Identifying a Pricing Strategy

Posted Jul 10 2015, 5:15 pm

It’s a subject that comes up in any conversation about Indie publishing – or really, publishing of any books, anywhere: how much should you charge?

The rushing tide of published books available at a low cost at online retailers like Amazon truly fueled the adoption of ebook readers in the mid 2000s. Even today, there is a large number of titles available at prices as low as–well, free. Books available at $.99 clog the buy-ways of your favorite sites, and while prices go up from there, they don’t go up much. Most self-published ebooks are available in the range of $2.99-$6.99. Publishers take up the fray at that point, and you can find publisher-promoted ebooks anywhere from $2.99-$12.99… and sometimes even higher. 

Then there’s the phenomenon of the digital boxed set, utilized successfully by many authors to gain entry into coveted bestseller lists, by bundling 8, 12, 16 or even more books into a single title… often for as low as $.99. It’s not a sustainable model, but it’s not intended to be.

So, how should you price your books?

Ultimately, this is an intensely personal question, as only you can adequately put a price on your work. But here are three guidelines to keep in mind: 

1. Pricing is a brand decision

While price promotions and even perma-free short stories can make sense in limited use, the body of your work represents who you are as an author. Ideally, you’ll price your books to reflect the quality of your writing, your cover, your editing, and your story. In today’s heavily glutted book market, pricing above the $.99 mark is a quick way to show that your book is neither a permanent promotion nor of low quality (nor a short story, which sometimes can merit a lower pricing scheme). 

2. Pricing is a financial decision

Be sure to check the royalty rates for your various online retailers before setting your price. Some, like, will not let you price a book for free. Others (most) will dramatically cut your royalty rate for book prices below $2.99. While a limited-time-offer may make sense to give you visibility, long-term price reductions can dramatically impact your profitability. 

3. Pricing is a CHANGEABLE decision… to an extent

Like everything else with self publishing, pricing is a movable mark. If you take your book out at $6.99 and it doesn’t perform to your expectations, you can adjust that price and test it again. If you want to try offering a perma-free novella as a lead into your series, you can do that as well–or a novella priced at $.99, or a novella that you submit to Kindle Unlimited (Amazon’s subscription-based borrowing service) at a similarly low price. But I would encourage you to test judiciously, and evolve to a consistent pricing scheme particularly for your main body of work as soon as you reasonably can. Readers like to know what it is you are promising, and that you are sticking to that promise, other than for a limited-time promotion. 

As with every other decision in self-publishing, the price of your work is yours to determine. So choose a pricing strategy that will suit you for a long and successful career to come. 


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