Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Minefield e-book pricing

Since I'm going to release a new novel soon, I'm once again faced with the decision of how to price the book. I normally start with a low introduction price for a limited period of time, then go up to $3.49 which is about £2.50 give or take. And even that is awfully low compared to the work I put in. Whatever I do, I'll win and lose readers.

On the Amazon forum I read that many don't even bother with 'cheap' books anymore, because to them cheap=bad quality. They seem to have had some negative experiences.
Then you have readers who say they won't buy a book from a new and unknown author if it's not under a dollar or pound, which puts us self-published authors into an awkward position: we just can't win, but we want to. Readers, that is.

I'm beginning to think sites like smashwords or Project Gutenberg, where readers can download thousands of free e-books, has done the Indie market more harm than good; yes even the low pricing somehow doesn't seem right. For many authors the book took at least a year, for some even years to write, so it's not really fair to expect a low price. I know quite a few authors who have put a great deal of time and effort into their books before publishing them; they meet the standards of traditionally published books and I think these authors should be rewarded.

To be clear: I think having a book for free for a short period -- like the recent Amazon promotion -- is a great marketing tool, but handing out your book for free is like going to the office every day and not getting paid. I personally will leave the short stories on a low price, but will sell my novels for a more reasonable amount.

Since e-books seem to be the future, I think maybe it's time for us Indie authors to take action and set the prices higher, but also make sure we release good quality novels so the gap between traditionally published books and ours will close over time.

Are you self-published or a reader? What is your opinion?


  1. Hi Stella. I find the only ones to say they wouldn't pay for for a new author are other authors who price themselves low.
    I tried an experiment with one of my books. I reduced on to the obligatory $0.99 and only sold 2 copies of it that month when it had been selling really well. I then marked it for free the second month - no downloads at all. All the other books that are priced at $2.99 are selling and increasing in sales daily. Says it all really doesn't it?
    You have faith in your work - if you don't why should they? Good luck xx

  2. I hear you sister! I published my first book—and who knows, it may be my last—just a few months ago with iUniverse. (It's title, Comprehending the Climate Crisis, lets you know what it's all about. amzn.to/umFha8). I'm a busy physician and wrote it in my spare time, so from first words to publication took about two and a half years. The ebook now sells for $3.99, and with discounts offered online it's even less.

    I never went into writing with the idea of making money. (I do pretty well in my first profession.) But it stung a little to see so much effort cost so little. I'm more than happy to get the book out to as many readers as possible, so finding the ideal price point is key. But what's the right amount to ask for a first-time author? I know it's well-written and properly edited, but other than my close circle of friends, nobody knows me from Adam. Since well-known authors have their ebooks around $9.99, it seems reasonable I should be much less.

    Deep down, I believe my price point is reasonable. Not so cheap as to be dismissible, not so pricey as to discourage people from making the purchase if they're interested in the topic I've written about. I guess only time will tell. In the future, I'd love to see most Indie books reviewed by independent reviewers who can provide fair assessments of the quality of the material. Perhaps that could help determine the price point, and reassure buyers that what they're buying is worth the price.

  3. Hi, Lorraine

    How nice to hear from you. :-) I actually had it the other way round. When I had No Wings Attached in the beginning on 86p, I sold MANY more books than I'm selling at the £2.50, I then had it on 86p again for two weeks and sales increased.
    My short stories have been selling well on the low price, which is fair as it's a 'small' book.

    I've always defended the low pricing, but somehow I recently thought to myself: why would I do that? I have put so much work and effort into this book it's just not fair. And many just download it if it's free or 'cheap' without reading it, which doesn't help in the long run since word of mouth is the key to success.

  4. Bradley, first of all welcome to my blog and thank you for the comment.
    I think non-fiction is different. If I'm really interested in a topic, I'm willing to pay more for a book. Although I recently saw an e-book priced over 30 pounds and thought that's just a bit hefty and passed.

    I think your pricing is absolutely reasonable.

  5. These days Stella, mega corporations like Amazon have a strangle hold. They operate a pricing system based on who among their competitors is selling your work cheaper than they are, by undercutting them. Makes sense from their point of view, but not from that of the author. :)

  6. The author can set the price himself, so even you have the option to price your book at 99c, you don't need to.

  7. It seems that we can't please all of the people all of the time. From various chat forum threads I have the feeling that the US does equate price with quality, many buyers considering 99c to be a kind of pulp fiction. I get the feeling that UK purchasers are more tolerant of a lower price.
    Whatever price we choose there's always the Amazon pricing bot crawling the net and making adjustments beyond our control. It picked up on a quite obscure Smashwords voucher offer I was making on my blog and zapped one of my titles down to free on dot com. Now the offer is over and I asked KDP to adjust back to my $2.99 they made it 99c which is the pre-Christmas price on B&N (those Smashword distribution channels lagging behind in price changes by quite a time). I'm a walking example of a disastrous pricing strategy!

  8. Yeah, Amazon just adjusts the prices. Very weird. I have my book the same everywhere and they still change them. Sometimes 2p, sometimes 20p and I have no clue why.