Selling Your Book

Pricing Your Book – An Overview for Self-Publishing Authors


You’ve been working on your book for months, and now it’s finally ready for publication and sale. This can be a difficult part of the publishing process for many authors; how do you put a price on your creative efforts, after all? The fact that self-published authors have full control over the pricing of their books only makes the decision more difficult. In this article, we aim to help you approach this question strategically and pragmatically. We’ll be discussing each of the different book types (paperback, hardcover, and ebook) and what you should take into account when pricing each one.

General Tips for Pricing Your Book

Let’s establish a few things before we get into the nitty-gritty. There are a few general pricing tips that you should take into account before looking into specific strategies for each book type.

Explore Your Niche

For many people, the hardest part about pricing your book is figuring out where to start. Should you make it two digits or one? What’s the absolute maximum you can reasonably charge before people start to scoff? Well, the best way to get a good ballpark figure is to go to the websites of major bookstores and look for similar books to yours. Keep an eye out for titles of the same genre, length, and type (hardcover, paperback, etc.) as your book. Make a list of the books you find, which of these attributes they have, and how much they cost. This should give you an idea of what the average price of the type of book you’re trying to sell is, which is a great place to start.

Mental Price Barriers

People like to analyze and compartmentalize. As such, most of us establish so-called mental barriers when we’re looking to purchase something. With each barrier, people get a bit more critical about the product they’re considering, meaning that unless a product convinces us of its quality, our willingness to purchase it goes down. These mental barriers vary but tend to appear around multiples of 5 – £5, £10, and £20 are common mental price barriers.

As such, a common sales tactic that we’ve all been at the receiving end of is the selling of a product for a price just below one of these barriers. Even though we’re aware of the fact that there’s almost no difference, a price tag that reads £4.99 is much more enticing than one that reads £5.

You Can Charge More for Non-Fiction

Generally speaking, non-fiction books; particularly academic ones, are more expensive than fiction titles. This price difference reflects the smaller audience and more limited competition present in the non-fiction book market.

Don’t Undervalue Your Work

While selling books for peanuts has proven a successful business strategy for some people (notably Andy Weir, author of the Martian), and giving books away can be an effective marketing strategy, that doesn’t mean you should set a low retail price for your book.

It can be tempting to set a very low book price for your book (under £4) when starting out in an attempt to be ‘competitive’, but this can often be detrimental to your sales. The reason for this tends to be that people interpret the unusually low price as a sign of low quality, leading them to choose more expensive titles that appear more legitimate in their eyes.

Of course, setting a ludicrously high price for your book is also a bad idea – find the sweet spot somewhere near the middle of your price range.

Pricing Your Ebook

Ebook pricing is probably the most flexible of all three book types, with the final number depending mostly on what your goals are. Do you want as many people as possible to read your book, or do you want to capitalise on the non-existent production costs to maximise your profit margin? For example, a marketing strategy that we’ve outlined in our general book promotion guide, as well as our blog article on how to promote your book on social media, is to give away free copies of your ebook to stimulate word-of-mouth marketing. Once you’ve gotten some readers hooked and they start talking about your book, you can then start charging a modest sum for it. If people like your book enough, a surprisingly large number of them will want to pay you for it.

On the other hand, you have an infinite supply of ebooks that don’t cost anything to make, so the profit for each sold copy is going to be relatively high; especially if you sell them directly. Keep in mind, however, that people aren’t willing to pay quite as much for an ebook. You’ve probably experienced the frustration of looking for a book you’ve been wanting to read, only to realize that the electronic version is as expensive as the print version (if not more so!). The purpose of an ebook is not to compete outright, but to provide a convenient, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly alternative.

Pricing Your Hardcover or Paperback

Unlike an ebook, there are certain production costs associated with print books that you’ll need to take into account when setting your prices. Your printer or self-publishing service provider should be able to give you more information about these costs. If you’re a Bookmundo user (or planning on becoming one) you can simply fill in your specifications in our price calculator to get an idea of what your final profit margin is going to be.

When comparing hardcovers to paperbacks, the main difference is that the former can be priced higher than the latter. This is because more material is required in the production process, which naturally drives up costs. Furthermore, hardcovers are more durable than paperbacks, which increases their value. Of course, the higher price associated with hardcovers also tends to lead to more hesitation on the customer’s part, due to the aforementioned mental price barriers.

The main advantage both hardcovers and paperbacks have over ebooks is that they tend to boost your credibility as an author more. If your book is available as a physical object, it becomes more desirable in the eyes of potential readers. We suspect this is mainly due to two things. First of all, anyone can write up a document and make it available for download on the internet, whereas someone who went through the trouble of formatting and printing a physical book is seen as having put more effort in. Secondly, people seem to like possessing the things that they buy, so print copies seem more worth their money.

Of course, these ideas are completely unfounded, and they should not discourage you from publishing an ebook. Ebook readers are a completely separate demographic from print-book readers (though there is of course some overlap between the two). As such, you should simply view these to groups as two different audiences. You should also not underestimate the reach of the sales channels that deal exclusively with Ebooks, such as Apple or Google.

Good to Know

  • Some online retailers (like Apple) require you to set a sales price ending in 49 or 99. As such, it’s a good rule of thumb to stick to those decimals when pricing your book to make sure that you don’t miss out on any sales channels.
  • Each retailer takes a different percentage of your profits – some as much as 50%! Keep this in mind when determining your sales price. It might pay off to do some research on the sales channels you’re planning on using.
  • A well-executed marketing strategy is just as important as getting the price of your book right. We’ve got several resources available on our website to help you organize the best possible marketing campaign for your book. Check out our general guide on book marketing, our article on book promotion on social media, our guest article on how to organize a book launch event, or perhaps our article on designing a book cover using Canva.

Let’s Wrap Up!

In this article, we’ve attempted to outline the various factors you might want to take into consideration when pricing your book. We’ve covered both general tips and highlighted the more specific aspects of each different book type. Hopefully, the information in this article has given you a better idea of how to approach the pricing of your book and gotten you closer to becoming a published, earning author. Should you still have doubts or questions regarding the issue of pricing your book, or any other publishing-related issue for that matter, feel free to contact us – we’d love to hear from you.