Nathan Bransford, Author

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How should I price my guide to writing a novel?

It's almost here!

I'm self-publishing a guide to writing a novel. Soon. At first it's going to be available exclusively via e-book, but I'm going to turn my attention to print once that's done.

It will be 47 rules and it's around 40,000 words. While I originally thought it was mainly going to be posts drawn from the blog, it ended up being a whole lot of new material (which is why it took longer than I thought). Even some posts I drew from the blog were extensively rewritten, and it's gone through two extensive rounds of editing by professional editors.

So. How much should it cost?

There are lots of differing opinions out there about how much e-books should cost. Konrath feels that the sweet spot for novels is $3.99, Smashwords agrees, others say it depends. I haven't seen many ideas for nonfiction. I don't plan to give this baby away for free, but short of that, what in the heck should I charge?

Here's a poll. I'd love your vote. Please put on your author hat rather than reader hat.

Poll results are advisory only. I'll circle back with a post on how I choose my ultimate price. Thanks, everyone!

Art: Beim Notar by Josef Wagner-Höhenberg


Angela said...

I was in the minority with a slightly higher price, but I was thinking like a department store. People love a value, so I'd price it a little higher and offer a discount to subscribers or a coupon code for someone else's blog if they review it :)

daniel t. radke said...

Certainly wouldn't do any less than $2.99, or else your percentage takes a dive. And you probably shouldn't go over $4.99 since, well, a 40K word self-published book doesn't really justify more than that (not speaking to your abilities, just talking market).

I hope you're making it Kindle-exclusive for the first 90 days. Make it free for 2-3 days during the first week and you should get a ton of downloads. I'll certainly be one.

And don't forget to politely ask for honest reviews at the end!

Matthew MacNish said...

Depends how good it is. :P

D.G. Hudson said...

$2.99 is good as an introductory price, to be raised after a certain time. Since this is your first book on writing (even though we saw a lot of your original posts), it will be more affordable to those who don't know how informed you are.

Are you doing advance review copies to whet interest?

Unknown said...

For instructional guides, I think a higher price can be justified and successful. Look at O'Reilly, Peachpit, Leanpub, and others. You need to offer --and convince potential customers that you offer-- information and insight that's not easily available elsewhere. How much are competing guides selling for on Amazon and elsewhere?

Perhaps price it towards the higher end of your scale, with a short-term intro price between $4 and $5. And tell customers that the includes minor to moderate updates/editions. Then make and release those updates. :-)

$8....the price of a couple cappuccinos and perhaps biscotti.

Jim Feeley said...

Huh. I did something incorrectly when I posted that previous comment (the one starting "For instructional guides..."

I didn't intend to post anonymously. My name is Jim Feeley.

hillary said...

I'd gladly pay five bucks for expert advice. You're the consummate expert in this arena, since you're both a published author and a former agent. Other nonfiction selfpub titles with expert authors can sell for quite a bit. I have paid $25 for a selfpub ebook about how to enter the world of textile design, for example. $4.99 would feel like a steal in comparison.

Christi said...

My opinion is that you should never offer a book for free. Real authors shouldn't undervalue their work that way. Discounting it for a couple days, however, isn't a bad idea. I think you should charge at least 5.99; otherwise, the book looks like it's being given away.

Jaimie said...

I'll circle back with a post on how I choose my ultimate price.

Which will be because of my comment, obviously.

It's hard to do this with just an author hat and not a reader hat? My author hat doesn't buy novels, so I'll say what I like paying. $7.99 is high, but I'll do it if the reviews are good. $3.99 is the low end. Lower than that I start to question quality.

For a book such as this -- a not novel -- I'd put it at $4.99. But you have name recognition, so why don't you go for broke and do $5.99? Because you can! Because why not! YOLO, Bransford. YOLO.

Brendan O'Meara said...

Price it high. You'll see less, but you may A) Make a little more dough and B) Get people who are more seriously about writing their book.

Too cheap makes it a throwaway. Too cheap and it seems you don't value your product. If it's pricier, thus a higher investment, you'll get better engagement with it. Just a thought ...

Whit said...

Good luck with whatever price level you choose. I said $2.99 because that's about the top of the range that I would by on impulse - higher than that and I start feeling resistance. At $2.99 it would be pretty much automatic for me.

LA Janssen said...

I would push for $4.99, both as a published author and a reader/purchaser. Anne LaMott's Bird by Bird is $9.99 and never fails to sell.

wendy said...

I think $4.99 is a sweet spot I'd charge. It's not prohibitive enough to evoke much buyer resistance yet is commensurate with an author who is experienced and confident in the book's content.

Good luck, Nathan!

Bruce Bonafede said...

I would look at the competition and price yourself maybe a bit under that. While you're obviously a successful author and know your stuff, have industry contacts and a platform, you're not a household name like Stephen King and you won't be getting (at least at first) the referrals that LaMott gets. ("You're gonna write a book? Gosh, you've GOT to read Bird by Bird.") But both their books are at $10 bucks or higher. There's no reason to go much lower than that. Frankly, when it comes to books by supposed "experts," I'm highly suspicious when they are priced very low. I just happily paid $9.99 for one of the better books on ghostwriting (which I already do but I believe one should continue to study their fields). I suggested you charge $7.99. Will you get as many buyers as you would at $2.99? No. But I think you won't lose many that are actually serious about the subject.

