We’ve been at it for a few weeks now, examining a few of the many choices authors have to make during the self-publication and marketing processes, starting with the Big Whopper (“Choosing a Self-Publishing Company“) middling with the choices authors make regarding the text itself (“Choosing a Trim Size for Your Book“), and winding through deciding on a genre for your book–assuming, of course, that genre remains a useful identifier (“Know Thyself (& Thy Genre)“). Today, we’re going to look at something a little different. We’re going to ask the money question. (Or … one of the money questions.)
How Much Do I Charge Per Book?
I’m already aware it’s complicated. Just tell me already.
It’s true. Pricing is complicated, not least by the fact that we’re probably looking at two different products here, even when we’re talking about one book–because let’s face it, it’s a good idea to sell both a digital copy or ebook edition as well as a physical copy or print edition of your book. The more diverse your offerings, and so on and so forth.
Some facts hold true no matter which edition you’re looking at, however. The first being:
- Pricing your book too high relative to your competitors all but guarantees your readers will go elsewhere.
Readers are whatever the book version of an omnivore is called. (A genrevore? Never mind. I’m terrible at coining memes.) They’re far more likely to pick a sequel of a book they’ve already read than a book by a new author, and failing that, they’re more likely to pick a book within the same genre as an existing favorite. But a book by an unfamiliar author that’s expensive compared to its shelfmates? Not going to happen.
The second fact?
- Pricing your book too low undercuts the perceived value of your book, unless the pricing is temporary.
When we talk about selling readers on a new book, we’re actually making a value proposition; we are attempting to cultivate a perceived value of the book in someone who has never encountered it before, and there’s nothing that shouts “Not worth my time!” than something that doesn’t come with its own built-in novelty factor. There should be a synergy between the quality of your book as an object in the hand and its price; and unless you’re creating the aforementioned novelty by running a short-term sale or discount, your book should be only fractionally lower than the average price of a new book in its genre.
- Print books need to account for physical manufacture costs.
So, yes, your ebook should probably cost less than your print edition. It follows.
- Price is a question of audience.
What does your audience expect of a book like yours? I’m not just talking about genre; I’m talking about length (Wolf Hall costs more than Moll Flanders, for example), paper and binding quality, whether it’s an oversize or mass market size, hardback or paperback. The only real way to make a thoroughly researched decision on what these expectations mean in terms of pricing in today’s market is to wander through a bookstore. Don’t just hang around in one section, either–walk every aisle. Eye every book. What qualities does your book share with each item? What makes it stand out? Flip through books of a similar page count. Turn a few books with similar cover designs and aesthetics over to check the price. Check the gloss of the pages. Count the illustrations.
Ultimately, the price of your book can only be set and determined by you, so you will at some point have to just make a call and stick with it. But if you’re feeling particularly brave, take your book in to a bookseller and without giving them much of a clue, let them handle the book and try to guess the price. Let them estimate how much they would charge. Neighborhood and indie bookstores are the best for this. There’s no substitute for experience, and there’s not substitute for the assurance that you’re part of a larger network and system dedicated to putting books like yours in the hands of eager readers.
You are not alone. ♣︎