Friday, March 18, 2011

Another Update on The List Experiment

From March 1 to March 16 at 3pm, my ebook The List, priced at 99 cents and fluctuating in rank between #13 and #23, earned $5647. It averaged $375 a day. It peaked at $525 a day.

During the last 57 hours, The List, priced at $2.99 and currently ranked at #39, has earned $4092. It is averaging $1723 a day.

What does this mean?

Hell if I know. There's probably a formula in it somewhere. But I'm 100% sure I'll make a lot more money in 28 days at $2.99 than I did for the 28 days it was 99 cents. However, I wouldn't be making the current figures if I hadn't priced it at 99 cents.

Am I the only one with a headache?

156 comments:

peter said...

There are worse ways of getting headaches.

Jordan Marshall said...

I'm new at this but judging from your experiment and some similar trials by other authors, I'm thinking the $.99 price point is really most helpful for writers who need exposure. For some authors, even that won't help, but those who find an audience can push into better rankings and exposure, especially at Amazon. But who really knows what all the variables are? The difference in royalties means you've got to sell a lot of numbers.

I've also noticed that very few successful self-publishers are using the $.99 price point exclusively. My guess is that it's akin to a 'for sale' sign to new readers.

Bella Andre said...

I think the bigger headache is going to come from trying to figure out where to spend all that $$$! LOL

But seriously, huge congrats on how well this experiment has turned out - and I can tell you're having a good time with it! I know for a fact that those two weeks I spent in the BN.com top #22-#35 in February with Game For Love definitely didn't suck. :) Heck, none of this sucks! It's all fantastically awesome!

:) Bella
http://www.BellaAndre.com

Daryl Sedore said...

This is quite something.

I would forego Advil for this headache...

Moses Siregar III said...

It's nice to see you've had a string of good reviews on it recently, too. Congrats.

Debra Lee said...

I wouldn't mind this kind of headache. Really appreciate all the sharing you do, Joe. Keep the posts coming, I learn something new with each one.

Steve Thomas said...

I'm one of them at .99. Would I have bought it @2.99? Probably, but at the lower price, it was a no brainer. I agree that the lower price is probably better for someone trying to get exposure, like me, than someone with a track record.

I'll have to buy another one at the exorbitant price of 2.99 and see if I feel used. I bet I don't!

Eddy Airiants said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy Conway said...

It's interesting that it's continued to sell at the higher price. Other than luck, I wonder if there are other factors at work.

Just being in the top rankings gets you noticed by impulse buyers?

More people have rated and reviewed the book?

It's appearing in more customer recommendations and 'also bought' lists?

Maybe the $0.99 experiment has pushed it heavily in every one of these factors and that's what's now driving sales at the higher price.

Jason said...

Sounds like a kinda momentum dynamic - build speed up for a period at .99 and then switch to 2.99 and cash in as the juggernaught slowly loses speed. Repeat

Tom H said...

I think it means that you are right to experiment and that the e-books do not have a single valuable, or a single sweet spot on price. Seems there value can rise and fall with demand and you've stumbled across a very good way of maximising your profits.

The $.99 price gave The List a surge in sales by being an absolute bargain, which allowed it to climb into the top 100, and being inside the top 100 increased its exposure, obviously. But it also increased its value.

Being a best seller is something of a self-fulling prophecy. More readers are now drawn to it because of its success, because of its perceived value. And those readers who are noticing it now aren't hesitating to spend to $2.99 because The List is now more desirable.

I think continuing this experiment with other books is definitely worth considering. Have you noticed any increase in sales in the rest of your back list since you started this? I remember after a couple of weeks into it there was nothing, but what about now?

Donald Wells said...

There is a formula in it somewhere Joe. It's called luck, or karma, or, or, take your pick. If I were you I would just be happy that it's good luck and enjoy it. I think you've earned some for all your hard work over the years. And thank you again for this blog. It is definitely Must Read if you're a writer.

Scribbler said...

This is really interesting, seems to me that using 99c to get your book as high a ranking as possible and then switching to 2.99 is a good formula. I'll be experimenting with my first release soon, maybe alternating between 99c and 2.99 might be worth trying? the 99c could keep you high in the ratings and the 2.99 would earn you more.

Gwen Hankins said...

I'll second that "fantastically awesome" from Bella Andre. I was referred to your blog from Amanda Hocking's blog--and someday I hope to thank her! Wow! You're good at math *smile*. I'm a writer from scribbling age like most of you; I have been e-published under a pseudonym with good reviews and little $. Now I'm going to try Kindle after I read all of your blog-that is what Amanda said to do. LOL Congratulations on all your success!

Gary Ponzo said...

Joe, I do think there's advantages to playing with the price point. .99 cents gets more volume for a while, then when the word spreads, price doesn't become much of a factor. People will give click on a .99 cent book without blinking an eye, but word of mouth can lure readers into the $2.99 purchase quite easily.

