There's no shortage of opinions in the indie author world when it comes to pricing ebooks. In a way, this is good because there are clearly multiple pricing strategies that work. But it also makes settling on the right strategy for your book (or books) a bit more difficult. Luckily, there are certain factors to consider that will help you determine the right way to price your ebooks. Read on to learn everything you need to know about ebook pricing!
- The basics of pricing and royalty rates on the major ebook sellers.
- The various pricing strategies available for fiction and nonfiction.
- How to determine the right price for your ebook.
Table of contents
- Pricing and Royalty Rates
- EBook Pricing Factors to Consider
- Effective Pricing Strategies
- The Ultimate Pricing and Marketing Tool
Pricing and Royalty Rates
Before we get into pricing strategies, it's important to have a solid foundation from which to work. This means knowing your approximate royalty rate on the various ebook retailers. This is the first thing every indie author should consider when deciding how much to price their book.
First, let's look at the biggest player: Amazon.
Pricing and Royalties on Amazon
You have two basic royalty options when publishing on Amazon. And they both depend on the price of your ebook. These are the 35% option and the 70% option.
If you price your ebook under $2.99 or over $9.99, you're automatically opting for the 35% option. But if you price your ebook between $2.99 and $9.99, you'll receive 70% royalty per ebook sale on Amazon.
However, keep in mind that the numbers here are minus the applicable delivery fee or VAT tax. According to Amazon, the average delivery fee for most ebooks is around $0.06, but this varies based on file size. But only those books in the 70% royalty range are charged a delivery fee.
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Royalty rates also depend on the territory in which your Amazon Kindle ebook sells. For a more in-depth look at these options, visit the Amazon Help Page here.
For the purposes of this article, we're going to assume that most of your sales will come from the US, Canada, or the UK. All of these markets follow the royalty percentage structure above.
For example: You price your Kindle ebook at $1.99, which means you'll get 35% per sale. For every ebook you sell, you'll get around $0.69. But if you bump your price up a dollar, selling it for $2.99, you'll get 70%. This comes to about $2.09 before the delivery fee. Assuming a $0.06 delivery fee, you're still making $2.03 per book.
As you can see, this is a pretty big difference. Keep this in mind as we go through the rest of the article.
Note: If the majority of your book's content is in the public domain, you'll only receive 35% royalties, no matter the price. Learn more here.
Pricing on Other Retailers
Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) has the lion's share of the ebook market, but that doesn't mean there aren't other worthwhile retailers out there. Let's look at some of the other ebook publishing companies out there.
Barnes and Noble
- $0.99 to $2.99 price range – 40% Royalty.
- $2.99 to $9.99 price range – 65% Royalty.
- Over $9.99 – 40% Royalty.
- 70% Royalty on All Ebooks
- 70% Royalty on All Ebooks
- $0.99 to $1.99 – 45%
- $2.99 or Above – 70%
- Public Domain books at any price – 20%
It's important to note that your pricing strategy shouldn't involve different prices for different retailers. Most retailers, Amazon included, will price match the lowest price in order to stay competitive. So if you will be “going wide” with your ebook, you'll want to keep the price the same across all the retailers. More on that below.
EBook Pricing Factors to Consider
Ebook pricing is not a one-size-fits-all matter. An author with one book will have an entirely different strategy than an author with ten books. So before we get to pricing strategies, it's important to cover the possible factors every author should consider when deciding on the list price of their ebook or books.
Not only do these factors require serious contemplation at the beginning of your career, but you'll also want to rehash them periodically as you continue your author journey.
Your Personal Goals
Perhaps the most important factor is what you want to do with the book. If you've spent the last couple of years writing the book and you're finally ready to put it out into the world, you may not care so much about price. Just the feeling of having it done and telling people about it may be reward enough for you. To get the maximum number of readers, a $0.99 price point may be ideal.
On the other hand, you may want to make as much money as you can off of your ebook. If this is the case, you'll probably want to stick to a price point in the $3.99 to $5.99 range.
If you're thinking of making a go of it and you already have a few more books in the works, then a more modest price point may be the best bet. If you take a long-term view of your author career (if a career is what you're aiming for), then you can put less emphasis on selling books right now and more emphasis on longevity and building an audience.
Reader expectations are important to consider as well. As an indie author, look at what other indie books in your genre are selling for. One way to do this is by looking at the Top 100 in the Kindle Store for a couple of categories that best match your book. While these won't all be indie books, most of the ones under $7.99 will be.
By sticking close to the most common price point in your genre, you reduce reader friction. If readers are used to paying $4.99 for ebooks like yours, they're less likely to bat an eye if your book is around that price.
While we're on the subject of reader expectations, let's talk about perceived value. This is the idea that something with a relatively higher price has a higher perceived value to the buyer. But this is only one of many factors readers consider when looking for a new book to read.
Obviously, you can't just price your ebook at $15.99 and expect perceived value to do the rest. When all the other books in the genre are closer to $5.99, a $15.99 book would be an outlier. And not in a good way.
Your presentation also needs to be as professional as possible. This means a good cover that's appropriate for the genre, as well as a book description that aligns with reader expectations. Length is also important here. Shorter fiction books usually sell for cheaper than their longer counterparts.
Non-fiction books are a bit of a different story, which is why it's important to look at your categories closely. In general, non-fiction how-to books sell on the higher end of the $2.99 to $9.99 spectrum.
Kindle Unlimited (KDP Select)
The question of going “exclusive” with your book is also an essential one to consider. This means making your ebook available to Kindle Unlimited readers through the KDP Select program. There are certainly some perks that come along with KDP Select, including the option to make your book free or run a book sale once every 90-day enrollment period. But this means you can't sell your ebook on any other platforms.
