E-Book Prices

Amid all the lawsuit news, some details have been mostly missed. Basically that just the threat of this suit is driving prices upward.

On Digital Book World this morning there was an article about how the top 100 Kindle ebook bestseller prices have gone up.  You can find the full article here.

But a key quote is this: “The average price of an e-book on that list steadily rose until hitting a peak of $9.20 on April 5. The average price of a top-100 Kindle e-book was $8.60 yesterday, the most recent day for which the figures are available.”

So, folks, don’t be afraid of those $5.99-$7.99 price ranges for your novels. You’ll still be under the average by a ways.

Just a thought.

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24 Responses to E-Book Prices

  1. allynh says:

    Looking at the latest insights of the past few threads, this is what I’m going to shoot for on e-prices. Consider things as units of story. People are buying a specific type of story, not the word count:

    Short Story – up to 7,499 words – $2.99
    Novelette – 7,500 to 17,499 words – $3.99
    Novella – 17,500 to 39,999 words – $4.99

    Novel – starts at 40,000 words and up – start at $4.99
    – $1.00 increase for each multiple of 40k novel



    – Looking at a King size novel, _Under the Dome_, listed at $19.99, discounted to $9.99, and I think that I’m on to something workable.

    For POD I am going to bundle stuff into Omnibus editions like SFBC does, to maximize a nice spine of a 6×9 paper book, but only if the stories are related.

    – I can maximize the short-form, and short novels, by letting people buy single, unrelated, stories in e-book only.

    I’m thinking, that unless short-form stories are related, or can be spun into a large mosaic novel, like _Hyperion Cantos_ or the _Wild Cards_ series, I will not bundle the small stuff into POD versions. I’ll save POD for for big novels, Omnibus editions, related collections, themed anthologies(by my various pen names), and leave the small stuff as e-books.

    With Dean’s concept of writing 1,000 words a day, 365k words a year, that works out to:

    – About 100 short stories at $2.99 each

    or – about 30 novelettes at $3.99 each

    or – about 15 novellas at $4.99 each

    or – about 4 novels at $5.99 each

    or one King size novel at $12.99

    Reality will fall into a mix of sizes, with more e-books than POD.

  2. Jeff Ambrose says:

    Thanks for this, Dean. I just put my first novel up (under my Mark Sled pen name) for $6.99, and I’m really feeling like I’m costing myself some sales.

    So stupid, huh?

    But this is my first novel, and all those doubts I thought I’d overcome are back, and all the myths I thought I vanquished are screaming.

    Just gotta get back to writing.

  3. Cyn Bagley says:

    Thanks Dean,
    My recent book is at 5.99. I am selling about the same amount as when my books were 99 cents.

    Thanks for the info –


  4. Dannie Hill says:

    Here’s what I think about pricing. The one and only advantage an indie writer has over the the Big 6 publishers is in ebook pricing.

    It’s our one draw to bring in readers– but we have to present a quality, well- edited (by someone other than the author) product at a great price. Once you build a rep. then charge more. Just don’t up the price on poor quality– it hurts us all, especially the readers.

    Want to make money as a novelist? Write more books!

    And a Novel is not 40k+ Many are trying to change the standards to write little novellas and proclaim them as full novels.

    YA and MG books are different in word count but an adult Novel is 80K + as a standard.

    • dwsmith says:

      Sorry, Dannie, but you are wrong on the word count. You really need to study some history of publishing. For most of the last century a novel ranged from 30,000 words to 50,000, with a few going larger, of course, but those were the exceptions, not the rule. Then when publishers needed to start raising prices, they started slowly forcing writers to write longer and longer to justify the increased price of the books. This happened from about 1980 through 1995 or so, then the publishers pretty much started to hit ceilings in word length and production and number of books in cases and pockets, even though the prices kept going up.

      Sorry, Dannie, novels are fine at 40,000 words and with this new world, many of the artificial length books will start coming back down to their natural length.

  5. Ramon Terrell says:

    I still have all my books, (regardless of word count) at $4.99. One of them is about 85k words, but the fantasy ones are all over 200k. I wonder if I am underselling my work. I don’t mind that price, but I wonder if I should raise them a dollar or two.

  6. Ken says:

    I put up my first 30k word novel at 3.99 and never sold a copy. Raised that to 5.99 and sold the first one recently.

    So keep at it Mr. Ambrose and take those myths out back to the toolshed and show ‘em who’s the boss!

  7. Kerry NZ says:

    But then there is this: http://tomdup.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/e-book-prices-headed-back-down/

    “The Wall Street Journal reports today that at least three of five large publishers — Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster — have agreed to settlle a DOJ lawsuit alleging e-book price collusion. Part of the settlement stipulates that the publishers will not prevent discounting of e-books for two years.”

  8. Thanks for the advice, Dean. I’ve put it to good use.

    I started my latest title at 2.99 and saw slow sales. When I moved it to 4.99, it really started to take off.

    I think readers take your price as a singal of how much you value your own work.

    If you put it out there at .99 then you give the impression that you don’t have faith in your own work.

