Why people pay $5 for a coffee but rarely more than a dollar for an ebook

That’s something I didn’t understand for a while. And it really pissed me off…

Yann Girard
Sep 12, 2016 · 5 min read

Why are people willing to pay $5 or more for a cup of coffee to go?

Why are people paying up to $10 for a drink in a bar?

And most importantly why the heck are most people not even willing to pay more than a dollar for one of my ebooks?

And you know what…

The reason is quite simple.

It took me quite a while to understand.

And it’s not because an ebook doesn’t have any value.

Well. For some people it really doesn’t. But an ebook sure does have a lot of value. It’s hours and hours, sometimes even years of the author’s life. Sometimes it’s someone’s entire life.

But the real reason why most people aren’t willing to pay more for an ebook than a dollar is something I like to call the “looking costs you nothing” phenomenon.

It’s a technique often used at local markets where people are trying to sell you stuff you don’t really need. Like let’s say a rug for example. The main value proposition to lure you into the shop is that looking won’t cost you a thing.

I know. I’m stereotyping here…

But that way of thinking is wrong. Looking does indeed cost you something. It costs time. Not a whole lot, but it will still cost you some time. For sure.

And just like taking a look at rugs at a local market will cost you some time, buying a book and actually reading it will cost time. A hell lot of time.

And as time is one of the most precious and scarce resources we have, we’re rarely willing to give up a big chunk of our time. Like reading someone’s books. Especially, if we’ve never heard or read something from that author or blogger before.

Trust is THE most important thing at play when it comes to buying and reading a book. The price doesn’t pay such a big role. What’s most important is whether or not we know that our time won’t be wasted.

If we don’t know the author, if your potential readers have never ever heard your name before, they’re most likely not going to trust you.

And if they don’t trust you, they’ll most likely not buy your book. Or pay more than a dollar for it. Or read that 1500 word long blog post you wrote.

UNLESS, of course you use the tactics of the unknown seller at the market and appeal to the “looking costs you nothing” part of people’s brains.

And it works. Some people will walk into your store. And you might be able to sell a rug or two in the process. But most people will leave your store and they’ll most likely never ever come back again.

And the same holds true for books. Because no one knows you, no one will buy your books. Or read your blog. No one is going to pay more than a dollar for a book from an unknown author.

Now one strategy is to offer your book for a dollar or less. That’s what everybody out there is doing. Everybody is hoping that some people might end up reading their one dollar books. But most people just don’t.

By the way, I also offer some of my books for that price. But not to acquire new readers. I do it for my already existing readers. As some sort of thank you for reading my blog.

What selling an ebook for a dollar really is, is the “looking costs you nothing” strategy at play.

You put it out there in the hopes that people might end up buying your book for a dollar. And some people might even walk into your store. But 99% of the people who buy your one dollar book will not read your book if they’ve never heard your name before.

If you’re lucky maybe 1% of the people who get that book for a dollar might end up reading your book. And out of those 1% most of them won’t even finish it. Because reading takes time.

And that’s why people are willing to pay $10 for a drink in a bar or $5 for a coffee to go but are rarely willing to pay more than a dollar for an ebook.

So what’s the best strategy then?

Giving your books away for a dollar and hoping that some people might actually read them?

Or sitting, waiting and wishing to sell a few copies at full price?

I think it depends. If you’re an unknown author and/or no one (trustworthy) recommends your work, then offering your book for a dollar is a waste of your time and probably a pretty bad strategy to build your audience. Because no one is going to end up reading it.

Will it help you with consulting gigs? Again. It depends. If you haven’t done anything remarkable except writing that 99 cents book, then it’s probably going to be a tough ride.

Leveraging a 99 cents book to get thousand dollar consulting gigs is not going to be a piece of cake. Especially if your biggest achievement so far is writing that 99 cents book.

Now don’t get me wrong here. I respect everybody out there who has the balls to write and publish a book. I respect everyone who has the balls to get their story out there. I just feel that a reality check from time to time won’t hurt nobody.

Especially because I never did that reality check myself and had to learn it the hard way.

Alright. So how do you go from unknown author or blogger to known author or blogger?

Here’s what you’ve gotta do first…

You have to build an audience first.

So how do you build an audience?

By showing up more often than anybody else.

By going the extra mile when everybody else goes home.

How do I know?

I don’t know.

That’s just what I’m doing.

Does it work?

I don’t know.

You tell me…

P.S. I put together some of my best advice on writing for all my loyal readers and made an ebook out of it. It’s called “121 Unusual Tips to Being a Better Writer”. And you can get it for free today. Because I know 99% of you won’t even read it ;-)

Thought Pills

Handpicked thoughts about life, entrepreneurship and…

Yann Girard

Written by

I think, live & breathe here: http://yanngirard.com

Thought Pills

Handpicked thoughts about life, entrepreneurship and business for real human beings. Home to inspiring life lessons, creativity, writing and self improvement stories on Medium.

Yann Girard

Written by

I think, live & breathe here: http://yanngirard.com

Thought Pills

Handpicked thoughts about life, entrepreneurship and business for real human beings. Home to inspiring life lessons, creativity, writing and self improvement stories on Medium.

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