Sunday, October 2, 2011

What Price is the Right Price for a Book?

I am seeing a bit of disparity in the price
of books, especially eBooks. I see prices that range from $30.00+ for a hardcover down to .99 cents for an eBook.

I am wondering what is the best price point for a novel and at what point will you not 'break the bank' for a book? I don't think that $10.00 is asking too much for a book that I want to read, regardless of whether or not it in print or an eBook, but what the heck do I know!?

With books so easy to obtain via downloads to the Nook, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Android phones, etc., does that change your mind, too? I know Amazon and the eBook changed the publishing and writing game forever.

I looked recently on the top kindle book and every single one was $2.99 and under. Some of them were even free! I am not sure how they count ‘free’ as sales, but I am sure it is possible. I know many bloggers and authors have discussed this, but I wanted to see what my audience thinks. Reason being is that I have many more books in the works!

I feel that my publishing company may have mislead me indirectly or perhaps I wasn’t clear enough with my expectations—maybe it was simply my own delusions of grandeur that pushed my own ego into thinking that I could make a good push with sales all by myself…meh. While I think that I am doing a fairly good job of marketing using the social media sites, I feel like sometimes I am beating a dead horse…especially on Facebook. I am having some success with twitter, my website and with the blog in driving visitors to each using the other. At some point or another, I feel that I am going to need either to spend some of my own money for a media blitz or try to find an agent to net me a publisher.

Who was happy? This guy!
Circling back to the first published book, I went with the ‘let’s try to see how far I can push this while competing against known authors’ route in my price point. While I don’t say that it is wrong, I think that I may have put the cart before the horse.

I am currently working on a prequel: an anthology that includes the story of what happened to my retired heroes prior to the prologue in Covenant of the Faceless Knights. I am also working on short stories of Elec, Saeunn, Rose and Garius. I am also planning on doing another full length novel for the second in the ‘Beginnings’ series (sequel). I am still debating whether or not to include a story about Orngoth in the anthology (prequel)…I will see if anyone clamors for one here!

Also, I am planning on releasing the anthology sometime next year with the price point of .99 cents up to $2.99. Any advice from the pro’s out there? I am not quite sure what to do yet for the full length novel and am debating whether or not to bother with the interior art again. I liked it, but am not sure if it is worth the added expense.

I know that some people only charge the $2.99 price, but are they mostly novellas, short stories or what? My novel was 304 pages and I spent a lot of hard work in editing, presenting and writing it. I am not saying that anyone else hasn't, merely presenting the facts from my side for anyone who hasn't written a book yet! Does that mean anything or not when compared to the rest of the field?

My questions to you are:

1. What do you charge or what would you pay for a full length novel?

2. What do you expect content-wise and editorial-wise for the .99 cent to $2.99 price point?

3. Do you want to see a sixth short story in the anthology that centers on the half-ogre barbarian Orngoth?

See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Please visit my home page to enjoy an extended reading experience, see direct links to purchase Covenant of the Faceless Knights and to see what else Ashenclaw Studios, LLC has in store in the future!

(Photos from Kozzi and me!)

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios, LLC 2011 unless otherwise noted.


  1. Gary you are right. This does seem to be a hot topic around the web of late. I hadn't put much thought into this until you approached the subject here.

    I don't know how much this will help, but it is my take on the current state of books.

    First of all I am actually a bit of a book collector. A few years ago I started picking up vintage books from the late 1800's to around 1940's. I also have over 100 Dragonlance novels because honestly that is what got me excited about reading after school.

    With that out of the way I will say that I typically don't pay more than $8 for a paperback novel (around the length of your first). Usually it is between $5 and $6 per purchase. Hardcover (which again fall more under the collector side of things for me) have no maximum. If I like the story/series and it appeals to me I will buy it. I think I have spent around $60 for some hardcover books. Granted most of those are some of the current gaming rule books.

