What Do You Think is a Fair Price to Charge for an eBook?

For a while now I’ve been interested in this little web debate on the 99 cent eBook pricing and what other authors have to say about it. So while researching the 99 cent Debate on the world-wide web, I found a few great articles on both sides of the debate. The pros and cons of each really made me see a new side to the story. My favorite articles were:

99 Cent eBooks… Who Gains? by Toni Rakestraw
Read it here http://rakestrawbookdesign.com/99-cent-ebooks-who-gains/

Will 99-Cent E-Books Destroy The World As We Know It? by David Gaughran
Read it here https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/will-99-cent-e-books-destroy-the-world-as-we-know-it/

And Zoe Winters on ebook Pricing Interview at http://allindiepublishing.com/author-interviews/zoe-winters-on-ebook-pricing/

I also thought it would be fun to have a poll to see what everyone thinks is a fair price, so please vote for what you think is a fair price, and while you’re at it, let me know what you would pay for an eBook in the second poll. Any comments you have, please share below. 😀

Thanks for voting! Come again soon!

34 thoughts on “What Do You Think is a Fair Price to Charge for an eBook?

  1. Jennifer Mattern February 15, 2012 / 12:52 pm

    Hi Stephannie. Thanks for mentioning All Indie Publishing. 🙂

    I think a lot of it comes down to the type of e-book, genre, length, and author for me (as far as how much I personally pay). I doubt I’d pay more for a novel in e-book form than I do for the paperback for example (so the $5-7 range in many cases). But for nonfiction, I’d pay much more. The $9.99-17.99 range is pretty common in the niches I’m interested in, and I happily pay it if it comes from an authoritative source I respect or comes at the recommendation of a trusted friend or colleague. I’ve paid much more than that (the highest being between $50 and $60), and it was very much worth it. (I also charge just under $40 for one of my own, and it’s sold reasonably well in my niche.) But for those higher priced e-books, they need to operate almost on a course level.

    So while I answered the survey questions in the post, I just wanted to qualify those responses with an additional “it can depend on the book.” 🙂

    • Stephannie Beman February 16, 2012 / 6:19 pm

      You’re welcome and thanks for posting such a great guest post!

      You’re very right in the type of eBook, genre, and length of the book being bought. I was just thinking that I should have been more specific with the polls, but I hope everyone forgives me lack of knowledge on the whole poll thing. It’s the second time I’ve tried it and the first was decided your favorite cover for one of my books. 😀

  2. Ruth Ann Nordin February 15, 2012 / 1:31 pm

    Interesting polls. The problem is that in the long run, it only matters what the readers are willing to pay for the book. While $2.99 is my ideal (as a buyer and seller), I have some books I can’t sell at that point. So I opt for $0.99. Other authors sell better than me at higher prices, so obviously the $0.99 isn’t a golden price. I don’t know what distinguishes a book that sells at a higher price from another except the perception in the readers’ eyes that the book is worth more. As a disclaimer, I think perception is highly subjective and depends on the target audience. A target audience who is used to paying more will be easier to sell to at a higher point while an audience who isn’t used to paying more won’t. Another thought occurred to me that we can argue that people will pay more for quality, but in real life, I haven’t seen this play out. I know some authors who produce high quality works but never hit bestselling charts and vice versa. It’s all up to what the readers prefer, which is why I think JA Konrath keeps saying that “luck” is part of the equation.

    • Stephannie Beman February 16, 2012 / 6:25 pm

      Every author has those books that don’t sell well no matter what they price them at. It reminds me of a link I posted in my next post from Elle Lothlorian where she tried various price points on her first book and found that some worked better than others for different reasons.

      Luck does play a large part in book selling though 🙂

  3. Catana February 15, 2012 / 1:56 pm

    My answer to both polls would have to be “It depends.” A poll like that is based on the premise that there is *one* fair price for books. I paid 9.95 for a how-to ebook because I need to learn the skills it teaches. But that’s an unusual case. For fiction, the most I usually pay is 6.99, but I will rarely pay that much. Normally, I pay 2.99 to 4.99.

    My own books are priced at 2.99 and 3.99, and that’s probably where they’ll stay. My prices for my fiction are based on length, so very short stories will probably be free, while long short stories will be .99.

    • Stephannie Beman February 16, 2012 / 6:35 pm

      At least you’re pricing your books at the same price as which you’ll buy them. I’ve know some authors to price at $3.99-$6.99 and yet they refuse to buy anything above $.99 LOL

      • Catana February 16, 2012 / 6:44 pm

        Stephannie, maybe they’re not selling enough of their own books to afford anything more than .99. Right now, I’m selling enough to finance my own book addiction.

