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.
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.
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.