Linda Acaster said...

I would have been *very* surprised if the sales had dropped off a cliff immediately, but I hope you'll keep us updated on numbers for this coming 30 days too. It'll be interesting to see if the graph has the same curve going down as it did going up - that's if it does come down and doesn't just drop a bit and find a new, much higher, level than originally. Now that would be extremely neat.

But would it work for those of us still puttering along at a couple of sales a day? Wouldn't it only work for those selling a good amount daily to start with?

I think the notion of perceived better value of ebooks on the bestseller lists has little to do with $ at this level, even at $2.99, and far more to do with time invested. It's not the 99c-$2.99 folks feel they've wasted when they don't chime with a novel they're reading, it's the 4-5 hours already spent on it.

Peter Andrew Leonard said...

I know it's not exactly what you're talking about but...what I like most about all this is how the AUTHOR has the CONTROL to price their work appropriately as they see fit, put them on sale or have a special.

Keep on trail blazing, Joe.

Tara Maya said...

I know it's not exactly what you're talking about but...what I like most about all this is how the AUTHOR has the CONTROL to price their work appropriately as they see fit

Exactly. That's what's best. The particulars of the price are not what matter, because those may change. The ability to respond to the change is the real innovation.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate (US)
The Unfinished Song: Initiate (UK)

Kathleen Dienne said...

To really figure out the guts of this, you'd have to control for reviews, new sources of readers (i.e. were you mentioned in some really large-circulation media source, not whether or not Kathleen Dienne mentioned you on her blog with three readers), changes to search/list/also bought algorithms, and how squeezed the economic news is making everyone feel (a dollar is nothing, but sometimes three dollars feels like nothing, too).

Forget it. Have a beer. But keep posting :)

antares said...

Jordan Marshall said...
I'm thinking the $.99 price point is really most helpful for writers who need exposure.

Agreed.

Eric Flint (author and editor of Jim Baen's Universe) has written that, for new writers, the overwhelming problem is becoming visible. http://www.baens-universe.com/articles/salvos7

How do you do that? The answer varies, but on Amazon, get your book sales in the top 100. How does a no-name do that? Price the book at $0.99.

Once you have visiblity, price is not important.

Example: I recently bought Terry Pratchett, The Hogfather, on Amazon. How much did I pay for it? $10.99? $11.99? I don't remember. I one-clicked it. I was gonna buy the book and price was not an issue.

I also bought John Locke, The Wish List, 'cause it was sale priced at $0.99. Would I have bought Locke had he priced his book higher? No. At $0.99, so what if I don't like his book? A can of cola costs more. But if I like The Wish List, I will be looking for his books the way I look for Terry Pratchett books.

McDermott said...

Joe,

Many thanks for this and the rest of the info you so generously share with us struggling newbies. The $.99 and $2.99 price points have become the focus of the debate largely due to Amazon's payment guidelines. However, there would seem to be a little more room on the price curve before a book becomes 'expensive' especially for an established author like yourself. Have you considered dropping back to $.99 to move up The List back up the ranking and then testing the $3.99 or $4.99 price points?

Just a thought.

I find this stuff endlessly fascinating.

Monica Shaughnessy said...

I think the only way to really develop a formula is to use data points across several products. While I know that your other books didn't necessarily take the spin that 'The List' did, there's probably some info you can glean from them.

Perhaps there's a golden number (say, #23 on the Amazon List) that you'll end up shooting for. Or, more likely, you'll discover a point of diminishing returns (the point in which sales level out) that signals a time for a price increase.

Approaching pricing with formulas and market data has always been the way big business operates, why not the little guy?

I'd love to hear the answer, if/when you figure it out!

TF Rofkahr said...

It could be combination of thins. The .99 price point allows people to "try" a book by an author they're not familiar with and not feel like they wasted $8-$9.

For that matter it allows people to try new genres at little expense. I'm not a thriller reader, but I happily picked up the .99 List out of sheer karmic appreciation for this website.

The catch? I loved the book. I've bought two new titles at the "regular" 2.99 price point.

I'll also tell people about them - recommend that *they* buy the books.

.99 cents gets hesitant readers to try something new. If you can capture their attention you'll make follow on sales at higher price point. The .99 book is a great promotional tool for pulling readers in.

Angie Mohr said...

Very interesting stats. I agree with the commenter that talked about momentum. The .99 price point drives the book up the list and (presumedly), it will stay there even at the 2.99 price point for a while because people are buying off the list. What I would find most fascinating is how the sales of the other books mirror (or don't) this one as it rises and falls on the list. i.e. how many collateral sales you're getting.

Tax Preparation & Planning for Freelance Writers

Thrilling Covers said...

Joe, congrats! Selling on Kindle is a little like being a modern-day rock star. Insane overnight money can suddenly be made by a person with talent. There's no other profession in the world right now like it. The smart author is the one who will invest in the book's cover. Thrilling Covers is adding awesome inventory items daily at incredible prices. www.thrillingcovers.blogspot.com

Mark Asher said...

