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How to find the right price for your ebook and earn more sales

Check out this step-by-step guide on how to land on the right price for your ebook, plus three actionable strategies to earn more sales.

September 16, 2019 by Taylor Barbieri

The time has finally come: You’re ready to publish your ebook.

You’re sitting at your desk, patting yourself on the back for finally completing it.

But there’s one obstacle you must overcome before publishing it: picking a price.

Pricing digital products can feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place, but there is a path towards pricing your ebook fairly -- and it only requires three simple steps.

When combined with three supplementary tactics to boost the value and price of your ebook further, you’ll soon be on your way to becoming a well-paid author.

But before reaping the fruits of your labor, you’ll first need to figure out what the standard prices are in your industry -- let’s dig into that now.

How to price your ebook in 3 steps

Step #1: Analyze competitors' prices

You should seldom attempt to price-match your competitors to the cent since that can lead to race-to-the-bottom pricing.

Researching their prices, on the other hand, can give you an idea of what you can reasonably charge for your ebook.

Compare prices from both independent and traditionally published authors to get a fair estimate of what ebooks in your field cost -- 15 to 20 titles should be a good sample size.

For example, from a quick browsing session, I saw that the top 16 hits for Amazon Kindle books about overcoming procrastination fall between $4 to $15.

Therefore, I would probably make the most sales if I priced my ebook about procrastination towards the lower end of that range since I’m an unknown author.

That being said, you may want to lean a little more towards independent authors than those from publishing houses.

Traditionally published ebook sales fell by 10% in 2017, with many readers, such as author Cat Rambo, preferring to buy independently published ebooks because of their price.

So sampling more heavily from independently published authors may give you a more accurate representation of what customers are willing to pay.

If you plan on selling in a marketplace like Amazon, read reviews to see what readers thought about the book overall and if it was worth the price.  

If your competition sells from their own website, see if they have reader reviews or claims like “XX downloads so far!” so you can gauge their ebooks’ success.  

For example, if you were publishing a book about influencer marketing, you may come across influencer marketing expert Brittany Hennessy’s website, which states that her book has sold over 25,000 copies since the summer of 2018.

In your research, you may see that ebooks sell for pretty low prices compared to other digital products -- $10 to $20 is a common range, even for successful creators.

However, don’t let those prices deter you. With ebook publishing revenue expected to reach over $5.33 billion in 2022, there’s plenty of income to go around, especially for authors who know their audiences well.

That last part -- knowing your audience well -- is the linchpin to focus on. Once you’ve got your industry price ranges nailed down, you need to get granular and figure out what your audience is willing to ante in.

They’re not always the same price range.

Step #2: Research what your audience is willing to pay

Consumers have an internal reference price for most items.

An internal reference price is the price customers think an item should cost based on their past experiences or knowledge of a product.

For example, most consumers’ internal reference price for a cup of coffee probably ranges between $3 and $6. Charging something drastically lower or higher -- say, $0.25 or $12 -- would likely deter most customers from making a purchase.

Research has suggested that internal reference prices affect consumers’ willingness to pay for an item because it takes less cognitive load to rely on the internal price than to consider and calculate other factors.

How do you find out your customers’ internal reference prices for ebooks like yours?

To figure those out, you could send surveys to your email subscribers and social media followers, or interview them through video conferencing.

Like Herman Miller did with their email survey, you should offer some sort of incentive, like a discount code or participation in a giveaway, to encourage people to respond.

Don’t discount the benefit of going on forums to see what people say about popular ebooks’ prices, as well as the prices of highly recommended ebooks, either.

Lastly, don’t forget Amazon reviews as a research resource.

To conduct research on Amazon, simply click on the username of customers who’ve purchased an ebook, and then scroll through their review history to see what other books they’ve read and what reviews they left.

Researching around 10 to 15 reviewers’ testimonials should give you a clear enough idea of what price range you can reasonably price your ebook within.

As the final step, you need to fit that range into your pricing model.

Step #3: Determine your pricing model and storefront

There are multiple factors to base your ebook price on, but they basically come down to two models.

The first is the cost-based pricing model (also known as the “cost-plus” pricing model), which is based on the amount of time and materials needed to produce your product, plus your desired profit margin.

