Friday, September 24, 2010

Ebook Pricing

In my last post, we had a long comment thread where many folks chimed in about the price of ebooks.

I thought I would distill my thoughts into a new blog entry, and explain why I believe $2.99 is the new ebook standard.

There are a few ways to support this claim, but before I begin, we need some background.

It all starts with print.

Currently, the majority of authors are offered boilerplate contracts with fixed rates for print books.

Mass market paperback is 8% of the cover price (though some houses offer 6% or even less), After a certain number of books are sold, it can escalate to 10%.

Trade paperback is 7.5%.

Hardcover is 10% for the first 5000, 12.5% for the next 5000, and 15% for everything after that.

So, for a $7.99 paperback, the author earns 64 cents per copy sold.

For a $13 trade paperback, the author earns 75 cents.

For a $25 hardcover, the author earns $2.50 to start out, though it can get to $3.75 if it sells well.

It is worth noting that these royalty rates are low because there are a lot of costs built into a book sale. Besides the costs absorbed by the publisher (editing, cover art, marketing, advertising, factoring the the cost of returns, plus overhead from salaries, rent, utilities, etc.), there are also printing and shipping costs. The distributor gets a cut. The bookseller gets a cut as well.

But the time the writer gets their cut, there isn't very much left. That's why hardcovers are priced as luxury items. You spend twenty-five bucks to be entertained by something for eight hours--something that I spent months of my life working on--and I get $2.50.

Now let's take a small detour and discuss ebooks.

Ebooks are a tricky product. Their costs are much lower than their print counterparts. No printing or shipping, no distributor, and the bookseller cut is smaller. There is no need to inflate the cost to factor in returns, because returns don't require shipping, warehousing, or printing.

I'll also put forth that the marketing and advertising costs for ebooks are much lower, and fewer people are required to create an ebook, which means less overhead.

Bottom line: Ebooks cost less to produce.

This is a Good Thing. Especially because customers want ebooks to cost less.

There is an acknowledged bias against the worth of downloadable content. This bias is partly emotional, and partly fact-based.

Facts include:

Ebooks cost nothing to distribute or produce.

Ebooks are intangible--they don't exist in a hard copy.

Ebooks have restrictions like DRM and proprietary format, which makes them worth less because they can't be shared, copied, or transferred.

Emotional response to downloads include:

I get a lot of stuff for free on the internet, which must mean it is worth less.

If something can be copied, it has no tangible value.

Copyright is not enforceable in a digital world, so everything should be free, and intellectual property is worthless.

Bottom line: Ebooks cost less, customers know this, and customers want to pay less.

Ebooks should be a bonanza for publishers. They cost less, they require fewer people to produce, and entire wings of their business could be downsized or eliminated, saving a lot of overhead.

But I believe publishers have seen ebooks as a threat to their long-entrenched print book business. I've I've said before: publishers should be connecting writers and readers, but they seem more concerned about selling paper.

That means protecting their paper-selling business. They've done many things to ensure this.

-Push the agency model so they control the selling price of ebooks
-Window ebook releases until after the print version is released
-Keep ebook prices artificially high
-Refuse to release ebook versions of some books, or in certain markets, or for certain platforms
-Demand DRM, which consumers hate (iTunes no longer uses it for that very reason)
-Devote time and energy and money to combating piracy, which is a waste of time and energy and money

None of this embraces the future and prepares them for making fat ebook profits. Instead, it alienates their customers, angers their authors, and leaves them even farther behind as ebook domination draws closer and closer.

Bottom line: Ebooks cost less, customers want to pay less, publishers don't care.

So where are the authors in this?

The boilerplate for ebooks was 25% of the net sales receipts. Instead of basing it on the cover price, it is based on what the publisher receives from the seller.

So on a $9.99 ebook on Amazon (price set by the publisher) is sold to them for $7, which means the author earns $1.75.

Now compared to hardcovers and paperbacks, a buck seventy-five is a pretty good royalty.

At least, on the surface it is. But not when some other things are taken into account.

On a hardcover, and on a paperback, there are so many costs that the publisher earns very close to what the author earns--three bucks on a hardcover, about a buck on a paperback.

But on a $9.99 ebook, the publisher earns $5.25.

$5.25 for simply uploading it to Amazon? Sorry, that's way too much.

Not only that, but they do a lot less to bring an ebook to market, and pay a lot less to get it to market. Lower costs, lower overhead, but jack up the profit? I think not. A world where a publisher earns three times what the artist earns is simply messed up.

If I wrote the damn thing, I deserve the lion's share. A 25% royalty rate isn't fair. Especially compared to print.

It gets worse, though. We've established that ebooks should be cheaper, and customers want to pay less. They certainly don't want to pay ten bucks. So when a publisher prices a book that high, they're losing potential sales. No wonder there's a $9.99 boycott by readers.

My own sales have confirmed this, numerous times. The lower the price, the more money a book earns. This is because value has nothing to do with the list price, and everything to do with how much the author earns.

But it gets worse, still.

By working with a publisher, an author gets 17.5% royalty of whatever price that publisher sets the book at.

By self publishing, the author can get 70% royalty, plus set their own price.

I price my ebooks at $2.99, because I've found that to be the sweet spot. If I price them higher, I make more per sale, but have fewer sales so I lose money.

On a $2.99 ebook, I earn $2.04.

In other words, I earn three times more than I do on a $8 paperback, and almost as much as I do on a $25 hardcover.

And guess what? Ebooks are easier to buy and sell than paper books. Kindle owners can buy my ebooks and get them instantly, without going to the store, or without even turning on their computers. No hassle, no wait.

I like the $2.99 price for other reasons as well. A hardcover requires thought before buying. In this economy it's a big purchase.

$2.99 is an impulse buy. It's no-guilt. It's a bargain. It encourages people to buy, rather than discourages.

Bottom line: I can make more money selling $2.99 ebooks on my own than I can selling $7.99 paperbacks or $25 hardcovers with a publisher.

The fact that I keep the rights, control cover art and titles, and can release the book as fast as I can write it rather than waiting 12 to 18 months, is all icing on the cake.

So let's hear from the opposition:

1. Joe, don't you think books are worth more than $2.99? People have always paid more than that.

Joe sez: A book is worth what it earns the author. Selling a bunch of $2.99 books is more profitable than selling almost as many $25 hardcovers. The public believes downloads should cost less, and the author makes more than they would in print. I think $2.99 is a perfect price to satisfy everyone.

2. Joe, don't you think part of the reason you're selling so well is you're undercutting other authors with your low price?

Joe sez: This isn't a zero sum game. Kindle owners don't buy just one book. They read more than they did before buying their ereader, and if they seem happy to buy more ebooks if they cost less. It isn't a choice between my book or your book. Readers can afford both.

3. Joe, but what happens when publishers start selling at $2.99? Won't you lose sales?

Joe sez: I don't believe publishers are going to go that route for a while. But if/when it happens, I can easily see my sales going up. When people can buy the new James Patterson for $2.99 instead of $9.99, they'll have money left over to spend on me.

4. Joe, ebooks have been around for ten years, and they've always been priced higher than $2.99.

Joe sez: The past is the past. Currently, people want to pay less. I say, give the customer what they want.

5. Joe, books shouldn't be an impulse purchase. Many writers spend years toiling over their manuscripts. Books have integrity and gravitas, and people are willing to pay more for that.

Joe sez: Books are entertainment. We can spend a lot of money to be entertained, and we can also be entertained for free. If you feel your ebook should be priced comparably to a hardcover, or a Broadway show, or a Picasso, knock yourself out. As I said, it isn't a zero sum game. You're free to price however you desire.

6. But if I price my book high when everyone else listens to you and prices their books low, I won't sell very many.

Joe sez: Then write a Broadway show, or take up painting. Then you'll get paid what your masterpiece is truly worth.

7. Your books suck, and the only reason you sell so many is because they're cheap.

Joe sez: I've long stopped caring about what people think of my writing, good or bad. I get enough fan mail, and make enough money, to no longer be concerned about bad reviews, negative people, or the obviously envious. My ego and bank account are satisfied, and I'm lucky I can find an audience while doing something I love. Also, you're an asshat.

8. Aren't you worried about piracy?

Joe sez: No. I'll eventually post long term results to my piracy experiment, but so far I've concluded that piracy hasn't hurt my sales. The way to fight piracy is with cost and convenience. Three dollar ebooks that can be purchased and delivered with the press of a button are the ultimate in cost and convenience.

9. Don't you think publishers will eventually figure out what you have? Some smaller, independent publishers already have.

Joe sez: I erroneously group all publishers together under the "Big 6" banner. If anyone can adapt and survive in this brave new world, smaller publishers are much better suited for it. But if the brand is the author, all publishers, small and big, need to figure out what they can offer their authors to justify taking a percentage of royalties forever. It has to be more than a cover and editing, because authors can get those on their own, and pay one-time costs for them.

10. What happens when Amazon lowers the royalty rate for authors?

Joe sez: What happens when it starts raining acid and aliens invade our planet and the crickets stage a coup and win the majority of the seats in Congress? I'll worry about it when it happens. But if it does happen, we live in a capitalist society. Other businesses will spring up and offer authors more... which is why Amazon is currently taking authors away from Big 6 publishing.

11. The only reason this works for you is because you already have a platform and a lot of books. Other authors can't follow your example.

Joe sez: How many authors get rich, whatever path they take? Very few. A fraction of a fraction are able to make big money selling fiction.

It isn't a question of either selling 100,000 ebooks or selling zero. Everyone falls somewhere in between. This isn't a competition, or a sprint. It's a marathon, and the race is with yourself.

Set realistic goals, experiment, learn from mistakes, keep and open mind, and most of all, write a lot of good books. I believe 99.9% of writers have a better chance to make more money in this new market than they did in the old one.

If you do get offered a print deal, congratulations. But make sure that there is a clear reversion of rights clause if the publisher goes bankrupt before the book comes out (or during its shelf life.) Make sure there is clear language about what "out of print" means. Make sure you get a decent ebook royalty rate. And above all, crunch the numbers and compare what you could potentially make on your own, especially in the long term.

Also you have to remember that I'm just one man following my own path. Your results may vary. You can, and should, form your own conclusions based on your own experience.

I'm sure this is my future. You need to figure out what your future is, and act accordingly.

120 comments:

Krista D. Ball said...

One thing about this entire self-publishing vs traditional publishing debate as of late is that folks seem to think that you are either with the Big 6 or self-published. There is a huge, vast middle ground.

Depending upon your genre, many authors are making decent money through e-publishers. Some even sell print books of the ebooks that are doing well.

E-publishers have all of the benefits of traditional publishing (cover art, editing, distribution all provided for you as part of the contract). The author gets anywhere between 25-40% (most places seem to be in the 35ish% range). Personally, I make 40% and have sold more in 10 days than I have with my self-published title that's been out for a couple of months. And I'm only with a brand new publisher. Folks with Carina and Cobblestone (for the R&E market) are making a lot more than I am from the sheer size of these places.

Many writers starting out do not have the upfront cash to pay for a well-drawn cover and proper content and line editing. From what I've read on Smashwords and Amazon, I think a lot of these writers don't even know what content and line editors are.

I think it's great that self-publishing is allowing some niche and different books to come on the market. I think it's great that authors can keep their backlists alive.

I don't think it's great at the overall low quality of self-published books out there or that people think it's either Big 6 or bust.

Jeremy D Brooks said...

I've been following your blog closely for a year or so, and tend to agree. This is a market function--a book is worth what someone will pay for it, and the concept of undercutting other books is a fallacy. If you can sell for $2.99 and make a profit, it makes it hard for me to justify $9.99 for a comparable end-user experience. Markets are, to quote Eric Raymond, discussions.

I priced my first ebook--Amity--at $3.99 (which was immediately discounted by Amazon to $3.19 for some mysterious reason). Too early to tell if that's the right price, but I hope it's close.

mlouisalocke said...

Again, Joe, thoughtful piece. Nice and clear in terms of describing the differences between the different costs and prices and royalties.

And for those who keep insisting that your success is completely based on your long years of marketing before you came to self-publishing and ebooks, I am one of those authors who have had success, even though my historical mystery is my first book.

Thanks in part to the great advice I have gotten from you, and Zoe Winters, and April Hamilton, and others, after 10 months I have now sold over 1500 copies of Maids of Misfortune, and I am making over $300 a month on that single book.

And much of it is clearly related to price. When I lowered my ebook from $4 to $2.99 my Kindle sales went from 21 to 55 in a month. While other factors have kept my sales rising, I have discovered another piece of the puzzle-discounts. For some reason Amazon started discounting my ebook in September to $2.37. (This may be related to a Kobo discount through Smashwords-so I have stopped selling to Kobo-and I am waiting to see it the Amazon price goes back to $2.99.)

At the same time, my POD paper edition, which is listed at $12.75, and which Amazon had been discounting to $11.47, went back up to the list price. (Again, I don't know why, but it has provided an interesting experiment.)

The result has been very clear. My September discounted ebook sales as of the 23rd of the month were 263 (versus 191 on August 23rd) a sharp rise. But my no longer discounted paper edition on Sept 23rd was 37, a sharp drop from the 59 I had sold by that date in August.

My conclusion. Joe is right, the lower the price-the more people are willing to take a chance (in my case on a complete unknown author.) But added to this is the human tendency to like a "bargain" even better-which has been proven by the free promotional strategy-as well as Amazon and other bookstore's discount policies.