        • Stephannie Beman February 17, 2012 / 1:13 am

          LOL I could understand if that were the case. From what they’ve told me it’s not.

  4. robertyel February 15, 2012 / 3:25 pm

    I will be honest. The vast majority of ebooks that I read are free ones. I know, shame on me. BUT! If they are free why not? There is a vast supply of free ebooks to pick and chose from. Some of them have been good, but other have been stinkers. 🙂
    I do not think that I have paid more than $2.99 for an ebook, and even at that low price point the description better really grab me and draw me in. But even when paying for ebooks there have been bombs.
    I follow the very same pattern as I did when I read DTB’s. I rarely paid over $2.99 for even a main stream author such as my favorite SK. There was always used book store to hit.
    What is odd is now that I am not buying anymore DTB’s and we are strictly ebook we no longer buy our main stream author favorites. Why? Because there are no “used” ebook stores to buy that waited on SK book from, so his and my wifes favorites (VC Andrews and such) remain at an out of reach price point.

    • Stephannie Beman February 16, 2012 / 6:45 pm

      You’re not the only one. I love free books, they give me a sample of the author’s work and if I like the book, I’m more than likely to buy more of their books. I visit thrift stores and library sales all the time to find books I might like to buy for my ever growing collection of books. 😀

    • Ruth Ann Nordin February 16, 2012 / 7:24 pm

      I’ve found some good authors by picking up their free books. Businesses offer free samples to boost sales on their other priced-items, and I see no reason why being an author should be different. BTW, I owe you an email.

  5. Lauralynn Elliott February 15, 2012 / 3:29 pm

    I have such a hard time with this topic! I used to price all of my books at .99. Then, when I started a three book series, I priced the first one at .99, then the other two at 1.99. Those were all novellas. All my older novels and novellas are .99. I think for the future, my novellas will be 1.99 and my novels will be 2.99. I’ll try that price point for awhile. If Guardian Vampire had been at 1.99 instead of .99 when it went crazy and got to #135 on Amazon, I would have made 26K instead of 13K that year from all venues. But would I have sold as many? That’s the big question. That’s why I have a hard time deciding. Experimenting with pricing never seems to garner the same results each time! Grrrrr.

    I usually don’t pay more than 2.99 for an ebook unless I know the author or if I know the book is going to be REALLY good. I usually read a sample first. I almost NEVER pay more than 4.99. My biggest reason is that there isn’t all the cost of paper, ink, etc. And yet many of the traditionally published ebooks cost the same or more than the paperback. Most indie books are priced less than 5.00 anyway. I don’t read a lot of traditionally published books anymore. I usually listen to those as audio books that I get from the library.

    One article mentioned that people will pay a lot more for a movies, concert, etc., so why not pay that much for a book. My answer to that is that I can’t afford to go to that many movies, concerts, etc. But I buy a LOT of books. And I can buy more if the price is reasonable. I think under 5.00 is reasonable for an ebook.

    • Stephannie Beman February 16, 2012 / 6:48 pm

      I’m with you. I’ve drawn away from the traditional published book reading in the last year or so. I find self-published authors to have a fresh voice that seems to be lacking in many of the trad pubbed novels. I think experimenting is the best route. 😀

    • Ruth Ann Nordin February 16, 2012 / 7:21 pm

      I haven’t had the same results when experimenting with pricing either, which makes it harder. Some books just sell better at a higher price, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to why. Even books priced the same in the same genre don’t yield similar results. All I know is that more books out there, the better the chances of earning a living because while some books will sell, others won’t. 🙂

  6. Cyn Bagley February 15, 2012 / 5:29 pm

    I used to be a 99 center until I realized that I was not doing well. I had a load of books go out the door on my freebies, but I wasn’t selling. I was thoughtfully provoked by a blog post by Dean Wesley Smith where he put a guideline out for pricing. I have used it ever since.
    20,000 words or short story collection – 2.99
    40,000 words and above 4.99 (I use 3.99 because I am still considered a new author)
    99c is for discounting or for one short story.

    And there you have it. 😉 I still believe that 7.99 and 9.99, and I saw a recent 13.99 price for an ebook is excessive.

    Yours, Cyn

    • Stephannie Beman February 16, 2012 / 6:51 pm

      Dean Wesley Smith has may good points on his blog. 🙂 And I do agree with you, $7.99 – $13.99 price for an eBook can be excessive.