"It's interesting that it's continued to sell at the higher price. Other than luck, I wonder if there are other factors at work."

The higher the ranking, the harder Amazon works to sell it for you. At some point Amazon's algorithms kick in and start to display and recommend the book more often. I believe it's as simple as that.

The other factor could be word-of-mouth buzz. The more people reading, the better chance that they are talking about it.

Nick Sireau said...

Sounds like the reduction in price works as a booster - like the promotions they do in supermarkets to get you buying a particular product. Another question is if it would help to announce on the book's Kindle page that the price has been temporarily slashed from $2.99 to $0.99 as part of a sales promotion?

Mister Snitch! said...

No headache here, but that's probably because you've done most of (well, ALL) the work here. I think Jordan Marshall (2nd commenter) has nailed the pattern. Start at 99 cents, gain exposure, raise the price later.

h.m.resch said...

There was no reason why this experiment shouldn't have turned out the way it has. It's the whole "It's on sale!!!!" mentality.

Traditional publishers do this all the time. A decenter percentage of new hardcover releases come out at a discount, build momentum and then have the discount taken away. People still bought Katherine Stockett's 'The Help' in hardcover, even though it stopped being discounted in the store. By that time it had gotten enough momentum by word of mouth and Hollywood buz to keep it going.

I think the next step in your experiment should be to raise the book another dollar if sales keep up. Who knows? You might be able to sell that baby for $9.99!

Douglas Dorow said...

Joe No answers, but a comment. I think The List is one of your most eye catching covers for capturing a reader new to your collection of works.

Thanks for the updates.

www.thrillersRus.blogspot.com

Russell Brooks said...

Joe. From my past experience, I'll sum it up for you. "There's no logic when it comes to sales." Yes, you sold more copies at 99cents. But who's to say that the same people that bought at 99cents wouldn't have purchased the same novel at $2.99 at a later date? I'm convinced that the same buyers would've discovered you at a later date one way or another.

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

Russell Brooks said...

@Peter

Agreed.

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

K.L. Dillon said...

My head's going to explode!!! well, not really. actually, not at all. But it seems to me that, though it may be hard to believe, there is no exact formula for pricing self-pubbed e-books. I consider you the foremost source on everything self-publishing and you're stumped.

Perhaps, it's because fans of your others books simply don't care about the price? Who knows? I don't

K.L. Dillon

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

I think a lot of people are discounting the lag time between readers discovering a new-to-them author and buying additional books by that author.

I've been following your blog for quite a while, but I'd never read any of your books. I'd never read any ebooks until I bought a Kindle in mid-January. I bought The List the day you cut the price to $0.99. Why not? I didn't get around to reading it until a couple weeks later, at which point I mentally bookmarked you as an author I want to read more of. But I now have close to 100 new-to-me authors that I'm sampling, so I'm in no great hurry to buy follow-on titles until I work through that backlog. I'd have probably bought all of your other books at the same time, but perhaps a few months from now. Then you put Origin on sale for $0.99, so I grabbed it this morning, knowing I'll want it eventually.

I suspect I'm like many people. The "value" of an ebook to me is half the price of a used paperback, because I can't resell or give away the ebook. The $2.99 price point really pushes that. I *might* buy one of your other titles at $3.99 or $4.99, but probably not. There's simply too much other good stuff out there selling for less, and even though I average close to a book a day I'm still never going to run out of good inexpensive stuff to read.

My gut reaction is that $0.99 is the "right" price for the first book in a series by an author who has a track record, assuming that book is a full-length novel (at least 70,000 words). It's also the right price for short-story *collections* that total about the same word count.

Assuming that Amazon eventually changes their royalty structure to pay 70% at lower price points, I think $1.49 to $1.99 will be the "right" price for other full-length novels in a series. Eventually, probably within a year or so, I think $0.00 will be the new $0.99, and mainstream established authors will be selling full-length novels for $0.99.

Someone once said that 90% of everything is crap, and that's certainly true for the self-published stuff I've been reading. Fortunately, it's not that hard to sort through the cruft and find the good 10%.

Most of the self-pubbed stuff I see is not just bad but embarrassingly bad, lacking even fundamentals like proper grammar and correct spelling. Writers like Joe and Amanda paid their dues, writing early novels that'll never see the light of day. Too many self-pubbers are publishing those crap early works, which I think is the biggest mistake they could make.

On another blog, I read one author comment complaining that others were selling thousands of copies a week and his book was selling less than a dozen copies a month, even priced at $0.99. So I downloaded the sample and read it, or at least the first couple pages of it. The wonder is that he's selling any copies at all.

There's been a lot of discussion about getting a good cover, writing a good description, setting the right price, and so on, but I think more attention needs to be paid to the really fundamental point: to succeed in the long term, you have to write a good book and then keep writing good books, and that's something that very few people can do.

