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How to Choose the Right Price for Your Ebook

The price you choose for your ebook can make the difference between selling hundreds or thousands of copies. We look at how to find the sweet spot.

Ebook pricing can seem illogical at times, as copies of ebooks cost almost nothing to produce. If you are a self-published author, choosing the right price for your book can make a difference between selling hundreds or thousands of copies.

In a previous article, we discussed how ebooks are priced. In this article, we look at some of the things to consider when you are trying to figure out how much to price your ebooks.

What’s the right price for a book?

It would be easy if all books were priced based on how many words or pages they contain, but there is no right price for a book. The value of a book is not just in its words or pages, but in the entertainment or knowledge it provides. The ideal price for an ebook is one that will sell enough copies for an author to make money, without dissuading purchases because it is too expensive, and without undervaluing the book by selling it too cheaply. If you price your book at $10, and sell 5,000 copies, is this better than pricing it at $5 and selling 10,000 copies? Many people would argue that, even though your profit on the book is the same, it’s better to sell it at a lower price. With more readers buying the book, it is likely that these readers will buy subsequent books and explore your back catalog. But you can’t keep dropping the price, expecting to sell more books; eventually, you will reach a point at which a lower price will not lead to any more sales.

I’m in the UK, and, as a very avid reader, I’m a big fan of Amazon’s Kindle daily deals. I have bought hundreds of books for 99p. I buy books by favorite authors to read their back catalog, or books I’ve read many years ago, that I want to re-read. I also buy books that seem interesting, by authors I have never read, and for which I don’t mind spending £1. Sometimes I read a couple of chapters and give up, but I don’t regret the cost. That 99p price point is very seductive. I would not spend, say, £2.99 for most of the books that I have bought at this price. Interestingly, in the US, Amazon prices these daily deals differently. While most UK daily deals cost £0.99, US pricing is more elastic, ranging from $0.99 to $4.99. Apple’s Books Store also has timely discounts, priced from $1.99 to $4.99, and other ebook retailers have regular sales as well.

Promotions like this are designed to get readers to check the stores frequently in search of discounts, and potentially buy other books or products. And when Amazon sells books for a pound, for just 24 hours, they goose the best seller list. The day after the sale, many of these books will be among the leading sellers of Kindle books, and when shoppers look at that list they may buy these books at their normal price.

How Should You Price Your Ebook?

Determining the optimal price for your e-book can be difficult. You obviously want to make as much money as possible, but you don’t want your book to be priced so high that it dissuades potential buyers.

Start by looking at books similar to yours. If you write in a specific genre, look at what authors like you sell their books for. You may want to sell your book for $10, but if the majority of books in your genre sell for $5, then you’ll have an uphill battle. Don’t consider prices of books by A-list authors: you’re not John Grisham or Danielle Steel, so you won’t be able to sell your new books at the same prices as they do. However, you’ll find that best-selling authors like them often have their back catalog sold at a deep discount. This is to get readers to discover more of their titles, so when the next new book comes out, they are tempted to spring for full-price books.

It’s also important to consider how you sell your books. If you have a strong email list, and sell lots of pre-orders of your books, you can afford to bump your price up a bit, at least initially. Your regular readers may not quibble about buying your next book for, say, $7, even if a price around $5 is more common in your genre. Or you might want to have a pre-order price that is lower, that you raise after a few weeks. If you can get people who are on your email list to pre-order your book, this helps you be more visible on the charts on various retailers when the book is published, because all pre-orders are treated like sales on that first day. After a while, you can change the price.

Where are you selling your ebooks?

Many authors sell just through Amazon, because it offers a worldwide market, and is relatively easy to manage. Amazon is estimated to sell more than three quarters of all ebooks in the US, and more than two thirds worldwide. But you may sell through multiple channels, and it’s best to focus on those that sell to many countries. Apple’s Books also covers most territories, as do Kobo and Google Play. But other ebook retailers, such as Barnes & Noble, may have more limited scope.

How you price your ebook greatly affects how much you earn from these retailers, because they all have different payment percentages. (Which they incorrectly call royalties.)


Retailer   Price ranges    
    $0.99 - $2.98 $2.99 - $9.99 $10+
Amazon   35% 70% 35%
Apple   70% 70% 70%
Barnes & Noble   70% 70% 70%
Google Play   70% 70% 70%
Kobo   45% 70% 70%

In addition, retailers may charge a price for delivering your books; Amazon charges $0.15 per MB. In countries where VAT is included in the retail price, that amount is deducted before calculating your percentage.

Choosing the right price for your book

It’s clear from the above table that Amazon wants authors to sell their books at a price between $2.99 and $9.99. The sweet spot for ebooks is at the low end of that price range, and it can be hard to decide whether you want to sell your book for, say, $2.99 or $5.99. As a first-time author, it may be best to sell at a lower price, but this also tends to cheapen your work. As you publish more books, you can try changing prices and use sales data to help you find the right price for your books.

Pricing your books is a balancing act, and, if you’re self publishing your first book, it’s best to not try to price it too high. As your grow your career, and get sales data, you can try different prices, and see how they affect your sales.

Kirk McElhearn is a writer, podcaster, and photographer. He is the author of Take Control of Scrivener, and host of the podcast Write Now with Scrivener.

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