You can sell a Leanpub book for free, or any price from $4.99 to $500.00.
So, the minimum price of a Leanpub book is $0. However, if someone is going to pay for your book, they need to pay at least $4.99.
This decision is good for a number of reasons. Here are two of them:
First, not many of our sales were between $0.99 and $4.99. Most sales were either free or over $4.99 — usually way over $4.99. The average price of a paid Leanpub book purchase is over $10.
Second, this lets us have a nice simple royalty rate of 80%. If we allowed books to be sold for 99 cents, and if we paid 80% royalties, we would lose money on every sale, because of the PayPal fees. Since we are a bootstrapped startup, we cannot do that! When we allowed books to be purchased for 99 cents, we used to have a royalty rate of 90% minus 50 cents. So, for a 99 cent purchase, the author earned 39 cents. On a $4.99 purchase, authors now earn $3.99.
So, as an author, you earn more money selling one copy for $4.99 and giving away 9 copies, than you would have done in the past selling 10 copies at 99 cents each.
The combination of a free minimum price and a suggested price of $4.99 or higher lets you get the best of both worlds:
You can give away hundreds, or thousands, of copies of your book to people who can't afford to pay for it, or who don't want to.
You will earn great royalties on the paid purchases. Our 80% royalty rate is higher than Amazon's royalty rate, which is 35% between $0.99 and $2.99, 70% from $3.00 to $9.99 and 35% on purchases of $10 and over.
As an aside, this is one huge reason we have so many computer programming books on Leanpub: most computer programming books should be priced at over $10, and computer programming book authors have earned millions of dollars more in royalties on Leanpub from these purchases than they would have on Amazon.
Finally, our $4.99 (or free) minimum price policy sends a message to readers about Leanpub: that Leanpub is a place for high-quality books. There is an old debate about how ebooks should be priced that we don’t want to get into here, but essentially we are taking the position that all authors, from tech book authors to romance authors to serial science fiction authors, should be sending the message that their books are worth at least $4.99. This is even true when a book with a free minimum price and, say, a $4.99 suggested price, is bought for free. Free is a special discount, but Leanpub books are premium things. A Leanpub book can be downloaded for free, or bought for $4.99 and up, but it can’t be bought for 99 cents. Free is value-neutral, and can even signal generosity, or that something is a gift — but 99 cents just signals that something is cheap.
Thank you for taking the time to read this explanation, and as always, thank you for being a Leanpub author!