However, the cost-based pricing model isn’t a great fit for everyone. For one, it can cut into your profit margins when you offer sales or discounts.

Secondly, the costs to create an ebook vary heavily, so it’s tricky to pick a price that rewards you for your efforts but doesn’t give your customers sticker shock.

Author Joseph Hogue, for instance, estimated that it took 100 to 200 hours to write each of his 160-page ebooks, and that excluded time spent editing, formatting, and marketing those ebooks.

With that amount of effort, it can be hard to justify any ebook price less than three digits.

For those and many other reasons, entrepreneurs should consider the value-based pricing model, where companies determine a price based on the value customers believe an item has.

Basically, value-based pricing is about giving your customers more value so you can earn more “value” (i.e., money) in return.

If you’re among the 80% of companies who use the cost-based or competitor pricing models because of obstacles like weak market segmentation, there are ways you can use value-based pricing without complex calculations.  

If you feel like there’s little setting your ebook apart from others, look for ways besides the content of your ebook to increase its value, such as adding a supplementary mini-course.

Whatever obstacle you perceive to be keeping you from charging the price your ebook deserves, there are always ways to enhance either its real or perceived value.

The last point to consider when pricing your product -- where you will sell it -- may seem minor, but can be the difference between a slim or thick profit margin.

For example, marketplaces like Amazon offer royalties -- or a fraction of an ebook’s sale price -- to authors, whereas platforms like Teachable take a commission from each sale a creator makes.

If you sell on Amazon, you will receive either 35% or 70% of the profit from a given ebook sale, depending on its original price.

That means that if you sell an ebook for $10, you will only receive $7 after it’s sold on Amazon -- and that’s before you take out taxes and expenses, too.

Amazon isn’t the only platform guilty of variable royalty fees.

Kobo pays out royalties ranging between 20% to 70% based on how much an author charges for their ebook, meaning that anywhere from 30% to 80% of a sale can go to Kobo instead of you.  

Additionally, if you decide to sell on a marketplace, you may want to be wary of the prices they recommend for your ebook.

Amazon recommended that Louis Gudema price his ebook at $5.99 since that’s what “similar” ebooks charged, even though Louis’ content-rich ebook likely had few serious competitors on the market.

Louis decided to price his ebook at $16.95, but his adventures with Amazon didn’t end there.

Louis found out that the lowest he could charge for the print version of his book was $45, of which he would see only $0.01 after Amazon took $27.45 for printing his ebook and other expenses were paid.

Yet another reason why authors may want to sell digital downloads from their website is that not all platforms will be around forever.

Microsoft, for instance, removed ebooks from the Microsoft Store and deleted customers’ libraries in 2019, leaving authors with one less platform to sell from.

For the sake of consistent customer experience and not having to worry about marketplaces’ ever-changing whims, consider selling digital downloads from your own website instead.

You can charge whatever price you wish since you don’t need to worry about a price correlating to a commission level, and can raise product prices whenever you feel it’s appropriate.

If you don’t want to commit to that kind of maintenance, though, there’s another option that offers the convenience of a platform without the profit sink of one: Podia.

You can sell an unlimited number of ebooks and other digital downloads from your website for no extra fees, and Podia doesn’t charge any commissions on sales, either.

In other words, you get to keep 100% of your sale, among many other benefits.

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OK, that covers how to set your initial price, but what about actually selling it at that price?

3 tips to earn more from your ebook

#1. Pre-launch your ebook

You’re (probably) not going to make a lot of money quietly publishing your ebook and waiting for people to buy it.

When you promote your ebook in advance and collect pre-sales, there’s a better chance you’ll earn more in the short and long term. Let me explain.

Most obviously, pre-sales can earn you more by attracting orders before the ebook has been officially released.

Especially if you offer early customers discounts or exclusive content, as Jessica in the Kitchen did for their ebook release, you may be able to attract price-conscious customers or those who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford your ebook.

You could pocket the money (and there’s nothing wrong with that), or you could invest it into more marketing campaigns to promote your ebook, thus reaching more people and theoretically attracting more sales.

There’s another way pre-selling can help you sell more ebooks, too. Chiefly, presales can help you validate your ebook idea.

By getting customer validation and feedback early on, you can save time spent writing an ebook that may have launched to crickets and spend more time creating an ebook your audience can’t wait to buy.

