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>It&#39;s great to see readers realize higher prices are also quite fair, although I&#39;d like to see not what they think is fair, but what price they actually go for most often when buying. The second question only tells me that for new authors they&#39;ve never tried before, but still, it&#39;s all quite informative and thought-provoking. I am a writer and price my 400 page books at $3.99 so I should be okay :) As a reader, I would never spend more than $4.99 for a kindle and even then, only for celebrated authors or indie authors I trust. I think anything above that is daylight robbery as kindles carry virtually no costs like paperbacks do.</p>
Effrosyni Moschoudi | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>I love these surveys. This one is especially good for authors, at least me, because I&#39;m always wondering what the right price should be. I&#39;m glad my priced my full length novels are 2.99, that seems to be a readers preferred price at the moment. For shorter works, I would price lower though to be fair to the reader.&nbsp;</p>
Dale Furse | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>Finding that sweet spot is sometimes hard for an Indie author. As an indie author with 6 books&nbsp;on Amazon/Kindle, &nbsp;I pay all of my own expenses to put up a book: cover art, formatting, editing, and monthly advertising. That&#39;s hundreds of dollars out of pocket before the book ever gets to&nbsp;the readers. &nbsp;I also pay to promote one book once a month at FREE. Sounds counterintuitive, doesn&#39;t it? But this is the price I pay to get the word out that my books are worth reading. And it seems to work, because every month I get new readers, new favorable reviews too!&nbsp; the 1st in my Dead Red Mystery series, A DEAD RED CADILLAC, &nbsp;is now $2.99, and the subsequent books in the series are $3.99. My romantic sailing mystery trilogy are all $2.99. I&#39;m pretty happy with this price point. Then too, if readers like, they can always join Kindle Unlimited and get my books for FREE.</p>
RP Dahlke | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>Great survey! It&#39;s heartening to see that not all readers are in the free or 99 cent category. As an author, I try to give a variety of books, prices and sales. Who doesn&#39;t love one of those?</p>
Traci Hall | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>Great survey. I&#39;m sticking with 2.99, which gives me room to do limited time discounts that still seem significant.&nbsp; Could you provide the names and addresses of the 6% who said all our work should be free? I&#39;m hoping one of them is a car dealer, because I&#39;d like a free new car...</p>
Amy Vansant | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>I rarely pay more than 4.99, However, I am an author, and my books are 3.99, but I also offer a boxed set of 4 at 9.99 (2.50 each). I also often offer free books, so those who cannot afford to pay can read them. And if a person takes the time to read my books, free or paid, (and maybe post a review?) I am grateful. With all the choices out there, they chose MY book! That just makes my day. &nbsp;</p>
Jinx Schwartz | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>I&#39;m an indie author now. I once was traditionally published so know both sides of that coin. I have paid up to $15 for an ebook - once. I would not pay that again. I download free and up to $2.99 priced books. I never miss a download when my colleagues have a book on promotion. Like many in the comment stream, I read for entertainment. However, concerning ebook prices, I would like to address the comment, ...&quot;more and more books are being published by indies... no cost for agents or publishing houses.&quot; Indie authors must invest in cover artists, editorial services and formatting techs. Our upfront cost can easily run to a thousand dollars per book. Not to mention our time in creating an intellectual property that we hope will entertain a reader. Once published, we must advertise and promote the book and that is costly, too. Romance authors often pay above $680 to a single site to advertise a 99 cent book. Mystery authors pay more. Of that 99 cents, we often only earn thirty-five cents. I am not complaining. That is just the way it is, and I&#39;m good with it. I often promote my titles FREE and have given away above 400,000 copies. I am happy to learn readers on a budget can enjoy them. Best to all of you, from Jackie Weger. P.S. Jeffrey: Great idea to do this survey. It is nice to hear from readers.&nbsp;</p>
Jackie Weger | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>I&#39;d like to see these questions answered by some sort of genre breakdown.&nbsp; I&#39;ve found my genre (SF/F) is much more tolerant of higher prices, and even expects higher prices.&nbsp; I have more traction from $2.99 novellas than I do from the same books priced $.99.</p>
Gene Doucette | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>Read the comment by Ronnie and am wondering where he&#39;s finding books that are only 250 or 100 words long. I think it&#39;s fantastic that he&#39;s willing to pay anything for them.</p>
Anne David | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
<p>I can&#39;t believe all the people who think publishing an ebook comes with little investment, so won&#39;t pay more than couple dollars for that reason. &nbsp;It&#39;s one thing if you can&#39;t afford it, that&#39;s your circumstances, but to be philosophically opposed is unreasonable. &nbsp;A top copy editor goes for 5k$. &nbsp;Promoting can go for thousands more. &nbsp;Unless your book is a work of genius, you get proportional returns on your investment, just like anything else. &nbsp;I&#39;ve heard of some indies that spent 20-30k to get their book noticed and in the charts. &nbsp;If your book bombs after spending so much, you may never have the money to take a second stab at it at that level, again. &nbsp;That may have been everything you had.</p>
Arin Kambitsis | 5/24/18 at 2:32 AM
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