Posted on January 25, 2015 at 12:00 AM by Jeffrey Bruner

An ongoing series of posts about results of our survey of 1,200 Fussy Librarian subscribers.

Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about the reader survey. More than 1,200 people responded, which exceeded my hopes. Lots of great data that I'll discuss over the next few weeks. 

Let's look at the one area that every author agonizes over — pricing.

Also known as: Are ebook readers cheap moochers who don't care if I eat ramen noodles for the rest of my life or are they willing to pay a reasonable price for this book that consumed two years and caused my children to resent me?

Question: What do you think is a fair price for a full novel in ebook format, that pays an author well, but remains affordable?

  • All ebooks should be free: 6 percent

  • 99 cents: 8.7 percent

  • $1.99: 11.8 percent

  • $2.99: 16.5 percent

  • $3.99:  20.6 percent

  • $4.99: 18 percent

  • $5.99: 11.6 percent

  • More than $5.99: 6.4 percent

Now, I think it's a mistake to look at this data and conclude, "Great, there are people willing to pay $4.99 and $5.99 for my book." You've written off 64% of readers if you do that.

And that's not counting people who are turned off by the book synopsis or the cover ... or maybe they see one of the "also-boughts" on your book's page and buy that book instead. (It happens. I see it every day.)

You must maximize the potential pool of buyers for your book and that means 99 cents - $1.99 - $2.99. You also need to create urgency by discounting the book, preferably 50% or more.

If you sell at regular price, many readers will think, "I can buy this anytime at this price." And they defer the purchase and, then, forget about it altogether.

I also asked the question, "What's the most you ever paid for an ebook for an author new to you?" More than 36% answered $5.99 or more.

But don't get seduced by the Sirens! Again, there's two-thirds of the market you've kissed goodbye.

Also, "an author new to you" likely means that New York Times bestseller that was adapted for a movie that starred Reese Witherspoon.

Once you've sold a million copies, go ahead and sell at $5.99. Until then, be smart and sell at price points that appeal to the vast majority of readers.

Question: What's the most you ever paid for an ebook for an author new to you?

  • I only download free books: 9.4 percent

  • 99 cents: 8.7 percent

  • $1.99: 9.8 percent

  • $2.99: 14 percent

  • $3.99: 12.7 percent

  • $4.99: 10.5 percent

  • $5.99: 7.2 percent

  • $5.99+ : 27.2 percent

There's much more to come from the survey, including what you should price books 125 pages or fewer. (Spoiler alert: Free or 99 cents.)

Other installments in this series

Readers and free books

All about that blurb

What will readers pay for shorter ebooks?

Why do readers stop reading?

Categories: Pricing, Reader survey

<p>My husband and I are both retired now, but I&#39;ve been on permanent disability since I was 48 years old. I&#39;ll only get books on the free Kindle app, because we can&#39;t afford to get them otherwise. Unfortunately, I&#39;ve ordered books for free, only to find out that Amazon has changed the price without displaying the change.</p>
Ruth Lyons Mazur | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>I am disabled and living well below the poverty line. The only reason I have a Kindle is some old friends got together and bought me one Christmas before last. I&#39;m lucky if I can occasionally buy a 99&cent; book once in a while. It&#39;s not that I don&#39;t think they are worth 4 or 5 dollars, but that is simply impossible for me to pay. If I had plenty of money I would pay that for a decent book. I wouldn&#39;t pay more for an eBook, no matter how good or how much money I had. I think some of the prices are outrageous, considering there are no printing cists, paper costs, etc.</p>
Carmen | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>Even as a writer, I rarely pay more than $2.99 for an ebook. Yes, the author deserves a fair payment, but more and more books are being published as cost for agents or publishing houses. And these and traditionally published have no cost for printing, paper, delivery, warehousing, store expenses....the list goes on. And, yes, since I can&#39;t lend these books to friends, they are generally &quot;throw-always&quot;, never to be read again.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p>
Lou Hamilton | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>Being disabled and on a very small income, I tend to make purchases of mostly ebooks and mostly free or up to $1.99, although if the book has less than 250 words I won&#39;t pay over $1.99 and I get frustrated to find books for $3.99 with only 100 words or less. I have bought softcover books for years, I have hundreds of them, and bought them all through QPB or at bookstores during sales. Rarely will I pay more than seven dollars for any book because I can get it from a library to read for free. It&#39;s not that I discount the effort of the author, but reading is my recreation, and I wouldn&#39;t pay that much for a drink in a bar if I was a recreational drinker either.</p>
Ronnie Darling | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>As an author myself, I admit that I rarely pay more than $6-$7 for an ebook, and I&#39;m also much more likely to take a chance on an author I&#39;m unfamiliar with if the price is only a few bucks. But this has to do with my preference for physical books. I personally view ebooks as throwaways, in a sense (I&#39;m certainly not saying they are, or that they have no value). I know I&#39;m not the only one, and I would love to see other opinions on this and how it does or doesn&#39;t affect opinions on ebook pricing.</p>
AP | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
Wait. You're telling us not to listen to your own survey? Did you collect some data you're not sharing yet?
CD Reiss | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>I disagree quite strongly with anyone who believes there are no costs associated with ebooks. Please allow me to set the record straight. We will not take into consideration the amount of time it took for a writer just to write the book which can be anything from 3 months to years (took me 3 yrs for my children&#39;s book but I was working fulltime too). First, there is professional editing and proof reading, just like any other print book. Then there is formatting for an ebook. Depending on the different providers, each has their own requirements and formatting. Then there is cover art, again it must be modified several ways for online retailers. So even though it is already purchased there are still costs to that.&nbsp; That doesn&#39;t include costs for marketing. Or the percentage that the retailer takes from every book sold on that platform. Or taxes for the author, including sales tax, self-employment tax and the general costs of doing business as an author. I would tell you that the higher the price of the book, the more of an experienced professional that author is, one who understands the costs of doing business and what it takes to actually make a profit. So don&#39;t ignore books who aren&#39;t free or $0.99, as you may be ignoring a truly great talent, a fantastic literary adventure and an opportunity to support an author, over a few dollars.</p>
Charity Kountz | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>I find the results of this survey encouraging. &nbsp;It reinforces the $2.99 &quot;sweet spot&quot; for e-book pricing, even among new authors. &nbsp;The most I&#39;ve paid for an e-book is $3.99. &nbsp; When it comes to sales of my books, I sell more at a $0.99 than I do at $2.99. &nbsp;But that&#39;s okay. After all, I&#39;m not Nora Roberts--not by a long shot!</p>
Linda Lee Williams | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>Interesting and reassuring, as I have my books all within the range 99c, 1.99 and 2.99. Thanks.</p>
Rosie Dean | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>Great survey, Jeff!&nbsp; Thanks for sharing!&nbsp; In my experience, books sell extremely well at $0.99...of course.&nbsp; So if an author wants to sell a lot of books, an occasional discount to $0.99 is a great way to go.&nbsp; However, I also see sales of books priced at $5.99 or higher.&nbsp; There just aren&#39;t as many...but they do sell.&nbsp; I personally have paid more than 40 bucks for a non-fiction ebook before.</p>
Jay Lee (Choosy) | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
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