Bruce Bonafede said...

Another thought? Since your book will only be available as an e-book, you don't have to worry about pricing in competition to a print edition. With my book, I'm pricing the e-book at $3.99 (it's only an entertainment, a humor book, not an "expert guide"). But that was because I wanted to be demonstrably below the Amazon price of the print edition. If this is the only way people can get ahold of your book, make them pay for it. Ha!

MBA Jenna said...

I'm not a bookseller (yet), but here are some general pricing thoughts:

I bet potential buyer behavior probably falls into two camps:
-FON (Friends of Nathan, people who either follow you or recognize the brand),
-Writers buying advice books (who may not know you)

After you do a quick competitive analysis (look at the top 10 titles Amazon recommends in your category), I'd start at the higher end.

-It sets a high perceived value on your work.
-It captures the highly-motivated and/or price-insensitive buyer.
-It allows you room to play with promotions (longtime subscriber discounts, blog review discounts, Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day discounts, etc.)
-You can always lower the price when sales taper off (Yes, this is worth monitoring weekly. Self-pub gives you a lot of freedom to tinker with your pricing (do sales drop on Tuesdays? Adjust the price for those 24 hours, see what happens. Just got 20 5 star reviews? Don't drop the price/hold off on the promotion.)
-It's very, very hard to raise prices, but easy to lower them. Not technically, obviously, but while everyone loves a sale/bargain, no one likes a greedy seller. If you find that you've underpriced, wait until the print edition (or some other major change) comes out and raise it under the cover of the new & improved! offering.

Good luck! I'm sure it will do well, and it will be great to read about your experiences. Thanks for keeping us posted.

Susie said...

Great question! It's interesting to consider. I've always valued and learned a lot from your posts. However, if I thought you were simply compiling a bunch of your (previously free) posts, I don't think I'd want to pay very much (no more than $2.99). However, given that you said you substantially developed your posts and had the book professionally edited etc, I think this book at 40,000 words is worth a lot more and I'd pay more like $7.99 or $8.99 for an e-book. Since I don't know the structure and tone, I voted $5.99. For the record, I'd prefer the print copy :-) Good luck!

Petrea Burchard said...

I was going to vote based on my own wallet (always trying to find ways to save). But you're known and respected well enough to charge a reasonable price. .99 is too low. $10.99 is too high. But there's a spot in between that'll be right for you.

The great thing is, if the price point you choose isn't working you can try others until you find the sweet spot. said...

For some reason, I feel that people expect and are willing to pay a little bit more for nonfiction (from a qualified writer) than fiction. So, if $3.99 is the sweet spot for novels, $4.99 sounds about right for a sizeable — if not tome-ish — how-to guide. It's cheap enough that people will buy it, but not so cheap that they will disregard your credentials, or not take the book's advice seriously.

Chris Bailey said...

Okay, I wore my author hat for the poll. But I want to speak as a reader. In the past two years, I have bought 17 craft e-books, ranging in price from 0-$9.99. The two books I paid more than $9 each for were highly recommended from multiple sources and previously available only in print. Nine of the books were offered free as a promotion. I've read only one of those. So much for promo value. Five were priced at $2.99, and one at $1.99.

Nathan, you have the reputation and the base to command more than $2.99. But in the competitive self-publishing world, it might be slow going at $9.99. I don't agree with FREE books. It's a perceived value thing. Your blog is free, and the archives are available. I love browsing there! I also know that there's a value in the book you've written, organized, and distilled. I'd go for high middle!

Terry DeHart said...

I agree that non-fiction can go a bit higher than novels, and certainly higher than most short story collections (certain Nobel prize winners excepted!). That said, yours is shorter than the big novel-writing guides, so I'd price it around 5.99 and get it into the Select program if possible.

Best success! Asking for advice is much more engaging than merely shouting out the arrivals of one's new book.

donnamusing said...

My vote fell with the current masses at $4.99! It will be interesting to see how the votes tally and compare that with your final decision. :) Definitely not .99

Chris Eboch said...

For my writing craft book, Advanced Plotting, I charge $9.99 paperback, $4.99 e-book. The print is based on POD cost plus a small margin. Even though it's higher priced, a lot of people seem to want the book in print, so they can make notes, use Post-it bookmarks, and have it open while they revise. $10 is still cheaper than a lot of print writing guides and doesn't seem to turn off people.

In any case, I think writing guides should be more than novels. They are, hopefully, something readers will keep and use multiple times.

Ernie J. Zelinski said...

On the poll I said $3.99. But I would charge at least $3.97 or $4.97 for a 40,000 word instructional manual. There is a school of thought that says pricing with the price ending in a "7" works better.

In so far as giving it out for free, even for 2 or 3 days, I wouldn't do this with any of my books. This would cheapen what I have to offer.

