Home > Don't make me hurt you, pissed off and totally ranty > A Question of Price and Worth: Rowling’s Forthcoming Adult Novel

A Question of Price and Worth: Rowling’s Forthcoming Adult Novel

Given the fluctuating landscape of the publishing world, a lot of things are uncertain. Right now, for some people, self-publishing is a wonderful, viable option. For others, the traditional route is the way that works best for them. There are people on either side who proselytize either far end of the spectrum. Forget those people. Forget everything, right now, except the business of bookselling or buying.

This morning, J.K. Rowling’s announced the name of her new novel, and it sounds intriguing. The premise interests me. And I thought, maybe I’ll read it.

Except, then I saw the price. $35 for the print novel and $19.99 for the ebook. Do you know how many frappuccinos that can buy? So, I decided that I’d really rather spend my money on something else, something like food or coffee.

To me, that’s simply too much money to pay for a book that isn’t out-of-print or very old. I’ve purchased first editions of Paradise Lost for that amount. I’m certainly not comfortable shelling out that kind of cash for a book that’s got a perfect spine.

My question, though, is something I posed on Twitter: WHY? It is, of course, most likely about the money. And there are people, judging by the responses I’ve seen, who will gladly pay it. But I have a problem with it, which I’m not exactly certain how to phrase. It almost feels like taking advantage of a reader base. Knowing that fans will pay that much money for a book, it seems wrong. Granted, yes, as a writer – a person wants to make a profit. Sure, it’s all for the love of writing, but a girl’s gotta eat. And yet, I find this whole thing unsettling.

Of course, there’s always the one jerk who sees the pricing issue and starts bashing Harry Potter, citing that books don’t sustain you.

*blinks* No, that’s the exact opposite of true. Sure, you probably won’t gain much nutritional value from NOMing on the pages of Mockingjay, but there are different kinds of sustenance that we all require. You need to feed your passions, your soul, your mind, and your heart. Yes, it’s difficult to do on an empty stomach, and that’s not what I’m suggesting. I simply think that it’s important to tend to all areas of the self, instead of ONLY the gnawing pit that it your stomach. It’s called balance.

Honestly, I didn’t read the whole Harry Potter series. I didn’t really like it. (Put the stone DOWN.) I didn’t like the Twilight series either, although I did read that all the way through, because I’m masochistic. Finally, 50 Shades isn’t my thing – not for the sexual content, but because I do not enjoy the writing. Give me Neil Gaiman, Deanna Raybourn, Jim Butcher, Delilah S. Dawson, Libba Bray, Holly Black, Cassie Clare, George R.R. Martin, Jim C. Hines, Ted Hughes, Nick Hornby, and a whole heap of other authors. These are the writers that current feed my soul, piquing my creativity and curiosity. These are the people (and others I’ve left out – I’m sorry! I need more coffee) who sustain my inner workings.

J.K. Rowling doesn’t do it for me. Okay. No big. She does for many other people. And if her books get people to READ? FINE BY ME. (Hi, Ross.) While I may choose not to buy Rowling’s book, and instead by coffee from The Strange Brew, that doesn’t mean I won’t buy the next Tahereh Mafi‘s book, or Liz Norris, or Sean Ferrell’s. Because you can bet you dictionary that I’m so there. 9 times out of 10, the first that I want to buy is a novel. I’ve got a STACK in the corner, and that’s irrelevant. In the timeless words of the plant from Little Shop, “FEEEEEEEED MEEEEEE, Seymour!”

I think that $35 is entirely too much for a novel, but that’s my choice. I could always do something CRAZY, and borrow it from the library. Libraries are cool, kids. Remember that.

Now, good night, Westley. Good work. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.

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  1. July 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    You definitely need more coffee. 🙂

    It’s Tahereh Mafi.

    • July 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      Thank you for correcting me — I did know that, but I posted in a rush. It was silly of me, I know.