When I find a bargain in clothes of a brand name-I don't think it is less valuable, I buy it because I feel smart that I got a good deal on something that I ordinarily wouldn't buy. If I buy something unknown for sale, and it doesn't turn out, I am less disappointed, because it didn't cost me full price (it was worth the risk.) But if I pay full price for a brand name product that turns out to be a disappointment, I feel cheated, and less likely to risk this again. And that is how I have been feeling as a consumer when I click on a book by an established author and see a high price--that is in the same range as the paperback edition.

Publishers (who aren't used to selling directly to readers) don't seem to get this basic idea.

Some day I hope to be an established author, and that readers will buy my book because they read the first one and want to read more. Maybe that will make my work more "valuable" but I sure won't want to punish that loyalty by charging them more to buy my next ebook!!!!

And since I get 70% of the list price for that ebook, unlike traditionally published authors, I won't feel in the least bit devalued by continuing to set my price at $2.99 or even lower.

Jude Hardin said...

Readers don't care how much authors are making off each sale, how much publishers are making, agents, distributors, booksellers, etc. They don't give a rat's ass. They just want a quality product at a reasonable price.

Personally, I think $25 is too high for a hardcover (although I pay it on a regular basis), but I also think $2.99 is too low for an ebook.

I mentioned David Morrell's prices in a previous post. $9.99 for the new release, and $6.39 for the backlist titles. Those prices seem fair to me. Do I care how much David is making off each sale? Nope. That's his business. I just want a good read, and I'm definitely willing to pay the price of lunch at Burger King to get it.

At less than half the price for a new-release hardcover, $9.99 is a bargain. IMHO.

Moses Siregar III said...

It's happened, Joe. After reading every post on your blog since the beginning of the year, you've finally found a way to make a post that I disgree with :-)

I'm going to make a case for a higher floor than $2.99. From the irony department, just today I made my fantasy ebook novella free on Smashwords to see what will happen with a free item. It's also a novella and an introduction to a novel, so at this point I'm probably better off getting more people interested in the novel to be released next year.

I'll get back to you on this post. It'll be so long that I'll probably just make a blog post of my own about it.

Kristi Holl said...

Very helpful discussion--thanks for laying it out in detail. Having been writing and publishing traditionally since 1983, the whole e-book phenomenon is both exciting and a bit daunting. I appreciate the details you're willing to share!

Kristi Holl
Writer's First Aid blog

Joe Konrath said...

When I find a bargain in clothes of a brand name-I don't think it is less valuable

Very nicely put.

Joe Konrath said...

I mentioned David Morrell's prices in a previous post. $9.99 for the new release, and $6.39 for the backlist titles.

And yet I wonder how many more he'd sell, and how much more he'd earn, at $2.99.

Joe Konrath said...

I'm going to make a case for a higher floor than $2.99.

When you finish your ebook, price it at $3.99. Keep it there for three months. Then price it at $2.99. Keep it there for three months.

At the end of the six months, compare how much you earned. Then we can have some hard data.

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

I completely agree with the $2.99 price point. People, especially younger people that I am attempting to target with my YA ebook that comes out Nov. 1 (sorry for the plug!), are the iPod generation. They are used to having things quickly accessed and cheap. They'll pay .99-1.99 for songs on iTunes, no problem. So if I can price a book at a price point they are already comfortable with, I feel I will sell far more copies than if I priced it at what some people think they deserve.

I currently make no money from writing. I know freelance writers that make peanuts for articles that they write. And no author I know has ever earned out their advance. I went to a writer's conference this summer where, at a panel for careers in creative writing, they pretty much told all of us to keep our day jobs because we will never make any money. But I think they're wrong, because ebooks are changing the game.

I will have invested $500 on cover and formatting (through Joe's guys-they're great, thanks BTW). I am confident that I will earn well beyond that over the next year.

I've tried to build a little platform with Facebook, my blog and Twitter, and hope to do minimal marketing through my blog and social networking. I really think this will give me the chance that I keep missing by trying to go through the agency system. I've gotten close many times, but no cigar. And many of my writer friends find themselves in the same boat, some taking 7 years to get an agent. Not that I'm trying to be a millionaire, but think of all the money you could make in 7 years if you can produce a quality book and sell lots of copies at $2.99. I don't know about you, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

I think we need to get over the ego of writing. I can (if necessary) write 1K words in an hour. YA books are between 50-70k. Obviously I would put in more than just 50-70 hours, because of rewrites and edits, but I think if I weren't so lazy and did the math, I'd be making a nice return on my hours spent. And like Joe said, we are creating entertainment. And I love every minute of it and can't wait to share!

Tina Folsom said...

Great article again! It gives me more and more confidence that I'm doing the right thing by self-publishing (well, that and the monthly direct deposits by Amazon!).

Pricing is totally important. People hate spending money - I'm one of them. So, when a book is under five bucks, they don't think much and give it a try. The closer you get to the $10 mark, the more people will think whether it's really worth it.

Also the point you're making about people reading more with ebooks (and cheaper books), is valid. When I got my Kindle I suddenly went from reading ten books a year to ten to fifteen books a month. Convenience is so important - we are an "instant" society - we want it and we want it now and don't want to wait for two or three days for the book to arrive in the mail.

Tina Folsom
Romance Author

Mike Jastrzebski said...

Joe, I couldn't agree more. I put my first book, a historical novel on Kindle on June 29th 2010, and added my second book on August 11th. To date I have sold 1050 books on Kindle and have made over $2000.00 on the books. They are priced at $2.99. I had no Platform. I had never been published. But I am thankful to you and your blog for leading the way and keeping us informed.

By the way, I'm a member of the Florida chapter of MWA and when I started talking about doing this and mentioned your success, everyone said-Joe has a platform. You can't believe everyting Joe says. Well I believed you and I'm glad I did.

Paul Levine said...

I'm testing $2.99 vs. $3.99. Appears I lose sales at $3.99, but less than the 1/3 difference in royalties. So, my gut tells me the base price should be $3.99. (Less than a Starbucks grande Frappucino, and better for you). Those books are all out-of-print backlist. I plan to put up two original novels in January and February, and for those, I'm considering $4.99.

Steve Peterson said...

Great post, Joe. You've found a price point that maximizes your revenue, which should be the goal. Publishers seem to have fixated on a retail price, not on the overall revenue (and profits!). It shouldn't matter whether you price your book at $100 or at $1... what should matter is how many copies you sell at a given price point. If you sell 10 copies at $100, and 10,000 at $1, you should be pricing your book at $1... so you can put $10,000 in the bank instead of $1,000.

The great thing about e-books (and other digital products) is you can experiment with pricing to discover what price maximizes your revenue. I discuss this on my blog post at http://20thlevelmarketing.blogspot.com/2010/09/pricing-digital-products.html.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, speaking from my own experience tonight. I finished a book and went searching for another. I found 3. 2 for $2.99 and 1 for $3.99. I bought both $2.99 books but felt that I should wait on the one for $3.99.

I would buy books all day long at $2.99 and never worry that I'm spending too much but I can't bring myself to spend freely of the ones posted at $3.99.

Gareth-Michael Skarka said...

Another anecdotal point: I haven't released for Kindle yet, but I've been in ePublishing for the past 10 years (in the tabletop role-playing games industry).

I usually don't price anything over $10, and most sits around the $5 level. Even with that, I run 2 sales per year, each a week long, where I reduce my prices to $1, across the board.

In those two weeks, I make more in sales than in 4 months of my regular pricing.

I do think that part of it is the limited-time nature of the sales (which is why I don't do $1 all the time), but it's a strong argument for cost and convenience leading to much higher sales.

...and yes, I get the usual "you're undervaluing everyone else's releases" arguments from the Usual Suspects, same as you're getting here.

Jude Hardin said...

I would buy books all day long at $2.99 and never worry that I'm spending too much but I can't bring myself to spend freely of the ones posted at $3.99.

Wow. I guess some people really do buy books based on price, but I would be willing to bet that more people buy books based on what they want to read. I know I do.

All things being equal, I can see where $2.99 new releases would sell more than $9.99 new releases.

But all things are not equal. Like everything else, you usually get what you pay for.

Lynda Hilburn said...

Hey, Joe. Another great post. I'm wondering about epubs. Maybe Selena (or someone else familiar with the actual epub market) could answer this. Is any other genre besides erotica earning big money for its authors? (Wish I could write great erotica -- it's difficult!). I'd consider subbing something to one of the established epubs (novellas) if I thought my non-erotica would make more money there than through self-pubbing. So far, I don't think that's the case. I just got a $40 check today from a popular epub I sold a humor/satire short story to in 2006. That was the biggest check I've ever gotten from them. I really don't know how long the Amazon Kindle wave will last, but it's a helluva ride so far.

jtplayer said...

But doesn't the whole $2.99 price thing hinge on Amazon's 70% royalty rate?

Isn't that what makes the pricing "sweet spot" make sense?

Reduce that royalty substantially (which, IMO, Amazon will do one day), and the numbers don't look so attractive.

In the meantime you've conditioned the buying public to believe that ebooks should be 3 bucks, and anything more is a rip off.

There's no doubt Joe and others are having great success right now.

But what about tomorrow?

Like all things in life the current ebook model will surely change, and likely out of the writer's favor and into the retailer's (or epublisher's) favor.

It seems to me the long view is missing from the discussion. Likewise, I can't help but feel the real sweet spot is positioning yourself for true long term success.

But then again...if was Joe I'd probably grab all the cash I could too.

Jude Hardin said...

Well said, John.

Mark Asher said...

"Reduce that royalty substantially (which, IMO, Amazon will do one day), and the numbers don't look so attractive.

"In the meantime you've conditioned the buying public to believe that ebooks should be 3 bucks, and anything more is a rip off.
"

You have to price on the current business conditions, especially when the prospect of Amazon cutting the royalty rate is unknown.

If business conditions change, prices may change to reflect. Consumers may balk, but eventually they accept higher prices. That's what history says, at least.

One thing I didn't see discussed in any of the comments here at pricing $3.99 vs. $2.99 is the idea that higher volume is desirable because it helps fuel word of mouth sales. This is especially important for newer writers self-publishing. If they can get a higher sales ranking it makes their work look better. If they can get more reviews it reflects favorably. If they get more people reading their books, they get more people talking about their books.

So increased sales at $2.99, even if you're earning a bit less overall than you do at the $3.99 price, may be worth it. Think of it as a marketing expense.

Zoe Winters said...

@mlouisalocke

Thanks for the shout out! I'm glad something I said was helpful to you. And congrats on your success!

KevinMc said...

I sorta hope Amazon does drop the royalty someday. I doubt they will any time soon, but it would be nice. Because the very next day, I (and a lot of other people) would be working our tails off to build new websites to sell ebooks - at the 70% rate.

They won't do it though, I don't think. They've shown themselves to be pretty savvy, and while it would not be an overnight disaster, it would seriously damage their market share in time.

Another thought: some folks here are talking about the "value" of a book, about it being "worth more than $2.99", like books are some sort of essential commodity. They're not, much as we might like to think so. ;)

Books are worth what people are willing to pay. But more importantly, books should be sold in a manner which maximizes profits. Larger businesses hire pros to analyze the data we're trying to put together here piecemeal. But the bottom line is: your price point should be the one which results in maximal profits. Not one penny less or more. If that's $2.99, $3.99, or $9.99, whichever - that is the best price to sell books.

The higher you price a book, the less sales you will make but the more you make per unit. Once you can graph unit sales vs price as a line, you can calculate the best price for your product.

I find that writers are too often not used to thinking about the business of what they are doing. Writers want to do the art - and let agents and publishers deal with the price points, with which cover types are selling best this year, with font choices, etc. The marketing, the business. It's a blind spot for many authors, but if there is one thing you CANNOT afford if going into self-publishing, it's being blind to the business end of the industry.

Anonymous said...

Joe I agree with the $2.99 price point and I would like to see it at $1.99, especially for YA books. Interesting case my publisher wanted to do a back to school special and dropped the price of my book from $1.99 to $.99. For a two week period we had little to no action in sales. The two weeks after the sale ended and the price returned to $1.99 sales picked up and have been decent for the last three weeks.

Sean McCartney
The Treasure Hunters Club
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Jude Hardin said...

One thing I didn't see discussed in any of the comments here at pricing $3.99 vs. $2.99 is the idea that higher volume is desirable because it helps fuel word of mouth sales.

Sure, Mark, that's a no-brainer. What we're talking about here is the definitive price for new releases published by professional writers.

How much is a good book worth?

Is it only worth the price of a gallon of gas? A Big Mac? A cup of coffee?

I guess it all depends on how much a culture values its art. Let's hope, for the sake of civilization, that a new original work of art is worth just a bit more than a pack of cigarettes.

Schnozz said...

I'm not a writer or author - just someone who likes to read. I stumbled onto a few of Joe's books at my local library and read them all. At first I wasn't sure if I liked the style, but they grew on me and once I finished all the books the library offered, I downloaded the free books and stories from Joe's site (great stuff).

I have an older Kindle and decided to buy a few of Joe's eBooks - one was $2.99 and I believe the other was $0.99 and if they were priced any higher I would not have bought them. As a reader, $2.99 or less is a fair price to me for an ebook.

I used to buy hard cover books from my favorite authors (Andrew Vachss, Joe Lansdale, Michael Connelly and John Sandford) because I liked to have the physical book on my shelf at home but it soon became cost prohibitive and the library was convenient so I found it was easier and cheaper to just get the books from the library.

Only recently have I started buying books again – eBooks that is – and only if they are $2.99 or less, so I feel that price point is perfect for eBooks. Just wanted to point that out from one reader’s perspective (who has become a big Konrath fan).

jtplayer said...

Re: "it would seriously damage their market share in time."
-------------------

I don't get that.

The way I see it, Amazon is building huge market share right now, partially by enticing authors with an extremely favorable royalty.

