Should Books Be Priced According to Their Length?

When I was in the publishing business, the sales staff often wanted to correlate a book’s length with its value. They believed that books with more pages should be priced higher. Books with fewer pages should be priced lower.

Stack of Books for Sale in a Bookstore - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/bitterfly, Image #15504521

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/bitterfly

But is this true?Yesterday, I got this e-mail from an unhappy customer about her purchase of Writing a Winning Book Proposal, my e-book for authors:

I felt hugely ripped off by your ‘book.’ You didn’t say anything I didn’t already know and didn’t address any of the questions I actually had. You used a big font to pad the pages, but your content was truly sparse. No publisher in the country would have published this ‘book’ and charged $20.

What you wrote was more of a pamphlet and should have been advertised as such. I was totally disillusioned that a Christian man of your caliber and reputation would burn me like that. I know we all have to make a living, but we need to make an honest one.

Let’s set aside her perception of the quality for a minute. If you go to the sales page, you’ll see about 20 endorsements from leading agents and about 1,200 from satisfied customers. These speak for themselves.

Let’s also set aside her charge that I somehow mis-represented the length of the book and was thus dishonest and ripped her off.

  • I explicitly say in the sales copy the book is only 32-pages long. I also say the price is not based on the page count.
  • I offer an unconditional, money-back guarantee with no time limit. All she had to do was ask. (In fact, I volunteered to do this again in my reply to her yesterday.)

The issue I want to focus on is the length.

Personally, I don’t think the value of information products, including books, is in their length. In fact, I could make the case that brevity is a benefit, especially in a world where we are so busy. If I can get what I need in a shorter amount of time, so much the better.

Like you, I have read long books that were worthless and short books that were invaluable. I don’t buy page-count, and I’ll bet you don’t either.

The issue is whether or not the content helps me accomplish my goals and provides a sufficient return on my investment.

Consider the fact that some of the shortest works in history had the greatest value as measured by their long-term impact.

  • The Gettysburg Address is only 256 words long—a little more than a page.
  • The Declaration of Independence is only 1,100 words long—about four pages.
  • The Sermon on the Mount is about 2,500 words long—about eleven pages.

I’m not equating my e-books to these great historical works. I am simply making the point that there is no necessary correlation between length and value.

When I was first starting in my publishing career, a salty old publisher told me, “A book should be like a woman’s skirt—long enough to cover the subject but short enough to keep it interesting.”

Though sexist by today’s standards, the last half of his counsel is right. When we write or say anything, we should first focus on the message not the length.

Question: Do you think books and other information products should be priced according to length, value, or something else? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://twitter.com/joannamuses joanna

    This is one area where I don’t think internet terminology has evolved as far as necessary. Ebook can mean anything from 5 pages to 500+ pages. The reading experience on a shortform ten page piece is quite different to that of spending the time on an in-depth 400 page work and yet we call them the same thing. Sometimes writers/publishers are helpful and include number of pages (page equivalent) but sometimes they don’t. Some border on dis-honesty by including 3D mockups of the book that make it look much, much thicker than it would be printed. I think we need to find new terminology to separate articles or short graphic presentations that are formatted for ereader use (ebooklets, maybe?) from long form writing more closely resembling a traditional book. This would allow customers to better identify if a publication is the kind of reading experience they are after. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Those are good thoughts. I also think disclosing the length is good practice too. No surprises. Thanks.

      • http://twitter.com/psychofan1 Lisa Loftis

        definitely disclose the length to the buyer, for sure. You are asking for their money…they should know what they are getting in return. As a customer…I know that’s helpful

      • http://www.selena-blake.com SelenaBlake

        When I re-released my backlist last year, I had several novellas in the mix. I included the length information in the description because I didn’t want anyone to be surprised. Recently I saw a reader comment that they always steer away from books that list this information. I can’t remember the exact reason she gave, something about being amateurish. Just goes to show, as if we didn’t already know, you can’t please everyone.

    • Clinton Thomas

      …3D mockups…
      This is a good point. All the images on the sales page for these two items give the impression that they are much more substantial piece of work in terms of length. The text clearly says otherwise, but the images do set expectations. The images should match the text. 

      And just to be clear, I agree that the value is not in the number of pages but in the content. 

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        Fair point. I need at least a disclaimer there. Stay tuned.

      • Mildred Weiss

         Agree with you Clinton! :)

    • http://www.twitter.com/erikjfisher/ Erik Fisher

      Terminology is key. I’ve made the mistake of purchasing a Kindle eBook, only to find out it was a summary of a book. It was my fault, but man, it was hard to decipher that after I looked again. 

    • http://twitter.com/_salam_ Kevin Bushnell

      I like your ideas of describing the books and articles according to reading experience. I also think we might do well to consider that there exist different types of readers, as well. I’m thinking here specifically of C. S. Lewis’s ideas in his short book “An Experiment in Criticism.” It’s really a great little book that hasn’t gotten nearly the use that his others have.

       http://www.amazon.com/An-Experiment-Criticism-Canto-Lewis/dp/0521422817

  • http://twitter.com/kennyholloway kennyholloway

    Pay per page is a bean counter’s way of thinking.  Especially with non-fiction (unless it’s a reference book), I find greater value in brevity.

    I pay for books, but the only part I’m really wanting to buy are the parts I hi-lite and pages I dog-ear.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      “…the only part I’m really wanting to buy are the parts I highlight and dog ear…” – great thoughts Kenny!

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        That is so true. I agree.

    • JosephPote

      “the only part I’m really wanting to buy are the parts I hi-lite and pages I dog-ear”

      Good point!  For the most part, I feel really good about a book purchase if I walk away with one new concept or perspective.

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    Ugh! The idea that page count = value is flat out wrong. Based on that calculus, convicted Unabomber Ted Kaczynski should be the highest paid “writer” around thanks to his thousands of pages of rambling rants.

    In addition to the great examples listed above, consider the Sermon on the Mount which was no longer than 1,500 words yet it inspired seismic social reformers such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior. When I used to be a news reporter, a cardinal rule that I followed was that I should ONLY write enough to clearly convey the story. 

    The job of writers is to connect with readers and convey meaning – not chase an artificial word count. 

    • Lilibet King

      Hmm.  This makes me think – if prices are related to page count, how should children’s books be priced?  Dr. Seuss might only use 100 words in a book, but could have 20 pictures, each worth 1000 words.  If books were priced a penny a word, should Dr. Seuss be priced at $1.00 or $201.00?

    • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

       Tor, I like the one-two punch you wrote: 1)Connect with readers & 2)Convey meaning. I’m working on an information product right; putting a days work in on it on Saturday and going to use that as my guide. Thanks, Tor.

  • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

    Short answer:  no.  It’s the impact it has on your life or your business, not the number of pages that equals value.

    Recently, I read two manuscripts that were hundreds of pages.  Both were too long and could be cut in half.  That is a far greater problem.  Ernest Hemingway made minimalist writing an art.  That’s an incredible skill.

    I think she is critical of your e-book because she equates the length of the book to the amount of time it took you to write it. To her, the brevity means that you didn’t spend much time on it, meaning you shouldn’t charge much for it. She ignores the experience it required.

    My guess is that she may also be having a reaction to “digital” pricing.  We’ve been so accustomed to receiving a physical product for our money. Not having something in our hands may also impact how we feel about it. A reader may think that you didn’t spend any money on paper and ink, therefore your price is pure profit (ignoring technical support, advertising, editing, etc.).

    In my humble opinion, it likely speaks less about the price and more about the reader’s state of mind.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your perspective, Skip. I agree. These kinds of e-mails are always a test of my customer service commitment. ;-)

    • Sade J Jackson

      Interesting way of looking at the subject!

      • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

        Thank you. The price of a book is a hot topic these days!

  • Michael N. Marcus

    One hundred words could be worth $100,000 — but deliberately inflating a book’s page count by using  extra-large type and margins is immoral.

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
    http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com
    http://www.BookFur.com
    http://www.Facebook.com/SilverSandsBooks

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I think it depends on the motivation. If it is to price-justify the book, I agree. If it is for the sake of design, I disagree. Regardless, as long as it is disclosed, people can chose whether or not they want to buy it.

      • JosephPote

        I agree, Michael. 

        In my (thus far) one publishing experience, I deliberately chose a slightly larger than standard font size.

        Why?  Because I could use a larger font without increasing my printing cost…and because the larger font is easier to read.

        I prefer a larger font, myself, as do many of my friends.  Why make it harder than necessary on potential readers, when the larger font cost me no more to produce?

    • Andytraub

      The formatting of that product is amazing. That added value. If it takes more “pages” so be it. Format matters. If the reader would apply the lessons of the book instead of complaining about the number of digital pages we’d hear a very different song. And bringing in mike’s character and faith???!!! Not classy.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    Somebody said about Charles Dickens that “he was paid by the word, and sometimes it showed.” 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great quote.

  • http://jonahenry.com/ Jon Henry

    I think the math holds up for loose leaf paper… the more there is, the more you should pay. But book length? I could likely make a 200-page book with only 500 words given enough space in the margins, right?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I think I’ve read that book. ;-)

  • http://www.OrganisingQueen.com/ Marcia Francois

    I don’t equate value with length. In fact, I like to get what I need in the shortest time possible :)

    I hope you’re not too hurt by her attacking your character as a Christian – I think that was a low blow!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Unfortunately, this comes with the territory. Thankfully, these kinds of e-mails are rare.

  • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

    If writers are incentivized for length it would be like pay lawyers or contractors by the hour.  Could they have done it in less time?  Could they have been more efficient?

    I’d prefer to pay for both by the project.  As a consultant, that is how I asked to get paid.  This ensures I do the best work, as quickly as possible for my customer.  Both of us are incentivized for results happening quickly and efficiently.

    Let’s not create ANY MORE long-winded writers.

    Thomas Jeffersons said:  “True talent is never using 2 words when 1 will do.”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great analogy, Dave. I love the Jefferson quote. I used to know a lawyer who wrote very long e-mails. My business partner at the time would say, “I think he has it backwards: never use a single paragraph when you can use two.”

      • CGreene801

        The lawyer reminds me of the quote ‘Never use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice.’

  • http://www.healnowandforever.net/ Jodi Lobozzo Aman

    I think there are many other things to account for than page number. If quantity meant better, we would have a very different world. Diamonds would equal the same size in dirt. 

  • http://twitter.com/furnace_hills Dave Baldwin

    Michael, 
    My thoughts are value — value — value! I’ll pay a lot of money for a book or “pamphlet” if it’s short, but has great value to me. I’m not thinking about writing a book, so didn’t order your book. I did order & read your book on building a platform in a noisy world. Now that one was under priced for the value. Knowing what it contained after reading it, it was worth more than what you charged for the book. Plus all the value added collateral that went with the purchase! 
    So I vote for value over length!
    Blessings,
    Dave

    • http://www.wevival.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      Nice to see a real-life friend commenting here! Couldn’t agree more with your assessment of the situation. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/wordofbalance Lee Smith ND

    Length of oratory and prose is not the issue.

