How Much Is Too Much For An Ebook?

I’ve been thinking about the books I have out on Amazon, the reviews they’ve gotten and the fact that I can probably improve them a little. I know I’ve grown as a writer over the past year or so. I’ve been reading my ass off, giving reviews when I can and seeing how others write. I’ve also been getting really good at spotting mistakes (especially spelling mistakes) and although I’m not always grammatically correct (I have trouble with a comma issue…it’s a disease I’m sure there is a treatment for), but I think even that has improved.

Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of raising the prices of my cheapest books to match the price of the more expensive prices. However, before I do that, I’m going to make sure that they are better…revising, editing them better and having them read-thru by some beta readers, just as if they were brand new novels that no one had ever read before. I’m even toying with the idea of changing/adding to the titles.

But how much is too much for an ebook/novella/short story? With any of these, there are no printing costs, no overhead and although you would make more with having your book priced at a higher price, will people buy it?

I’ve seen some novels that, in my opinion, were priced too low. Some too high. Do people buy these books?

According to my husband (disclaimer~he is NOT an expert), in his opinion, pricing your full length book too low (like at the .99 cent level) means that you don’t think enough of your book and therefore, others won’t think much of it either. But, on the other hand, pricing them on the too-high end, does that mean you think you’re the best and that you stand up there with the likes of Stephen King, Ken Follet, Amanda Hocking and Dean Koontz?

Um, hate to break it to you, but you probably aren’t.

However, what about the people who have been traditionally published and published through small presses? Apparently the authors don’t have any say in what price the publisher places on their books. So, a nobody for whom nobody knows suddenly has a book out on the market that is far too expensive for the average book out there. I’ve seen ebooks as high as $11-14 dollars from small presses. Are they selling?

There are some really great Indie authors out there that feel their work is worth $5-7 dollars, yet they’re not selling. Why is that? Why aren’t they selling?

On the other hand, I’ve read books from some Indie authors and thought to myself, “This book could be priced higher,” because it was that good. However, would it sell better just because of one person’s opinion? Not likely. Several? Maybe.

So, how do we price our books to get them to sell? What is the answer?

I have to admit that I don’t have the cash to throw around to buy those expensive books, even for a friend (although I did just purchase a short story by my friend Evie…she does some reviews for friends, so it’s a tit-for-tat sort of thing.) I have in the past paid the “small press price” but now I just can’t justify spending that much money on something that I can’t hold in my hand and place on my shelf when I’m finished with it. I also have to admit that the majority of ebooks on my ereader were free books. I wait until the book becomes free at Amazon, then grab it, just as I would hope that my friends do with me.

All of my online friends (or at least most of them) have gotten, or will get, a free review from me. I get your book for free, I’ll give you a free, honest review in return. Even if you’re not my friend, if I have your book on my Kindle, I will eventually try to get around to giving you a review. Right now, besides beta reading for a friend, I’m also reading a book I got for free on the Amazon free list. I’ll do a review in return for the free book.

So what’s the right answer? Price them too low and make people think you don’t really like your work, or price them too high as if you’re a bestselling traditionally published author and have low sales? Even successful bestselling authors who are now Indie know that pricing yourself too high will lead to lower book sales.

How do you come up with the price of your books?


21 thoughts on “How Much Is Too Much For An Ebook?

  1. I think $.99 is too low for a full-length novel, except as a special promotion for authors who haven’t gone with KDP Select and can’t do a free ebook promo.

    With only a very few rare exceptions, I refuse to pay more than $3.99 for an ebook. We have Amazon Prime, so I’ll just borrow the overpriced books. And pay no more than $.99 for a short story. To price them any higher is absurd.

    I found that going exclusively with Amazon and keeping my prices at $2.99 increased my sales enormously. I like making a living as a writer, so this is where I’ll stay.

    • Beth Muscat says:

      I think you’re right about the prices. I paid more for Evie’s short story because she is a friend, but normally I would never pay that much. That’s the small press…they should know how to price things to sell.

