The perfect price for an ebook…is there such a thing?

ImageI’ve spent the last few months trying to polish up a novel that started off as a stress reliever for me. I needed to write something that would make me feel like my writing was worthwhile, especially since what I write everyday for a living is often ripped apart, watered down and then mistranslated to a point when I don’t even recognize it anymore. Well, that’s life. 

I think my novel may soon be ready to send out in the world. I am going to get some beta readers to give it a once-over again. I’ve also found someone to design my cover–Andrew Brown at Design for Writers. He was recommended to me by Kirsty Greenwood from Novelicious (one of my new favorite sites) and the author of Yours Truly

The book I’m planning on sending out into the world first is A Little Night Music, which I started for Nanowrimo 2009. I didn’t finish it on time. It took me another year to get a finished first draft. Then I tried to workshop it but it wasn’t always a very good experience. In the end, I decided to focus on revising it based on what jumped out at me. I think it’s pretty tight now. I like the story and the first beta reader liked it and gave me good feedback. 

So now as I contemplate how much I should charge for a novel as an ebook or as a POD edition, I can’t help thinking about an experiment I tried last week. I decided to try a free promotion for my Kindle-only short story, “Linger”. In three days, it was downloaded 200 times. Prior to that, I’d only sold around 20 copies.

Linger costs 99 cents, so now I wonder if the moral of the story is that people think it’s too much to pay for a short story. And if I publish a 75,000-word novel, will people pay $3.99 for it? Or will they expect me to charge 99 cents for it since so many other indie writers do this? 

I am always a little skeptical of books that are too cheap. If a novel is available for 99 cents the first week, then I think it’s a good promotion. If it’s always 99 cents, then I think it’s either not very good or the writer doesn’t value how much work went into their craft. But maybe that’s me being a book snob. 

So what do the rest of you think? How much would you be willing to pay for an ebook if it’s a full-length novel? 

10 thoughts on “The perfect price for an ebook…is there such a thing?

  1. I try not to go over $10 for an ebook. 99 cents is CHEAP and so is $3.99…if the work is properly edited and proof-read, you deserve to earn money on it. I can’t tell you what to take, but certainly $5 would still be a very good deal.

  2. Tough call – I think if you charge too low it gets thrown in with the good the bad and the ugly! I have priced my short the same as yours and estimated page length is 17 yours is 8 and I have yet to make a sale since the start of the month. I think you probably need to play around with it a bit but I would go no higher than 5.99 perhaps 4.99 is a good figure it’s under 5 bucks & you can put it on sale for a lesser price to push sales up once you have some good reviews under your belt. In bocca al lupo! Ingrid 🙂

    • I recently discussed prices with another indie writer. She said she set the price of her debut novel at 99 cents because she knew people were more willing to take a chance on something inexpensive. I still think 99 cents is a warning sign for me that the book isn’t good. If I think of my “pain threshold” when I buy ebooks, I usually never buy ebooks that cost more than the paperback edition. So when the traditional publishers charge $15.99 for an ebook and I can get the paperback edition for 7.99, then I go with the paperback.

      • I completely agree with you Kim. I’m charging $4.99 for A HOOK IN THE SKY (that comes to $5.20 with the taxes in Europe) and $5 is about right for an indie book. 99 cents is way too cheap, it signals “slushpile”! I did a promotion at 99 cents for 10 days when my book was chosen as the Monthly Read in our Goodreads Group and got some 69 copies sold at the time…for just 99 cents, believe me I didn’t make any money!

        Yet, no doubt about it, 99 cents is a fair promotional tool if you link it to something like a reading event as I did. I don’t think going free is. It doesn’t work anymore. It used to work a year ago when KDP Select first started and some people managed to get up to 10,000 downloads. I remember that my short story collection DEATH ON FACEBOOK was downloaded 2000 times and I thought that was pretty cool! It filled that row which says “other customers also bought…” which helps “place” your book. And it bumped it among the top 20 in the Kindle non-paid list. So that too was announced on the book’s page and I felt I had made it, LOL!

        I was soon disenchanted. All those downloads did NOT translate into more copies sold! I suspect my short stories are sitting forgotten in the kindles of some 2000 people who have better things to do than read my stuff…In short, free downloads do not translate into buzz and sales anymore, if they ever did!

        Bottom line: sell your book at $4.99, that’s a fair price!

      • Claude, you are so right. I think I will go with 4.99 because that is a price that makes me feel comfortable and I don’t think it’s too expensive for my potential readers.

  3. Kim, The price you charge is a personal decision. I find no matter how much you charge, readers will either purchase or not buy the book. Look at this way: You put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into writing your novel, and you deserve to ask for whatever price you believe is fair. Of course, I should learn to take this advise myself, because I too have always had problems putting a price on my work. 🙂 Nevertheless, keep writing and best wishes to you.

    • Exactly! And that’s why I don’t want to put too low a price on my books. I worked hard writing them and I think they are worth a certain amount. I don’t really understand why many people get angry that a novel costs more than 99 cents. I’ve seen people get bad reviews simply because the reader didn’t like the price they paid. It’s very strange, indeed.

  4. Hi Kim, I did a post on the same subject about a week ago… I think the median is USD 4.99 .. I pitch all my offerings at that price now.., but when I started as a new indie, I thought, heck, gotta break in somehow.. but I’ve come to think lower pricing does not necessarily lead to sales.. I alternate the free promo days on Kindle Select Program amongst my three books now,( one is a book of my blog collection) and find that works kinda well for me , with more than 55,000 downloads for the first two novels in 15 months .. the split is rouglhy 1:1 paid versus free , modestly in favour of paids… hope that helps .. it does help to have the ‘platform’ on social networks to propagate your name ..cheers :):)

    • A few months ago, a fellow writer told me I wouldn’t get anywhere in the indie world if I didn’t give books away for free. I would rather host a giveaway for a few days rather than offer anything for free permanently. I think I will follow your lead, Seumas. 🙂

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