Would You Buy Don Miller’s New Book for $30.00?

I was reading a post by Andy Traub today which did a good job of introducing his readers to Donald Miller’s newest installment, Storyline, and at the same time bringing the discussion of pricing products into the picture.

The topic of pricing would not have come up of course had Storyline not been priced at $29.99.

A 95 page paperback workbook for thirty bucks!

I don’t want to get into whether or not Don’s new book is worth $30 or not – I love Don’s writing and believe that the value to be found in the those pages is probably is worth that price, and if it changes your life, it’s probably worth a whole lot more.

But I want rather to discuss pricing.

I am an online entrepreneur.  I am working to make a living through guide sales, affiliate links, an upcoming online course and through language coaching.

In all of that, I have to set prices on my products and services.

The world would say that you price products at the maximum price that the market will bear.

So we have music CDs that sell for nearly $20.00.

We have digital products by popular bloggers selling for hundreds of dollars.

And Don Miller can sell a 95 page workbook for $30.00.  (His tribe is big enough that he could have sold it for a lot more)

Pricing is based on a premiss – make as much money as you possibly can.

It is of course not the only premiss, it is far more complicated than that.  But it is a major factor.

That is the way of the world.  That is why I saw a headline a few years ago about 3M laying off 5,000 workers when their profits were not as high as expected.  They laid off 5,000 workers and they were profitable!?!

But I get that.  It’s business.  Business as usual.

It’s just that I can’t live by the premiss that the goal is to make as much money as I can.

First it doesn’t resonate with my sense of propriety.  Asking what is going to make the most money is not the right question for me.   Asking instead, What is the proper price for me and for my customers.

Second, I guess as someone who reads the Bible and has decided to believe it to be true and to both obey Jesus’s teachings and to follow the examples that I find in the pages, I can’t seem to get past 2 Corinthians 8: 13-15:

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.  At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”

Again in the 30th chapter of Proverbs this is reiterated, albeit a bit differently.

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

I guess my struggle is that our pricing structures in some way reflect our hearts.  And I want my pricing to reflect a Biblical heart.

And boy is it a struggle.

Everyone always says that Christians’ lives should look different than the world.  I guess I had always missed the small print – except when it comes to making money.

I remember reading a biography of Rich Mullins.  He was a hugely popular Christian recording artist in the 90’s.  Superstar huge.  And yet amidst his fame (and fortune, but more on that  later) he moved to an Indian reservation in Arizona where he taught music to Native American Kids while living in a trailer house.

When asked about how much money he made from his music by a journalist, Rich responded truthfully that he didn’t know.  You see Rich had his studio send all of his checks to his church and had the church pay him a salary that was at the time, around $24,000 a year.  (Read about it here)

Rich, like my Bible reading habit, challenge me.

I don’t in any way want to walk in condemnation of others and how they price their products.  I price my products too and if I were to condemn, then the proverbial log is in my eye.

I guess I just want to see a conversation take place, to see some reflection and, to get some help in understanding it all myself.  I am trying to walk this out well and proper and in good conscience.

Rich Mullins and the Bible keep me uncomfortable though.  So uncomfortable that I do things like give all of the proceeds of my guide sales this month to Blood:Water Mission to fight HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.  [read about it now]

Andy, in the blog post that prompted this exploration, ended his post by asking, “Would you spend $30.00 on a book?”

And for me it led me to my own question, “Would I charge $30.00 for a book?”

If you are looking for a great Christmas present for someone you know, check out Rich Mullins: A Devotional Biography: An Arrow Pointing Toward Heaven (That is an affiliate link).

4 thoughts on “Would You Buy Don Miller’s New Book for $30.00?

  1. I think the questions you’re asking are good ones, Aaron. I think at this point in my life, I’m starting to side with the Dave Ramsey way of thinking. I think his mindset is to make as much money as possible in a profitable, ethical, value producing business. Then at that point, you’re in a position to make the hard decisions about how to spend and invest what you keep and give away what you choose to invest in that way. I want to create a method of making money that allows me to make those choices, instead of questioning the motives of those who have created the value that brought them wealth.

    In the case of my ebook that I recently wrote, my pricing philosophy was “how would I need to price this book such that it brings me $100 extra income on a good month and $250 on a great month. Unfortunately that led me to the philosophy that I’d sell 5-15 books a month and make $20/book. Too bad hardly anyone went for the price, despite the fact that I had a product that would provide an immense amount of value to a person newly arriving in Adana. I ended up dropping the price today such that I’ll make $8-12/book. That means more people will get the book, but I’ll probably never make $100/month on the book. If I’d known that, I never would have put the time in to create the book.

    Anyways, this is a live topic for me too. It’s great to see that once again we’re thinking on the same issues. I wish we were 100 miles closer to one another. I have a feeling we’d be meeting up for coffee once a month.

  2. Thanks for adding to the discussion Jake. It is complicated, a paradox for me and I’ll continue to struggle with the American dream on one hand and my reading of the Word.

    I remember reading about the founder of Caterpiller tractors. His goal seemed to be to make as much money as he could so he could give more away. At the end of his life he was giving something like 90% of his income and still living on something equivalent to about $50,000 a year in today’s money. And he was the CEO! He also created tons of jobs.

    It’s just that as I return to the states, I struggle to distinguish those who follow Jesus and those who don’t by looking at how they spend their money. C.S. Lewis said,“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them”

    But I need to feed my family. The struggle (and it’s a good struggle) continues.

  3. Good post Aaron. Got me thinking! And no, I would not spend $30 for a paperback book. I would wait for it to hopefully go down in price.

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