They are positioning themselves as the #1 retailer for ebooks and ereaders.

And it's working.

Just look where the majority of Joe's sales come from.

At the moment there doesn't seem to be a viable contender to knock Amazon off the top of the pile.

If the trend continues, in time Amazon can do what they want with pricing and royalties and I don't see it having a major affect on their business model.

They are on track to become the iTunes of ebooks, if they aren't there already.

Aaron Patterson said...

I know I am not really anyone in the book world but I have a little story to tell you.

I wrote my first book and it came out in November of 08. I didn't even know or understand what a Kindle was. I created a Amazon DTP account and priced my book at 14.99. This left my mind and 8 months later I spent 2 days looking for the account password.

I found that I had sold 12 or so eBooks a month and I thought to myself, "Hmmm I wonder."

I had book 2 coming out so I just wanted to reach people. I set book 2 at 8.99 and it is still at that price. I took book one and set it at 4.99. Figured if I hooked them they would buy book 2.

That month I sold 48. I made more cash because I sold more. Now the little wheels in my head began to turn.

I did the unthinkable... the mad the insane! I dropped book 1 to .99! I know... Crazy and making my art worthless.

However... I sold 120 that month, just on book 1. Month after...250... after that...350...after...550...800...1000! Now I was also watching book 2 numbers go up along with it.

This was the tipping point. The time I no longer thought eBooks were just to market or a way to get free money. Here was a real business plan, real money and
I was on the verge of making a living.

This was about the time Amazon changed their royalty rate. But horror of horrors I had to up the price to 2.99 if I wanted the sweet 70%. I could see my numbers cutting in half and had a ball in my gut.

I decided to give it one month and if I fell to far I would take the lower rate and stay at .99.

Guess what happened?

2600!

Yes... 2600 sold from 2 titles! What does this mean to the bean counters? 5600 bucks baby!

Now I was in a weird sort of I don't believe it mode. I feared Amazon would stiff me or maybe not give me a check that month. It had to be a mistake.

That was my best month but I still average 1800 sold each month between 2 titles making about $3600. Not bad and if I run the numbers and add the two books I will have live in the next few months that will double my income.

This is no longer a dream, I am making a living writing. I am 31 years old and if I do 3 books a year and can hold my average and write to 60... where can
I go?

This is retirement... 401K and Amway all mixed into one.

I now speak to groups all over about ebooks and help authors see the power it this new wave of publishing. I just released a eBook only book called, "The eBook on eBooks." This is a real future, not a fad, not a scam but a real way to make a living no matter who you are.

Ok... rant over... carry on.

Douglas Dorow said...

Great info, Joe. I don't know why so many people are having a hard time figuring out that it is the consumer that determines what a "fair" price is whether it's a book, a cup of coffee or a car.

The consumer looks at the product and either buys it or they don't.

I think where authorpreneurs may be struggling is where to set their price on Kindle. They don't have the experience, history, or insight into their consumer when they are putting a new story out there for sale.

A publisher knows their expenses for putting a book on a shelf and tries to price it to make a profit.

The ebook indie may have spent money on cover art, editing, but the rest is time and people don't know how to put a price on that.

The goal is to maximize earnings on sales of many copies of your story, not one. To do this you maximize the per copy profit over many sales. With the current kindle model, that starts at $2.99. If the authorpreneur wants to make another $0.70 or $1.40 or $2.10 per sale, they can do that, but they need to balance that against the impact of higher prices on their sales volumes.

The only way to gain knowledge is through experience and to try different prices for "their" story. They can use some anecdotal evidence that you and others are providing, but they aren't selling your stories, they are selling their own.

It all comes down to who are you writing for and what's your goal?

Doug
ThrillersRus.blogspot.com

Selena Kitt said...

Is any other genre besides erotica earning big money for its authors?

Romance. Erotic or not. Sweet romance sells just fine.

There are a few other (very few) niche markets. Sci-fi/fantasy. Horror. And Mystery.

Because you have readers who like reading a LOT of the above content. So they buy volume - and read lots of books in a week or a month.

(Wish I could write great erotica -- it's difficult!).

It actually is. :) Thanks for saying so!

I just got a $40 check today from a popular epub I sold a humor/satire short story to in 2006.

Would you like to bet me that those were actually Kindle sales?

I have one ebook (it's actually a short-story) out there I can't get my rights back to until 2015. It's priced at $2 and I'm earning 35% of that. Usually I received a check from the epub for about $15 a quarter. Now I'm making $50 a month on average with them - and I'm 100% sure it's Kindle sales.

jtplayer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jtplayer said...

Re: "it is the consumer that determines what a "fair" price is whether it's a book, a cup of coffee or a car."
--------------------

Not necessarily true.

Consumers may pay the going rate for a particular product, but that sure doesn't mean that they've determined it to be a fair price.

I doubt there're many people out there who believe 2 bucks for a cup of coffee is "fair".

Just because they pay it doesn't mean they like it.

Joe Konrath said...

Consumers may pay the going rate for a particular product, but that sure doesn't mean that they've determined it to be a fair price.


Who exactly is forcing people to pay for things against their will?

Oh, wait. People have a choice.

jtplayer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jtplayer said...

I didn't say anything about "forcing" a consumer to pay for things Joe.

I was referring to the earlier comment about consumers determining what's "fair".

Consumers pay the going rate for many things, whether they like it or not.

Granted, many forgo the purchase, but many more just pony up the bucks and live with it.

Simple enough...no?

Ellen O'Connell said...

4. Joe, ebooks have been around for ten years, and they've always been priced higher than $2.99.

As a reader, I'm old in ebooks. My first reader was the original Rocket, and the idea thrilled me so much I didn't do enough research. The Rocket was and is a great ereader. I never used it much because the price of books for it offended me. Books by established authors were priced as much or more than hard covers. Books by indies were at so-so prices (higher than $2.99), quality was not guaranteed, and there was no sample feature in those days.

10. The only reason this works for you is because you alreayd have a platform and a lot of books. Other authors can't follow your example.

I am a pure indie author, no platform, never before published, never tried very hard to be published because what I found out about the industry put me off. No, I will never be successful at Joe's level or that of some other indies, but this is the third consecutive month my two books have earned me double my goal for supplemental income.

Looking at what traditionally published authors make for a $25 hardcover and thinking about the $2+ I make for an ebook makes me feel like a highway robber - or as someone once described me, gleefully cheerful. I'm with Joe, pricing higher under these conditions is greedy, and as a reader I pay attention to prices. Maybe it's a matter of resources. I have a book budget and when I want an ebook I think is overpriced, it's the library for me. It's hard to say you're going to force unwilling readers to pay a certain price for an ebook when they have free alternatives. An ebook isn't like gasoline or food.

pathunstrom said...

I notice a the big debate being over 'fair pricing'. Isn't it simple economic principle that the consumer will pay what they are actually willing, and that that is a 'fair' price under the circumstance? The first thing my macroeconomics professor taught me was simple: there is a huge difference between what people say, and what they choose to do.

I'm of that generation that believes digital information is not nearly as valuable as hard copy. I refuse to pay fifteen dollars on an electronic book. Simply will not. But I've paid ten. That ten went to an author I trusted, someone who's work I knew I enjoyed, and knew I'd get more use out of than a 'standard' novel.

I've also seen the effects of the internet on creative entrepreneurs. More than one game designer, web comic artist, or blogger making money off of the good will of the people who enjoy their product. The 'pay what you like' method has been tried, and proven, on multiple occasions.

I do wonder, though, what the effect of putting out multiple 'versions' of a work could do in this form of publishing?

Anonymous said...

Jude wrote:

How much is a good book worth?

Is it only worth the price of a gallon of gas? A Big Mac? A cup of coffee?

I guess it all depends on how much a culture values its art.


Mass-produced books aren't Ansel Adams negatives and prints. They're virtually unlimited. In the case of ebooks, they are unlimited. So it gets back to what Joe wrote: "A book is worth what it earns the author." Sell 5,000 copies at $2 profit each and you've made $10,000 on your artwork. That's some serious scarole, if you know what I mean.

Anonymous said...

A further point "on how much a culture values its art," as Jude put it:

People don't read for art. They read because they want information and entertainment. A super-small number of people give a hoot about the art value of anything. And there is nothing at all wrong with that. Real art doesn't jump around and shout "HEY! I'M VALUABLE!" It just makes you feel something great. Works the same way whether we're talking Huckleberry Finn or a good pop song on MIX 94.1 FM, "Your At Work Station!" One may outlast the other (as Huck Finn surely will) but the reason you like it -- which, for most people, is why they value it -- really is the same.

So, How much you pay?" That's based on scarcity. Recorded music ain't scarce, and neither are ebooks. Stephen King's Misery cost me $3.99 and Huckleberry Finn cost me $0.00 -- the former's price kept higher than the latter cuz copyright makes it scarcer. Love 'em both, and paid what the little .epub's were worth to me at the time.

KevinMc said...

Jude... I feel what you're saying. You see books as art, and want them to be valued as art. But the consumer looks at ebooks and knows that they don't cost as much to produce. Look at an $8 paperback - with over half the price going in retail costs and distribution, and most of the rest paying for print runs, only a thin slice actually goes to the publisher and author as profits.

Contrast that with an ebook - where the distribution cost is none, and there are no print runs or returns to subsidize. And the public *knows* this. They know ebooks cost a fraction of what print books do to create, and they're outraged at being billed the same price, because they know that extra money is pure profit.

Jtplayer... You mentioned you "don't get" how Amazon dropping royalties would impact their market share? If they ever do, dozens of little ebook sellers will spring up overnight, offering authors higher royalties. We might see that anyway - 70% is not the ceiling.

Authors using Amazon will be forced to either suck up the loss of income or hike up their ebook prices. But they won't need to sell them for as much on another site... So if Amazon dropped royalties to, say, 35%, a $2.99 book would only net a dollar. Authors would have to boost prices to $5.99 to earn the same figure. Not all would boost that high, but we'd see cover prices go up.

But on another site, where the royalties were higher, they could continue selling the same book for two or three dollars less. Even if the authors sold the books for the same price elsewhere, which site would they push the hardest in their blogs and marketing? Amazon, or the site they earned twice as much per book from?

Individually, small ebook sale sites might not do much, but collectively they would, and the added damage from major bloggers would eventually add up to some serious losses for Amazon. I don't think they're going to risk it, at least not anytime soon.

Nicole MacDonald said...

As a person with a low income a $40 book is a big outlay. Especially as I'm a speed reader. Sure the initial outlay on a reader is pricy but $3 books is SOOOO appealing! And I don't have to lug the weighty things around ;p Just waiting for the colour Kindle now

http://damselinadirtydress.blogspot.com

Moses Siregar III said...

Here's the promised blog post:

Should Ebook Novels Cost $2.99? Part 1 (A Response to J.A. Konrath)

It's 2,600 words long and it's only Part 1 out of 2 or 3. I'd like to think there's some really interesting stuff in there, but I might be biased.

In all seriousness, I'd like to think that this contributes to the discussion with some decent counterpoints to Joe's positions on this topic.

Goodnight all. See you in the morning.

Hank Brown said...

Informative article (as always, Joe--thanks) and enlightening comments. I'm a reforming hold-out-for-trad-pub snob. I used to sneer at anyone suggesting I should POD or epublish. Now I'm getting to the point where if a tradpub offered me a deal, I might consider turning it down.

Joe Konrath said...

Consumers pay the going rate for many things, whether they like it or not.

Granted, many forgo the purchase, but many more just pony up the bucks and live with it.

Simple enough...no?


No. No one can make you pay for something if you don't want to pay for it. At least, not entertainment items.

We pay for electricity and gas and suck it up because they are necessities.

Food is also a necessity, but we don't have to eat at five star restaurants and pay $100 for lobster. We can by beans and rice on sale.

If a consumer doesn't like the price of a book, they don't buy it. Simple as that. We aren't a society that pays for things we don't want to pay for and sucks it up. Which is why so many things don't sell, and so many companies go out of business.

The reason ebooks are outselling hardcovers is a perfect example of this. Some folks willing to pay for hardcovers are more willing to pay for ebooks, and those who never would have bought hardcovers are now trying ebooks.

Those who want to read a hardcover but don't want to pay for it don't pay "whether they like it or not." They get it used, or at the library for free.

Joe Konrath said...

Moses, your argument is all theory and conjecture because you have no evidence or proof.

I, on the other hand, have evidence that $2.99 earns me a lot of money.

Postulating that $3.99 may earn me more money is simply that--postulating. Raising prices WILL lead to few sales. If I can make more money on fewer sales, so what?

Paul Levine may be doing that, but I'd love to see 12 months of hard data to support it. And even if the data were there, there are advantages to having sold a million ebooks over seven hundred thousand ebooks, even if the seven hundred thousand earned slightly more money.

Every extra reader you gain is potentially an extra fan, and extra mouthpiece, and extra cheerleader. The more you sell, the likelier you are to sell to Hollywood or television.

But it's all moot. I have hard data to justify my price. You've got hypothesis to justify yours. My real numbers trump your imaginary numbers.

There isn't a single reason, other than greed, to raise my prices. And while greed is good, money ceases to be a motivator for me because I'm already making X amount of money. I'm supposed to jeopardize earning X in order to possibly make Y? No thanks.

Ali Cooper said...

Hi Joe,

I agree with a lot of what you're saying. Of course, you are assessing the situation from a US viewpoint and I'm tempted to supplement this with a UK perspective on my own blog later.

