5 Tips On Setting E-Books Prices

Guest Expert: Tony Eldridge

The self-publishing industry is certainly changing and this can certainly be seen in the e-book segment. It’s safe to say that e-books are now fully embraced by the traditional publishing industry as well. Even so, the e-publishing industry is still maturing and things will look radically different a year from now than they do today. This is especially true for e-book prices.

As a self-published author of an e-book title, one of the decisions you’ll have to make is where to price your book. And what sounded like a low price yesterday may be a high price today. The e-book pricing model is fluid and opinions cover the whole spectrum. Some books sell for $20 or $30+ while others are given away for free. So, how do you decide what to price your book at?

Here are some tips for pricing your e-book along with my own predictions of what will happen.

1. Do A Market Study Of e-Book Prices - This is a timeless pricing strategy. By seeing what the market is bearing, you’ll have an idea of where you need to be. To make this work, you’ll have to compare apples to apples. That means comparing prices of books similar to yours and books sold on similar channels.

2. Don’t Be Afraid To Change Your Price - One of the great things about publishing your own e-book is the ease with which you can change your book price. If you see that the market supports a higher price, then you can raise yours with the click of the button. And contrary to some ideas, it is not always a bad thing to raise your book price.

3. Remember The Power Of Volume - Why would someone consider pricing their book at $.99? It’s because 100,000 books sold at $1 will be more profitable than 1000 books sold for $10. If you find your sweet spot with price, and you have a good book, then what you lose on each sale you will make up in volume.

4. Overhead Makes This Possible - The reason e-book prices can be so low is because it takes so little capital to publish and distribute them. There is virtually no shipping cost (maybe a download fee), no printing cost, and no storage cost. In fact, your e-book only exists as electrons (or something like that). Remember, the more you raise your overhead, the less control you will have over your book price and still be profitable. Overhead is every cost it takes for you to create and market your e-book (cover design, marketing plans, etc…)

5. Consider Bundling – People always like a value. If you have two books, consider selling them bundled together at a higher price point. For example, if book #1 and #2 cost $2.99 each, why not create a 3rd book, “Book 1 And Book 2″ and sell it for $4.99? Your reader gets a chance to save 17% and you get the chance to sell more books by offering your readers a deal.

Here are my predictions for how I think that e-books and e-book pricing will affect the publishing industry:

I predict that 2011 will be a fun year to watch with the maturing of the e-book industry. I do think most titles will remain low, between $.99 and $2.99, but you will still have outliers. I think more people will purchase e-book readers and e-books will become the book of choice over physical books. I think that the e-book industry will be the final nail in the coffin of the antiquated distribution system that traditional publishers still use. They will be forced to become more efficient as they see their production costs rise, their volume fall, and their profit margins shrink. In fact, the profit margin for their e-book divisions may help their physical book sales limp along.

Who knows how things may eventually shake out, but it’s definitely a great time to be an author and reader of e-books. And somehow, the e-book industry may just be the savior for the print book industry. We’ll soon see.


Tony Eldridge is the author of the action/adventure novel, The Samson Effect, that Clive Cussler calls a “first rate thriller brimming with intrigue and adventure.” He also launched his first non-fiction title, “Conducting Effective Twitter Contests“. He shares his book marketing tips with fellow authors through his blog, Marketing Tips for Authors and through his free video marketing tips for authors newsletter. You can follow him on Twitter @TonyEldridge

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  1. tony@marketingtipsforauthors.com'Tony Eldridge

    Hey Adam,

    First of all, I wanted to say that I signed up for your new site earlier today. It’s an intriguing idea and I’m interested in seeing how it goes.

    Thanks for your comment. I certainly understand your thoughts on the low pricing. I come from a background of testing everything in the marketplace. So, when I look at things like pricing, I try to find the sweet spot rather than trying to figure out what the “value” of something is by using subjective criteria.

    I still go back to my illustration that I would rather sell 1 million books for $1 each than 1000 books for $10 dollars each. But the truth is, $1 may be too low. It all depends on what people will pay for it. If I sell it for $1 and people will pay $5 for it, then $1 is too low.

    By testing your price, you will arrive at the sweet spot. One of the points I have been making to authors is to be open to finding the optimum price for your book, whatever it is. It’s of little consequence to have a $15 e-book if the vast majority of people think that the price is too high, assuming that your main goal is to sell as many books that you can at the best price you can get for it.

    Like you said, the debate continues and your comment certainly contributes to the value of the conversation.

  2. tony@marketingtipsforauthors.com'Tony Eldridge

    Hey AJ,

    Sometimes we get so focused on one aspect of our book in trying to figure out why one is selling and another is not, that we forget that there are a lot of variables at play. Price is only one, and it may not be the dominate variable in every case. That’s why I advocate testing to see what influence any variable has on our book sales.

    For me, I have tested $0.99, and that does not seem to be an influence for my book sales. In other words, I don’t see an increase or decrease in book sales at $0.99. However, my guess is that if I change the price to $19.99, I would see an influence on my sales.

    I read a lot of people say, “Change your e-book price to $0.99 and you will see sales go up by 6Xs or more!” The marketer in me is open any influence on sales, but I am not quick to adopt any practice until I can see it via testing. For me, testing has not borne out the $0.99 sales increase for my book.

    That means that there is something else driving, or depressing my book sales. You’re right, sometimes there is no logic if all we look at is one variable like price.

    Hope this helps!