Since my first time up at bat I discussed how to know when you should self-publish, it is now time to answer the second question on everyone’s mind when it comes to self-publishing: what should I charge? What price should you set your e-books at to not scare away potential readers without looking like an amateurish newbie?
There has been much talk in the publishing field about the pricing of e-books, with traditional publishers maintaining that for them to remain in business, they must charge for an e-book the same amount as that book’s hardcover counterpart, around $9.99 being the lowest they’ll go. I’ve even seen e-books selling for upwards of $14.99, when the book in paperback sells for only $8.99 or less!
The truth of the matter, as is usually the case, lies somewhere in the middle. I understand that publishers need to turn a profit in order to stay in business and keep churning out the books we all love. But when they say that selling e-books for $14.99 is a necessity, they are being a tad disingenuous. E-books do not cost nothing to produce. This is a mis-perception on the part of the reader. But while their are some production costs involved, even in something that had most of the production work done during the print version phase, it is all up front costs, and e-books remain on the virtual shelves forever. That is a long time to find readers, and to make back your money.
But you can’t tell that to the traditional publishers, who have done the same business the same way for over a hundred years. That’s one hundred years of treating books like periodicals, like spoiling produce that must be sold out in three to four months time before it goes bad. Thanks to e-books and print on demand, that is no longer the case. A book is, quite literally, forever.
No, what the traditional publishers are really trying to do is maintain their stranglehold on print distribution, the only thing they have any control over anymore. Not long ago, the publishers thought this whole crazy e-book thing was just a fad, and would go away, and if they could price e-books into the stratosphere, then people would buy the now much cheaper print version instead, and e-books would go away and leave them alone, thank you very much.
But e-books aren’t going away. Not by a long shot. And publishers are finally moving from denile to acceptance, and some of them are pricing their print books accordingly.
So where does that leave you, the independent, self-published author-entrepreneur?
There has been tons of numbers hurled from all corners. 99 cents. $2.99. $4.99. 99 cents for short stories and no more than $2.99 for full-length novels and collections. People are pumping out shorter novels and novellas and episodic serials, and formats and genres are blending and morphing in wild, Darwinian profusion.
The simple answer is you must figure it out for yourself.
I’m not convinced that 99 cents is the end all, be all of e-book success, despite what people like John Locke would have us believe. Last week, I created a survey using a free service called Survey Monkey. I asked questions such as what types of fiction readers want to see from my and my publishing imprint Mechanoid Press., as well as how much they pay for e-books. The overwhelming majority (80% of respondents) said they preferred paying $2.99-$4.99 for e-books.
That’s why you should experiment, test, and adjust your prices until you find the “sweet spot” for your readers. A good guideline is 99 cents for short stories, and $2.99-$5.99 for novels. I sell my anthology Monster Earth for $2.99. Again, do some experimenting, and don’t be afraid to raise your price even on a book that is selling extremely well. You might sell even more copies at the higher price. And if not, you can always lower it back down.
Happy pricing, and happy writing!