However, re your post. Are you sure about the bigger cut mainstream publishers are getting? They claim epublishing cost is little different from print because the main expenses are editing, advertising etc (tho I'm inclined not to entirely believe them on this!).
Also, although $2.99 is a good selling price, I'm not sure it's sustainable for career writers to produce top class work and I wonder whether customers would pay a dollar or so more for a more professionally edited and perfected product. Low cost is good but low quality isn't.

Another point to remember is that many customers are choosing ebooks over print books for reasons other than economic ones (eg storage space, portability).

I'm sure that, whatever we think, the big businesses will charge as much as they can get away with.

Ali Cooper.

Moses Siregar III said...

Couldn't sleep.

Joe, I'd say neither one of us has proof that $2.99 will earn you more money than $3.99 or vice versa because when you've tested $3.99 you still had $2.99 ebooks available (so more people naturally bought the $2.99 ebooks). I'd like to see you and everyone else be able to make a living telling stories. You're doing great either way, but most others need to be careful about what prices they set.

I did cite a survey that said that 93% of readers think that around $4.50 is a fair price for a new ebook novel.

And there is Paul Levine's comments that show for him that $3.99 seems to be working better, Selena's great results with higher prices, the history of ebooks before Kindle selling at higher prices (though Kindle readers are a new beast), and also M.R. Mathias doing quite well at $8.88.

That's not all theory and conjecture.

There are some other points I want to make, too, but I ran out of time tonight.

I agree with you about the benefit to getting more readers, though. That has to be weighed in here somewhere. Though that also comes at the cost of getting people used to lower prices, which may not be sustainable over the long term for most authors.

I'm just looking for the truth and for now we all seem to fumbling around in the dark. We know that $2.99 works pretty well, but is it really the best price for now and for the long haul? I think the jury's still out and from all I've gathered, I suspect the answer to that is no.

Joe Konrath said...

I did cite a survey that said that 93% of readers think that around $4.50 is a fair price for a new ebook novel.

That's critters.org. They're writers. Hardly an unbiased survey.

And there is Paul Levine's comments that show for him that $3.99 seems to be working better.

Show me long term numbers, broken down by sales and profit and compared.

Selena's great results with higher prices

She hasn't shown numbers yet. To make a convincing argument, she needs to break out the spreadsheets. I don't blame her for not doing it--it's a giant headache. But if she wants to defend her position, it's the only way.

Joe, I'd say neither one of us has proof that $2.99 will earn you more money than $3.99

I have proof that $2.99 earns X amount of money.

I don't need to prove that X earns more than Y, because I'm fine with X.

If you claim Y earns more than X, you need proof. You have none.

The burden or proof falls on the person making them claim.

If you state you own a leprechaun, it isn't my duty to prove you don't own one. It's your duty to prove you do.

Joe Konrath said...

Are you sure about the bigger cut mainstream publishers are getting?

Yes.

They claim epublishing cost is little different from print because the main expenses are editing, advertising etc.

My first inclination is to call them liars. But publishing is not based on frugality and common sense. When they factor in all of their unnecessary overhead, and try to justify their high rents and expense accounts, then may indeed truly believe that the only way they can survive is by taking $5.25 on a $9.99 ebook and only giving the author $1.75.

If they really believe this, they are in for a rude awakening.

A smarter approach would be an internal audit, cutting unnecessary costs, downsizing and restructuring, and learning to survive with smaller profit margins.

Publishers have been indispensable in the past, but they're making a mistake by believing they're still indispensable.

Low cost is good but low quality isn't.

That's why I like the quote "When I find a bargain in clothes of a brand name-I don't think it is less valuable."

The answer is to only produce high quality. If authors can't, they shouldn't be writing.

Jude Hardin said...

Again, nobody cares what percentage of $9.99 (or whatever price) the author is getting vs. the publisher. It's irrelevant. People care about getting a good book at a reasonable price.

"Reasonable," to me, is what the reading experience is worth in relation to other available reading experiences. I don't pay $26 for a newly-released hardcover to own the physical object. I can get nine used ones for about the same price. I'm paying $26 for the reading experience, for the intellectual property within those covers. If I can get the same experience for $9.99 (which, thanks to ebooks, I can), I would consider that a bargain.

Now, if I can get the same experience for $2.99, I would consider that a steal. So far, however, I cannot, because the overwhelming majority of books priced that low are simply not worth reading.

The answer is to only produce high quality. If authors can't, they shouldn't be writing.

Or at least they shouldn't be publishing. And they are. In droves.

Selena Kitt said...

"But on another site, where the royalties were higher, they could continue selling the same book for two or three dollars less."

No. This isn't possible with most distributors. Some have it written right in the contract that you CANNOT offer your book at a lower price elsewhere (i.e. Fictionwise). Some, like Amazon, price-match. And both base your royalty on the discounted price, not the list price.

This is part of the problem with setting price, esp for indie publishers, who have more books to keep track of than a self-pubbed author. That's one of the reasons Amazon's 70% looks great on the surface, but can be disastrous when price-wars start and other sites (Sony is terrible for this) start discounting your books to bargain basement prices.

I'm actually still making 35% on most of my books on Amazon (which is what Amazon has been paying for years through MOBI - BTW I'm also making 70% on the DTP platform - my books are listed twice. It's a long story Amazon's been working on fixing for months... but the Mobi-feed books far outsell the DTP ones, mostly because they have established ranking on the site and are listed first...but I digress)

Anyway, because I'm paid the royalty on the list price at 35% and they can (and do - it's Amazon's way) deep discount or price-match my books all they want. I'm still only making $2.09 a book, either way (pricing it at $2.99 and getting 70% or pricing it at $5.99 and getting 35% - you think Amazon didn't work that little formula out?) but folks look at my books and say, "Wow, that's quite a discount!" and snatch them up. Like Joe says, everyone loves a bargain.

If and when they get the issue fixed and I'm totally on DTP without the MOBI feed, I may experiment with a $2.99 price. I decided recently to put most of my short stories at $0.99 to see what might happen.

When it comes down to it, it's all a grand experiment.

John Platt said...

An interesting post, as always.

My questions/observation: are publishers more concerned with selling paper or with not upsetting their one, guaranteed market?

A parallel to comic books: comic book sales, for decades, were restricted to comic book retailers. Every time publishers try to sell through other venues, the retailers rose up in arms. It's changing now (10 years of growth in the regular bookstore market have helped), but now that digital is coming along, the retailers are afraid once again. And who calls the publisher and complains? Not readers: retailers.

The bookseller business is on the cusp of a major change, and it's scared, and that makes the publishers scared, too.

Joe Konrath said...

Again, nobody cares what percentage of $9.99 (or whatever price) the author is getting vs. the publisher.

I care. I care quite a bit.

A publisher taking $5.25 from a $9.99 ebook, and giving me only $1.75, is downright disgusting. It's liked helping a burglar rob my house.

Jude Hardin said...

I care. I care quite a bit.

Of course the people cashing the checks care. That goes without saying. The readers buying the books don't care, though. That's what I'm talking about, not personal incomes.

jtplayer said...

Christ Joe, you certainly have a hard time conceding a point.

Your single minded determination to "prove" the exact right price point for ebooks is admirable, if not a little obstinate.

I think myself and others have made some compelling arguments in defense of higher pricing, as a long term business decision beneficial to all writers.

The supporters of $2.99 seem to want to hang their hat on this notion that the consumer has spoken and they've determined this as the "fair" price.

I counter with we don't really know what the "fair market" price for ebooks are, because pricing is inconsistent and all over the place.

Right now ebook buyers (read Kindle, because that's the major platform and seller today), are gobbling up free and dirt cheap books like candy at Halloween. But anyone who thinks it's gonna stay that way is shortsighted, IMO.

Joe Konrath said...

I think myself and others have made some compelling arguments in defense of higher pricing, as a long term business decision beneficial to all writers.

If the argument was really that compelling, I'd change my mind. I'm not adverse to doing that, when facts and logic lead me there.

So far, I remain unconvinced, because your opinion is just that: opinion. It's based on guesses and assumptions.

My experience is exactly that: experience. I know what is working for me, because I'm doing it. I have numbers and facts and almost two years of data to back up my position.

The supporters of $2.99 seem to want to hang their hat on this notion that the consumer has spoken and they've determined this as the "fair" price.

80,000 consumers have shown me they like my price. I'll stick with that until I'm shown otherwise.

jtplayer said...

Re: "A publisher taking $5.25 from a $9.99 ebook, and giving me only $1.75, is downright disgusting. It's liked helping a burglar rob my house."
---------------------

Disgusting?

What are they...a charity?

It's business Joe, nothing more, nothing less.

You have some interesting ideas about what constitutes fairness in this industry, not to mention some rather odd ideas about money and profit and "gouging" customers.

Yet on the other hand, you continually tout how you're "getting rich" off your Kindle sales.

The Vampire Years said...

If Amazon lowered the royalty, two potential responses are that authors would (1) escape to another platform or (2) raise their prices. Both equal fewer sales for Amazon, which makes me wonder why Amazon would do that? Might equal the same money - but if it equals the same money for Amazon, good chance it equals the same money for the author - so what's the complaint?

Proactive solution, build your platform now, introduce the ability to sell from your own site (in which case you only have cost of transaction fee - but problematic getting a site cart if you write erotica), drive traffic to your site, leveraging off your Amazon presence. And the chorus chimes in "what about the writers of the future who haven't had the opportunity we had to build their platform, should we be conforming our actions now to protect their earning capacity?" Hell no. People are on here arguing about price because they care about THEIR bottom line, not mine. Well, it's mutual.

jtplayer said...

Fair enough man.

I'm not here to argue with you.

But for the record? IMO the vast majority of what I read here is strictly "opinion".

Certain aspects of what you say may be backed up with data, but in the big picture scheme of things, you're still offering opinion.

Because at the end of the day Joe you really don't know where all this is leading. You have "predictions", which is another form of opinion, but that's it.

You yourself have admitted that you don't really know why certain sales patterns have emerged and that some aspects of your esuccess is unexplainable.

Btw, nice backhanded way of saying my opinion is full of shit.

Have a great day Joe.

Anonymous said...

Joe,

authors have traditionally been manipulated by publishers into doing their bidding.

Today, the big player in this game is Amazon, who has cut a private deal with you. How do authors and independent publishers know today that we're not being manipulated into taking the slots Amazon has chosen for us?

The Vampire Years said...

I also think people need to realize that we are competing against FREE. As Joe already has stated, as well as a number of other industry notables (?Cory Doctorow?). I have 2 $9.99 books in my buyer's queue right now - both are Ian McDonald (Brasyl & Cyberadad Days) - because I've read him before and I know I want these and I don't want another print book on my bookshelf. But I don't know the vast majority of the writers here - they might get .99-2.99 on long or short fiction (I'll happily pay 2.99 for 20-40k as easily as I'll pay 2.99 for 80k because I like short form) but few are going to get more than that for an initial purchase.

If we can get Amazon to allow us to increase sample size to say 35% - that would help sell higher price points - until then, every potential author I might buy is stuck with my having been burned by too many 5.99 and up books that were appealing as swamp water after the second chapter.

jtplayer said...

Re: "How do authors and independent publishers know today that we're not being manipulated into taking the slots Amazon has chosen for us?"
---------------------

I guarantee you're being manipulated in some way by Amazon.

Not saying that's a bad thing...only that they've got their various business plans, both long term and short term, and anyone who thinks manipulation of the paradigm doesn't take place is fooling themselves.

And the idea that you, the writer, is in the driver's seat and will stay that way...well good luck with that. Report back to me in a few years, after the dust has settled.

Anna Murray said...

"How do authors and independent publishers know today that we're not being manipulated into taking the slots Amazon has chosen for us?"

Ah, the conspiracy theorists.

Joe is basing his decisions on hard data and the evidence he has accumulated over many months of sales. He has years of experience working in the framework of the traditional publishing industry.

Personally I find the "slots Amazon has chosen for us" to be far more democratic and fairer than the slots the traditional industry chooses for the lucky few who make it past their gatekeeping.

Big 6 publishing is a tight oligopoly. While Amazon presently has what appears to be a near monopoly on ebook sales, the barriers to entry in this market are low and they must constantly offer incentives (good royalties to authors) to stave off competition. B&N, Google, Apple, etc. are chasing them (and will be for years), so the good royalties for authors on Amazon will continue for years, and possibly forever to remain competitive. Amazon wants to be the largest ebook outlet -- to do that you have to offer content providers excellent incentives.

I'm guessing that future deals might include free Kindle devices for authors who sell over 1,000 books or Amazon might host author conferences with sessions on improving writing, content editting, marketing strategies, cover design tips, how to write a good blurb, etc, etc. They will go beyond the 70% royalty . . . watch them over these next months. This is just the beginning. The content providers are key to their business. Without writers you don't have books to sell, so delighting the writers will be key to their success.

Bezos ain't dumb. He's not about to kill the geese that lay the golden eggs.

Joe Konrath said...

Btw, nice backhanded way of saying my opinion is full of shit.

All opinions are valid.

But some of them aren't well-defended.

jtplayer said...

Thanks Joe.

KevinMc said...

Seems like there are two arguments here.

One is price point. On the one hand, Joe is saying that $2.99 seems to be the pricepoint that works best for him, because his profits at that point are "high enough" that even if he might profit a bit more by adding a dollar to the cost, the extra sales he believes he is making are worth it (in terms of word of mouth and a broader readerbase for future books).

The other side is saying that $3.99, or some higher figure, is better. The thing is, I don't think anyone can say for sure which price point is most profitable. I've done pricepoint analysis before - and from what I am seeing right now, we a) don't have enough data points to do a good analysis and b) the market is in too much flux right now for an analysis to be valid for more than a couple of months anyway.