    Now my take on the comparison between physical versus electronic books. The electronic have begun appealing to me more and more due to convenience. I love being able to load up hundreds of books and manuals onto an electronic device for easy access anywhere or anytime. I honestly think an electronic version of a book is equal half the price of a physical version. This is only my view point and I have no idea what all goes on behind the scenes. Maybe half price electronic isn't fair to the author or publisher. I don't really know.

    I will say it does kind of tick me off when a company releases an electronic version of a book for the same price or more than a physical. I know of one company that did this and if I didn't REALLY want the book I wouldn't have bought it. But again it was a game rulebook and I wanted it on my Nook for easy access at the gaming table.

    That is my take on the subject my friend.

  2. Thanks for the input, Chad and thanks again for stoppin on by. I have heard that there are certain companies that are charging more for the eBook than the hardcovers! I do not remember the company, just remember reading it somewhere.

    I guess it all comes down to what the publishing house is charging you (I am print on demand and deduct my print fees for each book that is sold) and then you split the royalties...sometimes there are many hands out for this as well. I just want to know how much is too much for a full length novel and how much it too little.

    Thanks again for getting the conversation started!

  3. All my books are 99 cents. I like my books to be accessible to everyone. One of my novellas is free. I went to great lengths to get Amazon to discount it just for the promo, and it worked - it reached number fifteen on the top 100 in the UK.

    Readers expect the same high standards in these books as in the higher priced ones - and they are not afraid to say so. For people putting out a freebie - be warned - it will reach thousands and thousands of people so it had better be your best work!

    Right - now I'm off to find out a bit more about this barbarian half-ogre guy!

  4. Cody, thanks so much for chiming in! I appreciate the comments.

    I am more than OK with my work hitting thousands of people and hopefully even more! I am out there trying my best to put the best product I can out there to be read (and criticized for that matter). As a matter of fact, I am disappointed that I did not do this for my first novel. I spent a ton of time and effort on it, but did not put a ton of time into researching the price-point and marketing, so I am learning by doing. Heuristics at its finest! Learn by doing, right?

    I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors! If you want to find out more about the half-ogre, pay attention to the blog. I am going to post my next blog about him for Sample Sunday! Take care!

  5. This is a subject that I'm passionate about.

    First off, anyone with internet connection can publish an ebook and call themselves 'author' that doesn't make them a NY bestseller. I've a wall-to-wall library/office and boxed books in my attic. When I travel, carting them is no fun. When my husband bought me a Kindle in March, I thought I'd use it for travel. Wrong! I've over 200 downloads on my Kindle, most of them, including bestsellers, cost from 99 cents - $2.99 and many were free no matter the length--by the way, I'm no willingly paying for those authors newest books. A good share are Indie or self-pubs that I might not have discovered otherwise. And with today's shrinking dollar, I don't jump to pay $10.00 for any book, hardcover or e-trade.

    I agree with Cody on everything she said! I'm traditionally pub, but plan to self-pub. My 6yr old tradeback still sells on Amazon/B&N and other sites/stores for about $10.00. I earn about $1.20 not minus my agent's percentage. I couldn't buy toothpicks on that yearly earn-out. And yet, no matter which venue I publish through I will always write and edit 200+ percent plus blood, sweat and tears and still humbly ask, was it good enough?

    I want my stories read, I want to affect hearts. I want readers to tell others how much they enjoy Linda Wichman's novels. I'm a storyteller and I believe if you give your readers the very best of yourself, they will give back, and buy your books, whether you charge 99 cents or $10.00. Don't mean to sound like a lioness defending her cubs, but a writer must earn the right to the bear the title of 'Author.' :)

  6. Thanks for the input, Linda! I echo the sentiment that I would like my work read first and foremost. That is NOT that attitude I carried when I dove into the project, however.

    I also agree that you need to earn the title of author, though I do not know how exactly that process takes place, but I am learning. There is a lot of 'writers/authors' out there nowadays and I hear mixed reviews on them.

    I also spent a year writing, editing, having my book edited, designed, logo designed, illustrated and edited some more before going to print. I wanted my readers to know that I cared about my written word and respected their time enough to provide them with the very best that I could give them, all out of my own pocket.

    In closing, it is good that you have a strong opinion, it means that you are passionate and that you care.