JAMES BRUNO said...

I have two books with Kindle. When both were priced at $2.99, one rose to three genre bestseller lists. The other languished. When I lowered the second book to $.99, sales shot up and it's now neck-and-neck with the first. Getting the high rankings and recognition are more important to me at this stage than the money -- which is alsoo good!

T.J. Dotson said...

It seems to me a few things happen here. .99 exposes the book to new readers. This pushes you up the ranks as they buy. Some of those readers give you good reviews. Which builds trust that the book is good and worth spending money on. So when you increase the books price to $2.99 potential buyers see the decent ranking & the trustworthy reviews. Your book looks as good as other book produced by a 'Big 6' publisher.

Also, I know this from using my own family & friends as guinea pigs; many readers don't know the difference between an independent author and a traditionally published author. They see the reviews and the rankings and buy based on that. Also Joe, you have some really good street cred (nice professional covers, good website, other books in the Amazon Store) all those things build trust and confidence to potential buyers. The real experiment would be trying to price the book above the $2.99 range...maybe $4.99?

Robert Bidinotto said...

Look: Why would you consider pricing your book at 99 cents? Two possible answers:

(1) to get it into the Kindle Top 100.

(2) to multiply its sales by a factor of 6, so that you'll make more net income than you did at $2.99 or higher.

If pricing your ebook at 99 cents does not do one or both of those things, then it doesn't make sense. You'll lose potential income. Let's look at each of these in turn to see why.

(1) Other than an ego stroke, what is the practical value of getting a book into the Top 100? Answer: advertising. The visibility of being on a bestseller list can help a book reach a self-generating "tipping point" in sales by creating lots of attention and word-of-mouth buzz among readers. So, you price your book at 99 cents in hope of getting on the list where it will be noticed.

However, to generate the same income that you would have earned at $2.99, you'll have to sell 6 times more ebooks at 99 cents. That is very hard to sustain.

So, Joe found that once The List was up in the Top 100 a while at 99 cents, he could cash in on its visibility by raising its price to $2.99. Even at lower sales rankings, he'll continue to make more net income (unless sales fall off by a factor of 6).

But this leads to a big question:

Does it make financial sense to price a book at 99 cents UNLESS it has a realistic shot of getting into the Top 100?

(2) Answer: ONLY if you think that low price can generate 6 times more sales.

But how likely is that, if your book isn't highly visible in the first place? So many 99-cent ebooks now compete on Amazon that purchasers are becoming more selective even at that price point.

Joe -- who has much higher name recognition than most of us -- conducted a price experiment with A Shot of Tequila, dropping its price to 99 cents. It rose on the list to #600, but not high enough to get the advertising benefit of being in the Top 100. He was making no greater net income than he was at $2.99, so he raised the price again.

On the other hand, I know a fantasy author who doesn't have a single ebook in the Kindle Top 100; even on the "fantasy" bestseller list, his highest-ranking title is at #78; and his ebooks are all priced from $4.95 to $6.95. Yet he is earning well over $20,000 per month on his series.

Gee: I wonder if the quality of his writing has something to do with readers' willingness to buy his book at those prices?

My conclusion: Unless you think a 99-cent sale price can propel your ebook into the Top 100, or increase your sales by a factor of six, it's not worth doing.

--Robert Bidinotto
RobertTheWriter.com

Geraldine Evans said...

Joe, I've been experimenting, too. And I agree, the lower sales at $2.99 trumps the higher ones at
99c.

I'm going to do another 99c experiment when my next ebook comes out shortly. It will roughly coincide with my Kindle Nation Daily appearance on 13th/14th April. I can't wait to see if the KND entry makes a huge difference.

Thanks for your great posts. And for your generosity in sharing so much.
Geraldine Evans.
http://wwwgeraldineevanscom.blogspot.com

Russell Brooks said...

Joe, I've been experimenting, too. And I agree, the lower sales at $2.99 trumps the higher ones at
99c.


I have a KND coming soon also. I'm curious to know how high up the ladder my book will climb at $2.99. I was on DailyCheapreads and Frugalereader one week apart while my eBook was priced at 99 cents. I sold a record amount in one week. It should be interesting to see what happens.

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

jtplayer said...

"you have to write a good book and then keep writing good books, and that's something that very few people can do."

Absolutely.

A fact that's lost on many indie authors.

All of this pricing "trickery" won't amount to shit if your writing is...well, if it's shit.

bruceblake said...

Congrats on the experiment.
Sounds like $.99 is the price to get the book moving but once you're into the top rankings of sales, people assume ranking = quality and will pay more.

Marcus Blakeston said...

It's down to how Amazon's algorithms work, it's very similar to that of Ebay at the moment with its "Best Match" search. Something that sells a lot in a very short period of time is considered "good" and therefore gets more prominence in searches. Even more so if there is a high percentage of people looking at it who then go on to buy it. There will be some momentum at the higher price from that, but it will drop off eventually.