  7. jakeescholl February 15, 2012 / 5:30 pm

    I would price at $2.99 for a novel, $.99 a short story. I would pay any price below $10.00, but if it was by an auther I really love, say Stephen King, I would fork out the money regardless of price.

    • Stephannie Beman February 16, 2012 / 6:53 pm


      It always helps to have you’re own pricing guide for your writing. Good luck on your book selling.

  8. Renee Pawlish February 16, 2012 / 12:34 am

    Very thought-provoking and I agree with those who said “it depends”. I am still of the “I’d rather have a book than an ebook” camp, but if I were to buy ebooks, I’d shy away from indies unless I sample first (even though I’m an indie) – why – because I’ve seen way too much from indies that isn’t good. This is regardless of the price – there’s too much to read to waste time on bad writing. That being said, I’ll pay more if you convince me you’ve written something really good. Generally, 2.99-5.99 is fair – writers work too hard to be priced at 99 cents, and up to 6 bucks is what a paperback used to cost (before they seemed to take off in price).
    All that being said, with the ability to sample works, it seems to me that low or free shouldn’t need to be because you CAN sample a book and see if you like it or not, before you spend the money. But since so many others are pricing this low, it’s hard to stay priced higher and still get the sales. A tough issue, no doubt.

    • Stephannie Beman February 16, 2012 / 7:22 pm

      You hit on a point that has always annoyed me about people who review novels. I don’t care who the author is or who they publish with or didn’t publish with. The reader buys the novel, reads it, and then complains that it was utter “crap” for whatever reason. All I can think is why didn’t you read the sample. The sample is a glimpse into the book. The sample is there to help the reader know if they want to read the book.

      I’ve also noticed that some authors have no trouble staying at an higher price range. People are willing to pay the higher price for a book that is well-written and engaging.

  9. John Hayden February 16, 2012 / 4:15 am

    All depends on the book. I paid about $12 on Nook for Ann Patchett’s new book “State of Wonder,” still a big saving over the hardback at about $28. I’ve also paid $8 or $10 for a new John Grisham and for Tom Franklin’s “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.” They’re well worth it.

    You can find bargains in classics. I picked up Willa Cather’s “Song of the Lark,” a long and wonderful old novel, for $2.99.

    Nonfiction can reasonably be valued based on the worth of the information. It’s not entertainment.

    But the big questions is: What about new fiction by unknown authors??? It’s complicated by the fact that there are so many short stories out there pretending to be books. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought because I’ve written 42,000 words of fiction and plan to finish it soon and publish.
    Seems to me that 99 cents is a good starting point for first fiction by any unknown, even a full novel. Then if you generate some interest, you can consider raising the price. BTW, what do folks think is the border between a novel and a novella?

    The more difficult question is whether to go exclusive with Amazon for three months, or publish everywhere.

    Here’s the big, ugly fact: We’re at the mercy of the algorithms. I want to support Smashwords and Nook, on principle. But after due consideration, I don’t think it’s a matter of principle for a first-time author. It’s a business decision.

    If Amazon is the only place you have much possibility of breaking out, I have to say it makes sense to give Amazon a shot for three months. What have you got to lose? It’s taken me more than three months to write the book, and I’m a totally unknown author? In three months on Amazon, you might generate some buzz. Three months goes by fast, and then you can add Nook and Smashwords. Nothing has been lost. But anyone who score’s big on Amazon in the first three months is going to have a tough decision to make.

    • Stephannie Beman February 16, 2012 / 7:31 pm

      I take it you’re talking about KDP Select? I think that is a personal decisions for each author to make on their own. For some the KDP Select is a great opportunity. For others, it’s a horrible decision. Personally I prefer to buy from Smashwords because of all the different formats, I also make half of my sales from Amazon and the other half from Barnes and Noble. Business-wise, KDP Select isn’t for me.

  10. John Hayden February 16, 2012 / 4:31 am

    One added thought: 99 cents worked for “The Mill River Recluse.” Who knows what would have happened if she’d raised the price at some point? That’s the million-dollar question (theoretically speaking).

  11. Andy Van Loenen February 16, 2012 / 4:00 pm

    Speaking as an author, I see $2.99 as a good price point for an e-novel. I’d consider 99 cents for a novella because it is shorter. For me the difference would be between about 90,000 words and about 20,000 words, respectively.

