How To Price Your Book in India

If you are considering to release your book (print or ebook) for the Indian market, my conclusion is that you can use the following rule of thumb: for print or an ebook, the selling price is one and a half dollars for every 100 pages. In other words, a 200 page novel should be priced at 3 U S Dollars or nearly 200 Rupees. This blog post will explain how and why I arrived at these figures. (At the prevailing exchange rate, 1 US Dollar is about 64 Indian Rupees). I have shared my views in both audio and as a blog below.

Background

A little over one year ago, when I was considering to self publish NRI:Now, Returned to India, one of the questions that came to my mind was, “How much should I price it for?” This question became particularly relevant for the Indian market, where the readers are extremely price conscious, and ebooks are still quite expensive. Unlike say the market in the United States and the UK, where price points start from free, to 99 cents and above, there are no such accepted (or acceptable) price points in India. Moreover, I was also considering printing a few paperback copies, which further added to my dilemma. I looked up several resources, spoke to other authors, publishers, and booksellers to get a feel for the price. Some websites such as Notionpress and Pothi have calculators (similar to Createspace) that suggest a price based on the type of book (hardbound or paperback) and number of pages, size, etc. But I was still not convinced that this was the right approach.

My question still remained unanswered: Should I price my 288 page novel at around 200 Rupees or a little over 3 dollars, or at a higher price? I saw a lot of fiction books priced at 200 Rupees, but my costs were much higher than that. Similarly, should I price the ebook version at half the price of the print book? Or a third? Or should the price be same?

Enter MRP Per Page

A common joke that reflects on the buying behavior of Indians is as follows: A man walks into a BMW showroom, and is interested in buying a 7 series. The first question he asks the salesman “What is the mileage of this car?” Same goes for the real estate market. The news headline might read “So-and-so house sold for 3 million dollars” but the article will invariably include what was the price paid by the buyer for every square foot of land or building.

In other words, there is a tendency to compare with known indices (kilometer per liter for a car or cost per square foot for real estate) before making a purchasing decision. A thought came to my mind, “What if I priced my book based on the appetite of the customer or reader to pay for a particular type of book?” This is how MRP per page was born.

In April 2014, I wrote a two part blog post on how I developed the MRP per page index (link to Part I here, Part II here). To summarize the process, I looked at the top 20 selling books at amazon.in, Flipkart.com, Google Play, Kobo, and the websites of two bookstore chains in India, Crossword and Landmark. For both the print and ebook versions, I looked at the price, number of reviews, the average rating, and for print books- the number of pages.

April 2105: Key Takeaways

Last week, on April 25th to be precise, I repeated the above process and spent a couple of hours gathering and digging through the data. The takeaways are as follows:

  • The Top 20 selling books in India are not segregated into Fiction and Nonfiction, and the market is yet to start classifying bestsellers based on the genre.
  • The average cost of a book per 100 pages is 100 Rupees or nearly one and a half US Dollars. In other words, a 200 page book should be priced at 3 US dollars or 200 Rupees. This price is applicable for print as well as ebook, and is applicable for both fiction and Nonfiction.
  • On an average, a Top 20 bestseller was released between 2 and 3 years ago, with the exception of Amazon, where the top 5 list is dominated by books that have been published more recently. In other words, if your book’s sales can sustain the momentum for 2 to 3 years, your book can feature as a Top 20 bestseller in India.
  • On an average, 2 Fiction books are sold on Amazon.in for every nonfiction book that is sold.
  • Between the period of March to May, a lot of Nonfiction books are sold, particularly for competitive exams for engineering or medical schools or for public services.
  • Price difference between a print book and ebook in most cases is insignificant, though in case of some fiction books, the print book was priced at half the
  • Audiobooks have a long way to go in the Indian Market
  • Amazon it the place to go if you are looking for a large number of quality reviews.  On an average, a Top 20 bestselling book had nearly 450 reviews. Considering that the book was published about 2 years ago, that makes it over 200 reviews every year. That is a very healthy number of reviews.
  • If you are looking only for quantity of reviews and not quality, then consider Google Play India. The Top 20 selling book had over 1,000 reviews, with an average rating of between 4 and 4.5. But the reviews themselves were a simple “Wow” or “Excellent Book”. By the way, I would not buy a book that had reviews like these.

Way Forward

I plan to repeat this process in July, and am anticipating some surprises. I am including the excel sheet that has the raw data based on which I arrived at the above conclusions. MRP-Page-April2015. Those of you who are interested in digging into the data and arrive at their own conclusions are welcome to download the file, but I do hope that you will share your results with the readers!
Hope you found the above information useful, and I am looking forward to hearing from you by email or on Twitter I can be reached at @amarauthor. Thanks, and Happy Writing Pricing!

Note: since the Top 20 lists are dynamic, the titles  and the ranking of the book in the excel may not match with the Top 20 lists on the websites mentioned in this post.

Edit: made a few edits: added link to Google Play India store, and corrected a (now obvious) typo!