How to Price an Ebook: 7 Questions to Help You Decide

How to Price an Ebook: 7 Questions to Help You Decide

Carol Tice | 20 Comments

One of the most frequent questions new writers and authors ask is, “How much should I charge for my ebook?”

With many factors that go into this decision, there aren’t many easy answers or hard and fast rules.

I’ve learned how much to charge for my ebooks through trial and error and came away with a few ideas about how to price your own.

There’s no harm in treating your ebook pricing like an experiment. When you land on a price, always keep in mind that you could revisit that price, halve that price, or maybe double that price, depending on the reception it gets.

Or you might decide to make your ebook free—there’s a number of compelling reasons to do that in the right situation.

That said, how to price an ebook can be fairly straightforward if you go through the following questions.

How to Price an Ebook (on Amazon)

To sell the most books, the best price point is $0.99. You’re making some money while also getting your work out there to the highest number of readers. But at $0.99, Amazon only allows you as the author to make a 35% royalty. Once the price goes above $2.99, you can set the royalty to 70%. You might get fewer readers, but not as many less as you might think. Therefore, the best price for an ebook is between $2.99 and $9.99—in that range, you’re eligible for the highest royalty percentage of 70%.

When selling your book on your own website, the “rules” are a bit different, as you’re making 100% no matter the price point.

7 Questions to Consider for Ebook Pricing

1. What are your goals for this ebook?

The first thing to contemplate is what you’re trying to accomplish with this ebook. Maybe it’s something you’re creating as a free gift to your blog subscribers.

Or perhaps you want to use this ebook to lure readers to buy something more expensive from you later — in which case, $0.99 might be a good entry price.

If this is your magnum opus, you might choose a more substantial price, depending on how you plan to market it. Which brings us to this question:

2. Where do you plan to sell this ebook?

There are many different approaches to selling your ebook. You might decide to only sell it on your own website.

Or you might only sell on Amazon, so you can get the higher royalties offered in their KDP Select program.

Or you might decide to post it everywhere possible, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Overdrive, and dozens of other book sites.

If you’re selling on mass platforms, you’ll particularly want to ask yourself:

3. What do similar authors charge?

You don’t have to charge the same sorts of prices as others in your genre or topic, but it pays to be aware of what’s out there, especially if your ebook will be featured in search results on a book site right alongside those competitors’ offerings.

If you’re thinking a 50-page ebook about gardening is worth $20, but everyone else sells their similar-length ebooks for $2.99, you’re probably not going to see many sales. If you’re only selling off your own website, you might have more leeway to price without regard to market competition.

4. Amazon’s pricing tips

If you’re selling on Amazon, keep in mind that recent data shows most bestselling e-books there are priced in the $3-$7 range. The lower the price, the more you sell.

Amazon says its data shows if you priced an ebook at $14.99 and would have made $100,000 at that price, you’d make $179,000 from that same ebook if you cut the price to $9.99.

Lower prices greatly expand the audience of potential buyers. More people buy, getting your ideas into more hands — and, often, making you more money.

At $0.99, many shoppers will consider your ebook a “no-brainer” purchase. It’s less than a buck! At that price, it’s an easy impulse buy. If you want to get buzz going, get your words into many hands, have many potential reviewers, make a lot of sales, and capture emails for selling the next ebook, this can be the price that makes it happen.

My advice: If you don’t have a $0.99-cent ebook yet, set a goal of creating one first. You want an entry-level price where readers will jump in and start getting to know you, to lay the groundwork for successfully selling a higher-priced ebook.

I’ve seen these pricing approaches work in my own ebook selling . . . so think hard about whether you want to go high or low. One critical factor there:

5. Is your audience big or small?

If your ebook is on a topic with a fairly small but rabidly interested audience — say, Civil War re-enactments or underwater basketweaving — you might want to go with a higher price.

You’ll be less likely to be able to use a lower price to end up earning more, because there isn’t a mass audience for your topic. Another aspect of this:

5. Do you have a list?

If you have built an audience that you can email about your e-book, you are in a better position to charge more than if you have no list.

