eBook Pricing: Free vs. 99c vs. Full Price

eBook pricing is one of the key decisions facing independently published authors. You’re not a giant publishing juggernaut with a huge army of staff and Manhattan offices and global supply chains – but you also take a higher cut than traditional authors do, including 70% from Barnes and Noble Press.

Price flexibility, including the ability to price lower than trade houses, will net more (significantly more…). And it is one of the primary weapons independent authors have in their arsenal. You can make your regularly priced books very attractive to readers. But there’s things you need to understand, tactics to keep in mind, and research to do.

As always, this advice is based on having good books. Your cover needs to be indistinguishable from those trad houses, your work needs to be well edited, and you need to be able to spin a tale that will hook a reader and keep them going through your backlist. Books without these things can succeed, but it’s certainly harder…

Here are my eBook pricing strategies and best practices to help readers discover your books!

A Guest Post By Steve P. Vincent


eBook Pricing: Free First in Series 

For established writers with a reasonable backlist in one or more series, a great way to earn some eyeballs is to price your first in series free.

Simply making a book free isn’t enough, but when combined with retailer promotions, paid newsletters (including Bookbub, the big fish), advertising and newsletter swaps with other authors it can be a really powerful way to funnel a large number of readers into a series.

For free in particular, your covers and writing need to be up to scratch, because there’s a lot of free books. But if you can convince a reader to take a chance and hook them, you might have a fan for life. So, you’re relying on the read-through to other books to put cash in your pocket.

There’s millions of copies of free eBooks sitting on e-readers destined never to be read, mine included, but it’s a numbers game and you need to stand out.

Give away a lot to grab a few.


eBook Pricing: 99c

Similar to free, a 99c price is a cheap and easy way to earn (somewhat fewer) eyeballs onto your stuff. But you can also earn a small royalty on the way through.

The advantage of B&N Press and some of the other wide retailers is they pay you most of the sticker price of the book, whether it’s 99c or higher. This widens your paid marketing options a little.

Another advantage of 99c over free is the simple fact that paying for something makes it far more valuable to the reader. Even by investing only a buck, it’s far more likely a reader will devote ten minutes of their time reading a handful of pages.

We already talked about the glut of free books. There’s also a glut of 99c books. But asking someone to pay a buck will increase the chances of them reading — even a little.


eBook Pricing: Full Price

Note that I said full price. Not 2.99 or 3.99 or 4.99 or higher. This was very deliberate. There’s no right answer for the correct price point for a  full price book.

If you’re pricing higher than 99c, then you really need to know your market and your audience:

  – What are the other indie authors in your genre (or even your sub-genre) charging? Does your stuff stack up on a sales page next to theirs?

– Are there a lot of traditionally published titles charging higher? This makes it easier to price your own stuff a little higher.

– Is the genre awash with cheap books? This makes it harder to price your own stuff a little higher, but not impossible.

– What is the length of the book? It’s easier to justify a higher price for a box set or full-length novel than a novella.

– What are your marketing plans (and what do they cost)? Do you plan to advertise, and know from testing you can only profit above a certain price point?

Any price point can work, but some can be harder depending on the genre, the task is researching the market and split testing your audience at different price points.


Regardless of your choices…

A key point of maturity for independent authors is the moment they stop flailing around with their prices and being anxious that they’re charging too much or too little. Free one-week, full price the next, back to 99c, over and over again. They know what their genre norms are, data on what their readers (and potential readers) will pay, and they have a strategy for how to price their titles.

Personally, this year I’ve decided to set both of my first in series – Fireplay (The Jack Emery Series) and The Omega Strain (The Mitch Herron Series). Subsequent books in both series are priced 4.99 and 3.99 respectively. It’s a very deliberate strategy. I wanted to get a lot of new readers to eyeball these books and read on through the series, and my marketing is focused on this

I’m not sure whether or not I’ll keep them at those price points, but so far so good. And that’s the key piece of advice – pricing isn’t set and forget. Trends change, reader preferences and behavior change, so it pays to re-test the thinking once in a while. Try free, try 99c, go up and down by a buck… test the market and see how it responds.

You have the power, so make sure you use it!


About Steve:

Steve P. Vincent is the USA Today bestselling author of the Jack Emery and Mitch Herron conspiracy thriller series.

Steve has a degree in political science, a thesis on global terrorism, a decade as a policy advisor and training from the FBI and Australian Army in his conspiracy kit bag.

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