Anonymous said...

Since this post and other posts in this blog are labeled as "experiments", let's do a quick thought experiment.

Let's us suppose that suddenly something went crazy with Amazon servers and every ebook was priced at .99

Now, let us suppose that each and every book was equally well written, each had a great cover, and received equal reviews.

Would each ebook sell exactly the same amount? Why?

Anonymous said...

I am new at this. Wondering if the price matters on the length of the novel. For example, if you have a 25,000 word novella as part of a series, would it make sense to price it at 99c?

I don't think anybody would be willing to pay more?

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

"you have to write a good book and then keep writing good books, and that's something that very few people can do."

Absolutely.

A fact that's lost on many indie authors.

All of this pricing "trickery" won't amount to shit if your writing is...well, if it's shit.


I have to admit that I've considered getting in on this goldrush by knocking out some fiction, but I'm not sure I can do it.

I say that as someone who's been a full-time non-fiction author for 15 years and a heavy fiction reader for 50 years.

At a guess, I could write a decent 70,000 word novel in about two weeks. (For non-fiction, I average 5,000 to 6,000 words a day and my all-time record was 14,000.) I'd want to have at least 5 or 6 novels completed before I posted the first one, which means I'd have to devote three months or so. Unfortunately, that's not doable for me right now. I'm committed 100% for at least the rest of this year. Still, I don't think there's a short window here. If I try this and it turns out I actually can write fiction, the market will still be there a year or two down the line.

Years ago at a mystery convention, I was sitting talking with Peter Robinson in the author's lounge about my non-fiction writing and his fiction writing. I commented that I thought fiction would be harder and more time-consuming to write than non-fiction. Peter said that was funny, because he thought just the opposite. As he said, "You have to get things right; I can just make shit up."

noothergods said...

I guess that's the point of a sale, right?

Selena Kitt said...

At a guess, I could write a decent 70,000 word novel in about two weeks. (For non-fiction, I average 5,000 to 6,000 words a day and my all-time record was 14,000.)

Actually, non-fiction goes faster. At least, for me. I wrote a dissertation in two weeks. Fiction takes me longer - mostly because things have to unfold. In non-fiction you can outline very easily, know just what you're going to say, and go in a straight line to get there. With fiction, things change, morph, move. Characters start doing things you didn't plan. At least, mine do. :)

You COULD write a 70K novel in two weeks. But I'm not sure I'd want to read it...

J. Viser said...

The 99 cent price point seems to be akin to having an end cap display in a retail store. The low price attracts more impulse buys, which moves the title up the rankings (location), which then creates greater visibility. Repeat.

Nice work!

wannabuy said...

@Jason:"Sounds like a kinda momentum dynamic - build speed up for a period at .99 and then switch to 2.99 and cash in as the juggernaught slowly loses speed. Repeat"

I suspect this will only work if the titles are rotated through. Since that is what Joe has stated he intends to do... I'm curious to see the results.

Neil

Ps I charted the AAP sales numbers with my own estimate of indie/small publisher ebook sales.

http://ebookcomments.blogspot.com/2011/03/january-2011-ebook-sales.html

David said...

Anon said:

"I am new at this. Wondering if the price matters on the length of the novel. For example, if you have a 25,000 word novella as part of a series, would it make sense to price it at 99c?

I don't think anybody would be willing to pay more? (sic)"

I think people will pay what they think you're worth, and sometimes that coincides with what you think you're worth. This whole .99 cent price is completely random and not based on any sort of marketing data from what I can tell.

Assuming you sell 5000 units in total, you're making $1750 before taxes. Most people selling e-books (novel or otherwise) probably won't even sell that many. Now break that down by how long it took you to write, edit, publish, and market that novella. Worth it?

Whether or not it's part of a series shouldn't matter, and I don't think word count should matter either. If .99 cents is the max someone should pay for 25,000, then 2.99 is the max someone should pay for 75,000 words, but that's not what we're seeing. Lots of people are buying books at 4.95, 6.95, 8.99, etc.

I'd like to see the minimum raised to 1.99 with a 70% royalty. People won't purchase fewer books at that amount, but it should be instituted soon, well before Kindle reaches saturation and everyone gets used to spending .99 for books. That price is bad for everybody in the long run.

wannabuy said...

@JT:"All of this pricing "trickery" won't amount to shit if your writing is...well, if it's shit."

Always true. But the beauty of ebooks is that good authors that couldn't get past the gatekeepers for arbitrary reasons are now available. Some, like John Locke and Amanda Hocking, are so prolific that they're doing a great job of feeding the machine.

Hey, how are you enjoying your Kindle?

Robin Sullivan said...

I'm actually surprised that people are surprised at this part of the test.

It seems to make perfect sense to me to use $0.99 - get firmly in the ranking, then raise the price to maximize profit.

