Blog Thoughts from Amber, On Writing

The Pricing Game…

I’ve found myself in a bit of a pricing dilemma lately. Here’s the scoop: Indie authors tend to be discriminated against by readers because they assume that the lower price indicates a lesser quality of work, but fans of Indie writers don’t want to pay more than around $5 a book. So what’s the issue? The issue is that there’s no middle ground. You can’t possibly make both sides happy.

I have an amazing and loyal fan base, who, I believe, would buy my books at nearly any price I put on them at this stage in the game. However, raising prices to be closer to traditionally published ebooks ($7.99 and up) will alienate those that are used to paying the $2.99-$4.99 price that’s usually associated with Indie novels.Β  So I would keep my current fans, but lose potential new ones. The flipside to this is that there are Indie authors out there who published at a $7.99 price or higher and managed to blend in with the traditional books. They’re selling well and making great money, but I wonder if they’re getting the same exposure that they would at a lower price. Conundrum much?

America is a bargain society in general, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad mentality all the time, but it’s tricky in the writing world. Fans want books faster and more of them, which is doable, but authors need to be reimbursed for the expenses that go along with that. Covers can be inexpensive or cost hundreds, depending on what you want or how particular you are. Professional editing from a high quality source costs in the $1500 to $5000 range or more, if your novel is extremely long. Advertising and marketing is an investment of both money and time, which is tough for most independently published authors who have full time jobs and a budget. To be able to deliver a high quality product, some (if not all), of these expenses are necessary. To list a book for $.99 would take on average 10,000 sales to just break even. For most who aspire to write full time, breaking even isn’t going to pay the bills.

So why not try pricing it higher and see if you can fly under the radar? I think it’s a gamble, and one that has paid off for some, though not many. I’ve spent months watching the trends of sales, rankings and pricing of my books and others, and there are definite patterns. I’ve thought about pricing one of my upcoming series at a higher price point, but as I watch authors who have a foot in each side of the publishing world (indie and traditional), I’ve seen how their traditional books seem to sell less than their cheaper Indie counterparts. It, at the moment, is a risk I’m just not willing to take. I didn’t start writing to make gobs of money (and I’m not accusing anyone of charging more than me of that). I wrote because I had a story to share, and I would like to share it with as many willing readers as possible for fair and reasonable compensation.

So what’s fair and reasonable? Clearly, this is going to be a highly subjective question, and one that each individual author must answer. I don’t think that 35% of $.99 is either of those things. I priced CAGED at that in the beginning because I just wanted to get it out there and see what happened. It was never my long term plan to keep it there. I do feel that $3.99-$5.99 is a healthy range for both reader and author. It generates the amount of income an author would need to sustain a good living writing full time, but keeps the books priced at a mass market paperback level.

It’s hard to find the perfect balance between price/compensation and reaching readers. I’m certain I don’t have all of this figured out yet, and may not ever. What I do know is that I’m very conscious of not giving away my hard work, but not getting greedy in the process either πŸ™‚ The next two series that I’ll be putting out will both have a $2.99 starting price tag (as of this moment), and will go up from there as the series progress. This isn’t to punish those that love my writing and follow my work, but more so to entice new readers to try it. If it’s not for them, they don’t feel beat up by the amount they paid for it. My personal cap on novel prices right now is $4.99; it’s just where I feel most comfortable. There’s something about that $5 mark and under that resonates to me. If I lose readers who pay more for their ebooks…oh well πŸ™‚

As every day passes that Caged remains relevant, I’m closer and closer to having that REAL discussion with my other half about me writing part time (and not the part time that involves hiding in the bathroom with my laptop to write for thirty minutes). He’s been supportive all along, and I have no doubts that he’ll be all for the idea. I seem to be the one having trouble letting go of what’s normal and comfortable. Just another step in the growth process for me.

So…next time you want to gripe about the price of a book, or judge one because of it, remember this post.Β  A LOT of thought goes into this process by those who take it seriously. We’re not just slapping an arbitrary number on a novel.


  1. I love the $2.99 price being a mother of 3, but your books are worth the $7.99, so I would pay it, no worries!

    1. Thanks, Nikki, but I don’t think I’ll be rocking a $7.99 price anytime soon πŸ™‚ I’m content to stay under $5 for the time being. If one of my stories goes “legit” and gets traditionally published, it’ll have a high enough price on it to make up for my cheaper ones.

  2. Mary says:

    Oh, Amber! I’m so impatiently waiting for the next book. I will make no difference how much it is! The price of the first book drew me in. But, after that I was hooked. I’ll tell you, if I want to read a book, it really makes no difference how much it is. As far as paperback vs ebook, eBook every time. I don’t need a bunch of books taking up space. I will pay what you put on the book. Please don’t sell yourself short. Maybe it’s time you start listening to your fans. We obviously love you, so don’t feel bad about charging what the books are worth. I think $2.99 is fine for a first book, but in a series, we’re hungry for the next book. Yep, I would pay $7.99 and not bat an eye.

    1. OK…I shall make Scarred $20.99 then πŸ™‚ Just kidding! I think it will be $3.99. I’m good with that πŸ™‚

  3. Debbie Null says:

    Thank you for sharing your thought process. I have thought about this quandry for awhile. I, like many other bibliophiles, love to read. Because of our expensive habit, most of us are naturally careful in what we purchase. My personal breaking point is when an ebook costs the same as a regular book. When that happens, I will rent the ebook from Overdrive or will purchase a paper copy. I agree with most posters who have said set the price low for the initial books and increase the price for later books. You are a great writer who has created a rich storyline. You deserve to be paid for the hard work you do. Now that you are successful, you have more expenses, so it is understandable that your book price increases.

