Your price can say a lot about your product.
Have you ever gone to the store to purchase a product you weren’t really familiar with, perhaps a part for your toilet or for your car, and looked at the different choices? How do you choose which one to get? Maybe you choose by brand name or by reputation. But what if you don’t know any of the companies? What I usually do in that situation is judge by price. I figure the cheapest one is going to be a poor quality part. The most expensive one is more about status than quality. I choose one of the middle-priced parts—one that looks like it could do the job and last for awhile.
Some people go for the status symbols. Others buy whatever is cheapest, even if they’ll be buying the same thing again and again and again. I go for the middle.
This same attitude works for books. I don’t buy a bestseller because it’s a bestseller. I ignore the hype as much as possible. On the other hand, I don’t buy the cheapest books I can find, either. I will pay twenty dollars for a book that sounds like it’s worth twenty dollars, not based on hype, but based on the contents of the book. I will pay $9.99 for a paperback novel that seems like it has a good story to tell—and yes, I do judge books by their covers, though I prefer the back cover to the pretty (or not so pretty) pictures. If it’s a new-to-me author, I look for quotes from people or magazines I trust to know a good story from crap-in-a-box. Sometimes they’re wrong, but usually they’re not.
There’s a lot of different ways to use pricing as a marketing strategy. If you price yourself too high, you say something about your product—you’re saying, “This isn’t for the masses.” If you price yourself too low, you say something else about your product—you’re saying, “This isn’t up to par with the market.” If you price your product at fair market value, then you’re saying, “Hey, this is good and it’s attainable, too!”
Fair market value is not something that’s within our control. It’s a confluence of factors, including the demand, the supply, and the competition. Fair market value isn’t always what we think it should be. If there’s an abundance of supply, prices generally go down. If there’s an abundance of demand, prices generally go up. But it’s also a matter of perception. There could be a real abundance of supply, but it seems like there’s a shortage, so prices go up as if there were really a shortage.
Right now there is an ABUNDANCE of books on the market. With access to cheap self-publishing, authors are pouring more books into the market than could possibly survive. We’d need to transform a whole lot of non-readers into readers to create the demand that would make this market work, which isn’t likely. So, the perceived value of this over-abundance of books is generally determined by artificial factors. Essentially, traditionally published books are worth more than self-published books, because readers expect them to be of higher quality. Even then, with a traditional publisher, it’s hard for a book to survive.
I’ve seen a lot of books trying to “distinguish” themselves with price, but the problem is that so many authors are doing this it really doesn’t distinguish anything. You’re back to lumped categories. So, what can you do to change that?
Marketing. Sure, pricing is a marketing strategy, but it’s a rubber stamp among an office supply warehouse full of tools. The more you customize your toolkit to yourself and your readers, the better your book is going to fare among the masses of too many writers and too few readers.
So, don’t rely on price to set you apart. Rely on solid, customized strategy. It will get you much farther.