How Much Should You Charge for Your E-Book? 7 Questions to Ask

How Much Should You Charge For Your E-Book? 7 Questions to Help You Decide

Carol Tice | 20 Comments
How Much Should You Charge For Your E-Book? 7 Questions to Help You Decide

photodune-5469195-money-book-xsOne of the most-asked questions I got from writers who took my recent self-publishing survey was, “How much should I charge for my e-book?”

There’s no simple answer to this one. Many factors go into this decision.

I’ve learned how much to charge for my e-books, through trial and error. But every author’s situation is different. How much should you charge for your e-book?

My short answer: All e-book pricing is an experiment.

When you pick a price, always keep in mind that you could revisit that price, halve that price, or maybe double that price, depending on the reception your price gets.

Or you might decide to make your e-book free.

The best price for your e-book depends on a number of factors. Here are some important questions to ask yourself in deciding on your e-book price:

1. What are your goals for this e-book?

The first thing to contemplate is what you’re trying to accomplish with this e-book. Maybe it’s something you’re creating as a free gift to your blog subscribers.

Or perhaps you want to use this e-book to lure readers to buy something more expensive from you later — in which case, $0.99 might be a good entry price to get lots of sales.

If this is your magnum opus, you might choose a more substantial price, depending on how you plan to market it. Which brings us to this question:

2. Where do you plan to sell this e-book?

There are many different approaches to selling your e-book. You might decide to only sell it on your own website.

Or you might only sell on Amazon, so you can get the higher royalties offered in their KDP Select program.

Or you might decide to post it everywhere possible, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Overdrive, and dozens of other book sites.

If you’re selling on mass platforms, you’ll particularly want to ask yourself:

3. What do similar authors charge?

You don’t have to charge the same sorts of prices as others in your genre or topic, but it pays to be aware of what’s out there, especially if your e-book will be featured in search results on a book site right alongside those competitors’ offerings.

If you’re thinking a 50-page e-book about gardening is worth $20, but everyone else sells their similar-length e-books for $2.99, you’re probably not going to see a ton of sales. If you’re only selling off your own website, you might have more leeway to price without regard to market competition.

Amazon’s pricing tips

If you’re selling on Amazon, keep in mind that recent data shows most bestselling e-books there are priced in the $3-$7 range. Amazon has played a big role in driving down average e-book prices, which has enraged some in the publishing world.

But keep in mind this info Amazon recently sent me via email, because I’m an affiliate seller on there: The lower the price, the more you sell.

Amazon says its data shows if you priced an e-book at $14.99 and would have sold $100,000 of it at that price, you’d sell $179,000 of that same e-book if you cut the price to $9.99.

Lower prices greatly expand the audience of potential buyers. More people buy, getting your ideas into more hands — and often, making you more money.

At $.99, many shoppers will consider your e-book a “no-brainer” purchase. It’s less than a buck! I personally bought several $.99-cent e-books this week alone. If you want to get buzz going, get your words into many hands, have many potential reviewers, make a lot of sales, and capture emails for selling the next e-book, this can be the price that makes it happen.

My advice: If you don’t have a $.99-cent e-book yet, set a goal of creating one first. You want an entry-level price where readers will jump in and start getting to know you, to lay the groundwork for successfully selling a higher-priced e-book.

I’ve seen these pricing approaches work in my own e-book selling…so think hard about whether you want to go high or low. One critical factor there:

4. Is your audience big or small?

If your e-book is on a topic with a fairly small but rabidly interested audience — say, Civil War re-enactments or underwater basketweaving — you might want to go with a higher price.

You’ll be less likely to be able to use a lower price to end up earning more, because there isn’t a mass audience for your topic. Another aspect of this:

5. Do you have a list?

If you have built an audience that you can email about your e-book, you are in a better position to charge more than if you have no list.

People who like you enough to opt into an email list probably think you’re pretty awesome. So they’ll be more likely to entertain the idea of buying a higher-priced tome from you.

