Pricing self-published ebooks



Putting the basics aside of covers, blurb and the actual quality of the writing (and here I’m not talking about elite literary fiction, but a story that is reasonably commercial that would appeal to the masses.)

It’s all a question of price with eBooks and VISIBILITY. Price is a strange animal for self-published authors, especially those with one book coming new to the trade.

Much has to do with length. H Howey, Sci-fi and erotica aside, usually, short stories just don’t sell well at all. Novellas perhaps fare better than shorts and full-length books are where the money is. If they sell.

The minimum you can sell a short story for is 99c, so as well as not being popular, they are overall not considered value for money. However, fans of Sci-fi are quite prepared to pay 99c for a short story of around 10,000 words. For erotica short around 5,000 words, you can charge roughly $2.99 – $4.99 and sell some serious numbers. The problem with erotica is that it has had a rough ride for six months, with Kobo, W H Smiths refusing to accept them and Amazon reducing visibility and enforcing strict rules on content. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if that genre has lost its gravy boat success in the next 12 months.

Good self-published historical fiction can sell easily between $4.99 and $7.99 for a full-length work. Therefore, genre can play a big part in pricing.

There was a time not long ago, around 2 years ago, when the likes of Konrath, Locke and a few others went against the trend and dropped their prices to 99c for full-length works. Their success in sales was phenomenal and prompted a downward spiral to 99c. Of course, once everyone did it, it stopped working for the new entrants and so around 12 months ago, most (not all) savvy authors increased their prices, unless it was for the first in a series.

At the business end, if you sell 100 books at 99c, then you earn $35. You only need to sell 17 at $2.99 or 10 books at $4.99 to earn the same amount. The norm at the time of this post is to enter at $2.99 for self-published.

To give an example of how the elusive visibility works, which is self-perpetuation marketing, I had a book selling at 99c. In the UK, I regularly sold 300 per month, earning around $100 per month. After many months and once I was in profit, I increased the price to $4.99. The first month I sold 30 at the new price, earning me $100, so nothing lost, but then month on month sales reduced. Why? The same book was regularly in the top ten for its category. The answer is simple, more people at the time bought books at 99c and so it had visibility in the charts, which kept the sales going. With lower sales, it dropped out of the charts and into oblivion.

What all this has to do with the price of fish, I don’t know, but then it’s past my bedtime. All I know is that I won’t sell a full-length book at less than $2.99 even if it doesn’t sell, though I would use the odd free days to give it a chart boost and to promote sales.



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It really is head scratching time and a battle of wills when you put out a new book concerning price. It doesn’t work the same every time in the same way for every author as there are so many factors, but basically, you have 30 days free visibility when you upload an eBook.

What visibility means is that thousands of customers look for new releases and Amazon features the book on the site as a new release, not for the same reasons as on authonomy, but it has the same effect in that they are sought after by a percentage of the millions of Amazon readers. Many of these browsers have price points. If it’s self-published, then usually they could be split into sections of between 99c and $4. 99. A year ago you could guarantee that it would be something like 80% @ 99c, reducing to say 2% at $4.99. For published books by recognized authors and publishers, then they fill the area between $5.99 and above. However, that’s changed now for the self-published and small digital imprints. 99c was fine when people thought it was a bargain, but the majority of those now know it comes at a price on quality and so many have set their price point higher, or they have widened their range.

New releases are jostling for attention in a crowded, virtual market place, so although luck plays a part, there are many things an author can do to stand out to appeal to the decision making process for someone to click and discover more and hopefully to buy.

More experienced self-publishers already have advantages in place. They will have established an imprint name, together with an additional body of work. Because most publish a Create Space book at the same time, the price saving from paper to digital — which can be as much as $10.00 — is shown on the eBooks page. I have never understood why not all self-publishers don’t do this, as it’s a no brainer. It’s not a question of selling paper books; it’s how it looks on the page as a marketing advantage on price, right there on the eBook page.

Usually, experienced self-publishers have social media set up with followers and a web site with visitors, so when they publish, a few clicks on their web site with a post about their release and that’s the fan base and social media followers taken care of. They will have sent out ARCs to customers for reviews who have contact the author for them to post around the publishing date.

I assume that no one in their right mind would self-publish a book without at least a line edit, a proofread, maybe post your MS on a writers’ site for crit, and have an independent beta read to know they have a viably crafted story.

So there we have it, you upload your book, having put all the items above in place and the sooner you have sales and reviews, the sooner you will stand out among the other new releases in the reader decision making process. Gaining at least a category rank is all-important, because if you reach that within 30 days, you reach visibility outside the new release section and have more potential readers. From there it is all down to the quality of your product, word of mouth and unsolicited reviews. Garner bad reviews from other than friendly reviewers and you sink without trace. That’s how the gate keeping works for self-publishers and digital imprints, the reader has the power.

Price depends on many different factors. But at least when you self-publish, you can alter that at the click of a keyboard stroke if you lose your nerve and nothing happens, or if you are a KDP Select author, then you have access to set up a price promotion to try and boost sales.

Hope this post makes sense.


Regardless of success or not, don’t be hung up on one book, start writing and preparing the next. It doesn’t mean you are a failure if your eBook bombs. The more eggs you have in the basket, the more likely one will hatch and it will have a knock on effect to hatch the others, which have passed their sell by date, giving them a new life.

  1. […] Pricng self-published ebooks […]


  2. Olga says:

    Hi Declan,
    Great tips. I’ll be back to read this again. I joined KUF and posted in the forum. No dice. I can’t see my thread. It disappeared into cyberspace. Olga


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