Thoughts on pricing your book

So, there are a lot of different views on pricing your book when you publish independently. One of the perks of going indie is the ability to set or change your price as you want to, so it’s a subject worth discussing. In the past year, there seem to be two major “camps” evolving. There is the “price it at .99 and move a lot of volume” camp, and then there’s the “inferred value” camp that says people will believe your book is higher quality when it is priced higher, so they’ll buy and you’ll make more in the long run anyway.

I’ll give you a little of my history and what I’ve learned in my very limited experience. When I first published A Hidden Fire, I knew it was going to be the first of a four book series. I also knew that, for most people, I was a completely unknown author. I initially priced the book at $2.99, which is the cheapest you can make a book and still keep a 70% cut from Amazon.

Now, the first month I had the book published, I sold quite a few! I was thrilled to make back my initial investment for proofing, formatting, etc. in the first month and a half. (I’d had a friend edit the manuscript for me, so I was able to save on that cost.) It’s a good thing I did! Sales in the next month dropped way off.

Now, to a certain extent, I was expecting this. After all, I’d sold to all the people (readers, family, twitter friends) that had been anticipating the book and I needed to give it time to find its audience. It was still disappointing. You always have dreams of people finding and loving your book and it becoming an instant success. But, I didn’t expect it.

December rolled around, and the second book, This Same Earth, was released. To coincide with this, I lowered the price of the first book to that magic 99 cents that everyone said would make my sales skyrocket.

Did they? Um…not so much.

Now, I did sell a lot more, though I would never classify it as a “skyrocket.” And that was also the month that I started to surge at Barnes & Noble. Part of this is because so many authors (in what I believe was a short-sighted move) pulled their books and put them into the KDP Select program. Authors who left their books at B&N definitely saw a surge in sales, so thanks, KDP Select!

What I did start to notice was that the second book (which I had priced at $2.99 again) was also selling well. I sold as many in the first week of sales with Book Two as I had in the first month of sales for Book One! So, people were buying the first book, reading it, and buying the second one. This, I decided, was good news. My books were finding their audience.

At the beginning of January, I raised the price of the first book back to $2.99…or, I tried to. Because Smashwords affiliates were dragging their heels with the price update, Amazon was still discounting, even though B&N had the higher price. I also raised the second book to $3.99. Just one dollar more, but I felt like it deserved the higher price. As a result, I was able to compare the difference from two venues where my sales had been roughly equal. (Yes, I sell as many at B&N as I do at Amazon, I have no idea why.)

The fall-out was, my sales at Amazon (where A Hidden Fire was still 99 cents) stayed relatively steady, but my B&N sales dropped off, big time. I was still making about the same amount of money, but my numbers had fallen and, more importantly, the sales of Book Two had really dropped.

What to do?

Now, do I think my books are worth more than a cheap cup of coffee? Well…yeah. Of course I do. I think they’re pretty good books! However, I also realize that for most people, I’m a completely new name! They’ve never heard of Elizabeth Hunter. They have no idea whether that 99 cents is just going to go to waste. So, after about a week and a half thinking about it, I decided to split the difference.

I would keep the first book, the unknown quantity, at 99 cents, though its list price at Amazon is still showing 2.99 marked off. (That’s implied value, folks. I’m perfectly happy with people thinking they’re getting a deal because, well, they are.) But I’m not dropping the price of the second book anytime soon. Why not? Well, if you bought and read the first book for 99 cents, then I’m no longer an unknown quantity, am I? If you know and like my writing enough to buy the sequel, then you know that it’s worth $3.99. That’s the same price as a medium fancypants coffee, folks. In a market where major publishers list their e-books at $11.99 or more, that’s still a bargain.

So, when The Force of Wind comes out in March, it’s going to be listed at $3.99. When Book Four comes out, it’ll probably be $4.99, not because I’m trying to cash in on readers who want the end of the series, it’s just looking like it’s going to be a monster of a book. That means it’s going to cost more to produce, people. These things don’t come free, I pay by the word count. Bigger book=more editing hours for my lovely editor, Amy Eye.

So, that’s where I am on pricing. Will I lower my prices in the future? Will I raise them? I could do both, either, or neither. That’s one of the perks of doing this thing my own way, instead of going with a publisher. But for now, I’m comfortable with A Hidden Fire going for 99 cents. If it’s introducing my writing to a greater audience, then, it’s worth it!

What is your book priced at? Have you tried lowering or raising the price? What has your experience been like?

Thanks for reading,

Elizabeth

Posted in Books, Elemental Mysteries, Pricing, Publishing, Self-publishing, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , .

