Does Pricing Your Kindle Book at 99 Cents Boost Sales?

Updated on January 21, 2020
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Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert, author of books, eBooks, and audio books. Former trade newspaper editor.

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Currently, when you price your Kindle eBook at the minimum of $0.99 USD, you will be paid the minimum Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) royalty rate of 35 percent. However, if you price your book at $2.99 or higher, it is eligible to receive up to a 70 percent royalty (in many Amazon marketplaces).

Do the math. You’ll make five to six times more gross royalties per book at the higher minimum price point. So why would you be willing to accept $0.35 if you could get at least $2.09 in gross royalties for the same book? I’ve found that authors default to the cheapest price for a variety of reasons, none of which are in their best interest.

“A low price will encourage readers to buy and try my book.”

This is one that I hear in author comments.

Amazon allows readers to return Kindle eBooks for a refund within 7 days. So there’s no risk for the reader to buy and try a book at any price point. Granted, if Amazon sees someone returning a high percentage of Kindle eBook purchases, they’re likely to take some action against the scammy reader such as a warning or account suspension. But for normal, non-scammy behavior, we can say that this is a fair trial for both the reader and the author/publisher.

And do you really want to attract readers who are low price buyers? The worst part about this is that readers will mentally peg your books as low cost and you will lose them when you start charging higher prices for future books. These buyers are fans of discounts and freebies, not fans of your work.

“It keeps people from buying pirated copies of my book.”

I’ve received a couple of comments from readers that the $0.99 Kindle book price would keep them from buying cheaper pirated copies of books. I’m sure many self published authors have a concern that pirating of their work is happening.

But let’s look at this issue like a pirate. Pirates are more likely to try to profit from sales of illegitimate copies of very popular and very expensive books that have high sales volume. Most self published books are not of that variety. Pirates can see what’s a hot theft target for them with online tools. So they’re not guessing. Though this is not to say it doesn’t happen, your self published book is probably not on the radar of pirates.

Don’t devalue your work just to keep pirates at bay.

“It doesn’t cost me anything to self publish on KDP.”

KDP might allow you to self publish your Kindle book for free. But your writing adventure is NOT free.

Let’s look at just a couple of costs that you’ll incur as part of your author business. For just website hosting, domain name, and internet service, you could be spending up to $350 or more per year. Those are referred to as overhead expenses. You also have costs to produce and market your eBook such as editing and formatting, advertising, software, and more. So your author business’ costs could easily run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

If you make $0.35 per Kindle eBook sold, you’d have to sell 1,000 copies per year to cover just $350 of overhead expenses. That sales volume is a stretch for many self published books. I’ve heard estimates that self published books may only sell 250 to 500 copies total in all the years they're available for sale!

“I’ll make it up in volume.”

No, you won’t. As we just talked about, making large volume sales of your Kindle eBook is quite a feat. Making higher sales volumes usually means higher costs in advertising and promotion which can add up quickly.

As I’ve discussed in other posts and podcasts, you can realistically expect that only about 1 percent of your author platform—the size of your fan base—will actually buy your book. Do that math. If you don’t have thousands upon thousands of social media followers and fans, a high volume of sales is difficult to achieve.

People buy and read your book because they want your book, not because it’s $0.99.

The Kindle Unlimited Problem

You also have to remember that voracious readers may have Kindle Unlimited subscription memberships which allow them to borrow up to 10 books at a time. This allows them to consume Kindle books at a cost of way, way below $0.99 each. Your $0.99 book price doesn’t encourage them to read; your title being available on Kindle Unlimited does. (Note: KDP Select enrollment and Amazon exclusivity are required for your title to be available on KU.)

In this case, your Kindle book will be dramatically discounted regardless of your price. So why discount?

Is There Ever Any Justification for a 99-Cent eBook?

Yes!

Some authors price their Kindle books at $0.99 at book launch, usually as a Kindle Countdown Deal (if the title is enrolled in KDP Select), to encourage early sales and reviews. That makes sense since that price is for only a very limited time (up to 5 days maximum).

Also, if your Kindle book is an extremely short book, a $0.99 price might be appropriate. In the Kindle Store, these might be referred to as Kindle Short Reads that take 15 minutes to 2 hours to read and could be completed in one sitting.

However, I’ve published a number of “short read” type Kindle books, each of which focuses on a very narrow topic. Then I bundled the complete set of these related books into a box set at a much higher rate than $0.99, but reasonable enough to make the bundle purchase attractive. Neither the individual titles nor the box set have done extremely well when compared to my other longer, higher priced works.

How to Find the Right Price for Your Kindle eBook

Pricing is a complex skill that even the most talented marketing pros struggle with. Finding the right price requires knowing your competition and your costs. And even then it can be a gamble.

One tool that Kindle authors now have at their disposal is the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Pricing Support (Beta) tool. This tool evaluates your uploaded Kindle book manuscript against other similar books on Amazon. It then tells you the price at which you could optimize your royalties. What I have found in using the tool is that there were cases where I was too high or too low in terms of competitive pricing, which may or may not be at the 99-cent level. I’ve found that it rarely is that low.

