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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ebook pricing

I've been thinking about what price to set for A Fine Likeness. It's a full-length novel at 95,000 words (about 380 printed pages) yet as an ebook it's not as much of a "product" as a print book. I feel the big publishers are wrong to price ebooks the same as their print volumes since you can't give it away, resell it or, according to Amazon's rules, really even own it.

In my discussion of why I chose Kindle Direct Publishing, I said that I was going to price it at $2.99, the minimum to get 70% royalties. Factoring in Amazon's 15 cent "delivery fee", this works out to $1.943 profit per copy. I’d need to sell 2,573 copies to make $5,000, the average advance for a first-time genre author.

Two recent posts by fellow professionals have made me rethink. Zoe Winters writes about the 99 Cent Ghetto, in which she lambasts the popular move to price self-published ebooks at 99 cents. She says this author-driven phenomenon is cheapening what we authors do. I agree. Marketing people talk about "perceived value." If something looks too cheap, it probably is. Just watch the average buyer in a wine shop. Beyond the simple decision of red vs. white, a lot of people simply buy by price. Hot date? Get the $20 bottle. Making sangria? Get the $5 bottle. Bad comparison? Maybe, but you see my point.

Dean Wesley Smith also does the math on the Great 99 Cent Debate and proves it's almost impossible to make decent money by pricing your book at 99 cents.

So I think I'm going to price A Fine Likeness at $4.99. With 70% royalties minus the delivery fee that nets me $3.343 per copy. I need to sell 1,496 copies to make $5,000 instead of 2,573 copies. If I do sell my original target of 2,573 copies, I'll make $8.601.54. Nice!

Some Kindle authors will say I'm pricing myself out of the market. I don't think so. If someone is attracted to my book, they'll pay $4.99 as readily as $2.99. It's half the price of a print book, after all. Even if I do lose a few potential buyers, I think the increased revenue per copy will more than make up for it.

So, what do you think?


  1. I think that's a solid price, and I'd happily pay that price for an ebook novel. When my WW2 novella goes on sale, I'll be pricing it at $3.00, and when my full-length thriller goes on sale, I'll put it at $4.00.

    I agree with pretty much everything you noted. A book or even novella priced at the "rock bottom" price of $.99 says "I don't think this is worth anything but the bare minimum of what I can charge for it." Perceived quality is important in any product.

  2. Pricing seems to be the blog of the day. This is the second blog that I have read that both mention the 99c ghetto. In my opinion both Amazon and B&N have set the bar at $2.99 for e-books with that being the lowest you can go for 70% royalties. Until that number changes I am guessing 80% or more of all indie books will be priced there.

    99c books will be for promotional sales and works that are short. Under 10,000 words.

    Pricing books above $2.99 is going to be the grey area. I don't see any e-book selling well if it is over $9.99 unless it is some sort of huge collection like all seven Harry Potter books in one. I am predicting that most authors will end up at the $4.99 mark for the normal price point of a quality e-book.

    My first book is priced at $2.99. I was going to lower it to 99c when the second book came out, but now I think I will leave it and price the second one at $4.97 or $4.47.

  3. E-book pricing is after all a rather new problem. My own sister, a rather prolific reader, refuses to buy an E-book even after I bought her a Kindle reader. She wants to feel the book in her hand and be able to dog ear the pages

    When I consider what established authors get for their work, mine should sell for far less than theirs. But Amazon/Kindle has opened a whole world of readers and authors to publishing. Some of these authors have wonderful tales to tell and we would have missed their work otherwise.

    Pricing should be based on the authors goals. If you make a living with your words, a $4.99 price tag is right, but for us old duffers with just a few stories, $.99 is ok too.
    Peace River Books.com


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