  2. July 3, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Here’s my thing: I genuinely have no problem paying $35 for a hardcover J.K. Rowling book. Why? I love her. I KNOW I love her writing. Any writer who has ever made me CRY while reading (a real cry, not a OMG this is so bad I’m crying) gets an automatic “buy next book” pass. Do I know I’ll love THE CASUAL VACANCY? No, but that’s a risk I take with all books. And I’m okay with that because maybe I don’t love it, but my husband might. Or a friend might. SOMETIMES I SHARE.
    I digress.
    I would pay $35 for the next Ken Follett book, or GRRM book (and it may well be $35 for 1,500 pages), or Sean Ferrell book, because I love their writing. I support the writers I love.
    That being said, I read the first three Eragon books and I was “meh” toward them. It was a guilty pleasure. I waited and waited for the fourth book, then when I saw it was $30 for the hardcover, I realized, I didn’t care enough to buy the book for that much, so I didn’t. It’s been out for almost a year now and I still haven’t bought it. Maybe I never will.
    It depends on the writer. J.K. Rowling can get away with a $35 price tag because she’s incredibly popular. I bet you that the book that follows THE CASUAL VACANCY will have a lower price tag.
    It’s a shame that instead of trying to grab more casual readers with a lower price tag, they upped the price for the die-hards, but I think Trisha nailed the answer on the head when she said, “It’s $35 because people will pay for it at that price.”
    Also: *ahem* Amazon is pre-ordering TCV for $20–http://www.amazon.com/The-Casual-Vacancy-J-K-Rowling/dp/0316228532/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1341332761&sr=8-1&keywords=the+casual+vacancy

  3. Jessica
    July 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    I get what you’re saying here. $35 IS steep for a book – that’s more than most DVDs! And because it’s Rowling that is doing it, it seems like an obvious ploy to take advantage of her fame and her name recognition because of the knowledge that people will pay a higher price. It’s kind of like how the prices of Broadway tickets are on the rise – when Spiderman came out, they started charging more for their tickets, at first because it was supposed to be this huge impressive spectacle, and later because people were willing to pay just as much to see the fiasco it actually was. Book of Mormon did the same thing when they swept the Tony’s – orchestra seats at that show will run you as much as $150, and that’s NOT the premium seats! I honestly think its despicable to, in this economy, be taking advantage of your patrons like that. I believe that theatre, like books, is important, and I think that what irks me is that these jacked up ticket prices (probably much like the jacked up price of Rowling’s book) are not actually trickling down to the folks working in the industry. And that’s what leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  4. July 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    $35 for a book? $20 for an ebook? I just don’t have that kind of money. I’ll have to pass, unless I can score a copy at the NYPL.

    • Jessica
      July 3, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      I always like to think “Oh I will just get it from the library.” Then one of my friends told me that, at her local library, she was #100-something in the waiting list for The Hunger Games. Ouch.

  5. July 4, 2012 at 11:54 am

    There’s a lot to be said for waiting until the mass market paperback comes out, or until you’re confident in your ability to find it used. There’s also the “screw it, I’ll just read the bargains” strategy, which keeps your brain fed on the cheap but makes pop culture a tough subject.

    [On the last: I’d been eyeing At Dawn We Slept for several months and had it on my Amazon Shopping List to purchase new when, lo! I randomly found a serviceable used copy at Half Price Books – which I only visit a few times a year – for something ridiculous, like three bucks. If only they’d known; anyone who WANTS a copy of that book will happily pay a good deal more for it. And I was broke enough at the time that I didn’t feel terribly guilty.]

    Meanwhile, there are enough people enthusiastic about the Popfic Flavor of the Year that I have few worries about the prices on those authors’ books. I allowed myself to be dragged to the local release of Harry Potter VII and… saw what I needed to see, to learn the needed lesson for all time.

    Also, what Jessica said. Of course, between the mere existence of the Internet and the way I manage my time, my library card doesn’t see a whole lot of use, waiting lists notwithstanding.

    I guess it all boils down to, “how much is the entertainment worth?” If my best friend in town didn’t have a DVD library numbering well into the thousands, Powell’s et al. would probably be seeing A LOT more of my money. It would be worth it.

    Speaking as an author, I gotta say: making real money (at least in my market) means putting your name out there CONSTANTLY. The imprint is only going to tie itself into a pretzel marketing your book if it’s a sure thing on the sole condition that people know it exists. (I might be up for a contract to write just such a book… my editor and I are in strong agreement that my imprint underserves the target market, but that’s because it’s never occurred to them to serve it at all. Wish me luck.) Thus if you’re the retiring sort, you’re in a bad way. Hear tell it’s not much different with fiction.

    The conclusion I came to is that Wil Wheaton is right: develop a small hardcore group of fans who will invest in your work through pre-orders etc. – i.e., crowdsource to a well-identified, self-selecting crowd without turning to Kickstarter.

  6. July 9, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    It is a bit steep but I have no problem paying that for an author I adore. THAT SAID – I won’t pay this for Rowling. Stephen King. Gaiman. Others. But not this. However, I will read it. One of these days.

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