    Thanks again for adding your thoughts to the discussion!

  7. I'm not an author or a writer. I'm a reader. I read 4-5 books per week and I love my Kindle. Amazon came out with a report that said that e-reader owners buy more books than people without e-readers. I totally agree. I buy all the time! If I want the book, it really doesn't matter the price.

    Here is my own personal theory. When I'm searching for new books to read, I occasionally buy books lower than £5, but I generally think they cost less for a reason. Most people download the FREE book just because they are free.

    Less than $2.99? I think a good book is worth more than a cup of coffee. I get to enjoy the book more than once don't I? I'm not saying that I'm rich and I can buy whatever I want, but I don't have any problems paying £10 for an e-book that I really want. I think the cheaper price point is a reflection on the book.

  8. First off, thanks for the response, Mary! I have gotten that argument as well and agree with the mindset to some degree. I personally feel that my book is worth the asking price and can be gotten for under $8.00 U.S. dollars on kindle and Google eBooks.

    However, I want my novel to reach a broad audience and some people are not willing to purchase novels (from unknowns such as myself) for more than $2.99 or so. While I agree that it would be their loss, I also want my work to be accessible to thousands of people, if not millions!

    That being said, I am trying to establish a name in the industry and want to do what is best to accomplish that goal. I absolutely respect your opinion and applaud you for stating it. I would absolutely love to hear from more readers!

    As an aside, I am currently working on a prequel to Covenant of the Faceless Knights that is an anthology o short stories, probably 6 in all, and am trying to decide which company to publish it with this time around. I also have a second novel in the 'Beginnings'series on pause as well. If you are a fan of fantasy, please pick up a copy and give it a once over! Take care!

  9. I've just moved from publishers to self-publishing and published my first self-pubbed novella (16K) for .99. I think my first self-pubbed novel will be $2.99, then additional books would be $3.99, unless the market changes dramatically. I know my $2.50 novella (has a publisher) has trouble selling. Too expensive for the word count, I think.

  10. Heather, thanks for posting! I an unaware of the 'correct' price for the word count, but certainly have my opinions! I do believe that a 300 page or 90,000+ word novel should be more expensive than a novella and such. That being said, I am wondering if I should break my novels now into novellas and short stories, etc. and publish them that way.

    I am simply thinking out loud and possibly touching on what you might be implying about the word count thing. If a novel sells regardless of word count for the same price, why put out so much work for so little?

    Thanks again for popping by! Cheers!

  11. Hi Gary,

    I think this subject is, well, subjective! The advent of ebooks and self-publishing has totally changed the landscape of publishing. More importantly, it has dramatically increased the choice (and therefore noise) that an author has to penetrate to be noticed. A great deal of the drive to reduce prices was created by John Locke (google and read all the various views on him and his tactics). It is now a fact of life.

    I do not believe the price has any bearing on quality any more. Everyone has rushed to the bottom. However, there are pros and cons to it from a marketing perspective. Cheap books will sell more - particularly in a tough economic market - but bad books will not sell for long before reviews and word of mouth take effect.

    It is important to remember that you are one of a huge number - all after the same thing as you. If you self publish you will not have the marketing budgets and routes to high profile exposure that a big publisher brings. That means you need to use a combination of other techniques to succeed. A low price gives the doubters an incentive to try someone they have never heard of. If you are good, they wil buy your next one and probably everything you every write. This means having a range of prices and formats to hit as many different markets and customers as possible.

    I have a single ebook for now priced at 99c in US. I have another novel approaching completion. I have not decided with my editor and publisher just what our pricing strategy will be, but I am tempted to make the next one more expensive than the first. Less doubting Thomases this time and there is a strong case for low pricing as it creates a very strong multiplier effect. For the price of a single paperback the customer can get up to four or five ebooks and the royalty structure means you will probably make more money this way.

    Anyway, as I said there is a lot of subjectivity. You probably need to experiment until you find the way that suits you. Ebooks never go out of print so you can be in this for the long haul!



