How much would you pay for an ebook?

Ebooks cost third more than hardbacks‘, the Sunday Times headline said this weekend. Apparently, we are paying a third more for popular ebooks than the hardback versions.

The Casual Vacancy, the latest novel by JK Rowling, costs £11.99 for the Kindle but only £9 for the hardback from Amazon, after a discount of £11 on the publisher’s list price, the Sunday Times found.

Could I get as much as JK Rowling for an ebook? OK, you know I know the answer really…


How can this be? I thought ebooks were meant to be that much cheaper to produce – there are no printing and distribution costs for a start. But the Sunday Times quotes a research company saying that “there is no particular reason why the ebook should be cheaper than a print book. The author’s mortgage doesn’t go down if you are selling their work as an ebook”. See my previous comment! Of course their costs go down. Perhaps the author needs to negotiate a bigger cut – remember you can get up to 70% in commission if you self-publish!

The article also made me wonder how you go about pricing your own ebook if you are self-publishing. I hope to e-publish my play Martini Bond after I’ve made a few tweaks. But I’m not sure how much to charge. I was thinking of £2.99 – just a random figure I’d plucked out of thin air with no research whatsoever.

But now, perhaps I should charge £20, like JK Rowling – after all I would only need one or two sales and I could be in profit! (Thanks Mum and Dad…)

Have you e-published a book? How much did you charge? If you have published a book in print, how did you go about fixing the price? Did the publisher do it for you? Did you have any say?



October 1, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Books, Comedy writing, Fiction, Humour, Publishing.


  1. mlfables replied:

    I haven’t published my work yet, (I plan to go the ebook self-publishing route in the near future).

    Having said that, I think if you are a new writer you are probably going to have to undercharge for your ebook so that you encourage readers to take a chance on you as a new author.

    After you have a reader-base, you can upsell your books (say the next two books in a three part series).

    Still, ebooks should not cost as much as paperbacks (the way that paperbacks don’t cost as much as hardback books).

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      I wonder how much undercharging works as a strategy. Could you be undervaluing yourself? But I take the point – you/we need to build up a base.

  2. Mark replied:

    One thing you notice from Amazon is that, while e-books from high profile authors are set in the same range as paperbacks (or hardbacks if not yet out in paperback), those for the unknowns are much cheaper.
    I priced my ebook at £2.99, while the paperback was originally set at £7.99; and the royalty for me is a little higher on the former.
    You may also want to think about how much reading it provides. I’ve noticed some of the shorter e-books (10,000-20,000 words) are priced as low as 99 pence. It’s a question of how ambitious you feel for your potential market.
    It’s also worth looking at Createspace to make a print on demand paperback available. There’s a lot of messing about involved, but it will give people who don’t have e-readers a chance to buy the script.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      I’m beginning to think I may turn the play into a novel and publish that. A play is so niche…ie a small reading audience!

  3. kateshrewsday replied:

    I have heard $2.99 is the perfect price. Don’t know what that is in real money….the whole business is perplexing to me!

  4. Zen replied:

    I think it’s ridiculous when ebooks have high prices. My ebook costs $1.60 (though I’ve been considering raising that a bit). However, my print copy costs $14.50 after a 30% discount. I publish via Lulu, and their printing prices are costly. $14.50 was as low as I could go while still retaining some royalties for myself. =/

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Wow – that is a difference in price for the same product (sort of!). Same words, anyway!

  5. Carrie Rubin replied:

    My publisher priced my e-book at $4.99. I had no say, nor did I particularly want one. I wish their paperbacks were cheaper, though. I think mine will be priced at $16.95. Even though the POD paperbacks are nicer than trade ones, I still think that’s a bit steep. Then again, I paid $12 for a two-hour movie recently. And that’s not counting the popcorn…

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Your publisher is bound to be aiming to recoup some costs. It will be interesting to see how many paperbacks sell for $16.95?

  6. 4amWriter replied:

    I wonder if part of it is that a lot of people are willing to spend more for the convenience of an ebook. As much as I prefer the real deal, I can see how a Kindle is a bit easier to lug around–especially if you’re a person who reads on the go. Imagine toting all those Harry Potters wherever you went!

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      I’ve heard people say that – ie they don’t need to lug six tomes on holiday. They just pack their Kindle…but what happens when the battery goes flat?

  7. jmmcdowell replied:

    Certainly the publishing costs must be lower for ebooks—no paper or distribution to retail outlets. But the laws of supply and demand must come into play, too. And if ebooks demand continues to rise, suppliers may take the opportunity to raise the price of the supply.

    Most indie writers who publish in e-format (full novels) are in the $2.99 – $4.99 price range. The traditional press prices for e-books have been higher, but we’ll see what happens after they and Apple got in trouble for price-fixing in an attempt to beat Amazon….

  8. scousepov replied:

    I absolutely agree with you!

  9. Carl replied:

    It amazes me how people won’t spend $2.99 on a book from an unknown author, especially one they can read about 10% of it, but they’re more than willing to spend that or more for fast food. 😦

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      I quite agree – that’s how people should look at it. Buy something that lasts longer than a quick bite!

  10. Val replied:

    I don’t have an e-reader so haven’t bought any ebooks (though Amazon have a free kindle app from what I recall, and I’ve wondered about using that) but there is no way I’d buy a full-priced book for an e-reader. If I’m going to spend that amount of money, I’d rather have it in traditional paper format.

    One thing to bear in mind about the difference between £9 and £11.99 is the packing and shipping price. It can mount up. So if the author wants to charge an equivalent amount, that’s probably the reasoning.

    The most I’d spend on an e-book would probably be 2.99, or at least no more than I’d spend on packing and shipping costs and a small charge for the book itself if I were buying printed. Otherwise it makes absolutely no sense to me.

  11. Harry Nicholson replied:

    My novel is set at $2.99, a figure that seems to be ‘the sweet spot’ according to many indie writers. I had it at 99c for a month, it went fairly well – but Amazon royalty zones mean one sale at $2.99 brings home the same as 6 sales at 99c. So I put it up.
    But then comes the marketing – and that can be trudge. It takes a lot of effort to sell a few copies. Not every book goes viral.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Thanks for your comment. Sorry it’s taken me such a long time to respond. I’ve taken a bit of a break. But your points about the pricing are very interesting.

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