Home » Writing » Pricing- Marketing strategy or Sensible business plan?

Pricing- Marketing strategy or Sensible business plan?


First off I want to say a MASSIVE thank you to all the support you guys gave me on release day! For all the tweets and re-blogs and release day posts! I was so overwhelmed and it kept me smiling, well, to be honest, I’m still smiling now! πŸ˜€ Thank you so much.

And now, I’m going to broach a bit of a touchy subject, which is pricing.

I didn’t really want to talk about, as it makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable πŸ˜€ But this is an honest blog, and I felt it is such a big part of writing as a career, I needed to post something on it.

I have to admit, how much I was going to charge for my books didn’t even enter my brain until it was staring me in the face on Kindle direct publishing, asking me to name a price for my work.

Blimey! What a task.

Having to put a price on my books which I’d spent months slogging over and producing to the highest standard I can achieve? It was difficult.

Obviously, I can’t price them too high because people just wouldn’t buy them otherwise, plus you have to consider with an eBook that there is no delivery cost or printing cost, so that does help reduce price.

But still, I want to make money. Not because I’m greedy πŸ˜€ But because I want to eventually live off of what I make. Some people charge very little for their eBooks, which is totally fine and their choice, and I completely understand it from a marketing strategy kind of perspective. The cheaper it is, the more likely people are to buy it, especially in today’s economy, where people have less money to start with to spend on luxuries. And if people buy one book for cheaper and like it, they are more likely to buy the others, especially if they aren’t very much.

But then there is the other side of the coin. The side where I want to earn my living from writing eventually. Instead of looking at pricing as another marketing strategy for people to buy my books, I needed to look at it from a sensible, financial point of view.

Writing is not only my life, it’s my business. And that needs to be taken seriously.

So I decided to price them as follows:

The Queen’s Jester (shortest, around 33,000 words)- Β£2.01
Stolen Bloodline (Bit longer, around 36,000 words)- Β£2.19
Heart of the Arena (My biggest- around 56,000 words)- Β£3.05

I went by pricing for a UK market, and I hope that it translated well to the US and other markets.

After choosing my prices, whilst waiting for the books to process, I was glancing around other eBooks that were about Β£1.99 or Β£1.50 and I was freaking out, thinking I’d charged too much.

Then, I actually sat back and thought about Β£3 as a price point.

It’s not that unusual to pay nearly Β£3 for a coffee from a coffee shop.

It’s not unusual to pay Β£3 or over for a small bunch of flowers.

It’s definitely not unusual to pay Β£3 for a box of chocolates.

It’s not even that unusual to pay Β£3 for a greetings card nowadays.

When I thought about it, I realised Β£3 is not a lot of money, especially considering the amount of energy and work that went into producing these books.

So yeah, some people might say I’ve charged too high, but from a business point of view, I think writers probably don’t charge enough. How much more entertainment is someone going to get from an eBook than from a box of chocolates? (Hm, possibly bad example, I get A LOT of enjoyment from a box of chocolates :D).

I understand the lower price points, but I stand by my choices for what I’ve charged. In the end, I often pay Β£3 or over for an eBook knowing I will get hours of enjoyment for it, and knowing that is a very small price to pay for that. I like to support writers, and I like to see them charging that bit extra, because I know how much work goes into producing a book.

So, there you have it, my opinion for the day! πŸ˜€ But then, S.K.Nicholls recently had a post where she was saying she sold tons more books at a lower price. So, it goes to show how pricing is such a hard thing to pin down and get right!

As an aside, I’ve decided that every Thursday I shall re-blog a post. There are so many great posts out there by other writers, I would like to share my favourites! Just in case anyone was wondering why there was a re-blog post from me yesterday πŸ™‚

I was also interviewed by the amazing Shehanne Moore, which has been posted today πŸ˜€ – http://shehannemoore.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/the-may-author-interview-3-in-one-with-mishka-jenkins/

What are your thoughts on pricing? What did you price your books at? What prices are you willing to pay for an eBook? Does price matter if you really want to read the book?

Progress Report

Status of Fourth Manuscript: Planning and research.

May E-Book Review: Book read and review ready.

53 thoughts on “Pricing- Marketing strategy or Sensible business plan?