    Getting to the point is a skill and an art: From the Bible,”Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” ~Jonah, or “Neither do I condemn thee.” ~Jesus, To politics,”Arithmetic.” ~Bill Clinton

  • http://twitter.com/JCollierAR Jordan Collier

    A speaker who is paid a handsome fee may speak for only minutes, but the value of the message took a lifetime to create. Books are no different. I’d rather learn in an hour or two what it took someone twenty years to figure out… even if I have to pay a little more.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      This is a really important point too. Thanks for making it.

  • http://www.jessicaakent.com/ Jessica A. Kent

    Are you refering to traditional print, print on demand, or e-books? I’ve been a bookseller for a decade and when comparing trade paperbacks, they ARE typically priced by length (novellas a price point of 11.99, epic novels 16 or 17). I wouldn’t charge by value at all – who decides the value? And indeed books are in that marketing category of paying first and then you get what you get.

    • http://www.wevival.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      I suppose length is a fine starting point for price, however, I think value of the material can be estimated. This is particularly true for non-fiction… 

      Do you find that non-fiction follows the same pattern as trade paperbacks?

  • http://twitter.com/CampClem Gina Cleminson

    Agree. Pricing a book according to its length is like valuing a person according to his height. It’s the content of the book (or person) that counts.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I need to remember that metaphor. Perfect!

  • Susan

    Michael,
    Just yesterday, while this woman was blistering you, a friend of mine shared how she landed an agent because of her book proposal.  The agent told her it was one of the best book proposals she’d ever seen come into their agency.  Then the agent went on to ask, “This was done by following Michael Hyatt’s ebook on book proposals, wasn’t it?”  I think that speaks for itself.
    Consider the unhappy customer was having a bad day and you were the one who took the brunt of it.  Unfortunately, those things happen. I’ve purchased your ebook and felt it was very helpful myself.
    Thank you for all you do to help those of us who are trying to make our voice heard through writing. 
    Blessings,
    Susan Norris

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Susan. I appreciate the encouragement.

    • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

      Bingo: The publisher’s response was definitely worth your $20 investment. ROI was in your favor, big time.

    • http://www.justcor.com/ Cor Chmieleski

      I’d like to reiterate Susan’s encouragement. I know many are answering your question regarding book length and cost. But, this criticism needs some mention.

      I would want you to hear that her comment calling into question your Christian faith was inappropriate and uncalled for. There are MUCH better ways this person could have dealt with their frustration, such as asking for her money back. You’ve stated your willingness to do so.

      I trust that you have a group of trusted voices around you to help you sift through the chaff of criticism. Let them see if there is anything worthy of further consideration.

      As a reader of yours and purchaser of many Hyatt-brand products, I say, “Thank you!” and “Keep up the great work!”

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      That’s inspiring Susan – thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

    For real? Your integrity was brought into question over 20 bucks? Wow, your response was very impressive, a real “the customer is always right” kind of response.

    I deal with this exact same economic misunderstanding with a $79 sourcebook I publish every year. The printed copy is only 150 pages, but the digital addenda is 350 and saves debaters countless hours of research time. It’s the bestselling sourcebook in its niche market, but every so often I get buyers who question, “Only 150 pages for 80 bucks?” My response: Yes, it is actually a fantastic bargain. I have a 100% guarantee, too, and I can count on one hand how many people end up taking it.

    But I gotta say, my Christian faith wasn’t brought into question over it. Yeash.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      It kind of borders on spiritual bullying, doesn’t it?

      • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

        Seriously. With a response like that, I think you can find confidence that the major problem is not with your pricing strategy.

        • Shelley Hess

          No question there!!

  • http://twitter.com/AnitaFreshFaith Anita Agers-Brooks

    I purchased your eBook when it was first released. As an aspiring writer, the concise, clear, and thorough information helped me navigate the terrifying world of the then unknown. 

    I am forever grateful for the valuable content you provided. Thanks to Writing a Winning Book Proposal, I’m signed to a highly respected Literary Agency, and in the last stages of writing my first non-fiction book for publication. I would have paid twice the money and believed it was a fair price. 

    Value is based on impact, and impact relies on what we do with the information we’re provided.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Good for you, Anita. Congratulations on your success thus far!

  • http://twitter.com/AnitaFreshFaith Anita Agers-Brooks

    I purchased your eBook when it was first released. As an aspiring writer, the concise, clear, and thorough information helped me navigate the terrifying world of the then unknown. 

    I am forever grateful for the valuable content you provided. Thanks to Writing a Winning Book Proposal, I’m signed to a highly respected Literary Agency, and in the last stages of writing my first non-fiction book for publication. I would have paid twice the money and believed it was a fair price. 

    Value is based on impact, and impact relies on what we do with the information we’re provided.

  • http://twitter.com/AnitaFreshFaith Anita Agers-Brooks

    Sorry, I failed to sign in on the first comment.

  • http://www.paulbevans.com/ Paul B Evans

    According to value… but Michael, you already knew that. :)

    If a friend walked up with a single sheet of paper that guaranteed a million dollars if applied – and it could be done in less than a day – how much would I be willing to pay for single sheet??

    Somewhere in the neighborhood of…. a lot!

    The challenge is Value Interpretation. What is the ability of the person to understand the content and what resources do they have to implement it?

    Examples from real life…

    Coaching client #1 : Brand new to the industry. Paying $500 a month for coaching. Follows the advice, but does not have the ability/resources to really carry it out. Quits after a month.

    “I’ve wasted my money. You stink as a coach. I’m going to tell both my friends on Facebook and shut you down!”

    Coaching client #2: Established in the industry. Paying $500 a month for coaching. In a 6 month period he asked ONE question. ONE. It took me 10 minutes to answer.

    “Thanks! I applied your advice and made almost $30K this weekend because of it.”

    The second guy had a high-level Value Interpretation. He could see the value of the information and apply it for positive results. Do you think he was upset about spending $3,000 for the answer to one question? Was he upset the answer was only 10 minutes?

    Uh…… no.

    Peace,
    Paul

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for this example, Paul. Excellent.

  • Daniel

    I am getting great pushback from my readers for charging more than $10 for any book less than 100 pages long – despite two facts
    (1) The books include animations of material which if replaced by static screen shots and animation would result in a book 2-3 times as long and
    (2) A longer book would serve their needs less not more.
    It’s an issue for me as I evaluate whether or not writing these books is cost effective.

  • http://successwithsandralarkin.com/ Sandra Larkin

    As all women know, size doesn’t matter.  *wink*

    In a previous career, I was a prospect researcher, and wrote research reports for fundraisers, so that they would be informed before meetings with potential donors.  Many in my profession believed that a report of ten should be 1o to 15 pages long and extremely detailed.  My reports tended to be 2 to 3 pages, 5 at the most.  I thought, and still think, it was more useful to focus on the most important and relevant information in a document that could be re-read ten minutes before the meeting.  My clients, the fundraisers, didn’t complain.  They appreciated my respect for their time.

    Personally, I’d rather read 32 pages of solid, useful information, than have to dig through a 300 page document to find and highlight the important parts.  

  • kentsanders

    Michael, you are so correct in your point that a book’s length doesn’t equal its value. (I work with college students, and they certainly don’t get excited about thicker books!) I purchased your e-books a year or two ago and found them very helpful, and in fact appreciated the brevity. 

    This also reminds me of the book (besides the Bible) that has impacted me more than any other book – Henri Nouwen’s “In the Name of Jesus.” It’s very short, has large print, but I have read it countless times.

  • Timothy Fish

    While page count should not be the only thing we use to determine the price of a
    book, it is an indication of how much work has been put into the book. The true
    value of a book is in what it enables a reader to do. Certainly, a short book
    may enable a reader to do more than a longer book, but that is not generally the
    case.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      “… it is an indication of how much work has been put into the book.” Sometimes. Often, it takes more work to write something that is tighter and more concise. The same is true of speaking.

  • Isaidel5

    I
    truly believe that an eBook is best priced by its perceived value of the information
    that it provides.

  • JosephPote

    What a funny story!  It sounds like her disappointment had less to do with word count than with her expectation that you would provide some magic formula with instant, easy guaranteed results.

    Back to your question, though…the value of a book is in the value of what the book says.

    Yes, page count makes sense as a basis for printing costs, but not for retail price.  And in this world of e-publishing, printing cost is even less a factor in setting retail price than it was in the past.

    I pay a much higher price per page for engineering text books than I do for novels, and rightly so.  While I’m not disparaging the hard work and creativity of the novelist, the engineering text books require a higher level of expertise and are of more value to me.

    Potential sales also plays a role.

    The novel has a much larger potential market, and therefore requires fewer dollars per sale to profit the author.  The engineering text book has a much smaller potential market, and therefore requires a higher price per sale to make it worth the author’s effort.

    Bottom line…the market value of the book is determined by what price people are willing to pay for it.

  • Jack Barnes

    I love it when the information is condensed so that I get what I need in the shortest amount of time with my busy schedule. As an owner of a Self-Serve Yogurt Bar, I’m continually amazed that although our yogurt price of .39 cents per ounce is clearly disclosed for a premium product; occasionally a customer will scream “I can’t believe this is so expensive!” when the total price is clearly dictated by how much the customer piled up in their bowl.  Whatever happened to assuming personal responsibility for our own actions rather than blaming others and calling their character into question?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Amen to that!

  • Richard

    I agree that brevity is a benefit.  I haven’t read the eBook yet [it’s a bit long :) ] but you  normally deliver content that is highly valuable in small packages.

  • Kevin Brown

    I think a book should be priced by the potential value to the reader. By definition that would make some books worthless and others priceless. The brutal fact is that all information is worthless unless acted upon. People are often frustrated when they read something they “already know.” For most people it seems to be easier to blame an author than it is to accept responsibility for not implementing what they already know. Because lets face it, there’s not much new under the sun and even new information isn’t new per se, its just stuff we’re not already doing – stuff we probably know instinctively that we should be doing.

    Kevin Brown

  • http://www.leahadams.org/ Leah Adams

    It would never have occurred to me to pay for a book based on its length. Sounds like your complainer has the spiritual gift of criticism and probably blesses many with her criticism. God bless her ministry!

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Now THAT is funny – personally, I tend to move in the spiritual gifting of snarky sarcasm ;-)

      • http://www.leahadams.org/ Leah Adams

        Glad that gave you a chuckle. 

  • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

    What an interesting subject today Michael!  If books were priced by value, no one could afford the Bible.  As far as length goes, Andy Andrews book The Noticer was relatively short, but packed such a punch! 

    Lately I am a huge fan of the “free books” on kindle.  I have learned of some new (to me) authors and usually end up purchasing other books in their series. So in that case, they author made more money on me by giving away a free book for starters.

    The bottom line is what the market is willing to pay. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Agreed. That is the bottom line. SO many people act as if it is immoral to charge what they perceive to be too much, arguing that it didn’t cost more than [pick a number] to produce it. This is a cost-based approach to pricing and has little or nothing to do with value. Let the market decide! If you have priced it too high as an author or publisher, people can chose not to buy it. Thanks!

  • Keith L. Bell

    Value, though it can be quite relative, is, I think, the most important issue. But what 1 milion other people may value, I might not. Fortunately, I at least get to set the price of every book I read… if you can get my meaning.

