Greetings one and all. I have seen a number of posts over my time here regarding the tricky issue of pricing. I rather suspect that there is no formula to adopt and that it is very much a personal choice based on your own set of criteria.
Hopefully, it will be of use to some of you for me to set out the decisions that I made and the reasons behind them.
I am including personal sales information in this article, simply to help those who are starting the author journey to understand the financial decision-making tree a little better.
My motivation for writing was not to make money, but to tell the story that I had always wanted to tell. That governed my decision-making throughout. In any case, I never imagined that I would sell many books, so the experience and the end product were paramount in my view.
Once I had set myself on that path, the pricing strategy was easy to decide upon. Pricing to encourage people to read meant aiming relatively low.
At that time, I looked at e-book pricing and thought that, despite being new into the field, the download version was a tad overpriced, compared to the book you buy on the High Street.
The decision to pitch my e-book under High Street prices seemed reasonable enough, and many authors seemed to agree.
I spoke with friends, relatives, and acquaintances in the USA, and the general feeling from them was ‘something’ and 99 cents was appropriate. Against advice, I settled on $4.99 as my e-book price. Bear in mind at this point that my first book, Opening Moves, was 812 pages.
Quite clearly if I had been in it for the money, creating two books out of that lot would have been easy enough. However, that was where the book finished and that was that.
So Opening Moves was set at $4.99 for Kindle, and equivalent across the other kindle selling platforms from Japan to Germany. For some reason, I also decided to have a common pricing policy and, having openly stated that in RG forums and on the website, I was committed to it.
The royalties from e-sales are shown in the charts attached, so I won’t repeat them here.
It was when I went to Createspace that the ‘size V amount of work V royalty’ issue raised its ugly head.
Createspace is an on-demand publisher, which simply means that when you click to buy, they print the book and send it to you. This means that their costs are higher than those of a traditional publisher. Naively, I hoped to pitch the book at around High Street price, or maybe just a little more, considering its size. I was in for a shock. Createspace, so I thought, set a minimum price at which they can make a profit and give you a small royalty. I was horrified to find that the minimum price I could place the book on sale for was £14.67….. and that gave me precisely £00-00 royalties.
All of a sudden I was thrust into the world of stepping a book up to a higher cost simply to try and earn a little from my endeavours. I should say at this point that I was constantly receiving input from friends and relatives, and my heart was torn between my initial pricing thoughts and the reality of writing for nothing.
I decided to price ‘Opening Moves’ at $19.99 / £16.99, which offered me royalties of $1.42 and £1.39 per hard copy. When you consider what the reader is paying out, that represents a lot less in %age terms than a traditionally published author, according to my research, whereas the e-books certainly seem to be more.
My books tended to terminate in natural breaks, with two notable exceptions. Book#2 ‘Breakthrough’ topped 330,000 words, and I was told that it was too much. I split it into #2 and #3 and published them shortly after one another.
Book#7 ‘Endgame’ proved to be otherwise and spawned a final book. It had been my intent to finish on #7 but I simply could not get the story in satisfactorily. In the end, Book#8 ‘Caïssa’ was born and became the smallest book I produced [except for the bio sets that accompany each book]. It is also the only book for which I have received complaints regarding size, suggesting that it was too small. I suspect I am a victim of my own standards in that regard.
With my profit making head on, it is for certain sure that I could have done the same amount of writing, produced nearer twelve books of acceptable size, and gained probably 25% or so more royalties.
In the attached charts, you can see the values involved and I hope that they make the situation just a little clearer for you.
As I said earlier, making money was not my prime concern. However, it is now a serious concern, having been shown how much money can be made if you get lucky and with the sirens of early retirement singing soft music in my ears 🙂
None the less, I stick to my pricing policy . . . even after looking at the figures on the charts I prepared for your gaze!
As an aside, I do wonder how often readers check on book details before they buy.
In a bookshop, it is a simple task. You can see pretty much all you need to know. But e-sales pose a different scenario, and I am certainly sure that some unscrupulous writers take advantage of the hidden nature of size/pages/content. If you look at Amazon, it won’t take you too long to find a book of less than a hundred pages for sale at prices that would bring a tear to your eye.
You have no input over ‘pages read’ royalties, except to decide if you wish to enter the programme or not.
I am a member of KDP and KU, and believe I make some nice extra royalties from it, as well as enjoy the daily climb in pages read from Brazil to Australia.
So to summarise, my advice would be to decide upon your whole purpose behind writing and make your decisions accordingly. I certainly believe that you can price yourself out of contention, and equally give away your work. I have seen statements such as ‘if you don’t value it, how will others value it?’ A fair point. In the end, you must be comfortable with your decision and remember: It is NOT set in stone and you can alter it whenever you choose.
I hope this has helped you to organise the issue in your mind.
The very best of luck with your work 🙂