Posted on May 25, 2012 - by MG
When you go to marketing school they teach you about the ‘marketing mix’, a.k.a the 4 Ps: Price, Promotion, Product, Place.
As an indie-published author, you can’t compete with the big marketing cash of a major promotion that a publisher might give. On the other hand, you have fewer mouths to feed in your own publishing chain. By charging much less than a traditional publisher for a digital product, you can make the same royalty as you might via trad publishing, selling far fewer copies.
By lowering the price barrier, you can hope to achieve the quick-buy reaction that only a great author brand OR terrific (often expensive) marketing can achieve with a book priced around $7.
This is proven, btw, by the 149+ (at the time of posting this!) self-published authors who have now sold more than 50,000 ebooks, also by the fact that in a few cases, these authors were previously unknown. (i.e. they were not not Joe Konrath, with eight traditionally-published books, or Barry Eisler, a New York Times best-selling author).
Price, therefore, is the indie-publishers’ ace-in-the-hole.
(N.B. This doesn’t mean that people will actually read your book. For that, there’s nothing like word of mouth. It’s the Holy Grail of book-selling and darned expensive and/or labour intensive to achieve. If you think that word of mouth ‘just happens’, read this article about the heroic efforts of Scholastic USA to promote The Hunger Games back when it was just a manuscript.)
So what’s a good price?
A good rule of thumb, I find, is to price your paperback to deliver a royalty as close as possible to what you make for a traditionally published MMP, i.e. 7.5%x7.99=60p = roughly $1 (US).
If you use Createspace you can probably price your POD paperback close to the normal price a similar book published in trad paperback format, and make close to your dollar, distributing at Amazon.com and the five Amazons in Europe.
If you use Lightning Source, you’ll need to factor in a discount of at least 35% for retailers (realistically more – most publishers offer up to 60%). In practice, this means that your US version may be more expensive than a similar book published in trad paperback format. Australian books prices are fairly high, so you might just be able to make your royalty whilst setting close to a market price.
The main thing, I think, is not to be greedy. Keep the product as affordable as possible. One day POD books may be cheaper. When that day comes, indie-publishers can compete a little more effectively. For now though, print remains the domain of the traditional publisher.
So don’t sweat it. Do what you need to make your book available in print, if that’s what you’ve decided to put in your product mix. A book that’s also available in print may look like a more complete product via the online retailer.
Pricing the ebooks is a whole other game. A complex issue indeed! Here are some articles you should read before deciding.
- Joe Konrath on ebook pricing (Sept 2010)
- It’s hard to figure out pricing for ebooks from anecdotal evidence (April 2011)
- How to Price an Ebook for Indie Authors, 5 Best Ebook Prices (July 2011)
I decided to go in with a 99p promotional price for THE DESCENDANT ebook, and mix in some freebie days that are offered as part of the KDP Select Program.
The Createspace version (on sale exclusively at Amazon US, UK, DE, FR, ES, IT) is a competitive $9.99. The LSI version is a competitive at £7.99 in the UK (the same as a Joshua Files book) and $11.99 in the USA, but booksellers are free to discount it since they buy it at a discount. The LSI version in Australia is $16.99, which is actually less than I paid for a copy of ZERO MOMENT in a Melbourne Borders in 2011.
With THE DESCENDANT aim isn’t primarily to make money but to build a new digital readership, and to attract readers to my traditionally-published novels. They retail at a far higher price so a low-cost introduction to my writing will hopefully serve as a nice enticement.
Next: #6: Materials and Methods