Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pricing Your eBooks -- What Works, What Doesn't

I get asked a lot for my opinion on eBook price points, so today I'll talk about what works for me. 

When I first published, I started out at .99 and I kept my books at this price for one year.


A few reasons:

1. I didn't have an established fan base.
2. I was just creating my brand.
3. At the time, .99 eBooks were hotter than the Vegas strip in July.

Note that third one.  And not the "stripping" part ;) One year ago, a majority of books in my genre in the top twenty were .99 books.  And many of those were John Locke's novels, but there were several other 99 cent books as well.  Then something happened.  Amazon changed their algorithms (in my opinion) and now many of the .99 books aren't being promoted like they used to be.  I do still see them pop up now and again on my "recommended book" lists, but not like they used to.

One year ago, half of the top twenty eBooks in the mystery & thriller genre were .99.  Not only that, to see a book priced above $3.99 was rare in the top twenty.  Now, (August 2012) here's how it shapes up:

#1   $12.99
#2   $12.99
#3   $12.99
#4   $1.99 (this is a 60 page Kindle Short)
#5   $12.99
#6   $12.99
#7   $9.99
#8   $4.99
#9   $14.99
#10 $.99
#11 $12.99
#12 $4.99
#13 $9.99
#14 $12.99
#15 $14.99
#16 $4.99
#17 $13.99
#18 $12.99
#19 $12.99
#20 $3.99

There's only one .99 book in the top twenty, and it's so short, a person could finish it in thirty minutes, hence the price.  There's not another .99 book on the list until #69.  In fact, in the top #100 right now in mystery & thriller, only three novels are .99.  Hmm. 

Amazon does an excellent job at promoting indie authors, and they have outstanding platforms as well such as their Thomas & Mercer imprint, among others.  But I heard a rumor last year that the "Bix Six" publishing companies were a little miffed their books were being outsold by indie books.  While I'm not sure that's true, one look at the difference in the current top 100 list makes me wonder what happened and why...

But let's get back to my thoughts on eBook pricing.  When I first started out, for me, .99 was the way to go.  At that price readers who'd never heard of me weren't afraid to "take a risk" and check out my books.  They didn't have much to lose.  Many newbies either don't grasp the importance of this concept or don't care.  They price their book at $5.99 or whatever amount they think is fair, telling themselves their novel is worth much more than a mere .99.  And although that's probably true, here's what ultimately happens: no one buys their book. I wouldn't even spend $5.99 on a book by an unknown unless I'd seen rave reviews or heard about it. I'll admit it--I'm a tightwad.  But how many others out there are like me?  More than you think.

It's hard for me to say if the same strategy I used is as effective now given all the recent changes this year, but with the right promoting, I still feel it's the way to go.  At first.  Not forever.

Once you develop a fanbase, I suggest raising your price.  Especially as you continue putting more books out.  This was really hard for me.  I kept worrying about what all indie writers worry about--what if no one buys my books when I raise the price?  I went from .99 to $2.99 with the release of the third novel in my Sloane Monroe series.  I priced all three at $2.99, and ever since then I've made more money than I ever did at .99.  Now I'm gearing up to price one of my books at $3.99 to test the waters.  I'll put one little toe in at first, swish it around, and see how it goes. 

eBook Price Sweet Spot

Are there certain prices that seem to keep readers buying more than others?  Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, seems to think so.  In a recent inteview he said books priced between $2.99 to $5.99 are selling better than .99 to $1.99.  Click HERE to read the rest of the article.

Of course, free books sell better than anything else, but I would only suggest doing this for short periods of time as an incentive and to build your brand and get your name out there.

Don't Be Afraid to Try New Things

My birthday is in August.  I'm always looking to try new and exciting incentives, so I decided to make all three novels in my Sloane Monroe Series .99 for one day only on my birthday. 

Before I get into the results, I want to suggest you put your price change in the afternoon before your incentive to ensure enough time is allotted for the change.  And then at that same time the day of the promotion, you need to change your price back on Amazon.  Barnes&Noble and Sony Kobo updates a lot faster. 

Now to the results.  Here's how many more books I sold than the day before the incentive:

Black Diamond Death +66

Sinnerman +77

I Have a Secret +400

Whispers of Murder (Novella) +17

So in one day, I sold 560 more copies of my books than the previous day.  And yes, they were .99, BUT I still made more more money than the previous day.  That wasn't my goal though.  My goal was to improve my rankings, and I did.

Better Ranking = More Sales

I Have a Secret outsold everything else, seeing a ranking increase from 6,346 to 281 in the kindle store because I ran a promotion on eReader News Today to go along with my own promotion. 

Good luck everyone, and may your books do well at any price point :)