  1. Thanks for the honest post about this. I don’t self-publish currently, but I may in the future, and always wondered how people chose their prices. How low is a good bargain versus making it seem like I don’t believe in my own work? How much is too high? It’s good to read your thoughts.

    • It’s an interesting and sometimes touchy subject πŸ˜€ But you’re exactly right. It’s trying to find what works bet, making it low enough to catch people’s interest but high enough to show that it is quality.

      A difficult thing to get right πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  2. Angel Lawson also did a post similar to this addressing the silliness of feeling like she “had” to price her books cheaply and wouldn’t do it anymore. I won’t buy expensive ebooks, but then again I consider “expensive” anything over $5. $5 and below is pretty much free to me haha.

    I myself priced my own books at $2.99 because I feel like I’ve put work into this novel, it doesn’t need to be a damned dollar, but also I have a job so I don’t need the income or anything.

    I think this is a great post – something a lot of aspiring authors never consider until the time comes, you know? I’m guilty of it, too. And I love your candor. I feel like it’s hard to come by sometimes.

    • My sentiments exactly πŸ™‚ You’ve put all that work into this book, you deserve to get something for it, and asking that much is really not a lot for how many hours you will get out of it.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I was hoping it wasn’t going to upset anyone or anything, because I know price and money is such an awkward topic πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  3. Tricky, but I think first time, self publisheed authors have to be careful. For example, paying say Β£8.00 for a book by a well known author with an established reputation like George R R Martin, with lots of reviews under his belt, is one thing. But would you pay the same amount for an unproven, self published, first time writer, with no customer reviews and only a blub to go on? Don’t get me wrong,that’s not to say that a first novel can’t be an amazing earth shattering book, but you don’t know what you’re getting until you’ve bought it. I think you have picked a good price for your books and it leaves you with the option of increasing prices for these and future works once your reputation starts to build. A fairly low price at the start will entice those first reviewers in and they may be kinder if they know they got a bargain. πŸ™‚

    • You’re exactly right. First time authors need to consider many things, especially the fact that they are new and have yet to gain any audience. You have to entice readers in and prove to them that your work is worth the money πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting, I appreciate your input! πŸ™‚

  4. I’ve been in this discussion a lot since I started. It really depends on the author’s comfort zone, size of the book, and several other factors. I write a fantasy series and I had the first 3 books done and edited before I found out about Amazon publishing. So, I was comfortable going 99 cents for my first one and I did the same with the second. Books 3 and 4 are $2.99 and I might go up to $3.99 for a few later books. The reason for the low price on the first two is because they’re long books and series tends to require some dedication in reading. It’s also fantasy, which has some very picky and cautious readers, myself included. The low price works as a low risk introductory to the series. At least that’s my reasoning.

    • That’s a great reasoning, and again, selling books in a series makes pricing different. Mine are stand alones, so that changes things.

      Having a ‘loss leader’ is a good idea, and a great way to gain readers who then go on and buy higher priced books in a series and that is good strategy.

      Pricing is so tricky! So many factors to consider and getting it right is the hardest task of all πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

      • You’re welcome. It really is one of the more challenging things to figure out with self-publishing. I have a novella coming out this weekend and I’m still not sure what to sell it for. I keep thinking 99 cents because it’s only 29 pages, but my beta readers have told me to try for $1.25 because they think it’s worth the price.

    • It is hard to know the best way to promote books, and I know that dropping the price can play a big part in helping to raise sales πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting, hope you didn’t mind me linking to your post πŸ™‚

      • Running with Ereader News Today seems to have gotten me some exposure. Before that, I sat in a corner practically unheard of. I have run two promos with them and spiked good sales each time. This sale had no promo. That tells me that people may have already been aware of the book through ENT and were watching for a sale. That’s my best guess.

  5. Great post!

    For my own book, I spent a good deal of time researching price points of similar works and weighing cost to word count ratio, as well as what I thought was a fair price for the market. Ultimately, I settled on $3.99 for a variety of reasons. It’s a pretty common price for novel-length indie work, and it keeps the work below that $5 where an impulse purchase can quickly turn into a studied examination of whether or not one really needs to buy it.

    I think there is a bit of psychology behind this price point. It’s a reasonable price, one that doesn’t undervalue the work itself, as some cheaper price points may indicate. Like you, I want to make a living at this, so 99 cents wouldn’t cut it. It’s also well below the traditional publishing cost of ebooks in the $10+ range. And yes, I am one of those buyers who will pass or wait for a good sale or coupon or gift card if I see eBooks north of about $7 or $8 from trad pubs.

