Pricing Books: The Best Strategies for Self-Publishers
There isn’t a catchall answer on how much to charge for your self-published book, but there are great methods for determining how to price books to sell. After all, you have spent a lot of time writing. You want some return on your investment.
Of course, if you have a traditional publisher, your publisher determines the price of your book. You normally get around 15% of the net price of the book after everyone takes their cut. Self-published authors, on the other hand, have control of their price point. In fact, if you publish direct, you can change your book pricing daily if you want to. That may sound erratic, but strategic experimentation is not a bad practice.
Sales and Giveaways
Giveaways, countdowns, and discounts on ebooks are encouraged by booksellers like Amazon. The country where you live, what kinds of books you write, and what your overall strategy all affect the price of your book. What platform you sell your book on and if you use promotional services like BookBub will also affect your pricing choice.
Amazon Royalty Window
For Kindles or ebooks, the first thing to look at are the royalties. The basic info for Amazon Kindles published in the US is if you price between $2.99 and $9.99 you get a 70% royalty. By pricing outside of that window you receive half of that—35%. However, there are exceptions and different pricing outside of the US. Login to KDP bookshelf to get the specifics for your area.
For print, the royalty is 60 percent of your list price minus the printing costs, which depend on page count, ink type, and cover stock. When it comes to print, you especially want to research your competitors and match the average pricing because there is no royalty window to guide you in many cases. Market research is important at every phase of your book’s development. If you price yourself high above your competitors without positioning your book as a luxury item, like a coffee-table book, you will price yourself out of the game.
Before setting a price strategy, examine your goals for publishing. The big question you need to ask yourself is, “What do you want most—book sales, readers, or conversion to some other product or service?”
If your primary motivation is profit from your book sales, you need to understand the math. You need to make twice as many sales at $4.99 or ten times as many sales at 99¢ to match the profit on a book priced at $9.99. The question is, “How many more books will you sell if you choose a lower price point?”
A market and competitive analysis will be your biggest help in answering this question. Look up at least 8 to 10 titles that compare to yours. If your goal is profit, calculate the average and price your book at that average or a little higher. Download this free competitive pricing analysis for books worksheet to analyze the competitive titles.
If your goals are either exposure (more readers) or awareness of your brand and business methods (conversion), then price your book lower than the competition or even give your book away.
Free books are used as a funnel to other services or products or to introduce a series. If you have nothing that your book is a gateway to, then giving away your book makes zero sense.
It’s important to note that you can’t actually publish a permanently free (permafree) book directly on Amazon without some extra steps. But you can accomplish this indirectly by using their price match practice. Amazon no longer assures that they will match prices; they did away with the actual policy a few years ago, but they still do it if you send a request to KDP support. Amazon will match the lowest price of a legitimate competitor, so price your book for free on Apple Books, Nook, and Kobo then submit a price match, and voilà, you’ve got a free book. Note that this is not guaranteed, but it works most of the time.
The following is a sample of a support ticket for free pricing:
Subject: Price match request
Hello, I am writing to request a price match for the book Bestseller List B07NC15Z79 (ISBN
9781733668705). I would like the book to be priced at $0 (no charge) to match the following booksellers:
Barnes and Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bestseller-list-kitty-turner/1131411840 (Priced at free)
Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/bestseller-list (Priced at free)
Apple Books US – https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1462545112 (Priced at free on the US site + 51 other countries on Apple Books)
To get Bestseller List for free on Amazon, visit our giveaway page.
Another extremely effective method is to give away your book temporarily. Every 90 days, Amazon Select members can offer free promotions for a maximum of five days. When you run a giveaway, promote across mailing lists, free book websites, free book social media groups, podcasts, videos, and anywhere else you can imagine.
Other promotional pricing campaigns offered to Amazon Select Members are preorders and countdowns. Preorders are amazing and are currently my favorite type of promotion. People are eager to pay from 99¢ to $4.99 out of sheer excitement and support for the author. This is particularly effective if you have a street or launch team. Countdown, giveaway, and preorder promotions are excellent for launching books and almost guarantee bestseller status (if only for a short time) if run correctly.
To run any of the Amazon promotions I mentioned, you need to enroll in Amazon Select. Your enrollment period is for ninety days. During that time, your distribution is limited to Amazon only. At the end of the ninety days, you can opt-out.
If you are looking for the simple answer, romance, mysteries, and YA categories tend to do well between 99¢ and $3.99, while nonfiction or literary fiction ebooks range between $4.99 and $9.99. If you’re running a BookBub promo or similar advertising, 99¢ promotions are the most effective. Books promoted at $2.99 or below do better on BookBub. The lower the price, the cheaper the advertising cost. BookBub can be a promotional powerhouse if you make the cut. However, I still recommend that you do your own analysis because trends change.
This information will get you started. Remember, you can change your pricing as often as you want, so experiment. Self-publishing is not a set-it-and-forget-it enterprise. Far from it. The more actively you try different pricing strategies and book promotions, the better your book sales will be.