It’s a controversial issue at times with authors each having a different opinion on this topic of eBook pricing.
- How high is too high?
- Should I price my eBook at $0.99?
- Am I cheapening eBooks by pricing low?
- How do you price your eBook and maintain credibility?
These are all valid questions, but why were eBooks priced so low to begin with?
With print, the last couple of decades the big six have instilled a fair perception to the consumer market that print books have a certain value. This form of subtle consumer education was never instated during the rise of the eBook platform and so the diminished value perceived by readers and authors was commonplace from the start.
The digital eBook being seen to have a lesser value due to no print, storage or distribution costs being associated with the selling of eBooks. This is true, but this is where it stops. The creation and resources involved in bringing any book to market is the same for either an eBook or print book.
What about all the other aspects that are still required to create a great book worth a customers time and money. Editing, Book cover design, proofreading, formatting, typesetting, beta readers, marketing and the sheer man hours required for the author to write the book in the first place.
These key pieces to the publishing pie are still part and parcel of delivering an eBook to market, just the same as a print book. This hasn’t changed. Logically you’d think that eBooks would just be a couple of dollars cheaper, less the cost of shipping, storage and delivery, not bottom barrel eBook pricing at $0.99.
This is why traditional publishers are still pricing eBooks upwards of $8.00. Publishing is a business and long standing publishers fully understand that all these other aspects of publishing a book are still required for eBooks. Publishers still have editors and designers with bills and families who work to bring these books to market. They have to recoup their costs somehow, just like independent authors and publishers.
Though, we are at a cross roads in this new age of publishing and despite this fact of production resources required for creating books, the market sees eBooks as a product of lesser value.
This is not necessarily all bad, there are some upsides to both low and high eBook pricing.
Arguments in favour of the low eBook pricing ($0.99-$2.99)
The single most beneficial reason to price the average fiction eBook between $0.99 and $2.99, is creating a low barrier of entry for readers to discover and try out a new emerging author. This is a big plus as ‘obscurity‘ not piracy or low out-the-gate profit margins, is the single biggest enemy to a first time author.
Having your first book a lower price, or even free (5 day free limit) through Amazon’s KDP creates a ‘loss leader‘ product that can benefit your other books. People will try you on a lower price, you don’t make an ideal return on investment (ROI), but will make it up with sales of your other higher priced eBooks.
This sets up a ‘try before you buy‘ type funnel. This of course works if you have multiple eBooks available, which I highly recommend all authors do. Amazon and Walmart don’t keep their doors open from selling just one type of product, they sell many products.
Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule with pricing eBooks and you should be testing different price points to see any sway in sales. After all, being flexible with price is one of the many perks of independently publishing.
Points in favour of higher eBook price points ($3.99 and up)
When increasing your pricing of eBooks from $3.99 and up, you are instilling a higher perceived value to your book. This works in your favour especially for non-fiction authors as it beholds credibility and value. If you have a substantial platform, then you will already have avid fans and potential buyers wanting to buy from you. Many bloggers and top selling authors such as Jonathan Fields and Tim Ferris are good examples of building substantial audiences and maintaining a higher price point in line with traditional priced books.
You garner respect for your work from potential readers. Increasingly today, the $0.99 entry point strategy isn’t quite as effective as it was 18 months ago. Readers trolling Amazon and B & N have become numb to this low price point, with some readers expecting to pay no more than $0.99-$1.99. Hence my earlier statement about the perceived consumer value of eBooks.
This would be one reason why print books via POD have increased about 30% from 2010, according to the copyright clearance centre. They maintain value in the eyes of customers, particularly those outside the US eBook bubble.
Also, when pricing your eBook higher and then offer a limited time discount or free incentive via KDP, the limited discount value is increased significantly because of the clear substantial saving from it’s original price point. A free eBook that is normally $0.99, evokes little to no urgency in the buyers mind.
You have to work with the market
As an author you just have to work with the market as it stands, so the average first time fiction author, taking the business minded approach of making your first book a ‘loss leader‘ can go along way to building momentum and your readership in the first year or so of being available. This is only ideal if you have other books on the market or offer other product up-sells on your website.
Whether your first fiction book is part of a series or not, I think there’s merit in pricing your first eBook low. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s priced at $0.99, but certainly cheaper than your other books will help diminish the barrier of entry for readers to try out an unknown author, while you make additional sales from people discovering your other books.
This is NOT ideal considering the work that goes into creating your book product, but you have to play in the market as it stands.
For non-fiction authors, if you have a growing audience, a business or you’re on the speaking circuit, having a higher price point helps maintain the credibility and authority you’ve created in the eyes of your fans and potential buyers. Having a $0.99 price point could do more harm than good. So a different considered approach is key.
As I said earlier, there’s no hard and fast rule when pricing eBooks and not every author will have the same experience, depending on which genre they write in, how many books they have on the market and current industry trends.
Be sure to consider who your target market is, what are the current industry trends for your genre and what is your ‘backend‘ monetisation strategy in regards to future book releases or new relative products entirely.
Evolving with the industry