Given that, I think there is certainly value in selling more books *even if* you are earning marginally less profits in the meantime, because of the boost to your platform and word-fame. This matters now, and could become even more important once the industry stabilizes.

The other issue is "it's sweet right now but what about later..." We cannot control what Amazon will do in two years. We can control what they are doing now, and build platforms that are strong enough so that when things change, we're in a position to do something about it. A single post on Scalzi's blog, for instance, sends ripples through the blogosphere. Forty thousand readers a day will do that. The e-platforms we build today with the tools we have at hand will be the powerbase from which we can bargain (or not) later on.

If authors are to build and maintain a voice in the coming market, it will be because we took the time to prepare for it today.

author Scott Nicholson said...

The important thing is what pricing works best for YOU. I have been watching my own data all year and still keep changing my mind. That's what happens in a revolution. Things change.

Joe is saying $2.99 works best for him, and I believe him. A year ago, he said $1.99 was the best price. Both are right.

I have some 99 cent collections as ways to meet new readers, and they sell better than my $2.99 novels BUT earn far less money. You'd have to sell 200,000 books at 99 cents each year to live a secure, comfortable life. I may experiment with a $3.99 title just to see if there's a level where people assume "quality" because it's higher than most indie books.

Publishers connecting with readers? No way. They have spent the past two decades actively adding layers between themselves and readers. They know no more about readers than you or I do. I would bet you know more, because you are not in New York where everybody knows everything, but really only know each other. These are the same geniuses who said iPad would take over the book market, remember, and basically pushed all their chips to Steve Jobs.

The only way a publisher could take advantage of economies of scale would be to create libraries on the Netflix model, a subscription where their backlist becomes an asset instead of a burden. But that will happen too late for most, and I can't see them ever lowering the price fast enough to keep up with nimble competitors.

Authors know your readers better than a publisher ever will. I assume all my readers are as frugal and working-class as I am. When I can offer everything I've ever written for the price of one hardcover, that seems like a fair deal for both of us.

Scott Nicholson
http://www.hauntedcomputer.com

LK Rigel said...

I am a complete unknown. I've priced my novella Space Junque at 2.99. Though Amazon will pay me around $2 per copy, that doesn't mean I make that much. I've paid for professional editing, cover art, promotion, and advertising.

I plan to price novellas at 2.99 and genre-length novels at 3.99. If I write a novel over 500 pages, I'll probably charge 4.99. Because my editing expenses will be higher.

This is a reflection of my reality as a writer. If my reality were that I didn't need editing, had a fan base already built, and had over 10 books already published, I would happily lower the price.

The great thing about publishing independently is that each author can figure out what works best for them. Some will never have 20 books on the shelf. Some will always need a good professional editor to make the book the best it can be.

Readers will buy what they want to read. Authors will charge what they charge based on good or faulty logic.

My feeling is that readers will learn to discern just what 2.99, 3.99, 4.99 means depending on the author.

Scott W. Clark said...

Joe has provided his stats which I find useful as a starting point. But as a starting point, I understand that I have to experiment to find out what works with my particular books. That's true of price but it's true of the other things that go into marketing a book on Amazon.

Scott Clark
I Am Legion

Dave Zeltserman said...

Joe, have you tried pricing any of your ebooks higher than $2.99? If so could you share your results.

Thanks.

Tuppshar Press said...

Deciding on price is tricky. There are good arguments for everything but the Agency Model. And as several people here have noted, you have to figure out what works best for you. I would add that you have to be willing to be flexible, too. There is no magic number forever, just our unending search for the magic number that works today.

An excellent post, Joe. Thank you.

Helen Hanson said...

To me, it’s a matter of choosing the dragon you want to ride. With the big six, they take your passport the minute you board. With Amazon, you get to keep it. If you don’t like the rates Amazon gives you tomorrow, you can look for another mode of transport. With the big six, you can’t.

I don’t see the incentive for Amazon to reduce the royalty. Other sites would draw writers away. I can envision them requiring a minimum sales level to stay on their site.
I’d love to see a discussion on discounting. Seems to me, if you produce it and offer it for sale at a certain price, you should be compensated at that price, unless you offer it for sale at a lower cost elsewhere.

As I understand it, if Kobo discounts you without asking, then Amazon has the right to discount you as well. Is this correct?

Thanks!

Mark Asher said...

What is a bit confusing to me about pricing is that there are 60,000 word novels at $2.99, 20,000 word novellas at $2.99, and 5000 word short stories at $0.99.

A dollar for a 20 minute read is more than I'm willing to pay. I'm not keen on novellas at $3 either. I'd rather see writers bundle 5-7 shorts for $3 and maybe two novellas for $3.

Gareth-Michael Skarka said...

I'd be a lot more likely to listen to the "you should price higher" crowd if not for two things:

1) Joe's data agrees with the data I've gotten from my own ePublishing over the past 7 years -- lower price point (specifically "impulse buy" levels) equals massively higher sales.

and, the bigger factor:

2) The "price higher" crowd appear to be motivated purely by issues of validation: "The book should be priced higher because it's *worth* more, and Joe (and others) setting their prices lower somehow devalues *my* work."

I'm seeing a lot of arguments of worth -- especially about how setting your prices effects the perceived worth of others... which, I suppose, is all fine and dandy in The Rainbow Land of Special Unicorn Self-Esteem... but has bugger-all to do with SALES.

Selena Kitt said...

"As I understand it, if Kobo discounts you without asking, then Amazon has the right to discount you as well. Is this correct?"

See my post above. Yes, Amazon can price-match.

Helen Hanson said...

Thanks, Selena

Selena Kitt said...

"People are on here arguing about price because they care about THEIR bottom line, not mine. Well, it's mutual."

I think author co-ops and the like may become more popular in the future. There is power in numbers. I have a big backlist on Amazon (and other distributors) but if I use the co-ops numbers, I'm leveraging 500+ titles and 100+ authors. That makes up a big chunk of change and gets more attention with the vendors than just one author on their own.

Something else to think about :)

Titus Powell said...

I think you're spot on. My novel The Dare Ring shot up into the top 5 selling ebooks in Apple's iBookstore (for iPads and iPhones), and I'm sure a big part was because I priced it at $2.99.

That was just a number I arrived at intuitively on the basis of "how much would I spend to take a chance on a book I knew nothing about?"

Jenna said...

"What is a bit confusing to me about pricing is that there are 60,000 word novels at $2.99, 20,000 word novellas at $2.99, and 5000 word short stories at $0.99.

A dollar for a 20 minute read is more than I'm willing to pay. I'm not keen on novellas at $3 either. I'd rather see writers bundle 5-7 shorts for $3 and maybe two novellas for $3."

From what I understand, Amazon will only let the author set the price as low as $0.99. Amazon has the option to discount it, but not the author. Essentially, an author is putting a short story out there for as cheap as Amazon allows.

I understand what you're saying, though - I'd prefer authors bundled a few tales together as well.

bowerbird said...

ok, joe, let's start with an
ongoing demonstration that
an author's readers will help
the author do copy-editing...

here's a mistake you made:
> keep and open mind
> keep an open mind

and another:
> out (or during its shelf life.)
> out (or during its shelf life).

and another (in a comment):
> then may indeed
> they may indeed

***

scott nicholson said:
> Joe is saying $2.99
> works best for him,
> and I believe him.
> A year ago, he said
> $1.99 was the best price.
> Both are right.

you neglect to mention that
amazon changed the terms;
joe could only get the 70%
if he raised the price to $2.99.
or else he'd be stuck with 35%.

so he raised the price to $2.99.

if he could get 70% at $1.99,
$1.99 would still be the best.

and if he got the 70% at $.99,
and he did a little experiment,
he might find that $.99 is best
(i.e., makes the most money).

i'll say it again: if you cut your
price in half, you sell 3-4 times
more units, which means that
you make 3-4 times more profit.

(if you cut your price in half,
and you _don't_ sell at least
3 times as many units, then
raise it back up, because you
have found your "true" price.)

amazon has set a "floor price".
it's clear they want to receive
at least $.90 per transaction...
that's the _only_ thing that is
"magical" about a $2.99 price.

amazon could have set that
"floor price" at $1.99, which
would mean all these people
whining about $2.99 would
be even _more_ strident...


> I may experiment with
> a $3.99 title just to see
> if there's a level where
> people assume "quality"
> because it's higher than
> most indie books.

you will quickly find that
there is _no_ such point
where people "assume"
that the quality is high,
because if there was,
every con artist would
immediately exploit it and
the suckers would learn...

the solution is very simple:
create quality work, then
rely on word-of-mouth...

***

gareth-michael said:
> I usually don't price anything
> over $10, and most sits around
> the $5 level. Even with that,
> I run 2 sales per year, each a
> week long, where I reduce my
> prices to $1, across the board.
>
> In those two weeks,
> I make more in sales
> than in 4 months
> of my regular pricing.

here's another real-life example.

cutting prices in half, and then
cutting them in half again, gives
_eight_times_ as much profit. 8!


***

(continued...)

***

bowerbird said...

(continued...)

***

jtplayer said:
> But doesn't the whole
> $2.99 price thing hinge on
> Amazon's 70% royalty rate?
>
> Isn't that what makes the
> pricing "sweet spot"
> make sense?
>
> Reduce that royalty
> substantially
> (which, IMO, Amazon
> will do one day),
> and the numbers
> don't look so attractive.

amazon is more likely
to _raise_ the royalty rate
than to lower it...

maybe you haven't noticed,
but amazon is cut-throat...
they will consistently match
any competitor they have...

but that's beside the point,
because there's _no_reason_
for authors to "settle" for
_any_ "royalty" rate at all...

sell your stuff from your site;
keep _100%_ of the proceeds.

***

jude said:
> nobody cares
> what percentage
> of $9.99
> (or whatever price)
> the author is getting
> vs. the publisher.
> It's irrelevant.
> People care about
> getting a good book
> at a reasonable price.

bull-crap!

readers strongly prefer
to support the author,
_not_ the publisher...

they might be ok with
author and publisher
taking an _equal_ share,
but they certainly do
_not_ want the publisher
to get 3 times as much!

ask them!

***

mark asher said:
> One thing I didn't see discussed
> in any of the comments here
> at pricing $3.99 vs. $2.99 is
> the idea that higher volume
> is desirable because it helps
> fuel word of mouth sales.
> This is especially important for
> newer writers self-publishing.

i discuss it all the time, mark!

evidently you're not reading
_my_ comments... ;+)

***

aaron paterson said:
> priced my book at 14.99.
> I found that I had sold
> 12 or so eBooks a month
...
> set it at 4.99
> That month I sold 48.
...
> I did the unthinkable...
> the mad the insane!
> $.99!
> I sold 120 that month
> Month after...250...
> after that...350...
> after...550...800...1000!

yes, sir. that's how you do it.
you cut your price, and then
you get the snowballs rolling.

-bowerbird

Moses Siregar III said...

bowerbird, you left out the part of Aaron Patterson's comments where he said he then raised the price from $0.99 to $2.99 and immediately went up from 1,000 sales in a month to 2,600 sales in a month. Price isn't the only factor here (i.e. it's not a controlled experiment), but that's an example of going the other way with prices (up) and getting more sales. I have heard many of those stories, especially when it comes to $0.99 vs $2.99.

Ellen Fisher said...

Bowerbird, if people aren't reading your comments, it may be because they are extremely difficult to read. Any way you could fix the formatting?

bowerbird said...

ellen said:
> Any way you could
> fix the formatting?

what do you mean "fix"?
i like it just fine, thanks.

joe should widen the
reply column instead.

***

> bowerbird, you
> left out the part of
> Aaron Patterson's
> comments where
> he said he then
> raised the price
> from $0.99 to $2.99
> and immediately
> went up from
> 1,000 sales in a month
> to 2,600 sales in a month.

no, i read it very carefully...

...more carefully than you...

first, the price rise was
due to amazon's action,
so _lots_of_books_ got
their prices raised then,
setting a "floor price"...

that kind of unilateral
price-rise will never,
ever, happen again...

it was caused because
apple was promising
70%, and amazon had
to match that number,
but they didn't want to
pay that percentage on
sales less than $3, so
they forced authors to
up the minimum price.

it was good for amazon,
but it _wasn't_ good for
authors, it really wasn't,
as it meant fewer sales
(per kindle per capita)...

moreover, the 2600
was for _both_ books.

it is also the case that,
with the ever-increasing
sales of the kindle today,
most curves will trend up.

this is why authors
didn't notice that they
actually made _fewer_
sales at the $2.99 price
(per kindle per capita)...

further, you will notice
that that 2600 number
only lasted for 1 month.

in other words, aaron
was riding the crest of
word-of-mouth which
had been generated by
the lower price-point...

after that peak month,
sales dropped to 1800.
(in spite of the rising
number of kindles,
meaning that the drop
per kindle per capita
was even more steep.)

a higher price means
fewer sales (per kindle
per capita) means less
word-of-mouth means
fewer follow-on sales...

i've said it before, but
i'm happy to repeat it:

if you don't "get this",
it's ok, because younger,
smarter, faster authors
_will_ get it, and they
will end up with more
money than you, and
higher-ranking books,
in one big cycle that will
leave you in their dust.

-bowerbird

Ellen Fisher said...

Bowerbird, by "fix" I mean "could you possibly format your comments like everyone else's?" Because as they are now I wind up skipping them. Four words per line make them rather difficult to get through, to me at least.

pagerd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Graham Clements said...

Perhaps I missed the opposition comment, but what happens when there are millions of free ebooks on the web and lots of these free ebooks are well written with good stories. The web will soon be inundated with free ebooks from disillusioned writers who fail to get a publishing contract, or whose self published book doesn't sell for $2.99. Look at the Amazon top 100 bestsellers, six months ago a third of them were selling for $2-4, and the rest were about $4 -$12, now a third of them are free, and the rest are about $6 -$12.

