Price Is Everything

At what point is it acceptable to raise the price of your ebooks?

This is the question I'm now struggling with.

As this recent article on ebook pricing shows, there are ten rules as found by Vook:

1 Zero variable cost means it's okay to significantly lower prices to maximize revenue.

2 Optimal pricing is highly content specific.

3 Certain pricing thresholds trigger psychological "automatic" purchases.

4 Categorization plays a large role in optimal pricing and discoverability.

5 Merchandising whole catalogues is more effective than single titles: "a rising tide lifts all boats."

6 Containers are critical to driving upsell in app environment.

7 Lift effects through savvy launch promotions have a profound impact on sales.

8 In general, apps cannot support as high price points as e-books.

9 Real-time sales tracking is necessary to adjust pricing in a dynamic e-book world.

10 For each retailer there are distinct best practices to maximize discoverability and revenues.

A lot of this is basic obvious stuff, but still worth thinking about. When I first started releasing novels back in April, I priced The Calling at 99 cents, seeing as how it was my first novel and I wanted to lure new readers in with what is pretty much an impulse buy. The problem, of course, is that many 99 cent ebooks go unread. Readers just like stocking up on ebooks, and at 99 cents they can squirrel them away like, well, squirrels.

But then the next month I raised the price to $2.99 so I could get that 70% royalty as I wasn't making much on the 99 cents. I thought that sales would decrease some and ... well, here are my numbers for The Calling on Kindle since March, as the e-book did become available within the last two weeks of the month:

March -- 41

April -- 124

May -- 238

June -- 276

July -- 287

So as you can see, there is steady growth. Not a lot of growth, mind you, as I would like to see those numbers advancing by at least fifty if not one hundred every month, but still, the ebook is doing okay, especially considering that some of May and all of June and July it was priced at $2.99 and bringing in a 70% royalty and especially since I do pretty much no promotion for the book at all.

Now why I am thinking about raising the price? Well, why not?

I must admit, I do like the $2.99 price point as it's not that much for your average reader, yet it gives the author a very big percentage. Depending on the file size, an author can earn about $2 for every unit sold.

But should every ebook be priced at $2.99?

Recently I've been thinking of the novel's length.

The Serial Killer's Wife is 80,000 words long, so I think $2.99 is a reasonable price to ask readers to pay for the book.

But The Calling and The Dishonored Dead clock in at 100,000 words each. In printed book length (I know, because I just recently finished designing the interior for both novels) it comes to a little bit over 350 pages, as opposed to The Serial Killer's Wife, which is right around 300.

So I've been thinking, would adding an extra buck for the novels over, say, 100,000 words be too much?

What many readers don't understand, too, is that the larger the file size, the more Amazon takes away. So charging $2.99 for a 200,000 word novel doesn't leave the writer with the same royalty as a 60,000 word novel.

And of course, what about that gray area of novels that fall between the 40,000 and 60,000 area?

It doesn't seem to make sense for me to charge $2.99 for one of those and then charge the same price for a novel that's 120,000 words.

One of the reasons I've been thinking about this is because with my print books that I'm prepping. At first I was going to make them all $13.95, but the truth is The Calling and The Dishonored Dead are fifty more pages than The Serial Killer's Wife. And just like with file size, the more pages you have, the less of a royalty you get. Not that I expect to make a fortune off the print books, but there should be at least a little something coming back in return, right? And making The Calling and The Dishonored Dead $14.95 isn't too much more to ask readers for a thicker book, is it?

Of course, there will be the readers out there who just want to be read no matter what, and while that's great and all, I would actually like to start making money on my writing. In fact, I have been making money and seem to continue to, which is a blessing. And this isn't a question of trying to take advantage of the reader, either. I'm not implying that I plan to jack some of these book prices up. Just a dollar or so, no more than that, at least for the novels that are much lengthier.

But, honestly, I'm scared to do it.

I'm afraid that sales might slow down.

Right now I'm making about $2 for every unit sold of The Calling. If I raised the price to $3.99, I would make a little under $2.80. It might not seem like much, but it does add up. And with more ebooks out there to sell, the more readers finding your books, it's finding that right price that is crucial. Unfortunately, every reader is different, just as every book is different, so trying to find that right price is sometimes very difficult.

So experimenting is a good thing, except for when your sales already seem to be increasing.

By raising the price, the sales might decrease.

Or they might increase.

Or they might stay the same.

But will I do it?

Again, right now I'm just too scared to try.