The Definitive Guide to Pricing Your Book
Just like the actual writing of a book, pricing is part art and part science. There is an uncountable multitude of influences that go into finding the perfect price for your book, but we’ve compiled seven of the most important factors here for you.
1. Figure out your goals
Some authors see their books as businesses. These “authorpreneurs,” as we like to call them, put an investment into their work, and they want to get the biggest return on investment possible. They should price their books like any other profit-driven business would price an item.
Some authors just want as many people to read and love their books as possible. These authors are fine with not making any money—or even losing money—as long as they get to tell their stories. These authors will give their books away for a pittance or for free.
Most of us authors are somewhere between the two. If we wanted a good investment, we’d throw our money at Google. But we’d also like to skirt bankruptcy, if at all possible. Where you fall on this spectrum is one of the most important factors in pricing your book.
2. Charm Pricing
Charm pricing—also known as psychological pricing—is a strategy based on the theory that certain prices have a psychological impact.
The most common example of charm pricing is ending a price 99 cents. There’s a mildly interesting scientific explanation for why it works, but you just need to know that the number nine is extremely powerful in pricing. Studies indicate that, counterintuitively, you can sell more of the same item for $39 dollars than for $34. Not that you should be selling a book for anywhere near that amount of money—unless you’re J.K. Rowling, of course.
In the case that you’re enneaphobic—afraid of the number nine—fear not. Setting a strange price, like $3.43 or $15.27, can make consumers think you’re selling your product for as cheap as possible. This strategy was used on Water For Elephants, which topped the ebook charts at $4.13, and at the time of this writing is a $9.12 ebook and $9.60 paperback.
3. Pricing Multiple Books
So you’ve written two books that are similar in length and genre. You might think that you should put them at the same price—let’s say $12.99.
But that’s not necessarily your best option. If you spike one up to $16.99 and keep the other at $12.99, you make the latter price look a lot more attractive. Most people will go for the cheaper of the two, but some people will assume the more expensive book is better and get that one instead.
4. Amazon Price Box
Amazon will give you a whopping 70% of your e-book profit—if you price your book how they want you to. Outside of their price box ($2.99–9.99), they’re only going to give you 35%. If you are selling your book via Kindle Direct Publishing, never ever ever price your ebook above $9.99. Traditionally published authors have negotiated their own agreements with Amazon, so it still makes financial sense for them to price outside the box. Indies? Not so much.
One of the great things about e-books is that you can almost instantly change the price. You could keep it on the higher end for the first couple of weeks, so that you get the highest rate from all your friends and family who will buy it regardless of the price, then drop it lower to incentivise new readers to give you a shot.
One study claims that the sweet spot is $3.99, but one indie authors claims that he sold 20x as many books by lowering his book to $0.99, letting him climb the charts all the way to the top. Because every book is unique, there’s no formula to maximize your profits. The only way to find the ideal price for each particular book is by trial and error—which, fortunately, Amazon makes pretty easy.
6. Take a Field Trip
Go to Barnes and Noble. Or, if you’re particularly comfortable at the moment, go to BarnesandNoble.com. Find books similar to yours in genre, length, and author name recognition, and take note of their prices. If you set your book price above these, you run the risk of being too expensive for your market. If you set your price below, people might assume your product is lower quality.
Remember: a bookstore isn’t like a car dealership, where you buy one thing and use it exclusively for ten years. Pricing low doesn’t necessarily “beat out” other books in your genre. If a reader likes a certain type of book, they’re likely to read multiple books in the genre. So having a price that is comparable is not detrimental in the way it would be in other industries.
7. Think Less About Production Costs
It’s tempting to price your book from the bottom up. Ideally, you’d predict how many books you’re going to sell, and then figure out how to break even on production while paying yourself a minimum wage for the time you’ve put into it. However, consumers don’t know or care how much it costs to produce a product, only how much the product is worth to them. That could be more—but is probably less—than you think it should be, but c’est la vie.
What other methods would you recommend using to price your book? Need some help figuring out the right combination of dollars and cents to charge for your book? Let us know in the comments!
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