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How to Price Your eBook
With the ever growing popularity of the tablet, anyone who has ever dreamed of publishing a book now has the means. Owners of iPads, Kindles, Tabs, Nooks, and others are purchasing eBooks at a record pace due to their portability and environmental conscientiousness. But who would have predicted the actual creation and implementation of an eBook would be the easy part?
Pricing a book used to be relatively easy. Take all the parts of the book like printing costs, marketing expenses, advances and other author related fees, publisher fees, distribution fees and desired profits, add them up, divide by the number of printed copies, end it with a ‘5’ or a ‘9’ and voila, you have a price. With eBooks, some of that process is still in place, but there is no longer a physical book along with printing costs, or distribution fees and thus the basis of pricing is flipped on end.
In many ways, the growing eBook industry has much to learn from the digital photography business. When film disappeared, photographers needed to find a new way of justifying prices based on an intangible product. Customers at first didn’t understand why they were paying the same price, if not more, for a digital image when the expense of film was no longer a part of the process. As most photographers know, the price of technology skyrocketed, the responsibilities of processing film simply transferred from the lab to the photographer and storing images digitally on hard drives replaced the cost of purchasing film.
Producing an eBook is no different. Instead of a publisher working to lay out the book, the author now does the work. Although a publisher may no longer incur the expense of printing the book, the author may instead be tasked with hiring a pre-production company to digitize and troubleshoot any layout inconsistencies. And of course there’s time invested.
Those looking to get their books published have been eased into the market through ‘Print-on-Demand’ publishing companies like Blurb, Flickr, Lulu and CafePress just to name a few. Unfortunately these markets allowed little room for profit but enabled new publishers a base from which price from.
The eBook market has no standard. Typically ‘How-To’ books are priced higher than your fictional love story so in the online world, entertainment isn’t quite as valuable as information. Expect to pay about $2.99 for an entertaining novel by an unknown writer versus $7.99 and up for an informative ePub.
The consensus to arriving at a competitive price comes down to what you want out of your project. Selling an eBook is no different than selling anything else in this world; there are pros and cons.
People will tell you to price your work at next to nothing so you can sell hundreds, thousands, even millions of copies and possibly make a profit from bulk sales. Others will suggest taking a loss so you can get your name out. And still others will claim testing the market by setting a high price only to gradually lower it until sales improve is a great way to operate. Unfortunately all of these have a downside.
We all dream of selling millions of books, so do the other millions of people who have uploaded their books. Selling your book for nothing or next to nothing will still get you nothing. Why not make a little money while your name gets out there? After all, we’re talking about a digital book, not a physical one that people will share with their friends. If your book is good, they will email their friends about it and your book will go viral regardless of the price, so long as it’s a reasonable one. And gradually lowering the price of your book will only lead to upset buyers who purchased your book when it first came out. Remember, those buying your book are still customers and you want them to eventually buy more books, so don’t burn your bridges with poor customer service.
With that in mind, keep your pricing economically viable. In other words, it may be unrealistic to get $29.99 for your book just because you’ve invested six months to a year of your time in its creation. That kind of pricing may need to be saved for the physical copy and your eBook price may have to drop to $4.99. It’ll be a hard pill to swallow, but eventually worth it.
The most important part, check out your competition. If you’ve completed a stellar cookbook, check out other highly rated cookbooks with similar content and structure and price your book accordingly. If this happens to be your first book, price it slightly lower than authors with multiple books. Research has shown that up to 80% of consumers that have purchased one book from a particular author will go on to purchase additional books by that same author if they like the work. So, pricing your first eBook slightly below theirs may put you on the same level playing field and at least get readers to acknowledge your skills.
So why end in ‘5’ or ‘9’? Most of it is psychological and if anyone has ever been shopping, you know the psychology works. Would you rather buy something for $19.99 or $20.00? Furthermore, many of the eBook distributors require a pricing structure that ends in $.95 or $.99. Apple’s iTunes, for example, happens to require an ending price of $.99.
And don’t forget, you don’t get to keep all the dough. Suppose you print a book through Blurb and then submit it to iTunes. Blurb will keep their operating cost, about $1.40 and Apple will keep about 30% of the purchase price. If you’re selling a novel marketed through Amazon’s Kindle, pricing it at $2.99 or above will enable you to keep 70% of the profit, but if you price it below $2.99, you only keep 30%.
Most importantly, don’t underprice yourself. Your knowledge and ideas are valuable. Just spend some time doing a bit of homework and browsing the eBook store to get a better idea of what the market will bear for titles similar to yours.
And congratulations on becoming an author!