  • Sade J Jackson

    I was just thinking about that yesterday… whether a book is priced based on its length. I believe quality is of the utmost importance and a book should be priced accordingly, as long as an author doesn’t think too highly of his own writings and starts raising the prices too high. People are a lot more inclined to buy books they can afford, no matter what the value.

  • Brofleshman

    One of the best books on creativity I have read in a long time, The War of Art, was also one of the shortest concerning page count and even at that, was  replete with white space.  To make the case even stronger, I found the last 1/3 of the book divergent, off message, and quite silly.  Even so, I have no buyers remorse, as the the first 2/3 of an already shortened book was worth it.  

    I appreciate authors who have a compelling story to tell, and are clever enough to not need 250 pages to do it in.

  • Frances

    All I have to say is that premise is truly one of the most illogical and absurb thoughts I have heard in quite some tme. There is absolutely no sound basis for allocating price based upon length. Need I say more…I think it speaks for itself…ha!

  • Alfonso Reyes

    My dad, an avid reader of history, used to say that pricing books by length was as silly as selling them by the pound; it is inside where you find the treasure.
    Alfonso R. Reyes

  • http://www.sonyamacdesigns.com/ Sonyamacdesigns

    I love that book the Bible and it is long. But that poem about a fat man, fashioned in red and white is still purchased over and over again and we all know what it says … Twas the night …

  • http://www.philippknoll.com/ Philipp Knoll

    Book pricing is a very difficult task to tackle. For non-fiction a viable model would be to charge depending on how actionable the content is – how much value is created for the reader. Of course that is not very objective and ever author will judge the value he create to be in the top ranks.

    And then, what about fiction. There is no real actionable value in it but its still value. Should that cost less.

    As for almost any other product I think it is just not a good model to sell via pricing. The author and publisher should calculate how much they need to sell for to make economical sense for them. And for the consumer –  they either find it worth the price charged or not.

    And that is where community comes in. If the author already has a community knowing about the quality of the content just waiting to consume more pricing is not going to be too much of an issue.

    Let me give you an example: One of the shortest books I have read on subjects I’m interested in was “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” by Al Ries and Jack Trout. It is only 132 pages of content but packed with tremendous value – for me. Therefore I’d have happily paid a lot more than the $10.65 I paid for the paperback copy.

    But I believe how much you can charge is also a matter of your marketing strategy. If you rely on spontaneous sales on the counter you might have to go for a lower retail price. Whereas, if you aim to sell mainly through modern Word of Mouth (Twitter, Facebook, a Blog – your community) the price can also be higher as the targeted audience knows the author already.

    The book mentioned above was referred to me by a source I trust. Therefore I’d have paid any reasonable amount.

  • http://www.kathrynlang.com/ Kathryn Lang

    “When I was first starting in my publishing career, a salty old publisher
    told me, “A book should be like a woman’s skirt—long enough to cover
    the subject but short enough to keep it interesting.””

    I LOVED this quote! And it is so true. I wish I knew the magic price point for books – I was hoping you would tell me the magic price point for books. I think, in the end, we will never please everyone and someone will always want more bang for their buck.

    BTW – you also mention at the beginning of the book that you offer the information on your blog – but that the book is just a convenient way to get that information. I think that what you provided was more than worth the cost of the book because it helped me find the focus I was searching for in the mass of information you provide on your blog.

  • http://twitter.com/ChurchInACircle Kathleen Ward

    I completely agree. In fact, I have increasing trouble understanding why people write such long (non-fiction) books. No-one reads them all the way through – they just look good on a bookshelf or on display in a bookshop. The width of the spine is not equal to the worth of the book!

  • http://twitter.com/LeadingEveryday Juan Cruz Jr

    When I first read the post title, my first thought was that it should be priced according to length. But as I read the post, I came to the conclusion that it should be based on the value of the information contained in the pages. The same bigger isn’t always better, more pages doesn’t necessarily make the book anymore valuable. 

  • http://www.whiteboardbusiness.com/ Dallon Christensen

    This quote pretty much says it all when it comes to the skill required to make maximum impact with a short book:

    “I am sorry for such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.” – Mark Twain (also attributed to others – I believe Churchill also said something to this effect)

    I have no issue paying good money for a short book. Michael’s Life Plan e-book would have been a great buy at $25 (even though I got it for free for buying Platform the first week). The concept of dollars for length is just as dumb as the billable hour. 

  • Helenconwaydesign

    As an author myself ( of two books published on domestic violence by Christian publishers, several law books and an art book) I feel that there should be a part correlation between length and price. For a traditional book part of the selling cost is the print and paper run and that should be reflected. For both traditional and ebooks I also feel that I am being paid partly for the knowledge I have accumulated which I am sharing but much more so for the time I spent writing the book. The less I write the less time I am being compensated for.

    As a reader I also think there should be a part correlation. I read for pleasure and the longer the pleasure the more I am willing to pay. If it is non fiction then yes the quality of information counts but so does the quanity of it. i look for lots of high quality information.

    However length can never be the only decider of price as other factors such as paper quality, distribution costs, realistic market price given intended audience, whether the book is illustrated etc will also have an influence.

    I recently read your Platform book and found it useful and helpful. i was not discontent with the price but I did feel that the book was sparse in its writing quality being very list based and clearly ( as I think is admitted) culled and recycled from blogs. I would have rated it much higher and be more likley to buy more books of yours had it been written in better quality prose and with more dedication to fresh material. I did feel that despite the fact I like your blog for the ecnouragement to excellence, that not as much effort as possible had been made to make that book as good as possible.

    i hope this assists you in any future writing you do. And I do agree that the woman you write about should have read the description first!!

  • annepeterson

    I believe the price should be based on value. 

    There are books I have made myself finish, (Yep, a bit of OCD), wondering if the author was fulfilling a page requirement. Then there are times I am saddened when I reach the last page of a book, sad that it’s over. I want my book to be in the second group.

  • Maria Stout

    I personally appreciate concise authors!  I find I read the first 100 pages of many non-fiction books since the last 150 pages are often repeating the point again and again.   Thanks for being concise!!!

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    It all comes down to perception, Michael. Look at any diet book written in the past 20 years. Almost all of them can be whittled down to a few pages of actual actionable content. The rest is filler. Yet, I haven’t seen one ten page diet book hit the best seller’s list. 

    Chris Guillebeau talks about this perception problem in his book, The $100 startup. He realized that some of his more expensive products had this very problem. He came to the conclusion that buyers relate value to page length and how long they perceive it took you to create the product. You can argue the proposition or add content/pages.

    It’s the same with sales pages. I’ve always wondered why people create really long sales pages for their product, when a much shorter one will do. The bottom line, they work.

    For most products the value threshold seems to be a dollar per page. It would be interesting to chart out a graph of page cost/kickback and see where the actual pivot point is. 

    Bottom line, Your e-books are worth much more than the $20 you charge for them. I haven’t seen anything else on the market that offers the value that you do. If you want to get published, they are a great investment.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, John for your kind words about my e-books.

  • Carrie

    How is the price of textbooks determined? Length? Content?

    I paid less for textbooks when I was in graduate school and kept more of them because of their content and usefulness; many of them were written by my professors and were small paperbacks or printed manuscripts. Other than my accounting, finance, and a few of my HR textbooks, I’ve probably sold (for peanuts) or tossed (in rare cases) my undergraduate textbooks. Most of the info in them is out of date and yet I spent and average of $400-500 each semester on books for 3 courses with no other options. Many students complain about the price of textbooks and yet feel they never achieve any value (one could say the knowledge is the value, but when you are paying almost $1,000 per class in addition to the textbooks . . . well, the value I find in the books diminishes when compared with an educated professor).

    My thought is that book prices should be based on cost of materials/time versus content or specifically length. The price of the book doesn’t determine its value or usefulness in my opinion; it just determines the likelihood of my purchasing it versus borrowing it from a friend or library. 

  • Andrew McNeal

    Brevity is the soul of wit, atleast so said Shakespeare.  I’ve found many business and leadership books only have 10-20 pages of good content and the core of their message could be summed up in one a good blog post.  I personally don’t like spending the extra time to peel the fruit when I could get what I needed in much shorter form.

  • David

    I guess it is all relative, based on “perceived” value.

    If we priced everything on length or value, then no one would be able to afford the wisdom provided in the Bible.

    If we priced it solely on perceived value, then everything would be ridiculously priced like college textbooks… (of not one I’ve discovered actually was worth the price I paid for it).

    It appears there is no rhyme or reason behind how books are priced.  Just yesterday, I was searching for a book, and the hardcover copy was priced lower than the eBook.  What’s up with that? 

  • http://scottkantner.com Scott Kantner

    Reading the letter carefully, I would say this a customer satisfaction issue unrelated to the length of the book.  Based on the first sentence, this person would have been unhappy with a  tome that weighed 5 pounds.  I would send him/her a $20 Starbucks gift card and move on.

    But to your question, the “more length = higher price” equation has a cousin in the world of apps where “more features = higher price.”  In both cases, the notion is misguided.   A short book with great content and an app with just a few features that solve a problem elegantly both have high value.  

    In my my view, price should be a reflection of value.  The challenge for an author is getting that value message out to the market, especially in the face of of Amazon and Apple inadvertently conditioning customers otherwise.

    //Scott

  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.riback Eric Riback

    While I agree with you, we have to admit there is a perception of value for all things that relates to volume, size and physical appearance. This explains why e-books are valued less than printed books. And in the physical world, we buy many things by the pound. The business world values information more than the consumer world, since it realizes the monetary value. Thus a trade magazine subscription might be $200 a year. So there are many aspects to the perception of value. In this case, I think you’ve done everything right. Many authors write notoriously bad proposals, and a document that helps them do a better job priced at $20 is a bargain.

  • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret Wortman

    I used to joke that the key to Stephen King’s success was that he wrote incredibly long books. So people would buy them to have them on their shelves so they could point to them and say, “See what a good reader and literate person I am because I have such long and large books there upon my shelves.” But very few of them actually read the books, because if they had, they would not have paid for them because the quality was actually pretty low (this was during a particularly fallow period during Uncle Stevie’s writing, and one to which he has admitted in recent years. Thankfully, he’s also recovered his mojo and is again a writer worth reading).

  • http://www.kerstin-rachfahl.de/ Kerstin

    Mhm hard to tell. First I would say – Yes – it is a different value, especially when I think of a fictional book. Second I remember how I hate to have books, which don´t come to the point and sometimes repeating description of a landscape on and on.
    I think the truth is lying in between. The content and the lenght. It cost me more time, afford and editing, if the books is longer, but the lenght should be valuable and not fullfilling.
    Kerstin

  • http://www.livebeyondawesome.com/ Jen McDonough

    Michael – great post. As an author I have struggled with price points for my own books. Yet I can’t say that I have ever let that stop me from buying a highly recommended book from one of my mentors off Amazon. In wanting to become a self employed person,, I will need to become comfortable with remembering my services WILL add value to people’s lives And therefore not obliged to give the farm away. You and Dan Miller are great influences for reminding us of this.
    Many thanks!!
    Live beyond awesome.
    Jen
    Twitter: @TheIronJen

  • Sonyac36

    First, I agree with you Michael – book length does not equal value.  Second, I am sad that you Christian character was questioned. 

