Pricing: Ebooks and print

April 22, 2015

I was writing a lengthy reply to a comment, when I realized this might be a question more than one person would be interested in hearing answered. cshin9 said:

Congratulations on publishing the print versions.

A question: how did you determine the print price of $13.95 vs. an e-book price of $3.99?

First of all, thank you!

On pricing, it comes down to three things: What I think is fair, what I think it’s worth, and variable costs. These elements are intertwined.

First, variable costs. That refers to how much it costs for me to produce and distribute each copy of the book. This doesn’t include fixed costs, such as editing, proofreading, formatting, cover design, illustrations, or paying me for my time. I’m only talking about the costs incurred to sell one additional copy of the book.

For the ebook version, variable costs are <$0.10 per copy—negligible. All the rest goes to either the retailer (Ex: Amazon, who takes 30%) or me. Since there are low variable costs for ebooks, I price them affordably so more people will read the book. Not only was that the goal in the first place, it generates more profit than if I had priced them higher, because more people will be talking about the book, reviewing the book, and recommending my book to others. It also gives Amazon and other retailers a chance to figure out who to suggest the book to, leading to more sales.

A $3.99 price point also keeps me in the $2.99-$9.99 range, which is where Amazon pays the highest royalties. So $2.99 is probably the cheapest I’ll go for a full-length novel, not including time-limited sales. I also simply feel like $3.99 is a fair price for a novel of Wage Slave Rebellion’s length and scope.

Bonus: I also price my ebooks low because I can. Unlike legacy publishers, I have low overhead—and I’m not just talking about my personal life. I don’t have to help pay the salaries of hundreds of employees, or rent on expensive New York office space. I also don’t have incentives to shore up paper sales, though that’s a conversation for another time.

As for the paperback version, I do have considerable variable costs, and unlike with ebooks, they’re higher than they are for legacy publishers. I use CreateSpace, which is a print-on-demand service, which means they don’t print a copy until they have an order in hand. That’s great because I don’t have to print thousands of copies ahead of time, but it also means each book is more expensive to produce. I actually make less on the average paperback sale than I do on an ebook sale, even though they’re nearly $10 cheaper for you.

The nice thing is that, in both cases, I have complete control over pricing. That’s why, thanks to your comment (I was overdue to revisit pricing), I’ve decided to drop the price of the Wage Slave Rebellion paperback version to $12.95. I know that’s not a huge jump, but like I said, I don’t have much room to work with. I also think that’s a more fair price though, even if I don’t earn as much.

Thank you, cshin9. I hope that clears it up. If not, feel free to ping me in the comments below.

As always, thank you for using my Amazon Affiliate link (info).

By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.