Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pricing the Ebook

For writers who self -publish their books on mediums such as Smashwords, CreateSpace, Kindle and the Nook, there is much more to think about than just editing and formatting.  Along with self-publishing comes self-promotion and the ultimate question:  What should I charge for my blood, sweat and tears? 

Unfortunately, there's no real answer to that question as, like the fates of the characters in your book, it's entirely up to you.  In fact, some mediums will even allow you to offer your book for free--which isn't a bad idea to do for a limited time as it can greatly assist in drawing readers to your book.

What price is too low?  Too high?  Of course, like many other issues in the literary community, opinions on the pricing topic vary from person to person.  Obviously, as a brand spanking new indie author, $10 is a tad unreasonable and won't draw readers unless you develop one hell of a hook and your sample pages are out of this world. Yet, pricing too low also has its drawbacks.  $.99 seems to be a popular price for ebooks, but is it the best price?  When I asked regular members of the consuming public this question, their overwhelming response was that anything short of a dollar seemed 'inferior' and that pricing a book at $1.99 instead would, in people's minds, make them think that the book was of 'higher quality'.  While it is a proven psychological fact that people perceive goods and services priced at a lower rate to be not as good as their more expensive counterparts, I believe there are valid arguments to be made for pricing your book both at and above $.99.

Reasons to price your ebook at .99 cents

1.  Impulse Buys--There are many instance where I've found myself looking for something to read only to pick up a $.99 book as I wasn't entirely too sure about that $10 book everyone's been talking about.  People are impulsive by nature, however, impulse has its limits. If readers have to wait until their next payday before they can afford your book, there may be something wrong.

2.  Getting your name out there--The beauty with social networking and indie writers is that it gives you a platform upon which to stand.  You can get your work and your name out there to countless individuals of whom you wouldn't have been able to reach just a matter of years ago.  Think of it as free advertising--advertising of which you will want to utilize to the fullest extent. A low price is universal, and setting your book at $0.99 will make it that much more accessible to the reading public.

3.  People are cheap--Let's face it, I'm cheap. Actually, I prefer the term "thrifty"--you say potato, I say potahto. Anyway, my point is that I don't like spending money.  In fact, I idolize those extreme couponing freaks and, if I didn't have a life to tend to, I would so jump on that reality television bandwagon.  I mean, come on, who wouldn't want to get $879.49 worth of groceries for a buck fifty?  Moving on...Nowadays, people are looking for a bargain and, as an indie author with the capability to set your own price, you may find that you tend to capitalize on the thriftyness of others.  After all, anyone can afford to take a $.99 gamble.

4.  Testing the waters--As a reader, I'm more apt to take a chance on a new author whose book is priced at $.99 than one who has a book out there for $5 because, if I don't care for the book, I won't feel cheated.  Think of it as buying a ticket to a boxing match that ends with a knock-out punch in the first thirty seconds.  You paid all that money for virtually nothing (no, $5 is not a lot of money, but you could have also purchased five $.99 books of higher quality for that price). As a new author, you're just beginning to build your fan base--a fan base who will be more forgiving of you if they don't particularly care for your writing style, but only paid $.99 to figure that out. Word of mouth is everything to an indie author. But to an unsatisfied customer--and potential reviewer--the blow they could deal to you based upon the fact that your book didn't appeal to them could be a lot softer if they paid virtually nothing for it.

5.  People like feeling like they've gotten a bargain--When I got my Kindle for Christmas, I was excited.  When I turned my Kindle on and saw that I could download Pride and Prejudice--a classic!--for free, I was ecstatic (yes, I'm a dork). Consumers appreciate feeling as though they've gotten some kind of a bargain.  And, if your book really is the well-written, well-edited novel that you believe it to be, the excitement from your readers will resonate just as mine did when I opened my freebie Jane Austen.

6.  If you don't care about making money--Believe it or not, not everyone writes to get rich.  And for those of us who write because we love what we do, we know that the only people who get rich are New York Times bestsellers and those whose books have been given the Hollywood treatment (the two usually go hand-in-hand).  Obviously, if you price your book at $.99, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that, even if you sell a thousand copies, you still aren't going to bank a whole heck of a lot of money (especially with only receiving a certain percentage of that amount).  Long story short, if you were working at McDonald's before the book was published, it's likely that you will still be there a month after publication. But, hey, a true love for writing is fueled by passion, not Benjamins.

7.  It's your first book...ever--I'm not saying that all first novels are horrid, just a nice chunk of them.  That's why it may take an author two or three tries before they land a traditional book deal.  And as I prepare to publish my first ever novel, I'm mindful of the fact that I'm not perfect and, no matter how well I edit, there will be something that I miss.  I believe that first novels are a learning experience, one in which a writer grows and discovers what their true strengths and weaknesses are.  And, if you find that your book is selling well and the reviews are good, then you can always up the price a tad.

Reasons against pricing your ebook at .99 cents

1.  The "Free to a Good Home" effect--For some reason, we've been programmed to believe that if something is marked as "free", there must be something wrong with it.  Frequently, as I find myself driving home from work, I see random objects on the side of the road marked in this fashion--in Michigan, these objects are most often couches or other random pieces of furniture. And the first thoughts that go through my mind when I gaze upon these weathered items consist of vermin infestation and the bubonic plague. However, slap a sign advertising that sucker for $20 and you'll have to beat the crowds of people off with a stick.  Why?  Because $20 for a couch is one hell of a deal.  This same principle applies to your book. A .99 book is very often looked upon as being of low quality and frankly not as good as a book priced at $5.  Is this my personal opinion?  No.  But I have heard this issue discussed amongst others and you'd be surprised by how many people hold this thought to be true.

2.  Shortchanging yourself--Stop and think to yourself, "Why am I setting the price of my book at $.99?"  Is it because you think it will sell more copies? Or is the real reason because you really don't believe it's good enough to warrant a $2 or $3 price tag?  If you want to price your book low, that's your prerogative, but if you're doing so because your self-esteem or nerves are getting in the way, then you need to take a step back and ask yourself whether or not you truly believe your book is as polished as it could be. If it is, perhaps you should rethink the price as you may be shortchanging yourself in the long run.  If the book isn't quite up to snuff, edit it again and then reassess the pricing conundrum. 

3.  Your time is worth more--How long did it take you to write your book? Weeks? Months? Years? How much research did you have to do for it?  What about editing?  Now, how much was that time worth to you?  Does $.99 seem about right?  Sure, not all of us who write expect to get rich off of it, but don't you think your time is worth more than a penny short of a buck? 

4.  People may take you less seriously--This goes along with the "Free to a Good Home" effect.  Even if they don't want to pay for it, people tend to have a little more respect for those who charge higher prices for their products or services.  I see this all the time with law firms.  A lot of the time you can tell how successful an attorney is based upon their hourly rate.  For example, if I was approached by an attorney who charged $20 an hour, I'd run like hell as that would tell me that they value their work very little.  Price your work based upon what you think it's worth and how you want others to perceive you. If you're just writing for fun, take that into consideration and price accordingly as well.
For those of you who have published your books on ereaders, how did you arrive at the price you set?  Did you later change it?

If you're still finding yourself perplexed with the pricing conundrum, check out the following links for further discussions on this topic:


Heather said...

Great post Sara! We posted something similar not too long ago because Paulo Coehlo had priced most of his ebooks at $.99 and his sales jumped drastically. Easy for someone with a huge following, but results not typical for the average independent writer :)

I hope you check us out; the blog post I'm talking about can be found at

Happy reading and writing!


John Wilder said...

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