The price battle: 99 cents or $2.99?

The price battle: 99 cents or $2.99?

(The feature image at the top of this blog post belongs to Pennies in My Shoes)


If you’re an indie author with a book published through Kindle Direct Publishing, you know that there’s a BIG difference between pricing your book at 99 cents versus $2.99.

If you price your book at 99 cents (or even $1.99 or anything below $2.99), Amazon will pay you 35% royalties for each book sold. That means that every time you sell a book, you get 35 cents.

On the other hand, when you sell your book for $2.99 or higher, the royalty percentage doubles to 70%. So, at that price, every book sold will earn you $2.09, which is almost SIX TIMES the amount of money at 35 cents a pop, even though the sale price is only three times as much.

fractal_lincoln_with_pennies_by_bryceguy72-d5slfdqSo the answer is easy, right? Price your book higher.

Well, it depends. Not on the quality of your book, but on the genre.

My short story collection “Amidst Traffic” has been regularly priced at $2.99 and from time to time I dropped the price to 99 cents for promotional (or experimental) purposes.

Most of the time, I combined this price drop with some marketing campaigns using various promotional sites. I discussed my marketing and sales result in a previous blog post. There was a three-week period in July and August where I sold more digital copies than I’ve probably sold the entire time the book has been published and released. Selling short story collections is tough. They are not a very desirable product from a consumer perspective, so it takes a lot of effort to inspire sales. During those three weeks, I sold almost a thousand copies of the book at 99 cents. Those are not very impressive numbers, but they were enough to bring Amidst Traffic to #1 in some books/sales categories on Amazon, which was pretty cool.

Obviously, I don’t do this writing gig for the money. I’ve probably spent more money on advertising and promotions than I have made back in sales. This is an unfortunate (and humbling) confession, but my goal is to build enough readership now for future books later.

I’ve done a lot of experimenting with pricing, marketing and different sales techniques. I have not tried them all, but I’ve tried a bunch.

One thing I noticed that if I priced the book at 99 cents and spent no money on advertising, I would sell an average of 30-50 books in a month. On the other hand, if I priced the book at $2.99, I would never sell more than a dozen books in the same time period.

pennies_by_darkdragon43-d40f9pqWhy is that? Because 99 cents promots impulse buying, whereas $2.99 (apparently) pauses a person to think more about the purchase. When something is 99 cents, most people will buy it now out of fear that the price might go up later. Heck, it’s less than a buck! You don’t lose out much giving the book a try.

From a mathematical standpoint, and for my particular book, I’d rather sell the book at 99 cents even though the royalty is only 35%.

At 99 cents, if I sell 40 books, I stand to make $14.00. When I raise my price back up to $2.99, I might sell 6 or 7 books, which would earn me the same amount of royalties. But even if I were making twice the money but selling half the books, I would still price the book at 99 cents.
I haven’t really experimented with the $1.99 price point to see if it still draws in readers, but I think I’ll give it a try.

The important thing is for you to experiment, test and record your results based on your particular book. Keep notes so that you can make an educated decision later. For my particular book, 99 cents is what helps it sell. It’s a hit on my pride, sure, but at least I’m getting readers who might become loyal fans later. For you, you might do really well at $2.99 or even $3.99. As long as you make your decision based on statistical results and not out of pride or gut feelings, you will make the right decision.


What about you?

What pricing tactics have shown to be the most effective in your experience?

About Michel Sauret

I'm a independent and literary fiction author and Pittsburgh-based photographer

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