3 rules to choose your book price

 In Tips & Tricks


Picking a price for your book can be a bit tricky, especially when you are a newbie in the publishing business. I’m not going to have you read the whole post before you can see them summed up, here are the three rules you need to follow to choose your book’s price.

  • value your work
  • Investigate the market
  • Think about context


Or, to put it in another light:

  • People will align their quality expectations to the price they pay: don’t undersell or oversell
  • In your book’s category, look for the average prices for the same kind of books and align to the market
  • The price could be very different if you are targeting a very specific audience or a wide one, if you’re selling is printed copies or eBooks, if the topic is trendy, etc. context can alter your fit into the market’s average.

Here is the explanation behind each rule:

Value your work

worthA lot of authors are asking for the possibility to put their books up in bookstores for free and we always answer: why would you want to do that? Of course, a book can actually be a marketing or communication tool for another purpose (that would justify handing it out for free) but most of the time the answer is “So that more people will want to read it. They won’t have to pay for it so they have nothing to lose.” Do you really want people to want to read your book because “they have nothing to lose”? Wouldn’t you rather show them the value of your book (cf latest article on book marketing) that would justify paying money for it?

By the way, saying that “they have nothing to lose” is also false: they would “lose time” as reading is a time consuming activity. Your audience is already willing to spend some time on their readings (if not, they aren’t readers = they aren’t part of your audience). This investment for them has to get returns: they want to enjoy what they read.
To make sure what they’re about to read is worth their time investment, what value system can they use? Reviews, sure, reputation as well (if they liked the author’s last book they’ll probably read the next) but let’s say your book as neither reviews nor reputation to stand on. What’s left? What does the reader see that can give him an idea of the value of your book: the cover, the title, the synopsis and… the price! And yes, it does enter into the reader’s value system. And a free book may illustrate a poor effort on the author’s part in the book delivered (not necessarily but you have to have a good reason, and explain it, to give your book for free) and I can assure you 0.99 is a big difference in value for the reader but not a big difference in his investment.

So why should you give your book for free? What’s in it for you? What’s in it for the reader?

Investigate the market

This one is a bit easier to explain and to practice: to have an idea of what your readers would be ready to pay for your book just go check other books of the same type/category/audience in bookstores and align to the average. You’ll then be the judge if you should be a bit above or under the average for a reason or another. Just be sure to fit into the price range of your audience’s spending habit.

Think about context

contextI’m sure you all know that a book about David Bowie probably sells very well these days, even if more expensive than usual. That’s part of the idea behind the rule “think about context”. Another idea is about your book’s audience and topic:

  • If you are targeting a very specific audience on a subject they are very passionate about and that has very rare other publication on it: chances are they’ll be willing to pay a lot of money to get their hands on it.
    For instance: If your book is about your story taking pictures of the Lynx of the Doubs valley in French Jura with the pictures of the animal and a detailed list of your equipment and techniques, your audience is quite slim but very passionate (namely: your audience is my father…:D). Readers interested in this book will be ready to pay a lot of money for it because it’s for them very valuable.
  • On the contrary if you are targeting a wide and popular audience and your book is one among thousands others: chances are people won’t see any reason to pay more for your book than for another.
    For instance: if your book is about a group of teenagers among which vampires and werewolves try to fit into the everyday life and to sort out their feelings for innocent humans; your audience is huge and even if they are very passionate there are thousands of books for them. They might want to buy all the books on the subject but they can’t/won’t/don’t want to put thousands on each book (they weekly allowance won’t cover that anyway)
  • Finally, anticipate the possibility to modify this price (special sales, pack offers, etc.): if the starting price is too low, you won’t be able to lower it, if it’s too high, you won’t be able to augment it.

Of course, don’t forget to consider the final royalty you’ll get once the distributing and printing (if any) fees are subtracted.

Then, you’re all set up to choose your book’s price!

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