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Reality Check Book Pricing

Paul Whybrow

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Although we write for the love of it, most of us intend to make some money from our efforts. It doesn’t matter if we chase a traditional publishing contract with a book company or if we go it alone as an Indie self-publishing our work online, we should have a notion of how much we’re going to charge. If we’re wise, we’ll avoid calculating how much the hourly rate is for the thousands of hours of work we did!

A couple of years ago, we discussed perceived value for pricing books.

https://colony.litopia.com/threads/book-pricing—perceived-value.5822/

I’m still wrestling with what to ask, as I decided to devote 2021 to self-promotion and prices are a key element of how I’m perceived: are my books too expensive or are they so cheap that they can’t be any good?

Not everything is in my control, as I signed to Amazon Select last year and they impose various restrictions on giving books away for free and how much can be charged for eBooks and Print On Demand Paperbacks and Audiobooks in their ACX/Audible divisions.

I’m currently at a stage where I have my two series of stories—The Cornish Detective & the Art Palmer post-American Civil War novellas—available in all three formats. This is reckoned to be ideal and may drive sales as if someone has bought the eBook they can get the audiobook at a discounted price. With the audiobooks, the price is set by ACX (the vetting arm of Audible) based on the length of the recording. I can’t alter that. I receive 40% of the asking price.

under 1 hour: under $7

  • 1 - 3 hours: $7 - $10
  • 3 - 5 hours: $10 - $20
  • 5 - 10 hours: $15 - $25
  • 10 - 20 hours: $20 - $30
  • over 20 hours: $25 – 35​
(UK prices are broadly compatible)

Initially, (for about one second) I thought these prices were a little high, but then I remembered ten months of 12-hour days in 2020 that it took to create them, deciding they were brilliant value! ;)

If you’re self-publishing, the situation is further complicated by bundling, whereby more than one title is offered at a discount. There’s no problem offering a collection of stories as an eBook, which is what I did with my Cornish Detective series. Individually, they’re priced at £4.99, but only £9.99 for all five titles. I also offer two titles together for £6.99 and £7.99, after reading advice that this was a good option, as apparently some readers like buying pairs of titles.

It’s impossible to offer a POD Paperback containing all five titles, as the book would be too bulky to be bound at 1,495 pages. Thus, I was forced into offering two stories in a paperback for the same £6.99 and £7.99. The fifth title is waiting for the sixth to be written.

As for the Cornish Detective Audiobooks, they are priced from £18.29 - £22.89. I’ve sold 116 copies in five months without any advertising or self-promotion.

I was talking about pricing with my best friend Kerry, who owns an ethnic jewellery store in Timaru, New Zealand. Although NZ has suffered the least of any countries from Covid-19, public confidence is low and her sales have been hit, as few people have been venturing out to shop. Several of her regular buyers suggested to her that her prices were too low. She recalled that a cheap range of rings bought to attract teens to her stall at craft markets still sold well when she doubled the price, so she tried the same ploy with mystic topaz rings and brooches in her store and they were snapped up!

It’s the perceived value phenomenon coming into play again. Some shoppers decide beforehand what they want to pay for a product or service, sticking to that amount even if they are offered a choice that includes what looks like better value goods.

How much are your books worth?

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