I think Joe did this just about perfectly as he waited until The List broke the top 20 and stayed there a bit. IIRC the price rise hit just as the book was starting to climb (not because of) so it still has the momentum (and the referral engine of Amazon) but now making a much greater return.

It would be really interesting to see John Locke do some price increases as he has all his books universally priced at $0.99. (And doing well with 4 of the top 10 spots) but I think he would see similar results - i.e. more money if he did.

The thing is ... not everyone who uses $0.99 will hit the top 100 let alone the top 20 - but if you do...I suggest you follow a similar practice to make the most of that booster rocket.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Christine Kersey said...

Joe, I bought The List because I read the first three chapters at the end of The Walk by Lee Goldberg. I would have bought the book whether the price was .99 or 2.99. I think it's more about exposure than pricing.

jtplayer said...

"Hey, how are you enjoying your Kindle?"

I like it Neil, quite a lot. Definitely a neat little device.

I've loaded it up with a lot of old pulp fiction I found for free at several different sites (Munseys, Many Books, Pulpgen), and I downloaded some free classics at Amazon.

On the other side, I've bought some cool stuff from many authors who post here.

One nice feature is the ability to load my current WIP into my Kindle and use if for proofreading and editing. Also, the text-to-speech feature is kind of interesting for editing purposes.

I still love my paper books though, and continue to buy way too many. I really can't see my Kindle ever replacing them completely. On a few occasions I've downloaded a sample on my Kindle, and went on to buy the hardback or paperback version.

It's all good man!

m3mnoch said...

it's called "penetration pricing" and is a well known and sweet pricing strategy. especially in the digital "no distribution costs" arena.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penetration_pricing

chris.

jtplayer said...

I think a lot of people get hung up on the idea that ebooks should cost way less than paper simply because it is not a physical product they are purchasing.

To me, this is wrong thinking. You are buying intellectual property, and beyond that, you are buying what hopefully ends up being a pleasurable experience, a journey of the mind if you will.

Now I fully admit the cost of the ebook should reflect the reduced costs associated with manufacturing it. But it shouldn't be "cheap" just because when I've finished reading it I don't have a physical object to put on a shelf or squirrel away in a box somewhere.

The electronic file gets archived just like you would store that paper book, and any time you like you can retrieve it and reread it, and enjoy the experience all over again. That's where the worth, or the value lies. IMO.

bowerbird said...

um, joe, that headache is from
all that green beer you drank...

-bowerbird

krystian-galaj said...

There's no such thing as intellectual property. What an author has is a temporary government-granted monopoly for copying of a piece of common culture he produced. What society owes the author is for the effort of producing the work, not for owning it - ideas can't be owned.

Tara Maya said...

Over on the kindleboards, during a discussion of $.99 books, history_lover wrote: Not long ago, we had a discussion here about the free books on Kindle and almost everyone agreed that Kindle users quickly learn that you can't just download all the freebies willy-nilly because you'll wind up with a lot of books you never get around to reading. Most people are picky about what freebies they pick up because like you say, it's not about the money, it's about the investment of time it requires to read those books. To me, it's the same with $0.99 books.

I think this shows why $.99 books can be used for penetration pricing without meaning that all ebooks will race to that price permanently. Zoe Winters has talked about this as well: you want to signal to readers that your book is worth time.

Right now, readers expect ebooks to be cheaper than pbooks. But as the phase transition from pbooks to ebooks accelerates, we might see a new attitude emerge as well. For myself, I noticed that at first that I used ebooks to test out books, which I would then buy in paperback. But I wouldn't buy the ebook if a pbook was available for less money.

After having a kindle for a year, I've changed habits. Now my preference is actually for ebooks, and I've noticed I'll pay the higher price for the ebook for the convenience and instant gratification, rather than bother with paying shipping, waiting a couple days and then lugging around a pbook.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

bowerbird said...

m3mnoch said:
> it's called "penetration pricing"

because the buyer gets reamed.

-bowerbird

jtplayer said...

Good points Tara.

Tara Maya said...

bowerbird, surely you're not saying only erotica authors may use the technique.

wannabuy said...

@JT:"I still love my paper books though, and continue to buy way too many."

All's good. It took me a year to convert mostly to the Kindle, but I'm sure some (perhaps yourself) will stay mostly with print books.

I travel too much to consider lugging around print books. I notice that the library at the hotel I often stay at (with a drop off one book and take one with you policy) is being frequented far less. :( Most of my coworkers who read and travel have gone ebook, so I'm in a group that needs more portability.

Not to mention the kids stuff has taken over the areas where we might put a bookcase. ;)

Neil

Joe Konrath said...

About 72 hours after raising the price, The List is still making $70 an hour.

wannabuy said...

@Tara:"I think this shows why $.99 books can be used for penetration pricing without meaning that all ebooks will race to that price permanently."

