How Much Should You Charge For Your Book?

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Photo compliment of Morguefile.com

Pricing strategies are often left up to the publisher, but if you self-publish your novel you get to control pricing. This could be good and bad.

Why is it bad? Because it’s one more thing to manage, one more thing to schedule, one more thing that has nothing to do with writing words in your novel.

Why is it good? You have control over the profits and have the potential to make more money. (Especially since you don’t have to pay an agent and a publisher.)

My friend and author, Raymond Bolton, has a unique way of analyzing pricing strategies for his novel that will launch in 2014. Here’s a note from him:

A Book Pricing Strategy

Raymond Bolton

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“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.” ~ Frank Herbert, Dune

I am in the process of launching my debut novel, Awakening. There are so many details to take care of: the final read-through, cover design, formatting the manuscript for both paperback and ebooks, website updates, launching a blog, mastering TweetDeck… The list seems endless.

When I was creating the book, I was focused on both the story and the eventual reader. I was focused on both the art and the viewer. These days, my focus is less romantic. I must consider the commodity I am selling and its eventual buyer. I am transitioning from artist into businessman. To accomplish this, I must place a value on my work.

Naturally, for me the book is worth millions, but I am setting it adrift in a sea of countless others and the market couldn’t care less about my emotional attachment. The buyer is taking a chance that purchasing this well-packaged unknown will not be a waste of their time or their money. The problem, then, becomes one of pricing.

If you have ever visited Amazon, you will be aware that prices are all over the chart. Since I hope to become a best selling author, I thought I could learn a thing or two about pricing by studying best selling books. I suspected that romances, for example, due to their audience, might sell differently from YA or this book’s genre, science-fiction / fantasy, it made sense, then, to check out the top one hundred in my niche.

How Raymond Studied Pricing for eBooks

To do so, I went to Amazon>Kindle eBooks>Best Sellers>Science Fiction & Fantasy. (Here are the bestsellers. To the left on this page is the list of genres.)

There are titles priced as low as $0.99, but several are marked $1.99, $2.99, $3.99, $4.99 and $5.99, with many others on either side of this range.

I decided to let software sort out the confusion. I needed a database from which to work, and experience led me to Microsoft Excel, a wonderful numbers cruncher. Here’s what I did:

  • I created a spreadsheet with the headlines Rank, Title, Author and Price.
  • I then numbered the columns under Rank from 1 to 100.
  • Then, I entered the appropriate information next to each number. And though it took me an hour and a half, at the end of this time I had a tool that would deliver up the information I required.
  • To be certain I had correctly identified the minimum price in this grouping, in a cell to right of this database I entered the formula =MIN()
  • After inserting the cursor between the parentheses, I dragged my mouse from the price opposite Rank #1 through the entire range.
  • When I got to Price #100, I released the cursor and struck the return key.
  • The minimum price showed up as $0.01. To determine the maximum price, in the cell below the one for maximum, I entered =MAX() and repeated the process.
  • From this, I learned that the maximum price in this genre is $19.99.
  • To learn the average price for these one hundred titles, in the next cell down I entered =AVERAGE() and did the same. The average price turned out to be a modest $4.33.

Since that still did not tell me how many books were listed in each price range, I opted to create a chart that would show me. To do so, I once again dragged my cursor through the entire column of prices, but this time instead of striking the return key when I came to the column’s end, I simply released the cursor.

With the price range thus selected, I went to the menu bar. Under the heading marked Insert, I selected Chart

From experience, I knew which chart would display this distribution, so, from the ribbon that appeared below the menu bar, I selected Scatter Chart. When you do the same, you will find that the resulting chart floats above your data. Drag it with your cursor until it is positioned over empty cells, then Save the document. The chart will remain positioned where you left it and the result will look something like the illustration below:

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As you can see, the vast majority of books in this group are priced between $2.99 and $4.99. Based on this and the other data I retrieved, I have decided to price my book just below average price of $4.33 at $3.99.

 Remember, these are the top 100 sellers. I can always run a special promotion along the way and offer the novel for less.

You might arrive at a different solution based on your own work, genre, and target market. I hope this will assist you to obtain the data you need to make these decisions.

Pricing for Paperback Books

(Comments below by Michelle)

How does an author decide on the pricing for their paperback books?

Do the same research. Create Space shares a royalty calculator for authors HERE where you can determine what your profits will be in the various channels. You’ll need to know your book’s dimensions and how many pages it has before you can determine your profits. Melissa Foster, from the World Literary Cafe and a NYT bestselling author, suggests keeping the expanded distribution profit at around $1.00, but you might feel differently.

Do the research first. Find those top 100 bestseller novels in your genre, input their titles, authors, and prices and compare. Find your genre and do the research. At least you’ll feel like your price point results are based on research.

Pricing For More Than One Book

Once you have more than one book for sale, you can alternate “sale” days. When one book is on sale, you offer the other one at regular price.

If you’re launching the second book in a series you might want to offer the first book at a substantial savings so readers will buy the first book, read it, and buy the second book at the regular price.

Some authors opt to offer a free book to draw readers to the launch of their new novel. Others, like me, don’t believe we should offer anything free because it devalues our work. But sometimes having a FREE book for sale at Amazon places our name in front of more readers and places our titles on the best selling charts. Oftentimes the additional visibility from this strategy results in continued sales once the book is back to the regular price.

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Keep track of your sales at various prices and dissect them. Where do you have the best results? To help you learn more about your sales ranking check out Ebook Tracker http://tracker.kindlenationdaily.com/ and compare them to other books in your genre. It’s a lot of fun. But, be careful, it can be a total time-waster, too. And if you aren’t writing, you don’t have a product to sell.

Which pricing strategies work for you?

 

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Comments

  1. Great article. In some ways I wish I had self published but over all am glad I went with a traditional publisher. Just too many balls to balance for this old mine. I find the marketing aspect of this really stressful. If you are going to self publish, this article has so much good advice. This is from someone who has never devised a spread sheet in her life!!!

  2. You are my hero. I love spreadsheets… mostly as a tool to procrastinate, but I tell myself I’m collecting data…Important data and THIS my friend IS important data. Thank you so much for sharing something tangible instead of the usual doesn’t answer the question blog post on the same question.

    • Hi Amber – Thanks for taking a minute to let us know you found this helpful. You made our day. We love helping authors.
      Best,
      Michelle
      (and Raymond, who shared his spread sheet)

  3. I’ve been self-publishing since 1992, but am just getting to the point where I know enough about e-publishing to take the Kindle plunge. Thank you for this post. It was helpful, even though the pricing information is somewhat discouraging.

    • Hi Charles – YAY, I’m thrilled that it helped. Don’t be discouraged. If you’ve been published since 1992 you’ve been through a lot. You are a dedicated and disciplined author. Good for you. Please let me know if I can help with anything.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Random Writing Rants, author Raymond Bolton laid out his pricing strategies for 2014. He created a spreadsheet with data […]

  2. […] On Random Writing Rants, author Raymond Bolton laid out his pricing strategies for 2014. He created a spreadsheet with data for best seller ranking on Amazon, book title, author name, and price. He averaged out the prices for best sellers in the sci-fi/fantasy category, and found it was $4.33. And most of the top 100 sellers were between $2.99 and $4.99. […]

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