The Price We Pay – Ten Year Edition!

You know, now that I’ve reached this point I almost don’t know what to say.

Technically I’m not at my ten year anniversary of publication just yet. But I’m long past it in writing. Even if one only counts my career as “starting” when I first wrote One Drink all those years ago, I’d be past the point of a ten-year anniversary there, and I was writing long before One Drink came along.

But … we’re close. February 20th, 2023, to be exact, will mark the ten-year anniversary of the publication of my first book, and my foray into making a living as an author.

It’s been a long road. But I’m not hear to talk about that today. Instead I’m here to talk about something else, actually. My pricing. See, here’s the thing … I sort of haven’t updated most of my prices since I started ten years ago.

Axtara reflects a more modern price point. As does Starforge. But the rest of my library? Well, if you remember the classic (and still quite popular) post on book prices, The Price We Pay – Are Book Prices Too Much? from a few years back, I broke down the pricing points of my books and showed how they were chosen to reflect a price point below that of a 1994 paperback book.

It’s a pretty popular post for a reason, since it not only discusses my prices, but also those of the book industry in general, showing how people’s memories of prices—especially with regards to how inflation and the changing value of the dollar fluctuate over time and impact the price of goods.

But here’s the thing: That post? It’s out of date. Especially in the wake of the last several years, which has seen the US economy—and the value of the dollar—fluctuate wildly as the economy did its best to represent a Six Flags roller coaster. Combined with the fact that I’d not bothered to modify my price points since One Drink came out ten years ago, plus the drop in price as the “long tail” goes into effect … and my books have been rapidly dropping below market value.

Which brings us to today. Starforge has just released, at a newer price point, and the time has finally come. Starting today, as of this post going up, I will be updating book prices for (hopefully) the next ten years alongside updating the usual manuscript updates and whatnot to the latest editions. The prices will then go live over the next day or so.

I’ve been talking about it for weeks, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to any of you. And if it is … well, I really can’t be blamed for that.

The big gist of it is that book prices are being updated today. But … if you want a more detailed breakdown of what the new prices are, what the values look like compared to their prior price, and how that is modeled compared to the prices from 1994 … then hit the jump.


All right, here we go. Like last time, these values were found using an inflation adjustment calculator. What you’re about to see are additions to the original graphs from the aforementioned and linked The Price We Pay post, updated with new values as of December 2022, just at the cusp of the new year.

So, first let’s take a look at the classic “Paperbacks in 1994” image, now updated for the start of 2023. If you’re more curious about the process and why these prices have changed over time, I recommend going back to the original Price We Pay post (already linked above) and going more in-depth. This is just the update. But here are the new additional values:

Paperback Prices from 1994 Adjusted to 2019 and 2023 Values

As you can clearly see, the value of the dollar has continued to decline (inflation does this) to the point where prices are now double, aka the dollar is exactly half the value, as it was in 1994. So, if we go back to that old graph showing the prices of my books in 1994, and recall that the prices have stayed the same, their new value will be even lower. So … we’ll do that. Take a look. Oh, and note that some book prices, such as Colony, have hit a tail drop since then, and are now even cheaper, so I chose to instead mark those as “Launch price” and “1st Tail Reduction.” Prior to this, they were Shadow of an Empire (at launch price) and Colony (at first drop).

Yeah, that’s a significant drop. This may look a little lopsided to you, but the crux of it is that the “1994 Cost in 2022” shows how much value the prices have lost due to staying at the same price point in just three years. Tumultuous years, certainly, but then realize that if the book lost $0.64 in value in 1994 dollars, that’s $1.29 worth of buying power today.

Now, taking into account the original post where I noted the goal was to provide a better value than the paperbacks at the bookstore in 1994, when I was a kid, it’s abundantly clear that I’m nowhere near those prices. In fact, I’m a good 25% lower assuming we go for the lowest, cheapest quality paperback there was. Considering Starforge is a 1800-page behemoth, the fact that it currently is priced the equivalent of a $4.99 read-it-once-and-the-pages-fall-out paperback is kind of … low. In 1994 Starforge would have been $9.99 … if they’d even been able to print it.

Point is, prices are now being updated. Starforge will stay at the current $9.99 for now, but that’s going to be the new launch price going forward for the big ones. Tail prices are also noted on the chart. In addition, as Axtara would be undergoing a tail price adjustment right now, which happens to pretty much cancel out the inflation adjustment, it’s price is going to stay the same.

Now, I realize to some of you those prices will see like steep jumps. But again, I’ve not adjusted my prices in ten years. And if you think back to the original Price We Pay post, the stated aim was that my ebooks would be competitive with the paperback books of 1994. Something I’ve still aimed at here when you look at those 1994 prices. Honestly it’s almost a little too competitive (in pure honesty, I wanted Starforge to launch at $11.99, but KDP’s services haven’t updated in a while and appear not to have adjusted their maximum price since launch who knows how many years ago, though I’ll also note that Starforge is definitely an anomaly for its sheer size).

But there you have it. The new prices going forward. Provided inflation (and the economy) settle down, these will be the new prices for a while and I won’t have to change anything. Hopefully. If the value of the US dollar continues to be beset by inflation … Well maybe this will become a five-year tradition. We’ll see. I hope not.

But there you have it folks. The new pricing structure going forward. Again, I hope it doesn’t need adjustment anytime soon. The prices will go live over this weekend, along with the usual revision updates to manuscripts to fix any errors or typos that have been found since the last update (embarrassingly enough, it turns out an upload failed over six years ago for a revision to One Drink, as I discovered to my horror the other day, which fixed a number of old formatting errors save that it never properly went out).

Hope you all have a great weekend! Merry Christmas!

3 thoughts on “The Price We Pay – Ten Year Edition!

  1. Thanks for taking the time to do the math!

    I was kid/teen buying a lot of books from 2005-2010. $8 was the standard for a cheap, mass paperback. Now, they’re $16 and I was surprised by the doubling in less than 15 years (I get 90% of my books from the library or as gifts, so I hadn’t been paying close attention until recently).

    But, based on your explanation, as a kid I was getting books after the prices had been locked in for years and stopped right before a big jump in price to catch up to where they should be. I’d be curious when exactly the jump happened and when we could loosely expect the next one.

    Like

    • It really depends on inflation and how much the US economy stabilizes (which is a whole giant topic on its own). A stable economy will have gradual but controlled inflation, so there will always be a changing dollar value, and since books require a lot of work regardless of printing, prices can only drop so far as technology improves.

      Hopefully this ten year update doesn’t need to become a five-year update later down the road, but if it does I’ll be there with another set of charts to help folks realize exactly what’s going on!

      Like

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