The eBook price is right. Or is it?

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Your eBook price will have a lot to do with its discoverability. What’s the ideal price point? Does genre play a factor in pricing? Fiction vs. nonfiction? Questions about eBook price are among the most frequently asked by our authors and prospects.

Should you price your eBook at $.99? $2.99? How about $9.99?

I remember hearing this question six years ago from self-published authors and it continues today. In fact, BookBaby publishing specialists tell me questions about eBook price are among the most frequently asked by our authors and prospects. That should be no surprise – it’s one of the most important factors in the discoverability of a self published book.

Back in 2012 I addressed some eBook pricing questions in a BookBaby blog post, “How Much Should You Charge For Your eBook?” Surprisingly, a lot of the information in that post remains valid, especially for brand new authors embarking on their first self publishing efforts.

Four years later, I can offer some new information based on BookBaby authors’ sales results. But first let’s review how pricing affects the amount of money authors receive from Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and the other retailers. For the purpose of this post, we’ll use the percentages paid by Amazon:

  • If your eBook is priced between $.99 and $2.98, Amazon pays authors 35% of the gross selling price (35¢ – $1.04).
  • If your eBook is priced between $2.99 and $9.99, Amazon pays out a royalty of 70% on all Kindle titles ($2.09 – $6.99).
  • If your eBook is priced over $10.00, Amazon pays out only 35%. Most of the other eBook retailers have similar price banding.

Please note – your exact pay out might vary from this formula. Amazon pays a smaller net payout on sales in territories outside the US and books with larger file sizes.

Let’s add to the 2012 discussion in the form of sample Q&A format:

Is setting my book to $.99 – or even free – the best way to attract readers?

The latest evidence seems to indicate that book giveaways are beginning to lose steam. Thanks to sites like BookBub, it’s relatively easy for readers to find low cost and even free eBooks in their preferred genre.

Some of our more successful BookBaby authors continue to utilize some kind of discounted promotions to help attract readers. Instead of entire books, however, it might just be a few bundled chapters. Or they may lower the eBook price for a very short time to instill a sense of urgency.

Does genre matter when setting the right eBook price?

Based on BookBaby sales data, it’s starting to look that way. For the highly competitive genres of Young Adult and most fiction books, the market seems to be settling in at $2.99 to $4.99. However for most non-fiction titles, our authors are seeing tremendous results at the $9.99 price point. Many self-help and spiritual titles are seeing good sales both in terms of units and sales dollars. The same can be said for specialty and text books. Authors could and should charge more for their eBook if it doesn’t have a huge amount of competition within its genre.

Major publishers are pricing their authors’ eBooks higher: $12.99 and more. How does that affect my lower priced self published book? Amazon, iBooks, and the Big 5 publishers are using what’s called an “Agency Pricing” structure. This means publishers set their own prices and won’t allow any retailer discounting to take place. Recently published industry statistics are claiming that eBook sales are declining. But the only sales being calculated are for traditionally published books. For a more balanced viewpoint, check out the most recent Author Earnings report to see how these higher prices have affected the eBook marketplace. In short, self-published authors are taking great advantage of readers looking for more affordable options.

I have 3 (or more) eBooks published now. How does this affect my pricing strategy?

With more “inventory,” a self published author has options. You can slice and dice up your books – even your chapters – and repackage them at various price points. For some very practical advice, I recommend you check out one of my favorite blogs, The Newbie’s Guide To Publishing, by JA Konrath. Go deep into the archives and learn how he has bundled titles, created introductory singles, and more. You can also view the results of his many and varied pricing tests.

For self-published authors who have been at this now for a few years, the original pricing question could be restated: “How much should I be charging for my books now?” The answer is: “As much as you can.” In other words, charge the highest price at which your books continue to sell consistently well. Lower than that, and you’re doing your hard literary work a disservice. You might also be sending out subconscious messages about your book that are turning off prospective readers.

One of the best things about self publishing is the control every author has over his or her product. While it’s tempting to try to maximize earnings from the start of your self-publishing experience, the reality is that you need readers more than revenue. It’s critical that you build a readership: It’s your main priority. So you do whatever you can to entice people to “try” your book.

 

About BookBaby

 

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Rebel Miller: Book Marketing Lessons From A Self-Published Author
The Hybrid Author Conversation Continues

 

Steven Spatz
Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and the President of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self publishing services company. Spatz’s professional writing career began at age 13, paid by the word to bang out little league baseball game stories on an ancient manual typewriter for southern Oregon weekly newspapers. His journalism career continued after graduation from the University of Oregon at several daily newspapers in Oregon. When his family took over a direct marketing food business, Spatz redirected his writing and design skills into producing catalogs. The Pinnacle Orchards catalog was named "Best Food Catalog," received dozens of other national awards, and the business grew into one of the nation’s largest gourmet fruit gift businesses. After the company was sold, Spatz continued his direct marketing career with Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hasbro. He joined AVL Digital in 2004 to lead the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. After serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Spatz was tapped to lead the company’s new publishing division in late 2014. In 2019, the AVL Digital Management team purchased the New Jersey brands, including BookBaby. The company is headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ (just outside Philadelphia, PA) and meets the printed book and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Spatz lives in Glenside, PA with his two children, a demented cat, and some well-used bicycles. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to steven@bookbaby.com.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Who reads these self published books? How big is the audience? IMO it looks like unpublished authors are just playing lotto. Hope I’m wrong. How would /will you attract readers to say a poetry book by a first time author? What are the odds of selling any books to other than friends and family?
    Maybe it’s my age, but I no of no one personally who looks for self published books to read. In fact they wouldn’t even no where to look. Tell me I’m wrong. Just my opinion.

  2. I am a first-time author and a self-published one at that. Though I am chugging along as a newbie in marketing the book, there was always an order or process to the steps I took. The book was published early this year, so I am still at it with regards to marketing it.

    Rightly or otherwise, I decided to hard-copy first. The reader will not be looking for self-published books specifically. The hard-copy book finds them – as in I got physical points of sales I targeted – well, at least those who cooperated – to display the book at their place and sent them consignments of books. A good subject, a great cover and having the book available at right places helped tremendously. Lots of hard work – doing everything on my own – but all well worth it because this first time author met many delightful people and supporters who actually enjoyed reading the book.

    Having gained more confidence on the local front, I am now exploring how to convert the book into ebooks and offer beyond my own country. It had been quite a journey. End of the day, it is not so much about self-published books having less draw or interest from readers. It is about an interesting subject, authentic and of value to readers AND ensuring the book is made known to the readers it was meant to reach.

    Hope these thoughts help to some extent.

  3. Golden rule, that is obvious for me: an ebook shouldn’t price as much as a paper book.
    Many books don’t sell for this reason, I heard a lot of complains about it.

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