100% Agree. As a greater fraction of Kindle owners become 'long term Kindlers' (or other ebook devices), they'll realize more and more the value of time and that will help support the $2.99 to $5.99 price points. I still see some price sensitivity above that, in particular above $9.99.

With my TBR pile of excellent indie books, I'm down to three authors I'll pay over $9.99 for an ebook. For everyone else... I'll wait. Then again, I've discovered, via this blog, two new (for me) indie authors that will take me a while to read through their backlists.

I did discover one 'new to me' big6 author I'm enjoying. Now to wait six+ months for the next release... Yawn.

Neil

Sheri Leigh said...

About 72 hours after raising the price, The List is still making $70 an hour.

I wonder if it will settle at around the same ranking it had before?

My guess is it will.

*getting popcorn and settling in to watch*

Pale Rambler said...

You created an event, that sparked a curiosity, that developed into an continuing fascination. Successful marketing plan implemented.

Watcher said...

I think one important thing to remember is that books are not necessarily commodities. Lowering the price may be a good way to get people to notice your work. But people who like your work and want more of it may be willing to pay a lot more money for it, and will willingly act as your marketers as they tell all their friends. I know you don't think much of "brands" in this new world, but I think having a great brand (ie, a fanatical readership who will follow you as long as you keep producing quality material) is the most important aspect for many writers.

jtplayer said...

"With my TBR pile of excellent indie books"

How do you know they're excellent if you haven't read them yet ;-)

bowerbird said...

let's look at a couple books...

"the dirty parts of the bible"
got a price-drop march 10th,
and began to climb the chart,
up to #282 by march 14th...

konrath's "origin" was #368
when its price was reduced
to $.99; that was march 14th.

so "dirty parts" had passed
"origin" around march 14th,
due to its temporary price...

with its own temporary cut,
"origin" returned the favor,
and is now lodged around
rank #190 (#187 yesterday),
while "dirty parts is #325...
(it was at #275 yesterday.)

both of these books will be
"re-priced" once they reach
the top-100 bestseller list,
so neither of them is being
"honestly" priced at $.99...
it's just a trick to move up,
to try to capitalize on rank.

and it's a nice trick, indeed,
until lots of authors use it...

then the rest of the authors
will be forced to use it, or
suffer the consequence of
being bounced farther back.

it would be one thing if the
$.99 prices were _honest_...
that's just the marketplace,
doing what it's supposed to.

but this is _trickery_. it's
_gamesmanship_, and it's
not a good thing to be doing.

but, as shown here, it has
the effect of self-correction.

both of these books are
making it more difficult
for the other to move up.

that's the good news.

the bad news is that they
are also hurting a lot of
innocent books as well...

an example of that is
blake's "run", which is
honestly priced at $2.99.
it's moving up, to #445
at the current time, but
who knows how many
artificially-priced $.99
books stand in its way?

and meanwhile, the
recommendation engine
-- which is based on
the data from sales --
is being badly gummed,
which hurts everyone,
badly, in the long run.

amazon will undoubtedly
fix this problem eventually.

but maybe not too quickly,
because -- remember? --
it takes 65% of $.99 sales.
so it will just let all of you
cut your throats for a while,
as it builds up a warchest
to defeat any competitors
who might creep up on it.

-bowerbird

Tara Maya said...

I still don't understand how a sale price is "dishonest."

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Renee Murray said...

Joe, thanks for your timely experiment. I have a new release next week, and your price tests and subsequent reporting are useful information for me. A thousand thanks.

Kathleen Dienne said...

Bowerbird, I confess that I don't see anything or anyone being "hurt."

I have three ebooks on sale (from an epub, not selfpub - still writing the self-pub ;)) and none of them are harmed by anyone pricing their books at 99 cents. In fact, one of mine IS priced at 99 cents. It's a short story and that's what its publisher is asking for that length.

But just because a book is 99 cents does not mean it will get or keep a spot in the bestsellers list. By the same token, books on the list are not unfairly hogging a spot.

Did you mean something different and I just misunderstood?

Sheri Leigh said...

the recommendation engine -- which is based on the data from sales -- is being badly gummed, which hurts everyone, badly, in the long run.

How, exactly?

Raymond said...

Joe,

At the risk of sounding cynical - but borne more of fascination at this process - I have a curiosity question that reeks of "circular consumerism" (if there is such a term - if not - I'll copyright it tomorrow. *grin*

With all of the great advice, helpful debates, opinions, etc. that is captured in these comments - what if you rolled the comments up on some sort of daily / weekly / monthly / or by topic basis and packaged them as a .99 ebook?

Would anyone buy the collected wisdom of the many?

Does anyone know if you can "sell" other people's opinions / questions / advice / etc. ... with or without their consent?

Making it more of an interesting question - what does the fact that they posted on YOUR blog have to do with whose "intellectual property" said comments are?

I'm being satirical about this ... probably.

