How My Pay-What-You-Want Promo Made Me Feel Awesome About Selling My Self-Published Book

Fashionably Light Cover
Get Xandra’s book at the price readers chose!

I’ve been self-publishing for years. Daily, in fact. That’s what my blog feels like, anyway – a little piece of the internet I can call my own, where I can write down useful things. It is my daily accomplishment, a reminder to myself to live up to what I observe.

So when I sat down to write my ebook, most things came naturally: the concept, the design, the chapters, the words.

But there was one crucial difference between publishing blog posts and publishing an ebook: the price.

This ebook is my baby step into business. “Business” – that’s been a difficult term to embrace.

Starting out, my blog was not a “business” idea, but after a few months I realized that each day the one thing I looked forward to was working on my blog. When people asked me what I “wanted to do with my life” I would laugh and say, “Well in an ideal world I would work on my blog, but…” Until I realized there was some truth in those words; why don’t I make that ideal world a reality?

To make money from my blog, I would have to sell stuff. And selling stuff felt like selling out. At first I sucked it up and grew a tough skin. I thought I would have to get used to feeling uncomfortable about mixing money and my creative passion. I thought wrong.

It’s all about putting things into perspective. When my favorite bloggers release new products, I am super excited to buy right away. I trust them, want to invest in their latest projects, and am happy to support their art, which I consume for free all the time. Most of all, I gain something. I pay for something and I gain something. That’s all “business” is.

Before writing an ebook, I considered many different avenues, thanks to advice from the blogosphere. “You have to sell on Kindle Select.” “You have to sell on a diverse range of platforms.” “You have to offer different pricing levels.” All seemed valid, and yet nothing seemed quite right for me.

The most difficult thing I had to consider was what to charge my readers. My ebook is mostly a personal memoir, so what value do I put on my life story? I found myself thinking, well, I want it to be priced inexpensively enough for people to buy it on a whim. But then I took a step back. My blog celebrates mindfulness in every moment. I encourage readers to live with “less stuff and more sparkle”. A lowball price for the sake of impulse buys would be hypocritical.

I was hesitant to try the $0+ pay-what-you-want model even though it clicked with me more than any other strategy. I was worried: What if no one paid? It’s a risk. But in the end, Dana soothed all of my what if”s and reminded me to trust my readers. I contemplated suggesting a price, or setting a minimum. She persuaded me that neither of these were great ideas; the $0+ model runs on trust, and putting numbers in the mix signals distrust. She was right.

During the publication process, I had to remind myself why I was launching this product. Yes, it was to start my business, but why this product? The aim was to inspire. To give back to my readers. To let them in. So why not let them choose?

So I did. I decided to publish independently. I chose to use Gumroad for its aesthetic and usability. Here’s what I told my readers:

As for the price, it’s up to you.

 All you have to do is set the slider to wherever you feel is best.

One week after publication, on April 1st, I will finalize the price at the average of what my first readers set. The choice is yours.

After three weeks of $0+, the price settled at $8.84. I never fully decided how much I thought it was worth, but I might have priced it around $4-5, mostly out of fear that I was overcharging!

This route feels guilt-free. I gave my readers responsibility; I relinquished control, and it felt wonderful. I love the random digits they came up with. $8.84 – the price is a story in itself.

The beauty of self-publishing is that you call the shots. My book, a 19-page PDF that comes with a free audiobook, does not fall into a category or genre. It’s a memoir-driven workbook that covers minimalism, university life, rock climbing, and fashion. Only I could have written it, and thanks to the internet, I can share it with the world in a way that suits it perfectly.

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  1. says

    Love it, Xandra! I’m going to be using the “pay-what-you-want” method when I release my new book, LittleZotz Writing: School for Ghosts, in September and your article has only further convinced me that I’ve made the right decision. ;) Thanks!