If all your marketing will be through mass bookselling sites to total strangers, there’s less chance that they’ll think your e-book is worth $27 — when they’re looking at a page of Amazon results with other, similar books at $3.99.

But you might be able to charge more, depending on your answer to this:

6. Do you offer unique or highly valuable info?

Does your nonfiction e-book teach readers how to do something that could change their lives or earn them boatloads of cash? If so, it might command a high price.

There’s high perceived value if what I read in your e-book can be used to make me hundreds of times the price of your e-book. For instance, I’ve seen e-books that teach you a concrete system for how to launch and market a product sell great at $97 and more.

It’s rare that your nonfiction e-book will be the only place a reader could get the information you’re offering. But maybe you’ve got a unique spin, fresh data, or a new method to offer?

Rare information is more valuable to readers, so you could price higher if you have something exclusive. Unique info also means your offer can’t be as easily price-compared, which helps you charge more.

7. Does your price give you flexibility?

One cautionary note about pricing your e-book super-low: It makes it hard for you to offer special deals. And you want to offer those. Putting your e-book on a limited-time sale is a proven way to generate a flurry of sales.

Among the deals I’ve offered that have sold well, for instance, are:

  • Half-price introductory sales
  • “Bundle” sales where you buy one e-book and get a second e-book free
  • $.99-cent sales
  • “Pay what you want” over $X price sales

So consider having a “list” price but discounting that price down, at least on occasion. You’ll drive a lot more interest in your e-book.

Once you select a price, remember my short answer: It’s all an experiment. One of the thrills of selling e-books is that changing your price is easy and nearly instantaneous.

Don’t ever think your price is set in stone, or that you have to price like everybody else. Every author’s situation is unique, so feel free to carve your own path with how you price.

The e-book world is changing fast, so remember to revisit your price from time to time and consider whether it’s still the best one. Pricing right is key to create an e-book that earns well, so keep tinkering.

What do you think of the trend to lower e-book prices? Discuss in the comments.

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20 comments on “How Much Should You Charge For Your E-Book? 7 Questions to Help You Decide

  1. Vishnu on

    It’s quite natural that the buyers have a negative approach towards the low priced commodities. But I don’t think a wise reader would look down upon a book simply because it’s priced low. Remember, many great books are priced as low as 99 cents.
    In the case of me, the publisher suggests to price my (unpublished) novel ( A Head Trip Mirage) at $4. I, however, prefer 99 cents despite my confidence in the quality of the book.

  2. L OMalley on

    I would like to know the word count expected if you price a fiction book at 99 cents. Could you explain expected minimum word counts for each category such as Fiction Non Fiction as the price grows?

    • Carol Tice on

      Have to say I can’t — there is no ‘normal’ in self-publishing. You might buy a few books similar to the one you’re thinking of writing to get an idea of the range.

  3. Peggy Carouthers on

    Awesome tips, Carol. I really like the point about starting with $.99 and staying in the $3-$7 range. Thanks for giving awesome, useful specifics. This will be very helpful when I start launching ebooks.

  4. Andrea Arthur Owan on

    Carol, I can’t begin to tell you how much you, the Den and your bootcamps, training, etc. have helped me as a professional writer! And, after filling in my husband and all of your wisdom (on one of our recent date nights!) he is bursting with ideas and ready to go with his own e-book and “Den-like” program for engineering and engineering tinkerers! And that will bring us to our first e-book together!! We’re hoping to put something together to have ready to go when we launch our special website in early 2015. And he LOVES the idea of a book series. This bootcamp training couldn’t have come at a better time for us.

    So, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Carol and your team for giving us the tools to live our dreams!

    Andrea Arthur Owan recently posted…

  5. Betty Washington on

    If a person is trying to feel out the market with their first book, pricing low is a good idea. The demand for the low priced book tells me there are people out there looking at my work. Once I establish myself, I will gradually increase the book’s price. My next book would be competitively priced. Although we all want to sell our books out the gate, sometimes you have to take baby steps to feel out the market and work with the information you gain regarding your e-book.

