I stumbled across a guest post: Why Your Novel is a Tall, 6-Pump Vanilla, Breve Latte Grande, Extra Hot, Heavy Whipping Cream, Extra Dry Cappuccino (Or It Should Be) by Elle Lothlorien on Joe Konrath’s blog.
I’ve written a little about pricing digital books before on this blog, and mentioned Dean Wesley Smith’s take on the 99 cent price point. Based on conversations with Mike Stackpole, and comments I’ve read by Robin Sullivan, I made the decision to price my books in the $3.99 to $4.99 range. I’ve long believed that you teach people how to treat you and that applies to teaching them what your work is worth, too. I’d forgotten that in economics that principle is called “imputed value.” (Thanks for reminding me, Elle.)
The comments on Elle’s post are worth reading, too. There’s some difference of experience and opinion there on what works and why. Michael Kingswood suggests this pricing strategy:
I think a reasonable pricing structure is as follows. Short stories $.99. Novelettes $1.99. Novellas $2.99. Short novels (< 75k) $3.99. Novels (75k – 100k) $4.99. >100k $5.99.
In case you’re wondering about the difference between a novelette and a novella, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America use the following definitions for its Nebula Awards: short story–up to 7500 words, novelette–7,500-17,500 words, novella–17,500-40,000 words, novel–varies depending on genre but usually a minimum of 40,000 words.
By that measure, LIGHTBRINGER is priced just right at $3.99. (The Wild Rose Press, however, values VEILED MIRROR at $6.50, so is $3.99 too low?) In a few weeks I’ll be bringing out a 11,000 word erotic fairy tale called “With Heart to Hear.” I’d planned to price it at .99, but now I’m rethinking that and considering listing it at $1.99.
I take away several points from this post and the comments.
- While a lot of authors are pricing their books very low, many readers avoid .99 books, believing them to be inferior, as prefer them. Maybe more.
- Focusing on sales rank is not useful.
- Within a certain range, creating imputed value works. Based on Elle’s experience, I’m wondering if launching a book at a lower price, say $2.99 for an announced limited time, and then raising the price to $4.99 might not be a good strategy.
- Higher per unit prices may reduce unit sales while increasing net income.
On the other hand, I just read “How Darcie Chan Became a Best-Selling Author” from last Friday’s Wall Street Journal. She used the 99 cent price as part of a larger strategy to boost sales of her book THE MILL RIVER RECLUSE.
‘She noticed that a lot of popular e-books were priced at 99 cents, and immediately dropped her price from $2.99 to 99 cents. The cut would slash potential royalties—Amazon pays 35% royalties for books that cost less than $2.99, compared with 70% for books that cost $2.99 to $9.99. But sales picked up immediately. “I did that to encourage people to give it a chance,” she says. “I saw it as an investment in my future as a writer.” The strategy worked. Several reviewers on Amazon said they bought the book because it was 99 cents, then ended up liking it.’
She also spent over $1600 on banner ads online and an expedited review from Kirkus, but her sales had perked up with just the price drop.
So what is your price strategy? I’d be interested in hearing from other indie authors about how they price their books and what effect that has had on sales and income.