How to Price your Indie Book: Finding A Balance Between Units Sold and Profit


Your book is finished! Congratulations! You wrote, edited, and polished that little guy until he sparkled. You agonized over every pixel of your cover and formatting. Maybe you even plotted out a series of sequels. It’s ready to go!

With all of that time and effort put into your book, it’s priceless to you. But what’s it worth to everyone else?

Let’s talk about how to properly price a book.

Pricing a book can be tricky. It’s more of an art than a science. Factors you consider in pricing your book might include what you’ve invested, the market, the trim size, the format, the genre, your competition, the mode of sale–deep inhale–the time of year, your business goals, your sales goals, and countless other elements. It’s a lot to sort out! Before you get overwhelmed, let’s break down why careful book pricing is important.

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Why you should know how to price a book

Pricing a product requires multiple levels of understanding in numerous areas like marketing, trends, psychology, and accounting.

The biggest reason pricing is important is that it can help you accomplish your book goals. Whether your goal is to turn a profit, build a business, grow your readership, or establish a brand, each goal will have a different pricing strategy.

If your goal is just to make money, pricing it too cheap might prevent you turning a profit. Price it too high, and you might have the same problem because no one is willing to buy it.

If you want to grow your business and use the book as a sales funnel, a high price point might be blocking you from potential sales. But maybe pricing it too low will undervalue your work and lose a browser’s interest.

Knowing how to price a book will help you make the right decisions for achieving your personal and professional goals.

This graph from ScribeWriting.com shows how the price of an ebook can affect the volume of sales. As you can see, the happy price for ebook sales to sell the most copies is between $0.99 and $3.99 with a drop for $1.99.

Why do sales  drop at the $1.99 mark? One explanation could be that there’s a balance between perceived value and cost. At the $0.99 price point, potential customers may have a feeling of “nothing to lose.” Even if the ebook is complete garbage, it’s less than a dollar. With such a low cost of entry, there’s very little at risk.

At $1.99, that feels a little different. That’s no longer just cents–it feels more substantial, so it’s less of a throwaway expense. But wait–why does the book priced at $2.99 sell MORE copies?

What you price your book at is what you’re telling prospective readers the book is “worth.” At $1.99, that’s not exactly an unnoticeable amount of money–you think your book is worth more than a dollar, but not THAT much more.

At $2.99, you’re VALUING your book higher, which can raise the perceived worth.

Outlandishly cheap ($0.99): Nothing to lose.

“Just” cheap ($1.99): Must not be worth much.

Affordable, but far from free ($2.99-3.99): The author puts worth in this book, so maybe I should too.

As this graph shows, the price of your book greatly indicates its sales success. You want to know how to price a book because then you can use it to accomplish your book goals.

We know why we want to price a book well, now let’s look at how to price a book well.

How to Price Your Book

Like I mentioned earlier, there are so, so many factors that can go into book pricing. Let’s look at a few of the big things you can do to settle on an appropriate price.

  1. Consider your goals. The main factor in deciding a price for your book is deciding what you’re trying to accomplish with it. What do you want your book to achieve?

Are you trying to make as much money as possible? Are you trying to grow your business? Are you trying to grow your readership?

Also consider your sales goals. If your goal is to sell enough in your first month to pay for the cost of production, what price point makes sense for your expected sales numbers? (Be careful here–in most cases, basing your price on the investment you made can harm your sales. More on that in a bit.)

If the book is simply a hook to grab readers or clients, it would likely be priced considerably lower than a book only written to produce income.

Take the time to determine your personal, business, brand, and sales goals before you settle on a price.

  1. Research the industry and your genre. Different genres and formats are priced differently. Take a look at how other publishers are pricing books like yours. Keep in mind that if a reader is holding your book and a similar book in their hands, and yours is $7 more, they’ll almost always go with the other. Consider your book’s worth in relation to comparable publications.

    Thing to consider in price comparison:
    • Genre
    • Content
    • Popularity of author
    • Wordcount
    • Format (ebook, paperback, hardback)
    • Quality (print, formatting, editing, information, etc.)

Write down the price range you see in books like yours. For example, if your romance subgenre sells between $3.99 and $7.99 at your book’s word count, your book should sell somewhere between those price points.

Now consider how the popular authors are selling versus the unknowns. Where do you lie on that spectrum? If you have a large online following, your book can probably sell for much higher than a debut. If you’re a debut, your book is probably realistically on the lower end.