These quotes apply:

"He charged nothing for his preaching and it was worth it too."
— Mark Twain

"People that pay for things never complain. It's the guy you give something to that you can't please."
— Will Rogers

I price the Kindle edition of my "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free" at $9.97. Over the long term, it outsells all the competition including all the Kindle retirement books priced at 99 cents or $2.99.

In short, you want to appeal to people who are willing to pay for great material.

Ernie J. Zelinski
International Best-Selling Author
"Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free"
Author of the Bestseller "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free"
(Over 200,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
and the International Bestseller "The Joy of Not Working'
(Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

Laura Pauling said...

I suggest looking at how other self published how-to-write books are priced. Who wrote them - do they have name recognition too? And 40k is still more like a short book. Then look and see where their ranking is and then you'll see what the market will bear for this kind of book that's not Donald Maass. Charge too much and you'll drop fast.

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

Give me a holler when you're ready to publish your self-help book. I'll promote it on my blog

and my writers critique site:

Cecelia Dowdy said...

I voted $4.99 - for some reason, that price just sounds right to me!

Carl Grimsman said...

I voted 9.99 because your advice is priceless!

Pubbing my own second novel this week, and pegging it at 3.99.

Mira said...

First, Nathan, mega-congratulations on finishing - that's amazing! I am so impressed! I also take ALL THE CREDIT, because I TOLD YOU to write a non-fiction book, and then you did. So, there you are! :)

I love hearing there's new content; I will definitely be in line for your book - I think I've mentioned that I think your non-fiction 'voice' is terrific. :).

So, it's funny, when I first read your post, I was thinking 4.99, just like other people. And that may very well be the sweet spot. But I really liked what MBA Jenna said. I liked her suggestions about giving room for promotions, and also about how hard it is to raise the price once you've set it.

So, this is just my opinion, and I could be wrong, but I think non-fiction is very different than fiction. I think it's very important not to price non-fiction too low. You are shooting for a price that says: I am an expert, and you should pay money to listen to me, I'm worth it.

Pricing it too low might give the impression that you are not as much as an expert as those who price their books higher.

On the other hand, it's only 40,000, I would definitely do some research and look at where similar books are priced. I think you want to match them. Again, I could be wrong, but I'm not sure under-pricing them would work in the same way it does fiction. I think under-pricing lowers perceived value. But I really don't know, I'm just guessing.

I might start high and see. You can always lower the price. But you do want to capture your blog followers and their enthusiasm (and encourage us to impulse buy). And your blog followers don't need you to prove your expertise, so I would offer discounts to them.

One other point. You also don't want to price your book too low, because that will identify it as self-published. Now, you know I'm a massive SP advocate, so this is not dissing SPing. But you don't need to bring it to the random reader's attention. You want your book to mesh with all the books out there, SP and traditional publishing - your book should match them, and look professional. That includes price.

Again, I think it's different with fiction, some folks enjoy looking for debut authors, or just want low-priced stories. But non-fiction needs an air of....I don't know a good word. Gravitas is the wrong, I can't think of the right word, but hopefully you know what I'm getting at. :) Maybe professional expertise is the right phrase.

So, all that said, I'd probably price in the 7.99 - 9.99 range, with coupons and giveaways.

But I could be wrong - I think research is definitely in order, and if you search the kindle boards for any non-fiction writers and hear their experience, that would not be time wasted.

Good luck! Very excited to read your book! :)

Anonymous said...

I once read an article by Smashwords owner that 2.99 seems to be a magic number. But who knows? I wouldn't go higher than 6.99. Or lower than 1.99.

Anonymous said...

Because this is non-fic I'd be curious to know if you do plan to have any free give-aways. I know that freebies do work with fiction. They give readers a chance to sample the author's work and most of the time if the readers like it they buy more. But I'm curious to see if this would work with non-fic.

Stephanie Faris said...

I think one of the best ways to make that book sale like hotcakes is to start doing workshops, as well. I've noticed self-publishing seems to be most lucrative for authors who have a platform--holding how-to workshops/seminars is the best platform you can have short of having a nationally-syndicated TV or radio show or being a major celeb!

That said, in Kindle version, I don't think I'd pay more than $4.99 for most books if I didn't have an additional reason. (Like having read your blog for years.) If you were just a stranger whose fiction I'd never read, etc., I think $4.99 would probably be my limit, e-book-wise.

David Gaughran said...

After much experimentation, in terms of maximizing income, I think $4.99 is the sweet spot for this kind of book. I like $4.99 for other reasons too:

1. It's below the psychological barrier of $5, but you are still making a nice $3.50 per sale.

2. It still looks cheap compared to trad-pubbed books in your category.

3. And it still leaves you lots of room to run a limited time sale.

P.S. Make sure you have a print edition up by December.

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks for your thoughts, David. I'm going with $4.99, and yes, working on a print edition too in time for the holiday season. Loving this process so far.

Melanie Schulz said...

I'm saying 2.99 based on the length.
Based on what I've seen in your blog, I can't wait to read it.

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