    I read whatever interests me, primaily, but I tend to focus on indie reads who have their work priced between the $3-$5 range. I tend to think they put more effort into their work, and that the price typically carries with it some good cover art and a more polished, edited work than a significantly cheaper read. Editing and design was another contributing factor in determing my own price levels. I tend to think that, with indie reads especially, that price can reflect the amount of work an indie author put into their work, how seriously they take the business side of things, and how invested they were in their authorship. Granted, that is a very loaded assessment/outlook, so your mileage may vary, and there’s always an exception to prove me wrong. I’m also not taking into account sales like KDP Select countdowns or Deal of the Day type promotions (if a work that’s normally in that $3-$5 range is on sale for .99, I know the author is just looking to generate some quick sales, and I can see what the normal price is versus the limited time sale).

    Once I have more titles out, I may drop the price of CONVERGENCE a bit in an effort to draw in readers to this series as it grows, but I think that’s still a few years away. I want to have a bit of a backlist before I do too much experimentation so I can try and figure out what’s working and why.

    • That’s exactly how I feel. Price can usually reflect quite a lot, the higher the price, normally the more work that has gone into it. Yet, like you say, anything over a certain amount and purchases become a little more considered.

      But then, as you say again, there are promotions going on regularly where higher priced books are on sale for very cheap, so you can’t always judge by price.

      I guess it’s just one more thing that self-published writers have to take into account! The hard work never stops πŸ˜€

      Thank you so much for your input πŸ™‚

  6. It’s definitely a difficult thing to gauge but I think you made good choices. There’s no point short-changing yourself and undermining your hard work if you want to be taken seriously as a writer. Like you say, when put in perspective, the prices for ebooks are very reasonable πŸ™‚

    • Yeah, it wasn’t until I started looking at prices of ‘normal’ things that that I realised eBook prices are really quite reasonable.

      As self-published authors, I think it’s hard. I want to be taken seriously, so the price has to be up a bit, but being new and self-published (which still has a stigma, as much as everyone wishes it didn’t!), so I need to have a lower price point. Finding the balance is very difficult! πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting, it’s always nice to hear your thoughts on these subjects, especially as you have a book out as well! πŸ™‚

  7. I definitely think the price points can be a tricky thing to deal with. Each reader has their own perception of what a book would be worth, taking into consideration different factors like length, trad vs self-pubbed, etc. While we want to make the sale, we also should be careful not to short-change ourselves since a lot of work really went into getting those books out there. The tricky thing is trying to find the perfect balance for the reader and the author.

    • That’s exactly the problem, having to take everything into consideration and then finding that perfect price. I think that’s impossible πŸ˜€

      But you’re right. You don’t want to charge too low, because a lot of work has gone into producing a book, no matter the way of publishing.

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  8. Surprisingly, I routinely pay as much or more for a digital book as a print book (I’m in USA). A year ago, I would have thought this ridiculous, but as I use digital books, I find their utility at least equal to print.

    • I am the same. If the book catches my interest, I am willing to pay a bit more. I read mostly on the kindle now, so at least I can still feel I am helping to support the authors by paying that bit more.

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  9. It’s a tough question. I struggled with it for a while, and am always interested in hearing people’s thoughts, so thank you for sharing!

    My first release is approximately 117,000 words (Fantasy), and I’m charging $4.99 as the regular price. I’m releasing at $2.99 as a “thank you” to friends, family, and everyone else who has supported me, and I’m hoping for a few impulse purchases at that price point. I’d go 99 cents, but it doesn’t seem worth it to me until I have the next book in the series out. Maybe then I’d go 99 cents as a special promotion, but not permanently. If I publish the lead-in short story, it’ll be free.

    I refuse to pay more than $7.99 for any e-book, so I know I’ll never go that high. $4.99 seems reasonable for a large work, assuming readers think it’s as good as I do. I put enough time and money into this project that I don’t want to under-value it, but in the future I’ll definitely play with the price for marketing purposes. I think that’s one of an indie author’s greatest advantages (being able to change the price/cover/description).

