Two years ago, I was trying to figure out how to set the price for my debut novel NRI: Now, Returned to India. But I was unable to find relevant information that could help me. The challenge arose because of three reasons. First, there was very little data available on book pricing. Second, the price points for one language (say, English) might not work for another language (like Hindi). Finally, factors such as low priced editions of international books can affect the data.
That’s when I thought: even though I lived in India, pricing my book was proving to be a challenge. What about authors who live outside the country? This prompted me to develop on an index called MRP per page. My logic was as follows: bestselling books indicate the customer’s ability and willingness to pay a particular price. I looked at the details of books such as price, number of pages, format for the top 50 bestselling books on Amazon, Flipkart, Google Play Bookstore and Kobo in India.
In its simplest form, MRP per page is the cost of the book divided by the number of pages in that book.
The price of a 300 page novel,whether fiction or nonfiction, was about 180 Rupees or 3 dollars for print or 120 Rupees or 2 dollars for ebooks.
I updated this index every quarter in 2014, and I and a few author friends of mine were able to price our books using this data. But the relevance of my work got challenged very quickly. Over the past eight or nine months, the market for books began to get distorted. Booksellers and distributors began to discount the print books on online stores by 50, 60 or even 70 percent. In other words, a 3 dollar book began to be sold for as low as 1 dollar, and print books became cheaper than ebooks. Around the same time, Flipkart shut down its ebook business (which was acquired by Kobo), and a site called Dailyhunt began to dominate the market for ebooks in languages other than English. And the Indian Rupee fell in relation to the U S Dollar to nearly 70 Rupees a Dollar.
Last week, I thought of updating the MRP per page index, and test its relevance in the current market. Because of the heavy discounting for print books, I looked at the pricing for ebooks only. Another reason is that international authors may be more interested in ebooks because they can set the price on Amazon or Kobo or even Dailyhunt. This is what I learnt for English language books:
The median price of a 300 page fiction ebook is 120 Rupees, and a nonfiction book of similar length has a median price at 150 Rupees. For simplicity, you can divide the Rupees by 70 to get the equivalent amount in U S Dollars.
According to a 2015 report released by Neilsen Bookscan and the industry group FICCI, book publishing in India is a US 4 billion dollar industry and trade publication accounts for 300 million dollars. I therefore believe that no author or publisher should ignore India as a market. I hope that this post will help authors to decide on how to price their books in India, and I plan to expand my work to pricing for translations and non-English books in the coming months.
Amar Vyas is an author of the Amol Dixit series of books. He is the Co-Founder of Kamakshi Media and the host of MyKitaab, Podcast on book publishing in India. Amar lives in Bangalore, India with his wife Mrunal and their dog Buddy.