Writing a book is hard work. It doesn’t matter how much you love the craft; the process of brainstorming, writing, polishing, and publishing is tough. It’s even harder as an independent author because you and you alone are taking on the responsibilities of author, publisher, and marketer. And one of the toughest decisions you’ll face is how much to charge for your e-book.
The E-Book Pricing Range
E-Book pricing can be downright confusing. Most of us would start by comparing our book to others on the market. We would research the answers to questions like:
- What’s the going price for books in the same genre?
- Are longer books more expensive than shorter books?
- What’s the average price of the bestselling books in the same genre?
- How much is my competition charging, and can I beat it?
The answers to these questions, while relevant, can often cause more questions to brew. How can you possibly choose a fair price when the range of possible prices is practically infinite? According to TutsPlus.com, there are e-books selling for as little as $0.50 and as much as (brace yourself) $6,232! It’s almost enough of a difference to make you think price doesn’t matter, but it does.
Why Price Matters
We’re firm believers in the no sugarcoating, no BS approach. So, we’re going to tell you two blatant reasons why the price of your e-book matters:
1. If it’s too high, people won’t buy. Let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as a fair price. Nothing in this world has an inherent value, but everything has a perceived value.
2. If it’s too low, it probably won’t be read. I have a friend (several, in fact) who will buy up e-books costing $2 or less like there’s about to be a massive literary shortage. They stuff their devices, chests puffing out with pride, and then retire to reading e-zines and blogs instead of the books they’ve downloaded.
From a purely business standpoint, lowballing is never smart. One of the worst things any professional can do is undersell. It sets a precedent and an expectation that turns increasingly hard to update (to a higher price) as time goes on.
The Low vs. High Price Camps
The Kindle Store is practically the support beam of the low price camp. An advocate for the cheaper price point, this camp says the best e-book prices are between $1 and $10. They hold to the idea that charging more is outrageous, and the only way to encourage steady sales is to keep the price point low.
In contrast, the high price camp is policed by authors and publishers who say it’s best to charge customers what they’re willing to pay. Pricing between $27 and $197, they ignore the Kindle Store standard, saying to charge a couple bucks an e-book is downright ridiculous.
Bottom Line: There is no one-size-fits-all pricing solution. Just because popular books in your genre sell for $5 a pop doesn’t mean the same price fits your book. And just because some people refuse to pay more than $2 a book doesn’t mean they’re in their right mind. Just take my friend as an example; they impulsively purchase cheap books and never read them, which means no reviews and no recognition for the author. They aren’t a return buyer or a word-of-mouth advertiser. They’re a one-shot payday that amounts to…well, how many copies of your e-book would need to sell at $2 each to pay at least your Internet bill?
The $1.99 eBook Days are Done
According to Gigoam Research, the days of the $1.99 e-book price point are done. New data presented from the Kobo’s Writing Life platform by Publishers Weekly suggests staying away from this price in favor of the $2.99 to $5 range. In fact, an excerpt from the report specifically states:
“Authors most often start at $2.99 ‘and walk the prices up…A low price point may be a hook, but it’s the quality of the work that attracts readers, not the price.’ … About 80 percent of the [Kobo’s Writing Life] titles that sell consistently are priced in the $2.99 [to] $5.99 range.”
Yes, readers are more likely to try a new author’s work if they don’t have to spend a big chunk of change, but let’s get real. A $1 difference should not make or break a reader, and if it does, chances are they aren’t the type of reader you want.
In a report from Smashwords, Mark Coker (Smashwords CEO) referred to the $1.99 price point as “a black hole,” and he encouraged indie authors to avoid it. Smashwords’ findings conclude books sold at $3.99 sell more units on average versus those at $2.99 and free books.
5 eBook Pricing Strategies
So, what’s all this gibberish mean to you? Is there room for new thinking and tactics in e-book pricing strategies? We say yes!
Each year the reports from the big names in independent- and self-publishing show lowballing prices isn’t the way to make money. In fact, it’s the leading way to devalue the truly good books attempting to survive in the market. It’s the exact obstacle facing the world of copywriting; the world we co-inhabit.
We’ve lost count of how many brands have said, “I’m not paying THAT for content. I can get it for less elsewhere.” Awesome! Do it! And when those cheaper companies with atrocious standards screw up your copy, give us a call. We’ll be more than happy to fix their mistakes and set you up with real, VALUABLE quality.
You indie authors are rowing in a similar boat right alongside us. Don’t look surprised when we jump boats to lend a hand because, you know, that’s part of what we do.
You’re rowing a boat, surrounded by a sea of patrons screaming, “I won’t pay THAT much for an e-book.” Awesome! Go buy those impulse books and download the freebies! When you want real literature, something with real value, come see us because our book will be proudly sitting on the island of $3.99+ books.
But how do you pick your price? Here are five strategies to leverage:
Strategy #1: Charge for Convenience
“E-Books should cost less than traditional books because they cost less to print, ship, and stock.” – Reader 1
The telephone used to be hardwired into the wall. Then, some genius invented wireless, and some other brilliant person made it work in telephones. Boom! The birth of the cellphone happened.
It costs less to manufacture, maintain, ship and stock cell phones, but they certainly don’t cost less than a landline. Why? Because they are convenient.
The Internet through my cell phone provider is equal to if not higher in price than the Internet coming through my wall. But I PAY for the convenience. So, in response to Reader 1:
“E-Books are immensely convenient. You can search for and buy them anywhere, as long as you have an Internet connection. You can transport them anywhere without additional weight. You can access them on any device. That’s worth more than $1.99.”
Strategy #2: Factor in the Author’s Time
DigitalBookWorld.com is on the same page as us. They say, “A bigger bridge costs more to construct than a smaller bridge.” Why? It takes longer to build, it calls for more materials, it requires time.
Very rarely do readers think about the time an author puts into a novel. If you’re running a website, highlight the time and effort put into your books. People will pay for quality if the product lives up to the promise.
Strategy #3: Newer Costs More
The only way to build an audience is to introduce them to your awesomeness. You do this, first and foremost, through your website. Next, you price your first e-book to sell. You want people to buy it impulsively, and the secret to turning them into return readers is to knock their socks off. Write a book they can’t put down. Then, write the next.
Each time you publish a new book, raise the price by about $1. The idea that a new book holds more value is engrained in the publishing industry. It’s a strategy you shouldn’t ignore.
Strategy #4: Know Your Goal
Is your book a test for a new genre? Is it a marketing ploy? What is your book’s goal?
Indie authors do not lack options. If you’re testing a genre and trying to build a readership, slap the first book onto Kindle Unlimited. If you’re looking to generate an influx of new readers, offer a discount. Match your price to your goal.
Strategy #5: Market Smartly
Smart marketers listen to feedback. There’s nothing wrong with letting the reader decide how much a book should cost.
Unlike traditional publishers who have an overhead to look out for, e-publishers can play with pricing. They can experiment to see which price points bring in the best response. You can do the same. We’ll discuss this topic in more depth later on.
The Winning Price
All the marketing research in the world won’t adequately prepare you for choosing the best e-book price. The winning price will depend on the quality, audience, and market trends. The key to success is adaptability, and as an indie author, you are uniquely capable of flexing.
Featured Image Credit: Andriy Popov via 123RF Stock Photo