Self Publishing 101: How to price your book

One of the most often asked questions by proud authors who are ready to enter the market with their first book is, “How should I set the price?”

The answer, of course, is that it depends on several factors. What is your genre? How big is the book? How will it be printed, if at all? This guide will give you a place to start.

Setting the price of your book should take some time and thought

Perceived Value vs. Actual Value

Much like any other product, your book will have two completely different values: perceived and actual. The actual value is what it actually costs to produce (including an hourly wage for writing/editing/design and printing) and ship the product. The perceived value is how much it is worth in the eyes of the consumer.

Your job as a writer is make the perceived value as high as possible. You can do this by:

  • Creating quality work
  • Being the expert in your field
  • Using your background, connections or clout to separate yourself from the pack
  • Offering more value than just the book itself (such as a free followup report, links to videos or podcasts or a free/discounted subscription or service)

Of course, not all of these will apply if writing a fantasy novel or memoir, but you can see how paying attention to what your prospective customers (and, yes, your readers are customers!) desire will give you the edge. Writing, after all, is about them – not you.

Pricing Your Hardback

People will pay more for a hardback, but they are a dying breed and hardback is a dying medium. Those that purchase hardback books do it for their permanent collections – which means that your $15-$25 book better not only be perfect on the inside, but the outside must be professional-looking and able to stand next to those big-name publisher’s books. No hand drawings. No font soup. The jacket must be one, contiguous piece of art.

Take a good look at the going rate for hardbacks in your genre, then at the profit margin you would have if you sold your book for slightly less. You are not going to make a fortune on each book, but you will still make a bit more than you would selling one-by-one through a traditional publisher.

Keep in mind that you are less likely to sell a hardback, so have a paperback version available for the rest of us.

Pricing Your Paperback

Again, do your homework. Look at your page count and topic and then see what similar works are selling and at what price. Set yours in the middle. Remember, the online or bookstore price may be set lower than the in-person price. For instance, if you are a speaker, your book’s perceived value goes up when your presentation is particularly motivating or enlightening and you are on-hand to sign them. You may sell your book on the giant river for $10, and get $20 for the same book at your event. This also gives you a lot of room for multiple purchase discounts (two for $30, for instance – still more than online, but a great deal in person.)

Pricing Your Digital Book

Kindle & Other Readers

The threshold for e-readers is pretty low: folks simply aren’t willing to pay more than a couple of bucks for something they’ll read and then delete. Set your price high enough that you make a buck or two on each sale, but low enough that it’s easy for the one-clickers to decide to buy. For a typical novel, anything over $5.99 seems too high for most people. Again, check your genre and word count and see what is selling by others and for how much. Most of mine sell for under $5.

E-book (pdf)

Ultimately, the price of your e-book is up to you – but you do want to be able to maximize your sales. By paying attention to all of these factors, you should be able to find a price that is fair to both you and your readers.

The purpose of your e-book is to enlighten, entertain, and/or inform – AND lead them down your sales funnel to the next product, be it the full-length book, a coaching session, or a program. Think of your e-book as a business card that people pay for.

If your e-book is too long to think of this way, turn it into a digital and/or paperback, and create a brief introduction to the larger book that now will be your e-book. You still want to provide value, but only enough to whet their appetite and build the desire to take the next step. E-books that do well are reports and worksheets for projects. Think of your e-book as beefier than a blog post and not big enough for a full book.

Pay attention, as well, to where and how you aim to sell your e-books. Your price may change based on the leverage of your outlet. For instance, I have two books that I sell exclusively through Fiverr. I chose to sell them there because, on my personal site, I sold them for $2.99 and did OK. I kept 100% of the $2.99, and sold a few.

On Fiverr, I sell them for $5.00. Fiverr takes their buck, so I make $4.00. Then PayPal takes their cut, so I only actually see $3.60 for each book. Not much better than the $2.99 I was making on my own – until you account for the leverage. Fiverr is a huge presence that spends a lot on promotions, and since my books do pretty well, they boost me more than I could ever boost myself. Instead of selling dozens per year on my own, I sell dozens per week, and all I have to do is push a button.

Totally worth it.

Go With Your Gut

Remember, your book’s price should be competitive with what is already out there. Yes, to you it is worth millions, but the typical reader simply can’t pay that for your book, and the rest of us won’t.

Some people get discouraged when they find that they may only make $1-2 per copy after everyone else takes their cut. Well, that’s not too bad when you consider that a NY Times Bestselling author who went through a traditional publishers sees about $0.40 per copy, if they are lucky. On a per-book basis, you’re not doing too shabby.

Now, get out there and start marketing your masterpiece!

Mélanie Hope is a professional speaker, author, and coach who travels the world teaching greater communication skills while making as many people laugh as possible.

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