    I personally found your eBook to be very practical, easy to read, and helpful.  Thank you.

  • Steve

    No.  It’s not as simple as page count = price.  And yet the pricing of books is a mystery.  There frequently seems to be no rhyme or reason why one book is priced significantly higher than another… Just seems to be based on desired profit.  Like it or not, it reflects on the author.  It may not reflect a reality, but it certainly creates a perception.  And that perception is almost always about the author, not the publishing company.  If it is thought that a book is worth a higher price, it can be priced that way, but it should be done with the full knowledge that it may create a negative perception.  There shouldn’t be complaining about the perceptions or criticisms that come as a result.  Instead, confidently stand by the assertion that the book is worth the cost that is set.   You can’t always have the price that you want and the perception that you want.  The ownership and responsibility for that perception starts with those who produce and price the book…  That perception is simply a valuation by the reader / consumer of the book which they have or are considering purchasing… Of course none of that excuses rude or irrational expression on the part of the consumer.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Steve, I agree that arbitrary prices are set for a variety of things that may be a mystery but how does one assign a value to 30 years of publishing experience  distilled into a concise 30-page tome? 

      I would challenge that “perception” is owned by both the producer AND end user.  Consumers have built in biases before they buy a product.

      I have friends who speak for a living. When they have offered their speaking services for free – attendance at those events has been sparse due to the perceived value by the event coordinators and attendees.

      Ironically, when they have charged more for their services – the event organizers are more engaged with higher attendance, which revels an inherent bias.

      While this doesn’t apply to all scenarios, the onus resides squarely on both the consumer and producer…

  • Steve

    one additional comment … I understand the point about brevity can be powerful, but the authors of the Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence, and the Sermon on the Mount didn’t charge for their works… They gave them freely for the benefit of the hearer / reader… It is businesses and individuals who are looking to make a profit that have co-opted those works for their own gain… I’m just sayin’… not the best examples because they speak to one piece of the discussion while ignoring the other… 

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Actually, I would assert that the examples Michael gave cost MUCH more than money. In each instance, people paid for those brief, powerful words via the resulting persecution and their own blood…

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        Good point, Tor. Thanks.

  • Beth

    I have not read your ebook, but the customer’s concerns reminded me in a way of how I felt with a recent book purchase although I didn’t have the emotional reaction this reader did.  There was an author, who I shall leave nameless because I have loved his writing so much, who had a new book coming out.  Money is often very tight around my place, but I ordered his book and waited for it eagerly.  When it came, I was disappointed.  It was short and most of the content was recycled from his other books and his blog.  If the book was 80 pages, some of those pages only had one sentence on them in large font.  There were a few original and inspiring passages, but I longed for more depth and content than what was delivered in the book I held in my hands.  Would I buy another of his books?  I probably would, in the hope that it would provide what his first book did, but I would hesitate, in concern that it would be as sparse as his most recent work. 

  • Pablo Rivera Flores

    Thank you. Commen sense is a lost virtue.

  • Ivers

    No, I don’t think the price of a book or ebook should be determined by its length.  The  best English class I ever had in college was my journalism class.  She hounded us for the facts; how, who, what, when , where and why.  “Watch your use of adjectives to avoid bias and turning the news into an opinion piece!”  still ring in my mind as I type. So, we squeezed words out of the story.  Staying focused on the central theme, selecting your words carefully and keeping the work brief is the soul of whit

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Sounds like you had a good professor :-)

  • Tommyboy

    Readers have individual perceptions and some will need things spelled out. Others may only need the barest outline to get your point. Who you want to reach and how is the writer’s dilemma. If a work is too brief, those who need greater detail may assume you had no point to make. 
    Personally I really like the skin and bones version, but with plentiful references to further information if there’s something I just don’t get up front.

  • Leigh Ann Bryant

    I once heard a story about a guy whose air conditioner wasn’t working and, try as he might, he couldn’t fix it. So, he called someone to fix it. The repairman looked over the air conditioner, flipped a switch, and the unit began working. He charged the man $200. The man was outraged, saying $200 was too much money when all the guy had to do was flip a switch. The repairman told him he was only charging him $2 for flipping the switch, but $198 for knowing the switch needed to be flipped.

    It has nothing to do with length, but the value of the knowledge.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s a great illustration too. Thanks.

      • Leigh Ann Bryant

         Thanks.

        I would like to add, however, that my comment is regarding informational books. When it comes to fiction, I personally do look at length and price. I spend a lot of time in the car and use that time to listen to audiobooks, and it’s a rare thing for me to purchase an audiobook that is less than 10 hours in length. For some reason I do feel like I’m not getting enough value for my dollars (or credits) on books that don’t last longer than that.

  • Curtis Fletcher

    Consider the ramifications of pricing based on length:

    – Authors would lean toward longer books even if they had to stretch their material
    – Publishers (no slight on YOU my friend) would no doubt consider length in a new light as well opting for longer, more expensive works
    – Subtly the reading public would start to equate length with value
    – Bookshelves would need to be made of sturdier wood
    – Backpacks would need even heftier straps
    – School children would all develop scoliosis

    As a result we’d either become a society of large handed hunchbacks slaving to finish one or two epic tomes a year or the pendulum would swing and we’d give up books all together in favor of reading bubble gum comics, fortune cookie messages, and recipes for water. 

    Nah, in a free market economy value to the consumer should win out every time.

  • Sandyl

    This may sound funny, but as far as nonfiction books go, I would pay extra for a shorter book if the author cuts to the chase and presents the information I need in a clear concise manner.  I don’t have time to wade through a lot of fluff.  There can be more intrinsic value in a 10 page book than a 500 page manual.  Though this is not to say the short book is always better.  The value of a book is in its content not its length.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Here, Here!! I’m all for authors who can convey a meaningful message in as few words as possible – there is an inherent value in impactful brevity!

  • http://twitter.com/psychofan1 Lisa Loftis

    I think it should depend on the type of book…if you talking information, like your book, content is important…if you are talking a sappy love story novel where content isn’t important but reader interest and pleasure is…then…length wouldn’t bother me. I buy information books, I want information, people like me are productive workers, time is limited, brief information that makes it possible is worth paying for.

  • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

    I expect ebooks to be priced slightly differently anyway. I don’t know why. The awesome thing about them is that sometimes, lengthy ones with tons of wonderful content will be absolutely free (see also your Life Plan ebook). Others, might be shorter and of a little less value, and priced at $20… or in the online world ‘$19.97′ (I wasn’t a huge fan of Darren Rowse’s ‘Blogwise’, but I feel like I’ve gotten so much free content and value from the contributors to that little ebook, that I was fine to take the hit).

    And there will always be people who find content much more valuable than others do. Perhaps this woman really did know all of these things. Perhaps she doesn’t value what is no doubt a step-by-step guide (haven’t read it) because taking steps isn’t her cup of tea. Who knows. I don’t want to pile on, but the guarantee is always there. 

  • http://JRTaylorMusic.com/ JR Taylor

    Thanks for bringing this up! I love to read but I’m not a fast reader so this resonates. For nonfiction, the same content in fewer words is more valuable. For the most part, nonfiction books are too long. You would know better than I, but I would guess its some sort of holdover from perceived value of bound books. There is a subconscious sense that a bigger physical book is inherently more valuable. The digital paradigm corrects this (at least in my perception) and I like the idea of ideas being rewarded for their value to others.

  • Cindy

    This is the frustration (especially with ebooks).  When I can hold a book in my hand and thumb through it, it doesn’t hurt so bad to pay $15. I cringe at paying $25 for a hardback copy, but I understand, hardback copies are more “keepers” rather than books I would pass around. Trade books priced between 13.99 and 15.99 is doable but on an ebook where I don’t see the pages, turn them or really even have them on my bookshelf…I struggle paying over $10. I did purchase an ebook for $2.99 (no big chunk of change) but when it downloaded to my Kindle it was one page. Now, even at $2.99 that was a rip-off. I was led to believe by the description I’d be getting a book on writing prompts…how to generate them, what they were, etc. When the book – no let me rephrase that – when the page down loaded it was a list of 20 first sentences. 
    Needless to say, I was a bit irritated. First of all, calling it an ebook was dishonest. It should have been called an e-page. So, yes, I definitely look at the page count these days. I buy now, based on 1) the author 2) the subject 3) page count.  Regardless, products should be honestly presented to the consumer.  I might not have minded paying $2.99 for one page, had the author said, this is merely a list of 20 single writing prompts. As it stood, I felt ripped off and lied to.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Cindy, I agree that there are rip-off artists flooding Amazon in this “wild west” frontier of e-publishing but Michael’s not one of them – as I’m sure you’d agree. 

      Additionally, those individuals who do jip people will not survive via the negative reviews and backlash to Amazon. 

      The same way that Amazon blackballs sketchy sellers of hard goods, they will nail purveyors of misleading digital goods as well.  

      Did you reach out to the author of the single page manifesto? Just curious…

  • David

    I wholeheartedly agree that books should be priced on their value, not necessarily their length. Maybe that’s why you can get romance novels so inexpensively and business books are more expensive (small slam there, sorry). Your ebook is well worth the $20. In fact, it is priceless to anyone who wants to do it right. I used it to write my first book proposal, which the acquisitions editor said was one of the best proposals he’s seen. His reviewal board rejected the proposal because they did not feel the book fit the brand of the publishing house, but I received a strong referral to another publisher who accepted the book with a generous advance. I will be a published author in about a year. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • http://www.themakegoodchoicesproject.org/ Michael Hawkins

    Priced according to length?  No way!

    When I buy a book (or anything for that matter) it’s based on my PERCEIVED VALUE of the object. 

    Most items come with a money-back-guarantee or return policy.  So…if I find out my PERCEIVED VALUE is not what I thought it was, I have the option to get my money back.  And I rarely take advantage of that.

    Pricing a book based on its number of pages is … silly. 

  • Martin

    From a cost perspective, there possibly was a time when publishing and delivering a longer and heavier book was more expensive, so there is possibly a historical basis for people associating more pages with more cost.  After all, we do associate hard cover books with higher cost than paper backs.  Some of those costs are real, but many of those cost are simply a function of product positioning.   In addition, for many/most other products, a greater quantity of a product usually costs more.   Thus, absent an ability to discern a subjective measure like “quality”, we can understand why people naturally revert to quantity as measure because it’s objective measure.   How many of us really know the quality of our food or any other product, and thus also default to the price per unit frame of mind?  Are we equally blind in other aspects of our lives — or our lives in toto — to quality versus quantity?

  • http://chasinggoodness.com/ Robyn

    As someone who is an avid reader of your blog – I am little taken back by her email. I have an appreciation and respect for your writing, exerience and perspective.  I am anxiously and excitedly waiting to buy the book. I am curious about her remark that the book did not answer any of her questions and would be interested in her questions. Just my opinion but with your experience I am confident is tremendous value in your perspective whether in a ebook. through your blog or even a short meeting. I appreciate all of your writing, and for me often I find encouragemt it it’s always a blessing. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Robyn.