Moses Siregar III said...

bower, the $0.99 price may or may not have helped Aaron to increase his sales initially (we don't know if it was that price or other factors that gave him better sales each month--good, new books tend to do better each month no matter the price), but he did say that he increased his price from $1 to $3 and actually got a significant increase in book sales.

You're reading into his data what you want to read into it because of your preconceived notion that lower prices _always_ beats higher prices for sales. This is not always true, because I've heard many authors say they sold more at $2.99 than they did at $0.99.

The fact in his case is he tripled the price of his book and then sold more copies and made lots more money.

bowerbird said...

ellen said:
> Because as they are now
> I wind up skipping them.

that's ok with me, ellen...

***

moses said:
> bower, the $0.99 price
> may or may not have
> helped Aaron to
> increase his sales initially
> (we don't know if it was
> that price or other factors

aaron seems to be crystal clear.


> good, new books tend to
> do better each month
> no matter the price)

it goes without saying that
aaron's book must be good.

word-of-mouth only helps
the good books. it hurts
bad books, hurts 'em badly.

but inexpensive good books
sell better than good books
that are not inexpensive...

(for anyone just entering
this thread at this point,
yes, it has devolved into
saying things that are
precisely this obvious.
i know, it's ridiculous.)


> but he did say that he
> increased his price
> from $1 to $3 and
> actually got a significant
> increase in book sales.

no. it was more complicated
than that, and i have already
explained why, so i simply
will not bother to repeat it,
no matter how many times
you repeat what you've said.


> You're reading into his data
> what you want to read into it

what makes you think i care?
one way or the other? really,
what does it matter to me?
you can (and will!) price your
books however you want to,
and it means nothing to me.

but his "data" is extremely clear.


> You're reading into his data
> what you want to read into it
> because of your
> preconceived notion that
> lower prices _always_
> beats higher prices for sales.

i dislike it when other people
try to tell me what _i_ think...

especially if they get it wrong.
most especially if it's all wrong.

i have no preconceived notions.
i listen to what people say about
the things they've tried, what
worked, and what didn't, and
i collect the observations until
i have a firm base to stand on.

this ain't rocket science.


> your preconceived notion
> that lower prices _always_
> beats higher prices for sales.

i never said that.

indeed, if you look right above,
you'll see that i said specifically
that _if_ you cut a price in half
and your sales do _not_ triple,
you should raise the price back,
because that's your "true price".


> your preconceived notion
> that lower prices _always_
> beats higher prices for sales.
> This is not always true,
> because
> I've heard many authors say
> they sold more at $2.99
> than they did at $0.99.

bull. show me those authors.
show me those experiments;
i'll tell you how they're flawed.

there are _some_ cases where
you can sell more units by
raising the price of something,
but it's a relatively rare thing...

oh, and you can verify that i
actually wrote that up, here:
> http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/07/27/new-ebook-from-smashing-magazine-mastering-photoshop-for-web-design/

so yes, it happens, but rarely.

at that link, i also said this:
> i'm not telling anyone
> how to price their product,
> but it is important to
> understand the dynamics...

that goes -- double -- here...


> The fact in his case is
> he tripled the price of his book
> and then sold more copies
> and made lots more money.

you are being far too simplistic.
and i've already explained why.

***

graham said:
> what happens when there
> are millions of free ebooks
> on the web and
> lots of these free ebooks
> are well written
> with good stories.

then things will start to
get _really_ interesting...

but i'll wait to write that up
until tomorrow...

-bowerbird

Moses Siregar III said...

but his "data" is extremely clear.

Let's look at it again.

He first priced book one at $14.99 in Nov., 2008. In 8 months at that price, he sold about 12 ebooks a month.

He changed the price to $4.99, and then sold 48 copies the next month. At this time, he started selling book two for $8.99 and has kept book two at $8.99 ever since.

He changed the price of book one to $0.99 and sold the following copies of book one in the subsequent months:

120
250
350
550
800
1,000

Then he *raised* the price of book one to $2.99 and in the following month sold 2,600 copies of his two books combined. His other book is priced at $8.99, as it has always been, and I would have to guess that the $2.99 ebook outsells the $8.99 ebook easily, so we're probably looking at around or close to 2,000 sales of his book one at $2.99 the first month after he tripled the price.

Factually speaking, what happened?

First, lowering his price from $14.99 to $4.99 and then $0.99 helped sell a lot more books (we aren't controlling for every variable, but this seems safe to say). We agree here.

Second, *raising* the price from $0.99 to $2.99 did *not* hurt the month-to-month growth of his sales, and in fact roughly doubled his sales of the same title. And the book continues to sell well at $2.99.

You seem to be assuming that there are other reasons that completely account for his increase in sales after the price raise to $2.99, rather than the price increase. That's not necessarily the case, and the price raise itself may have helped create more sales.

Yes, there were other factors involved. He had great momentum and many authors also upped their prices to $2.99 at that time. Nonetheless, we know that readers were still willing to buy his book at $2.99, and that about twice as many did so.

We know that he tripled the price and sold about twice as many copies.

You brought up that his sales went up to 2,600 and then down to 1,800 per month after that. You seemed to imply that you think the drop has something to do with the higher price, unless I misunderstand you.

If so, that's not necessarily true. It may just be that he found hit his normal ceiling. 1,800 copies of two ebooks (one at $2.99 and the other at $8.99) per month is great anyway. Just lowering book one to $0.99 again may or may not increase his sales significantly.

a higher price means
fewer sales


As you also admitted elsewhere, that's not necessarily true. It is possible to raise prices and generate more sales for various reasons.

It is possible and likely that most readers will take a $2.99 work more seriously than a $0.99 work. This must vary on a case-by-case basis. Some readers have also no doubt been burned by bad $0.99 books.

It is possible that he drew sales from readers specifically looking for $0.99 books for a while, and then moved on to readers who look for $2.99 (or $2.99 or higher) books.

You think it's "bull" that I've heard from authors who found that they sold more at $2.99 than they did at $0.99. It's not bull. I'm telling you what some authors have reported in discussions that I have read mainly at Kindleboards and here. Some books seem to find their audience at $2.99 rather than $0.99.

Continued ...

Moses Siregar III said...

but inexpensive good books
sell better than good books
that are not inexpensive...


Do readers consider $2.99 expensive? If not, then your statement doesn't necessarily apply. At what point do readers find a book to be too expensive? That's one of the main things we're talking about.

It's also possible that books that appear to be too inexpensive will not sell as well as books with more normal-looking prices.

The first thing you think of when you hear about a $0.99 novel probably isn't, "I bet that's a great book."

It's also possible that people will *read* a smaller percentage of their 99 cent purchases versus their $2.99-or-higher purchases. When you spend more money for something, you'll tend to value it more and seek to get more out of it.

I know I buy some 99 cent ebooks and then practically never look at them. But if I spend at least $3 or $4 on an ebook, I'm a lot more likely to read it. This is another advantage of a higher price.

Thanks for the invigorating discussion.

bowerbird said...

moses said:
> Factually speaking, what happened?

as i told you, i already explained that.
his word-of-mouth was still cresting.
but after just one month, sales fell off,
and still haven't climbed back to their
high-water-mark from the low price.
and that is _in_spite_ of the fact that
$137 kindles are selling like hotcakes.

aaron did the right thing. 70% of $2.99
is better than 35% of $.99, even when
you make far fewer sales, because the
higher percentage means more money.

but despite his receiving more money,
it's clear that his momentum was hurt.
and it still hasn't recovered completely.

and -- again, as i have already said --
you'll never get that 70% spike again...

even if amazon promised 85% if you
raised your price to $5, many authors
would opt out, and sell their own books
at $2 and keep 100% of that, and have
more money and more fans in the end.

and then your $5 books would be
competing against their $2 books.
(which is why amazon won't do that.)


> It is _possible_ to raise prices and
> generate more sales for various reasons.

yes, i did "admit" that that can happen.

and yet you seem to ignore the fact that
i also said that it is extremely rare, and
you neglected to give any solid examples.

for the record, most of the cases where
a price-raise can stimulate sales involve
_luxury_goods_, like expensive cars and
high-end jewelry and pieces of art, _not_
products that sell used for a few dollars.


> It is possible and likely that
> most readers will take a $2.99 work
> more seriously than a $0.99 work.

where's your evidence?

it's also "possible and likely" that they
will be more willing to "take a chance"
on a $.99 work than on a $2.99 work,
and more willing to "take a chance" on
a $2.99 work than one that costs $5.99.

***

(continued)

bowerbird said...

(continued)

***

> It's not bull. I'm telling you what some
> authors have reported in discussions

point to them. i've got examples _here_,
right in this comment-thread, that give
support to my position. where are yours?


> Do readers consider $2.99 expensive?

they consider $2.99 to be more inexpensive
than $5.99, which is what you say that you
would like to charge people for your novel.

moreover, they can buy _2_ books at $2.99
where they can only buy _1_ priced at $5.99.


> At what point do readers find a book
> to be too expensive? That's one of the
> main things we're talking about.

you can explore the point where a book
becomes "too expensive" if you want...

meanwhile, other authors will be trying to
make their work as _inexpensive_ as possible.

i'm absolutely certain that i know who will
sell more books, and get higher rankings,
and have more fans, and make more money,
and end up with a better long-run career...

but, you know, do whatever _you_ want, ok?


> It's also possible that books that appear
> to be _too_ inexpensive will not sell as well
> as books with more normal-looking prices.

are you trying to convince me? or yourself?
because you're not convincing me, not at all,
if that's what you're trying to do. not at all...

you act like _the_price_ is the _only_ piece of
information that people have about a book,
and somehow they have to "infer" the"value"
they will get from that book at that price...

but let me tell you something. the price is
just about the _last_ thing that they look at.
if a trusted source tells 'em a book is good,
and/or if it's by an author they have enjoyed,
and/or if they like the reviews, and/or if they
read the sample chapters and get into them,
_then_ they will decide to buy the book, and
if it's cheap, they'll think they got a bargain.
but if it's costs too much, they will back off.
do you _really_ want to chase buyers off at
the last possible moment, _after_ they had
made a decision to actually _buy_ the book?


> Thanks for the invigorating discussion.

do you really think a "discussion" _means_
anything, no matter how "invigorating" it is?

you won't find any answers by "debating."

you've got to go out there and _experiment_.

for instance, here's an experiment for aaron.
flip the prices of your 2 books for 3 months;
make the cheap one $8, and the new one $3.
you will see that the sales pattern reverses...
then flip 'em back, and the sales will flip back.

-bowerbird

pagerd said...

I am a kindle consumer and have been since January 2008. I am not a writer and have no interest in ever being a writer, so this is just from a reader's point of view.

If an ebook is from a "big six" publisher and is priced equal to or greater than the dtb (dead tree book) version, I will not buy it unless there is a compelling (to ME) reason to. And yes, I do compare the prices. I've been known to open a new tab and search on the "book" department if the comparison box isn't set up yet. If the price is not acceptable and I think I may want to read the book some day, I'll add the book to price watch at kindleiq. (Oh, I advise any author planning to reduce his/her prices to enter their own books there beforehand; they'll show up on the "recently reduced" list.)
Also, take a look at what kindle-owners consider prices that they're unwilling to pay. It should be no surprise that the most watched book is Follett's Fall of Giants. $19.99?

KindleIQ is a godsend to those hit by the windowing affect. By the time the publisher drops the price, the ebook is off the consumer's radar. Whoops, went off on a tangent.

I usually cut small press publishers some slack in pricing because I am aware they lack economy of scale.

Self-published backlist that I can tell is self-published, I'm willing to pay $2.99 without even debating it, if the book is in one of my preferred genres and there are no horrible errors in the description. I've commented before I'd rather pay $2.99 than $1.99, since I'm aware of the royalty structure. I tend not to bother with samples unless I suspect the book is in topaz format. Topaz is evil. It slows down the reading process and takes up too much room on my kindle.

As the price goes up, I have to think about my degree of interest in the book more. That's when I look at reviews. If the reviews mention formatting problems, it's a "no sale". If the price goes above six dollars, and I know it's self-pubbed, I begin to feel gouged, unless the book's an epic length.

I am a total convert to kindle. If your book is not available as either non-drmed mobi or on the kindle platform, it may as well not be published as far as I'm concerned. (Unless it's in color or all pictures, that is, and I'm reading books like that on my kindle for PC.)

I haven't disposed of any of my over thirteen thousand dead tree books, but I'm increasingly reluctant to pick up one of them to read. I've thought about scanning and OCRing some of my favorites for my personal use. I'd prefer it if the authors would just get their backlist up to save me the inconvenience and allow me to pay them a royalty.

Does anyone know who has the rights to Ellery Queen's (Dannay & Lee) books?

I was expecting better of SF&F publishers, but other than Baen, they've been pretty feeble in the market. Tor started out with the freebies, but the followthrough has been so bad. Their books are either unavailable or overpriced.

New authors' self-pubbed titles: Joe's mantra of "cover, description & price" comes into play here. This is where a loss-leader of ninety-nine cents can halp, but if the cover and description are really good, I don't have too much resistance to the $2.99 price. If you have a series, please put the series order in the description. Make the first in the series your lowest priced book. If I read it and like it, I will be willing to pay more for the next in the series.

Robin
Sep 26

Moses Siregar III said...

bowerbird, there comes a point in internet back-and-forths where anyone paying attention will recognize who is being reasonable and who is being argumentative for the sake of protecting imaginary ego turf. I think we're past that point now, so enjoy the last word.

