What’s the best price for a self-published ebook? $3.99, Smashwords research suggests

Books and e-reader ebooks e-reader

One of the biggest decisions that self-published authors have to make is how to price their ebook. What’s the sweet spot? Self-publishing platform and digital bookstore Smashwords analyzed 11 months’ worth of sales — $12 million, 120,000 ebooks sold — to discern some best practices for self-published authors. The full report is here. Among the findings:

Most authors price at $2.99…

Smashwords founder and CEO Mark Coker found that authors chose to price at $2.99 “more frequently than any other price point. In last year’s survey, $.99 was a more common price point than $2.99. In this year’s survey, $2.99 was [chosen] about 60 percent more often.”

…but $3.99 sells the most copies.

Smashwords’ findings suggest that those $2.99 authors should price up by a dollar: “One surprising finding is that, on average, $3.99 books sold more units than $2.99 books, and more units than any other price except FREE. I didn’t expect this. Although the general pattern holds that lower priced books tend to sell more units than higher priced books, $3.99 was the rule-breaker. According to our Yield Graph, $3.99 earned authors total income that was 55% above the average compared to all price points.”

smashwords price points

Coker also noted that “Books priced between $.99 and $1.99 continue to underperform when we look at the book’s total earnings. $1.99 performs especially poorly. It’s a black hole. I’d avoid that price point if you can.”

Coker acknowledged that if everyone starts pricing their ebooks at $3.99, the enhanced sales effect may be lost: “Today, [the] $3.99 price point appears to be an underutilized opportunity because there are fewer titles than $2.99 and readers respond favorably to $3.99. However, if thousands of authors shift their pricing to $3.99 tomorrow, would the edge diminish? I don’t know the answer to that.”

The full survey, which also includes findings on book length and title length, is here.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Borys Shevchk

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