  1. Consider royalties. Sales price does not equal income. Don’t forget royalties when you’re deciding on your sales price. If your publisher or distributor offers a higher royalty, you can usually price it lower. If they offer a very small royalty, take that into consideration as well. That doesn’t mean hike up your prices until you’re happy with your cut, but it does mean to factor in your royalty percentage when pricing your book to meet your goals.
  2. Remember that people might judge the quality of your book based on the price. If your publication is an ebook that you spent a few weeks writing and is essentially an elongated listicle, 99 cents is probably perfect. If your publication is a 200,000 word fantasy novel you’ve been working on for three years, suggesting a 99 cent price tag probably just sent your soul shooting straight out your nostrils.

    A hefty fantasy novel priced at 99 cents might make potential buyers nervous too, because they’re used to bigger price tags in that genre. A book that time-consuming to produce selling for under a dollar is a big red flag–it tells your readers that your book won’t give them value.

    That said, there’s a wide range of reasonable prices for a book, and finding the balance between not undervaluing your work and not overpricing right at the beginning during peak sales times is tricky. Common advice is start on the lower end of reasonable to get more sales (thus more reviews), then inch the price up once you have momentum.

Consider your goals, your industry, your current readership, your genre, royalties, and quality perception when deciding on a price.

Those are specific factors to consider–now let’s look at some general things to keep in mind.

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Book Pricing Tips

Here are a few general tips to keep in mind when pricing your book.

  • Expect to fluctuate your price. As your book ages, sales will drop. Determine when you should drop the price of your book with it. For example, I published my first collection of short stories in 2018. The price started at $11.95 for paperback and $4.99 for ebook. They’re currently at $7.95 and $3.99 respectively, and I might drop them again in the future. I do this to match the price to demand.

    There might be cases where you want to raise your book’s price. For example, many indie authors use the strategy of starting your book at a lower price to collect reviews and build momentum before they increase it for higher royalties.

    Either way, don’t expect that your book’s price will stay consistent through its lifetime.
     
  • Run promotional prices. You’ll likely want to drop your prices temporarily to boost sales, before another book release, or to promote something else. For example, I dropped the ebook of my first collection to 99 cents for the release week of my new collection. That way, people could read the first one if they hadn’t yet to get hype for the new release.

    For another example: If you wrote an educational or nonfiction piece, you might run a promotional price period for the release of a corresponding webinar or online course.
  • Go for odd numbers. There’s a weird marketing phenomenon where people perceive odd numbers as being a bargain. That’s why you see items priced as $19.99 instead of $20. There is also research to support that giving a random-looking price can increase sales. If you price a book at $4.99, people might see it as below $5, a standard price. If you price something as $4.53, it might look like you’re making it as cheap as possible, because it’s a very strange number. Some distributors REQUIRE that you price your ebook ending in .99 because that’s how big of an impact it has on sales.
  • Lower the price for books in a series before releasing a new one. Like I said earlier, you might drop the price of a previous publication before the release of your next. This is an especially good move in a series. If someone sees a book that looks interesting, but it’s the third in a series, they might lose interest. But if they see that they can get the first in the series at a lower price point for a limited time, they’re much more likely to try it out and potentially buy the sequels.
  • Consider NOT considering your investment. I know there’s an impulse to “make your money back.” In business generally, your ROI is an important factor. In book pricing, this is somewhat of a gray area. Publishing hinges heavily on timing–the release of your book is the hottest sales spot. If you price your book higher because you’re worried about making your investment back, you run the risk of pricing it TOO high, resulting in fewer sales. Of course, in self-publishing, this might be rectified later with a price drop, but you won’t get that Shiny New Book time back. By that point, the book is stale and you’ve missed out on potential sales.

    I think the time to consider a return on investment is before production when you’re creating your book’s budget. If this is your first publication and you have no idea how it will perform, keep that in mind when you’re deciding what to invest.
  • Learn from experience. Keep track of your sales, prices, and other factors. Experiment with different price points and make note of what works.

    Also keep up-to-date with the market and current trends with every publication. The research you did for your last book might be irrelevant now. Publishing is a constantly evolving market, especially self-publishing. With newer industries, expect norms and best practices to change pretty regularly, so make sure you’re staying on top of it!

Book pricing can be difficult to get a handle on, but through research, practice, and trial and error, any author can manage it.

Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a comission if you click through to make a purchase.

Hannah Lee Kidder

Hannah Lee Kidder is a contemporary and fantasy author, writing coach, and YouTuber. She has published two bestselling short story collections, Little Birds and Starlight. Hannah is currently minding her own business, streaming a variety of writing and life content on Twitch, somewhere in the Colorado mountains with her roommate, Saya, who is a dog.

https://www.facebook.com/HannahLeeKidder

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