Publishing Predictions of 2021: Pricing

I love the new year! Not only for fresh starts, but because of all the publishing predictions that come our way. It’s so interesting to me how the publishing industry changes shape, like water poured into differently shaped containers. Authors and publishers will always be around in some form, but we have no idea what form it will take!

I was listening to the 6 Figure Author podcast last night while I was making dinner and cleaning the kitchen, and they broke down a few of Mark Coker’s predictions. He founded Smashwords, an ebook aggregator for authors who want to publish their book wide. He keeps his fingers on the pulse of the industry, and his hate for Amazon aside, it’s always interesting to hear his take.

If you want to read his predictions in its entirety, look here, and thank you to 6 Figure Authors (Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea) for discussing some of the topics, too! And if you want to listen to them instead of read me, that’s cool, and you can find their episode here. They talk about some of Mark’s predictions during the first half of the show.

Anyway, so what I want to talk about today is pricing your book. The decision takes a lot more thought than just wondering if you want to sell your book for $3.99 or $2.99, and one of Mark’s predictions states that authors will lose more and more of their royalties. Here are a couple of his reasons:

Subscription service. Of course, this is a jab at Kindle Unlimited, and it’s a business decision if you want to enroll and be exclusive in Kindle Select or if you want to be wide (on other retailers besides Amazon). What a lot of authors don’t think about though is do they want the sale or the page reads? And do they want 70% royalty or 35% royalty. I price my books at 2.99, which earns me a 70% royalty. I earn a little over two dollars for a sale, but when someone reads my book from start to finish in KU I only earn $1.64 give or take depending on how long my book is. (My small town wedding series falls between 69k-72k). Mark says that the subscription service devalues our work, and maybe that’s true. On the other hand, on the podcast they talked about how a subscription service allows more people to read than ever before. A KU subscription is about 10 dollars a month, and Amazon is always doing promotions. Enrolling my book in KU could find me readers I may not find other places because they can’t afford to purchase books singly. Kobo also has a subscription service, but authors don’t need to be exclusive to Kobo to join. Of course, this is what we want from Amazon, too, but don’t count on that happening.

Paying for advertising. No one wants to pay for visibility and discoverability, but there is no business where you don’t have to, either.

And it only makes sense to advertise on Amazon when a customer is already looking at books and in the mood to buy and read. Mark’s problem with this is we’re already paying Amazon to sell our book, we shouldn’t have to pay them to advertise it, too. When you think about it though, indies who are making a lot of money off their books don’t rely solely on Amazon Ads. Like I said in my other blog post about why I left an Amazon Ads FB group, indies making a living wage aren’t agonizing over the price of their bids. The bulk of their sales come from their newsletter subscribers, newsletter swaps, and in general, publishing consistently and letting Amazon do a lot of the discoverability work on their behalf. To be successful, you don’t have to buy Amazon Ads. Craig Martelle put it best: Amazon ads bring in new readers–your newsletter keeps them.

What should you look at then, when pricing your ebook?

How new are you? When you’re new and you spent a lot of time on that first book, you want to get paid for it. That’s what I’ve come across, anyway, speaking with new authors. That makes them price their book too high, and in a world where readers, yes, are used to a subscription model, you are not going to find sales. I found this book when I was scrolling through one of my FB groups:

I’m sorry, but this is her first book, and the look inside is all telling. She’s not going to get $5.99 for this book. She’s also wide, not in KU, so she can’t even count on a few page reads to bolster her spirits.

How many books do you have out? If you only have one, you’re better off pricing it as competitively as possible and quickly writing the next book. Once you have a large catalogue you’re freer to experiment. Have a permafree first in series, create box sets and run promos on those. The author above can’t use free days that a Kindle Select participant can. When you have more books published, you can have some of your backlist a little cheaper and charge more for the new releases. All my books are $2.99, but my catalogue is in KU and I don’t think too much about my prices because I concentrate on KU readers.

What is your genre? Supply and demand is a huge consideration when pricing your book. I write romance where there is a huge supply, but there is also great demand. It makes visibility difficult and there is too much supply for an author to overprice their books. Readers don’t have to pay to find books to read. In fact, a romance reader could download free books and read for the rest of their lives. There is just too much free content out there. Whether or not that reader is getting what they pay for is something else entirely and I’ve talked to death about quality on this blog. That poor author above writes romance, and she will never sell a book for $5.99 when that is more than half a subscription cost to KU for a month.


Mark Coker is all about readers trained to devalue our work, but it’s not just the publishing industry that has this problem. Spotify has been known for not paying their artists, and Audible will only give you a higher rate for your audio book if you are exclusive with them. And who wants to be now that their gross return system is all over the news?

If you want to be paid for your work, there are only a couple things you need to do: put out a good product–no one likes to pay for junk, and that includes a poorly written book–and nurture an audience. If you have a group of readers who will read you no matter what, you can price your books accordingly and know your readers will pay because they enjoy your books.

Amazon isn’t the problem. Subscription models aren’t the problem. It’s indies who are impatient and don’t publish quality. They give their books away to whoever will read them (especially in exchange for reviews), and they can’t nurture an audience because they don’t publish consistently. Everyday in the groups I see the indies who are doing it right, and the indies who are doing it wrong, like the romance author above. Of course, it took me a few years to figure out what I’m doing wrong, and now I’m adjusting accordingly and hoping to learn from my mistakes.

My main point is, your readers will pay you.You just have to find them first.

Another interesting article about pricing and how much authors are paid. It’s not just indies having a tough time: https://mybookcave.com/authorpost/how-much-do-authors-make/

Do you agree? Disagree? With me or with Mark? Let me know!