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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.


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Steven Spatz

About Steven Spatz

Steven Spatz has written 100 posts in this blog.

Steven Spatz is an author, marketer, and the President of BookBaby.

8 thoughts on “The eBook price is right. Or is it?

  1. ric says:

    I’m getting a better understanding on how to price my book.

  2. Mark Shoenfield says:

    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.

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