The Pricing Debate

I realize that it’s probably tacky to talk about money/sales/profits quite so publicly. However, as an indie author, I find this topic relevant and probably interesting to other indie authors out there. In addition, I want to ask my fans an important question related to my own books. So I’m taking a bit of risk by being very honest on this topic. I apologize for being tacky, but I think it’s worth the discussion.

When I decided to become a self-published author I knew at exactly what price I was going to sell my book – $0.99.  You’ll find that price is very common on Amazon Kindle – especially for indie authors. I paused for approximately 2 seconds when I discovered that the author receives a 35% royalty when the book is priced like that. So for every book sold I make roughly $0.35.

Let’s put some perspective around this. I spent around $1000 in the publication of Blue Violet. For the curious out there that was spent on cover art and editing (about $500 each). At $0.35 a book I wold have to sell 2,857 books before I’m out of the red and actually making a profit. Meanwhile I have plans on publishing a new book about every six months.

When I published Blue Violet, the business analyst and MBA student side of me kicked in and I didn’t blink at the pricing for Blue Violet because from a business perspective I considered it to be my “loss leader.” My goal with Blue Violet was never profit, but developing a fan base/following of readers. In order to be any kind of successful author you have to have readers who want to read your books. Offering my first book at a low price and doing free promotions has helped me reach readers and has been well worth those decisions. I adore my fans!

(By the way… I’m well aware that as a creative writer who also works with numbers all day long – and loves it – that I’m an odd duck.)

Now – I have no aspirations to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer making millions of dollars (authors of Harry Potter and Twilight if you didn’t know). And while it is a life-long dream to be a full-time writer, I am realistic that the odds of that happening are slim. However, I want to continue writing and publishing regularly. I truly love every part of the process. Therefore, making this “hobby” self-sustaining is a goal of mine.

At the same time, I absolutely don’t want to lose current fans by suddenly changing my pricing, or alienate potential new readers because books are priced too high.

A final data point for you… at $2.99/book on Kindle the author’s royalty % moves to as high as 70%.  So my earnings per book changes from $0.35 to $2.10. I’d only have to sell 476 books to cover the cost of publishing. Based on my “new book every six months” plan and my current rate of sales I would basically cover the cost of each book in the time it takes me to write the next book. And that meets my goal of sustainability.

So here’s my thinking… Make the first book in a series $0.99 and any subsequent books in that series $2.99. My question to my current fans… is that acceptable to you? Or will a pricing change like that completely turn you off? I’m looking for honest feedback.

I’m sure I’ll revisit this topic and my assumptions around it as I continue to publish.  For example, I’m not sure how adding a second, third, and fourth book to my sales will affect things. And I’ve seen indie authors sell for as high as $8.99 on Kindle versions and I’m sure they have good, solid business reasons for doing so. But for now this is how I’m leaning.


3 thoughts on “The Pricing Debate

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  1. As a reader, I don't even blink at a price of a book that is second in a series where I liked (or loved) the first one, unless it is crazy expensive. It seems pretty standard to see the first be .99 (or even 2.99), the second 2.99, the third 3.99 or 4.99…

    I can also say that as an author, when I've changed the prices around on my books from .99 to 2.99 to 4.99, it has made zero difference, good or bad. Just my 2cents.

    As a reader though, I'd almost expect the second book to be priced a little higher.


  2. Yes I think the same as Wendy. Also as people get hooked you can drop your first book's price to $0 to get even more people into the “sales funnel” and hopefully they will want to buy your subsequent books.

    I priced my first book, non-fiction, for $2.99 and have had great success with it. People impulse buy at that price quite easily.

  3. Good points. And thanks for sharing your experience with pricing impacts to your own sales. That helps!

    I hadn't added my reader perspective that I personally pay very little attention to the price. For authors I like, I don't even look at the price. I'm going to read their books regardless. For authors new to me, I'll still buy a book if it sounds interesting enough.

    But I will admit I spend a lot of $ on books. I read at least one a week. So I figured my perspective might not be the norm. 😉

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