While this tool can provide you with a market appropriate price, it does not take your costs into consideration. So, yes, you also need to do a cost analysis to set the right price for your Kindle eBook. But if you find that the KDP Pricing Support tool is consistently suggesting prices that are well below your expectations and profitability goals, that could indicate that the market isn’t capable of delivering for you. You may then need to lower your production costs and overhead expenses to meet your market’s price point.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Heidi Thorne

    Comments

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    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      42 hours ago from Chicago Area

      Lawrence, it sure does agree with the gist of the article! :) I've found that increasing my prices, and using AMS ads, did help build some book sales. I think we have to be brave enough to give these pricing experiments a try.

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience! Have a great week!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      2 days ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Heidi

      This was very good advice.

      I'd like to share my experience that pretty much backs up what you say.

      When I launched my first novel I felt that I needed to establish myself before getting into pricing it so I started at 99c and saw a few sell.

      I tried increasing the price but sales stopped so I dropped the price back down and still didn't sell any eBooks after the initial splurge.

      Move forward three years and I finally plucked up the courage to try AMS, they started to sell but I wasnt breaking even so I increased my prices across the board, and they kept on selling!!

      My books are at $1.99 for the first (35% royalties) and $2.99 for all the others. They're not huge sellers, but I'm seeing about 20% ROI on three books.

      I think that agrees with what you're saying.

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Well, Flourish, there are some eBooks that definitely are worth the 99 cents charged for them. ;) But I've been shocked at the number of competent authors that feel they need to dip to this bargain price to get sales. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a terrific week ahead!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Linda! Glad you found this interesting. Appreciate you stopping by. Have a lovely week ahead!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Marie! Oh no! Sorry to hear Book Country folded. :( Lulu is a great platform. One of their biggest advantages over KDP is that you can do hard cover editions. So if you're doing children's books, sometimes that's a big selling point. Thanks so much for sharing with us and good luck with your upcoming publishing adventures!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Donna! All in good time. When you're ready, you'll know. When that time comes, just keep some of these pointers in mind. Thank you for sharing with us and have a lovely week!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Doris! Glad to hear that you found the article valuable. Pricing is such a complex issue. I'll keep sharing what I've discovered. Appreciate you stopping by! Have a great week!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Pamela, pricing is one of the most complex issues in business and publishing. It can be the make-or-break element between success and unprofitability. At least when you are ready to publish, you know what you're dealing with. Thanks so much for chiming in and have a great week!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Doug, I am so glad to hear that you've had success with pricing your short reads at the $2.99 level. I've found the same thing. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us! Have a great week!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Liz, true, there are some justifications for a low price on a Kindle eBook. I just hope that authors don't choose 99 cents as a default price. Thanks so much for chiming in and have a great week!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Bill, I've found the same thing when I pumped up prices (even though I wasn't charging $0.99 except in some special cases). Your real fans will pay. Good luck with the new memoir!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      4 weeks ago from USA

      This was fantastic advice. I've often wondered why someone would want to offer their writing for bargain bin prices -- unless it was actually bargain bin quality.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You've provided a lot of great advice as well as food for thought. Thanks again, Heidi.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 

      4 weeks ago from Tawas City, Michigan USA

      As always, Heidi, your experience and advice are welcome and helpful. Thank you for sharing.

      I was on Book Country, but they have folded. I've got one children's picture book on Kindle, but another picture book creator says Lulu is better.

      Much to consider and do.

      Again, many thanks!

    • Donna-Rayne profile image

      Donna Rayne 

      4 weeks ago from Sutter Creek

      Thank you, Heidi. I'm leaning toward ebooks but not just yet. I don't think I have enough material, but it is a goal of mine and oh how I enjoyed reading your article with tons of helpful information and I do thank you so very much!

      I look forward to reading more from you!

      Blessings,

      Donna Rayne

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      4 weeks ago from Beautiful South

      Heidi, I know that authors place various values on advice, but this article is the most valuable to me of any I've read so far. You've stated some facts that I didn't know, and you've given me some food for thought about things that I did know. Thank you for publishing it.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      I never knew pricing your book appropirately was so complecated. You .prvided a lot of good facts in this article and while I do not have a book ready for publishing I still find your articles very interesting, Heidi

    • dougwest1 profile image

      Doug West 

      4 weeks ago from Missouri

      Heidi:

      Excellent article. I have published many books on KDP and I agree with your thoughts on the matter. You will sell a few more books at 99 cents but not enough to make for the lower commission rate. I did a six month experiment on price differences one time and that is what I found. All of my books fall under "short reads" and I normally price them at $2.99.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      4 weeks ago from UK

      I really appreciate your carefully thought out and reasoned argument in this hub. It is easy to follow your train of thought and it is well-balanced, as you concede that there are some instances where you might be able to justify this low price for a short period or for a short book.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I just assume no one is going to buy my book no matter the price. LOL It relieves me of pricing angst. :) I'm only partially joking, of course. Your advice is sound. I've priced at $.99 and I've priced at $2.99....the volume of sales wasn't affected by the higher price at all. People who value my work will gladly pay the extra two bucks. :)

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