ebook pricingI’ve not talked about ebook pricing for a while and yet it continues to be something that both baffles and intrigues me on pretty much a weekly basis. There’s always one day in a week (at least) where I wonder if I’m pricing right. I tweak from time to time, examine the market and check out what seems to be working. But now, I think I’m settled on my ebook pricing structure going into 2014 and hopefully beyond.

I’ve written about eBook pricing in the past. Although many principles remain, I’ve changed as a writer over the past year. We all do that. When we put more material out there, we subconsciously, without even realising sometimes, start thinking more about long-term strategies than short-term boosts. That’s why I pulled out of KDP Select a few months back despite earning a few thousand pounds through the programme.  I was thinking at the back of my mind about broadening my horizons on the other stores rather than looking for ‘get-rich-quick’ tactics, and I was comfortable with that.

Anyway, to the point of this post. I wanted to talk you through my new ebook pricing scheme. As a rule of thumb, I used to release my novels at anywhere from $2.99 to $4.99, messing around with the price for the first few weeks on sale. Novellas I priced at $2.99, but in series I deducted the first to 99c as a loss-leader. Short stories I priced at 99c. Just a mishmash of arbitrary prices, really. But that’s going to change in the next couple of weeks. I’m basing this on an adapted version of Dean Wesley Smith’s model. Here’s how.

I’m going to talk about pricing novels, novellas, and curious things like episodic serials, which I’ve had a headache pricing. Anyway, without further ado…

My Ebook Pricing Structure for 2014

Novels:

– New front list novels over 50,000 words: $4.99

– Shorter front list novels, within the 30,000-50,000 range: $3.99

– Backlist novels, a couple of years old (or so, & not as a rule): $3.99

Short Books:

– Stories from 8,000 to 30,000 words: $2.99

Short Stories:

– Bundle of Two Stories from 4,000 to 8,000 words each: $2.99

Serial Fiction (episodic):

– Individual episodes: $1.49 during season, $2.99 after

– Half-season boxset (three episodes): $3.99

– Full season boxset (six episodes): $7.99

Collections:

– Novel trilogy boxsets: $9.99

*Edit: A word on paperbacks. I tend to go $14.95 for front list novels, then as low as I can for back list (usually around the $12 range). For shorter books I try to price around $4.99-$7.99. Whatever CreateSpace allows. I let Amazon/B&N do the rest with regards to discounts, etc.

Okay. There you go, my ebook pricing model. Now I understand I have a bit of explaining to do. This should be fun.

First, front list and back list novels. I’m a fan of higher prices around the $4.99 region. I think shying away from the 99c point is good, and shying away from the $2.99 mark is also good. $4.99 represents the lower end of front list traditional pricing. And yet we get higher royalties as independent authors, so we can afford not to price at $5.99 or $6.99. Win win situation.

Also, I’ve decided to price backlist novels at $3.99 for now because I think that $3.99 is a pretty good price point and represents a decent discount a year or two after launch. I’ll have to toy with this and it will probably be on a case by case basis, but as a rule of thumb I think $3.99 for 50,000+ words is a steal, even in this new age of publishing. And yet, it’s not so cheap that it stinks of inferior quality. It’s a good deal for the writer and the reader.

Yes, this does mean that readers who pick up the book in the first year pay a dollar more. But isn’t that how it’s always been? Aside from an early launch discount (which I’ll talk about later), books have always launched nearer to RRP. And I don’t think dollar is such a dip. Just something to keep the book attractive while new front list titles launch.

Okay, on to ‘short books’ now. I think that $2.99 is exceptional value for what I’d class a ‘novella’ length work and I’ve always priced my novellas in this region. $2.99 is being commonly used in the traditional world as a price of author’s shorter releases, and I think independent publishing can succeed here too. Again, it’s cheap without being too cheap and a decent return for 100 pages or so of fiction. Not much else to say here.

As for short stories, yeah. I realise this is the controversial one. I’ve always priced my shorter works at $0.99. Ideally, I’d keep them there, but Amazon only offer 35% royalties for 99c books. If they offered 70% for 99c, I’d keep them there I think. But they don’t, and therefore it doesn’t make sense in business terms. It just doesn’t.

$2.99 may seem steep for a short story of around 8,000 words. But say I throw in a bonus story of around 8,000 words too, we’re already at 16,000 words. That’s 40-50 print pages. Short book region.

Ideally, like I said, I’d release my short stories individually at 99c and keep them there. But that’s not feasible or sustainable. The only way I can think of countering this is by bundling a couple for $2.99. Not ideal, but it will do for now.

Moving swiftly on to episodic serial fiction. I’ve recently taken to serials. In fact, I’ve completely fallen in love with them as both a reader and a writer. However, they are a nightmare to price. Price at 99c per episode and I think devaluation comes in to play for an 18-22k work. Price at $2.99 per episode and readers are being forced to shell out $18 to read a whole season. With a $7.99 boxset launching at the end, I don’t think that’s very fair.

I’ve come up with something of a solution for this. Using an adapted model of Collective Inkwell’s Yesterday’s Gone pricing, I’m launching individual episodes of my serial fiction at $1.49 during the season. Once the season is finished, and only when the season is finished, I will rise the individual episode prices to $2.99 each and tap into that 70% royalty mark. But I’ll also launch a mid-season boxset (three episodes each) for $3.99 and a full season boxset for $7.99. That way, nobody has to pay $18. Nobody has to pay more than $9 for the entire thing. I think that’s fair.

Right, I think we’re done here. I just wanted to outline a few of my ebook pricing principles. Next time, I’ll talk about what I like to call ‘launch pricing’, and how to maximise that buzzword ‘visibility’ in the early weeks in order to get the most out of your books without doing any time-consuming promotional ventures. If you want my credentials (which you should. Always question the credentials of any internet blogger giving information before following advice), I launched a new book called Dying Eyes two weeks ago and it has been in the top #10,000 on Amazon.com and a permanent fixture in the crime bestseller lists since release. It’s taken a while for me to find my formula, but yeah. I’ve found it. For now. 😉

Cheers, as always,
Ryan.

I take the time out of my fiction writing to do this blog. I do it because I enjoy it. However, if you’d like to ‘donate’ a couple of pennies towards the running costs of the blog, please consider picking up one of my works of fiction. You can find my works here or in the sidebar on the right. Available at all top eBook retailers and a few in paperback. Cheers.

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