring. Some of it is reader expectations.

It comes down to you’re worth what you make people believe you’re worth. New self-published writers should probably follow the market on pricing, aiming for a center-of-the-road amount and build an audience. Established authors, though, have a brand presence that lets them ask what they like. Of course, that brings us to the other side of the coin.

Readers

E-readers changed the reading world. I read an article not long ago that listed the Generation-Y as the most widely read generation. Books are everywhere. More every day, in every genre, at every price point imaginable. I have a kindle loaded with free reads I’ve picked up from Amazon promotional days. It’s a wonderful time to be a reader.

It’s dangerous, though. Getting used to free and cheap reads. For one, you end up running into a lot of crap. But it also makes you think that’s what fiction is worth. $2.99. $3.99.

Let’s get real. You were buying mass market paperbacks for seven to ten dollars for a long time before the advent of the three dollar e-book. We like to pretend that electronic formats aren’t worth the same, but the truth is, most people only read a book once and either shelve it, lose it, or pass it on. The only element you lose with an e-book is the option to pass it on.

So why are we demanding all electronic fiction be cheaper than five dollars? Sometimes its worth the premium to get at a writer we really enjoy. Of course, sometimes those authors give us what we want at a price we love. That makes us love them all the more.

Is there a two-way entitlement issue in e-fiction? Let me know in the comments.

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