High Prices: A Great Way to Keep Readers from Buying Your Book


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Most authors do not know how to price their books. They think that the best way to recoup costs or convey value is to have a high cover price. What they fail to remember is basic economics: higher prices equal fewer sales. If you’re an author who has yet to build a following, then higher prices are simply going to mean only a few family members and some very kind friends will buy your book.

I apologize for being harsh here, but I want to see authors succeed. It is frustrating to watch talent go to waste in the form of a “barrier to sale" (i. e. , high book prices). Authors put tremendous amounts of time, effort, and dedication into writing and publishing their books. After all of this sacrifice, an author will essentially keep readers from buying his or her book by making it too expensive. What this means is that the author will remain in obscurity and any chance of using their print-on-demand (POD) or self-published book to make money or get a contract with a traditional publisher will perish.

When setting the price for a book, an author needs to consider three questions:
1)Are there thousands (or even hundreds) of people anticipating your book’s release so they can buy it?
2)When people you’ve never met hear your name, do they think of you as an excellent writer or an expert on the subject you write about?
3)When your book is released, are people across the nation going to hear about it multiple times?

If you answered, “No, " to these questions, then you need to think more strategically about pricing your book because adding an expensive cover price to your already challenging position in the marketplace will only result in disappointment. Alternatively, pricing your book strategically can go a long way to help you build a following and achieve your dreams as a writer.

The New York Times bestselling author, Seth Godin, made his ebook, Unleashing the Ideavirus, available for free on the Internet in 2001. Over 1 million copies of the ebook have been downloaded and it is now available in paperback (note that it is selling on Amazon.com for $10.50 and despite its age still has a strong Amazon.com Sales Rank under 10,000). All of Seth’s subsequent books have been raging successes and anyone with even the vaguest interest in marketing knows him as an authority. He attributes his phenomenal book sales to the success of the free ebook. By giving the book away he expanded his following. He allowed people who never heard of him to read his entire ebook enabling them to discover the quality of his writing and the value of his ideas without spending any money. Although it is counter-intuitive, people actually bought the paperback after downloading and reading the free version because they wanted a copy for their bookshelves.

Contrast Seth’s book to an author I randomly came across while writing this article who has a hardcover novel from one of the top three POD firms. This author, who shall remain anonymous, priced the book at an astonishing $28.50. It should be no surprise that the Amazon.com Sales Rank of this book is over 2.9 million meaning the author’s rich sibling is probably the only person to purchase the book. Would you spend $28.50 on a book you never heard of from an unknown writer when you can purchase a notable novel, such as the 656 page hardcover that everybody is talking about, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, for under $18.00? It’s not likely.

Many authors don’t know that $14.00 is the price at which most people start to question whether a book is worth buying. If you lack name recognition and there is no buzz about your book, your cover price can kill any chance your book has for success. Before setting a price for your book, look at the prices of similar books from traditional publishing houses. Setting a price below the average will give you an advantage. The lower your price, the more likely people will be to buy your book and discover your talent. After you establish a following, then set your price accordingly. Until then, do what is necessary to succeed.

David Tortorelli, President and founder of Book Premieres , an author services firm specializing in effective online book marketing services. David’s expertise in pricing strategies comes from years of entrepreneurship aided by his masters degree from the London School of Economics. He has also worked closely with authors on manuscripts for books released by top publishing houses.


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