P is for Price

letter pIn a sea of numbers (ISBN, pages, words), price is the most important number an author assigns to a book. Both ends of the spectrum have the same result: No sales.


We have covered the Mine Principle and discovered readers are not interested in your investment of time, blood, sweat or tears. They are looking for a bargain. The market has certain parameters which are difficult to overcome as well.

Quirks & Myths

In the 1960s, prices were often set at $X.99. The reason for this was the tax rate. Taxes were calculated on a percentage, but the law did not allow for rounding up. If the merchant set the price below the dollar mark, the taxes the store paid were a penny less per item.

Buy Today!!Marketers capitalized on the 99-cent phenomenon by claiming everything was “less than a dollar!” (Buy now! Supplies limited!) Salesman used the argument Less than an hour’s wage because minumum wage was $1 per hour beginning in 1956.

Despite some hangers-on, most retail outlets moved away from the 99-cent model by the middle of the 1980s by moving their prices to one cent below the tax break (the threshold where taxes are charged equal to the next dollar). Those who did not change their pricing strategies still cling to the myth the 99-cent rule was a psychological trick to get people to believe they were spending less.

Based on the overwhelming success of dollar stores, megamarts with prices ending in every number except 9 and family businesses who never employed the 99-cent rule, shoppers long ago abandoned saving the merchant the penny. Pricing your product at $X.99 is not fooling anyone.

Too High

MoneyWhen you were looking at the competition’s books, it was a good idea to have scoped the price. When researching your prices, be sure to look at the price set by the author or publisher, not the virtual book stores who have the book listed in a different country for three fewer dollars or for double the price and free shipping.

If the maximum going price for 350 pages in your genre is $12.95, pricing your 281 page book at $17.50 puts you far out of reach. For the record, pricing your 496 page book at $17.50 puts you far our of reach as well.

Staying at 10% above the top price is dangerous, especially if you do not have a passel of groupies. On the other hand, you have other fingers.

Too Low

If your price is not commensurate with you competition, as in ridiculously lower, you have a shot at becoming a best seller. The choice is a gamble at best. Who is buying your book? (I don’t care as long as they pay is not really a good answer.)

If you are a bibliophile, the last time you passed a bin with books which were half-off you picked up something. Or was it something off the $3 rack? Even if you adored it, you did not hot-foot it out to Amazon to leave a review. Did you even tell anyone you read it?

Chances are not. You did not want to admit the only reason you picked it up was it was cheap, and once you got the big yellow sticker off the front, you left it in the bathroom for a month before you cracked the spine. Why? At that price, you never expected it to turn out to be a good book.


You get what you pay for.”

Bestselling is a misnomer. It should be more accurate: Best mover. The question begs to be asked: Do you want to be a “bestseller” of free books?


Zip. Zilch. Nada. Rien.

Before you answer that question, try this one from Amazon and Pew: How many of the free ebooks you have downloaded have you read? (Taps foot. Looks at watch.)

Recently, the author who rose above Hunger Games behind 50 Shades admitted his “bestseller” netted him a total of $12,000. Even elementary math reveals 50,000+ books should make more than $12,000. When his book was free, the downloads were in the thousands per day.

Bottom Line

You may not be in it for the money, but if you want your book in the hands of readers, it has to be priced appropriately.

  1. If you book is not a complete anomaly (a 750+ page bodice ripper), stick to the middle of the pricing road for your predominant genre.
  2. Run giveaways moderately.
  3. Set your consumer base to pay you dividends (reviews and referrals).
  4. Enjoy the steady income stream.

Do you want to be the “bestselling” author of free books? How many of those free ebooks have you read? Why do authors price themselves out of the market?

Hashtags: #AtoZChallenge #prices #books

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