Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Will You Pay For An Ebook?

Sales of ebooks continue to rise at a meteoric pace, topping all formats, including hardcover and paperback, for the month of February. The question for traditional publishers and self-publishers is how much to charge and the answer is, as is so often the case, that depends on a lot of things.

Check out Amazon's Top 100 Bestsellers in Kindle Ebooks and you will find prices ranging from 99 cents to $12.99. Most of the books in the top 50 sell for prices above $5 and many sell for close to $10. Most are written by established, big name writers whose books are published by traditional publishers. As you go deeper into the list, there are more books priced at 99 cents.

Amazon has bestseller lists for every genre. The prices of the top 20 books on the Mystery & Thrillers list are also at high end of the spectrum. But the 99 cent books start popping up in the top 21-40 listed books. While I haven't made a detailed survey, it looks this trend holds in the other genre lists. The narrower the genre, the more likely it is that a book priced at $2.99 or less will make it onto the bestseller list.

So what are my takeaways? Much of the growth in ebook sales is driven by sales of traditionally published books. Self-published authors can leverage low prices to overcome lack of name recognition. Readers are more likely to take a chance on an author they aren't familiar with if the price is lower. Makes sense.

Until you read this story. Diane Duane's book wasn't gaining a lot of traction at $1.99 so she raised the price to $4.99 and it took off.

What's that mean? What does a 99 cent price say about the value of a book? Should a self-publisher use the low price to introduce a book and then raise the price? Or, should a self-publisher charge a higher price to attract buyers who will think a book priced between $3 and $5 is a better value because of the higher price?

Let me know what you think. I'm still trying to decide how to price my ebooks, beginning with MOTION TO KILL, which I'm launching in June.

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