Big Mac Pricing

Earlier this week, I took part in an online discussion among writers, on the challenges of promoting ebooks. We generally agreed that there are so many ebooks out there that getting noticed is a near impossible accident having little to do with the quality (or lack thereof) of one’s writing.
I think we can all agree, there are good and bad writers out there, and good and bad literature. And I think we can all agree to disagree as to which ones are good and which ones are bad.
I didn’t think any of this was news, but others found this discovery troubling.
After that conversation, I reflected on the fact that fiction copyrights, at least in the USA, last seventy years beyond the death of the author. So maybe copyright law is set up rather like inheritance taxes on the Deferred Payment Plan. You’ll get your benefits, just later – maybe much later – than you might have hoped for.
Does it follow that the writer should not expect to enjoy the fruits of his or her labor, but rather take warmth from the thought that descendants might? That’s worth something, I suppose.
And then I reminded myself, life is a journey, not a destination. And that’s good. At this writing, I’m offering one of my ebooks for free, a promotion lasting three weeks. The book, Milky Way Tango, is the first of a four volume series – sci-fi romance – combining titillation and fantasy (remind you of anything?).
I don’t mind offering books for free. After all, it’s a good way to get the book out there, and maybe get people talking about it, and maybe even get a few reviews, which might lead to further sales. Or not.
That might look like a sacrifice, but it’s not. After all, it’s not as if the ebook sells for $100. It sells for less. Much less.
Normally, I price my novel-length ebooks at $2.99. I just checked, and that gets me off the Dollar Menu while undercutting the Big Mac. At first, I found that thought depressing – McDonald’s gets more for a hamburger than I get for a NOVEL. Now, I like Big Macs as much as the next guy, but what the hell?
Then I thought, wait a sec, the price is not what matters. What matters is the MARKUP. I bet the markup on a Big Mac is a small fraction of its price ($3.99 at this writing). After all, McDonald’s has all sorts of expenses that they must pay to prepare and distribute a Big Mac. Why, there’s bread, and the beef-baking factory, and the condiments – is it really true that the sauce on a Big Mac is designed to be addicting, or is that just another internet rumor? – and the trucking expenses to bring all that to the store, and the costs of all those lights and microwaves, not to mention the costs of building another golden arches location and staffing it to serve the motorized public. And let us not ignore – designing the Big Mac took R&D. That cost money too.
By comparison, I just have to pay an ebooks distributor to post my electronic file and execute downloads anywhere in the world. So compared with the Big Mac, my markups are HUGE! At least, I bet they are, in normal times.
Maybe that’s why there are so many ebooks, though certainly not as many as there are Big Macs.
Apparently, people eat more than they read.
For what it’s worth, I think people would be healthier if they ate less and read more. I know I would be.

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