  12. Pete, thanks for stopping in and sharing! I completely agree that the price does not reflect the quality directly, nor do they exactly relate. Sometimes you can find a good book for $.99 and other times, you pay $15.00 to 30.00 for a book and are disappointed.

    Thanks for your advice here and I plan to push the experiment as far as I can go! Good luck with your own works as well! Please feel free to follow the blog here and also to comment as often as you can.


  13. As an author, I'd love to say that $10.00 is a good price for a novel. The sad truth is that Amazon has changed the book-buying world. I got an advertisement the other day for a just released novel that was $14.99, and I thought "Are they kidding?" As a consumer, I would wait, knowing it would come down in price (But I always purcsased paperbacks anyway.)

    The perfect price for a novel nowadays? As an avid consumer, I would say $2.99 or $3.99. The reason is that I will grab a novel in this price range without even thinking. If I don't like it, it is no big deal. After $5.99, I start reading reviews and seriously considering it. For some reason, $.99 does not appeal to me. I wonder "Why is it only $.99".

    I do have quite a few free ebooks in my library. What is goos about these, is if I don't like them, I can delete. If I do like them, I go looking for that author and I would be more willing to pay a higher price if I felt more comfortable that I'd like their work.


  14. Jennifer, thanks for stopping by and commenting! As an author, I'd love to see books selling for that $10.00 price point. It is certainly hard as a new artist with no big money pushing your product on the masses, so the lower price point is where we will have to go. I learned a lot from the few mistakes I have made with my first novel and plan to correct them moving forward.

    In the .99 cent range, I hope you look again, because I have a series of short stores coming out priced in that range! :) In reality, I am doing this to get my name out there and give the people an inexpensive taste of my writing, word and characters so that they might come back again later for a 'beefy' novel. Keep your eyes peeled for my WOTHLONDIA RISING' series of shorts and let me know what you think!

    Thanks again for commenting and I look forward to chatting with you in the future. Cheers!

  15. Hey Gary,

    Great question and some keen insights from your followers. Here's my experience as an author:

    I have four novels (68,000 to 71,000 words each) for sale on Kindle. They sell at $6.99 each. They are all presently in the top 2% of Kindle books by per book sales. They haven't always been in this position. Probably the biggest factor (besides divine providence) that moved the book sales numbers was a free book promo. I've done this type of two day free promo with two of the books, with phenomenal results.

    I gave away 25,000 copies of one book, and in the two weeks afterward, sold 1700 copies at $6.99. The other book was given away this past Tuesday and Wednesday, so results are still developing. Right now, the book is at #115 on the Paid Kindle Bestseller list (#17 most "popular" if you just page through all Kindle offerings). It's #1 in three related categories on Paid Kindle (and books in general). Neither book was in the top 100,000 kindle books before the promo!

    So far, in three and a half days after the second giveaway, I've sold a few books shy of 1,000 of the featured title. I'm confident it will go over 1,000 today.

    I'm sure pricing depends to a degree on book length (novel vs novella), and on genre, and on your author platform. I wish I could say more on this subject.

    As a book buyer, I don't buy a lot of books--preferring to use the public library. But now that I have a Kindle, I do find myself buying more books than I used to. As a buyer, I don't really care for the $.99 price point and am even a little leery of the $2.99 books. I think that, for some people at least, there is a perceived value that goes along with a higher price.

    That's my two cents. Like everyone else here, I don't have a magic bullet. Thanks, everyone, for sharing.



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  17. John, I wish I knew. I have a new short story up on my blog as free PDF download for another three hours or so. After that, I am selling them for .99 cents. This is ONLY because they are short stories and I thought that might be a good price for those kinds of things.

    I assume Amazon will let you do free giveaway promos? This is my first go-round with them directly and so far, it has been pretty simple. I have five more short stories to follow and hope they sell well! I am willing to try anything to get my work out there because I think it is on par with everything else like it (don't we all?) except that I bring an air of realism and feeling to the characters that I hope my readers pick up on...

    Anyway, I am always willing to take advice from those who have been at it for a while. I am sticking this thing out and refuse to quit, despite the level of 'competition' out there. I feel if I put out the most professional product that I can, I will make an impression on the masses. Here's to hoping! The hardest thing for me to do is to find my audience.