  4. Cheri Mayhew-Bergman says:

    I’m entering the Scarred contest with this email I hope.When is the release date on this again? Oh…and by the way, people pay outrageous prices for a cup of coffee, a movie, and many other extras in life….so why complain about a book!? I don’t get it.At least when you read you are exercising your mind as well as being entertained.

  5. I know personally that I will never pay more than $2.99 for the first book of a series by an indie author I am not familiar with. I read upwards of 200 books a year, so the $$ add up quickly.

    If I love a book, then I am more than willing to pay $4.99 – 7.99 for the subsequent books in the series. I would rather pay an extra few dollars to read a well edited and proofed book, than have to put up with typos and plot holes the whole way through!

    As all of the other comments mention, when it comes to you and your books, I will happily pay whatever you charge. If it means that by charging an extra dollar or two per book you are able to spend more time writing, then I’m all for it!

    1. Thanks, Kristy πŸ™‚

  6. I think your thought process makes sense. There is something magical about $5. I was thinking maybe increasing each book in the series by a dollar. The more readers get hooked into your fantastic stories the more they will be willing to pay. If you want to bump up your price but don’t want to alienate loyal readers you can always run the book for the first day or weekend at a lower price. On the flip side us loyal readers are impatiently waiting for your next best thing and would pay what ever you ask. That has to keep you motivated πŸ™‚

    (or you could just put them on your blog for free…haha. REALLY?)

  7. I think your writing is amazing and would / will pay any price. I support whatever decisions you make because I trust you and your judgement. I’m sorry my compliments are not more eloquent – but that’s why you’re making the money (however much or little) writing – and not me!! I appreciate you taking the time to put your thoughts about this into words for us. I heart Amber. I heart Ruby.

    1. πŸ™‚

  8. Abby G. Amos says:

    Amber, thank you for sharing with your readers about what goes in to pricing your books. I would buy your books no matter what, but that’s because I was able to read my first one at a reasonable price. I agree with you saying the most readers who don’t know your work will be leary about paying a lot of money on a book when they don’t know if their going to like that style of writing or not. Me, you had me with the sample read of Caged!!! I hope everyone will give your books a try just by the description not the price tag. My book club normally read romance novels, but whenever it is my turn to host, I put in the switch on them and your books were the first paranormal books we read for my month of hosting the meeting. Caged, Haunted, and Framed. Now they can’t wait for Scarred to come out at whatever cost you choose.

    1. LOL…I’m glad to know I have them over a barrel now! i didn’t realize that people would be so interested in this post; it’s exciting. I just want people to understand why I do what I do. As costs for me go up with custom photos for covers and professional editing, my prices have to reflect that in some small way. The good news is that I have a lot of fans, so the cost for them doesn’t have to increase much to make that back πŸ™‚ i love that so many people have responded favorably to the novels. I don’t want to lose them, but if $1 or $2 increase pushes someone over the edge…I can’t do anything about that. The reality is that writing and publishing is still a business, and if fans want to keep reading, authors need to be financially able to deliver those books!!!

  9. Diana Stack says:

    Amber, follow what your heart and head tell you, no matter what. From what my friends who are avid readers tell me, they seem to prefer indie writers to a lot of “mainstream” writers who are bound by publishing deadlines. Your work will speak for itself, and you have a great “word of mouth” fan base. I admit the .99 price drew me, but, once I saw the quality of the work, I knew I would easily pay a higher price for it. Your true fans love you, and will continue to support all your writing efforts. I’m speaking for myself on that as well. As a previously published writer for college publications (and smaller magazines) I know how hard it can be. Good luck on your next step. Success will follow you! πŸ˜‰

  10. Lorna Atkins says:

    I would definitely pay regular price for your books-7.99 and up.So 4.99 would definitely work for me! You deserve to get payment for all the time and publishing hassle you have to go through!But I totally get what you mean about pricing yourself too high for people to find your books. It’s kinda like you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Not fair to Indie authors at all. Hadn’t thought of this so I am glad you have opened your readers eyes to this.Hang in there and I am sure you will figure it all out.

  11. Dottie Weakland says:

    I can understand your quandry over the pricing. You definitely need to be able to make a profit for your har work, but at the same time make it affordable to a large audience. I agree with your thinking on the $5 top, especially in todays economic climate. For alot of people (myself included) reading is my sole form of entertainment. So to be able to read the amount of books that I like, I cannot afford to spend alot of $’s so i bypass most books that are over the $4 range, even though in reading the teasers they might be books that I would like. After reading this I can see you put alot of thought into your pricing and I commend you for that.

  12. Erin Baldwin says:

    Thanks for posting this Amber. It’s not too often that the reader gets to see this personal struggle that an author may have with pricing their work. I feel the same way in the hair business now that I’m doing hair at home. My prices are cheaper than salons, but my clients still complain. Its frustrating because they expect to pay next to nothing and don’t fully understand that I’m getting paid for my time away from my girls, products, utilities, etc… I know I’ve told you this 100 times…. Your work is fantastic and I’ll pay any price for your books πŸ™‚

    1. LOL…that’s because you drank the Kool-aid πŸ™‚ It is hard to know what’s fair. Sometimes you just have to put a price that you can stand behind on something and not look back. I don’t think very many Indies invest much into editing, but they try with beta readers and other avenues. For me, I’m in a position where I can pay for certain things, so I do. It keeps my quality high so I don’t feel badly about charging a bit more in the end. There are plenty of error riddled novels on the market by traditionally published authors, yet we all pay what they’re asking. It’s a strange world sometimes πŸ™‚

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