I very regularly hear a lot of people discuss pricing of ebooks. Now, I’m going to ignore KU in this stage and discuss pricing from the basic business perspective. Generally, the complaint is when books are too expensive for how many pages there are / books are too expensive.
One of the biggest complaints was that anything over $3.99 is way too expensive. Obviously, I disagree with that perspective since both the System Apocalypse and A Thousand Li are priced at $4.99.
Now, one thing to note is how Amazon pays us. It basically works out to this:
$0.99 – $2.98 it’s 35% royalty
$2.99 – $9.99 it’s 70% royalty (mins delivery fees. Normally not a major issue unless you are looking at comics as an example).
Now, let’s assume delivery fees are $0.10 per book. Royalties you would earn as an author would be:
$0.99 = $0.35
$2.99 = $1.99
$3.99 = $2.70
$4.99 = $3.39
$5.99 = $4.09
$6.99 = $4.79
Now, assuming your production cost of a book is a thousand dollars (editing, cover and proofing cost included), to breakeven, you’d need:
$0.99 = 2857 readers
$2.99 = 502 readers (18% of the audience numbers of the $0.99 numbers)
$3.99 = 370 readers (13%)
$4.99 = 295 readers (9.7%)
$5.99 = 244 readers (8.5%)
$6.99 = 213 readers (7.45%)
Can you see how the numbers change? It’s one of the reasons why I don’t discount my books on release. That $0.99 number can make a huge difference in your breakeven. Heck, even shifting from $2.99 to $3.99 is a huge number of readers more you need because of the $0.10 cost of delivery.
Now, if you assume that it takes between 1-2 months to produce a book, and another month to edit, assume you have 3 months to create 1 book, with a 4 book release schedule. That’s still VERY fast for trad publishers, but for indies that’s decentish if you are full-time.
Assume that’s your schedule and you want to earn… let’s call it $30k net. That means you need to make around $34k in royalties from 4 books, roughly working out to $8,500 per book.
That means you’re looking at:
$0.99 – 24,285 readers
$2.99 – 4271 readers
$3.99 – 3148 readers
$4.99 – 2507 readers
Now, a Healer’s Gift which was only released as ebook copy sold 2348 copies in 1 1/2 months (released it on June 13, 2017 so I can’t do 1 month sales tracking). It was priced at $3.99.
If I’d priced it at $2.99 like many people would say it should be at since it’s only 176 pages (45k words), I’d have about $1700 less and be even further from that $8.5k goal. Obviously, the counterargument is that I might have sold more, but the question is how much more.
It’s a tricky thing to find in that balance. In my past business, we used to sell the same set of widgets as our competitors. There really wasn’t a huge amount of differences in our widgets, so we had to find other ways to differentiate ourselves (brand, audience reach) outside of pricing. But, one thing I realised was that many of my competitors kept driving their margins down and down, going as low as a 25% markup. In turn, they ended up having to sell 3-4 times as much as I did just to earn the same living.
When it comes to books, our widgets aren’t the same. Oh, we might all write GameLit, but how we market ourselves and our writing styles are all different. Our books might be the same in the general, but the specifics are what is important.
In my view, building a fanbase that is willing to pay for a higher priced product is a much, much better idea than building one that wants a lower priced product. Having a base higher price lets you do other promotional things – like lowering your price to $0.99 and having a promo to get in more readers. Or bundle your books together and then sell the bundled 3 books at a discount because it’s a deal. Or put yourself in KU, making it look like there’s a much better deal to be had by reading your $4.99 book in KU than not.
But, that’s my view. In either case, it’s worth knowing the numbers and running them yourself. And, as always, test, test, test.
Why not price even higher?
Good question. Theoretically, I could go up to $5.99. I know some of the leading indie authors go up that high. It’s a nice number, but I hesitate on this for 2 reasons.
