Monday, October 28, 2013

4 Reasons Why I Do Not Give A Discount (Or Give My Book Away for Free)

It is now well known amongst my friends that I have published a book. Most of them are genuinely happy for me, and many have purchased a copy (or several!) of the book from me at full price. I am also happy to say the book is now available via Eastern Toybox for those in Canada.

To all those who supported my effort and purchased my book, I would like to say a sincere thank you from the bottom of my heart.

However, sometimes I occasionally get the "Hey, do your friends get a discount" or "can I get your book for free" question. Most of the time it's in jest and I laugh off the good natured ribbing. Sometimes though, it's a passive aggressive statement with multiple shades of intent. The book sells for $US 24.99 on Createspace, for $US 24.99 on Amazon USA (they sometimes apply a discount on their own initiative), and $CAD 26 at Eastern Toybox. I made a resolve early on that I will not be discounting the book at all when I sell them personally to friends or relatives, and NEVER give anyone a free copy. These are the four reasons why:

  1. It seems that "Business is business" and "separating business from pleasure" is an Islamic thing. The Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not give the Prophet a discount, so why should I give anyone a discount? In the famous hadith of Jabir ibn Abdullah, this young man bargained over the price of his camel that he was selling to the Prophet, until he got a price that he felt comfortable with. Of course little did he know that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was merely looking for an excuse to help Jabir financially without hurting his dignity!

    To reiterate, in Islam, when you conduct a business transaction, it is perfectly allowed to charge a price for your product that you think it's worth, and it's up to the other person to purchase from you, or not, regardless of the relation between the two of you.
  2. The book is a quality product that I have made and it took a lot of time, effort and money. When you ask me to give you the book for free, you are saying that essentially, my time and effort have no value.

    I have not forced anyone to buy my book. I have not even sent an email out to my friends asking them to purchase it. The ONLY email that I have sent out to all of my friends is ONCE, at the beginning, when I merely informed them about the book getting published, and my asking price for it. I also told everyone that should they wish, they can place an order through me, and if not, can they kindly forward the information of the book to anyone they think would find it useful. That was it.

    So if I am not putting a gun to anyone's head obligating them to buy my book, or treating them any differently if they didn't, then I certainly don't feel I have to discount my book for anyone.

    My book is a product in the marketplace. If there is a demand for it, if people value it, then God Willing it will sell. If someone does not feel it's appropriate to pay $25 for it, that's their decision and I can respect that. But when someone wants the book, but is not prepared to pay for it, that says more about them than the product.
  3. Muslims have to be prepared to pay out of their pocketbook if they want quality products.

    For example, we want our Imams to be "cool", to be an expert of not only the Quran and Islamic theology, but to have knowledge of the sciences, to be experienced with the modern world, to know about the culture of the land, to "identify with the youth", to be an excellent orator, to be good at interfaith work, etc. etc. The list goes on. Yet, when it's time to pay the imam, the masjid boards dither and do not want to pay him an appropriate salary that will enable the imam to enjoy a high quality of life. Caliph Abu Bakr, the first Caliph of Islam, was not prepared to give up his business and attend to the duties of the Caliphate full time until he was given an appropriate wage - which he later claimed was insufficient and demanded a raise.

    Today, we want high quality educational Islamic books for our kids. We want proper Islamic stories depicted on the silver screen and television using high quality production techniques (the Omar series being a prime example). We lament the lack of proper Islamic education for our kids, or the inadequacy of good Islamic Sunday school speakers. We want gyms in our mosques, not to mention daycare facilities and equal women's places. Yet, when it comes time to donate or contribute financially for all of these, we balk. We do not support the local mosques. We are hardly involved in their planning board. We pirate lectures and movies. We do not patronize Islamic conferences and belittle their efforts. And when someone publishes a book or makes a movie that, in their opinion, raises the bar, they are shunned for not giving their friends discounts or "free" tickets.
  4. I plan to use most of the proceeds of sales for future dawaah work. Other books are in the planning pipeline, with a book on Surah Qasas scheduled for release in April 2014. I also need to purchase some photography equipment for images of even higher quality than the first one. These all take resources, and I have shunned from asking anyone for donations for free. My plan is to produce a product and make it self sustaining as far as possible.
As it is often said, most of the time you get what you pay for. And this is why I refuse to discount my book for anyone.


Anonymous said...

Good policy, and good explanation too.

I think it's human nature that, if we get something free or cheap, most of the time we don't really value or appreciate it.

May Allah grant you success in this venture, and the upcoming book(s) too :)

mezba said...

Thank you for your dua.

Haleeb said...

Salam to All

I came here after reading your article on muslim matters

it was very insightful

The reason I came here is to tell you that the price of your book is too high

I dont have kids, so i dont need to buy the book for myself. Thats not why I am saying your price is too high

Second, why dont you have a kindle version?

I have published 16 books to Amazon Kindle so i just thought I would share some of my experience with you

There are so many books out there, that in order to compete, we should price the book properly too

I can tell by your books ranking that your sales are few....lower the price and see what happens

I know it took you a long time and effort to get this book finished, but despite that your price is still too high

A successful author should learn about marketing and pricing as well

also...have you thought about recreating these stories using lego but on youtube?

Anyways...i wish you success

mezba said...

Salaams Habeeb and thanks for your comment. I always appreciate feedback and honest criticism, and also thank you for your wishes for my success.

Regarding the price of the book being high, as I had said, it's almost at cost since it's about 150 pages of colour illustrations (most kids books are about 10-20 pages).

As for the books not selling, I do assure you that Alhamdulillah the sales are constant and growing. You can check out the rank even in Amazon India where the Kahf book is
- #18 in Books > Textbooks > Humanities > Religious Studies > Islam
- #26 in Books > Religion > Islam

No doubt lower prices would result in more sales (supply/demand) but I think around $20 is a happy balance.

As for producing the book on Kindle, I am working on it, but most of my material is found on my site for free. I am even uploading the Kahf book images, bit by bit, for free.