  9. Zia Black says:

    My word count pricing:

    $0.99 – 00000-10000
    $1.99 – 10000-20000
    $2.99 – 20000-30000
    $3.99 – 30000-40000
    $4.99 – 40000-50000
    $5.99 – 50000-60000
    $6.99 – 60000-70000
    $7.99 – 70000-80000
    $8.99 – 80000-90000
    $9.99 – 90000-100000

    Approx a dollar per 10,000 words. One sale so far since Feb, but I’m not backing down. I can’t stand when people say we only sell because of the price. Speak for yourself. I don’t want a race to the bottom. I want to sell based on quality writing and great stories, not the bargain bin.

  10. irwin says:


    Dean’s right. Take a look at some of these wordcounts (all published several decades ago; not quite 40K, but not much longer). Also, it should be noted that 2 recent Booker prize winners (THE SEA, and SENSE OF AN ENDING) are just about 40,000 words (or a bit under), and both of them clearly have “A Novel” inscribed on the covers.

    Alice Walker The Color Purple 66,556
    F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby 51,000
    Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises 67,707
    John Knowles A Separate Peace 56,787
    Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-Five 49,459
    Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter 63,604
    Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 46,118
    Ray Bradbury The Martian Chronicles 64,768
    Virginia Woolf Mrs. Dalloway 63,422
    William Faulkner As I Lay Dying 56,695
    William Golding Lord of the Flies 59,900

  11. Sawyer Grey says:

    According to SFWA:
    Short story 40k words

    The funny thing is that I can generally tell when a book on my fiction shelves was published based on the thickness of the book. Up until the late 80s/early 90s the vast majority of the books are 60-80k. Things like Downbelow Station and Dune really stand out next to the other books of the period. IIRC Donald Wollheim took a big chance with Downbelow Station because it was so long compared to the other sci-fi/fantasy being published at the time.

    By the early 90s it appears that the average length was 100-120k. I don’t have word counts for the newest books, but they appear to be substantially thicker than that. Not quite up to the Steven King doorstop level, but definitely closing the gap.

    Reading them, I get the impression that most of them are massively padded. They could easily be cut down to 80-100k with a decent editor, and most would be better books for it, IMHO.

    • dwsmith says:

      I can’t believe some of you are quoting SFWA to me as if I don’t understand. (grin) Trust me, you get no credit here by quoting an organization that cost me and Kris $60,000 on one stupidity and that stole my copyright on another matter and I threatened to sue and they settled with cash to make me go away. Yeah, yeah, yeah…quoting that organization really does good things here. (grin)

      And trust me, folks, READERS don’t know what a novelette is, and or care. They might know what the term novella is, but you are so much better served to call it a “Short Novel.” Think sales, folks. SALES!!!

      And Sawyer, of course many books were massively padded from 1980 through today for traditional publishers. Duh. Word counts are set in contracts and if a book’s natural length only went to 65,000 words and your contract said 90,000, you padded like crazy. The reason, again, for the longer books wasn’t anything to do with fiction, it had to do with publishers needing to justify their high prices.

  12. Sawyer Grey says:

    Gah. Software mangled my post. It should read:

    Short story: less than 7k words
    Novelette: 7500 – 17500 words
    Novella: 17500 – 40k words
    Novel: greater than 40k

    Don’t use angled brackets for less than/greater than. :-P

  13. allynh says:

    Check out this “Kindle single” by King, priced $3.99 at this moment, as an example.

    Mile 81 (Kindle Single)

    The only mistake they are making is showing a page count rather than simply saying “short story”, because the “page count” is based on some funky system they use rather than the standard set by SFWA.

    I would explicitly state the size in the title as Mile 81 (short story) or Mile 81 (novelette) or Mile 81 (novella), that way there is no question about size, because size does matter. HA!

  14. I really like the freedom to let a story be whatever length is right for it. My first novel is 169,000 words. And I *added* five scenes to it after my first reader gave me feedback. There were some holes that needed filling. (Once she pointed them out to me, I saw them too. And had immediate inspiration for filling them.)

    But my WIP is 21,000 and likely to wrap up at 42,000 – 50,000. And I do call it a novel. Thanks, Dean.

  15. Shawn says:


    You said, “The one and only advantage an indie writer has over the the Big 6 publishers is in ebook pricing.”

    I don’t think it’s as straightforward as that.

    As a reader, I shop for books by known & loved authors. I also shop for books by “new to me” authors, to see who is writing the kind of work I enjoy.

    I could care less who the publisher is. I don’t shop by publisher brand, I shop by author brand.

    If I find a book that interests me, THEN I evaluate price. If it’s more than I think I should have to pay, I don’t purchase the book. If there are several books I’m interested in, and I have a limit on how much I can spend, I cull. The culling decisions are made based on who the author is and which book synopses most fit with my reading mood.

    I’m willing to spend up to 7.99/8.99 for a genre fiction title. I think publishers do a disservice to their authors and their own bottom lines when they price genre fiction releases above that, but I’ve purchased plenty of titles from authors published by “big 6/traditional/non-indie” publishers because they stayed in what is a reasonable range for me.