  • http://hortonmarketingsolutions.com/james James Horton

    Value.  100%.  

    The world is busy, I’m on the run, I have a family, several business interests, I have no interest in how many words you can pad the data with, give me the data with just enough words to communicate a full understanding. 

    In my opinion, that is the mark of not only a skilled author, but a skilled communicator.

    I worked for years in a fan club of people mostly  18 to 30 and that led me to my 500 word rule.  If I couldn’t make my point in less than 500 words, it wouldn’t communicate.  This rule was for email/internet posts, but I think it applies overall.  Get to the point, then get on to the next thing.

    • http://www.themakegoodchoicesproject.org/ Michael Hawkins

      Well-said James.  Time is money. 

      It’s all about the value.

      • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

        James & Michael, the one mega-trend that I learned in business school (a decade ago) that still endures today is our time-compressed lifestyle. Individuals who develop products and services that understand – and cater – to that reality WILL be successful.

        • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

           Here, Here! I produce a lot of pdfs, emails, and tutorials at work, and the key is to keep things succinct as possible while making them helpful (which I’m not always great at doing). People are looking for solutions that they don’t have to waste a lot of  time on.

  • Colin

    Surely we are paying for quality not quantity. Often we already know what we read but the way it is expressed can change our perception of the idea and perhaps prompt us to action.

    “I have made this longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter” Blaise Pascal – Pensees

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Love that quote by Pascal, Colin! Additionally, consumers seem to forget that often times “less” quantity costs more: smaller cell phones, high-efficiency laundry detergent, electric vehicles. More does not always equate to better.

  • Rick Barry

    Books will be sold by their length in the same year that cars are sold the same way.

    ;)

  • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

    Price should always be determined by the value offered by the product.  The value is ultimately determined by the user.   And the user doesn’t always see the value until after the experience.  So, it is an educated guess many times.  Your book for example: I have followed the steps in Platform, and it has currently provided the following benefits:  $3,000 in classroom investments in 1 one.   $5,000 in sponsorship money.  A guest spot on a well respected consultants webinar in my industry.  A future guest spot one another consultants webinar.  Those impacts are yet to be determined.  Increased credibility, and the list goes on.  So, the value far exceeds the price for me. That’s why I will now buy your WP Theme (Is that ready?) and attend your seminar.  You have proven a very high ROI.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Those are fantastic tangible results Todd. How about the intangibles that are derived as well: new ways of thinking; a roving eye that sees opportunities that were previously hidden; the chance to educate others…etc.

      • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

        Tor – The intangibles are there as well. No Question. My #1 strength is Strategic thinking. So for me, it builds opportunity bridges. For others, depending on their strength, it my build Relationship Bridges, or Creative Bridges.

        • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

          Awesome!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Todd. I love the specificity of your comment!

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    Shouldn’t price be supply and demand? I mean, you set your price. If I want to buy it, I will. If no one buys it, you adjust your price. On another note, I’ve wondered if publishers should break up novels like A Game of Thrones and sell them in shorter bites. The story would be the same. Of course, the authors would have to make some adjustments, but would it e better for me in my busy life?

  • Phil

    If you charge $20 for a 32 page ebook you have a major problem with GREED.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Phil,
      For those of us who are familiar with the tons and tons of valuable content that Michael has given away FOR FREE over the years— your accusation rings hollow.

  • M2neff

    It’s a no brainer that a bigger page count doesn’t equal more value, and I like your point about brevity as a added value. On the other hand, 32 pages–no matter how terrific the content–does seem short for something advertised as a “book.”  Even though you did everything to communicate clearly (giving the page count) and offer satsifaction (offering her money back), it’s clear she had different expectations and they were not met. Maybe it’s just a matter of terms “book” versus “booklet” or “guidebook.” Or maybe we need a new term for this kind of e-publishing.

    • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

       I like what you are saying about getting some new language for this kind of thing. Expectation is everything, and the industry may help itself out by adjusting the whole length expectation by using new terms.

  • John

    One of my favorite jokes from the Simpsons (and there are many) is one you have to pay attention to find: as Lisa & Marge drive into a book store parking lot, the sign outside says, “Michner $6.95/lb.”

  • Matthew Caiozzo

    First of all, I don’t think the price should be based on the length. We don’t  buy self help, how to book because it has 300 pages.  We buy books or at least I do for help, knowledge, a different view point or  an answer to our problem. When it comes to price I think it is like supply and demand. If what you are writing about is very limited and you are an expert in that field I would believe the price would be higher. If you are writing about a subject that has a lot of books out there I think the price would be lower.  I guess the question is what is the right price?  Answer what people are willing to pay for it.  

     I have purchased The Platform book and for someone who is looking to develop my platform for speaking and other ideas, I feel it is exactly what I needed. Me personally I  prefer the short and too the point. I realize that everyone is different, but to be perfectly honest,  I was never under the assumption that the book was the answer to all my questions, but more of a frame-work of how to go from and idea to an end product. If by chance I already knew that stuff I still would of come away with some nuggets to help.  

  • ConniesDream914

    I believe when you buy a book you are buying a persons life, there are experiences that you will never have to face without already knowing how to face them. I thank God for those that have went ahead of us and wrote about it, so that we could avoid the pitfalls. I thank God that those same Leaders that write those books do not charge by the years it took to create them. The person that wrote the bad comment said that she already knew these things therefore maybe she should weigh exactly how much that wisdom was worth to her and how long it took her to learn it… Blessings to you all.

  • http://www.geemco.de/ Goetz Mueller

    Less is often more, especially in the non-fiction area. The remark of Ernest Hemingway reminded me of one of his short stories, probably the shortest one: For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

    Another useful quote came from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away.

  • http://www.robsorbo.com/p/welcome-from-disqus.html Rob Sorbo

    I think your skirt analogy pretty much nails it on the head. I get frustrated when I’m left with unanswered questions and when I have to read too much to digest the information I need.

    Another thing that I find very helpful, especially when it comes to informal writing like blogs, is appropriate paragraph length. Some bloggers have massive paragraphs that say way too much and others use a series of one-line statements that don’t really stand on their own. 

  • Phoebe Yerian Ezell

    To paraphrase Somerset Maugham – A simple declarative sentence is the hardest to achieve.  There is no value in length for length’s sake. 

    As an artist it is just as insulting to be asked how long it took me to create a piece of work at a set price.  My entire life’s experience went into it.  And boldly, I believe that is priceless.

    Go for simple declarative works and let the clarity and price be what you wish for your life’s experiences and insights.

  • http://www.brandongilliland.com/ Brandon Gilliland

    That is a valid question. I believe that books should be priced according to length and content. Most importantly…content.

    You are doing a great job! Keep up the great work!

  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    I’ve seen this, too, especially with Amazon. Shorter books tend to be cheaper (i.e. $0.99–2.99) and longer ones are more expensive (i.e. $3.99–9.99). 

    I think this is typically the difference between an audience of readers looking to be entertained (nothing wrong with that) and an audience of readers looking to solve a problem. 

    The former wants to be entertained for as long as possible (within reason). It’s like paying $20 to go see a 30-minute movie. You might feel ripped off. 

    However, the latter wants JUST what they need and nothing more (why waste the time?). 

    Seems like there’s no pleasing everyone. The trick, I think, is to be clear about what kind of audience your writing for, which you do quite well, Mike.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great thoughts on this, Jeff!  

      Entertainment-seekers vs. solution-seekers are key differentiations between audiences.  

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Jeff,
      What about readers who want to be entertained WHILE solving a problem? :)

  • http://www.LaurindaOnLeadership.com/ Laurinda Bellinger

    I majored in Engineering – my engineering/math/science textbooks always cost more than other textbooks but not necessarily longer than other textbooks.  They were more expensive because of the subject matter.  I don’t get the $20 for a short book issue your customer has. 

    I enjoyed your e-book. I will say there are some crappy ebooks out there for ridiculous prices. But we consumers need to be discriminating. 

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    Great example, Chris. Thanks.

  • carlopeterson

    Part of the answer lies in Ephesians 4:29: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Based on this verse, *every* word we say or write should add value. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t need to be said. If this principle were consistently applied, then a book’s value *would* be roughly proportional to its length because the longer a book, the more edification and grace it would give. Unfortunately, this is not always true.

    I think the rest of the answer lies in your reader’s feedback: “You didn’t say anything I didn’t already know and didn’t address any of the questions I actually had.” Quite simply, she may not have been the intended audience. No profitable word will be profitable to every person every time. Do we expect doctoral candidates in mathematics to get a lot out of a third-grade math book?

  • brcorder

    Sometimes when people give their two-cents worth, it is highly over priced.  I pay for value and value quality over quanity!

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      That’s the truth!!

  • Bistro1876

    I am in correlation with this, finishing my first book and trying to decide upon a fair price to place on it. I buy books for content, and have to weigh the price as to my place in life right now. I am trusting that others will do the same when considering mine. 

  • Pat Callahan

    Apparently no one ever told the woman that bought you e-book that size doesn’t matter!

    The length of the book is never of the value of the content. I have found the information in short “pamphlets” to be invaluable. Likewise I have trudged through hundreds of pages of a book and when I was finished felt like I had just spent many hours of my life that I could never get back on something basically worthless.

    I loved you last quote (and plan on tweeting it): “A book should be like a woman’s skirt—long enough to cover the subject but short enough to keep it interesting.” Classic!

  • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

    When Brett Kelley was working on Evernote Essentials, Chris Guillebeau gave him the advice that he really didn’t want the “under 20$” customer because they are too difficult to please.  It makes me wonder if a higher price draws customers who are looking more for value, for what it can do for them?

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Definitely, Aaron!   Most of us want the customers who are willing to pay the higher price without pricing ourselves out of the market.  

      I think the best way to find the sweet spot is to do A/B price testing.  I think Michael will be posting on this soon.   

      • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

        I’ll be looking for that post!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great point.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

       Yes, Great point!

  • CGreene801

    Another book that has a lot of quality content that is short on page count is Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, but you don’t see people complaining about that one.  Every version of that book that I’ve seen has about 90% background information and the book itself is only 10% of the content.

  • 1michaellemme

    I agree with most, value is key.  Length can sometimes be a hindrance to getting to the valuable info. Thanks Michael.

  • http://bbcjc.com/ Randy Dignan

    Howdy!! I agree! Shorter can very likely be better! Quality over quantity! I am a pastor & a traveling speaker and try to keep each message under 30 minutes! An older preacher said, “It is better to have them ask for more than to have them say he could’ve shut up a while ago!” Here’s to landing that airplane instead of circling the runway! God bless!

  • Peter Schott

    I agree with most that the value of the book isn’t related to length. I know I’d have trouble paying $20 for a short book – I’d have to be convinced that the book was worth the $20. In the example you gave, it sounds like the person didn’t get the value expected.

