The question of how best to price each format of your book on Amazon is one that cannot be answered without understanding the nuances of how pricing affects marketplace perception. It’s foolhardy to assume, as many new entrepreneurs do, that lower prices directly correlate to higher sales. While some book shoppers hunt for bargain buys, others perceive that higher prices indicate better quality. Many readers don’t want to waste their time and money on something they assume isn’t good enough to command a respectable price.
With some of the books I’ve produced, price testing showed that twice as many copies were sold when the retail price was twice as high. In those cases, the market demonstrated that it would rather pay $20 than $10 for a paperback. The author was making roughly eight times as much money from the sale of their paperbacks due to receiving four times the royalty per sale (for reasons detailed below) and twice the quantity of sales.
However, just as with strategies for writing or design, no author can assume the same scenario will apply to their own work or even to more than one of their own titles. You can spend a lot of time studying the pricing strategies of books like yours, but there’s no substitute for real market testing. Fortunately, Amazon and its publishing partners make retail prices extremely easy to adjust in near-real time.
E-book pricing on Amazon is fairly limited. Amazon has structured their royalty percentages for e-books such that those priced between 99 cents and $2.98 earn 35% royalties for their authors. For a traditionally published book, this retail price range would be considered extremely cheap. Though cheap e-books will draw sales from people who don’t want to risk a lot of money on unknown authors, they will also devalue a book’s presentation.
E-books on Amazon priced between $2.99 and $9.99 earn 70% royalties for their authors. At twice the royalty and a higher retail price, the earning potential is clearly much higher within this range. Above $9.99, the author royalty drops back down to 35%. It rarely makes sense, therefore, for independent authors to price their e-books above $9.99. Clearly, Amazon encourages its authors to price their e-books in the 70% royalty range.
PRINT BOOK PRICING
Printed books, unlike electronic books, have a cost of production per copy that must be factored into every sale. For print-on-demand providers, the price per copy is determined predominantly by page count. If your non-fiction book is a typical length of 60,000 words and formatted to fit roughly 250 6” x 9” pages, it will cost less than $4 to print a single copy through KDP Print.
Taking into account the 40% that Amazon keeps from each sale, the minimum price an author would be able to sell such a book for on their platform for would be about $6.50 (excluding shipping costs), negating nearly all author royalties. The same 250-page book priced at $10 on Amazon would earn its author roughly $2 in royalties per sale. A $15 retail price would earn roughly $5 in royalties; for $20, $8 in royalties; for $25, $11 in royalties; for $30, $14 in royalties; and so on.
AUDIO BOOK PRICING
For reasons not entirely known, you will not be able to set the retail price of your audiobook through the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). They use their own pricing structure based on the length of an audiobook and their experience with what sells well. ACX’s pricing guidelines by length are:
Under 1 hour: under $7
1 to 3 hours: $7–$10
3 to 5 hours: $10–$20
5 to 10 hours: $15–$25
10 to 20 hours: $20–$30
Over 20 hours: $25–$35
Audible, the retail front of ACX, offers its premium members the opportunity to purchase audiobook credits at discounted prices that can be redeemed for any title, no matter the retail price. When they run out of credits, premium members can still purchase audiobooks at a 30% discount off the full retail price. These three purchasing options (full retail price, 30% member discount, and pre-purchased credits) affect the royalties you will receive from your audiobook.
ACX provides two author royalty tiers: 40% of the sale price if you agree not to distribute your audiobook through any other platforms and 25% for non-exclusive distribution. The amount of money you receive for each audiobook sale will depend on whether you chose the 40% or 25% rate.
HOW TO FIND THE IDEAL PRICE FOR YOUR NON-FICTION BOOK
You can’t control what price the market will find most appealing for each format of your book, but you can play with pricing to boost sales and draw exposure at strategic intervals. It makes sense to price your book at its lowest when it is on preorder and shortly after launch. That is when your book will have the least amount of social proof and exposure. Visitors who are interested in your book but unsure about purchasing it will be more likely to do so if they think they will have to pay more at a later date.
Readers may be more willing to risk their money on new releases with few positive reviews if the price is low, such as only 99 cents for the e-book or $9.99 for the paperback. Your social connections will also be more willing to purchase your book at these low launch prices, which will help it move up in Amazon’s sales rankings. They will then be able to leave verified purchase reviews, which you’ll soon learn are vital to long-term commercial success on Amazon.
Months will go by and your book’s social proof will begin to accrue. You will gain reviews and exposure through third party sources. You can gradually increase your book’s retail price until you find market equilibrium, but know that market behavior will always vary and nothing is guaranteed.
About the author: Gregory V. Diehl is the author of the new book, The Influential Author: How and Why to Write, Publish, and Sell Nonfiction Books that Matter. The book takes a unique and in-depth look at all aspects of book planning, writing, editing, and promoting for self-publishers. Learn more about Gregory’s work here.