    By the same token, I’ve purchased books by indie writers and have discovered new authors I enjoy. That is based on the quality of their books, not their pricing. They will remain on my “watch for new releases from this author”, and it won’t matter a whit who did the publishing part.

    The “competition” is for LOYAL, RETURN readers, not for those folks who just download cheap books & never read them. Quality, niche, authorial voice … those are the things that build a loyal readership & bring return business to your door. Price will be a consideration, but loyal readers will pay a little more for each new book a beloved author writes.

    An indie writer has plenty of advantages over traditional publishers. Control of what they want to write, and the freedom to write to the niche markets that can support them. The ability to outsource things like editing for low cost. The ability to publish on a much faster time scale. The ability to tailor every aspect of their book & give it close attention. The ability to set their own pricing based on a vastly lower overhead. The ability to try new things in real time, be creative, and not risk losing huge amounts of money if a gamble doesn’t pay off. The ability to take a long view. The ability to create a real & functional brand with which readers identify.

    Pricing is only one small aspect of that.

  16. Nelson says:

    More great posts on pricing (especially when backed with some data). I had a question on the discounting aspect. Which is something I would like to do, but does Amazon look down upon it (lowering the price elsewhere so that you get look of a discount on Amazon)? Is it against the agreement with Amazon, or is it something everyone does anyway?

    • dwsmith says:

      Nelson, never thought of doing it that way. Usually the Amazon discounting is because the price changes haven’t made it through the other markets yet. Never thought of doing that on purpose. Not sure why you would want to, really. Hmmmm

  17. irwin says:

    “…lowering the price elsewhere so that you get look of a discount on Amazon)? Is it against the agreement with Amazon, or is it something everyone does anyway?”

    Nelson, part of our KDP agreement is that we will not list the book at a lower price elsewhere, so you’re right, it is against the agreement.

    You’re also right that many people probably do it anyway. I personally don’t (and I doubt many people on these boards do), simply because I clicked on the “Do you agree…” button when I published on KDP, and that’s a contract as far as I’m concerned, and since I expect Amazon to honor every clause in that agreement, it’s only fair that I do the same.

    However, a perfectly legal way to get some fairly predictable discounting is to put your eBooks up on Google Play (they just rebranded their eBookstore; it’s looking pretty good and could pick up market share with all the Android tablets and phones).

    Google discounts indie-published eBooks by 23% (don’t know why, but that’s what they’ve done with mine and many others with absolute consistency), so you can figure out what pricing works for you, set the same list price on Amazon and Google, and do it that way if you like the “look” of discounting. (FYI–Google only has agency agreements with the big publishers. Indies don’t get agency terms with them. Last I checked, Google pays a flat 50% royalty on the list price you specify–so if you price it at $7.99, they will list it as $7.99, discount it to $6.15, and pay you $3.99 per sale).

  18. The primary advantage indies have in the new market is equal shelf space with major publishers. There are other advantages – pricing is a big one. But when most major publishers are putting out ebooks at $10, you do NOT need to go to ninety nine cents to have a price edge.

    Dean, saw something interesting about average pricing on the bestseller list. Of the top 100 best-selling kindle items, only six were 99 cents. That’s a huge drop from six months ago. A scattering of $1.99 prices, but most indie books on that list are $2.99+. Big change. Seems to me like one major impact on average bestseller prices going up is indie writers realizing they don’t need to price low to compete!

  19. Mark says:

    @Kevin: “But when most major publishers are putting out ebooks at $10, you do NOT need to go to ninety nine cents to have a price edge.”

    There are a surprising number of books from big six publishers under $5. It’s by no means the norm, but the big six are trying to make some money at the lower prices too. I got an email today from Kobo linking to a lot of books at $1 and $2, all from traditional publishers.

  20. I like seeing others’ pricing structures, so I’m going to chime in with my current one. (I write fantasy.)

    0 – 7,499 words = bundle with another story & price at $2.99
    7,500 – 17,499 words = $2.99
    17,500 – 39,999 words = $3.99
    40,000 – 59,999 = $4.99
    60,000 – 99,999 = $5.99
    100,000 – 129,999 = $6.99
    130,000 plus = $7.99

    I’m still learning and the publishing landscape seems in constant flux, so I would not be surprised if this changed. (Grin!)

  21. Scath says:

    My current pricing structure:

    1- 5k = $0.99
    5k – 10k = $2.99
    10k -20k = $3.75
    20k – 40k = $3.95
    40k – 60k = $4.95
    60k – 80k = $5.95
    80k – 100k = $6.95
    100k – 140k = $7.95
    Over 140k = $8.95

    I don’t have anything over 80k out yet. Wrote a blog post today about my pricing, in response to a few people telling me ‘I’d try your books if you didn’t price so high’. Funny thing is, I’ve sold more 7,500 word shorts and up to 15k novelettes at $3.25 -$3.75 (based on changes to my original pricing structure over the years) than I ever have at 99 cents or $1.99.

    And that’s fine by me, because I’m betting many readers who buy my work are actually reading it because they hesitate at the price and read the sample before hitting the buy button. ;)

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