The Worth of a Book: Pricing a Self-Published Novel



Creatives who go into business for themselves are often faced with a dilemma: how to price what they’re selling. A couple of months ago, I crocheted a doll for a friend. I had no idea what to charge. Too much and I would feel guilty. Too little, and I’d feel a bit cheated. After all, I’d have to factor in the cost of materials and figure out what my time was worth. I’m quite a humble person so I tend to lowball myself. I ended up charging a reasonable amount. 

The same dilemma occurs when you self-publish a book. If you look at Amazon, most e-books by indie authors are selling for $0.99-2.99, including my own. Are the measly royalties earned at those price points worth all the time and hard work you put into writing the novel? 

No. 

Not even close. 

So why do we allow this? It took me years to get to a point where I was ready to hit the submit button on self-publishing. Hundreds of hours where I could have been doing a million other things but instead I worked on my novels. Most likely, I’ll never even earn the price I paid for the covers. 

Which begs the question, are pictures really worth more than a thousand words? Yes, artists are super talented and deserve to be paid hundreds of dollars (or more) for their work. They have costs too -  digital software and tech equipment if they’re digital artists, and old fashioned paint and canvas if they’re traditional. And their time. It takes time to bring a vision to life. So why do writers get the short end of the stick? We have costs too. We have hours upon hours put into our novels. And yet, for some reason it’s okay and even forced upon us to sell our novels for cents. 

I would love to charge what traditional publishers charge for their books. Most trade paperbacks go for about $20 now. E-books by traditionally published books can go for $10. Maybe indie publishers get a bad rep? Maybe no one wants to pay that much for a self-published book? Maybe they’re scared it will be full of typos or horrible writing or whatever? Truth is, most self-published writers make sure their books are in 100% shape before publishing. Certainly I do, though of course I can’t speak for everyone. Since I am self-published I felt like I had to go with the flow and charge $0.99 for my novella. I price my novel at $2.99 because it is longer. I also had days where I gave them away for free. I’ve had more copies given away for free than sold. 

I’m not complaining, not really. My dream was to hold my books in my hands and I made it come true. I always knew I’d never make a fortune. In fact, I’m in the red. In the end, it doesn’t matter to me because I have a full time job. But what about those who don’t? Why would you give them pennies when you’d give a traditionally published author dollars? Maybe that traditionally published author will never earn back his/her advance, but at least they got an advance. 

I don’t know what the point of this post was. Food for thought I guess. I didn’t really think much about this until I saw a thread on Twitter. 

What are your thoughts? How did you decide to price your books? How much is your time worth?