The Kindle Questions - How much should I charge for my e-book?

If uploading your e-book on to Kindle is relatively simple, deciding how much to charge for it is anything but. I have spent the last few days perusing the web for advice on the issue and much of it appears to be conflicting.

However, if we work through the issue methodically I think we will be able to untangle some of the key issues surrounding this question.

(Although I am writing in England I am going to use US Dollars instead of British Pounds for any numbers used below.)

How much money do I make for each book I sell on Kindle?

Amazon have two models for pricing structures.

Model 1:  35%

Under this model, the author has far more flexibility in terms of pricing. They can charge anywhere between $0.99 and $200.

Model 2: 70%

Under this alternative model, the author must set the price of the book between $2.99 and $9.99.

There is also a delivery charge under this second model, which reduces the amount earned per book to around 68%.

Which Model will allow me to generate greater sales?

Lets say that you were looking at making $10,000 a year from your writing so you can quit your day job and focus on becoming a full-time writer.

If you used Model 1 and charged $0.99 for your book you would make $0.35 cents for every book you sold. This means you would need to sell 28,571 books in a year to reach your target.

If instead you used Model 2 and charged $2.99 for your book you would make $2.10 for every book you sold. This means you would need to sell 4,762 books in a year to reach your target.

From this maths it would appear that Model 2 is the preferable choice; you sell your e-book at a price far cheaper than that of the average paperback and need to generate far fewer sales to reach your benchmark.

Unfortunately, the actual answer is far from clear-cut and will vary from author to author.

Before addressing this issue further, lets ask a more simple question?

Why shouldn't I charge the same amount as big publishers?

In many ways, it is the incompetence of the big publishers that is allowing self-published authors to flourish in the e-book marketplace.

Let me give you an example. I was about to purchase Tony Blair's autobiography for my younger brother a few months ago and felt the most convenient way to do so would be to buy a copy for his iPad. However, when I went on to the Amazon website, I was horrified to see that the e-book cost more than the hardback. Given how much cheaper the cost is for assembling an e-book compared to printing a book on hundreds of sheets of paper, this pricing decision was illogical. I was so annoyed I decided to buy neither version of the book.

Readers have picked up on this ludicrousness and our punishing any guilty books accordingly.

The more widespread problem that big publishers are having with their pricing is that their books are often three or four times more expensive than books offered by self-published authors. And what many readers are finding is that many of these self-published authors are just as talented as those writers who are considered to be 'professional writers'.

This presents a massive problem for the publishing industry because whereas with many other products a higher price normally equates better quality (e.g. people are willing to pay more for a BMW 7 Series than a Ford Focus because technically it is a better car). But if a book by Author X is just at spellbinding as something written by Published Author Y, that extra cost is no longer justifiable and will result in significantly lower sales for Published Author Y.

That is why I think it is essential that as self-published authors we keep our prices extremely competitive and distant from the prices of the big publishers. Therefore, I think self-published authors should charge between $0.99 and $3.99 for their books.

With this in mind, lets return to one of our earlier questions:

Which Model will allow me to generate greater sales?

Although the maths above suggests Model 2 is the better option, experience suggests otherwise.

The most famous Kindle alumni are Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking - both these authors have generated tens of thousands of sales and have done so by charging $0.99 for some of their books. 

The next post in this series will talk about marketing your book, but the price you give your book will have a massive impact on the audience you reach. I suspect that the best way to generate sales is to get a ton of good reviews. But in order to attract those initial readers, you may have to charge an introductory price of $0.99 to tempt readers into buying a book that they have never heard of before. 

However, once you charge $0.99 for a book will anyone be willing to pay $2.99 if you raise the price six months later? There is no obvious answer to this question - I guess that it is only through experience that I'll be able to provide you with a better answer. 

One of the great things about Kindle is that you can vary the price from week to week and see what generates the optimum sales. But at this point we don't know with Hocking and Konrath are outliers or a sign of things to come. However, a quick look at the top ten selling books on Amazon UK shows me that all the books fall under Model One. So despite the fact you need to sell almost six times as many books to generate the $10,000 target mentioned earlier, it appears to be an equally credible option.

