One of the hardest decisions in publishing one’s own book is setting the price. Universal wisdom on the subject is anything but universal: “Don’t set it too low,” “Don’t set it too high,” “Undervaluing your work means it will be ignored.” “Give away as many as you can to get readers hooked.” “Start the series free, then charge for the rest.”
Right. It’s all good advice, if a little vague—what is too low or too high? And different projects and different circumstances demand different pricing. When I began work on my long-held goal to bring
my six-book series The Cambridge Chronicles on the work of the 18th and 19th century Evangelical Anglicans out in ebook I decided I would make the first book in the series permanently free. I hoped readers would be sufficiently hooked that I could then charge perhaps as much as $4.99 for the succeeding books.
I also decided to re-package the whole series to emphasize the romance element of the stories, rather than focusing mainly on the history. I renamed the series Where There is Love, and gave each story a Where Love. . . title. Ken Raney designed gorgeous, romantic covers for me. I duly uploaded book 1 Where Love Begins, making it free on Smashwords and Nook. Then I hit my first snag. Amazon doesn’t allow such charitable views. Still, .99 wasn’t bad, I figured.
I was surprised. First, I was over-whelmed by the number of Smashwords downloads (1020 currently) and disappointed by the nearly nil Amazon sales. The pattern has followed with the release of the next two books in the series. I can safely assume it will be true for the next three to follow.
This made me re-think my goals. Why am I doing this? The answer was easy— if nothing else about this project has been easy. I am passionate about these stories. I want readers to know what these men and women of faith endured to build the Kingdom. I pray daily that readers will be inspired by these stories in a way that will renew their own faith and help bring revival to our own day.
With that ambition in mind I realized that holding out for more remuneration paled in comparison. Besides, these books didn’t owe me anything. They had been published by Victor Books, and republished by Crossway; released in large print, and an omnibus edition; extracts had been printed as short stories in a magazine and in an anthology. I was indebted to them, rather than the reverse.
With that realization I have been freed to make the decision make the entire series free on Smashwords and Nook and the minimal .99 on Amazon. Not every project will allow that freedom. Many books require extensive research which has not yet paid back. Some books need to reach an audience that will believe a book they paid for has more value. And, of course, only in an indie publishing project is the writer allowed a say in the pricing.
Still, in this aspect in the crazy publishing world, as in all other areas of our endeavors, clarifying our goals for each book and keeping those goals foremost can help in making tough decisions.
What are your goals for your current project?
Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 50 novels of history, mystery and romance featuring British Christian history. You can learn more about all her books, see pictures of her research trips and garden on her website and follow her on Facebook.