To give authors a living wage, Israel recently passed a law preventing book stores from discounting new books. The idea was to keep new book prices artificially high so authors could earn higher royalties. As usual, what the government tries to do, they tend to screw things up and that’s exactly what happened to book sales in Israel. Instead of giving authors more money, the higher price of books simply drove people away from buying books at all. That means lower book sales and less income for authors.
This backwards law that boomeranged on authors is just one more clue that authors can’t rely on making money the old fashion way of selling books through traditional publishers any more. The real money comes from self-publishing because now you can experiment with different prices until you find the right price range for your particular types of books.
Some people think that 99 cents is the magic price range, but that’s not always true. Offer too low of a price and you may see sales fall because people think 99 cents means the book is cheap. Yet if you raise your price too high, you’ll eventually drive away price-conscious buyers.
For fiction, cheap prices are good because it encourages people to experiment with new authors and essentially dispose of books after they’re done reading them. For reference and non-fiction books, a higher price is usually justified to convince customers that the information is valuable so it’s worth paying for.
So there is no magic price range for everyone. You have to experiment with different prices until you find what works best for you. Remember, selling 10 books at 99 cents is pointless ($7 profit) if you could sell just one book at $9.99 (also a $7 profit). Lowering prices doesn’t always mean people will flock to buy your book. Likewise, raising prices doesn’t mean people will buy it either.
What definitely won’t work is to put your fate (and income) int he hands of traditional publishers who are reacting to the whims of the market place that they no longer have any control over. At one time the huge advantage of traditional publishers was their massive distribution network. Nowadays, that distribution network is basically Amazon, and anyone can sell books though Amazon as a self-published author, so where’s the advantage of traditional publishers any more?
Beyond the name recognition and the ego boost of seeing a printed book in a store, authors aren’t seeing much cash from traditional publishing book deals and they likely won’t see more in the future. As traditional publishers cut costs to stay afloat, self-publishing is becoming more viable from both a practical and financial point of view. The old world of traditional publishers is gone for good. You probably won’t make much money selling books through traditional publishers so you might as well try self-publishing. You may find you can reach more people than ever before faster and more profitably than going through a traditional publisher.