Ebook Pricing: An Opportunity For Self-Publishing Authors

Opportunity Authors

Self-publishing authors should grab this opportunity.

What opportunity?

The five major publishers, including Hachette, Penguin/Random House, Macmillan, and Simon and Schuster, have all renegotiated their agreements with online retailers, and can all now dictate the price of their ebooks.

No longer can retailers discount their ebooks to gain market advantage.


The average ebook price has changed

It means that the retail and distribution ebook wars and legal battles are over, and now the major publishers are setting their ebook prices in concrete.

But boy, have they declared a new war. A war on ebooks. And not on other ebooks, but on their own books. It is a strange ebook pricing strategy.

When you look at many new titles from traditional publishers, it’s pretty clear that they do not want to sell ebooks. Take this one book, for example.

ronald reagan high price ebooks

Would you buy the Kindle ebook version for $16.79 or the hardcover at $17.99?

If you buy and read the hardcover version, you can give it to a friend or sell it for a buck to a second-hand bookstore.

Take a moment and have a little think here. Which version does the publisher want you to buy?

Do you want an exploitation of Stieg Larsson? Let’s grab this bargain ebook by David Lagercrantz?

over priced ebooks

Once again, you can save a whole dollar if you buy the Kindle version over the hardcover.

I could post hundreds of ebooks from the Big Five like this, but let’s look at why this gives self-publishing authors a fantastic opportunity.


What does it mean for self-published ebooks?

When I look at the top ten bestselling Kindle ebooks, there are two ebooks defying price logic and appear here, but the rest are priced at between $1.11 and $6.99.

Kindle Ebook Bestsellers

If you dig deeper down to the top 100 ebooks, you will find that ebooks priced between $2.99 and $4.99 dominate. Of course, a large proportion of these en^books on Kindle stores are by self-published authors.


Does this create a market gap for self-publishing authors?

The change in ebook pricing by traditional publishers is an opportunity for self-publishing authors to take the ebook market for their own.

You really have to think that the traditional publishers don’t want it.

Readers aren’t stupid and know what they are buying. They are also smart enough to know when they are being taken for a ride.

Although I have been pessimistic about the state of self-publishing at the moment and wrote about this recently in my Train Wreck post, this is a chance for self-publishing authors to chisel out a part of the publishing market for themselves.

If the big publishing companies are thumbing their noses at the ebook market, you should grab it.

But it will take work. Self-published books, in general, still have some way to go in providing a quality product. While many self-published authors have made huge strides regarding quality, there is still a lot of junk being published.

However, for those who are writing great stories, the ‘kill the ebook’ pricing from the Big Five publishers gives a chance for you to create a price and quality differential.

While books priced at $2.99 to $4.99 have been the mean self-publishing price range, why not increase your prices a little and sit between the Big Five and the dross.

ebook pricing - price differential

There now seems to be a price point of between $5.99 to $7.99 that could be competitive for quality self-publishing authors.

Is this a gap in the market that you could try to make your own?

If you are publishing in paperback as well, which is always a good idea if only for credibility, why not open the price between your ebook and paperback book by a few dollars to give better-perceived value to your ebook?

Time will tell, of course, if this proves to be a golden opportunity for self-publishing authors.

However, ebook publishing is still so young that this time truism may not have had long enough yet to be true.

What do you think?


More reading: How To Use Amazon Author Central And Your Amazon Author Page

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent teaching English and writing, as well as testing and taming new technology.

6 thoughts on “Ebook Pricing: An Opportunity For Self-Publishing Authors

  • September 5, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    thanks Derek,
    for your very valuable thoughts and articles, just great.
    Personally, I started getting quite enthusiastic this year making my first steps as a self-publishing author.
    Of course, the beginning is always tough (so much to learn, so much effort to create a great product!) but in the end it is paying out if you have a product online with a price tag on it.
    Even though I have just issued a first book in english and german, I am so thrilled by it being listed on amazon that my second book is “in production”.
    The entire process of designing, creating and finishing a self-published book is deeply gratifying, I think.

  • March 11, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    I get that publisher’s are heavy on infrastructure but the fact is that once you have designed a print cover and jacket liners and have a print book published–you have all the source files (text and graphics) that you need to electronically publish.

    A large company could easily script an automated creation process from these source files to output to the formats they want to distribute.

    Much of the electronic costs overlap already paid expenses–they certainly don’t require an entirely separate infrastructure; unless you’re running an anachronistic business model that can’t or won’t be changed to adapt (*cough*).

  • October 17, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Thanks for this article. As a self-publisher who’s trying to learn the tricks, all your stuff is very informative.

  • October 6, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    The issue we’re overlooking here is the cost to a major publishing house entailed in putting out any format of any book. Ink, paper, shipping, fulfillment, and shelf costs are only the obvious expenses involved in producing and distributing a print book. Whether a book is to be produced digitally or in hard copy, the publisher still has to pay an executive editor, managing editor; an acquisitions editor; at least one copyeditor; a proofreader; a page designer; a cover designer; an artist or photographer to produce the cover image; at least one marketer (but often a team of marketers); a copywriter, designer, and printer to create a catalogue; IT people to run the company’s website(s) and server; advertising costs; admin assistants; office overhead…and undoubtedly more.

    A wannabe author who’s producing sketchily edited books out of a back room in his or her house and posting them on Amazon bears very few of those costs.

    At Camptown Races, our only costs are contract payments for five writers, pay for a contract website wrangler, occasional subscriptions to Shutterstock, and occasional payment for a cover designer. The work that a publishing house would assign to five or six people is performed by the publisher. Office overhead costs are largely absorbed into the cost of running the publisher’s residence, where the business is located. And while we might, now and again, take a prospective writer to lunch, there are few literary agents (to speak of) in the flyover states, and so a major cost of “meals and entertainment” is mooted.

    The point being that major publishing houses HAVE to charge nearly as much for an ebook as they do for a print book, to cover their costs of doing business.

    Thanks for this excellent website, BTW, which I just ran across. You have given me what promises to be an excellent insight about marketing….just in time to save me a chunk of money.

  • September 29, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    It looks to me as though the big traditional publishers do not understand the ebook market at all. Do they think it is just a passing fad and that they can soon go back to their 19th century gentlemen’s clubs?

    I’d like to say that the writing is on the wall for them, but it may be more appropriate to say the writing’s on the screen. Could this be the beginning of the end for big pub?

    • September 30, 2015 at 7:58 am

      It could be, Steve. Railroad companies went out of business because they didn’t see that the invention of the automobile was a threat to the railroad business. This was because they didn’t understand that they were actually in the transport business.


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