How much are you planning to charge for your first books?

Over the next few weeks I will be releasing two books. The first is a semi-autobiographical novella I wrote seven years ago, while the second is a dystopian novel I finished a few months ago.

I am tempted to charge $0.99 for both; however, I would find it strange charging the same amount for a novella as a full length novel. So I plan to charge $2.99 for the novel and $0.99 for the novella. It will allow me to see the pros and cons of both models. I'll keep you updated as to how they both work out.


The Kindle Questions - How do I publish my book on Kindle?

Once you have finished writing your book and decide to publish it via Kindle you need to work out how to upload to Amazon's Kindle ecosystem.

How do I publish my book through Kindle?

This useful Lifehacker article runs you through the process.

There are two main ways to upload your book to Amazon - one is via Word and the other is via HTML. The latter option is a little too complicated for someone like myself, so I will refer you to a Kindle e-book which goes through this process in thorough detail.

The Microsoft Word option is a lot simpler (for those of us not schooled in the language of HTML). However, I would add a couple of additional pointers that the HTML document does not pick up on but are included in another useful e-book: How to Publish Your Book on Amazon's Kindle, by Alun Richards (given the book's price it is too short - but it is certainly useful):

1. It will help the formatting of the book significantly if you convert the document in Word from an A4 file to an A5 file.

I was using Microsoft Word 2007, so I undertook the following steps: Go to Page Layout --> Size. Select Custom, as they do not have an option for A5. Then under Width enter 14.8 cm and under Height enter 21 cm.

This will allow you to see what your book will look like on Kindle - and most importantly - give you an idea of how many pages your book will be on Kindle.

2. Make sure you 'fully justify' the main body of text. Once you have converted the file to A5, you will see how unprofessional the standard alignment looks.

3. Remove page numbers as Kindle does not like them and it can mess up the formatting of the book.

How do I upload any pictures in my book to Kindle?

First, a couple of rules:

Any single image can be a maximum of 127 kb and can only be in the following formats: jpg, gif, png or bmp.

Any colour images will be converted to grey-scale as Kindle is a black and white reader.

I get the impression that uploading too many photos may be a problem too.

How do I upload the cover image for my book?

The option for formats are more limited than for pictures within the book, you have to choose between jpeg, .jpg or tiff formats.

The picture must be a minimum of 500 pixels in width and height.

A great place to go to find a great cover for your book is istockphoto.com  - you can buy good photos for a reasonable price here.

Clearly, your choice of cover will play an integral role conveying the professionalism of your book so make sure you pick an image that isn't overused and accurately conveys the first impression you would like your book to give.

If I make a mistake after publishing my book on Kindle, can I change it?

Thankfully you can. I have heard of authors go as far as changing their covers to try and improve sales.

As self-published writers, I think it is crucial that we try and avoid spelling mistakes and grammatical errors before we publish our work, so hopefully this will not be too much of an issue.

To conclude, publishing a book on Kindle seems relatively straightforward - although there are several pitfalls that need to be avoided.

(Once I publish a book onto Kindle I will update this article with any necessary adjustments.)


The Kindle Questions

Now that I've decided to forsake the traditional publishing route in favour of publishing on the Kindle, I need to focus on certain questions:

1. How do I publish my book on Kindle?
2. How much should I charge for my book on Kindle?
3. How do I promote my book?

Over the next week I will answer each of these questions in separate blog posts. The second question seems to have caused a lot of contention and I suspect that will be the longest of the three posts. The third question is crucial as I suspect that one must act as a publicist as well as an author to try and ensure that your book is read by as many people as possible.

There are clearly other questions that need to be asked (such as who owns the rights of the book if you publish on Kindle) but these are my main concerns for now.

Please let me know if there are any major questions you feel I have missed - I'll be more than happy to add them to this list.