    For my shorter works (25,000 word UF novella coming out in October, I hope), I won’t charge more than $2.99. I’d charge less if Amazon royalties weren’t so low under $2.99. :/

    • It is so hard to judge what a ‘good’ price is. Readers want a bargain obviously πŸ˜€ But then, they also want a quality work, and in the end that is going to cost more.

      But you’re right, one of the major benefits of self-publishing is being able to change and try things out and find out what works best πŸ˜€

      Thank you for your input in this, it is nice to hear what others think and have done πŸ™‚

  10. Yes, I think it’s right that you ask for payment for your work. After all, if you were baking chocolate cakes for public consumption you would want people to pay for your work, regardless of whether they could buy cakes that were just as good, or even better, elsewhere. And lawyers seem to charge about Β£60 just for writing a letter, so the figures you’re talking about seem more than reasonable!

    • You’ve got a good point πŸ˜€ You need to gain something for all the energy that goes into something like this.

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

    • Yeah, they really are, especially when you start looking at what else you can get for the same price πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  11. You make a good point about the price of a cup of coffee. I already said this on someone else’s blog post: I wonder whose idea it was to give our books away. It just doesn’t make sense. Already writers don’t make much and now we are encouraged to offer our books (not to mention our hard labor) for free!
    Have a great weekend. πŸ™‚

    • You’re exactly right, I’m not sure when such low pricing became an accepted thing, and that is just how you are supposed to price. After all, the amount of effort that goes into a coffee from say Starbucks and a book is vastly differently! πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  12. I price mine at around $2,99 AU and that seems to be the going price. People aren’t really keen to pay more than $5.00 for an ebook. Are you printing hard copies?

    • A lot of people don’t want to pay that bit more for ebooks, which is understandable, due to not many costs. Though I hope that readers understand the energy that goes into the book they purchase!

      I have put my books on Createspace, though the prices on those were a lot more than I would have liked, but of course on those you have to go over what the cost of printing would be so they give you a minimum amount you have to charge. But it will be nice to get paperback copies for myself to keep even if no one else buys them πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting, it’s nice to hear your input in this πŸ™‚

  13. I don’t know whether anyone else has made the point, but have you thought about what supermarket are sell hard copies for these days. I agree with your points about readers paying for the work you have put into your book, but with so much choice these days readers can pick and choose. There are charity shops, car-boots sales, jumble sale, ebay and second bookshops as well as amazon all selling books at low prices.

    I wish you well with your book and look forward to reading it.

    Best wishes

    • A very good point. You have to appeal to readers to entice them to buy your book, and unfortunately a lot of the time that does mean a cheaper price, or it’s likely they are going to go elsewhere!

      Thank you for your input, it’s nice to hear other’s thoughts on this topic πŸ™‚

  14. A fairly popular author, Kim Harrison, made a comment about this same subject. It can definitely go either way, but her thought process really resonated with me. It doesn’t matter whether your a big name author or a first time self-publisher. You created something – something wonderful and magical. You created an entirely new world, with new people and new adventures. You took the time to nurture, care, and develop that world – you can’t really put a price on that. But it should definitely cost as much, if not more, than a burger at a fast food joint. Oh, sure – you might sell more at a lower price point, or you might reach an audience that you normally wouldn’t. However, there’s nothing wrong with asking someone to spend $5-$10 on this beautiful creation that you spend the last few weeks, months, or even years making.

    Congratulations on your new beauties – I’m looking forward to reading them!

    • That’s good advice! And exactly how I think authors should think. I mean, obviously nobody is going to pay extortionate amounts for a book, but still, I don’t think that price range is a lot to ask after so much time and care and development went into the product they are going to buy πŸ˜€

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting (and the awards!) πŸ™‚

  15. I completely agree, and I took the same approach with my own pricing. $4.99 (AU and US) might be a bit high to some, but this is my career and a main source of my income. If people are willing to drop $1 – $2 on a three minute song or $10 – $20 on a two hour movie, I think $5 is reasonable for 3 – 6 hours of reading.

    I hope, anyway!

    • You’re exactly right. When you actually take a step back and see what people are willing to pay for other forms of entertainment, I don’t think $4.99 is very much to ask for a book which is going to give you many hours of enjoyment πŸ˜€

      Thank you for your input πŸ™‚

  16. This is a topic that I often have to go around and around with my clients. You want to price your product around what the upper limit of what most of your market would be willing to pay, but that’s an incredibly tricky point to find, especially when you’re selling creative works. Go too high, and people won’t buy your product at all. Too low, and you’re undercutting what your story is actually worth and costing yourself a livelihood. Looking at what your closest competition is charging can give you a guideline, but it’s not absolutely reliable. At any point, there’s a lot of guesswork involved, especially when you’re starting out. At some point, you just have to find something you’re willing to go with, and see how it works on the market.

