Before you distribute your ebook, you’ll have to make a big decision: how to price the ebook. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but the following is what you need to know to make an informed decision.

Factors that affect pricing an ebook include royalty percentages, your ebook’s length and perceived quality, and the prices of other books in your genre. Let’s break that down.

Royalty Percentages

You make a royalty on each purchase of your ebook. Book royalties are a percentage of the ebook’s retail price, and that percentage changes depending on the online retailer and the list price. This chart illustrates the differences, with the percentages indicating how much of the price you’ll receive:

List Price Apple iBookstore Other Retailers
$0.99-$2.98 35% 40% 70% 40%
$2.99-$9.99 70% 65% 70% 40%
$10-$199.99 35% 40% 70% 40%

Please note: These are for example only. Other factors, such as delivery costs and the country or territory an ebook is purchased in, affect your actual royalties.

If your book on Amazon is $2.99, you get 70% of $2.99, or about $2.09. At the same price, you’d receive $2.09 from an iBookstore sale, $1.94 from a sale, and between $1.20 and $1.64 for other retailers.

And since you’re probably wondering, we should point out that by distributing your book to these sites, you have to agree to sell the book for the same price everywhere, so you can’t sell your book for $2.99 on Amazon and more on to make up the royalty percentage difference.

Because Amazon and provide higher royalties for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, this is good price range to stay in. In fact, the most commonly purchased ebooks range from $2.99 to $3.99, with $3.99 being most popular. At the same time, though, it’s important to realize that pricing your ebook higher means you could make more money selling fewer books.

Let’s suppose you sell 100 ebooks. Here’s what your approximate royalty would be. (All amounts rounded to the nearest dollar.)

List Price Apple iBookstore Other Retailers
$2.99 $209 $194 $209 $120-$160
$3.99 $279 $259 $279 $160-$219
$4.99 $349 $324 $394 $200-$274
$5.99 $419 $389 $419 $240-$329
$6.99 $489 $454 $489 $280-$384
$7.99 $559 $519 $559 $320-$439
$8.99 $629 $584 $629 $360-$494
$9.99 $699 $649 $699 $400-$549

Length and Perceived Quality

Readers expect shorter books to be priced cheaper. With fiction and some creative nonfiction (e.g., memoirs, personal essays), this means that ebooks shorter than 50,000 words are generally expected to be priced under $2.99.

The word generally is important here because some retailers, like Amazon, attract bargain hunters, while others (e.g., Kobo) don’t. This means an ebook under 50,000 words priced at $2.99 might be considered too expensive on Amazon, but may sell well on Kobo. And if you’re an established author, your built-in fanbase will often be willing to pay more for your books because they know you can deliver.

For nonfiction, especially self-help and business books, the length of the book matters less because it’s about the value your content provides. If your ebook is short, but it entirely changes a person’s life or it teaches someone how to make millions, people will be willing to pay a higher price.

Longer books should almost always be priced higher. After all, it takes more time and money to write, edit, and publish a longer book, and you should be compensated accordingly. Just keep in mind that going too high as a debut author might mean fewer people take a chance on you.

There’s also the psychology of pricing and how it relates to quality. Think: “you get what you pay for.” For example, a reader looking at a 99-cent book and a $2.99-book may go with the more expensive one because she thinks it’s going to be a better (professionally written and edited) book.

Still haven’t decided on a price? The next section might help.

Your Book’s Genre

It’s time for some research! Search for books in your genre and compare ebook prices. How much other authors are charging for their ebooks can narrow the choice for your ebook. Don’t automatically go for the lowest or highest price, however. If you price too low, people might think your book is subpar. If the price is too high, people might not take the leap.

Price can also depend on your readership. If you have an established group of people who will buy your book, you might be able to price your book higher within the range of similar titles. If you’d like to establish a readership, however, pricing your ebook lower to gain traffic and new readers through impulse buys might be a better option.

How Mill City Press Helps

While Mill City Press won’t set your ebook price for you, we’ll provide you with the tools and information you need to price your ebook competitively.