(1) There is a mental resistance level at anything above $5. Same as with $1. I’d expect there to be a higher than normal drop-off when moving from $4.99 to $5.99 than compared to say $2.99 to $3.99
(2) Research has shown the vast majority of successful authors price between $3.99 to $5.99. Anything over $6 is unusual. You need to reach a certain level of prestige to be able to hit that level.
Still. I might be testing the higher price point in a little bit.
Bundling / Omnibuses
Note that this pricing does not take into account bundling. Bundling / Creating Omnibuses have a different pricing equation. Most people do 3 book bundles and max out at around $9.99, to give customers a ‘discount’ on buying the bundle. And then, they occasionally run sales special to bring the price down to get more KU reads and promote themselves.
Outside of Amazon, I know people who do 6 book bundles because they aren’t penalised for having prices over $9.99. I’m going to be doing that soon I believe, at least on Kobo and Google Play where supposedly, larger book bundles do better. We’ll see.
But, the pricing for Omnibuses is another good reason for having higher prices. The AoB series is a great example where I price my omnibus at $7.99 for 3 books because I only price the books themselves at $3.99. So, that’s a discount of $5 because of how short the books are.
On the System Apocalypse bundle, it’s price at $9.99 to still give a $5 discount, but it manages to get me an additional $2. Again, because it’s a bigger book series and higher priced.
But if I priced it at say… $2.99 then I’d only ever be able to do a bundle at say… $4.99 or $5.99.
Pricing yourself low (in general, excluding book 1 freebies which is a tactic in some cases); it affects your brand. Pricing low / giving out freebies is an indicator of lower quality products.
Luxury brands generally don’t give out freebies. There’s a reason for that.
If you want your work to be perceived to have value, pricing higher can be good.
One last point. If you are always at $2.99 for your book, your promotion at $0.99 is a lot less effective because the perceived ‘value’ of getting your book at $0.99 is much less.
And if you are at $0.99? You can’t really go much further down without going free. Which brings its own host of problems.
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I’ve recently been willing to buy e-books on spec even if I don’t know the author for 5 or 6 dollars because I realized even at that price it is much cheaper than a single meal out. If the cost of a book and a big mac are the same I know which one has more value.
For me $4.99 is the break point for E-books. Anything more than that and you need a good reason. Can a book like Wandering Inn or Super Powereds cost more? Yes and I would still get them as they are so long. The bigger problem when you go past $4.99 is that you are closing in on the cost of audio books. If the audio version of the book cost me less than the E-book version then what do I get out of the E-book? There are lots of books I can read, not every book is made into audio. So I become a lot more willing to wait for the audio book to come out when it cost more than $4.99.
$3.99 vs $4.99, what is the difference? I am actually serious her $1 difference in price is nothing so if I am considering if I want to get the book $3.99 vs $4.99 does not come up in the question.
However $0.99 is a breakpoint for consideration, if I am considering getting a book and it cost $0.99 I am getting that book. If it is a terrible book well I just lost $1 so what.
Free vs $0.99: The problem her is that I am going to pick the book up for free, but I might not read it! I am one of those that have hundreds of romance books in my kindle catalog because they were free, and they popped up in the feed so why not… The problem her is that free book is getting into that list of books that I might never read. However if I can get it for the reduced price of $0.99 I am now going to have to consider the book, is it worth it, if I get that book then I am now invested in the book I have to get something back for that investment. The only way to get something back from a book is to read it, so I have to read it. If it is good I am going to get the next book in the series if the series is good the rest of the authors catalog and they have a constant influx of money for their upcoming books. However those free books, I might read in a year or two or never the author are not getting that money now, if ever. Even if they gave me a great deal for me it might not turn out to be one for them. Because I read “free” it was one click and I could go on with what I was doing when I found it, if that was reading reddit or the amazon store front. $0.99 I have to stop and actually find out what the book is about and might get excited about it. It’s a limited offer so I don’t have time to look at it later but I cant getting instantly so I have to spend some time on it, I have to get invested in it to a limited degree. And that first investment is important because then one start getting into sunk cost thinking. I have started reading about it, why not just get it, I have read the first book so I have to finish.