Pricing and Books: E-books vs Traditional Publishing

Not with that spelling
As an author of traditional books and e-books many people ask me: "How can authors afford to have their books at only 2,99 or even .99?" This is a legitimate question, and it has a very simple answer.

Until recently, books had to be set at a certain price for an author to make any sort of royalties. A book that was 25$ in hardback or trade paperback usually yielded a dollar or maybe two and some change for the author, but e-books set at 3$ will yield the same. Readers ask, "Why is that?" Mostly due to overhead. Publishing a book can be an expensive ordeal: graphic designers need to be employed for covers, line editors and content editors need to be paid to finely comb through manuscripts, and distributors need to be compensated. Publishing an e-book, however, defrays much of the cost, leaving 50%-70% for authors instead of only 10%-20%. Granted, traditional publishing usually comes with all the requisite accessories of marketing and publicity, leaving an self-published or independent author to spread the word about her book.

There is also the discussion of Price vs. Quality. Many seem to feel that if a book is only .99 there must be something amiss with it, either the text is not well edited or the story is not well contrived. While this at one time might have been the case, it is not so any longer. E-book editors offer affordable pricing, artists will be happy to make a professional cover for a reasonable fee, and now many books to be found in the kindle bargain bin are very much worth a reader's time. As well, I remember buying a certain well-known fantasy series' 25th anniversary edition for 50$ and though this was a traditionally published book for such a price, I still found many spelling and grammar mistakes in the text. Cheap doesn't need to mean bad in the e-book world just as expensive doesn't need to mean good, but it does mean that authors will no longer have to shell out hundreds of dollars to vanity presses when choosing the independent route.   

I have both been self-published and traditionally published and I will tell you that they are essentially the same thing. Personally, I enjoy the notion that my books are available to everyone for less than the price of a Starbucks coffee. I'm still getting the same amount of royalties as I was when my books were 20$ but now I might get a few more people to read them thanks to free e-samples and digital worldwide distribution.


  1. I had no idea of the disparity in what portion the author earns with a hard copy book. Yikes!

  2. It's nice to hear from a writer that's experienced both routes to publication. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Always great to get more insight on how these things work. I am curious though, if you know what the deal typically is for e-book sales by traditional publishers? I see that the Agency 6 set most of their e-book prices at roughly the same amount as the physical book. Sure, there's till editing/design/layout/marketing etc. that benefits the e-copy, but the printing/storage costs are moot. So does author still get the same cut from e-book purchases as they do from their hardcopy ones?


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