How much should your ebook cost?
This key question is not just for indie authors. It’s also for authors with publishers. Publishers may become open to changing their strategies, if enough authors engage them on it.
Simple market economics tell us that if you price something high, most likely you will sell fewer than if you price the same item low. But of course, you make more money from the higher price. So where is the sweet spot where you’re getting the most “yield”?
This question has an answer, thanks to ebook-aggregator Smashwords founder Mark Coker. Every year in May or so (for the past three or four years) he publishes a study of the stats for ebook sales through Smashwords, focusing on questions like what’s the best price.
Caution: Smashwords publishes mostly fiction, but some non-fiction, so that skews the statistics a bit for fiction writers. Non-fiction in many cases can be priced higher than fiction can.
In the past several years, Coker has found that a good ebook pricing point seems to be $3.00-3.99. Looking at his download report from 2014 statistics, we can see that $3.99 books actually got more downloads than $0.99. Now, that surprised me! Perhaps readers these days think of books always priced at $0.99 as low-quality.
Also that year, and the year before, $3-3.99 books made a better yield than any other price point, including books sold at $9-9.99, a popular pricing point for traditional publishers.
There’s a marketing benefit for the lower price, too. The book sold at $3.99 sells three or four times more books than the one sold at $9.99, says Coker, and therefore boosts the author’s platform three or four times more, as some of these readers become fans and tell others.
Note: A great way to build readership for your ebooks is to run short-term $0.99 sales advertised through email services like BookBub, Ereader News Today, Book Gorilla, and more. You can also use a 90-day exclusive on Amazon to get Amazon to promote your book. (I haven’t tried that, can’t say how well it works.)
More interesting facts from the 2014 data released last May: Longer books continue to sell better. Books do somewhat better if they have short titles and short descriptions. How to do extremely well in ebook sales: write a series and make the first book permanently free, and then write another series, same thing.
If your traditional publisher insists on high ebook prices, here’s one thing you can do: indie publish some books to the lower price points. These can draw in readers for you for the higher priced ones. (That suggestion comes from successful Christian adventure author Susan May Warren.)
It goes without saying that you want to put the very best book you can write out there to draw readers into your fan base. So hire an editor and a cover artist. Put your best foot forward.