How much should your paperback or ebook cost? If you are accepted for publication by a trade publisher, then they will set the recommended retail price for your book. The actual retailer may discount that price, but a good contract will ensure that royalties are based on the RRP, not the actual selling price.
Looking at the Christian novels on my bookshelf, most are priced at $12.99 (all prices in this post are quoted in US dollars unless stated otherwise), with prices ranging from $11.99 to $15.99. Category romances are less expensive - paperback Love Inspired titles and Barbour novella collections are $7.99.
Now, obviously, I’m based in New Zealand, so the retail price I pay for books includes shipping from the US. Most full-price novels are NZD 24.99, NZD 27.99 or NZD 29.99, with some small-press books priced slightly higher than this – which means they might miss out on my purchasing dollar because I perceive a NZD 33.95 book as ‘too expensive’ – especially when I consider the price of e-books.
I own both a Kindle and a Kobo, so can purchase and read e-books from all the major online sellers. New release Christian fiction generally retails for $8.99 to $9.99 on Amazon – or less than half the price of the ‘dead tree book’ at my local Christian bookshop, even with Agency pricing (a current debate which I will cover in another post).
Older Christian ebooks by established authors are even cheaper – $3.99 and $4.99 are common prices, and the author may be getting a bigger royalty from that than from the full-price dead tree version. Joe Konrath (who reportedly makes $50,000 each month from Kindle sales) believes that the ebook pricing sweet spot is just $2.99. He makes $2.04 off each sale, compared to $2.50 off the sale of a trade-published $25 hardcover or $0.75 off a trade paperback.
If you are published through a small press, subsidy publisher or choose to take the self-published route, you need to understand what the market price is. You also need to understand that you have to charge less than this. Why? Because these tight economic times mean readers have less to spend, so they are more likely to spend their money on a known author – why pay $17.99 for a published or Print-on-Demand book from an unknown author, when you can buy a paperback from a well-known Christian author for less? Or an ebook for $2.99?
This is where the economies of scale and marketing presence of the trade publishers can have a positive effect. I might not know who Camy Tang is, but I can see that Protection for Hire is published by Zondervan, who also publish a lot of excellent Christian fiction as well as the New International Version of the Bible. On that basis, I might be prepared to spend money on a Zondervan book by Camy Tang, where I probably wouldn’t spend money on an unknown author from an unknown publisher without having had the book or the author recommended to me. Which brings me nicely to the subject of the next post… Promotion.