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Don’t Have Time Right Now?

We originally wrote this post in 2018, and since then there has been a ton of volatility in the book market. We’ll update this post once things calm down and provide updated recommendations for 2022.

Book pricing can be both very simple, and incredibly complex, it all depends how deep in the details you dive.

Most of the complex advice is pricing fiction books, or pricing for professional writers, and is not really that useful for Authors writing business or personal development books.

This guide is as simple as it gets (in fact, you can even skip to “How To Price Your Book” section right now if you want), and will give you only the relevant information for you, so you can confidently decide how to price your ebook, paperback and hardcover.

eBook Pricing

The largest ebook market–by far–is Amazon, and they set the standard for ebook pricing. They have a pretty simple set of rules for how they let Authors price ebooks:

  • Between $0.99 and $2.98, they pay the Author a 35% royalty
  • In the $2.99 to $9.99 price range, they pay the Author a 70% royalty
  • $10 and over, they pay the Author a 35% royalty

Now, look at this chart that compares book sales to retail price. This data isn’t perfect (it’s gathered by Smashwords), but our experience and our data watching hundreds of authors in business and personal development maps very closely to this chart.

ebook price vs sales volume chart

As you can see, there are basically three tiers:

  • Maximize copies: $0.99 – $3.99
  • Middle ground: $4.99 – $6.99
  • Maximize perceived value: $7.99 – $9.99

There are some shocking data points on there.

For example, there is no difference in sales between $7.99 and $9.99. And perhaps most shocking, books at $0.99 sell less than books priced at $3.99.

This actually brings me to my next point, which is a very important factor for pricing business and personal development books: credibility.

Books are, within certain ranges, Veblen goods. This means that people will often judge the quality of your book, at least partially, on the price of your book.

You can even see the impact of the Veblen goods effect in the book pricing data. The fact that there is no sales difference between $7.99 and $9.99 tells you that within certain price bands, the price actually does not have an impact on demand.

The data pretty clearly show that there are four price ranges:

eBook Price Range Breakdown

High Price $7.99 – $9.99
Normal $4.99 – $6.99
Cheap $2.99 – $3.99
Dirt Cheap $.99 – $1.99

Why does this matter?

Because for many authors, pricing a book too low will hurt your credibility with your readers.

This is how it works with many luxury goods. People assume you are worth what you ask, so if you ask a low price, they assume that is what you are worth.

(By the way, remember that most of our Authors are not primarily focusing on making money through book sales, but rather using the book to make money other ways.)

Given these two factors, for most authors, there are really three prices to choose from (at least for long term pricing, not counting any promotions you do):

If you want to maximize units sold: $3.99 (or possibly $0.99 in some rare cases)

If you want a good balance between sales and perception: $6.99

If you want to maximize high status perception, and don’t care about sales: $9.99

Paperback Book Pricing

At Scribe, we usually use KDP for the paperback books we publish, as they are easy to use and produce high quality books.

KDP pricing is so complicated, that they actually built a calculator to help authors figure out what their royalties will be. It includes variations based on black and white versus color, length of book, bleed, and other factors.

The good news is that you don’t need to use it, because almost all of the time, the royalty rates turns out to be around 40%. For example, if you sell your paperback for $10, then you will probably get about $4 in profit.

Paperback pricing is similar to ebook pricing, just add around $7-$10 to every price. So the chart would look like this:

Paperback Book Price Range Breakdown

High Price $17.99 – $19.99
Normal $14.99 – $16.99
Cheap $11.99 – $13.99
Dirt Cheap $7.99 – $10.99

This rule of thumb has worked very well for our authors in pricing print book: whatever the ebook price is, add about $7-$10 for the paperback price.

Hardcover Book Pricing

It’s almost impossible to give broad advice on hardcover pricing and royalties, because so many factors impact the price. For example, color, printing price, trim size, niche, bleed, and many other factors impact the price.

Despite these variances, we’ve found a pretty solid rubric to use for hardcover book pricing that tracks pretty well with the paperback pricing: the hardcover should be $12-$15 more than the ebook.

And given this, you can expect a royalty rate of about 45%–but with HIGH variations depending on several factors.

There is an important exception to this: I would not price your hardcover version above $27.99 unless you have a very specific reason.

Hardcover Book Price Range Breakdown

High Price $25.99 – $27.99
Normal $20.99 – $24.99
Cheap $16.99 – $19.99
Dirt Cheap $12.99 – $15.99

How To Price Your Book

So let’s bring it all together, and give you the best framework for pricing:

If you want to maximize units sold:

  • $3.99 ebook (or $0.99 in some promotional cases) [royalty rate: 70%]
  • $10.99-$12.99 paperback [royalty rate: ~40%]
  • $14.99-$16.99 hardcover [royalty rate: ~45%]

If you want a good balance between sales and perception (two different options):
Option 1:

  • $6.99 ebook [royalty rate: 70%]
  • $13.99-$16.99 paperback [royalty rate: ~40%]
  • $18.99-$21.99 hardcover [royalty rate: ~45%]

Option 2 (big spread): What this does is fix your paperback and/or hardcover as your “list price,” so it stays high for perceived value. Then price ebook is relatively low—but not too low—to maximize sales to that audience.

  • $4.99 eBook
  • $16.99 paperback
  • $24.99 hardcover

If you want to maximize high status perception:

  • $9.99 ebook [royalty rate: 70%]
  • $17.99-$19.99 paperback [royalty rate: ~40%]
  • $24.99-$27.99 hardcover [royalty rate: ~45%]