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The Price Is Right

Well, that depends. When it comes to books (and other published items), it can be a fine walk between pricing too low (not enough profit margin) and too high (no sales). A couple weeks ago, I was alerted to a friend of a friend’s book now being available on a site that basically functions as a poor-man’s Amazon for self-published authors. Not the best place to sell books, but the real problem was the price — $35.00 for a 96-page book.

There are books that sell very well in the 35-cents-per-page range, but they are typically technical, scientific, or art books. This one is none of those; it’s a basic paperback aimed toward 20-somethings who are job hunting. First, this category and demographic simply doesn’t support a $35 book. The most similar books on the topic typically cost half the price with far more material included. Second, the target market being job hunters at least partially implies they are short on money—not exactly the most likely group to pop $35 on a book.

The price point here is indicative of a problem found with many online self-publishing services—their fees or cut requires most books to be priced too high to reasonably sell (unless the author wants to make little or no money). If a company such as this will charge $20 to sell your book, and your book is the kind typically selling for $19.95, you have a problem. Don’t think you can just bump it up to $22.95 or $24.95 and be fine with it. It’s extremely easy for people to price-check things online and get a strong sense of what’s reasonable. This is not to say you can’t overcome such resistance—but your content and your marketing had better be stellar.

As a final point, it’s worth noting that there is value in brevity. If you can condense your thoughts, ideas, advice, or whatever into a very short format that provides maximum value for the reader’s time invested, that’s worth something. But again, you will need to have excellent content and a superb marketing plan to communicate this benefit, because people still largely equate page counts (quantity) with price, though things are shifting with ebooks.

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