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Setting the price for his/her book(s) is one of the hardest things an indie author must do. No matter what you decide, it’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t, Catch-22, etc. situation: if you price low, you might sell lots of copies, but you won’t make a lot on them, and it may give the perception that your book is so crappy it needed to be priced low to sell; if you price too high, you’ll make more in royalties, but you might sell less copies because some potential readers may not want to take a chance on you. The trick, obviously, is finding that perfect price that allows you to move copies and make a decent profit.

So the question obviously becomes, what is that perfect price? It’s going to vary depending on the book, but in my very humble opinion I think it’s somewhere between $4.99 – $6.99 for a good-quality work from an author who’s not just trying to cash on the latest flavour-of-the-month trends. Anywhere in this range is a very reasonable price to pay for a book (I mean, c’mon, that’s about the same as a pint of beer, and a good book lasts you WAY longer than a pint and hopefully won’t make you as stumble-y); however, I’ve decided to go to the high-end of that and price Typhoon Season at $6.99. Seems a gamble, perhaps, but I’m going to explain why.

Time Invested

This book literally took me close to a decade to complete. I conceived of it right around the end of university, spent years rolling the plot and characters around in my head while I went through my ‘socially-awkward early-twenties’ phase, then finally set everything in place to move to Taiwan where I had to do more years of researching, drafting, editing, re-writing and polishing until it was finally completed (and after that there will still typos – many argghhhs).

Then there was all the time it took to assemble pitch packages for, and get rejected by, over sixty different literary agencies and publishers. Next came the time it took to learn about publishing through the Kindle Direct Program and everything else it takes to be a (hopefully successful) indie author. The number of man-hours spent is incalculable.

Money Invested

All that time didn’t come cheap; it’s easily cost me thousands and thousands of dollars to get to this point. From moving to and living in Taiwan for three years, to paying for photocopying and postal charges on the pitch packages, to moving back to Canada, to the new computer I needed to buy to write with, plus countless other miscellaneous charges along the way, I’ve pored a small fortune into creating this book. Even if I never recover everything I’ve spent, I’d like to get at least some return on my investment.

The Book Itself

How much is a book really worth? Should you compare it to other like books in setting the price? What about its basic physical properties? Should those matter? I really have no idea.

Typhoon Season is around 106,000 words and 372 pages (according to the Kindle estimation).That’s on the longer side for modern novels. Many of the books I see on Kindle are in the 250 – 300 page range, and go from $2.99 – $4.99. So you could argue that it’s fair to price mine at $6.99 because it’s longer (this gets back to the ‘time invested’ thing), but you could also very rightly argue that just because it’s longer, that doesn’t make it better.

But what if all the reviews I’ve received so far (and hopefully most of the forthcoming ones) are positive? If the generally accepted opinion is that it’s a damn good book, doesn’t that give me the right to charge more? Should I drop the price if the reviews all come back negative?

That’s really hard to say at this point, and I doubt it’s going to have much to do with my pricing decisions. Overall, I think I’ll defer to the fact that …

The Market is Changing

I’ve read many different articles and blog posts about this, and stupidly, I’ve forgotten to bookmark any of them, but the main points are that the price of ‘high-end’ ebooks (from traditional publishing houses) is probably going to come down because of the anti-trust lawsuit issue that was recently settled, while the price of the ‘low-end’ is probably going to come up because authors are realizing that selling a book for $0.99 isn’t really that cost effective (unless they’re moving massive numbers in certain genres), while readers are realizing that a book priced $0.99 cents might not be much worth their time, depending on what they generally enjoy reading.

Anyway, the point is the middle ground is still $4.99 – $6.99, but given the massive investment I made to get the book written, I’m going to take a chance at $6.99. Will it pay off? The waiting game commences now.

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4 thoughts on “Why I Went For $6.99

  1. Hello there,

    Very interesting blog post, James, even for non-writers like myself. 🙂

    Setting the right price/rate for any work is obviously not always easy when it comes to “abstract” work such as writing or, for example, translation.

    Although for some freelancers there is always a kind of gut (irrational?) feeling against the commoditization of their work, the reality is that any work needs to be brought “down” to the level of price tagging in order to become a decent income for its creator.

    So I hope your strategy pays off. In my experience of other areas of business, for example, holiday rental, I tend to think that if you opt for more “reasonable” pricing, chances are you will make higher profits in the long run, as you will obviously have more offers or sales.

    But I was actually interested in knowing how you feel about the fact that mega-websites such as Amazon.com trade with books based on “rental”, not on “real sale” of books.

    Shouldn’t such rentals have a lot lower price than the price of books that really become the “ownership” of buyers? If so, how to then establish book prices in cases where authors sell their works directly to buyers who can really “own” their books?

    This digital age is really causing a major stirring of traditional ways of doing business!

    Kind regards,

    Ivette

    • Well, I’m hoping that $6.99 turns out to be the most reasonable price; it’s certainly more reasonable than the $14 – $16 that major publishers are currently charging for some e-books.

      As to the ‘ownership’ issue – you’re right. Buying a book through Kindle, just like many other cloud-based retail services, does not buy you ownership of that book, but rather a ‘licence’ to read it. This bothered me at first too, but then I thought about it and realized the most important thing about a book, or a movie, or music, is not the physical delivery system (paper or a DVD or a CD), but the art itself. Is there really any difference between paying for a licence to read a book or for a paperback copy? Only in terms of lending it around.

      I think it’s just something that people will have to get used to as all multimedia entertainment services get transfered to the cloud; within ten years, hardly anyone’s going to buying their entertainment in physical form.

  2. Excellent post. I’m also struggling with the pricing of my first novel coming out next month–it’s 150,000 words, a hefty 450 page book. I also want something not too low or it’ll look ridiculous against the cost of the printed version, which will likely run about $14.95, if not higher (still trying to figure that part out as well). That being said, I’m leaning towards either $4.99 or $5.99, what used to be considered the cost of a paperback.

    One suggestion I’d have to you would be to have a print version. That way even on the higher end, the ebook will look like a bargain against the printed copy.

  3. I’m a bit torn on the print version issue; there’s actually a part of me that wants to go all ‘e’ as a way of ushering in the future and saving the trees. But then another part of me thinks about the potential customers I’m losing … and then those two parts have a snowball fight (it’s still undecided).

    Though I think that I don’t want a print version simply to make my e-book look cheaper; once I’m ready to branch out from Amazon I’ll have to take a look at Smashwords and see if it would work for me.

    As for your book, what genre is it? If it’s a very competitive one (i.e. fantasy) you may have to price it on the low end.

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