How much should indie authors charge for their self-published books? Well, the glib answer is: “You're an indie – it's up to you!” But before you decide, there are lots of questions you should ask yourself, to make sure you're neither selling yourself short not pricing yourself out of the market. Some of these questions are listed below.
- What is my book worth? By this, I don't mean work out how many hours it's taken you to write it and what you need to charge to recoup your investment of time (you probably don't want to know the answer!) But work out its real market value. What do similar books sell for in your genre? Allow for page count, size and production qualities – and don't price your book against the going rate, especially if you're starting out with no real following. Bestselling, household name authors may be able to get away with a premium rate, but that's because they're them, not you. (But keep going, and maybe one day that'll be you…)
- What is my financial goal? Do you need to make a profit or will break-even do? Are you so keen to get your book out there – and sufficiently affluent – to make a loss, perhaps justifying that decision my treating your book as a loss-leader. NB This is not an admission of failure or weakness. In fact, it's a popular strategy for first books in a series: pricing the first one low or making it permafree to get readers hooked, before they go on to buy the rest of the series at full price.
- How will I sell it? Make sure you've allowed for ALL your costs of sales. With print on demand books sold via Amazon, your out-of-pocket expenses are only your basic set-up costs (design, editing, proofreading, etc), but if you're planning to distribute via bookstores, you'll need to factor in the bookseller's margins (typically 40% – remember, this mark-up reflects their need to make a profit to keep their book open, not their greed nor their exploitation of authors!) If you're selling directly from your website, postage and packaging, plus your time to despatch the parcels, which may include fuel and parking to reach the post office, can be significant expenses, especially if your books are heavy.
- Should I print the price on my book cover? It certainly adds the professional touch to print the price, but only do this if you are sure you have got it right, otherwise a change of heart later will mean a change of cover, and all the hassle and cost that entails. If your book is made available via distributors such as Ingram Spark, and the bookseller is using a barcode reader when ringing up a sale, he'll know the cost – but the reader, browsing in the shop and deciding whether to buy, won't know, and will almost certainly want to. This means either you or the bookseller will have to add a sticky price label. Most bookstores will be willing to do that.
- Can a retailer sell my book at any other price than the one I set? It depends where you live and how you distribute your books. Some countries by law forbid the sale of books at below the publisher's specified price. In other countries, freedom of pricing is allowed. In the UK, where I'm based, there used to be what was called the Net Book Agreement, guarding against price cuts, but this was abolished many years ago, as it was perceived to be an unfairly restrictive practice, and opened up competitive pricing – unfortunately favouring the big traders, at the expense of the little ones. Amazon will also vary the price of your print books without any notice, for a short time, if it thinks it'll make more money that way. But don't worry if you see this happening to your books – you'll still get paid the same rate as before. Just spread the word of the price cut while it lasts, to take advantage!
OVER TO YOU Please feel free to add any I've missed in the comments – or indeed to answer them with what has worked for you.
- How and Why to Make a Book Permafree – by Clare Flynn
- 12 Top Tips on Setting Ebook Prices – by Debbie Young