How to price an ebook

The publishing industry is in a state of change

New authors face, for the first time, a real question about whether it makes sense to approach the market by the traditional agent and publisher route, or whether to go it alone.

For now, I think most authors still need the resources and experience of proper publishers. There are some striking exceptions, of course, but it’s still notable how many self-published authors end up working with the biggest firms (E.L. James and Random House, for example.)

But it’s still vital to understand this new market. And one of the most critical interrelationships is that between the price of an ebook and the eventual sales. I’ve just come across this chart, which is the best thing I’ve ever seen on that topic.

What the chart says very simply is: price too high and you throttle sales. Price too low and you give away money without any addition to sales. (My guess is that readers assume, correctly, that a $0.99 ebook is often not going to be much good.)

There’s a weird twist here, however. Traditional publishers are deeply reluctant to sell books at the $2.99 level. Although they might boost sales on an individual title by pricing low, they can’t boost sales overall by slashing prices because, in the end, a reader is only going to buy and read so many books a year.

So there’s a curious way in which traditional authors are inhibited by their publishers. The most obvious and proven method of increasing sales (and readers) is to cut the ebook price … yet that’s the method least favoured by publishers.

I still think that regular publishing is the best move for most authors. That’s not mere talk. I’ve got a non-fiction project that I’m tinkering with and am trying to figure out whether to sell it via my agent or whether to publish it myself online. I’ve not finally decided, but I’m inclining to go the conventional route. Like I say though, these things are moving all the time. The right answer today may well not be the right answer in a year’s time.

As the Bard remarks, Don’t speak too soon, cos the wheel’s still in spin, and there’s no telling who that it’s naming. (And no, not that bard, this one.)

Market a self-pub book

Are you serious about selling books?