One factual correction, though:

they consider $2.99 to be more inexpensive
than $5.99, which is what you say that you
would like to charge people for your novel.


I don't remember saying I want to charge $5.99 for my first novel, and I neither want nor intend to charge that amount. $3.99 or $4.99 maybe, but not $5.99.

bowerbird said...

moses said:
> there comes a point
> in internet back-and-forths
> where anyone paying attention
> will recognize who is being
> reasonable and who is being
> argumentative for the sake of
> protecting imaginary ego turf

um, gee, moses, let me guess...
you think _i_ am the one who's
"protecting imaginary ego turf." :+)

still, for you to put any kind of
motivation onto me at all, you
must resort to "imaginary" and
toss in crap like "ego" and "turf".

plus, there's no "argument" here.
_my_ evidence is in this thread,
posted by various people here,
and you still haven't pointed to
any backing for your claims yet.
where _are_ those authors who
sold more units at higher prices?

but i agree with you. people can
see through the smokescreens...

so i have no need to continue,
except for this one little point...

***

moses said:
> One factual correction
> I don't remember saying
> I want to charge $5.99
> for my first novel, and
> I neither want nor intend
> to charge that amount.
> $3.99 or $4.99 maybe,
> but not $5.99.

if you do a "factual correction",
you should _verify_it_ first...

here's a direct copy-and-paste
from your blog, as cited above:

> Right now, I’m thinking of
> probably $3.99 or $4.99
> for my novel, but because
> it’s a long novel that I intend
> to have up to a professional
> standard, I think about $5.99
> too. I don’t think I’ll go over
> $4.99, though. I think $5 is
> one of the significant
> psychological price barriers,
> and as a new writer I don’t
> want to cross that one yet.

since you "think about $5.99",
i think it was fair for me to say
you'd _like_ to charge $5.99, if
you thought you could do so...
and you _might_ if only it didn't
involve a "psychological barrier".

indeed, in comment #7 over on
your blog, you say this to joe:
> One of my not so secret hopes
> is that you’ll make more
> at higher prices so I’m
> trying to encourage you to
> experiment a little bit more.

so it's clear that _you_, moses,
are the one who has an agenda.
(not me, as you have charged.)

you're wishing that higher prices
made more money, so you could
charge more and make more...

ok, fine, i get it. wishful thinking
is understandable. although i'm
not sure why the higher price is
so important, at the expense of
making more, which i can grok...
maybe that's just your imaginary
ego turf that you're protecting.

but own up to it, buddy.

don't project it onto me.

i want authors to succeed,
and i have a track record
in that specific desire that's
_much_ longer than yours...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

moses said:
> there comes a point
> in internet back-and-forths
> where anyone paying attention
> will recognize who is being
> reasonable and who is being
> argumentative for the sake of
> protecting imaginary ego turf

um, gee, moses, let me guess...
you think _i_ am the one who's
"protecting imaginary ego turf." :+)

still, for you to put any kind of
motivation onto me at all, you
must resort to "imaginary" and
toss in crap like "ego" and "turf".

plus, there's no "argument" here.
_my_ evidence is in this thread,
posted by various people here,
and you still haven't pointed to
any backing for your claims yet.
where _are_ those authors who
sold more units at higher prices?

but i agree with you. people can
see through the smokescreens...

so i have no need to continue,
except for this one little point...

***

moses said:
> One factual correction
> I don't remember saying
> I want to charge $5.99
> for my first novel, and
> I neither want nor intend
> to charge that amount.
> $3.99 or $4.99 maybe,
> but not $5.99.

if you do a "factual correction",
you should _verify_it_ first...

here's a direct copy-and-paste
from your blog, as cited above:

> Right now, I’m thinking of
> probably $3.99 or $4.99
> for my novel, but because
> it’s a long novel that I intend
> to have up to a professional
> standard, I think about $5.99
> too. I don’t think I’ll go over
> $4.99, though. I think $5 is
> one of the significant
> psychological price barriers,
> and as a new writer I don’t
> want to cross that one yet.

since you "think about $5.99",
i think it was fair for me to say
you'd _like_ to charge $5.99, if
you thought you could do so...
and you _might_ if only it didn't
involve a "psychological barrier".

indeed, in comment #7 over on
your blog, you say this to joe:
> One of my not so secret hopes
> is that you’ll make more
> at higher prices so I’m
> trying to encourage you to
> experiment a little bit more.

so it's clear that _you_, moses,
are the one who has an agenda.
(not me, as you have charged.)

you're wishing that higher prices
made more money, so you could
charge more and make more...

ok, fine, i get it. wishful thinking
is understandable. although i'm
not sure why the higher price is
so important, at the expense of
making more, which i can grok...
maybe that's just your imaginary
ego turf that you're protecting.

but own up to it, buddy.

don't project it onto me.

i want authors to succeed,
and i have a track record
in that specific desire that's
_much_ longer than yours...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

moses said:
> there comes a point
> in internet back-and-forths
> where anyone paying attention
> will recognize who is being
> reasonable and who is being
> argumentative for the sake of
> protecting imaginary ego turf

um, gee, moses, let me guess...
you think _i_ am the one who's
"protecting imaginary ego turf." :+)

still, for you to put any kind of
motivation onto me at all, you
must resort to "imaginary" and
toss in crap like "ego" and "turf".

plus, there's no "argument" here.
_my_ evidence is in this thread,
posted by various people here,
and you still haven't pointed to
any backing for your claims yet.
where _are_ those authors who
sold more units at higher prices?

but i agree with you. people can
see through the smokescreens...

so i have no need to continue,
except for this one little point...

***

moses said:
> One factual correction
> I don't remember saying
> I want to charge $5.99
> for my first novel, and
> I neither want nor intend
> to charge that amount.
> $3.99 or $4.99 maybe,
> but not $5.99.

if you do a "factual correction",
you should _verify_it_ first...

here's a direct copy-and-paste
from your blog, as cited above:

> Right now, I’m thinking of
> probably $3.99 or $4.99
> for my novel, but because
> it’s a long novel that I intend
> to have up to a professional
> standard, I think about $5.99
> too. I don’t think I’ll go over
> $4.99, though. I think $5 is
> one of the significant
> psychological price barriers,
> and as a new writer I don’t
> want to cross that one yet.

since you "think about $5.99",
i think it was fair for me to say
you'd _like_ to charge $5.99, if
you thought you could do so...
and you _might_ if only it didn't
involve a "psychological barrier".

indeed, in comment #7 over on
your blog, you say this to joe:
> One of my not so secret hopes
> is that you’ll make more
> at higher prices so I’m
> trying to encourage you to
> experiment a little bit more.

so it's clear that _you_, moses,
are the one who has an agenda.
(not me, as you have charged.)

you're wishing that higher prices
made more money, so you could
charge more and make more...

ok, fine, i get it. wishful thinking
is understandable. although i'm
not sure why the higher price is
so important, at the expense of
making more, which i can grok...
maybe that's just your imaginary
ego turf that you're protecting.

but own up to it, buddy.

don't project it onto me.

i want authors to succeed,
and i have a track record
in that specific desire that's
_much_ longer than yours...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

moses said:
> there comes a point
> in internet back-and-forths
> where anyone paying attention
> will recognize who is being
> reasonable and who is being
> argumentative for the sake of
> protecting imaginary ego turf

um, gee, moses, let me guess...
you think _i_ am the one who's
"protecting imaginary ego turf." :+)

still, for you to put any kind of
motivation onto me at all, you
must resort to "imaginary" and
toss in crap like "ego" and "turf".

plus, there's no "argument" here.
_my_ evidence is in this thread,
posted by various people here,
and you still haven't pointed to
any backing for your claims yet.
where _are_ those authors who
sold more units at higher prices?

but i agree with you. people can
see through the smokescreens...

so i have no need to continue,
except for this one little point...

***

moses said:
> One factual correction
> I don't remember saying
> I want to charge $5.99
> for my first novel, and
> I neither want nor intend
> to charge that amount.
> $3.99 or $4.99 maybe,
> but not $5.99.

if you do a "factual correction",
you should _verify_it_ first...

here's a direct copy-and-paste
from your blog, as cited above:

> Right now, I’m thinking of
> probably $3.99 or $4.99
> for my novel, but because
> it’s a long novel that I intend
> to have up to a professional
> standard, I think about $5.99
> too. I don’t think I’ll go over
> $4.99, though. I think $5 is
> one of the significant
> psychological price barriers,
> and as a new writer I don’t
> want to cross that one yet.

since you "think about $5.99",
i think it was fair for me to say
you'd _like_ to charge $5.99, if
you thought you could do so...
and you _might_ if only it didn't
involve a "psychological barrier".

indeed, in comment #7 over on
your blog, you say this to joe:
> One of my not so secret hopes
> is that you’ll make more
> at higher prices so I’m
> trying to encourage you to
> experiment a little bit more.

so it's clear that _you_, moses,
are the one who has an agenda.
(not me, as you have charged.)

you're wishing that higher prices
made more money, so you could
charge more and make more...

ok, fine, i get it. wishful thinking
is understandable. although i'm
not sure why the higher price is
so important, at the expense of
making more, which i can grok...
maybe that's just your imaginary
ego turf that you're protecting.

but own up to it, buddy.

don't project it onto me.

i want authors to succeed,
and i have a track record
in that specific desire that's
_much_ longer than yours...

-bowerbird

Shawn R. said...

I've gotten serious about writing, & realized what a time suck it is, & concurrently the time I spent reading dropped. Then I got a Droid phone & downloaded the Kindle app. Now I can snatch minutes to read that I never had access to before, because the phone goes everywhere with me, is small and incredibly easy to use, & I have a huge selection in that one tiny gadget.

Pricewise, I'm willing to pay more for a non-fiction ebook (up to $10 or so), because that non-fiction physical book will likely always be a $25 hardcover, so I get a better deal buying the ebook. I hear about it on NPR, look it up on Kindle, download it ... I might have passed on it if I had to remember to go to the store & if I had to pay $25 or more for it.

Pricewise on FICTION, I'm finding that $2.99 & less is definitely increasing my impulse buys. I won't pay $9.99 for fiction unless it's an absolute must-have new release from a favored author. I'm finding new fiction being released as a kindle ebook at 6.99 & 7.99, which is better. But for authors who are new to me, I'm a lot more likely to take a chance on them for $2.99 or less.

I saw a fun looking anthology the other day, called something like Zombies vs. Unicorns. I looked it up on Kindle, and it was priced 9.99. I passed. I thought it sounded like fun, but I wasn't familiar with any of the authors, & I won't drop $10 on a bunch of short stories by unknown (to me) authors. If it had been priced at 2.99, I'd have bought it, because if it had turned out crappy, I wouldn't have been out anything significant.

I'm finding the psychology of pricing to be very interesting, and will be keeping it in mind as my career (I hope!) progresses.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Joe, you're very right about ebook pricing and the importance of giving consumers what they want--lower ebook prices. I've used your experience as guidelines for pricing my own ebooks, most of which are under $2.

For my new release, Lancelot's Lady, which launched today, I priced it at $4.99. I think new releases should be priced higher, though my intention is to keep my ebooks all under $5.

Thank you for sharing your experiences.

I'd like to invite you to stop by my Launch Party blog tour. I'm giving away free ebooks (something else you recommend) and other prizes--including a KOBO ereader. My tour was sponsored by Kobo Books.

I hope you'll drop by and leave a comment, Joe. :-)

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
aka Cherish D'Angelo
www.cherishdangelo.com

Willow Polson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bowerbird said...

moses said:
> there comes a point
> in internet back-and-forths
> where anyone paying attention
> will recognize who is being
> reasonable and who is being
> argumentative for the sake of
> protecting imaginary ego turf

um, gee, moses, let me guess...
you think _i_ am the one who's
"protecting imaginary ego turf." :+)

still, for you to put any kind of
motivation onto me at all, you
must resort to "imaginary" and
toss in stuff like "ego" and "turf".

we're both on the same "turf" --
the biggest paycheck for writers.

plus, there's no "argument" here.
_my_ evidence is in this thread,
posted by various people here,
and you still haven't pointed to
any backing for your claims yet.
where _are_ those authors who
sold more units at higher prices?

but i agree with you. people can
see through the smokescreens...

so i have no need to continue,
except for this one little point...

***

moses said:
> One factual correction
> I don't remember saying
> I want to charge $5.99
> for my first novel, and
> I neither want nor intend
> to charge that amount.
> $3.99 or $4.99 maybe,
> but not $5.99.

if you do a "factual correction",
you should _verify_it_ first...

here's a direct copy-and-paste
from your blog, as cited above:

> Right now, I’m thinking of
> probably $3.99 or $4.99
> for my novel, but because
> it’s a long novel that I intend
> to have up to a professional
> standard, I think about $5.99
> too. I don’t think I’ll go over
> $4.99, though. I think $5 is
> one of the significant
> psychological price barriers,
> and as a new writer I don’t
> want to cross that one yet.

since you "think about $5.99",
i think it was fair for me to say
you'd _like_ to charge $5.99, if
you thought you could do so...
and you _might_ if only it didn't
involve a "psychological barrier".

indeed, in comment #7 over on
your blog, you say this to joe:
> One of my not so secret hopes
> is that you’ll make more
> at higher prices so I’m
> trying to encourage you to
> experiment a little bit more.

so it's clear that _you_, moses,
are the one who has an agenda.
(not me, as you have charged.)

you're wishing that higher prices
made more money, so you could
charge more and make more...

you hope for a certain pattern.
i take whichever one happens...

ok, fine, i get it. wishful thinking
is understandable. although i'm
not sure why the higher price is
important, over and above the
making more, which i can grok...
maybe that's just your imaginary
ego turf that you're protecting.

but own up to your bias, buddy.

don't try to project one on me.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

moses said:
> there comes a point
> in internet back-and-forths
> where anyone paying attention
> will recognize who is being
> reasonable and who is being
> argumentative for the sake of
> protecting imaginary ego turf

um, gee, moses, let me guess...
you think _i_ am the one who's
"protecting imaginary ego turf." :+)

still, for you to put any kind of
motivation onto me at all, you
must resort to "imaginary" and
toss in stuff like "ego" and "turf".

we're both on the same "turf" --
the biggest paycheck for writers.

plus, there's no "argument" here.
_my_ evidence is in this thread,
posted by various people here,
and you still haven't pointed to
any backing for your claims yet.
where _are_ those authors who
sold more units at higher prices?

but i agree with you. people can
see through the smokescreens...

so i have no need to continue,
except for this one little point...

