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How Indie Authors Should Price a Book for Optimal Success

21 November 2016

From Digital Book World:

Sometimes the simplest thing you can do to give your book a boost is play around with the pricing.

It’s one thing to have a book, but it’s quite another to have one that actually sells.

. . . .

Consider the ebook. In general, I find that most traditional publishers don’t know how to price an ebook. I’ll see ebooks priced at $9.99 and up, which is a deterrent for most readers. As you build your marketing plan, keep in mind that ebooks should not be priced equal to their print counterparts. Even pricing them within a dollar or two of a $14.95 book is too high.

I have talked to the folks at KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) about this, and they’ve told me that their “sweet spot” for pricing (in terms of what they see gets the most traction on their site) is pricing between $2.99 and $5.99. Now while these numbers might horrify you, keep in mind that deciding to price your book to suit your market will actually help encourage a buy, rather than discourage it.

Price rotation. Now this is where the pricing strategy really gets interesting. When was the last time you changed the price of your book on Amazon? And I’m not talking about a price drop for an ebook promo; I’m talking about playing with your pricing.

So, for example, I cited the price range of $2.99 to $5.99, and while you may disagree with it, why not give it a shot for a week or so? Changing your book price can help spike your exposure on Amazon, because it triggers Amazon’s internal algorithm. Sometimes I work with authors who will shift their book pricing regularly, from $5.99 down to $2.99 down to $1.99 and then back up again. I would, however, be careful about doing this too much. You don’t want to be shuffling your book price two or three times in a week.

Take a page from physical stores and how they run their sales. If you go into a department store, there is always something on sale, but never the same item priced differently three different times in a week. Ideally, I’d look at playing with how you price your book once a month—more if you’re running an ebook promo that you’re advertising, which I’ll cover in a minute.

. . . .

Price promos. Whenever you do a downward price rotation, be sure to let your potential readers know you’re running a sale. If you have a super fan group, whether it’s a Facebook group or an email list, be sure to give them a heads up, too. Whenever I reduce a price on a print or ebook, I always, always do a promo, even if it’s just a small one, to let folks know I’m running a sale.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World


20 Comments to “How Indie Authors Should Price a Book for Optimal Success”

  1. Or maybe we should ask Amazon, they seem to understand things pretty well.

  2. This was news in 2012.
    Today it’s common knowledge, right?

    At least it acknowledges that pricing ebooks at $9.99-plus is a sales killer.

  3. Changing your book price can help spike your exposure on Amazon, because it triggers Amazon’s internal algorithm.

    Is that true? I was under the impression that any increased sales from a price change would affect rank and visibility, but not the price change itself.

    • You’re correct.

      This woman’s advice is bad. She doesn’t understand marketing or pricing at all.
      I thought everybody had figured out that changing your price by a dollar or two every 3-4 weeks and bouncing around a price range in search of a ‘sweet spot’ was a pointless exercise. Such long term behaviour makes you look, to anyone who might be paying attention to your books, like a flake who doesn’t know what their books are worth.

  4. Well, I think the trad-publishers know how to price their books, and their eBooks are priced Not-to-sell. They want to kill the eBooks, and return to paper books, where they control the market.
    However the rest of the points are valid, if you are a relatively well known writer and have a following. When readers don’t stop at your “table” you will generate no sales no matter what you will do with your pricing. Even free or perma-free, which by the way doesn’t work. Readers value buying a reduced-price book, but not a free book. The Kindle will go out of style before readers will finally read those free books. So what to do? Keep writing, if you are serious about it, and become a known author.

    • Really?

      I have a permafree book and I can testify to the fact that the sequels are selling moderately with me doing absolutely no promo at all. (I’m busy writing the next book this month.) Now, the sales aren’t half of what I give away free, but there was a period last year, before permafree, when I sold nothing at all for a couple of months in a row. And little more than that during the other months.

      • Everyone is different, as are different series. Permafree used to work well for me, but this past year it has changed. It doesn’t work nearly as well. I’m considering putting it back to regular price because of it.

    • Permafree first in series works well for me as well.

    • I started my perma-free in September 2015, and the sequels sold less than when the first book in the series was for sale. After 8 months I stopped the perma-free and the sales are the same, and this was for my best seller Vlad V series. Maybe the downtrend started at that time, but it’s been sliding ever since.

  5. Why would pricing at $5.99 horrify anyone? You’d receive around $4.19 per sale which is 2.4x what you’d receive for a traditionally published ebook at $9.99 (around $1.74). Even at $2.99 you’d receive $2.09. Truly horrifying.

  6. I wanted to buy the Kindle version of Hillbilly Elegy, but it was something like $3 MORE than the paperback. No thanks. It was annoying.

    That said, I was at a panel with agents and someone asked about being indie and then being picked up by a publisher. The agents said they needed HIGH sales in a 6-month period and they also needed the book to be priced at publisher’s prices.
    So absurd. If anyone was selling like crazy in a six-month period at $10/pop, they’d be stupid if they didn’t go the Hugh Howey route and only sold print rights.

    • Heh, if they want more than print rights sell it to them for a cool million upfront (1.2 million if they insisted you go through an agent) — not in installments.

      Just for the one book of course, no first offer rights to the next one or to the characters/settings/story-line.

      Yeah, they’ll say no, but a lot more fun than just laughing at their offer.

    • Annie Bellet made a comment that, when she totaled up her UF series (@7 books priced between free and 2.99), it would cost over a million (easy) to sell the ebook rights. Trad pub picked up her print rights only, so that ‘selling well @ $10’ makes me extremely skeptical that that’s what it takes for a self-pubber to get an agent. There are plenty that get agents and price between 2.99-5.99.

      • And if you’re doing so well that trad-pub is courting you, who needs an agent?

        The problem with anything agents might say is that they want to be in the middle of any sale and get their cut of that pie.

    • And that’s exactly what the trad-pubs want, sell paper not eBooks.

      • Their problem is that ebooks are here to stay. Trad-pub might have some say over things if they could control ‘all’ ebooks, but they don’t. And too many people have found ebooks to be a better value that pbooks and many are willing to find new writers writing what they like to read rather than lug a pbook around.

        If all they want to do is sell paper, they’re cutting themselves out of a growing market, even more so when more writers start going straight to the printers and bypass publishers altogether …

  7. Smart Debut Author

    Given that OP Penny Sansevieri’s own books appear to be selling at best a copy or two each week, I would take any publishing “advice” she offers with a substantial grain of salt. 😉

    Perhaps Ms. Sansevieri would benefit from spending a little less time trying to advise other authors about “Optimal Success,” and instead seek said advice from other authors who actually have sold a few hundred thousand books.

    Caveat emptor.


    • Those that can’t do, teach or otherwise try to tell others what ‘they’ must be doing wrong?

      Sounds like a (bad) consultant to me. 😉

  8. I thumbed through the OP. I saw no demand curves and no profit curves. Opinions without a foundation in facts. Nothing but WAGs. The ignorance of Ms Sansevieri is devastating but not surprising.

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