The #1 reason is simply that I haven’t found it yet. But since I shop a lot and meet with a lot of buyer frustration, I thought I’d make a list of the most common reasons why I don’t click the buy button. You may have your reasons, and that’s your business. This is one person’s experience and what you do with the info is up to you.
Preface: I’m an avid ebook enthusiast and I DO NOT OWN A KINDLE! Clutch the pearls, I know! You just don’t even know what to do with that one, do you? The fact is that there are a number of people who, for whatever reason, pass on the Kindle in favor of other ebook device brands. These brands include, but are not limited to: Sony, Nook, Kobo, iPad, Cybook… In fact, let me just link you to a list of examples. As far as I know, Kindle is the only dedicated reader device that reads the secure (DRM protected) Amazon format(s).
With ebook sales currently representing such a small percentage of the total book market, I am constantly asking myself why indie authors choose to alienate any part of that population by not offering their books in other formats.
So, we’re already into the list:
#2. You DRM’d your book on Amazon. Amazon has become THE place to shop for indie reads, without question. I go there first. And I try to buy there because I think that buying your book in Kindle format helps your rankings there which will ultimately be more helpful to you than if I buy it elsewhere.
But I can’t buy it there if you DRM it. In the details, it must read “Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited”. That’s the only way I’m going to be able to convert it to a format my reader can use after I buy it. And if I wanted to read it on my PC, I would hardly have dropped a couple hundred bucks on a device, would I? And I’m a reader, not Gadget Girl. I’m not about to run out and tie myself to a cell phone contract, with an extra $15-$30/mo tacked onto it, to get a phone I can’t figure out, so that I can read your book on its dinky display. (Yes, the next shock, I neither have nor want an iPhone.)
#3. You’re not on Smashwords. That’s usually the next place I go to see if you’ve got other formats available someplace else. I search the title first, and then the author. I usually don’t find what I’m looking for.
(If DRM is the deal-breaker for you, if this “protection” is what keeps you from offering your book to ALL ebook device owners, I urge you to do two things: read up on some of what Joe Konrath has to say about ebook piracy on his blog, The Newbies Guide to Publishing [here’s one link, but there are more], and poke around MobileRead forum to see what formats have already been broken [um, all of them?]. Understand that the pirates don’t care about DRM because they’re the ones who CAN and DO break everything. You’re only keeping your books out of the hands of those who wanted to pay you. Do not flame my comments, because I do not want to argue about piracy.)
#4. Rarely, but it does happen, I will do a web search for you and your book, in hopes that you have a website at which you offer your book for free download (ok, I can hope), or offer the various formats through a service like Payloadz.
#5. Your book is too expensive. It’s not about what your work is worth, it’s about my budget. (It’s not you, it’s me.) We’ve gotten past the auto-no part of the list that’s just about availability, but now you’ve priced yourself out the market–the market of me, anyway. What I want to spend on an unknown is $.99. I will spend up to $2.99. I probably won’t spend more.
I rarely spend over $5. If I do, it’s because someone else really liked your book and told me I have to read it, or there was something so incredibly intriguing about the concept that I pretty much had to. But that is sooooo rare. Seriously, if you’re not selling like hotcakes, please don’t count on this. A 70% royalty x no sales = $0. A 35% royalty on $.99 is more than that.
What if you got me to read that first book for $.99? What if I bought your next 3? What if I told my friends?
(Those of you who have given your books over to epublishers who are trying to price you like NY books, while not making you look like NY books…I’m sorry. It’s just too high. If I wanted to pay that, I’d buy from an established name.)
#6. Your blurb/product description didn’t grab me. More than likely, if I take a pass on your book because of the product description, it’s because it actually turned me off. Maybe it wasn’t well-written. Maybe it failed to describe the story or made it seem like you and I wouldn’t be a writer/reader match. Often I see product descriptions that look like the author just didn’t try.
#7. I couldn’t get through the excerpt/sample. Now, I do a lot of impulse buying, but I’m really trying to get in the habit of taking the time to read at least a page or two of the free samples provided. This will save me a lot of pain. I’ll admit that I read and pay attention to the excerpts A LOT more when the price is higher than $.99. Because that purchase is a bigger decision.
This is finally where it gets to the point about your work. It may not be that I think it’s “bad”. Sometimes I just feel that it’s not for me. If your language is the really…flowery or purple, if it feels overwritten to me, or clumsy, or drags… These are things that make me suspect I’m not going to enjoy the book and it’s going to be a pass for me. I do the same thing to paperbacks in the bookstore when I can, so you’re getting equal treatment.
#8. Only after all that do I even get down to the reviews. Seems odd because reviews are something I go to right away for trad published books. And part of that is because trad published books are all pretty much equally available to me through various outlets, priced at about the same rate, generally have more compelling descriptions, and may or may not have excerpt material. I read reviews of trad published books because, again, the price makes the purchase a much more significant buying decision and I need to be careful about it.
To be honest, I’m hardly buying any trad pubbed books since the Agency pricing model for ebooks put the smackdown on discounting and made trad pubbed books in my price range practically extinct. I’m getting a lot more of my reading from the library than I was before Agency pricing. (The library and Adobe DRM support: the reason I don’t own a Kindle, now you know.)
Last word on reviews: by the time I’m looking at reviews, I’m looking for reassurance and a reason not to buy.
Cover art- A lot of people say professional cover art is a big deal. It’s not so much, for me, but I know it is for a lot of people. If your cover is really good, it may have a better shot at grabbing me. I don’t know.
Length- I like to know how long the book is, and I’m more likely to buy if I know the word count and what I’m getting into. The likelihood of me buying an indie novel over 100K words is very small. I prefer shorter novels, between 50K and 100K. I have a hard time believing that novels over 100K won’t be full of tangents, thoughtologue, redundancy, and an overall lack of editing and author attachment to every precious word. Maybe yours is different, but it’s probably not for me. I’ve read too much filler in the realm of “full-length” traditionally published novels.
Paper only!- Again, an availability issue. I understand why indie books cost what they do, and I do not hold that against you. But I won’t take that kind of risk with my money. Plus, I don’t want to read paper anymore. I’m in the process of getting rid of my paper books. The only thing I buy in paper anymore is manga/comics, some non-fiction stuff, and books for my little one. There’s just no way I’m spending $15-$20 on a book. But if you put it up in an eformat, at a reasonable price…
If I like your book, I will tell my friends. I’ll probably leave you a review. Maybe post about it somewhere. If you have other stuff, I’ll probably buy it all up.
If you can refrain from arguing with me about DRM and piracy (understand that I do so rabidly detest DRM, and how I feel it’s being used by the distributors to manipulate me as a consumer, and offers you, the author, no substantial protection against piracy–I actually can’t talk about it without getting worked up, so I won’t), I would love to hear why you’re in print only, or only in Kindle format, or how and why you chose your price point, etc.
And for readers, what makes you pass on books? What’s your price-point? What device are you using?