Why is THAT book $2.99?


Yeah. You know you’ve had that reaction before while browsing on Amazon. If you’ve ever wondered WHY someone would price an extremely short novella or perhaps a 34 page book about blog events at $2.99, I have the answer for you.

And it’s not that the price is “worth it.” (Even if it is.)

No, many people price their books at $2.99 because it’s the lowest price you can set your book at and still receive 70 percent royalty.

In fact, it had been my intention to price my book lower than $2.99. I knew that, while the information in the book is well worth $2.99, most people would look at the 34 page count and go, “Nope. Not for $2.99.” As I’m sure many people already have. And I get it. I knew going into it that I wouldn’t make much money (if I made any at all) on Blog Events, but it wasn’t about the money, it was about producing a product that would garner me more recognition. On that front, it worked.

But back to the prices.

I ended up setting the price at $2.99 because by pricing it lower, I would have only been able to receive 35 percent royalty. And 35 percent on $.99 or $1.99 is not much at all, especially when you factor in the costs of production. I need 13 times the sales I have now–at $2.99–to break even on my investment. $2.99 gives me a fighting chance to get there.

So no, authors may not always believe their 16 or 34 page ebook is worth $2.99, but publishing is, after all, a money-making venture. And some of those $2.99 priced ebooks? Aren’t worth the cost. Kelly and I have proved that with our GLA books. (Which, by the way, we download when they’re free. But the original price is often $2.99.)

And I think this pricing dilemma is one worth mentioning. If I could have received 70 percent royalty on $1.99 or lower, I would have. But I couldn’t. So I didn’t.

What must a $2.99 ebook have to entice you to buy it? High page count? Good reviews? Something else?

PS. I haven’t linked my ebook here because this post isn’t about getting sympathy or getting people to buy my book. It’s about explaining the pricing at Amazon–and what authors earn–because it’s something that’s not talked about. And learning it has made me reconsider how I view other books priced at $2.99. Even if I may not buy a $2.99 book, I do understand the reasoning behind it.

26 Replies to “Why is THAT book $2.99?”

  1. That explains A LOT! I really had no idea (because I haven’t self-published) but I totally get it now. And that’s a huge drop in royalties. Wonder why such a decrease? Why not down to 50% for $1.99? I guess I can see 35% for $0.99, considering Amazon needs to make some $$, too.

    1. Who knows with Amazon. You can technically set your price at anything; the majority just happen to be at .99, 1.99, 2.99, etc. I suspect it’s easier to have only two tiers. (On the other side, you can’t price your ebook higher than $9.99.)

  2. I *had* often wondered that. ;) I had never thought about the royalties involved but it makes perfect sense. It does seem odd to me that there’s such a gap in royalties, but it probably is easiest just to keep it as simple as possible as far as the numbers go. Typically, if it’s something I’m looking at that sounds good/is what I’m looking for, I’ll check out the reviews and try and judge based on that if it’s worth the $2.99. Page number can play a role, but usually as long as the quality seems to be there based on the reviews I’ll still possibly buy it.

    1. I’d wondered it too. A lot. Especially with all the GLA books. Because they’re *not* worth the $2.99. But I get why they’re priced at $2.99 at least. And I’m sure there are a lot of books out there at $2.99 that ARE worth the price.

  3. I saw a 5 page ebook priced at $2.99 yesterday. Yeah, I understand the reasoning behind the pricing (TRUST ME, I DO!) but there comes a point where you have to weigh what you’re getting (5 pages of poorly written erotica) against what you’re giving ($2.99 could buy me any number of other ebooks that ARE better written. And longer.).

    It’s a balancing act. $2.99 for 34 pages of a how-to guide that you could potentially use again and again makes WAY MORE sense to me if I’m looking to buy than that 5 page book. On the other hand, I’d pay $2.99 for an author I know turns out an amusing or well-written product.

    I kind of feel like I’m not addressing the point you’ve made with this post (but I did know about the royalty tiers prior to reading this, so keep that in mind).

    *tackle hugs your face*

    1. Bwahaha. A five page erotica is never worth $2.99, even if it’s well written. Because those five pages include everything: cover page, about the author, etc. It couldn’t have been more than 1,000 words long. I’ve written blog posts longer than that.

      But. I do agree it’s a balancing act. My ebook is something you can come back to–and potentially make money from hosting your own blog event. Is that worth $2.99? Sure. Especially if you do make money. But is every $2.99 book worth it? Not really.

      1. Ehh. I think the author said it was 5 pages. I don’t know what the actual count comes in at. I picked it up. It was a freebie last night. It was baaaaaadddddd. If I had paid for it, I would have been PISSED and felt kind of stupid for paying $2.99 for a book with 5 pages of story.