People who like you enough to opt into an email list probably think you’re pretty awesome. So they’ll be more likely to entertain the idea of buying a higher-priced tome from you.

If all your marketing will be through mass bookselling sites to total strangers, there’s less chance that they’ll think your ebook is worth $27 — when they’re looking at a page of Amazon results with other, similar books at $3.99.

But you might be able to charge more, depending on your answer to this:

6. Do you offer unique or highly valuable info?

Does your nonfiction ebook teach readers how to do something that could change their lives or earn them boatloads of cash? If so, it might command a high price.

There’s high perceived value if what I read in your ebook can be used to make me hundreds of times the price of your ebook. For instance, I’ve seen ebooks that teach you a concrete system for how to launch and market a product do very well at $97 and more.

It’s rare that your nonfiction ebook will be the only place a reader could get the information you’re offering. But maybe you’ve got a unique spin, fresh data, or a new method to offer. If so, take advantage of it.

Rare information is more valuable to readers, so you could price higher if you have something exclusive. Unique info also means your offer can’t be as easily price-compared, which helps you charge more.

7. Does your price give you flexibility?

One cautionary note about pricing your ebook super-low: It makes it hard for you to offer special deals. And you want to offer those. Putting your ebook on a limited-time sale is a proven way to generate a flurry of sales.

Among the deals I’ve offered that have sold well, for instance, are:

  • Half-price introductory sales
  • “Bundle” sales where you buy one ebook and get a second free
  • 99 cent sales
  • “Pay what you want” over $X price sales

So consider having a “list” price but discounting that price down, at least on occasion. You’ll drive a lot more interest in your ebook.

Once you select a price, remember my short answer: how to price an ebook is all an experiment.

Don’t ever think your price is set in stone or that you have to price like everybody else. Every author’s situation is unique, so feel free to carve your own path with how you price.

The ebook world is changing fast, so remember to revisit your price from time to time and consider whether it’s still the best one. Pricing correctly is one of the keys to creating an ebook that earns well, so keep tinkering.

What strategy have you used in pricing your ebook? Let us know in the comments! 

20 comments on “How to Price an Ebook: 7 Questions to Help You Decide

  1. Vishnu on

    It’s quite natural that the buyers have a negative approach towards the low priced commodities. But I don’t think a wise reader would look down upon a book simply because it’s priced low. Remember, many great books are priced as low as 99 cents.
    In the case of me, the publisher suggests to price my (unpublished) novel ( A Head Trip Mirage) at $4. I, however, prefer 99 cents despite my confidence in the quality of the book.

  2. L OMalley on

    I would like to know the word count expected if you price a fiction book at 99 cents. Could you explain expected minimum word counts for each category such as Fiction Non Fiction as the price grows?

    • Carol Tice on

      Have to say I can’t — there is no ‘normal’ in self-publishing. You might buy a few books similar to the one you’re thinking of writing to get an idea of the range.

  3. Peggy Carouthers on

    Awesome tips, Carol. I really like the point about starting with $.99 and staying in the $3-$7 range. Thanks for giving awesome, useful specifics. This will be very helpful when I start launching ebooks.

  4. Andrea Arthur Owan on

    Carol, I can’t begin to tell you how much you, the Den and your bootcamps, training, etc. have helped me as a professional writer! And, after filling in my husband and all of your wisdom (on one of our recent date nights!) he is bursting with ideas and ready to go with his own e-book and “Den-like” program for engineering and engineering tinkerers! And that will bring us to our first e-book together!! We’re hoping to put something together to have ready to go when we launch our special website in early 2015. And he LOVES the idea of a book series. This bootcamp training couldn’t have come at a better time for us.

    So, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Carol and your team for giving us the tools to live our dreams!