5 Comments

  1. I am not an author. I know a lot of time and effort go into these things. As a reader if I am looking for something new to read .99 is a deal. I will spend it and not even think about it. 2.99 is still a good deal on books. If you are not hooked on the series and not aware of the author then it might not be worth it.
    Here is another thougth though. Everyone received gift cards and new Kindles and Nooks at Christmas. Therefore the influx of buying. If the gift cards have run out readers might be more chosey as to purchaing books. I now from a normal retail stand point January and February sales suck. So may now is not a good time to really evaluate your pricing. Sales in retail usually pick up in March. Good luck. Can;t wait for books 3 and 4. Belynda

    • Thanks, Belynda! And I would tend to agree with you. I think I’m very comfortable with my prices where they are right now. Will I change them in the future? I’m not going to rule it out, but I think they’ll be the same for quite some time. 🙂

  2. Hi E!,
    Book pricing seems to work a little differently in US to UK. Here VAT is charged on ebooks but not traditional book formats. So VAT accounts for 20% of any price you pay for an ebook. This is a completely weird concept and is the reason why many ebooks are dearer than their paper counterparts on Amazon. Apparently, the EU set a definitive list of items that are not subject to VAT a million moons ago and now won’t add anything new to the list. And governments are hardly likely to push for a change given VAT is one source of income that feeds the coffers. With so many advances in technology you would think they would change with the times, but no they are dinosaurs.
    This is a downside for independant writers and publishers because in the UK you get taxed on the income you earn from an ebook plus you’d have to pay 20% of the sale price per book straight to the government. Hardly in the spirit of enterprise.
    I think sites like Smashwords are great. I’m wary of the Amazon/Kindle monopoly if for no other reason than I have a Sony eReader so the Kindle format isn’t compatible with my device (as far as I am aware). Buying ebooks for a non-Kindle device is not easy! I tried B&N but they didn’t ‘do’ the UK plus they sell their own device so again use the Amazon ringfencing marketing ploy. Now I have Smashwords to use and have purchased both your books plus a few from other authors. What you seem to need on Smashwords is reviews as that gets you up the best seller list. You should contact your Amazon reviewers and ask them to copy their review to Smashwords – that’s what I did but in reverse:) The ebook pool is much bigger than the standard book market so the more ways you can promote your work the better.
    Finally, I have to say that for $2.99 each they were an absolute bargain. I was giddy with excitement over getting a full novel from you for the same price as a small latte. I’m excited and eager with anticipation for the next two in the series. I’d agree that paying $3.99 or $4.99 is not a lot considering the amount of work that goes into the creation and production processes 😀

    • You make a lot of good points. While things in the US and Canada are fairly straightforward, the international market if much murkier, though Smashwords is fantastic for that reason alone! They really do have a great platform for my international readers, which is why I would never put my novels into KDP Select. It’s too limiting for my international readers and those who don’t care for Amazon. Now, would I possibly put a short story up as part of a promotion in the short term? I might. I’m still considering the pluses and minuses of the whole program, but in the end, my focus is on expanding my platform for readers, not narrowing it down.

      And I’m very glad you thought the books were a bargain at 2.99! Thanks so much for buying them. And hopefully, you enjoyed them WITH a good latte. 😉

      E

  3. Great post. I think you’ve got a great approach to your pricing and you’ve obviously put some thought into it. The market is so crazy right now and there are so many people out there telling you what the best way to do it is, but you’ve got to do what is right for you.

    I’m a consumer who is skeptical of anyone who would price their book too low. It makes me skeptical of the value. I’d rather pay $4.99 for a book I think I’ll enjoy that I know has been properly edited than take a stab at 5 .99 books and only end up liking one of them.

    Setting your own price is one of the most powerful tools an independent publisher has, and a strong reason to go that route. With infinite choice in the market, it’s easy for someone to forgo buying your book because they found a similar one for $5 cheaper. This happened to me just the other night when I was buying a new round of books. I went to get the Chicagoland Vampires series, but balked at that $12.99 ebook price, significantly higher than if I ordered the paperback. Instead, I found another series where ebook price was $7.99, just like the paperback. After reading the first in the Parasol Protectorate series, Soulless, I’ve now bought the subsequent four books.

    So do to no fault of the author, she lost a sale because of her publisher’s illogical pricing. And I’m a reader you want to buy your book. I review. I recommend. And I read a lot.

    Now, I don’t mind paying $12.99 for a new hardback from a respected author, especially when I’m not going to find a comparable book. And I certainly think pricing longer, later books in a series higher while offering the first for a bargain price makes sense. If you liked the first one enough to want to read the rest, it’s worth the extra money.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It made me feel a lot better than another post I read on the subject, where authors were advocating for offering your first book or one of your books for FREE.

Leave a Reply