How to price your Indie book

Guy Kawasaki, well-known author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book, has written a bullet-list article on how to price your book. Bottom line? It depends on the book, so it’s pretty much a case of trial and error for each author. Fortunately, as a self-publisher, you can test and change your decision if it’s not working.

So, what variables are there to take into account?


There are five major variables that affect the price of your book:

1. Costs

There are two kinds of costs: preparation and production.

Preparation costs include such processes as design, editing, and layout. You might pay them only once, but nonetheless, you need to recoup them.

Production costs refer to how much it costs to make copies. If you’re publishing only an ebook, the cost per unit is almost zero. If you’re printing your book, you’ll incur hard costs such as paper, printing, binding, and shipping.

2. Economic conditions

How is the job market for your target customers? While your book’s price is probably one or two Starbucks cappuccinos, economic conditions matter to people and influence their buying decisions.

3. Brand

How strong is your brand? How many people know about you? Simplifying the issue, here are the most common conditions:

  • First-time author without an established base of readers. Implication: charge less.
  • First-time author with an established base of fans and high visibility. Implication: charge more.
  • Repeat author with a proven record and established base of readers. Implication: charge even more.

4. Competition

How much does the competition charge for books in your genre? You cannot charge the same price as well-established authors such as J. K. Rowling. You should look at authors who are at the same stage as you.

5. Goals

What are your goals for your book? Here are the most common:

  • Maximize short-term (six months to a year) revenue. Implication: charge more.
  • Maximize long-term (a year or more) revenue. Implication: charge less.
  • Establish yourself as a sector expert. Implication: charge less.
  • Build a base of readers for future works. Implication: charge less.
  • Spread your ideas. Implication: charge less.

Pricing philosophy

So, after you’ve taken the above factors into consideration, what is your pricing philosophy? First, let’s dismiss “I worked hard on this book, so it’s worth lots of money.” Sadly, it doesn’t matter how hard you work. What matters is what people are willing to pay.

These are the common pricing philosophies:

  • High price connotes high quality. Low price connotes low quality. Implication: charge more.
  • High price connotes cluelessness. Low price connotes awareness. Implication: charge less.
  • High price connotes greed. Low price connotes empathy. Implication: charge less.

As you can see, the relationship between price and quality is random. Implication: take your best shot and change the price if it’s not working.


Weighing all of the above is a challenge, but remember: there’s no right and wrong answer. There’s only what works and what doesn’t work. So, here are some strategies to consider:

  • Start at a low price—for example, $0.99 or even free—to achieve critical mass and bestseller status, and then raise the price to $2.99 or more.
  • Give away one format of your book in the hopes that people will pay for another format to improve the reading experience. You could charge nothing for a PDF version and sell every other format.
  • Charge a premium price—for example, $9.99 or more—because you have a small audience but it’s one that cherishes your information. For example, you could probably charge $99 for an Asian American mother’s guide to getting a kid into Stanford. Over time reduce the price.
  • Charge a premium price, but run frequent price promotions. The high price communicates high value, so getting a deal feels valuable.

And don’t forget that, as an Indie author, you can experiment all you want. So, if you feel that your pricing strategy is not working, just change it!

The information presented here was taken from Marketing Tips for Authors and APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki.