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How To Price A Self-Published Book
How To Price A Self-Published Book

Keywords: price, pricing, cost, book, ebook, indie publishing, self-publishing, What price should I set for my self-published ebook?

Leanpub Support avatar
Written by Leanpub Support
Updated over a week ago

So you're ready to hit the publish button on your book for the first time. That's great!

Before you go ahead and publish, we recommend taking some time to consider your pricing decisions carefully.

Pricing any product is a notoriously difficult process. That's especially true for books, and as you'll see below, experimenting with pricing is something we recommend you do over time, because it's important to iterate based on what you learn from people.

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to pricing, and you need to get some knowledge of each of them individually first, before you can see how they all fit together later.

You can click on the "Article Sections" thing below to jump to the explanations (and opinions!) we set out in this article.

Also, if you haven't published on Leanpub yet, you can set up a new book any time here. If you've already published elsewhere and you have your ebook files ready, choose the "Upload" writing mode, and select a Free account if you like! You can also write a book on Leanpub in our "Browser" writing mode for free, too.

tl;dr version! Price your book higher than you think you should, experiment with your pricing over time, opt in to Leanpub promotions, and do discount sales of your own with coupons! Instructions for where you go to set the pricing for your Leanpub book can be found here.

Static vs. Variable Pricing

Self-publishing platforms can actually have pretty complex pricing models. Amazon, for example, at the time we're writing this, pays a lower royalty rate (35%) for ebooks priced higher than $9.99, than it does for books priced $9.99 or less (70%). Things get more complicated if you're selling print books; here's their Printing Cost & Royalty Calculator. You can also find a cool royalty calculator that lets you choose ebooks here. Things get even more complicated with sales in different countries or marketplaces.

There's actually a lot more details to Amazon's ebook pricing scheme. This post seems to have a pretty good summary of some of them. To see Amazon's ebook pricing page, please go here.

Leanpub has its own complications, all of them in the service of helping you make more royalties, we promise! The main thing that stands out about Leanpub in the self-publishing world is that we have what we call a "variable pricing" model and we encourage in-progress publishing. We'll explain that last part in the context of pricing a bit more below, and you can also read a dedicated article on the topic of "variable pricing" here.

Static Pricing

The form of pricing we're all most familiar with is what you might call "static" pricing: a product has one displayed price, and that's what you pay for it.

To decide how you want to price a book under a static pricing model, the first thing you'll want to do is to multiply price by the royalty rate the self-publishing platform pays.

Leanpub pays an 80% royalty rate. Here's a table setting out unit price and the corresponding unit royalty amount:

Unit Price

Unit Royalty











As far as pricing analysis goes, that little table isn't exactly a complex financial model, but it's a start!

Let's take a qualitative look at the Unit Price from the reader's perspective. (A lot of the pricing process is qualitative!) Will it make them think your book is low quality? Will it be too expensive for them? How does the price look in comparison to other books on this topic they might be thinking of buying?

Next, don't forget your own feelings matter too. How do you feel about presenting your book for sale at a certain price? Will you actually be happy making, say, $8 per sale? (A lot of conventionally-published authors would, by the way! Making 10% of the list price would actually be a pretty high royalty rate from a conventional publisher, and even under those circumstances, to make $8 you would need to convince a reader to part with $80 for a copy of your book.)

If you're not going to be doing any paid marketing, the main thing to think about here is to balance considerations like these. To find that balance, try these two things: a) make a list of ten books similar to yours, and note what their prices are; and b) show people you know a price you're thinking of charging, and ask them for their opinion.

Variable Pricing

In Leanpub's "variable pricing" model, you actually set two prices for your book: a "Minimum Price" and a "Suggested Price". Readers then choose themselves what price they want to pay - including more than the Suggested Price if they want to (people really do this, we'll explain why below).

Minimum Price

Unit Royalty

Suggested Price

Unit Royalty





















When readers go to your book's landing page, they see the book set to the Suggested Price. They can then slide the "pricing slider" the left to pay less, or just leave it where it is, or slide right to pay more.

A really important detail about how Leanpub handles pricing is that we show what you as the author will earn, based on the price the reader chooses:

The "Author Earns" slider is the main reason people pay more than the suggested price. In the example above, they might slide right to change $23.20 to be an even $25.00 (yes, people do this!).

Given the combination of our transparency, reader empowerment by letting them choose what to pay, and the high royalty rate you earn from Leanpub, this changes the nature of what it means to make a purchase. It's not an ordinary, cold economic calculation. We want readers to see themselves as supporting Leanpub authors when they buy their books. Making this kind of special connection (well, potentially, anyway!) is part of what makes self-publishing a joy in the 21st century.

When you're choosing your Minimum Price and Your Suggested price, you should do the same pair of qualitative exercises we set out in the section above, about choosing a static price: what do you think readers would feel about your choices, and how would you feel about them, and try to find the right balance.

The tempting thing to do here is to set the "Suggested Price" at the same price you would have chosen if you only had a static pricing option, and think of the "Minimum Price" as a discount.

However, we'd recommend the opposite approach: set the "Minimum Price" where you would have set a static price, and make the "Suggested Price" as a kind of premium purchase from someone who wants to show how much they support you.

Raising the Price Over Time as You Publish New Chapters

At Leanpub, our motto is "Publish Early, Publish Often". There's a whole philosophy behind this idea, but essentially it means that you should publish your book for the first time when you have completed your first couple of chapters, and then publish a new version every time you complete a new chapter.

Publishing a book this way turns people who buy your book at the start into the book industry version of what are called "early adopters" it the tech world. They're the kind of people who are either just into new things, or fans of yours, or, in a sense, the very best readers you can hope for: people who really need to read what you're writing.

In addition to showing support for you and your project, "early adopter" readers are actually also taking a chance on you, since it's always possible you won't actually finish your book project. (Most Leanpub books get finished, incidentally, partly because gaining early readers gives you great incentive to keep writing!)

So, both to reward people who take a chance on you, and to give them an incentive to buy early, we recommend you increase your book's price over time.

Start out by going through the exercises in the first section of this article, but this time think about it as though you are setting the final price for your book, i.e. the price you want to sell it for when it is 100% complete.

Then, back out how you want to price the book over time.

Let's say we choose $40 Suggested and $35 Minimum as the final price for the book, and we're planning on publishing it in five steps.

Step One: Chapters 1 to 3

Step Two: Chapters 4 to 6

Step Three: Chapters 7 to 9

Step Four: Chapters 10 to 13

Step Five: Chapters 14 to 16

We know what our destination is:

Step One: Chapters 1 to 3

Step Two: Chapters 4 to 6

Step Three: Chapters 7 to 9

Step Four: Chapters 10 to 13

Step Five: Chapters 14 to 16: $40 Suggested and $35 Minimum

So, let's just back out some prices from there, in $5 increments:

Step One: Chapters 1 to 3: $20 Suggested and $15 Minimum

Step Two: Chapters 4 to 6: $25 Suggested and $20 Minimum

Step Three: Chapters 7 to 9: $30 Suggested and $25 Minimum

Step Four: Chapters 10 to 13: $35 Suggested and $30 Minimum

Step Five: Chapters 14 to 16: $40 Suggested and $35 Minimum

Now, this next part is very important: you need to communicate your plan to your potential readers! The natural place to do this would be in the "About the Book" section for your book, but you'll want to make it all clear in your blog or newsletter or social media or wherever you're promoting your book.

What you don't want to do is frame this plan as something like a punishment for latecomers! Rather, we recommend you frame it as a "Thank You!" to people who buy your book early on, while you're still writing it.

Coupon Campaigns

Coupon campaigns are a great way to reach new readers! To find out how to make coupons on Leanpub, pleas go here.

