3 Benefits to Charging Less (or Nothing!) for Your E-Book

It used to be that a publisher was responsible for … well … publishing books. Times surely have changed. Now, everyone and their brother is self-publishing a book. Which means that authors themselves are now responsible for all aspects of creating and selling a book — from cover design to pricing.

And pricing seems to be where many authors get hung up. After all, while writers may be able to tell you exactly what their book cover should look like, they probably can’t do a mathematical analysis to determine at what price it would make the most financial sense to list their e-book.

That’s where I come in.

After doing a fair amount of research on the topic, here’s my advice: charge very, very little for your e-book. In fact, consider charging almost nothing. Why do I say this … despite the fact that you are (probably) not so happy to hear it? Here’s what I’ve learned…

1. People are far more likely to download free books. That’s just common sense. People will take anything they can get for free. One author on LinkedIn started a recent conversation by saying: “At the free price I was selling 150-200 books a day. So I changed price to 99cents and sold 35 in a week.” If your goal is to get your book read, then the answer is simple. Charge less. This is especially appealing to people who have written books about topics that they feel are very important (i.e. animal rights, religion, etc…) and really want to get the word out.

2. Selling more copies of your first book can lead to selling more copies of your future books. This is basically a continuation of point #1. If you plan on publishing more than one book — especially within the same series — it makes sense for you to get as many people as possible sucked in by the first book. Then you can charge more for the others, and you’ll have a lot more people ready and willing to pay money for those titles. Think of it like the drug dealer giving a free sample. You know they’ll like it. FYI … based on various online conversations, people seem to think that $2.99 is the magic price for the other books in the series.

3. Lower prices = better placement. Author Ron Baumbach recently shared the following on Linked In: “Nook …received great product placement by changing the price … of my book, ‘The Last Walk on Our Block’ for Cyber Monday…lowered price for the period.” Apparently, his book is now appearing higher on the list of books in his genre because of the lower price. And this, too, makes sense. Barnes & Noble wants to sell as many books as possible. They know that people are more likely to buy the books that cost the least. So its in their best interest to have the least expensive books up top.

Obviously, it’s up to you to decide how much you’re going to charge for your book. After all, if your goal is to “spread the word,” you won’t be quite as bothered if your first book nets you very little. On the other hand, if you’re using your first book to test the waters as to whether or not you can make a living doing this … well, then you might have other priorities.

But all of my digging has taught me one thing. It’s probably in the best interest of a new author to price their first book at 99 cents or less. As with everything, patience is a virtue. And in the case of e-books, such patience seems to pay off in the long run.