Sujan Patel and Rob Wormely, for example, used pre-sales to validate their ebook idea before writing it.

They sold 500 copies in advance and went on to sell over 40,000 copies of their ebook, 100 Days of Growth.

Likewise, Justin Jackson of MegaMaker had only a sample chapter of his ebook, Marketing for Developers, when he launched a landing page (below) to validate his idea.

Plus, pre-selling your ebook gives you an even greater opportunity than just validation and extra income in the short-term -- it gives you the fulcrum, an email list, for long-term profits, too.

#2. Leverage your email list

Your email subscribers joined your list because they thought you had something of value to offer them, whether that’s a weekly newsletter or educational email series.

So why not use your list to send them even more helpful information about a product that could help them even further (i.e., your ebook)?

As an example of just how impactful promotional emails can be, consider this: 68% of millennials have said marketing emails influenced their buying decisions on at least a few occasions.

Author Karen Banes, for example, said most of her early sales from each of her books came from her email subscribers.

Likewise, Doug Beney launched to a list over 2,500 and earned over $1,300 on the first day of his book’s launch.

Despite these successes, only 27% of consumers are satisfied with promotional emails.

Put another way, there’s both room for and an opportunity for brands to win over customers by sending better promotional emails.

One way to sweeten sales emails further (aside from using these four tactics to write better sales emails, of course) is by including a discount or promotion.

Hear me out: Discounts can do more harm than good when used in excess, but when applied correctly, you can use discounts to uplift profits and reach more customers.

Given that 68% of Americans say exclusive offers are more important than traditional coupons anyone can use, selectively giving out discounts may earn you more sales than freely doling them out would.

As a promotional tactic, it’s hard to beat the power of your email list, especially when there are so many excellent email marketing tools available to help.

Email offers you a chance to send marketing messages subscribers may have otherwise missed, and to provide exclusive discounts to encourage more orders and increase order values.

To maximize potential sales further, there’s one final tactic (well, two, technically) creators of all sizes can utilize: using upselling and cross-selling.

#3. Upsell and cross-sell

Your customers have some sort of problem they want to be solved solved -- they need to learn a new skill, want to learn more about a topic, or simply want to be entertained.

With upselling and cross-selling, you can recommend even more products that could be used to help them solve their problem as they’re about to check out.

Upselling is when you encourage a customer to purchase a higher-priced but more feature-rich version of your product, such as how this website asked a customer if they wanted to upgrade from a one-pound to a two-pound bag of coffee for just $3.

In the case of an ebook, you could try upselling them a version that comes with additional chapters and exercises.

If you don’t have an advanced version of your ebook to sell -- or simply if you prefer selling complementary products instead -- you can cross-sell instead.

Cross-selling is when a customer is shown related products for whatever item they’re considering.

For example, when I looked ebooks about whittling, Amazon showed me similar ebooks in its “customer who bought this item also bought” section.

But that’s just one way to cross-sell products. If you offer multiple digital products and know your way around email marketing software, you could take a note from the Dollar Shave Club’s book and cross-sell to customers after they’ve made a purchase.

Basically, increasing your earnings from selling an ebook is a matter of being proactive. The more you build up your audience and go after sales opportunities, the better your yield will be.

Price your ebook profitably in just three steps

As a creator, you can charge what your ebook is worth -- but you also need to know how to increase your ebook’s value so that customers know its worth.

You can price your ebook profitably and fairly in just three steps. In order, those steps are:

  • Researching what your competitors charge for similar products, and how those prices vary based on an ebook’s length, quality, and the brand’s reputation, among other factors
  • Consulting with your audience to see what price they expect to pay for ebooks in your field, and what factors would lead them to pay more
  • What pricing model works best for your business and if you’re willing to accept royalties instead of full payment from your sales

After narrowing down your pricing options, you can increase the ebook’s value and price further by:

  • Pre-launching your ebook to attract pre-orders and testimonials that can encourage future sales
  • Growing an email list so you’ll have an audience of excited fans at the ready when you finally launch your ebook
  • Using your ebook to promote other products through upselling and cross-selling

Pricing ebooks doesn’t have to be hard, and selling them online doesn’t have to be a hassle, either.

Signup for Podia today to see how simple it can be to sell your ebook from your own website -- and how much more profitable it can be, too.