    Thanks for stopping and sharing your thoughts, John! I appreciate them and I hope my audience here does too!

  18. Gary,

    You might want to ask Jeff Bennington (@TweetTheBook) for his input. He sells his books for $.99 and does quite well at that price point. It's good to hear opposing views in this turbulent publishing environment.

    In order to do a free promo on Amazon you have to sign your title up for KDP Select (giving Amazon an exclusive on your ebook). I didn't like that idea; but I can't argue with results. I blogged about the details of the first promo here:

    You may want to take a peek at this entry.

    It may also interest you to note that before the Amazon promo, I tried to give away free copies of my books on my blog, twitter, and FB. I never succeeded in giving away as many as 25! People don't want to share their email or something?

    Best of luck!


  19. lol, thanks John! That last comment made me smile.

    I will take a peek at your entry and will maybe try to do that for the next short story. After all, Amazon is the big white elephant in the room.

    I don't care what anyone says, they will own the publishing world within the next decade. Print is dying a cold and lonely death I fear.

  20. The last word on pricing I got from a publisher, who has since closed their doors. They compared their prices with those of Samhain Publishing, Carina Press, and ARe (this was a romance publisher). They had their prices based on word count.

    Basically stories from 5K to 18K were $0.99
    Stories from 18,001 to 25K were $2.50 - $2.99
    Stories from 25,001 to 40K were $3.50 - $4.50
    STories from 40,001 to 65K were $4.00 - $5.50
    Stories from 65,001 to 80K were $4.50 - $6.00
    Stories from 80,001 to whatever were $6.00 - $6.99

    These were ebook prices, not print, and took into account, work, editing, and cover etc. That seems reasonable to me.

    Good luck. :)

  21. Meg, thanks so much for the information and the post and sorry for my delayed response as well. I absolutely believe that the information above is pretty spot on! I would pay those prices without a problem and could sleep well charging those prices as well.

    I did not have a lot of control over the price of my novel through Authorhouse but tried to get my material to the public as inexpensively as possible. My 93,000+ word novel is currently priced at $7.69 on Amazon, so it is not wildly different from the prices above and I am putting out short stories right now in the 6000+ to 14000+ word range and charging 99 cents for each.

    Thanks for stopping by to comment and please do so again--I look forward to reading more of your comments in the near future!

  22. Gary,

    There doesn't seem to be a one-size-fits-all price for a book. True, those charging $7.99 and up likely aren't going to move a lot of volume until they cultivate a following--or if their last name isn't Patterson, King, Grisham, or Steel. I myself have been all over the map, from Free (through the KDP program) to $5.99. I don't recommend giving your stuff away, since it does nothing for you, and your title appears in a separate rankings list on Amazon that doesn't seem to influence sales once you start charging money again.

    99 cents will likely give you elevated rankings, so more people see you and you have the chance at generating some fans. But at 35 cents per sale, is it worth it? One of my books has to generate over $5,000 in revenue to earn out, so that price point isn't for me.

    $2.99 was the industry sweet spot for a while, but it seems to be falling out of favor--at least with authors who want some returns on their investment. Most of my novels are at $3.99 now, with novellas at $1.99 and shorts at .99. So far, I haven't exactly been laughing my way to the bank, but it's been working pretty well. I don't sell as many as I did at $2.99, but the extra royalty money does make me happy. So ultimately? It's a wash.

    The only thing that can influence your sales is quality product. And a LOT of quality product, too!

  23. Stephen, thanks for stopping by to comment. I have discovered a good deal about this since my original posting on the subject and tend to agree with you on many counts.

    I am currently doing a series of 99 cent short stories and will release my next full length novel some time late this year at or around the 5-6 dollar range with a paperback from CreateSpeace almost certainly, too.

    The only real hardship i am finding now is the audience! I have what I believe to be a quality product, so it is just wait and see time! Thanks again for the sound comments and advice and I look forward to reading more comments in the future! All the best!