    I experimented with dropping the price of my 90K-word novel to 99 cents over the Christmas season and I did sell significantly more books. But, at least as far as Amazon is concerned, you have to sell approximately six times as many books at 99 cents as you do at $2.99 in order to make the same amount of money. This, of course, is due to lower royalities per unit sold. Honestly, I’m not in it strictly for the money. But I’ve got a year into writing and better than $1500.00 into editing, cover art, etc. There has to be an ROI someplace in this business or it’s just not worth the energy (emotional and otherwise) to write books.

    The Trad-Pubs, with their Agency Model, are generally charging around $9.99 for an e-novel. That’s too much for something that does not have a physical presence. In some cases, e-book prices are higher than the p-book prices. That’s insanity.

    I try to price where people can afford and I can make a reasonable amount of money. Therefore I price my 90K novel at $11.99 for the paperback and $2.99 for the e-book. I’m not getting rich, but I’m doing okay. I’ve proved I can sell more e-books at 99 cents and I may dorp the price again for future Christmas seasons or special occasions. But it will because I’m feeling benovelant, not because I want to sell more books for less money. I’m better than that, I’ll bet you are, too.

    • Stephannie Beman February 17, 2012 / 3:04 am

      LOL I love to do holiday sales for those unable to buy at full price. It’s nice for them. It’s nice for me. And everyone benefits.

      It does make it hard to price lower when you put out more money then you make with writing. While some are not in it for the money, they at least want to make it worth their time and the cost that went into the book.

  12. Chip Anderson February 16, 2012 / 6:09 pm

    The free books I have downloaded are, generally, not worth reading.
    I end up deleting them.
    The books I have purchased are better in every regard.
    I think most people have the perception that you get what you pay for.

    • Catana February 16, 2012 / 6:30 pm

      Maybe your problem is that you didn’t bother to read any reviews (not always reliable) or look at a sample. A lot of very good authors have some free books in order to gain new readers. Unlike you, I’ve discovered free books that no publisher would be ashamed of having on their list. I’ve also discovered a good many new authors by reading free books.

      “I think most people have the perception that you get what you pay for.” For those who pay attention to the changing book market, that perception is changing. Sometimes, you pay too much for what you get.

      • Stephannie Beman February 17, 2012 / 3:22 am

        Cantana, your comment: “I think most people have the perception that you get what you pay for.” For those who pay attention to the changing book market, that perception is changing. Sometimes, you pay too much for what you get.

        Makes me think of my step-daughter telling me she paid $200 for a pair of jeans that looked no different then the ones I bought for $30. I’m still wearing mine to do ranch work. Hers died a few months and she just wore them to school. LOL

    • Ruth Ann Nordin February 16, 2012 / 6:42 pm

      I respectfully disagree. A good portion of my readers read my free books and said they loved them so much they went out and bought my other books. Free is a useful promotional tool some authors successfully use, and some of those authors frequent this blog. Quality is highly subjective. As long as your target audience is happy, that’s all that matters.

      • Lauralynn Elliott February 16, 2012 / 7:44 pm

        I agree with you, Ruth Ann. I finally put out a free short story on Smashwords (.99 on Amazon because they won’t let it be free) and have very favorable comments on it as well as a great review on someone’s blog. Btw, I’ve also had several sales on Amazon, so that just shows that some people will pay .99 for a short story of only 5,000 words. (It plainly states how many words it is.)

        • Ruth Ann Nordin February 16, 2012 / 11:50 pm

          Oh cool! You have a new story out. I checked for it on Amazon (I wanted to get it before Amazon price matches). I love your books. And this story sounds so good! Also, it’s got a beautiful cover and catchy title. I’m happy to pay $0.99 for a short story.

          • Lauralynn Elliott February 17, 2012 / 12:08 am

            Thanks, Ruth Ann! How sweet of you. Actually, I clicked on the link at Amazon where you can report a lower price, but so far they haven’t made it free.

    • Stephannie Beman February 17, 2012 / 3:19 am

      Interesting observation. I think most people have that perception about what they paid for. Though the one thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes I can pay less for something and get better quality then if I paid three times as much for the some thing and found the item lacking in every way.

      Free or cheap doesn’t always equal bad, just as expensive doesn’t always equal great. The one thing I’ve noticed in life is that people are more willing to complain over something they spent little money on when they don’t like it because their perception of the thing is already low and they have no rancor over doing so. But when they pay more for something, even more than its worth, they are less likely to complain because they think they will look foolish for paying so high for garbage.

      I’ve seen it most often with food and clothing, but the same holds true for books.

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