Should You Sell a Book for 99 Cents?
Posted On: 2014-05-28
by: Mercedes Tabano

28, 2014
99 cents has been touted by marketers as the new free, especially among Kindle books. New indie authors are encouraged to 'jump start sales' by selling their books for 99 cents.

They are quick to point to people like Amanda Hocking as their shining star. However, people like Amanda Hocking made her money before everyone else followed suit and listed their ebooks as 99 cents.

Today, giving away your best work for 99 cents is no way to build a business. For starters, it only gives you 35 cents for every book sold. It also encourages a race to the bottom as authors try to create more books faster, which in turn leads to lesser quality books. Because of this, there has been a backlash against cheap books. Readers feel that if a book was any good, it would be worth more. This is proving true of both fiction and nonfiction books alike. So when should you price a book at 99 cents? There are actually several times.

Short Stories/Articles

For any text that is under 3,000 words, for the proper pricing is 99 cents. This helps you build a following without devaluing your work. It also gives you a way to make a small income while working on a larger book. Eventually, you could combine several 99 cent works together to create a collection that is sold at a higher price.

The beauty of this is that you could sell this longer work at slightly less than 99 cents for each part and still make a good royalty (for example 6 stories for $5). However, since many people won't do the math, people will continue to purchase your individual products at the higher 99 cent price.

For A Single Chapter

Since 99 cents is the new free, offering a single chapter of your book for 99 cents is a smart thing to do. Offering it for free would devalue the book too much but 99 cents is the perfect price point to attract readers to your longer book. This chapter can be left at 99 cents forever without damaging your brand.

It also has the added advantage of separating the people who will love your book from the people who don't. On Amazon, not everyone who loves your book leaves a review, but it seems like everyone who hates it does. By allowing them to read the first chapter for almost free, the readers can decide for themselves if they love or hate your book prior to buying it.

To Court Reviews

Reviews are the lifeblood of Amazon. A book with no reviews does not usually sell well. To combat this, many people enroll in KDP Select to give the book "free days". Unfortunately, KDP Select also means you can't publish your book elsewhere. Additionally, if one of your reviewers misses your 'free day', then both of you are unhappy. The author missed out on a review, and the reviewer missed out on a free book.

A 99 cent 'review period' is the solution to both these problem. During this time, anyone can download your book for 99 cents. While you are running this promotion, make it known that this is an introductory price, which will soon increase.

Once you've collected enough reviews, you can raise your book's price to where it should be. This has the added advantage of training your readers to snap up your books during the review period before the price goes up. This generates good word of mouth and encourages readers to buy your book even when it's regular price again.

A long book errantly priced at 99 cents is not good for anyone; the writer loses because they only get 35 cents, the reader loses because such a writer feels pressured to create dozens of low quality books quickly, and Amazon loses because they didn't make as high a commission as they hoped. However, by using the 99 cent price point strategically rather than from a place of desperation, everyone wins...especially you, the writer.

Until Next Time,
Mercedes Tabano