***

(continued)

***

bowerbird said...

***

(continued)

***

moses said:
> One factual correction
> I don't remember saying
> I want to charge $5.99
> for my first novel, and
> I neither want nor intend
> to charge that amount.
> $3.99 or $4.99 maybe,
> but not $5.99.

if you do a "factual correction",
you should _verify_it_ first...

here's a direct copy-and-paste
from your blog, as cited above:

> Right now, I’m thinking of
> probably $3.99 or $4.99
> for my novel, but because
> it’s a long novel that I intend
> to have up to a professional
> standard, I think about $5.99
> too. I don’t think I’ll go over
> $4.99, though. I think $5 is
> one of the significant
> psychological price barriers,
> and as a new writer I don’t
> want to cross that one yet.

since you "think about $5.99",
i think it was fair for me to say
you'd _like_ to charge $5.99, if
you thought you could do so...
and you _might_ if only it didn't
involve a "psychological barrier".

indeed, in comment #7 over on
your blog, you say this to joe:
> One of my not so secret hopes
> is that you’ll make more
> at higher prices so I’m
> trying to encourage you to
> experiment a little bit more.

so it's clear that _you_, moses,
are the one who has an agenda.
(not me, as you have charged.)

you're wishing that higher prices
made more money, so you could
charge more and make more...

you hope for a certain pattern.
i take whichever one happens...

ok, fine, i get it. wishful thinking
is understandable. although i'm
not sure why the higher price is
important, over and above the
making more, which i can grok...
maybe that's just your imaginary
ego turf that you're protecting.

but own up to your bias, buddy.

don't try to project one on me.

-bowerbird

Stitch said...

Jude said:
"Again, nobody cares what percentage of $9.99 (or whatever price) the author is getting vs. the publisher. It's irrelevant."

Jude, please don't presume to speak for the rest of humanity. I certainly do not share your oppinion on this. When I buy art, whatever form it my be, I care very much about how much of my money the actual artist get.

By all means, keep posting your oppinions, but please don't try to pass them off as everybody's.

Jude also said:
"I guess it all depends on how much a culture values its art. Let's hope, for the sake of civilization, that a new original work of art is worth just a bit more than a pack of cigarettes."

Comparing an ebook to an "original work of art" is like comparing a jpeg of the Mona Lisa to the actual painting. One is an original work of art, the other is a product available in an unlimited number of copies. One of them is valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. How much would you pay for the other one?

Getting the actual Mona Lisa for $100 million would be a bargain. I wouldn't even pay $1 for a digital image of it.

When you sell an ebook, you are not selling a work of art. You are selling a copy, a product, from a stock of unlimited numbers.

In a few years, you're probably going to be happy if anyone is willing to pay $3 for one of your ebooks. I predict prices will go down, not up.

Stitch said...

Jude said:
"Readers don't care how much authors are making off each sale, how much publishers are making, agents, distributors, booksellers, etc. They don't give a rat's ass."

I care, very much. When I pay for art, whatever form it may be in, I care about who gets the money. Record companies and book publishers are rapidly becoming superfluous, and most of their job today seems to be to justify their own existence. I think it's fair that the artist gets the lion's share of the profit, when technology makes that possible.

Jude also said:
"I guess it all depends on how much a culture values its art. Let's hope, for the sake of civilization, that a new original work of art is worth just a bit more than a pack of cigarettes."

Comparing an ebook to a "new original work of art" is like comparing this digital picture of the Mona Lisa to the actual painting. One is an original work of art, the other is a digital copy, available in unlimited numbers.

Buying the actual Mona Lisa for $50 million would be considered a bargain. How much would you pay for the digital image? I know I wouldn't pay even a single dollar for it.

I predict ebook prices will continue to go down, not up.

Anonymous said...

Authors somehow feel that price of their work is related to the intrinsic value of their work, rather than understand that to the author the only factor should be getting paid the largest ammount but greatest number of people. Mr. Konrath is a very astute businessman. He has found the sweet spot for his product.
Authors, especially indie authors, need to stop thinking about how much to charge per unit sold, and focus on income per work.

Anonymous said...

Whatever the price of ebooks, it's important that it be controlled by the publisher or the self published author, and NOT a third party retailer. A retailer has their own interest at heart only and the price will either be too high or too low. Pricing has to be based on the relationship between the producer of the book and the reader.

Mike Fook said...

God I'd love to get you off this blogger system and into a real blog.

I took your advice and dropped my $9.99 prices to $2.99 at Amazon Kindle as well as at the couple of ebook sites I own. The results over the last 10 days show that I sold just over 3 times as many ebooks during most 10 day periods prior. Sure this is just 10 days. So, income will be about the same.

I agree with Joe's long-term strategy of selling for $2.99 because as a writer is becoming known, it is far better to sell more books than it is to make more money. Out of 13 books I have now, only 5 are selling consistently. The other 7 I am seriously considering making free - as they sell so little that the value to me is in reaching new readers in higher numbers. Otherwise - they reach only the couple people per month that buy them for $2.99.

What I believe most ebook writers need to be concerned with most right now - when thinking about the long-term - is how in the world do you convert Amazon customers to YOUR customers.

Though I'll sell 100+ books at Amazon this month they give me no lead information. I don't know who bought my books. I don't know where they live. I don't know m/f. I don't know age, occupation, anything. I can't email them to tell them I just released a new ebook. I can't email them to say - "Hey, you just bought your 3rd book, here's a free ebook."

The best long-term strategy for becoming a successful writer with a business of your own in which you control as much as possible is to convert some (as many as possible) of those people buying your books at Amazon to be your people.

Writers with blogger and wordpress.com blogs don't even own their own domain. This is an absolute essential. I can't help think - 2nd class, when I see someone on blogger.com or wordpress.com. The blogs are harder to read and the templates suck.

Take control of your writing career. Change every variable over time so YOU control them.

Selling a book on my site I earn $2.99. Selling at Amazon I earn a dollar less. If Amazon changes and starts the 35% commission option again - I'd need to live with it. Then I'm making $1 on my $3 book.

If Joe plays his cards right he can start converting readers at Amazon to readers of his personal blog - at a real domain name, and have his own customers. Right now he's building up the customer base for Amazon, not Joe.

Having the customer data is THE most important thing...

Get started with Aweber.com and start collecting lead information so you have the legal right to email people that are interested in your ebooks. Otherwise, you'll be sucking Amazon's teat for the next 20 years instead of being in control.

WordPress.org blogs are not difficult to setup and write at. They offer a lot more flexibility, and, over the long-term... you need it!

Mike Fook said...

God I'd love to get you off this blogger system and into a real blog.

I took your advice and dropped my $9.99 prices to $2.99 at Amazon Kindle as well as at the couple of ebook sites I own. The results over the last 10 days show that I sold just over 3 times as many ebooks during most 10 day periods prior. Sure this is just 10 days. So, income will be about the same.

I agree with Joe's long-term strategy of selling for $2.99 because as a writer is becoming known, it is far better to sell more books than it is to make more money. Out of 13 books I have now, only 5 are selling consistently. The other 7 I am seriously considering making free - as they sell so little that the value to me is in reaching new readers in higher numbers. Otherwise - they reach only the couple people per month that buy them for $2.99.

What I believe most ebook writers need to be concerned with most right now - when thinking about the long-term - is how in the world do you convert Amazon customers to YOUR customers.

Though I'll sell 100+ books at Amazon this month they give me no lead information. I don't know who bought my books. I don't know where they live. I don't know m/f. I don't know age, occupation, anything. I can't email them to tell them I just released a new ebook. I can't email them to say - "Hey, you just bought your 3rd book, here's a free ebook."

The best long-term strategy for becoming a successful writer with a business of your own in which you control as much as possible is to convert some (as many as possible) of those people buying your books at Amazon to be your people.

Writers with blogger and wordpress.com blogs don't even own their own domain. This is an absolute essential. I can't help think - 2nd class, when I see someone on blogger.com or wordpress.com. The blogs are harder to read and the templates suck.

Take control of your writing career. Change every variable over time so YOU control them.

Selling a book on my site I earn $2.99. Selling at Amazon I earn a dollar less. If Amazon changes and starts the 35% commission option again - I'd need to live with it. Then I'm making $1 on my $3 book.

If Joe plays his cards right he can start converting readers at Amazon to readers of his personal blog - at a real domain name, and have his own customers. Right now he's building up the customer base for Amazon, not Joe.

Having the customer data is THE most important thing...

Get started with Aweber.com and start collecting lead information so you have the legal right to email people that are interested in your ebooks. Otherwise, you'll be sucking Amazon's teat for the next 20 years instead of being in control.

WordPress.org blogs are not difficult to setup and write at. They offer a lot more flexibility, and, over the long-term... you need it!

Mike Fook said...

I wrote a long comment - it was eaten by blogger.com as being "too big!". Funny because I was telling you that you must get off blogger and get on wp.org or some other real platform.

As it is I had copy pasted the comment before hitting publish here because I've been screwed at blogger many times with lost comments.

I posted the comment at mikefook.com, it will drip on the 12th - Thailand time I think that is. So not sure when exactly.

bowerbird said...

mike fook, you are right on!

authors need to nurture their
fan-base in their own corral.

(and not on a blog, either...
a blog is too unidimensional.
use a forum instead, so that
your fans entertain each other,
rather than speak only to you.
otherwise, the idea won't scale.)

the best way to get your fans to
come to you instead of amazon
is to _tell_them_ to come to you
-- right at the end of your book!
(and at the beginning too!)

tell them -- directly -- that you
want to cut out the middlemen,
and have a direct relationship...

promise 'em you'll give 'em free
content if they connect directly,
and make good on the promise...

indeed, it's not unwise to save
your _best_ stuff for fans only!
it will make them feel _special_.

if you're an author, you _must_
get rid of _all_ the middlemen.
_use_them,_ but don't let them
be an obstacle to your progress.

tell your fans to bond directly!

-bowerbird

Yuwanda Black said...

Mr. Konrad:

First, great blog with a ton (and I do mean a ton) of useful info. I've been visiting your blog regularly since I discovered it a few weeks ago to learn more about publishing on Amazon.

My question is this -- you write fiction, and hence discuss your ebook pricing model from this view point (understandably).

I'm wondering if you know of anyone who would be as open as you are about your ebook sales who've published in the non-fiction genre.

I've been writing and self-publishing ebooks via my website/blog since 2004. Most of my titles are about small business and freelance writing (eg, how to start a freelance writing career, how to write an ebook, how to market on a shoestring budget, etc.).

Can you provide insight on ebook sales on Amazon for non-fiction writers, or point me to someone who can.

Thanks again for all the great info you provide. I referenced you/your site in a recent newsletter I sent out about ebook publishing, and readers really enjoyed it.

Best,
Yuwanda

dana said...

Before I buy a paper book, I read a few pages first just to see if I like the author's style. With ebooks, there's no look, no taste, no feel.

You pay your 2.99 and take your chances based only on the cover, or if you know the author.

I'm unknown.

LJCohen said...

@Dana--not so. All the major ebook retailers allow for sample free downloads.

Luke Mcgrath said...

Just a thought on "value" versus cost. A book could well be a work of art, in the same way the Mona Lisa is, but you are not buying the original canvas you are buying a poster.

If I had the money there's no limit to what I'd pay for the manuscript to The Great Gatsby, but I wouldn't pay for than a few pounds for a copy of it someone had made. As I writer I hope my hand typed manuscript becomes priceless, but I'd never expect a copy of it to be worth more than a copy of The Great Gatsby (currently 49p on Amazon!). If, in time, I build an audience and the percieved value of my copies goes up then of course I would add a pound or two to the bottom line, I'm selling to the converted rather than converting.

JesseKaellis said...

I'm getting my manuscript formatted for smashwords. I had 2.99 in mind as a price point. I don't know why. Maybe I read your blog before and forgot.
At this point I don't even care about the money. I just want people to read it.
This manuscript shortlisted in a major contest. Frey read it. Eric Simonoff read it. Michael Signorelli read and rejected it for Harper/Collins.(May he die among strangers) Pieces of the manuscript are published in SubTerrain Magazine. I'll sell it cheap because I think that it will sell. And if it doesn't it doesn't matter how much I charge. Wish me luck.

Richard Harris said...

Great blog, Joe. Fantastic post on ebook pricing. I laughed as much as I learned while reading this one. Keep up the great work!

Bryan Hutchinson said...

I've been going back and forth on what price I should charge and decided to ask my readers for their input. I'm leaning towards the $2.99 price as you suggest. It's really eye opening when you consider the royalties from traditional publishing and those of self-publishing. I wonder how much more someone like Stephen King would earn if he self-published something?

Btw: wanted you to know I quoted you and linked to your article. http://positivewriter.com/best-price-to-charge-kindle-book/

Thanks,
Bryan