  4. I knew there was a difference in royalties for the different prices, but the one that bugged me recently was a best-selling author who has put out short stories or novellas as companions/teasers to his novel releases for a few years now… they’ve always been $.99 in the past, and this year’s was suddenly $2.99. And I would *hope* that this year’s story is much closer to novella-length (the lengths have varied considerably in the ones I’ve read) to make it worth the higher price, but I’m not curious enough to pay the extra to find out, not for a story that’s “extra” and not necessary to enjoy the novel.

    The other factor is that this is a best-selling author, not a self-pub, so I don’t know if it was him or his publisher that made the pricing decision. And, not to say that a best-selling author doesn’t deserve to get the higher royalties. But somehow I don’t think his is a case of trying to make enough to break even. I dunno, the sudden jump just rubbed me the wrong way.

    I am curious, though… since a lower-priced book is likely to sell more copies, how many more copies would it have to sell to make up the difference (just did the math and it looks like roughly 3x for 1.99 books and 6x for .99) and what types of books are more likely to entice the thriftier readers and actually make more money at the lower price? And how many authors actually do the math and think about that, and how many just say, “Well, 70 > 35,” and leave it at that?

    1. Christi tweeted me this morning and said that her lower priced book doesn’t necessarily sell more than her $2.99 book. (Her tweet.) I don’t believe that automatically pricing something lower will encourage more people to buy.

      1. That surprises me… but I’m also coming from the perspective of someone who rarely pays to read. (Nearly everything I read comes from the library… and I don’t buy a book unless I already know I love it.) So if I’m taking a chance on an ebook, especially one that’s not a full-length novel, I’m much more likely to gamble $1 than $3. But really, I’m just not the target market for these books.

        1. Low prices can often backfire because how the consumer perceives it–the old adage of you get what you pay for. A higher price can say, “This is worth your time and money” where a low price may communicate, “This is worthless crap.”

          I totally get where you’re coming from (mostly because I’m often the same), but I also know the reverse is true–because it’s happened to me in my business.

  5. Can we talk about the fact that most people will pay at least $2.99 (often more) for a cup of coffee? Why do people act like $2.99 is a ridiculous price point for something that likely took hours, if not weeks or months to produce? Even if authors earned 100% of that $2.99 — that’s not outlandish. Okay, it is outlandish for 5 pages of poorly written erotica (or poorly written anything) but still, not so much that you can’t just make coffee at home tomorrow and recoup the loss.


    1. True facts. And especially on self-pubs: we expect authors to have a professional cover and a team of editors. But does anyone realize how expensive that is? A novella that’s 25k would cost $500 for editing (I’m guessing $250 for copy editing, $125 for proofing, $125 for content editing–and I’m undershooting, I think) and $200 for a cover (a low estimate for a professionally done cover). We’re talking $700 to produce a professional novella at 25k.

      And that, of course, doesn’t even cover the time the author spent of his or her own time (also a valuable commodity) to produce the book.

      That should be worth $2.99.

  6. It’s not the price for me. I simply do not read short stories and will only read novellas when they are set in the world of a series that I’m already following. I like long works — or series — because I get so invested in the characters and hate to let go of them when the story is over.

  7. I had no idea but this explains why a lot of Kindle books are priced at $2.99.

    I’m pretty comfortable spending $2.99 for a full length novel. But $2.99 for a 100-paged novella? Pass. I do take page count into consideration in regards to pricing.

    1. While I do hesitate spending $2.99 for a novella, I’m also aware that it’s not cheap to publish a book people won’t rip apart for editing or crappy covers. A 100 page novella could cost $700 to produce, which makes $2.99 seem like a pretty decent price point.

  8. Wow. Definitely an eye-opener. I had no idea that royalties on Amazon were somewhat based on pricing. That will definitely make me think twice before I turn up my nose at a $2.99 book. When it comes to choosing whether or not to buy one, I usually try to read plenty of reviews before spending my money. Since I’m usually buying fiction, I read reviews on blogs and friends’ reviews on Goodreads rather than the Amazon reviews. After all, I don’t know most of those reviewers so I’m not sure if I want to trust those. Thanks for this post!

  9. I published a 150-page novella recently, and priced it at 99 cents because I knew there would be backlash if I set a product that’s “not a real book” above a buck. There’s definitely a perceived correlation between the number of pages and the value of a book, and it seems to be different for ebooks vs. print books. A hardcover of 300 pages is roughly the same price as a 200-pager in the store, but the difference in “value” is never remarked upon.

    1. I completely understand your reasoning for pricing, but knowing how much effort (and money) goes into something like that, it makes me sad. (For the record, I think 99 cents for a 150 novella is a steal.) There’s a definite inconsistency with how we value books. Not sure what–if anything–we can do about it though. Other than just talk about it.

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