Essentially, what you do is you create a coupon link for a discounted price, and share it in your email newsletter, or social media, or however you like.

This actually has an effect on where you want to set your normal price. For example, if your Minimum Price on Leanpub is too low, it might make a discount coupon seem like it's not really much of a deal.

So, now that you know about coupons, you might want to go back to the first section of this article and re-think your pricing decision. This is one reason we always say "make the price higher than your intuition tells you". Pricing really is an iterative process!

A classic example of a coupon campaign might be to make a "24 hour" deal: "For the next 24 hours, click here [COUPON LIINK] to get 10% off!".

Another example is a limited-use campaign: "The first 25 people to click here [COUPON LIINK] will get 10% off!"


Leanpub lets you create "Packages", where you can add other digital content to the sale of your ebook. Here's a great example of a bestselling Leanpub author using packages:

Probably the most obvious "package" would be an ebook plus an audiobook version, like this author has done:

(Yes, that's a novel, you can publish fiction on Leanpub!)

Typically what you'll do is stack content, so the more extra things there are in the package, the higher you set the price:


You can create bundles of books on Leanpub. (You can even create bundles with other Leanpub authors!).

When it comes to bundles, individual product pricing can get quite tricky, because we show readers a "Bought Separately" price and a "Bundle Price" (you set the bundle price of course):

The "Bought Separately" price we display is the sum of the "Suggested Price" for each book in the bundle.

If you create a bundle, you could decide that your primary interest is in bundle sales. In that case, you might make higher Suggested Prices for each book, so the bundle price looks like a better deal.

Sidenote: Extreme Deals

Some content creators (and even entire platforms) follow what you might call an "extreme deals" strategy, where it's like, "This course normally sells for $10,000 but it's on sale now for $50, buy it now and don't miss out!"

We're more or less agnostic about the near- and long-term effectiveness of doing this. Go ahead and try it if that's your thing! Like we keep saying, it's important to experiment.

To Free or Not to Free

Now, one of the biggest things to wrap your head around in the self-publishing world, is the value of "Free". Unless you just want to ignore it of course! But it's possible we may have one or two surprising things to say about this, so we hope you'll read on.

Free books are great for reaching large audiences of people. If people see that something is free and a couple of clicks away, that makes them much more likely to get it.

And once they've got it, they may learn about you, and become a fan or supporter of your other work that you actually charge money for.

Free books can gain brand awareness, whether that brand is your own online platform, or a specific series of books you're selling. That, in turn, can lead to revenue in a variety of ways, including convincing people to pay for another book you've written, that's not free.

There's also the "Fifty Shades of Grey" value of "Free": that very famous series of books started out as free fan fiction, became hugely popular, got picked up by a conventional publisher and repackaged, and eventually "Free" turned into a whole lot of real money for the author.

Leanpub's "variable pricing" model (described above) provides a rather unique value of "Free": since Leanpub readers choose what to pay, you can set your book's Minimum Price to free, and still get paid sales, because people want to support you. One of Leanpub's bestselling books, by both copies "sold" and revenue earned, has a free Minimum Price and a non-free Suggested Price.

One last thing about the value of "Free": Leanpub has a rather unique Reader Membership offering, where people can buy Reader Memberships, and half of their payment goes into a "Revenue Pool" that is shared amongst participating authors.

It's a little complicated to explain at the end of an already long article, but we do have a couple thousand participating books in this already! Essentially, you can make your book available for free to people with Reader Memberships, and if they "buy" your book for free, you get a cut of the Reader Membership Revenue Pool. You can learn more about this here.

It's Up to You!

All of this may seem a bit complicated, but the best part about self-publishing is that all your pricing decisions are yours to make. You can come up with a business plan, or you can just set a price you think makes sense and move on.

And you can also easily change your mind anytime, without restriction - well, at least you can on Leanpub :)

OK, that's it!

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