One of the wonderful things about indie publishing is that authors have complete control over the entire process. The final content of the book, the cover image, the price. Yes, indie authors are allowed to set the price of their own ebook on most self-publishing outlets (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu). In fact, I advise any indie author to steer clear of companies that don’t allow this liberty. However, all this freedom can grow a bit daunting. It can seem overwhelming, especially for newbies, to write a book and single-handedly produce its release. Especially considering that the price of any book (electronic or otherwise) can help drive or diminish sales.
Coming up with the right price for an ebook turns out to be a kind of balancing act. Easier for some than for others. Some know exactly what they want and, for them, pricing is easy. Others, who are less sure of their definitive goal, may have more trouble deciding on the best price. Ultimately, your marketing strategy, distribution goals, and career goals are the determining factors for how to price your ebook. The nice thing about it is the price isn’t set in stone—you can always change it later.
The Basics of Ebook Pricing
According to a handy infographic from Smashwords, the hot pricing spot at the moment is between $3.00 and $3.99. The $.99 mark is also commonly bought, but the $2.00 to $2.99 range is a death trap for some reason. (And this used to be a very high-selling price point, so keep in mind that these things change). So going off of simple statistics alone, $3.99 is a good place to start. I chose this price for my ebook, Moonpennies, and it’s selling quite well. Of course, the only other more frequently downloaded price point is free.
Also, on another note, it is wise to price your ebook at __.99, because Apple requires this. If you don’t, a distributer like Smashwords will automatically raise the price to the next highest .99. The Smashwords styleguide gives this example: a book priced at $1.20 will sell in the Apple iBook store at $1.99.
Marketing and Distribution Affect Your Ebook Pricing
Now that you have the basics, you need to consider your pricing from a marketing standpoint. What is your position in the market? Are you a well-known indie author with a dedicated fanship? How many books have you written? Is this your first or your 10th? If you have a dedicated following, you may be able to price your book a little higher than $3.99 and still sell well.
If you are virtually unknown and you don’t care about the cash—all you want is the widest distribution possible—going free is your best option.
Distribution Influences Your Career
Putting your book online free won’t make you money for all your invested time and energy. However, it’s an investment for your career as a successful writer. By pricing this book free and gaining a following, you can set a price ($3.99 or possibly even higher) for your future books and you’ll already have readers who are familiar with your previous work. And they’ll be waiting to buy whatever you have coming out next.