THE BLOG
08/17/2015 10:43 am ET Updated Aug 17, 2016

Setting the Price for Your Novel -- What You Need to Know

Think you know all about publishing your book? The writing, the edits, etc., sure. But there's more. Do you know how to price your novel so it will sell well? This isn't about publicity, this is about the actual book price seen by your readers. There's a whole new world out there for authors and we need to be on top of all the "my book" related parts of publishing. Careful pricing is one of the keys to success.

One of the most important aspects with which an author must deal is the aspect of dollars and cents; in other words the selling price of your book and the profit you will make. If you are traditionally published, no worries; your publisher will determine the retail price of your print novel as well as your ebook version. Publishers will tell you the price point of your book and you're pretty much set.

However if you're going the route of a boutique publishing house of which you are a partner, or you are self-publishing, you need to know the publishing basics. The number one basic is how to do retail pricing. It isn't complicated; it is simple math. The retail price is achieved through an appraisal of your book's target audience and factors in the competitive price at which books in the same genre are selling. A simple example is if you're a romance writer and a competitor's print book of a similar length and size is priced at $9.95. You can feel secure in pricing your own at the same price.

The second basic is knowing how to actually arrive at the retail price. That figure should be at least 2.5 times the single-copy printing cost. This allows for a reasonable margin that will cover book-related costs and your profits after trade discounts are factored in. The retail price also helps establish the net sales payment amount. That's the amount you, the author, make from each sale. To make a nice profit per sale, and staying competitive, you price your book at $12.95.

But, there are some other things to consider when you set the price for your book. Remember the word discounts? Here's how it relates to the retail price.

The norm usually allowed for sale to libraries and college bookstores are discounts of 15-20 percent. Want to place your book in independent bookstores? That will be a discount of 40 percent. As for the larger, established book store chains and book distributors, the discount is usually 50-55 percent. After all of these, you're still not through with discounts. This savvy author suggests that it's good policy to offer volume discounts of 15 percent for individual groups, (members of book clubs), who buy 5 to 10 copies of your book at one time.

If you're doing an ebook only and you're uploading through Kindle or Nook, you have to base your price carefully. A good question to ask yourself is whether you are looking to get more readers or more sales. Now, of course, most authors say they want both good sales and a strong following of readers, and while that may be what we want, the truth is that it's best to focus on one aspect at a time. Both approaches, sales and readers, can be successful in different ways.

Do you feel that you can sell 10 times more books at $.99 than at $9.99? What's best for you? If your main concern is getting your book in front of as many readers as possible, the price of your ebook should be as low as possible. Most online retailers require authors to charge at least $.99 for each book. I say go to $1.99. Too low a price makes readers assume poor quality, but more on the $.99 special later. It does have its place in sales.

A good rule of thumb for authors in getting readers to buy your book is to set a low price to get things started. Authors with an established fan base can and should charge more for their work. But, even established authors benefit from having "special promo pricing" for limited time periods. This works especially well if you're writing a series. Scheduling periodic specials of $1.99 or occasionally even $.99 promotions, can help spark, and then maintain, sales of the entire series.

It pays to remember that e-book pricing is relatively new to publishing and since publishing practices seem prone to change rapidly, the pricing strategies of today can be outdated by next year. Authors published by boutique publishing houses or who self-publish can react to market demand and change their ebook price easily.

Book sales go up and down according to many different factors; even politics can play a role in what books will sell well. If Hillary Clinton likes books about vampires and a reader is not a Clinton fan, he or she won't be picking up any books in that genre no matter how low the price.

The best bet for all authors is to vary prices with periodic special promos. This is done successfully in traditional and boutique publishing as well as with self-publishers. It seems to be working. When you have a special promo running, talk it up on social media. Make the promo for a specified number of weeks only; 3 weeks is the norm. Authors have said that an increase in sales usually falls off after 3 weeks time.

Writing is more than just getting that book finished. The smart author will want to learn as much as possible about the whole publishing business. It pays for you to be knowledgeable about all aspects that concern your book. It's your baby!

Happy writing!

Grave Misgivings, book 2 in the popular Cate Harlow Private Investigation series is now available where all books are sold.

Copyright 2015 Kristen Houghton The Savvy Author all rights reserved