E-Books: Value and Price

For the last several years, the debate has raged over e-book pricing. What is the best price? What is the customer willing to pay? What should the government and courts do to monitor the situation? It can all be confusing and put authors into a tailspin.

While the courts, online retailers, and large publishing companies continue to argue and battle it out, what is the independent author supposed to do? No one has all the answers, but some common sense, a little experimenting with prices, and some knowledge of the industry can help you determine an appropriate price for your e-book. Remember, there is no perfect price for every book; what is a good price for one book may not be the right price for another.

Here are some questions to consider when determining the price for your e-book:

What is the value of your book?

You need to determine your book’s value before you set the price. Did you write a short erotic novel to compete with the other one million out there that you spent maybe a month or less writing? Then its value is probably fairly low because it may not be in great demand. Are you writing a specialized thesis on a topic that has never had a book published on it before-then the value may be very high, although your reading audience may be small. Did you spend ten years writing and researching your book, or did you write it in a week? Can your readers easily get the information in your book elsewhere?

I once told an author her one hundred page history book was overpriced. She replied, “What do you think my book is worth when I spent five years writing and working on it?” Obviously, she perceived her book’s value as high, but her readers, seeing a slim volume that won’t take long to read, may not see it as so valuable. Consider also the value of your reader’s time. Will your reader think it worthwhile to pay $9.99 for something that takes an hour to read? Perhaps time is more valuable than money to your reader so he won’t want to pay $9.99 for what he may perceive as ten hours of work reading your book but he would pay $2.99.

If you insist your book’s value warrants a higher price, you could be right, but you will need to convince your reader of that value through your marketing efforts.

What is the most and least you can charge for your e-book?

Never should you price your e-book over $9.99. While a few major publishers can get away with higher prices for best-selling authors, $9.99 is the limit for most of us because Amazon decided that $9.99 was the cut off for paying out higher royalties. Books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 will receive 70 percent royalties from Amazon, while those over will receive a lower royalty of 35 percent, meaning your $15.00 book will earn you only about $5.00 as opposed to $7.00 for your $9.99 priced book. I won’t speak to every e-book retailer’s pricing model here; you’ll want to look at them individually, but $9.99 is definitely the highest you should go.

The advantage to pricing high is more money per book, but it also means you will likely sell less books. That said, lower priced books might be seen as of less value-being from unknown authors, poorly written, or simply short. To me, anything priced under $2.99 I automatically think must be of lesser quality and that even the author doesn’t perceive its value as high.

If you’re an established author, a middle price of $3.00-$6.99 is reasonable for an e-book and probably will not dissuade most readers from buying your book. Only if you have a book the reader will perceive as having high value should you price it in the $7.00-$9.99 range. A book in that price range should have the value of information worth buying, or you should be a well-established author with a large following-meaning thousands of readers.

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