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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: what's the right price for your book?

This is a monthly event started by the awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh and organized by the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Click here to find out more about the group and sign up for the next event.

My insecurity this month: what is the right price for my books?

Here's the thing: every time I run a 99 cent promotion I sell a ton of books. Both Mosaics and Gene Cards landed on a bunch of hot new releases thanks to those promotions. And then the promotion ends and sales drop. So, what's an author to do?

Incidentally (or maybe not), Amazon started a new program called KDP Pricing Support, which is still in beta, but basically takes in your book data (sales, length of the book, etc.), and tells you what the right price for your book should be. It's an interesting tool because it lets you input the hypothetical price for your book and, based on the data from similar books, it tells you how your sales and profits would change accordingly. Obviously, if you lower the price, the sales increase but the profits decrease. On the other hand, when you raise the price you see a higher profit but less sales.

One thing is for sure: if you want a ton of sales go for the lowest price. However. There's always a catch. For me, the catch is this: how many of those copies sold at 99 cents are actually read? That's a very important question to ask because if all those books end up buried in a Kindle and get never opened, all I've gained is a momentary spike in your Amazon ranking, a spike that is bound to disappear just as quickly as it appeared.

What you really want, as an author, is to engage your readers. Readers who love your book and write a review and recommend the book to their friends are priceless. Who's more likely to write a review, the impulsive buyer who forgets about your book the minute he/she sees another sale, or the reader who looks at the book description and opens a couple of reviews before clicking "Buy Now"?

There's a second consideration I make when deciding the price for my books, and it's not based on page number, like the Amazon tool does. It's based on the amount of work I put into each project. It takes me one year to produce a finished book, and that's not just because I'm a slow writer. I'm a compulsive researcher: I research everything for my story, from characters to technology, from police procedural to locations. I spend just as much time researching as I do writing. It takes time, effort, and resources to do that.

But, none of this is written in stone and I keep debating whether or not I've set the right prices, which is why this month I decided to discuss this topic as my featured insecurity. :-)

Besides, I'm not giving up 99 cent promotions. I'm still planning on having plenty of those as they help me spread the word about my books. But I think that the final price of novel-length books should be higher than $0.99. What do you think? What do you take into account when deciding the right price for your book?

BTW, if you don't want to miss my next book promotion, make sure you sign up for my newsletter. Plus, you get a free story when you sign up. :-)  (sorry, had to end with a devious plug)


  1. I'm too new to know for sure what a book should be priced at. I did read that readers are more likely to buy ebooks priced between 2.99 to 3.99 USD. In the end I guess it's your call. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

  2. Pricing is a dilemma. If we charged (say, minimum wage) for the amount of time put into a book, nobody could afford to buy it. I'm guilty of snatching up $.99 books and letting them pile up on my Kindle. I'm saving them for when I'm stranded on a desert island--with a solar recharger, of course. :)

  3. I have no input for this question, as I am not there yet. I guess it might depend on how many more you sell at .99 then higher price. If you sell a lot at lower price profit could be close to the same or higher. It will will be interesting to see what actually does work best. Cheering for you.
    Juneta at Writer's Gambit

  4. Thanks for the heads up on the new tool! I've noticed the spike on the sales as well, but it really is that sustained base line that you want to build.

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

  5. I struggle with this issue. I don't want to devalue my work but I also want to get my books into as many hands as possible. I am going to play with that tool you mentioned and perhaps change the pricing for my first book.

  6. This isn't a worry for me yet, but hoping it will be soon, so the KDP Pricing Support thing sounds interesting. Hope you find your perfect pricing structure.

  7. I think $0.99 is great for promotions and maybe even a first in a series to bring people to that series, but I can see where a book higher in price might be read rather than a free or very cheap book. I know I have tons of free books on my Kindle I haven't gotten around to yet. Some I will. Others I won't. I guess with price the best thing to do is experiment and see where the sweet spot is. That can change per book.

  8. I think those cheap promos get people reading your books, and the hope is that you'll sell more books, and that they'll be waiting, and willing to pay more, for the next one. I think it's good for new authors. Although, I hate to see people giving away their hard work.
    Play off the Page

  9. I think the sale price helps. True a lot of people won't read, but if they do and they like it, they'll buy more of your books. And that spike on the sales ranking is a big plus.

  10. I don't have any experience in this regard.
    "how many of those copies sold at 99 cents are actually read?" Good point. The momentary spike doesn't mean that your book is necessarily being read. However, there's the flip side to consider...readers who read it and want the next one...?

  11. This is a great question. It's so hard to decide where the right price point is. Maybe it's good that I haven't had control over that aspect of my previously published book. It was out of my hands.

  12. Pricing any type of work is always a gamble. Being an artist, I've watched my work go for the price I've asked right after (or before) over hearing people say it's over priced. People don't understand that art requires LONG hours and HARD work. YES: I do think books should be priced higher than 99 cents. You've invested too much of your time, energy and creativity to give them away. The promotion is a great starter, of course! Get people interested. But I certainly see the dilemma: are they being read? Argh. Best of luck to you!


  13. I totally believe that 99 cent sales are not good for the purpose of getting you new readers. People just compulsively click on those books but very few get to actually read them. Hell, I have a sky-high TBR pile! Now, getting the reader engaged is the real trick. How to do it? The jury's still out.

    Good luck with your writerly endeavours!

  14. I'm afraid I don't know anything about pricing yet, but I would agree that $.99 is better for a promotion. However, I typically don't buy an ebook for more than about $2.99, so I consider that a good price for one. That may just be me, though. I still prefer paper books, so my value for ebooks may not be up to par.

  15. 99 cents is good for a sale but not as a permanent price. (Unless the book is a short story.) And I've never believed in giving a book away for free. Our work is worth more than that.

  16. I priced mine like comparable books in the genre were priced.

    The drop in rank is unavoidable. I use ads and short 99c promotions (4 to 5 days) to boost the rank, then enjoy a few more sales than usual at regular price as it drifts back down. My goal is to write more and get a backlist. I hear that's the best way to increase your baseline royalties.

    As far as 99c vs. 'real' readers, I've seen better buy-to-read (and buy-to-review) ratios when the sale was aimed at and promoted to a group of readers who favored the genre. About 30 authors got together and each dropped a book to 99c for 4 days. We promoted the entire list to a genre-specific FB group and sent it to all our mailing list subscribers. I didn't have as big a boost in my sales as usual, but I did get several new reviews in the following weeks.

    If your goal is a boost in rank, a sale is a sale. If your goal is reads and reviews, then not so much.

  17. This is great information! With me though, my small press picks the prices for my eBooks/books. I don't have a say unless I want to do a sale for a given amount of time. That's the only time when I'd be able to lower the price to 99c. As a reader, I like the 99c sales so I can snag an eBook I've been wanting to get, but (due to money problems) haven't been able to. As an author, I would only do a 99c sale occasionally, especially if you're publishing a series and put the first book on sale when a new one comes out.

  18. Very good post on pricing, TFS!

  19. I buy many free and 99 cent books, but the ones I read right away or soonish are the ones written by people I know well from online.


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