So you’ve written your ebook, formatted it exactly the way it’s supposed to be, and are ready to make it available with the various big players in publishing.
But how much should you, the wildly talented but completely unknown author, charge for it?
I’ve been following the dialogue for a little while, and there seem to be two main camps. The first believes in getting the maximum return for each copy they sell, because of the hard work that they’ve put into writing their novel. The other is more interested in just getting their books in front of the most readers possible and will price it accordingly.
The first approach seems to be wholly counterproductive to me. Charging a reader the same fee for your work that the international bestselling authors do for theirs seems to be an exercise in futility. I know that there is a zero percent chance that I would shell out $10-15…or more…for an unknown author. For most of us, that’s a decent chunk of change to spend on a literary nobody. I’d wager that some of these authors who insist on being “properly compensated” (a direct quote from several writers whom I’ve spoken with about this issue, by the way) have yet to sell a single copy.
On the other hand, allow me to present two examples out of several in the low-pricing camp: John Locke and Amanda Hocking. John Locke (unfortunately, not the guy from Lost) occupied seven spots on Amazon’s Top 50 and made over $126,000 in March alone. All of his novels are priced at $.99. Amanda Hocking is believed to be the first to become a millionaire entirely through self-publishing, and her novels range from $.99 to $2.99.
This business is all about getting your name out there, and the worst way I can think of to do that is to scare your readers off right out of the gate. But what might happen if you give everyone a low- or even no-risk look at what you have to offer? If you’re good, motivated to market, and patient, you’ll probably do well.
I’m not sure if an author’s prolificness (It’s a word, I swear!) has anything to do with a higher price point, but I’m not sure it doesn’t, either. After all, if an author feels that he or she only has one or two novels in them, they may be more likely to price higher than someone who has more ideas than they’ll be able to write in their lifetime.
I’ll use yours truly as an example. By August of 2012, I will have published a short story collection, a novella, and three novels (I’m not a speed writer by any means; it’s the cumulative result of the writing I’ve done for the the last five years or so). The short story collection, to be released by the end of June, will be free until I publish the first novel at the end of July, at which time I might bump it all the way up to $.99. I have absolutely nothing to lose by keeping the price on my books low; I would gladly give one away free for eternity to get a reader interested in buying everything else I write. There’s a reason that companies will give you some of their product for free in the beginning. It’s all about the hook. Every dollar you don’t charge might lead to several dollars of profit. Repeat after me: If you’re in it for the long haul, you have nothing to lose.
As far as the standard full-length novel pricing goes, the current consensus seems to be that the sweet spot for sales and, therefore, profit, is $2.99-$3.99. Three bucks isn’t much of a commitment or risk; it’s an impulse buy. And in a reading market that is becoming dominated by a hand-held gadget that has the capability to instantly download the next beach read, the impulse buy is the upstart’s best friend.