Writing 101…Pricing Your Books

You were careful to choose great words for your book. You sweated it out through the editing process. You went through the formatting line by line to make certain every page is perfect. If you don’t price your books the right way, you’re going to watch that hard work go to waste. If you want readers, you’ve got to take a hard look at your book pricing.

How Much is Your Writing Worth?

A lot of factors are at play when writers are pricing their books. For any given book, whether it’s a short story of a full-length novel, every page represents hours of work in formatting, writing, editing and reading. If authors charged by the hour, every book would cost hundred of dollars.

But that’s not really feasible for the readers, is it? As a writer, you’re expected to love your book. You’ve poured soul into it; sweat, blood, tears, heartache. And, if you’re like many writers, you probably want to do nothing but write full-time. It’s easy to get lost in the math. Charge five bucks, sell a million copies — just imagine those numbers for a little while. Your book is a huge piece of your life, your heart and your skill. And you’ve got to forget all that. The price of your book isn’t a reflection of your skill or how much you put into your work. It’s a reflection of the market.

So the first thing you have to do when pricing your book is cut any and all attachment you have to it. Forget about the fact that you’re an author, that this single book represents all your hopes and dreams and everything you’ve worked toward for years. None of that matters, and honestly your readers don’t really care. They’re looking for a story, and it shouldn’t be one about the book that costs way too much. How much is your writing worth? Much more to you than to anybody else. Keep that in mind when you go to set a price, because now is not the time for sentiment.

The Book Market

You don’t determine the price of your book — the market does. Once upon a time, every book was hand-bound and printed on vellum. Making a single page was a big process, and books were costly. Today, they’re churned out every single day by automated machines on huge reams of paper that cost less than a penny a page. They are everywhere, and that’s just the printed books. The ebook market is getting bigger every day, and in the time you’ve been reading this post more ebooks have been published. You can’t navigate online without bumping into seventeen of them on your way to your favorite sites.

So if the first rule is to forget about the feelings you have for your book, the second is remind yourself that you are not alone. Yes, your book is probably special — let the content reflect that, not the price. There are way too many other books out there, and yours has got to be competitive.

You should know, by now, in which genre your book belongs. Before you set a price and publish your book, take the time to look around the virtual bookstores. Find bestsellers in your genre, and look for other indies in your genre, and find out what they’re charging. You cannot charge as much for your self-published book as the traditionally published books. Your work is probably just as good, but you don’t have the same name recognition or cachet as those big publishing houses and their authors. Know your market. When you self-publish, you need to take your pricing cues from the other indies — not just the other authors.

99 Cents

A great many indie books (mine included) cost 99 cents. This is a very common price in the ebook market, and you’re likely to find that many indies in your genre charge this amount for their work. It’s always good to stay competitive in your own market, and you don’t want to stand out by charging too much for your book (because readers have so many much cheaper choices), but you also have to be aware of the 99 cent stigma.

Self-publishing in general has a bit of a bad reputation among some readers, for good reason. I have found many indie books that are poorly edited, terribly formatted and otherwise riddled with errors — but I have also found some truly great indie books I’d be happy to read again. But because of all the bad apples in the bunch, many readers have been burned by indies. Some avoid self-published books altogether as a result, but others try to avoid the bad by avoiding 99 cent books. There are even self-published authors who turn their noses up at 99 cent books. To some, they are thought of as cheap and not worth reading. If it was any good, the author would charge more, right?

On the other hand, if you charge too much for your work and go above what others in your genre and in your position are charging, you will probably get fewer book sales. Pricing your books is a monumental task, and it’s not as easy as arbitrarily picking a number. Once you’ve taken the market into account, let that determine how to price your books and forget the rest. You can overcome the 99 cent stigma and other small pricing problems that may arise by getting good, and genuine, reviews of your work (just make sure your work is well-written, so that you can get some good reviews).

Readers will be more willing to look beyond their own preconceived notions and buy a book they might think is too cheap, but it’s much, much harder to convince them to buy a book that’s too expensive. If you’re going to err, do it on the side of affordability.

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This post originally featured on Jade Varden’s author blog on 18th May 2012.

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Author Jade Varden is a regular guest contributor on Aside From Writing. The Writing 101 features originate from her own blog  at http://jadevarden.blogspot.co.uk where you can see more of her thoughts on writing, as well as her own books. Her first two books in the Deck of Lies series are out now! Read our review of Justice here.

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