    • Yeah, you’re right. It is mostly guess work and researching what other people have done to decide a price point, and then hope it works out ok! πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  17. Like you say, it’s a thorny issue and there’s no easy answer to it. To be honest with you, I tend to buy ebooks that are under Β£3, although I have been known to pay as much as Β£12 for an ebook I desperately wanted to read. But generally I pay less – I appreciate being able to pay less than I would in an average bookshop – Β£7.99 is a lot of money to pay for one book, especially a paperback, which is the average price these days.

    And of course with ebooks, because they’re cheaper you can buy more ebooks for less. I guess a lot of it is up to the indie author; those with traditional publishing contracts – it’s up to the publisher. But one of the good things about Amazon KDP is that you can chop and change the price of your ebook – as far as I’m aware it’s not set in stone.

    I wish you every success with your writing! πŸ™‚

    • Ebooks are great because they are that bit cheaper than paperbacks, because as you say, paperbacks are very expensive! I think with eBooks being that bit cheaper, it means you are more likely to risk buying a book by a new author or maybe try a new genre, because if it doesn’t work out, you haven’t lost that much. Where as if you bought a paperback for about Β£8, then that is quite a bit to lose! πŸ˜€ But still, I think authors should definitely think about what they charge, but that is great about KDP, like you said, you can change it to see how the market goes.

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚ It’s really interesting to get people’s opinions on this.

  18. I’m glad you brought this topic up. I do not feel writers should be charging their books for 0.99–it is too cheap for them to make a liveable profit and I feel it undermines the hard work of writing, editing, and preparing their books for market that was done. Even as an e book, I would not charge 0.99 for a book, because it still does not take away the time spent creating the book. I think writers should stay true to what they believe their work is worth and not be afraid to charge several dollars for it. I think your books were priced appropriately πŸ™‚

    • That’s exactly how I feel! When people sell their books so low, it doesn’t give credit to all the hard work they put into creating it, but also it doesn’t help other authors who price their work reasonably and then readers think they are too expensive, when in fact Β£3 is not πŸ˜€

      Thank you for your input πŸ™‚ It’s really nice to hear what others think on this matter.

  19. I believe artists of all kinds should be paid for the labor. Anything “hand made” is labor intensive and that includes writing.

    Speaking of marketing…check out my splash page and my blog πŸ˜€ Your name is in “lights.” I’m so proud of myself I can’t stand it.

    • Oh my word! That is amazing πŸ˜€ Thank you so much! But also, wow! It looks really professional having that running on your blog. Must have taken you ages!

      • Feel free to snag the graphic too. Can use on twitter or FB or where ever. And it was my pleasure. I wanted to do the books justice when I talked about them.

  20. Thank you for this very timely post! I just went through this exhausting activity trying to determine how to price my new book, Accidental Sabbatical, that I just released yesterday. I agree wholeheartedly with so many comments up above here about the psychology of pricing, however since this particular book is an inspirational book about hope for surviving unemployment, I wanted to make it affordable for those of us without a regular paycheck, because that’s my target market.
    By the same token, I invested in an excellent cover design and editors and want to reflect the effort put into it, but I kept coming back to the $2.99 price as it’s about the same as a Starbucks coffee. Thank you for reminding me that it is half the price of a greeting card! πŸ™‚

    Another writer friend of mine does extensive research on the pricing of other books in his category/genre, which is a factor when you publish fantasy like he does. In my case, when I did that exercise, the prices were all over the map.

    I appreciate the question and all of the great input in the comments too! The good thing is, when you indie publish, you can change the prices whenever you want.
    Happy writing!

    • It is a very relevant topic for a lot of writers in any field πŸ˜€ And I don’t think it’s discussed enough by actual writer, due to it feeling a bit awkward!

      You are definitely right though, you have to take into consideration your audience and what they can pay, as well as what you need to price it at.

      Thank you for adding your input into this, it’s nice to hear everyone’s point of view on it πŸ™‚

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