Self-publishing is changing. I think that in 2012 indie authors should go global. One of the important topics to raise is how to price books for international customers. My advice is simple: keep them low.
The report on top self-published Kindle books of 2011, which I’ve recently released, shows a downward trend in both the number of self-published books in Top 100 and the average price. One of the major reasons is the growing price competition.
The perception of $0.99 is not only affected by Kindle Daily Deal, but also by the fact that more and more legacy publishers offer their titles for $1.99 or less. Those books easier become popular, because they convince price-sensitive users not only with a price, but also with a reputation of the publisher.
This means that tagging the book with $0.99 price is not as effective as it was a year ago, when there were $0.99 self-published books and $5.99+ books from legacy publishers.
There is also one more factor, which encourages self-publishers to increase prices. If they enroll their books in KDP Select, they sooner or later come to the conclusion, that for a Prime member, who is eligible to borrow from Kindle Owners’ Lending Library only one book per month, getting for free the book with a regular price of $0.99 is not a deal at all.
Authors who sell books at $0.99 earn $0.35. They were able to earn $1.70 in December from a single KOLL borrow. The fund Amazon gives to support KDP Select is raised in January from $500,000 to $700,000. It doesn’t mean that a single borrow can give a royalty higher than $1.70 as there are more books in KOLL and more people who can borrow them. But it means that the deal is still encouraging enough to sacrifice regular sales.
So, where is the pricing for international ebook users? I think, that even if you decided to raise prices of your books for US customers, keep them low for readers from abroad.
There are a few extra factors to keep in mind, when it comes to prices for users from different countries:
1. Many books from big publishers are not available outside US – for more details check this report on international availability and prices of Kindle bestsellers,
2. Many books are priced by publishers higher that in US – what this comparison of prices of Steve Jobs biography shows,
3. Prices are higher due to taxes,
4. Prices are higher because of international fees (in case of books from Kindle Store US).
Readers from abroad are aware that they have to pay more for the books. In fact, they hardly experienced $0.99 price shock from the beginning of 2011. So, the low price strategy which worked so well in US, seems to have chances in other countries.
How to keep prices low? There are two things you can do:
1. Offer lower prices in localized Kindle Stores,
2. Get rid of international fee.
1. Offer lower prices in localized Kindle Stores
In the KDP dashboard the author can set up prices for Kindle Stores in UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain either automatically (based on a price from US) or manually. If you increase the price in US, it doesn’t mean you have to do it in other Kindle Stores.
Here’s what I did. My flash-fiction geek stories, Password Incorrect and Failure Confirmed are a very narrow niche, but they were doing unexpectedly well in KOLL in December. It’s probably because of the fact that they’re addressed to geeks, like the ones who have bought/received Kindle Fire. New owners of this device have one month of Prime/KOLL free.
I’ve increased the price of books to $5.99 (bargain for KOLL users), but in other Kindle Stores kept prices with $0.99 tag in respective currencies. To do that I had to select 35% royalty option – there is no possibility to choose different royalties for different locations.
2. Get rid of international fee
International fees applied by Amazon to Kindle ebooks sold to users from abroad are a serious issue. They influence the way international readers buy the books. Therefore they should also influence the way authors price their books.
Kindle ebooks are being sold to over 170 countries and destinations. If you set up in KDP the rights for your book to “all territories”, readers from those 170+ locations will be able to buy it.
The fees are different for different regions, but they are usually up to $4. For example, the $0.99 book costs usually $3.44 in Poland, where I live.
You can check how much your books cost by going to Kindle Store US, selecting a region and searching for your book. Read this post if you need a detailed tip on how to do it.
Is there a way to get rid of the fee? Looks like it is. What I’ve observed is that the charge is applied only until the certain amount of books is being sold. I sell my books from Kindle Store, also the ones written in Polish, so I’m determined to keep their prices low in Poland. I’ve counted that if you sold around 100 copies, the price of the book goes down to the level set up in KDP dashboard.
What you can do is to raise the price of the book in Kindle Store US only after there are no or little fees in other territories.
I wonder whether giving books for free within KDP Select affect the international fees. If anyone has noticed that, please share it in the comments. If this works, the easy way to get rid of the charges it to run a 5-day promo and raise prices afterwards.
What is also good to keep in mind is that Kindle Daily Deal books cost the same in all countries – there is no international charge applied, no matter how many books were sold to different regions. This means that $0.99 KDD book costs $0.99 (and it’s a one-day deal), while your book, supposed to be a constant deal, costs $3.44.
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When thinking about international readers it’s also very good to analyze other distribution channels. Kobo and Smashwords are best picks. First, their offer is available without territorial restrictions. Secondly, they don’t apply fees like Amazon does.
If you want me to write how the distribution could look from a perspective of a European self-publisher, please let me know in the comments.
Hope it was a helpful post.