Indie Authors: Pricing Your Ebooks

Pricing an ebook may be one of the hardest pieces of marketing when self-publishing. After writing, editing, proofing, designing, packaging, promoting, and uploading to distribute, the next step is to decide how much to charge. Most people say it’s best to experiment with pricing, either by price pulsing or even just changing things up every few months to see what works best.

It’s a big challenge, and best practices seem to be changing constantly. A few years ago, 99 cents was considered the best price for indie ebooks, so that people would not hesitate  and be able to afford trying out a new author. But now, higher prices are supposedly better, and even $1.99 may be too low.

In late 2012, Dean Wesley Smith wrote that with the changes to agency pricing, authors should price their ebooks in 2013 like this:

— Novels

Front list, meaning brand new. Over 50,000 words. $7.99

Shorter front list novels, meaning 30,000 to 50,000 words. $6.99

Backlist novels, meaning already published by a traditional publisher. $6.99

— Short Books

Short books, meaning stories from 8,000 words to 30,000 words. $3.99

— Short Stories

Short stories … 4,000 to 8,000 words. $2.99

Short stories under 4,000 double with another bonus story… $2.99

— Collections

5 stories $4.99

10 stories $7.99

However, in 2013, Digital Book World reported that 22% of readers (in a survey consisting of 3,000 people) did not want to pay more than $4.99 for a book. But 52% said if they really wanted a book, they would pay whatever it cost.

Later in 2013, Gigaom reported that Kobo Writing Life found authors should price between $2.99 to $5.99 for maximum profits. And like many others advise, it works best for high quality books.

On Random Writing Rants, author Raymond Bolton laid out his pricing strategies for 2014. He created a spreadsheet with data for best seller ranking on Amazon, book title, author name, and price. He averaged out the prices for best sellers in the sci-fi/fantasy category, and found it was $4.33. And most of the top 100 sellers were between $2.99 and $4.99.

After doing this kind of research, it’s also helpful for authors to keep track of their sales to determine if and when they should change the price. See my post, “SALES NAME” for more information on how to track ebook sales.

Cory Doctorow also reported Rachel Willmer on Luzme’s findings for best ebook prices in different territories. According to Doctorow:

One of the most interesting findings in Willmer’s work is that British readers spend more overall when books are priced around 99p, while sales to Americans are maximized when the books cost about $10. Willmer segments her customers into two groups: people who want a specific book right now, and people with a long list of books they prefer equally and who will buy whichever book is cheap at the moment (Luzme lets you make a wishlist of books and alerts you if the price for any of the books you’re monitoring goes down).

Of course, when it comes to indie ebooks, it’s best to publish high quality content often. Lindsay Buroker recommends experimenting with price, while continually churning out books.

You might also find that you have a break-out novel or two in the bunch. A couple of years ago, JA Konrath published his stats for his $140,000-month and we saw that a handful of his 40+ titles were responsible for the majority of his income. I talked about the Pareto Principle in that article, also known as the 80-20 rule. In our cases, it may very well end up that 20% of our work results in 80% of our income.

Publishing Perspectives gives some insight into the benefits of pricing higher. Kobo, for example, looks to promote books that are more expensive:

Lefebvre is advocating higher prices.

This makes perfect sense to me. Higher prices help the company make more money. Kobo’s cut of a promotional discount on a book that costs ten dollars, he’s saying, very rightly, is better than Kobo’s cut of a promotional discount on a book that costs 99 cents.

What we’re learning, then, is that the Kobovian Machinery is scanning authors’ price-promo schedulings for “gems,” which are, as we’ve learned, books the regular prices of which are high enough that a deep-discount promo will offer Toronto something worth having, say three dollars, not 30 cents.

What prices work for you? Share below in the comments!


7 Replies to “Indie Authors: Pricing Your Ebooks”

  1. Thanks for sharing our pricing post at Random Writing Rants. I think price depends on the author’s popularity. I’m a first-time author and in July I’ll celebrate one year in the biz. I price my ebooks around $2.99 – $3.99 and typically hold quarterly “sales” when I offer my novels around $0.99 to $1.99. It’s worked for me.
    Random Writing Rants

      1. I published my debut novel last July and another one in January. I hope to publish a children’s chapter book this summer, the first in a series. I’ve been waiting ten years to publish my work so now I’m ready!
        Thanks again, Sabrina!

  2. Except for my translated novel, which sells for $5.99, I price my ebooks at $3.99 with occasional sales on all of them.

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