Marketing Monday: Pricing your Books

You know something I don’t think people talk about enough?  How to price your books.

Sure, there was a recent battle between Amazon and Hachette regarding exactly that (as well as many other battles between Amazon and other folks about it), which led into Amazon sending out a letter to all of the authors on KDP giving suggestions on how to price, as well as adding a little tool to the KDP process to determine the best price for your book (which I think always tells you $1.99)…but all this really is is Amazon telling you how they’re really prefer you to price your books…not giving you much for information on how you SHOULD price them.

You want to know something completely ridiculous?  Out of all the things I’ve struggled with and grasped at straws regarding and really worked toward trying to get an idea of the best practice on, pricing is the one I still just feel completely lost at.

I’m going to leave paperbacks out of the equation at the moment, mostly because of the fact that indie/self-pub book sales are almost non-existent in the paperback market, but also because there are some severe limitations on how you price them because of book costs…especially if you’re working print on demand instead of going to a printer and having a large run printed.

So…ebooks…to start, generally the best idea on figuring out how to price your stuff is to see how other similar items are priced in the marketplace.  Taking a look at the front page of the Kindle ebook store right now (because we all know that Amazon is the only place where books are actually being sold right now), you’ll see books priced anywhere from $.99 to $15.91…umm…yeah…that’s a pretty wide range.  Now, you can cut out the big name books to get a better idea of where you should mark yourself, so Glenn Beck’s $15.91 title (and Harper Lee’s $15.50 one) get cut off, as well as many others in the teens…but that still leaves you with a range of $.99 to $14.99 (I cut out names that I instantly recognized who had less than 100 reviews on the book…knowing that this one is still traditionally published).

Okay…so…you’re still not getting anywhere.

I mean…seriously, that’s some huge gaps in pricing options.  Now, we all know that those traditionally published books have some outrageous prices attached to them, and ultimately, many of them just don’t sell due to that..others do because they, you know, have real marketing budgets behind them.

But you, you’re just a small fry…and you really don’t know how to build your audience.

In fact…you’ve been thinking about just setting up your book as a free download in order to build an audience.  Although Amazon’s not a huge fan of free books, this is totally possible, just with a little bit of a workaround.

But don’t do it!  At least not without having other books in the same series to give readers reason to come back. Free books are dangerous.  There are thousands and thousands of people who scour the internet for free books, only to have thousands and thousands of books sitting on their kindles for forever, never to be read…or to only have a couple pages read before deciding it’s not that paranormal romance they wanted.

No…you need to think about your book as a product, as a VALUABLE product…as something that people actually want to read, want to read so much that they’re willing to put money down for it.

Because if someone pays for a book, they’re a heckuva lot more likely to actually read it…or at least be aware of it.  And ultimately, that’s what this is all about, getting people to read your books.

So, a price…this is a difficult question.  If you ask Amazon, they’ll tell you $1.99, because “according to their research, this is the price point that causes the largest amount of sales and will give you the best bang for your buck” (not an actual quote, but the basic sentiment of messages I’ve received from them over the years).  This is probably true…In fact, a lower price point will make it easier for people to take the risk on an unknown.  Of course, in the lower price point ranges are also a lot of competition.  You put your book at $.99 and you’re probably going to be lost amidst the sea of 99 centers…unless your cover somehow just immediately begs everyone to grab a copy just from the thumbnail view.

My thoughts…keep it above the $1.99.  I’ve put my book at dozens of different price points over the couple years they’ve been out there.  I found almost no movement below 2 dollars. In fact, for a while, I found the most attention at the $5 point.  Right now…$3 seems to be the magic number.

And that’s the issue, right there.  That magic price point? It seems to change quite regularly.  Now, Amazon hates it, and I wouldn’t suggest it, but you could probably change the price of your book on a weekly basis and get different results for the same price points with a difference of days.  It all depends on what people are actually looking for.  And if we know anything about the publishing industry, it’s that we have absolutely no clue what people are looking for.

By now you’re probably wondering where the actual advice here is.  Here it is:  Keep your book priced somewhere between $2.00 and $5.00, at least to start.  That should be enough to tell people that you have the confidence that they’ll enjoy your book, while also not being too much to actually possibly cause people to think you’re breaking the bank.

Of course…with the introduction of Kindle Unlimited…none of that might matter anyways.  I think about a third of my ‘sales’ right now are through KU, where price really doesn’t even come into play.

So, the real thing here, the real advice, is that you probably shouldn’t get too hung up on pricing.  Sure, if you have seen a sudden drop off of sales, it might not be a terrible idea to change the price of your books (although pursuing new marketing avenues might be a better venture), but ultimately, there is no real expectations from readers on book prices today, as opposed to most other forms of entertainment.  That can be good and bad.  If you price right, you can find yourself in a less competitive place on the field…if you price wrong, you may never be found.  But that’s where making sure people know you exist comes into play…something that is a daily effort, from what I’ve seen.

Have fun out there!

from  A great way to see that book prices just don't seem to stay in one place.
from A great way to see that book prices just don’t seem to stay in one place.

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