I am, admittedly, ambivalent about the notion of this price point.
Fortunately for me, my publisher Michelle Halket at ireadiwrite and I discussed this at length and we were both loathe to release the novel digitally at such a low price point.
99 cents, whilst being attractive for getting large sales numbers, I believe it runs the risk of cheapening the eBook marketplace as a whole. If you've worked hard and diligently to produce a work that you're proud of, then you have every right to set a price that gives you the maximum potential for reward.
The 99 cent price point actually damages this notion. When I see an eBook listed at any one of the major retailers I instantly equate them to the old dime novels my grandfather used to buy - you know the ones? The western novels that you could (and probably still can) pick up for a couple of bucks off the newsagents shelf. Whilst mildly entertaining, most of these titles were pretty much throwaway reads, lacking in quality and literary merit. It's a shame, because I have picked a number of 99 cent titles and have found them to be excellent works of literature.
If you have written a solid piece of literature, and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I regard my novel The Hambledown Dream as a solid piece of literature, then you are doing yourself a disservice by pricing it at 99 cents. It cheapens your brand and by extension your name. It is hard enough in the digital environment, where independent authors are constantly subject to criticism that unfairly compares them on a lower rung to traditionally published authors, without further diluting the quality of works by pricing them so low. Now, there are exceptions to this rule and I think of one right off the bat - the novelette.
Typically, the novelette has a word count of around 15,000 words - significantly less than a standard novel. I think that there is justification in setting the price point lower - even as low as 99 cents - just as long as it's clear the product you are selling is in fact, a novelette. The distinction between products needs to be clear enough so that confusion and by extension arguments can't be allowed to run away. Also, there are occasional promotional opportunities that come up for authors whereby setting the price of a book at a special price of 99 cents for a limited time is acceptable and can assist in raising your profile in the marketplace. I recently participated in such a promotion and it was certainly valuable in attracting readers to my work. But this has a limited shelf life and I wouldn't encourage authors to do this for an extended period of time.
I don't buy the argument that because the book is not a physical entity then people shouldn't expect to have to pay higher price for it. Sure, it might not have the tactile presence of a paperback or hardcover object - but what you as the reader holds in your hand via your electronic device is a literary experience equal to - perhaps greater than - any other literary experience available. There is an inherent value in this that should not be understated. The medium through which we experience a work is, in my view, irrelevant. That said, I am shrewd enough to realize that the marketplace, at present, does have its own tipping point in terms of what consumers are willing to pay. But they should pay a decent price for a literary work.
I would like to see authors price their works higher across the board. If authors, collectively priced their works higher then I do think the market would cope. There is a high saturation of users out there and I think they would accept a higher base price. I mean, you pay at least $3 for a good cup of coffee don't you - and that cup gives you what - maybe a 5 or 10 minute experience?
My ambivalence on the issue of the 99 cent price point has evolved over time from observing the market and talking with others about there own thoughts on the subject. I think that the marketplace needs to accept high price points from authors who are passionate about their work and believe it stands equally alongside both printed literature and literature produced through the traditional publishing houses.
I therefore, don't encourage the pricing of literary works in the digital format at 99 cents.