How to Price Your Self-Published Book

marketing publishing Nov 22, 2021
 

When it comes to marketing and selling your book, pricing is the first dilemma you are faced with.

And it's quite the balancing act. You are effectively trying to translate value into price. And not only that, but you are also trying to figure out how your readers perceive this sort of trade.

How much are they willing to pay in order to receive the value you are offering them through your book?

Well, in order to figure it out, we're going to have to try to better understand the book we're trying to sell, who we're selling it to, and who else is trying to sell books to them.

But first, let's talk about a couple of popular shortcuts and why they're usually not the ideal way of pricing your book.

The Lowest Possible Price

When I first started self-publishing back in 2011, quite a few indie authors made the headlines by pricing their titles at the lowest possible price, which is 99 cents.

For instance, Amanda Hocking. She priced the first titles in her series at 99 cents each in an attempt to hook readers. She priced the rest at $2.99. And it worked. She sold around 1.5 million copies through this strategy.

But this strategy no longer does the trick, mostly because the general mindset of readers has changed drastically in the past couple of years.

When self-publishing was viewed as a strange and often perilous odyssey that only those who couldn't land a traditional contract would venture on, readers were reluctant to pay too much for self-published books.

Pricing a book at 99 cents often mitigated this.

But perceptions change. Now, more and more readers are willing to pay the same premium for purchasing self-published titles as they would if they were to purchase a traditionally published book.

At the same time, you have to consider that you get paid a lot less in royalties at this price point. Amazon's KDP only pays you 35% royalties when pricing less than $2.99 or more than $9.99. So you earn 35 cents from each sale.

Maximizing Profits

A second strategy is to set the highest price that people will pay.

And, yes, this strategy requires a lot of experimentation with different price points, trying to find the sweet spot where you still sell the book to enough people to not only earn the income you desire but also drive word of mouth.

And, yes, it's as complicated as it seems, because you might not notice diminishing income, especially in the short run, only to run out of potential readers you can sell to through your own platform, at which point you realize that there aren't enough customers to promote your book (or, even worse, enough of them to review your book so you build social proof.)

This strategy works … kind of, but you'll most certainly need an additional way of building social proof (and collecting those all-so important reviews) because, yes, it's dead simple to gradually increase your book's price until you notice your income going down, but it's far more difficult to understand the butterfly effect of word of mouth marketing.

All in all, this strategy works but it's 90% guesswork and requires a lot of experimentation that might confuse and even alienate your email subscribers, which leads me to the first thing you need to consider when pricing your book:

1. Your platform

Having a platform (whether it's a blog, email list, social media following, etc.) enables you to exactly pinpoint just how much is someone willing to pay for your book.

A simple survey can go a long way towards helping you determine the right price for your book.

But that's not all.

In a way, your results will be at least somewhat biased, because your true fans, the ones who'd buy anything from you, are more than glad to pay a premium for your book, but they're also far more likely to take part in your survey, while those who don't quite trust you yet won't.

Thus, no matter what price point wins in your survey, you should discount the price just enough, so you can also attract as many of your subscribers as possible.

2. Your numbers

Another important consideration when pricing your book is just how many true fans you actually have.

If you're publishing your first book, it makes a lot of sense to forfeit profit for the chance to turn as many of your subscribers into true fans.

On the other hand, and especially if you have a book series in the pipeline, you can strategize in such a way that you price your future titles in order to maximize your profits, while pricing your first book as low as possible in order to attract as many of your subscribers as possible.

3. Your distribution channels

How you choose to distribute your book will also influence its pricing.

For instance, if you choose to sell through your own e-store, you need to be aware of things:

  1. Payment processing fees (Stripe, Paypal, etc.)
  2. Whether or not the e-commerce platform you use will also charge a transaction fee.

When it comes to payment processors, you need to take into consideration the fact that they do charge a minimum fee (usually around $0.30) and a percentage on top of that, but they also have a minimum pricing for the products you can sell (usually at $1, depending on the payment processor and the country you're in.)

On the other hand, the e-commerce platform you use will usually take a cut as well.

For instance, Payhip, one of the easiest way to sell eBooks and other digital downloads, takes a 5% transaction fee on top of payment processing fees if you choose their free plan. Of course, if you choose one of their paid plans, there is no fee.

Shopify's fees, on the other hand, are as low as 0.5% and go all the way up to 2%.

Another e-commerce option, Ecwid, charges no transaction fees, even if you choose their free plan, but you can't sell digital downloads unless you sign up for their Venture plan ($15/mo).

When it comes to Amazon's KDP, things are quite simple: eBooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99 have a 70% royalty rate. Books priced lower than $2.99 or higher than $9.99 only earn 35%.

While you might want to sell your book at 99 cents regardless, just because you want to maximize readers, I can tell you that:

When pricing paperbacks, things tend to get a bit more complicated, and you'll have to take into consideration your book's length (more on that later on.)

but they also do so because they have more customer data than just about anyone else on the planet, and they know that most readers are not comfortable paying more than $10 for an eBook.

Other platforms have different price brackets, but it's not quite relevant, for the sole reason that you can't price your books differently without alienating every single reader who's savvy enough to figure it out.

4. Your book's genre

Each genre has its own expectations when it comes to pricing.

Before pricing your book, take a look through the bestseller lists and see what price point is the most popular within your niche. You can also browse through Amazon for a while and try to figure out whether bestsellers are priced differently (higher or lower) than the rest of the titles.

This exercise is important because your target audience already has certain expectations, your readers are used to paying a certain price for what they perceive as a fair deal.

Break these norms at your own risk.

5. Your book's length

While book-length is by no means a measure of value received, most readers are far more comfortable paying more for longer books.

It is common sense, yes, but you should first take into consideration all the previous points, including the average price range of other books within your niche, and then consider your book's length.

Now, you can play another round of the comparison game and see how similar books (in terms of both genre and length) are priced.

6. Traditionally published books within your niche

Most traditionally published books sell for $15 or so. And we're talking about eBooks.

You could get greedy and try to match their price point, even at the cost of a lower royalty rate from Amazon, but why would you do that when you can simply use their price point as a psychological anchor?

Just by pricing considerably below what publishing houses are charging for similar books will give you a competitive edge.

7. Previous titles

All the previous steps are necessary whether or not you have a portfolio of work readily available on Amazon, mostly because you might come up with a few good ideas on how to price your books.

At the same time, you need to also understand that what you've asked for in the past is what your readers expect to pay in the future.

Any drastic change in pricing (more than $1) will have to be properly justified, especially to those most likely to take notice (your subscribers.)

8. Previous sales

Lastly, if you've published other titles before, you can decide on a price for your eBook by taking into consideration how many books (and at what price point) you've sold before.

Remember, however, that radical price differences will often alienate a lot of potential readers among your subscribers.

But do the math. If you're confident you can sell X amount of books at a certain price point, see if you can sell a similar amount at a slightly higher price point.

This is not about maximizing profits, but rather about trying to find a better balance between price and perceived value (you may, in fact, be selling yourself short.)


Chances are there won't be a price that feels like the one, the absolute winner.

You'll probably come up with a range of a couple of dollars (let's say $3.99-$5.99).

This, in turn, means that you can release your book at the higher price point, while running special sales at the lowest price point.

And this, come to think of it, isn't such a bad thing at all.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means we may make a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

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