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Are You Underselling Yourself?

by Nick Stephenson in Books and Writing

I’ve been doing some pricing research today – I’ve taken the last 4 months’ worth of sales, and looked at which price points have been the most successful. There were a few surprises – but I’ll get to that in a minute. First of all, I’m taking the opportunity to announce the next Leopold Blake novel is going through some editing and should be available in the next few weeks. This is a particularly exciting release, as it’s the first time I’ve worked with a co-author – the talented Kay Hadashi, author of the June Kato series. This new book is a rock’em sock’em teamup of sorts, that’s been an absolute blast to write. In the meantime, here’s the brand-spanking new cover:




Now, back to the reason you’ve all bothered reading this far (excluding those who stumbled across me via my hidden Justin Bieber keywords): what’s the best pricing strategy to sell ebooks? The quick answer: nobody has any idea. What I do know is what prices work best for me, and in what situations. Sometimes. Maybe.

So I did a study, and some of the results were a little unexpected. First, here’s a little bit about methodology:

  1. I tried $2.99, $3.99, and $4.99 between three different full-length novel titles (genre = mystery / thriller, approx 60k words each), trying to give each book a fair shake at each level. On average, I tried each price point for a month or so.
  2. I excluded ALL sales within 5 days of a price promotion (free or 99c) to avoid skewing the data in favour of lower prices (I generally reduce prices to $2.99 across all titles during a promo). I also didn’t include data for my multi-novel bundles or my $2.99 novella, or any first-month sales for new releases (where sales are generally higher due to the hot new releases lists and people on my mailing list snapping up copies).
  3. In total, I’ve studied a little shy of 1,500 units of “qualifying” sales since January, which accounts for about 35% of total sales.

Here’s what I found across the 3 titles I analysed:

  1. As expected, $2.99 yielded the most sales per day, averaging out at 5.5 sales per day, per title.
  2. Rather unexpectedly, there was no appreciable difference in volume sales between $3.99 and $4.99 – both price points averaging out at 2.85 sales per title, per day.
  3. Revenue was highest at $2.99, averaging $10.99 per title, per day
  4. Revenue was a close second at $4.99, averaging $9.93 per title, per day
  5. Revenue was lowest at $3.99, averaging $7.69 per title, per day

Here’s a lovely graph:


sales charts



I’ve tried to be as fair as I can, by ignoring any boosts in sales that could be attributed to a successful price promotion (and therefore not applicable long-term), and cut out any sales from the sample that might be affected. I’ve also not included sales from my $2.99 novella, which stayed at that price the whole time (and actually further skews the data toward a lower price preference).

It seems that my novels perform best, in terms of revenue, at $2.99, when taken on average. But there’s not much difference in revenue performance between pricing at $2.99 and pricing at $4.99.

There is a noticeable drop off in my sales moving from pricing at $2.99 to pricing at $3.99 / $4.99 – around 45% loss of volume. Upping prices to $4.99 almost makes up for this.

Surprisingly, there is no appreciable drop off in sales moving from $3.99 to $4.99.

The drop in volume moving up from $2.99 does tend to kick the books off most of the top 100 lists – meaning readers are finding me some other way. This is likely to be through the Popularity Lists, or by actively searching for me, or by keywords (or something else). Giving rise to the question, “just how much exposure to you get from being in a top 100 list?” I’d wager, unless you’re on the first page, not very much.

So, what am I going to do with this information? Well, I’ve just dropped one of my full-length novels into permafree, so I’m not going to do anything for a couple of weeks while I wait and see what effect it has. After that, I’d be tempted to try $4.99 as a standard price for my other novels and see what happens. All things considered, I’d rather sell at higher prices where possible, which gives me more flexibility for promotions and helps build a more premium brand. So long as the figures support the move, I’m all in – especially as I make the transition from KDP Select to having my books out on other vendor platforms (more on that in a future post).


My books aren’t your books. Even if you write in a similar genre, chances are the packaging, writing style, and pretty much everything else are entirely different. What works for me (or doesn’t) is unlikely to be exactly the same for you, so take these results with a pinch of salt.

1,500 units over three titles isn’t a particularly huge sample – and the difference between $9.93 and $10.99 per day across three books probably isn’t going to make or break anyone’s writing career. The above conclusions might not apply to a larger data set. Additionally, I only studied sales occurring in the US, so this study doesn’t take into account different markets.

Branding is important. Are you aiming for a premium brand? If so, maybe you would rather sacrifice a few sales to command higher prices. The long term view is important, and that can’t really be captured within 4 months’ worth of data.

Anyway – I hope some of you will find this useful, or, at least, not so dry and boring you now want to scratch your eyes out. I don’t want to be responsible for blinding anyone. And apologies again for anyone looking for Justin Bieber. It was a cheap trick to lure you onto my site, and I’m sorry.

For anyone else, I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you’ve had any experience fiddling with your pricing. Just drop a note below and I’ll gladly pretend your ideas were mine in the first place.

If you want a step-by-step guide to getting started on your email list, go download “Reader Magnets”. This free ebook will show you how to put this process in place and start building your email list – click below to grab your copy:




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