  6. Katherine Swarts on

    Well, I’ll be looking forward to discussing that further in the Bootcamp: my goal there is actually to create a 99-cent e-book that will get heavy attention from new contacts (which has been by far the weakest point in my online presence to date).

    • Carol Tice on

      That’s a perfect goal for this bootcamp, Katherine! I’m hoping to see many writers either do 99-cent ebooks, or free ebooks for their email subscribers, if they don’t have a freebie yet.

  7. Katherine Swarts on

    Great point, Mridu! I have a couple of additional “questions for guiding your decision” to suggest:

    1. How long is the e-book (how many words, or how many pages in a Word document or .pdf), and how much work went into writing it? Ninety-nine cents is fine for a 25-page book, not so great for a 300-pager. (Three-hundred-page e-books may not be particularly advisable, but that’s a subject for another discussion….) And if you spent weeks researching a book and included multiple expert sources and recommended reading, it certainly should be worth more than a book where you included only what you already knew.

    2. What are comparable hard-copy books priced at? My personal opinion is that if a book is published in both e- and hard-copy versions, the former should be about half the price of the latter.

    • Carol Tice on

      Interesting formula vs hard copy…I think that’s generally true, but not necessarily if the information is high-value/helps you earn tons of money/is unique. Like I say, I’ve seen $97 e-books do really well when the information was unique and vital to the reader.

  8. Mridu Khullar Relph on

    Fantastic post, Carol. I’ve been thinking about and researching how to price e-books and this has given me quite a bit to think about.

    One thing I would mention that I’ve heard said repeatedly is that for non-fiction, the 99 cent price point is probably not a good one, not only because you can’t offer deals (as you mentioned) but because this is not entertainment, but information. And people are not only willing to pay more for information they want, but subconsciously, we all trust higher-priced information more than we do lower-priced information. (“If this author only puts the value of this life-changing information at 99 cents, then this book mustn’t be very good,” etc.)

    • Carol Tice on

      I certainly don’t want to price at $.99 for anything substantial or lengthy, Mridu. But it can be great to have *one* $.99 e-book in your stable, to get people trying you out and starting to know your byline.

      For me, that’s 13 Ways to Get the Writing Done Faster. It’s a fairly short e-book as it’s taken from a half-hour training I did with Linda Formichelli, so to me $.99 is appropriate there. We started it at $2.99 or $3.99, as I recall, but it didn’t do well at that price.

      Like I say, it’s all an experiment…so we tinkered with the price on that one, and I love it at $.99.

  9. Fran Civile on

    Carol, Thank you for digging up such a wide variety of possible solutions to selling our ebooks. I appreciate John Soares example too!

    I want to point my readers to that great information.


  10. John Soares on

    Carol, I really appreciate your detailed advice on pricing. I have a short ebook on a common topic that’s $2.99 and available on Kindle only.

    By contrast, the ebook about my specific writing specialty is 27 bucks and is available only from my website, as is a short course I created for freelance writers. Both have little or no competition and can make a big difference for freelancers’ incomes. I purposely don’t sell them on any other platforms.

    The Kindle ebook also includes links to my website and an invitation to subscribe, tactics you have recently advocated.

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi John — thanks for providing that great example of how to charge more, positioning it as a course rather than ‘just an e-book.’

      Keeping it off Amazon I think can help. Many of the $97-type e-books I’ve seen, the author only sells themselves, through Clickbank or e-Junkie or a similar affiliate program.

      Ooh, that’s also something I should have noted in the post! If you have a high-value e-book you sell at a more substantial price, it can be a motivator for affiliates to get involved and help you sell it, if you offer a 50% or more commission on it, which many authors will. So that can be another strategy, to tap affiliates.

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