For a professional author, writing is both an art and a business. This post is about the business end.
Blogger Joe Konrath has written extensively about self-publishing e-books and he should know - he's one of the runaway success stories being profiled in major newspapers. One of his points of agony, however, is setting the price of an e-book.
I think we can all agree that paying $9.99 for a download when a paperback is available for $7.99 is insane and yet, we see it all the time from major publishers. The majority of self-published writers, however, tend to cluster around $0.99 to $2.99 price point, offering better value for readers while taking in a far larger percentage of the royalties. The question I'm facing, then, is how to price my book.
It's a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, I want to make a decent income from my writing and I won't do that if I practically give the books away. On the other hand, I want to give my readers the best value for their dollar and keep a low enough price to encourage sales. Moreover, I'll make far more selling 1,000 books at, say, $1.49 than selling 200 books at double that.
As Joe Konrath has discovered, however, one of the crucial things to remember about e-books is the relative disconnect between price and popularity. He's conducted a series of small experiments with the prices of his books and found, in some cases, that sales have increased when prices have gone up.
It's counterintuitive to anything you'll hear from sales and marketing gurus.
So where does that leave this unknown, first-time author? What's a good introductory price point for a first novel? A peek at Amazon's Kindle Top 100 reveals prices ranging from $0.99 to $14.99, although only well-established bestsellers occupy the upper end of this scale. Most of the self-published authors price their books below the $5.00 mark.
At the moment, I've settled on a $2.99 price point. But, if that seems to inhibit sales, I can do one of the things that makes e-book publishing such a dynamic, fluid market: I can change the price with a mouse click.
I hope to post monthly sales reports once the book is made available. Maybe there's a formula in there somewhere authors can use to maximize profits. Or maybe, once it's in the ether, it's all up to luck.
My bet: it's a bit of both.