    Andrea Arthur Owan recently posted…

  5. Betty Washington on

    If a person is trying to feel out the market with their first book, pricing low is a good idea. The demand for the low priced book tells me there are people out there looking at my work. Once I establish myself, I will gradually increase the book’s price. My next book would be competitively priced. Although we all want to sell our books out the gate, sometimes you have to take baby steps to feel out the market and work with the information you gain regarding your e-book.

  6. Katherine Swarts on

    Well, I’ll be looking forward to discussing that further in the Bootcamp: my goal there is actually to create a 99-cent e-book that will get heavy attention from new contacts (which has been by far the weakest point in my online presence to date).

    • Carol Tice on

      That’s a perfect goal for this bootcamp, Katherine! I’m hoping to see many writers either do 99-cent ebooks, or free ebooks for their email subscribers, if they don’t have a freebie yet.

  7. Katherine Swarts on

    Great point, Mridu! I have a couple of additional “questions for guiding your decision” to suggest:

    1. How long is the e-book (how many words, or how many pages in a Word document or .pdf), and how much work went into writing it? Ninety-nine cents is fine for a 25-page book, not so great for a 300-pager. (Three-hundred-page e-books may not be particularly advisable, but that’s a subject for another discussion….) And if you spent weeks researching a book and included multiple expert sources and recommended reading, it certainly should be worth more than a book where you included only what you already knew.

    2. What are comparable hard-copy books priced at? My personal opinion is that if a book is published in both e- and hard-copy versions, the former should be about half the price of the latter.

    • Carol Tice on

      Interesting formula vs hard copy…I think that’s generally true, but not necessarily if the information is high-value/helps you earn tons of money/is unique. Like I say, I’ve seen $97 e-books do really well when the information was unique and vital to the reader.

  8. Mridu Khullar Relph on

    Fantastic post, Carol. I’ve been thinking about and researching how to price e-books and this has given me quite a bit to think about.

    One thing I would mention that I’ve heard said repeatedly is that for non-fiction, the 99 cent price point is probably not a good one, not only because you can’t offer deals (as you mentioned) but because this is not entertainment, but information. And people are not only willing to pay more for information they want, but subconsciously, we all trust higher-priced information more than we do lower-priced information. (“If this author only puts the value of this life-changing information at 99 cents, then this book mustn’t be very good,” etc.)

    • Carol Tice on

      I certainly don’t want to price at $.99 for anything substantial or lengthy, Mridu. But it can be great to have *one* $.99 e-book in your stable, to get people trying you out and starting to know your byline.

      For me, that’s 13 Ways to Get the Writing Done Faster. It’s a fairly short e-book as it’s taken from a half-hour training I did with Linda Formichelli, so to me $.99 is appropriate there. We started it at $2.99 or $3.99, as I recall, but it didn’t do well at that price.

      Like I say, it’s all an experiment…so we tinkered with the price on that one, and I love it at $.99.

  9. Fran Civile on

    Carol, Thank you for digging up such a wide variety of possible solutions to selling our ebooks. I appreciate John Soares example too!

    I want to point my readers to that great information.

    Fran

  10. John Soares on

    Carol, I really appreciate your detailed advice on pricing. I have a short ebook on a common topic that’s $2.99 and available on Kindle only.

    By contrast, the ebook about my specific writing specialty is 27 bucks and is available only from my website, as is a short course I created for freelance writers. Both have little or no competition and can make a big difference for freelancers’ incomes. I purposely don’t sell them on any other platforms.

    The Kindle ebook also includes links to my website and an invitation to subscribe, tactics you have recently advocated.

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi John — thanks for providing that great example of how to charge more, positioning it as a course rather than ‘just an e-book.’

      Keeping it off Amazon I think can help. Many of the $97-type e-books I’ve seen, the author only sells themselves, through Clickbank or e-Junkie or a similar affiliate program.

      Ooh, that’s also something I should have noted in the post! If you have a high-value e-book you sell at a more substantial price, it can be a motivator for affiliates to get involved and help you sell it, if you offer a 50% or more commission on it, which many authors will. So that can be another strategy, to tap affiliates.

Comments are closed.