    My bigger issue w/ pricing, especially e-books, is that the ebook almost always stays near the cost of the hardcover version of the book when a paperback can be bought for nearly half the price of the ebook. I know there is some overhead in ebooks, but considering that shipping, storage, and printing costs are virtually eliminated, that always seems like a bad value. I’ve never seen a great explanation that justifies the cost other than it really being about charging as much as people are willing to pay and then a bit more. :P

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      I don’t have industry-wide facts on this, Peter, but the retail price is lower for books that I purchase.  Most of my purchases that retail for $20-25 are $10 in ebook format.   The ones that retail for less are also less in ebook format.  I read mostly non-fiction.  

      Has anyone else experienced this?

  • Peggy Salvatore

    Yes, I agree that the subject and the audience dictate the length of the book. I’ve written to word count, and it is always better when I’m not neither keeping it short or padding it to fit. I’d give her the money back and send her a copy of Moby Dick as an apology.

    • Peggy Salvatore

      *when I’m neither* (changed my mind mid-sentence!)

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      LOL, Peggy!!!  

  • http://twitter.com/claywginn Clay W. Ginn

    The value in a book (pamphlet, article, blog post, novel, short story, reference work, whatever) is often in the person who is writing it. I would value 32 pages from you, Michael, well before I’d take 3200 pages from many other authors. The experience that you have condensed into those 32 pages are invaluable to someone like me who has no publishing experience whatsoever. It was well worth the $20 I spent on it. 

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Agreed, Clay!

  • http://twitter.com/quirkycity Heather C Button

    It’s something you see somewhat in the magazine world. The thicker Vogue Magazine is up to $2 more in the store than the regular Vogue. And the slimmer versions don’t seem to be worth the money listed on the cover. Oddly enough, I’d rather spend $1-2 for twice the size (even if it is twice the adverts) because I feel that I’m getter better value out of the magazine. Now I’m curious about the actual feature:advertising ration between thinner and thicker magazines…

  • http://aparchedsoul.com/ Grayson Pope (A Parched Soul)

    It’s funny, we often think of the larger books containing far more value, but for the average reader you take away so much more from the shorter ones it seems. At the end of a 500 page manifesto, there’s almost too much to stick to the mind.

  • Aprilr4

    I see both sides of this. I totally agree there is no need to add words for the sake of making something longer, but I want to feel like I’ve received my money’s worth of information. I’ve felt the same way as your reader with other products.

    I think it comes down to meeting expectations. Not everyone values knowledge in the same way. It’s a fine line and an interesting discussion.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I think length should be considered beside content.  A short book that packs a lot of valuable information could be priced higher than a longer book that doesn’t.  I price my books based on the market norms for fictional of a similar length.  I am also somewhat of a minimalist in all areas of my life.  I make an effort to live with less, not more, to make the best use of what I have.  This carries over into my writing.  I am a firm believer in the power of brevity.  That said, your examples of brief works are right on, but they were all also “free,” to readers who chose to seek them out. 

  • http://www.wevival.com/ Jason Stambaugh

    I’ve never considered page length when purchasing a book. It is always the promise of value. Right now I’m reading A Clash of Kings (Game of Thrones Book 2). It is around 900 pages. I picked it up for $7 at Target, in paperback.

    I’ve purchased numerous ebooks and even PDF’s (200 pages or less) that were more than twice as expensive…

  • ChibiNeko

    To a degree I think that it’s a good decision to take page account into consideration when you’re pricing things. I greatly dislike paying a lot of money for fewer pages, so I generally avoid purchasing the types of books that have fewer pages and a higher price tag. Then again, it’s also the buyer’s responsibility to do some research into what they’re buying. At no point did you hide the page count, so it’s not like you’re some swindler out to get someone. I also don’t think that someone should yank the price up just because they’ve bloated up their novel or non-fiction book with an extra 100+ pages. Quantity doesn’t mean quality, as any true reader (fiction or non-fiction) can testify. 

    If a fiction or non-fiction book has exceptionally high ratings and I hear good things from trusted sources, I’ll occasionally buy things at prices I’d normally balk at.  I do have to say that I’d probably be more likely to pay extra for a non-fiction book that could be helpful. I just have a hard time paying a lot of money for a fictional work that is very short unless there’s some form of charity going on other than “feed the author”. 

  • http://tonychung.ca/ Tony Chung

    One of my previous pastors told me that most books of 100 pages in length were complete at 20 pages. The rest was filler to please the publisher. Take it for what that’s worth. It’s getting harder and harder to find books that stick to a subject yet explore it well enough across the entire volume of its length. I usually get derailed by random grammatical errors and or leaps in thought.

    It’s almost better to write shorter, more anecdotal pieces and collect them into a book. Hey, that’s what Donald Miller does. ;-)

  • yoko323

    I think in some ways today you must focus on the length and not just the message. The flood of information has made it so that many audiences are not capable of reading longer thoughts.

    For example, I had the chance to speak with someone very gifted in leadership and used this leadership to build a large corporation from the ground up (a technology company no less). This person said, “I don’t read books anymore, I only read blogs and news articles. Honestly, books are too long.” While I don’t suggest that this example be followed, I don’t think that this perspective is all that uncommon.

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    I totally believe a product should be priced based off of the value. People have used your two ebooks to land publishing deal’s that are worth thousands and potentially millions some day :) How can you say that advice is not worth the price?

    What someone does with that information has nothing to do with the price and I would ask that person if they knew all this information already why they haven’t gotten a book deal yet?

  • http://twitter.com/rohnme Rohn Gibson

    Amen! Great post. Fantastic example of brevity being worth more, I couldn’t agree more. Priced to value + short, sweet and to the point = winning combination. 

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Rohn,
      It’s not lost on me that you kept this comment very short! well played sir.. well played!

  • DaveStagg

    Just like I don’t want to pay for music by the minute (some of my favourite “records” are less than 40-min long) or even movies, paying for pages is nonsensical.  I’d be incenting quantity, not quality. Give me quality any day.

    As an aside, to the woman’s complaint, I would ask: “If you knew it all already, then why aren’t you out there doing it? Were you expecting realistic helpful steps you can use, or a magical shortcut to avoid putting in the hard work? There’s a big difference between knowing and doing – are you acting on all the guidance from the book? I ask this not to bully or be righteous – I ask this to serve you to get results. If you are honestly putting all these steps into action to the best of your abilities, I’ll gladly refund double the cost.”  … it’s a fine line between polite customer service, and doing all you can to serve the customer.

  • Patfrench

    I agree with Joanna in that we need new terms for E published works. I also think it depends on the genre especially with Ebooks. Many non-fiction topics can be condensed into a much more user friendly size and remain an effective vehicle for the ideas. I agree it is important to keep finding ways to let the reader know exactly what they are getting and that size does not reflect value. In the end it is a matter of personal responsibility for the purchaser – they press that Paypal button!

  • Aaron

    When I was in real estate I was often amazed when an appraisal would by come in short ($1k – $20k) of the proposed purchase price.  The reasoning…”the property is not worth that much”.  My argument was always the same… “apparently it is because someone is willing to buy it at that amount.”  The value of a product is the exact amount a buyer is willing to pay.  Perception is reality.  Now, having said that, having a good customer satisfaction in place is always good.  When I buy books, I look for authors who know what I want / need to know, and I’m willing to pay for their experience.  Speaker and author Todd Duncan once said “I may only be 1 book or 1 audio ahead of you, BUT because I am, I get paid a huge amount to speak to you”.  

  • cherylpickett

    I haven’t read through all 177 comments, but at least the whole first page worth.  Ebook pricing is an especially tough thing right now I think and I don’t think we can say you can put it all on value.

    First of all, there is a hundreds year old definition of what a “book” is verses a report or a white paper etc. I imagine that the first ebooks followed that model. More recently though with the explosion of stuff for Kindle, as someone else said, almost everything goes.

    Here’s a simple example. There are Kindle “books” of 10 or 20 or 30 pages. In college, a solid research paper might be 10 -15 pages.  Were those students assigned to write a book? No, it was called a report or paper.  I think some of the issue is that there are plenty of people who rightly expect a book when they buy a book.  In print,  the only books that have been 20-30 pages are children’s picture or board books.  They cost as much or more than a novel, but there is an expected  length that has been set over time, just like there generally are lengths for novels, business books, etc. If someone used big fonts or layout to fill in any of those, I think we would have had issues with that.

    As I said above, those lengths took time to be accepted and the norm. The ebook is relatively new, especially to those who have never been into online marketing (where the double and triple ebooks started pretty much).

    The bottom line I think is that there are long established expectations clashing with new potential new definitions of something that would seem pretty defined-a book.  Can a book now be 5 pages? If so, what do we call reports of 5 pages? The other issue, who gets to decide? If nothing else, the publishing world of old  set out consistency and norms. Now, there basically are none on Kindle and people will continue to be confused until a new norm of some kind is established.

  • http://tvbreakroom.com/ Katie Hart

    I do feel a bit cheated when an ebook (or even a physical book purchased online) is shorter than I expected. That’s the key though – expectations. If the length is considerably shorter than average books sold at that price point, I think it should be made clear in the description. You did the right thing by mentioning it (however briefly), but as your customer stated, using the word “book” for a 32-page document is pretty misleading.

    I recently bought “Wrecked” by Jeff Goins at your recommendation, and received a number of bonuses for buying it within the launch time period. Yet all that added value didn’t prevent my disappointment when I received the physical copy and realized it was barely over 160 pages with wide margins.

    On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised to find Camy Tang’s $20 Self-Editing Worksheet had 69 pages chock full of writing tips and examples (I didn’t notice it before, but she does list the page count on her site). By calling it a worksheet and not an ebook, she lowered my length expectations. Added to that, the worksheet has very little fluff – no special formatting or screen shots taking up page real estate, no title page or back page ads, no long-winded peripheral stories to add “color.” Just paragraph after paragraph of good, solid writing advice (yet with enough subheadings and occasional bullet lists to make it a smooth read).

    Yes, being able to write succinctly is an art. That doesn’t mean less is always more. Increasingly, informational writers online piecemeal their topics, then sell each sliver at a premium. Where before you could buy a 300-page book for $10, now that same information is parceled into 5-10 ebooks, which cost $20 a pop. Maybe very busy people or extremely slow readers enjoy just getting the most salient nuggets of information, but the rest of us feel cheated.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Katie, sorry to hear you were disappointed at the length of my book. I would’ve written more, but I didn’t have anything else to say. 

      If you have any feedback on where I could’ve/should’ve added meat to the message, I’d love to hear it.That said, I do wonder who is included in “the rest of us” — I think a LOT of people are busy and only want the essentials in a nonfiction book.William Strunk, author of The Elements of Style (quite possibly THE authoritative style guide to writing), said, “When a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter. Thus, brevity is a byproduct of vigor.”While it may not be for everyone, it does seem that brevity is appreciated by some (Shakespeare called it “the soul of wit”). Thanks for sharing.

      • http://tvbreakroom.com/ Katie Hart

        The shortness of the book was a bit of an irrational disappointment, as it wasn’t based on content but size. Since I already had received the ebook, I planned to gift the paperback to one of my siblings, but its size made seem like a cheesy gift shop book rather than a serious look at an important subject.