When running a price promotion through KDP Select, you actually get the full 70% royalty rate even on the $1.99 and $0.99 price points, instead of the 35% you would get otherwise.
Once again, it's good to look at whether most of the other books in your genre are in Kindle Unlimited. If they are, then you should strongly consider enrolling and using the benefits that come along with it. You can always switch after 90 days if you want.
While thinking of your book as a product can help you make objective decisions when marketing and selling ebooks, it can be hard to separate your pride from the endeavor. This is only natural. After all, writing a book is hard, and you deserve to be paid well for your hard work. Being an indie publisher is no walk in the park, either.
So if you can't stomach putting your book on sale for $2.99 or less, that's okay. You can always change the price later. It's not set in stone.
Series or Not
Whether your book is part of a series is also a major consideration. The best chances of success for fiction writers lie in writing series. This is because it encourages read-through, allowing authors a more aggressive pricing strategy. It allows more flexibility. We'll discuss more on specific series strategies below.
Your overall strategy for getting the word out about your book is also an essential consideration. If you're planning on running Amazon or Facebook ads, you'll need to do some calculations to see how much you can spend and the most effective royalty rate that will allow you to make money.
On the other hand, if you're going to be taking advantage of one or more book promo sites, you'll generally be required to price your book at $4.99 or under. Since these sites attract ebook sale shoppers, you'll get the most sales when your book is priced lower — usually between $0.99 and $2.99.
If your plan is to only use social media and organic reach, you have a little more leeway with your pricing.
Email List Size
An email list is the ultimate marketing tool for indie authors. The bigger your email list, the more sales you're likely to get as soon as you email them. And these sales can often help trigger the Amazon algorithm, which could get Amazon to help sell your books for you.
If you have an engaged email list that you're nurturing into true fans, then you can probably get away with selling your new release for full price. Or maybe even dropping it from $4.99 to $2.99 to encourage purchases, instead of dropping into the 35% price range.
Getting Book Reviews
All authors deal with the conundrum of getting book reviews. An ebook without a single book review is less likely to sell than a book with good reviews. But it's hard to get reviews if you don't sell any books.
Well, this is another factor that can affect pricing. Dropping your ebook's price — at least for a short period — can encourage new readers to take a chance on it. Especially if you get the word out with deal sites like Bargain Booksy, Fussy Librarian, or any of the many other ebook deal sites.
The more books you sell in this manner, the more likely you are to get reviews. So some authors price their ebooks at $0.99 for a limited time just for the purpose of garnering reviews.
But the best way to get reviews is to form a beta reader team or advanced reader team. This is something you can do with an engaged email list.
Effective Pricing Strategies
As you can see, there are a lot of pricing factors to consider. A good pricing strategy for you won't necessarily be a good one for another author — even one in the same genre. The ebook price you choose is almost as personal as the story within the book. That said, there are some common strategies that are popular in the indie author community. But most of them are all about writing in series.
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The most successful indie authors write in series because it's the best way to encourage read-through. That is, readers who become invested in the characters after the first book are more likely to pick up the second one and the third one, and so on.
Your pricing strategy will likely be different if you write in series than if you write standalones or nonfiction books. First, we'll cover series pricing strategies. Then, we'll look at a non-series strategy.
First-In-Series Free Strategy
The First-In-Series Free strategy is also called the Permafree strategy. This strategy is exactly what it sounds like. You give away the first book in the series for free with the hopes that you will hook a good portion of the readers. If they like the first book, they’re likely to pay for subsequent books.
While things vary by genre, most authors price their subsequent books between $3.99 and $9.99 to make the most of this strategy. Here's a look at a pricing model using the Permafree strategy.
- Book 1 – Free
- Book 2 – $3.99
- Book 3 – $4.99
- Book 4 – $5.99
- Book 5 – $5.99
- Book 6 – $5.99
Low-Cost Starter Strategy
Similar to the free book strategy above, the Low-Cost Starter Strategy features a cheap first book to maximize reader engagement while still making money on ebook sales.
Most of the time, the first book is priced at $0.99, but this can also work with books priced at $1.99 and $2.99, depending on the genre and a few other factors, such as marketing. Just know that the higher your asking price is for the first book, the less of a deal it will seem to potential readers.
Here's an example of a series following this strategy:
- Book 1 – $0.99
- Book 2 – $2.99
- Book 3 – $3.99
- Book 4 – $4.99
The Marketing Confidence Strategy
It's hard to be successful as an indie author these days without a book marketing plan. And some authors feel that they can rely heavily on marketing without resorting to lowering the prices of their books. The higher book price and subsequent royalties on the books in the series helps fuel the cost of running ads. Here's an example:
- Book 1 – $4.99
- Book 2 – $4.99
- Book 3 – $4.99
- Book 4 – $4.99
For this strategy to work well, you'll need to be familiar with marketing best practices. This requires some trial and error, but it's entirely possible. It’s also the best strategy for most authors who don't write books in a series. But instead of just marketing the first book, non-series authors will need to market all their books.
The Ultimate Pricing and Marketing Tool
Pricing your ebook title is rarely a one-and-done thing. As you learn and grow as an authorpreneur, you'll probably try different pricing strategies to see what works for you. But you never want to do this without first gathering the relevant information. This is exactly what we made Publisher Rocket for.
Not only does the Publisher Rocket software allow you to see what similar books are priced at, but it also tells you what percentage of the books in a given category are part of Kindle Unlimited. This can help you save time while giving you relevant information to help you determine the right price for your ebook.
You can also use Publisher Rocket to find the right categories for your book in the first place. You can search by ebook, print book, and audiobook — or all of the above. And you can get a list of keywords to use in Amazon Advertising campaigns.
Perhaps best of all, there's no subscription required. You pay once and have lifetime access, including all future updates.
Learn more about Publisher Rocket here.