Don’t price your ebook at $1.99

28 Comments

What’s the right price for your self-published ebook? You’ll probably want to stay in the $2.99 to $5.99 range, new data from Kobo’s Writing Life platform suggests — and stay away from $1.99 if you want to maximize sales.

Publishers Weekly reports on Kobo’s self-publishing platform, Writing Life, which launched in June 2012. Mark Lefebvre, Kobo’s director of self-publishing and author relations, tells PW that the $1.99 price point “is dead”:

“Authors most often start at $2.99 ‘and walk the prices up,’ he said, noting, ‘A low price point may be a hook, but it’s the quality of a work that attracts readers, not the price.’ Lefebvre added that $1.99 is dead ‘not just for us, but also, it seems, on other platforms,’ pointing out that $0.99 KWL titles sell twice as many copies as those at $1.99, and that ‘$2.99 sells more than four times more.’ About 80 percent of the KWL titles that sell consistently are priced in the $2.99–$5.99 range, and he also pointed to ‘a bit of a lift in the $7.99–$9.99 price range.'”

This is corroborated by a recent report from self-publishing platform Smashwords, in which Smashwords CEO Mark Coker called the $1.99 price point “a black hole” and said to avoid it. He found that “on average, $3.99 books sold more units than $2.99 books, and more units than any other price except FREE.”

So what is the problem with $1.99? It may be that readers have come to associate it with bargain-basement quality; they may see $0.99 or free as a promotional or limited-time price and $2.99 and above as a marker of quality. I’d love to hear thoughts from self-published authors in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / photo.ua

28 Comments

Katya Blue

Great info altogether from all points of view, thanks. I feel pretty good about using kdp for my debut novel @ 2.99 ebook and 9.99 ppbk. And a short story for.99 which I hope might help find me some readers looking for new authors. Based on the article and feedback, I may push my ebook point up a Buck or two. Thanks.

Aujunai

I am a writer…and I would be insulted if someone asked me to sell any of my ebooks for $1.99, $2.99, $3.99, $4.99…or even $5.99….To me that is a statement that I am not a good writer…and do not believe my work is worth more……My first book is coming out toward the end of 2013…and its price is $25.99…530 pages/paperback….worth every penny. I put in long years….hard work….and much research…… I haven’t set the price yet for the ebook….but it will NOT be between $.99 – $5.00

I value my work….and I am serious about my craft

TheGirl

Okay wow that’s interesting. Even to offer it for 99 cents for a day? But then again I don’t go downloading books because they are cheap, I really do look for something I think will fit me. I guess that’s good for the authors to know.

Battlespeed

I think it’s important to take the “totality of the circumstances” into consideration rather than drawing simple (simplistic?) conclusions from any “marketing study” (cough!).

For one thing, I believe that with fiction especially, an author’s first book needs to be priced low enough to generate “price-agnostic” or “what-the-hell-it’s-only-99-cents” sales, whereas an established author with a loyal following can take a different approach. In fact, new fiction authors should be taking full advantage of FREE days. You have to get your work in front of readers’ eyes before you can hope to create a following.

For nonfiction, check what the competition in your specific subniche is doing. The chances are pretty good that their collective experience reveals important price points that would be fatal to ignore.

If you spend much time researching ebook marketing trends, you’re going to be pulled from pillar to post based on this survey or that one that claims to have discovered the “Holy grail” of some aspect of marketing, whether it be pricing, cover design, positioning or whatever. The fact is, none of these studies have you in mind or specifically address your marketing issues. When you get that, you’ll find the way forward.

Tony Cleaver

I agree. I believe that eBook self-publishing for the masses is ‘ripening,’ maturing – coming of age, if you will. Within this more attuned awareness on the part of readers, and now that the novelty is wearing off (the initial frenzy subsiding), discerning consumers will begin to demand ‘bang for their buck.’ Quality will sell at the higher premiums while inferior offerings will tend to congregate at the bargain basement prices – regardless of how much they are initially ‘hyped-up.’ I, for one, am glad to see it happening; and thank goodness for Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.

Emeka Iwenofu

That’s great to know. Both my ebooks: Jackie’s Miracle and Francine’s Miracle sell at $4.99 each and it’s good to know that I’m still within that range. And due to this news, I don’t think I’m going any lower than $3.99 if I felt I had to. Thanks again. By the way, both books are classics, which will enrich your soul and have you discover the powerful gift you hold within your own mind. Just check out the reviews stated on Amazon, all of which are 5 stars. You can go to either FrancinesMiracle.com or JackiesMiracle.com to learn more. Each site also has a cool movie trailer to watch which might excite you.

Peace

Emeka Iwenofu

That is very good to know. Thanks. Both my ebooks Francine’s Miracle and Jackie’s Miracle are both priced at $4.99 So it’s good to know that I’m within that range and I’m sticking with it. Thanks again

Bruce

I buy ebooks based 100% on reviews from other readers and/or whether I’ve enjoyed previous work from that writer. I’d rather pay $10 for a known quality than gamble $5 on an unknown.

Price, unless ridiculously high, doesn’t enter my decision process at all.

traveler

I personally have bought many more books at $1.99 (mostly on a daily special) than at any other price. If it is an author I don’t know I will rarely go above $2.99 unless it has been highly recommended by a friend.