        I tend to write tightly myself (helped by years of reviewing books with strict word count guidelines), but I enjoy long books, especially when they’re not filled with fluff. If a book’s too short, I find myself wanting the author to go deeper or broader with the subject. Make “10 Ways to Balance Your Budget” into “20 Ways,” or include more variations, examples, and applications for the original 10. Sometimes I feel like authors of very short books write just what’s at the forefront of their minds – the part of the subject they know best, or the part they’re most passionate about – and never take the time to delve into the rest.

        I’m in no way saying that was the case for your book, but if I had seen it before I bought it, I definitely would have hesitated, based solely on the size/price ratio. I’m a big fan of the C.S. Lewis quote: “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

        I do primarily read (and write) fiction, which I know has a completely different value system. If a novel is good, then length plays a big part in the hours of entertainment it provides. For nonfiction, it’s the quantity and quality of the information. Too little of either one, and the reader feels they didn’t get what they paid for.

        Another drawback for ultra-short nonfiction books is their competition. If I’m busy and looking for a brief answer, I don’t turn to ebooks. I go to Google and blogs and Wikipedia. All free. It’s only when I need a deeper understanding of a subject that I drop by Amazon. And I expect the author to give in-depth insights, not what could be easily contained in a blog series.

        Maybe that’s not everyone, though. I know a lot of readers of this blog are leaders, movers, and shakers. They probably have a lot of disposable income and not a lot of disposable time, while the inverse is true for me. Maybe they want the spoonful of caviar while I want the full steak dinner. I like to go deep on topics that interest me, which is why I often buy many titles clustered around topics I enjoy. Plus, I read a hundred pages an hour, so even the most weighty tome doesn’t usually make it though a week.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Just to put this into perspective, you paid $7.00 for this book, right? Plus got the $158 worth of bonuses? And still felt disappointment?

          • http://tvbreakroom.com/ Katie Hart

             $8.13, but yes. I did say it was an irrational disappointment, and it surprised even me. But it was still there.

          • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

            Sorry to hear that, Katie. Not sure what I can do to help, though. If you didn’t see the value, I’d be happy to buy the book off you. 

            I wouldn’t put a 160-page book into the “ultra short” category (Seth Godin and Andy Andrews have written hardcover books you can read in 15 minutes), nor would I consider brevity an indicator of shallow writing.

            I worked hard to get my book down to 40,000 words; I could’ve easily made it 65,000 with lots of rambling. Given my target audience, I chose not to do so.

            Thanks for the feedback and let me know if there’s anything I can do to help relieve some of the disappointment. I really am sorry to hear that.

      • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

        Man, Jeff!!

        I just made the same Strunk and White comment only to find you beat me to it! You’re always one step ahead of me Goins! :)

        • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

          ;)

  • John

    I agree with your position. The value is not in the length of the book. You by a book to help you achieve a particular result–if you can get a solution in 32 pages, so much the better, that saves a lot of time. And, time has a high value for most of us.

  • http://www.nickcerda.org/ Nick Cerda

    I never know how much I would’ve paid for a book until I’ve read it and by then it’s too late. I like paying $10-13 for a book. Why? Because I always have.

  • Joe

    The New York Standards for Lettuce  Grading, Branding, and Sale is 5,401 words.

    “I have dream” is but three.

    Which one do you think has more weight?

  • Maury

    Michael,
    Can I have a free copy since I’m sure I won’t like it?  Just kidding.  I would say she fits in to one of the, “What I wish I could say at work,” categories!  For those of us who find pleasure in shaping our lives with one single scripture, I like the idea of getting to the point!  You do that.  Keep up the good work!
    Maury B

  • http://youthnativity.org Christopher Wesley

    Good question. While I want to say it shouldn’t be based on length I can’t think of an objective solution. It might have to based on market comparison, rep of author and length of the book.

  • http://emuelle1.typepad.com/ Eric S. Mueller

    I agree, although I still struggle with the issue. I can buy a 300+ page Kindle book for between $5-10, but I’ve read plenty of 300 or more page books that I get little value from. In traditional publishing, authors have a page count to make, and some will do anything to fluff up that page count, including wide margins, large text, and a bunch of stories and anecdotes. Pastors seem notorious for this, although I’ve found this to happen in plenty of other genres.

    I’ve read plenty of books where I thought “why can’t the author just get to the point?” Or I’ve found the  book has about a pamphlet worth of material, and the rest is just filler.

    We probably should learn to value authors who can simply get to the point, and deliver the needed value in the most efficient way possible. But I still admit, I struggle with understanding the value of a 30 page info product for $45 vs. a 300 page book for $15.

  • Jamie

    I so agree.  We pay for meals in a restaurant by quality and content and not quantity of food.  No wait, yes we do, it’s call Super-sized.
     
    Brevity is the soul of wit

  • http://everydaysnapshots.com Dave Anthold

    I think the value is in the content.  We always say that “content is king”.  If this is true then the value of the writings is the content.  I do appreciate the descriptives in length as that helps me gauge whether or not I might buy the book.

    As for the 3D mockups…I think that marketing should have some creative license, and provide an adequate description so that we can be the best informed buyers as possible.

  • Terry Wilhite

    You’re spot on with your post! I charge for what I know, not the time it takes to complete a project. The communications strategy I convey on http://www.terrywilhite.com meanwhile is free and is a “loss leader”. I figured out a long time ago that it is not smart for me to charge by the hour. It may take me 15 min. to resolve your communications problem but it’s worth a heck of a lot more than that, especially in a crisis. It still amazes me how many of my creative colleagues charge exclusively by the hour.

  • ScottSidler

    Reminds me of the electrician story:
    An electrician is called to fix a troublesome light fixture. He looks at  the circuit box for a moment then connects a wire and the light is fixed. The homeowner is so pleased and very grateful until she gets the invoice a few moments later which reads:

    Connecting Wire: $1.00
    Knowing which wire: $99.00

    It should be the same way with a non-fiction book. You are paying for the expert advice and how easy it is to understand and apply. If you provide excellent material you should price your book “excellently.”

    • Rachel Lance

      Great connection, Scott. The price of certain books absolutely reflects the author’s expertise and intellectual property.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

       Scott,
      I am totally stealing that anecdote! Great job!

  • Shelley Hess

    Excellent read today, Michael!  You certainly made way for the Lord to “work all things together for good” regarding this amazing woman’s email.  Help is certainly in order for that lady, though not necessarily wanted.  Too bad she “missed your fine print”, and proceeded without the benefit of any of the fruit of the Spirit!  For the record, there is far greater value in brevity.  At 56 I no longer have the time for lengthy pieces, and in fact am willing to take the time to read you because I can count on brevity, full of punch and usable information that improves my day/life in a few moment’s reading.  As well, I’m learning from your exceptional example.  You said “Often, it takes more work to write something that is tighter and more concise. The same is true of speaking.”  I agree, implicitly!  With you, less is definitely more.  ‘Tis true with many (most?) great authors.  Didn’t have time for all the great comments but am trusting they have served to refill your cup, and encourage. 

  • Lilibet King

    Book prices have historically reflected supply and demand.  The latest paperback novel might list for $9.99, while a hardcover business book with half the pages might list for $29.99 and is unlikely to ever appear in paperback unless it hits the bestseller list.  I believe that eBook pricing should be based on value, but value is influenced by perception.  For example, yesterday I received an e-mail advertising an eBook on leadership for $0.99.  I did not know the author or the publisher, nor did I see any reviews from people I respect, so this is of little value to me.  But I am willing to pay the list price for the latest eBook on leadership from authors who I enjoy reading or who come highly recommended, regardless of length.

  • Andy

    I truly hope my comment here doesn’t offend you and I realize my reaction to this blog may be completely different from everyone else’s but this is the first blog of yours I’ve read that sounded as if it was written from a defensive posture. That was surprising to me.

    I was also surprised to read the “salty” quote. I get the playful saying but think for such a broadly read platform it might  serve you better to have found one that wasn’t built on sexual innuendo. For me, it lowered the bar of excellence I’ve come to expect from your blogs.In terms of determining a “fair price” for a book, my guess is it will always be a fuzzy process. On highly technical information books, college textbooks (don’t get me started), and even short ebooks on ‘How to make a million dollars online in just 1 minute a year’, I might be thrilled to pay more than I’d pay for a 700 page bestselling novel. It’s a matter of perceived (and real) value to me the reader. But with a stiff price comes stiff evaluations.

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    This is one of the reasons for a money-back guarantee. If you don’t find it useful, you can get an immediate refund. Also, in my case, the comments—more than 1,200—are unfiltered. If you don’t believe it, leave one and see if it is deleted. (I do delete profanity and off topic messages.) Thanks.

  • http://www.peterdehaan.com/ Peter DeHaan

    I’m reminded of the quip that goes something like “I’m sorry to have written such a long letter but I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

    Could the same be said about long books? Maybe a shorter book actually has more value.

    • Rachel Lance

      I love it, Peter! I’ve read far too many books from writers who like the sound of their own voice a bit too much.

  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    Great thoughts here. I was just thinking about this same topic. This answered some of my questions and clarified some thoughts. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.murrow David Murrow

    I always heard it said like this: “A good sermon is like a woman’s skirt. Long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep you interested.”

  • http://twitter.com/denniswcoleman Dennis Coleman

    In general a luxury car is not bigger than say a Chevy or a Subaru. They all do the same thing in pretty much the same way. And while one might come with options not available on the other, the price set for one or the other ultimately boils down to how much people are willing to pay. As a result a small Porsche costs a lot more than a fully equipped minivan, with the consumer deciding why they would pay for one or the other. Shouldn’t the same apply to books?

  • http://www.faughnfamily.com/ Adam Faughn

    Your statement that brevity is valuable couldn’t be more true in a busy world. I often find myself reading a book that is 200 pages or so and finishing it only because I started it. It is obvious that many of the chapters (and in some cases, the book as a whole) has been “padded” just to make it look longer. The content could be said in half as many words.

    I am currently working on three books, and one of my major goals is to say what needs to be said and then stop typing!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Adam,
       I agree 100%. I always can pick out when I have hit the “padding” of the book!

  • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

    I think authors and content creators should also consider the amount of time they are putting into a product. It shouldn’t be the only element to consider, but it’s an important factor. I’m spending a lot of time right now working on an information product, and it’s hard work. But if I were just gathering a bunch of my old blog posts, adding a bit of new content, then publishing them in a new snazzy-looking format; well, that doesn’t take much time (and doesn’t contain a lot of new value for my audience).

  • http://www.irunurun.com/blog/ Travis Dommert

    A quote from John Maxwell’s book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, comes to mind.  He says, Blaise Pascal once wrote, “I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short.”  Tightening a message is doing the reader a great service.

    A second approach…the guys at 37 Signals did a nifty job with their book, Rework.  They fluffed a short book to a full 273 pages by putting pictures on just about every other page and leaving tons of white space.  It made for a fun, entertaining, and a lightning fast read.  But most importantly, the content, albeit brief, was outstanding!

  • http://twitter.com/greerplastics Jennifer Greer

    ” I don’t buy page-count, and I’ll bet you don’t either.”
    I actually do frequently buy books based on page count- as a voracious reader, I frequently look for longer books that will last me at least a week.  If the book is shorter, I will often still consider it, but only if the price seems reasonable.  I read too quickly to pay $15 for a book that only lasts me a day or two, although I realize this is still a good price for entertainment compared to dinner out, or a movie at the theater. 

  • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

    I am glad some of my favorite books are so short! I shudder at Strunk and White’s Elements of Style at 300 pages! Ouch! 

  • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

     Chris,
    That’s great—what was the e-book about?

  • http://www.changevolunteers.org/ Change Volunteer

    As a reader I do consider the length of a book, but if the book is interesting enough, I don’t mind shelling out a few bucks. In the end it is my decision to buy the book nobody is forcing me to buy it. 

  • Rendeep

    I am a frequent reader, i dont find any great things in lengthy books and nothing in small books, instead of making a reader to get bored out of reading 500+ pages it is really a good thing to brief up what you are trying to say to the readers. so dont stand for number of pages the book contains. it’s all what it has matters more that how much it has. so whether it is small book or long book. it should give clear picture of what it is trying to convey to the fellow readers.

  • http://www.herstheword.com/ JC Cruz

    Personally, I wonder why the disatisfied customer bought the book in the first place. If according to her, the book didn’t tell her anything new, she must be something of a guru. I bought the same books and I thanks to them I have written quite a few proposals and I believe that the books have helped. While I have received quite a few rejection e-mails, I have also received a favourable response from  a literary agency asking that I send in my manuscript for evaluation. I think its because from your book I understood what they wanted to see and I believe I was able to do that. Thank you

    • http://tonychung.ca/ Tony Chung

      The woman was probably complaining that she bought the book on its own when she could have gotten it as part of the bonuses for

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        Perhaps. She didn’t mention that.

  • http://twitter.com/thejoshbjones Joshua Brandon Jones

    Thanks Michael.  I remember hearing something said by Bill Hybels said about the cost of conferences.  They’re expensive, but there’s always ONE thing that’s said that is worth the cost of the conference.  I’ve found this to be true.  So it’s definitely not quantity of the content, but the quality of the content that matters.

  • Katherine Hyde

    I actually do correlate length and value to a certain extent. I would agree that your book proposal ebook is overpriced (even though the content is excellent). To me and to many other struggling writers I know, $20 is a lot to pay even for a full-length book. For a 32-page ebook it seems out of line.
    I think pricing should take into account the intended audience as well. People who are trying to figure out how to sell a book are often not people with a lot of money to spare. We have to shell out big bucks for conferences, classes, blogging expenses, books, etc. etc., while not bringing in any income from our “hobby.” That makes $20 a steep hurdle for information we can glean another way (e.g. by reading agents’ blog posts).

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your input, Katherine. Gleaning the information from other sources maybe the best option. To me it’s all a function of what your time is worth. I have found that many people are willing to pay for the convenience of having someone do all that research and distill it into an easy-to-digest form.
      Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

      Thanks again.

  • Mary Ann

    Taking your thought a little further, what you say about pricing based on value is simplistic. Does that mean that a Bible should be highly priced? Classic literature? That would put quality out of reach for most people. I love Dover and Penguin classics precisely because they are great content in an affordable, inexpensive product. I think ebooks are their competition. Ebooks seem more utilitarian and less timeless. Now a nice, hard-bound beautifully illustrated book, like Lamplighter publishes is more valuable b/c it is a work of art and timeless.

  • http://christopherbattles.net/ Christopher Battles

    Good point.
    Thank you Michael.
    As other have mentioned it should be said how many pages just so their are not surprises. 
     Two books that come to mind are Andy Andrew’s books, “How Do You Kill Million People?” and “The Butterfly Effect” (I have read the first and the the latter is on my list two books from my current reading).  They are both short reads with profound messages.     He makes it clear when has talked about them and on the web the length so people know they are not getting his average two hundred plus page books.

    As with Platform, you made it clear that your book did not need to be read front to back.  People knew going into it.  

    I see this as paying someone by the hour or the job.  Often the by the job is cheaper as they want to get it done well, but still do it quickly to get to the next person.  

    I read Seth Godin’s daily blog/email today prior to this.  He is a master of condensing the fruit tree into a seed.  

    Well I could go on, but it has been said in the other comments already. :)K, bye

  • philltran

    I strongly believe that value of a work should be judged on its impact and originality, not the apparent “value” of its length or popularity. 

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  • Deborah Bateman

    Michael, I have pondered this myself in pricing my books. My thought is the value of the content is more important than the length. I am publishing a book now about self-publishing and it is not that long, but it contains a lot of valuable content. I hope people will value it for what is in it rather than how long it is.

  • http://www.johngallagherblog.com John Gallagher

    Pricing a book by page count would be like pricing food at a restaurant by calorie count.  While you may be getting a lot, it is not all good for you!!

    In any event, I buy the book for the value, which is determined by those who suggest it to me, credibility of the author, or topic I am trying to learn. 

  • Roy

     

    One of the best tech books I have read this year was “802.11n:
    A Survival Guide” By Matthew Gast, 146 pages, of which only 120 is the real
    meet of the book.  Learned a lot about
    ‘N’ wireless, Mr. Gast can write right to the point.

    • Roy

      Oh, and the hardcopy book was $20…

  • Ian Altman

    Michael – you hit the nail on the head!  People have gotten used to paying by the hour or by the unit. I have never met someone looking to “read 184 pages” or contract for “37.4 hours of expertise.”  Generally, people buy to solve challenges or accomplish things. 

    The real measure should be the value you receive. When I launched my book (I left the title out to avoid self-promotion), my goal was to deliver quick content that was meaningful. It is a book people can read in less than an hour. I was thrilled by the positive reviews it received. Nearly every person commented that they appreciated that there was no fluff – just useful content.  I could have said the same thing and drawn out the length. One reviewer said that he reads the book every month or two to remind himself of what he should be doing.

    I know too many people who are 1/2 way through a book (or 20% done).  Bite-sized publications I think will become increasingly popular.

    Thanks for having me along for the ride.

    Ian Altman

  • WilliamIV

    I battled with this while writing my manuscript. A one page document that changes the world is better than a thousand page book with no wisdom.

  • Eldon Sarte

    You said: “If I can get what I need in a shorter amount of time, so much the better.”

    Exactly. So, it stands to reason then that some of the customers of these books aren’t really looking for the “answers” you’re providing then, and are really consuming these products to try and satisfy some other totally different need, eh?Good post, btw. Including it in today’s Wordpreneur Reader. Thumbs up!

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  • Mike

    As the complaint that sparked this blog illustrates, value is subjective: you believe you’d fairly priced your material; your customer did not.  You nobly and in good faith back up your evaluation with a money-back guarantee; however, all marketers know that many if not most dissatisfied customers in today’s busy society will not go to the time and trouble to follow up on such a guarantee.  Further, an ebook is a much more intangible product than a book: information and ideas alone are all that is exchanged; the mode of conveying them (as well as their likely endurance in time and in our minds) is greatly diminished in comparison to the paper and ink of the past. I am in no way suggesting that we not receive proper compensation for the blood, sweat and tears that our experience and education may have cost us to generate that information in the first place; however, while you might be applauded for communicating your message with succinct clarity, you might equally be condemned for leaving out nuance and detail that would carry your message into the heart and soul of your reader.  Perhaps we readers need “all those pages,” your message fleshed out and well written, to rest assured that the main points have indeed changed our lives in some significant way.  If you had accomplished your goal in only 32 pages, the question would never have been raised.

  • http://elisafreschi.blogspot.com/ elisa freschi

    I do not know about your client, but coming from Europe, I can somehow understand at least part of her feelings. When I read your “Life Plan” e-book I was irritated by the large fonts and the designe, which forced me to turn pauselessly from page to page. I am not scared by long and full pages and I enjoy reading more than page-turning and “screening” in a superficial way. I know too well that most people prefer cartoons over books and have never even thought about reading War and Peace, but maybe you might consider adding a sample page, so that people like me can see what they will receive (and decide accordingly)?

     

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  • Sync100

    Great thinking…couldn’t agree more with it

  • martin

    The value of the message is in the solution of the problem, the advice or  the insight.  All other aspects are irrelevant.  

    I have read countless books that repeated the same thing over and over, many different ways.  I also read many short and concise books that presented the massage once; clearly.  Short and sweet books are better because they save us time.  We read it once and we hopefully comprehend the massage.  If we don’t get the massage the first time then we can always read the book again.  To many times authors (even best selling authors) include “fillers”  in their books.  It’s like putting useless sugar in otherwise healthy breakfast.  

    The wrong idea seems to be following:  The length or the size = the perceived value.  

    It is easier to sell something heavier or bigger.  Personally, I feel like my time is waisted when I read useless fillers.  I catch myself thinking:  man! get to the point…  give me the bottom line.  So what’s your point? etc…
      The value is not in the number of pages.  The value is in the content, the solution, the advice and the wisdom presented in the book.  Martin  

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  • Howard Robson

    But is the length of the book the REAL issue in this case? I think part of human nature is, when confronted with a situation where an expectation hasn’t been met, the easiest thing to blame is the one that most easily comes to the fore. The complainant states that “You didn’t say anything I didn’t already know and didn’t address any of the questions I actually had” indicating that she had some form of preconception regarding the content that she didn’t find when she bought it. In other words, she didn’t find her magic wand. Unfortunately, I also think people have become far less diligent in an online world, and don’t really do sufficient preparation to understand what they are about to buy. So, when she didn’t find the content she expected, what was the easiest thing to blame? The length. If she had found what she was looking for, I’m sure that the length of the book wouldn’t have been an issue at all.

  • http://www.SevenMinuteScientist.com Amy Hollingsworth

    I’m going to take the “complainer’s side” in this one.

    One of the new “tactics” on the internet is offering resources that are not what they claim to be. I’ll give you an example.

    I attended a “webinar” on Sunday. It was advertised as “How to Write Your Book in 30 Days.” I thought, “Cool! I’m writing a book! Maybe this person, who has written so many books, will have some advice I can use” Being that I’ve written a dissertation, that took me a year and a half to complete, I know the effort that goes into writing substantial works.

    I teach at a university. I know what a “webinar” is. I’ve even done some of your webinars, Michael. A webinar, as defined online, is a “interactive conference or online workshop.” Your webinar (of which I watched a replay) was awesome. You took questions, you answered them, you gave all the info you proclaimed you would.

    This person showed a video, and it was a sales pitch for his $197 audio course! I felt like an hour of my life was ripped away from me. AND, it wasn’t even for writing a REAL BOOK, it was for writing a MICROBOOK. A microbook is not a book, and should be advertised as such. I feel like the person who complained to you has a very valid point – a 32-page ebook is not an ebook – it’s a microbook. And I’d never pay $20 for a microbook. I bought your hardcover book, Platform, for under $20, and I feel like it was $20 well spent.

    I feel like bloggers need to be HONEST about what they are offering. A video-recorded sales pitch is not a webinar. A fluffy, big font, microbook is not an ebook. Just because the author or blogger WANTS it to be an ebook or webinar, does not make it so. It is being dishonest to your tribe, and aren’t we supposed to be serving our audience?