Let’s tackle the one we all like talking about first.


How much should you price your book at? What’s the best price?

I. Don’t. Know.

It really depends on your strategy and your goals.  However, make sure you read my longer post about pricing on my blog first, to get a perspective / understanding of Amazon pricing.

Realise that other retailers have different pricing structures.

Below, I’m going to discuss a bunch of pricing strategies from the world of generic marketing and how it pertains to publishing. In part 2, I’m going to discuss some specific things I’ve learnt about pricing in publishing.

Pricing Strategies

Here’s a few common pricing strategies from the world of marketing.

Premium Pricing

A high price, premium pricing strategy might make you look like a trad publisher. You price your books at $9.99; have great covers and try to hit up press and other (well known) trad authors to give you legitimacy.

This might get you fewer sales, but each of those sales are going to pay you much, much more.

You’ll have a smaller base of readers, but those readers are likely to be also more price insensitive (i.e. they don’t mind the higher price) assuming you don’t lower your price later (unless for special circumstances). 

This can be a very slow growth strategy and in publishing is something that really needs to be supported by the other 3 P’s (Distribution / Place, Promotion & Product).

Price Skimming

High price, low quality items. 

I’d say that Webnovel (the translated Chinese webnovel site) is a great example of this. The cost of ‘spirit stones’ or whatever they changed it to this week is incredibly high. The quality of product (the novels and the translations!) are often quite low. But, they’ve got a first mover advantage here and they’re milking it for everything they can.

The goal here is to produce and dump products as fast as you can into a hot market and when the market cools (as new entrants come in); you run away to another hot market. 

This is a decent strategy for WTM authors who don’t mind creating a million and one pen names too.

Penetration Pricing

New entrant to the market? Need to make a name for yourself? Maybe having a low, low price (normally in our world $0.99 or Free) might get you sales.

The idea behind this kind of strategy is market development. You can see some of this strategy in permafree books; where if you give people a ‘taste’ of your writing, you are hoping to get them to read more.

It’s clearer in other areas where a new entrant to a crowded market might come in with a limited time low price offer with very, very heavy marketing to ‘steal’ readers from others. Or a restaurant having a few months of ‘just opened’ sales for their food.

One thing to consider is how big the market is. Going into fantasy which has millions of epic fantasy readers for example might still make you generate a decent income (for book 1 – or maybe you’re doing a rapid release strategy?). In LitRPG with, what? A couple hundred thousand readers at most, you might be shooting yourself in the foot since maybe… 40k of them are avid readers?

Again, know your market.

Cost Plus Pricing

This is the simplest and dumbest pricing method for publishers. You figure out your cost (a good thing!) and then, you work out your unit cost (impossible with ebooks & PoD in general since your cost of delivery of the next book is basically $0 – yes there might be a delivery fee, but that’s charged after sale) and then you add a specific markup.

This is great for manufacturers. Not so useful for writers who basically have a fixed cost of production. Ignore for the most part. Other than making sure you work out your cost of production.

Competitive Pricing

This is quite simple. Look at the pricing your competitors are using. Price yourself to match.

In terms of books, you’re looking at:

– page counts / word counts

– equivalent level of covers & blurbs

– preferably equivalent level of fame (or fame that you want to reach)

– and product quality.

If you want / think you are a market leader in writing, etc and want to be like them, you price to meet their prices. By being priced the same as the market leaders, you signal you’re as good as they are. If the rest of your product isn’t…

Well. You’ve got a problem. But it can also mean that new people t the market might be ‘tricked’ into assuming you’re as important, and thus be willing to buy your work at the higher price.

At the worse, you’ve basically taken away one negative. No one’s thinking about ‘can I afford to buy this’ if you’re the same price as every other product out there. The rest of your P’s come into play now.

Price Discrimination

Do you price differently for different geographic markets? If so, you’re doing price discrimination (geographic). You can also do it (to some extent) with regard to retailers (since Amazon doesn’t promise to price match anymore). 

We even do it to some extent by product type – audiobooks, ebooks & print are all differently priced.

Time-Based Pricing

You see this kind of pricing strategy with computers and other products that deteriorate over time (bread, meat, etc.). Early adopters are charged a premium price, with price dropping as quality / demand drops.

You see this in high prices for pre-orders and then, later on a slow lowering of prices in some older ‘backlist’ books. Or increased ‘promo pricing’ for these books. It’s more common to have time-based pricing happen in combination with ‘bundle’ pricing where multiple books are added and then the entire price lowered. 

Captive Product Pricing

Last book in the series? Got a big finale? 

Raise the price. Milk those readers for every penny they’re worth. After 9/12/20 books; they’re going to buy that last book most likely. Just to read it.

Otherwise, you might have other secondary series that have to be read to understand what is going on (Marvel comic crossovers anyone?), forcing people to buy more. It’s a valid strategy, if annoying as a consumer.

That’s not all Folks

Other forms of pricing (promotional pricing, etc.) we’ll talk about in part 2, as well as some of the issues with indie publishing pricing and the advantages we have. But, that’s a lot of info to play around with in your head and test.

Further Reading:

Craig Martelle on Long-Term Pricing Strategies 

Patty Jansen on Going Wide Unboxed (for some pricing stuff on Wide retailers) 

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