Book call-to-action box

How to price your self-published book—lessons from my experience

How much should you charge for your self-published book? That’s one of the many questions I agonized over during the production of Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients. In this blog post, I share suggestions from my experience. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t know if I priced my book correctly. However, I’ll give you food for thought.

1. Consider your costs

There are three sets of costs that you should consider in pricing your book. They include the costs of:

    1. Producing an electronic file of your book that’s ready for distribution—think about whether you need to recover the costs of writing, editing, formatting, and marketing your book. These can run thousands of dollars, as I discussed earlier.
    2. Producing each individual book—if you’re selling printed books, there’s a cost associated with printing each volume. You’ll also incur shipping costs if you sell from your personal stock. If you sell e-books, there are no printing or shipping costs.
    3. Selling through different distribution channels—I’ll illustrate the costs using my three channels.

Amazon is one of my three distribution channels. I earn the least when I sell paperbacks through Amazon, which is why I priced my paperback higher than the PDF. Amazon pays royalties of 60%, according to this explanation of royalties on its Kindle Direct Publishing unit’s website. It also deducts a fee for the cost of producing each paperback through its Kindle Direct Publishing subsidiary. I fare a little better if you make your Amazon purchase through my Amazon affiliate link because I’ll earn a small commission on your purchase.

The fees associated with my book’s PDF version differ from the paperback. I pay a monthly $5 fee to E-junkie, the provider of my online shopping cart. I also incur PayPal fees of about 3% on each transaction.

2. Think about why you’re publishing 

Your reasons for publishing a book should influence your pricing. Why did you write a book? If you’ve written a book with best–seller potential, with the goal of boosting your already-hefty speaking or consulting fees, you’ll probably price your book low. Selling lots of books—and generating buzz about your expertise—will enhance the demand for your services. On a related note, I’ve seen people like Guy Kawasaki, the author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, offer limited-time free giveaways of their e-books. Tactics like this may also boost a book’s sales ranking in its Amazon category, which can help it attract more buyers.

If you’d like to maximize your income from your book, it’s not as easy to suggest what part of the price spectrum your book should target. To oversimplify, would you rather sell one book at a price of $300 or 1,000 books at a price of $3 apiece?

3. Consider your genre and format

Your book’s genre and format matter. If I’d published a novel in the Kindle format, I probably would have priced it at $2.99. That seemed to be the going rate for Kindle novels.

To provide context for your pricing decision, look at how comparable books are priced. It’s easy to do research on Amazon. As a point of reference, textbooks with limited print runs can run $40-$100. That range became a touchstone for me.

4. Consider your book’s value to readers

I struggled with this point. My book captured all of the content in the original version of my five-lesson class for financial advisors, “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read”—a class that advisors had paid as much as $1100 to take. In fact, the book offered additional content, too. I really wanted to price the book relative to my class. After all, I would sacrifice teaching income once the book took the place of the class. (Yes, I know I still offer a class, but it took me a while to figure out how to enhance the content beyond what’s in my book.)

I spoke with some consultants who’ve sold so-called “information products” to advisors. They thought that I could succeed with a volume priced around$200 and sold from a web page emphasizing the book’s practical worksheets and checklists. That was mighty tempting.

However, I received a shock when I implemented this blog post’s fifth suggestion.

5. Ask your potential readers

I’m a big fan of crowdsourcing by asking my colleagues, friends, and followers for advice. I sent some emails asking, “How much would you be willing to pay for this book?” Folks came back to me with a range of $9.99-$39. One noted that Technology Tools for Today’s High-Margin Practice: How Client-Centered Financial Advisors Can Cut Paperwork, Overhead, and Wasted Hours sold well with a list price of $60, although the hardcover was discounted to $39.01 on Amazon when I checked.

I was struck by a friend’s comment that advisors won’t think about the cost of your class when they see your book’s price. If you price it at $199, they’ll just suffer from sticker shock, he said. This was a valuable reality check for me. However, I also remembered what I’d learned in a class taught by small business coach Karyn Greenstreet. People tend to understate how much they’ll pay for your products and services.

6. Pick a price, any price

I ultimately priced my book at $39 for the PDF and $49 for the print-on-demand paperback. For the first month after publication, I provided a discount code for $15 off the list price on the PDF or paperback.

While I agonized over the price, I took comfort in my friends’ advice. They said, if your pricing doesn’t work, you can change it, so don’t worry!

Did I make the right decision?

My biggest fear was that no one would buy my book. I was relieved when the first few books sold. I was excited when my sales broke into double digits and then exceeded 100 volumes.

Ultimately, I’m glad that I’ve given my book a broader audience by skipping a three-digit price in favor of a more accessible, but still premium price.

If you’d like to learn more about my adventures in self-publishing my book, check out the following posts:

Good luck with your pricing decisions!

Disclosure: If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers. I am also in the process of becoming an E-junkie affiliate because it’s a service that I use successfully.

NOTE: This post was updated on June 11, 2021.