What is an E-Book Worth?

What a difficult thing to answer, as it depends on so many variables. I lean toward a lower price, and here's why.


An extended shelf life = More Sales.

Self-published e-books, unlike traditionally published hardcovers and paperbacks, have an indefinite shelf life. My book won't be pulled from the internet after six or twelve months. I don't have to squeeze as much “value” out of my book as I possibly can before my publisher back-lists it. 

Instead, I can play the numbers. Without time constraints, I can aim to sell more copies and make a profit through bulk rather than through margin. You know, like Wal-Mart does.


Lower production costs = More Savings.

Self-published e-books have very few middlemen involved in the publishing and sales process. I don't have employees. I don't have shipping costs. I have no building to pay a mortgage, lease, or taxes on. I'm not printing a physical book which requires the purchase of ink, paper, a printer, etc.

So why should the reader pay for what I don't have to pay for? That is to my advantage. I'm saving money, and I intend to pass the savings off to my reader.


A better royalty ratio = More Earnings.

I make more per book at $2.99, than I would with a traditionally published book at $15. How? Royalties. By self-publishing I get an 80% royalty. That's about $2.40 a book through Smashwords and $2.10 through Amazon. An 8% royalty on a $15 book would net me about $1.20 after everyone else took a piece of the pie. 

Even selling my books for 5 times less than I could through a traditional publisher, I'm still getting twice the value, and I'll likely sell more copies to boot!


Readers more willing to take a risk = More Sales and Earnings.

Inexpensive books are in the reader's best interest. Over a year's time, how many books might an avid reader buy? How much money would an avid reader save by buying e-books or going to the library? A lot of money. Even those readers who only read occasionally will save a lot of money.

It's easier to convince someone to pay for a book that costs five times less money. There's nothing emotional about three dollars. No one is going to stare at a $3 book and think “I could use this money on something better.”


A different perspective.

I don't feel like I'm cheating myself, which seems to be the main argument for higher prices. True value in a book isn't in its price, but in how many readers I reach. Value isn't selling the book once for $100,000, it's selling it 50,000 times for $2.99. I have a far better chance of reaching the second than conning someone into the first.


The readers come first.

I wish to sell my book for less mainly because I cannot justify selling it for more. Why should anyone buy something I write if it costs more than a meal? I would honestly feel guilty if I sold my book for more than a few dollars. My readers have families to feed. They have bills to pay. They struggle day to day. 

I want them to buy my book and enjoy it, but I don't think I'm more important than their livelihood. I'm putting readers first. They're just as much a part of the process as anyone or anything else is.


What if I'm wrong?

What happens if I publish my first novel for $2.99 and it doesn't sell? I'm going to do an experiment. I'm going to charge $4.99 and see what happens. 

There's only one thing I've heard or read in favor of higher-priced books which makes sense to me. Inexpensive books, to many readers, look “cheap”. The readers themselves may believe they're getting more value from something in a higher price range.

As odd as this sounds (it's the same book, so why should it look better at a higher price?), there is evidence for the psychology behind it. 

If my work sells, it won't matter. If my work doesn't sell, what do I have to lose?

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11 Responses to What is an E-Book Worth?

  1. I'm buying this idea JR. I don't know much about ebooks but it's very convincing and looks more practical. I'll refer this to another author friend. You are very generous and I like that you put your readers' interest before yours. Thank you :)

  2. Thanks, Melissa!

    Now if only typos would magically disappear XD

  3. Wise words sir, however i am still not sure about those .99p "deals" most seem to advertise themselves as novels but some end up as just short story's or excerpts. Still not sure myself as to whether have a go at a few smallish story's at .99p or just slowly work on my novel?

  4. Work on whatever you feel like working on, but if all things are equal, work on your novel! That's what I'm interested in reading, that's for sure ;)

  5. I didn't know some of these but others I've already guessed. Very true. E-books are the only thing that can possibly make the new generation get back to books and reading, so I support them and their distribution greatly. Shame I don't have a credit card or even a PayPal - I would so buy your e-book. Great post.

  6. Don't worry about it, man :D

    That's an interesting take, that e-books may get young people interested in reading. I've never looked at it that way. You should elaborate for me ;)

  7. This was a great article! You bring up very good points in why selling an e-book for less, rather than more money, makes sense. Thanks for the great read. :)

  8. I do believe many are going this route. Everyday I am reading an article about an Author who has gone this route and is doing well. Suggestions are (and ones I am giving myself) have your booked edited by a copy editor so the grammar is flawless, etc., do not give your e-reviewers any reason to whine. Good article ..

  9. Good point, Brenda, and a blog post unto itself. Editing is so important. I guess you can throw it all out the window if the book just doesn't read well. I think this is a very important part of the process. Typos are dragon slayers, if authors are dragons....

  10. You make good points. For me, I don't mind the cost of an ebook, but I tend to draw the line somewhere around $10. Past that, I hanker for a real book if I am paying more. I still love paper and hardbacks, but love the freedom of eReaders too. Bottom line, it's all about reading what appeals to me. And I love supporting Indie authors. :)

  11. Thank you, Cath. If I have to pay the money I'd have to pay for a physical copy, I definitely want the physical copy....


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