  2. The Desert Rocks says:

    I’m sorry about the publisher’s price on my story Beth. I would send you all my stories for nothing but I’m sure you don’t want to be inundated with Evie’s imagination. LOL I really appreciate your review and I don’t think of it as a tit for tat thing. I think we’re friends and we do things for each other naturally. I love your writing too.
    I agree with Norma on the 99 cent issue. The thing is, that used book stores even sell Shakespeare for cheap! I can get Ken Follett around here used for under a dollar. It’s all about reading the book. The problem with ebooks is that there is no secondary market. They are always “new”. Personally, I’ve paid over ten dollars for paperbacks written by my friends but I don’t think I would charge more than 9.99. Kindle books should probably be a lot less–maybe no more than five dollars.

    • Beth Muscat says:

      Evie, anything for you, my sweet! As a rule, I don’t pay that much for anything…and there’ve been $2.99 books that I thought should have been $3.99…and, I realize that that price on your story was the publishers doing. It’s nice that they thought your story good enough to publish, but they should lower the price. Just a thought to give to them…

      • The Desert Rocks says:

        Well it is longer than most stories at 5000 words. It’s not flash fiction and most of the shorter stories I’ve been writing are right under 3000. I’m not justifying the price because I don’t know that much about it and again I had nothing to do with pricing it.

  3. This is an excellent post, and i’m going to share it on my FB page. I am at this very moment reeling because I just went to Amazon to buy a Kindle novel-and discovered it is priced at 20.00! No, this is not a mainstream novel-and there is not the usual disclaimer of “price set by the publisher.” yes, it is 341 pages: but 20.00???

  4. There were several articles/blog posts I’ve read by indie authors who follow this pricing model:

    Short stories — .99 (keep in mind there’s a good number of readers who will not buy individual short stories)
    Novellas — 1.99
    Novels — 2.99 to 3.99

    Depending on the length of the novel, you can even go 4.99, but I think that’s approaching the limit for ebooks. Rarely do I ever pay more than 5.00 for a digital book, and when I do, it’s never more than the 7.99 that most publishers tend to price their paperbacks at.

    • Beth Muscat says:

      Thanks for stopping by. I also live by these rules of thumb…I refuse to pay over $3.99 usually…but, as I said, most of the books I have were free downloads. Not ashamed to say that I just can’t afford the expensive books.

  5. It depends on the size, of course. Shorts or novellas, .99 or 1.99, depending on the length. Novels, 2.99-3.99, again depending on the length, is sufficient.

  6. Oh, and Kitty looks so very thoughtful too….

  7. To be honest with you, personally, I don’t wan to pay for anymore than 3 dollars for an e-book b/c I paid a 149.00 plus tax for my Kindle. However, I have no problem paying up to 15 dollars for paperback.

    I know I’m going to face this in the weeks to come.

    Good post, Beth.


    • Beth Muscat says:

      Well, I have the cheapest kindle, and the kindle apps, and I still don’t like $18-20 here…our books (depending on where you get them) are priced higher here…

  8. markrhunter says:

    This is a matter I’ve been thinking about quite a bit, lately. Personally, I think my novel Storm Chaser is priced too high as an e-book; but I’m one of those small press people you mentioned. I’d have set it at around $3.99 or so, considering I’m an unknown author. But at the same time, I think 99 cent e-books is too little.
    Right now I’m considering writing a longish short story that might serve as an introduction to my writing, and pricing it at 99 cents, but I haven’t decided yet; we’ll see how everything pans out.

    • Beth Muscat says:

      I’m not sure what the small presses get out of pricing books too high, (I guess their cut and more of it?) but I know for myself, I could never get your books right now. I bought your book, reviewed it, loved it…but that was when it first came out. There’s no way I could get it now.

      • Conventional publishers, of course, price their books higher because they have overhead expenses we don’t have. They would like to be able to force us to price ours higher as well, but that’s not going to happen. I’m doing well at $2.99, and I’m about to release some shorts at $.99/each.

        By contrast, Harlequin has released three of my old Silhouette Romances at a higher price. They’re not selling.

        I regained the rights to five of my nine Silhouettes. I’ll be releasing them as ebooks at $1.99. They’re much shorter books, so I don’t feel they should be priced at $2.99 like my 100,000 word novels.

  9. Lena says:

    This is a great post! You make some interesting posts! I think a writer should not charge too low (as you say, think higher of yourself) though occasionally as a promotional tool free and for sale is good. However, too high really makes it hard for readers to choose your book as they are taking a risk on something they’ve never read before and on an author that they might not really know. A lot of lost sales. And it makes it harder for people on a budget to buy a book they want. So, I think it should be somewhere in the middle– a fair price that makes everyone happy.

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