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Why pricing an eBook is an art-form

For an inspired author without a publisher, self-published eBooks are a great way of getting your work out in the public domain without incurring significant overheads of “vanity” publishing or attempting to sell your books directly to stores. The rise of the eBook is significant, with an increase of 366 percent in 2012 compared to a reduction in traditional book sales of 7 percent. As eReaders become cheaper and more accessible, a potential author would not be remiss in thinking that sales through a large eBook store are the way to achieve success. However, pricing the book is a minefield, balancing potential profits against demand and what customers are happy to pay. Unfortunately, as a self-published novel has no historical demand statistics, the initial pricing is difficult, whereas later fine tuning of prices is based much more on sales history.

A good first step is identifying what comparable books are selling for. A cursory review of the Kindle store will demonstrate what books of your genre and length are priced at. Pricing in this area is a good start. A further consideration is the last digit of your pricing. A £7 novel will sell better than a £9 novel purely based on customer opinions. £7 seems like a calculated cost, whereas £9 appears like it was set to keep the title out of the £10+ range.

It is important to price below the established authors as well. Customers are prepared to pay more for a novel by an established author, based on their fan base and historical quality assessment. By assessing the competition, it is simple to assess who are self published and who are established. Setting your price correctly in this area is more likely to garner interest from passing shoppers, who, although they have not heard your name before, may be interested in what you have to offer. Significant sales at a lower price may generate word of mouth and online reviews, which will prompt others to look for your book directly. By keeping a close eye on reviews and sales figures, fine-tuning of your price can profit from the increased sales from these new customers.

A further consideration is if your book is part of a series. If you plan to release three or more books in the same series, deliberately pricing the initial novel low, or even free, can produce a fan base who will be willing to pay a little more for your second and third novels. Furthermore, a proportion may be further interested in your offerings at a later date. By setting up appropriate social media and online channels to reach customers and potential customers, you can increase “buzz” about future novels, improving the potential for purchases at a higher price in the future. Many readers immediately navigate to the “free” section of their preferred store. By ranking in this section, you can reach many readers, further increasing the potential for readers of your other works, who will be willing to pay, just to know how the cliffhanger at the end of book one worked out.

In summary, pricing an eBook is an art-form focused on the fine tuning of prices to gain a balance between total sales and profits. Pricing low may give a high number of total sales but low profit. Unless this is used to increase interest in other, higher priced books, this is overall a poor decision for the author attempting to make a profit. Conversely, higher prices will discourage passing traffic from purchasing your books, decreasing the overall number of sales, but maintaining a high profit per sale. Starting low to generate interest then gradually increasing your price is a good method of capitalizing on customer reviews, and making maximum profit over the long term.

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