Richard Unwin

I have two novels that are part of a trilogy (I am writing the third one now). The first in the series is priced lower than the second. The second is now selling more than the first. This might be because my readers are following the continuing story, but I too have wondered about the wisdom of low pricing for e books. One other thing to consider – these titles are also available in print versions and the inevitable disparity between a low-cost ebook and its print version seems to depress sales of the print version.

Lyn Hancock

My book THE RING: MEMORIES OF A METIS GRANDMOTHER with illustrations, maps, photos, index, as well as text and the only one written on this pioneering topic is an Amazon Kindle book for $9.99. It is my first e-book but I have written 19 others over a 50 year period, all by big mainstream publishers. Would appreciate advice on pricing. Thanks, from Neophyte Lyn Hancock on THIS topic..

Michael W. Perry

As with everything in publishing, don’t forget the powerful Amazon factor. Price a book $0.99 or $1.99 and Amazon only pays 35% royalty. Price it $2.99 and it pays 70%. Pricing an ebook at $1.99 may mean that the author is clueless about business and perhaps not that good a writer.

I must like even numbers. For some reason $2.99 strikes me as more appealing that $3.99. My two latest books are both $2.99. If $2.99 seems too low, I’d almost rather the price be $4.99 than $3.99. Weird.

This is a big change from how I priced print books. For them, I took the print cost and multiplied by four, making my share of the retail price about 25%. By that principle, I’m underpricing a $14.95 print book ($3.70 profit) by selling it for $2.99 ($2.09 profit). I need to almost double the sales for that smaller markup to be made back.

William Ockham

No one is asking the right question. To know whether this assertion is true or not, we should be asking whether the median sales of titles priced at $1.99 are significantly different from the median sales of other titles. Average (mean) sales are significantly affected by the outliers, i.e. the best sellers. If, as I strongly suspect, the median sales are essentially the same at all the major price points, the entire basis for this article is moot.

It worries me that so few people in the publishing business understand the danger of using simple averages for statistical analysis of sales data. Didn’t anyone in this industry take an introductory statistics course in college?

jan

I’m not sure how to get a median sales figure from one outlet, for one price point. I would be interested, could be useful.

However, as to needing a maths qual. for a publishing career, I doubt that many entrants would concentrate on that; A specialty that gets bought in?

Stephen Barry Einbinder

Why must it be X.99? Why can’t the price be round, like $3.00, $4.00 or $5.00?

Lee Campbell

Right, but it could be virtually any product. Just look around and you’ll see the. In fact, depending on where you live, at least in the United States, you may still even see gas stations with prices listed in tenths of a cent as in $3.49 9/10. The funny thing is that I don’t believe the the United States has ever issued coinage smaller than one cent, at least not during the automobile age.

Another phenomenon I’ve seen with newsletter publishers over the past few years is the use of “7” instead of “9” as the ending digit. For example, instead of their letter being $99 a year it’s $97, or $47 versus $49. Does anyone know if there’s some other magic to “7”.

Lastly, as I’m typing this I randomly looked over to my other screen that’s currently displaying my email inbox. There’s a message from Amazon.com with my first name followed by “Kindle Books Starting at $1.99”. Go figure.

Mommy's Angel In Heaven

It’s also why gas is always priced at something like 2.99 with another 99 in superscript which means you are actually pay $3.00 per gallon but the mind thinks of it as 2.99 instead. It why when you walk through the checkout line you have all those items such as candy, gum, magazines and even the toys for the kiddies for those impulse buys. It all plays on our minds to what attracts us to buy that items.

Michelle Louring

It’s always interesting to take a look at pricing behavior.
I know from myself that I have a hard time taking free or $0.99(unless they are short stories) books seriously, and $1.99 just seems like an odd price to me. Then again, I had planned to bundle 3 short stories, each selling seperately at $0.99, together and discount them, but if not at $1.99, then what?
Wouldn’t want them to be swallowed by the black hole :)

H.D. Timmons

I agree with your thought process here, Michelle. I’ve got a short story series that I list at $0.99, which seems fair for a short story. Later, I hope to combine them all into one and offer for maybe $5.99. Still pondering.

Jonas

It’s all about perceived value. We sold more DVDs at $15 than we did at $10, because people expected them to be higher quality at that price.

Cendrine Marrouat

That’s an interesting article, thank you!

I think it all boils down to how you see yourself as an author. Do you want to be labelled as a “bargainer” or “quality-oriented” creator? It’s not about selling millions of copies but rather about setting your eyes on the long-term goal and being taken seriously.

Valentine North

Very confusing statements. Smashwords and KWL both talk about pricing and sales, but they forget that different books are not different kinds of fruit or vegetables.
They might sell more copies of a book at a certain price, but that’s because of the book itself, not the price.

Isaac Yuen

Interesting data. I wonder how perceptions differ for e-singles and shorter works, and if $0.99 is universally seen as the pricepoint for basement quality.

Captain Eagle

AvianKingdom published its books at above the $1.99, it is a quality product and we want readers that actually want literature with intent behind the stories.

Scott Roche

That’s interesting. I’ve played around with pricing some and my YA novel seems to go better at $2.99. I wonder how closely people pay attention to things like story length when it comes to price.

Abby

I usually pay attention to length in relation to the price. I’m willing to pay more for a novel length story (or even a novella), but I’ve seen too many authors charge over $4 for a short story to just buy without checking.

I don’t associate $1.99 with bad quality, but I’m more likely to try something from an unknown author at 0.99.

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