The short answer? As little as possible.
We know that you want to make money off of your book. But before you can become a bestselling author, you have to create a little buzz for yourself. The best way to start doing that is to allow people to read your book for dirt cheap. If they love it (as you’re probably pretty confident they will), and the word starts spreading about your book, then you can consider raising the price.
Consider these two separate blurbs that I found on PublishersWeekly.com today…
- The top of the Kindle romance bestseller list favors the cheap. The top five titles are all $1.99 or less, with three of the five priced at 99 cents. The titles are, in order, Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee, Golden Lies by Barbara Freethy, Daddy’s Home by A.K. Alexander, Not What She Seems by Victorine E. Lieske, and Eye of the Beholder by Emma Jay.
- The Kindle Daily Deal, which drastically reduces the price on one Kindle book for a 24-hour period, featured on January 24 A Heart of Freedom by Chai Ling, cutting its price from $10.79 to $1.99. The book immediately jumped to the top of the paid Kindle charts, but what’s more interesting is the book’s staying power: as of January 25, the day after the deal with its price back up to $10.79, Ling’s book is still at number four on the chart, showing that the Kindle Daily Deal helps a book for longer than a 24-hour window.
In her blog, Ruth Ann Nordin argues that you should charge what you think your book is worth, which is most cases is more than 99 cents. That’s a valid argument. But then, in the same post, she goes on to say this:
“Now, if you’re cheap like me, you’ll be scouting out freebies and $0.99 deals. This is why I do that with my own books, by the way. I am not willing to spend more than $1.99 on a new author, and if I have to spend that $1.99, then I better really like the plot idea. If I spend any more than that, then I obviously know the author and really like them. 🙂 When it comes to supporting people I care about, I’ll throw in the extra couple of bucks. But most of my time is spent looking at free ebooks. So that is why I price my books at no more than $0.99. Fair is fair, right?”
Look, if you’re an author who is already well-known and well-respected, then charge as much as you think your book is worth (after all, an ebook costs you nothing to “print”). But if you’re an author just starting out — as most of my clients are — then you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by pricing your ebook really, really low. Sure, you might not make as much money up front. But doing so greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll ultimately become one of those authors who can charge $10-$15 for an ebook and still sell a lot of them. Now that’s a profit!