Kindle Publishing: A Diary—Day 8 eBook pricing and length

Dear Diary,

Today’s topic is supposed to be on pricing and length of the e-publication, and I’ll talk about that, but I also want to talk about something to watch for when addressing any electronic reading facility.

Partly because of competition and partly because of user suggestions and requests, electronic readers have become extremely competitive. The two biggest reader competitors—Amazon with its Kindle brand, and Barnes and Noble with its Nook brand—are constantly evolving. Just look at the differences in products between one year and the next: improved features, color, book-like “feel” additions, internet access, etc. Now enter other reader-capable competitors such as iPads and Android devices, which also keep evolving quickly. Electronic publishing has also grown in leaps and bounds, creating a need for better and easier to use publication software. As the biggest publishers of e-books, Amazon and Apple have quickly responded to this publishing trend with user-friendly publishing connections and interfaces that allow authors to save documents in .html format and upload, eliminating the need for special interfaces and online “adjustments.”

All of this means that someone looking for How-To’s on e-publishing can be overwhelmed with choices between recent publications and older ones. The older ones may not contain updated content. Or, depending how they were created to begin with, may have regularly updated links without updated material “printed” in the publication itself.

Reading up on e-publishing is both interesting and distressing. It’s hard to know which advice to rely on—especially if an author doesn’t include a copyright year. Sometimes, the Kindle Store provides the year the e-book first appeared. Other times, the potential reader has to guess. It is not that all the information in older books is outdated; some of the older books contain information that hasn’t appeared yet in the newer publications. However, I have to read selectively and carefully to figure out which advice still applies and which does not.

Selective reading can apply equally to the exploration of length and pricing for e-publishing, and even whether the length has much to do with the contents. McDaniel, I quickly discovered, keeps her information is short and sweet–and leaves a lot of questions open to me, even though Success Secret #8 specifically addresses the relationship.

McDaniel’s experiences and observations suggest that a how-to e-book should be reasonably short and very focused, or it may not sell well. It is meant only to get the reader from point A to point B, but should be at least 7,000 words. She suggests that the author should aim for between 30 and 35 pages, or roughly 8,000 to 10,000 words, in her calculations. Other non-fiction should be 6,00 to 8,000 words long, if the topic can be covered in that.

So what should an author charge for the non-fiction e-book? Well, the size of the royalty may affect the price. In general, Amazon distributes 70% of the selling price to the author if the publication is priced between $2.99 and $9.99. The reason for this is that it is the range from which most readers purchase their books. Publications priced lower or higher are reimbursed at 35%.

That makes sense to me. I suspect that e-publications selling for less than $2.99 may cause the potential buyer to wonder why the item is priced so low. On the other hand, any book over $9.99 may be viewed as no longer a bargain. Lately, I do that with best sellers. If the publishing company insists on prices higher than the historical $9.99 price of best-selling e-book versions on Amazon, I refuse to pay the difference because I can buy the hardcover copy for a dollar more—or sometimes for less than the hardcover price. There are very few best sellers I buy for my Kindles now. So the $9.99 makes a lot of sense to me (although I wonder if the upper 70% limit will change, since so many of the best sellers are now selling for higher than $9.99).

Right now, I’m just trying to figure out where to price my e-book. Maybe I should use the suggestion that Kate Harper gives in her publication, How to Publish and Sell Your Article on the Kindle.     She suggests starting low—at 99 cents—and seeing how it does. If it sells reasonably well, start bumping up the price gradually until the price reaches the target price the author had in mind (for example, $1.29; $1.99; $2.49; $2.99). Klein (The Power of Kindle Books: Selling, Marketing & Promoting) suggests that if you plan on increasing prices, you should warn potential buyers by including “price increase coming soon!” in your description—but only if you really are planning to increase the price and do so soon.

Harper provides a sort of pricing formula that she uses. She says that a “good value” for an article is 99 cents for 3,000 to 6,000 words, but that’s a little outside her formula. Her suggestions, which run roughly 10 cents per page up to 30 pages, look like this:

10 pages (3,000 – 5,000 words) = $0.99

20 pages (5,000 – 10,000 words) = $1.99

30 pages (10,000 – 30,000 words) = $2.99

She further suggests the author consider calling a work of more than 30,000 words a booklet instead of an article. It’s interesting to me that writers will call a manuscript of 10,000 words two different things, so that McDaniel calls it a book while Harper calls it an article. Since I grew up thinking that a page is roughly 250 words, I’m all messed up!

Basically, I looked at the relationship between length and selling price today. I still need to figure out how long I want my book to be. Then I can price my work. I just wonder if I should write first and price after, or price first and meet at least the minimum formula length…tough to say.

Tomorrow, instead of following the plan I set up yesterday to follow what’s left of Klein and McDaniel’s publications, I think I’ll explore some of the suggestions that Harper makes about formatting. Since the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)   
expects an article when I went in to explore, I’ll have to check out whether Harper’s formatting suggestions are still valid (these may not have been adequately updated from an earlier version). However, there are still a lot of simple formatting suggestions that may prove helpful for first-time Kindle publishers, even if the KDP turns out to be more complex than its site suggests.

Until next time,



About DrEMiller

Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). Home: Sint Maarten. K-12 teacher for 13 years (Special Education for 10 years); Post-secondary educator since 2002; Education consulting since 1995. When teaching, held teaching certificates in K-12 special education, reading specialist; and secondary social studies. Doctorate: Educational Psychology Programmer/analyst for 10 years, including project management and training of corporate execs.
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