You never know - someone has to pay for that expensive beer.

Raymond

David said...

How long will this continue to work when the numbers of e-books available every day rises exponentially (which it will), and everyone is doing the .99 cent thing. It's working for Joe because it's very early in the game, and he's building his brand, but will it work a year from now?

I also wonder if price and genre are correlated at all. Pulp thrillers, mysteries, erotica, and romance are categories where people have historically paid less. I wish some would do a thorough analysis of this. What's working for Joe may not work for a "literary" writer, or a writer of epic fantasy. Does Amazon publish any sort of statistics on its e-books, or B&N?

T.J. Dotson said...

We're too fixated on the .99 Price. If you read reviews of the 'The List', the readers spell out to you why they bought it. It is a well written book. Yes, most of the reviewers point out they were initially attracted by the price. However, it was Joes brilliant writing and marketing that sealed the deal. Any new customer reading those reviews has a darned good reason to get 'The List' now, regardless of the price.

The top, best-selling, independents seem to have these qualities.

- Trustworthiness (Reviews & Endorsements from others)
- Quality (Great covers, Professional Presentation, Good copy-editing, & DAMN GOOD WRITING)
- Pricing (An affordable price that matches or is a little under the perceived value).

Mark Asher said...

"but this is _trickery_. it's
_gamesmanship_, and it's
not a good thing to be doing."

Oh c'mon. The price listed is the price anyone chooses to pay -- there's no trickery involved.

If a writer wants to drop the price to $1 on a temporary basis, who is hurt? The person who buys it for $1 instead of $3?

And if it hits the top 100 and then the price is changed to $3, no one who chooses to buy it at $3 is being cheated. The price is always there in front of the consumer.

Raymond said...

Joe,

I think I got blogspotted. I typed a comment, hit "publish your comment" and it disappeared. Sigh.

My comment was a question borne out of curiosity.

Since a lot of us have benefitted from the collective wisdom of the many here in the comments section of your blog - what if you bundled up said comments on a daily / weekly / monthly / or by topic basis and sold them as a .99 ebook?

Circular consumerism?

Whose "intellectual property" are these comments - once they are on YOUR blog - in a public forum?

Would anybody buy it?

Would there be issues of violation of privacy, publishing someone else's thoughts or work?

I'm asking satirically of course. Maybe.

I'm sure this will draw the ire of many, but regardless of the objections - I think everyone would admit it would be an interesting experiment.

Raymond

Rebecca Stroud said...

I dickered around with pricing for awhile but, ultimately, decided to leave - ahem - well enough alone.

My two short-story works are priced at $.99 and that's where they will stay (as they are indeed short).

However, my column collection is at $2.99 and my soon-to-be published novella (20K words or so) will be priced the same.

I may be the tortoise in this "hare-raising" business but - hopefully - slowly & surely, I will remain in the race.

A Three-Dog Night
Zellwood: A Dog Story
The Animal Advocate

Robert Burton Robinson said...

@David said: I also wonder if price and genre are correlated at all. Pulp thrillers, mysteries, erotica, and romance are categories where people have historically paid less.

I think that's why my "pulpy" mysteries sell best at $0.99. They're short novels and novellas. Two of them are on Kindle Bestseller lists:
Sweet Ginger Poison
Hideaway Hospital Murders

I Torres said...

I haven't received my kindle yet, though I've bought it, and I can already tell that a $.99 book will be a no brainer buy for me if the book looks at all interesting. A 2.99 from an unknown author will have to really entice me with its cover, blurb and sample. All three. But I still consider it an amazing price.

Of course, from authors I already love, I'd be willing to pay about half of paperback price.

Joe, thanks so much for sharing as much as you do. You're awesome. I'm super excited to read your work. ;) Congrats on the success. ;)

Vivi Anna said...

Looks like maybe the key, is to have frequent month long sales of all yoru books.

Once I have my prequel up at .99, I think I might try this and see what happens

Vivi Anna said...

Being in the top 100 bestsellers on Amazon, is akin to being on the best seller tables at the front of the bookstores. More people are prone to buy what's in front of them, then to go to the back shelves adn browse all the titles.

Maria said...

The results CLEARLY show...chaos is the only answer.

Mark Asher said...

"Being in the top 100 bestsellers on Amazon, is akin to being on the best seller tables at the front of the bookstores. More people are prone to buy what's in front of them, then to go to the back shelves adn browse all the titles."

Exactly. Back in July of 2010 Amazon reportedly had 630,000 ebooks for sale. That number is surely higher now and next year it might be two million ebooks for sale.

Books that are low in rankings will get buried and become invisible unless searched for specifically by title or author. Having a good sales ranking will be more important than ever.

A.P. Fuchs said...

At the end, the artist needs to decide what's more important to them: reader/download numbers or actual dollars earned. You can't have both, not when you're the publisher. The math forbids it.

In a traditional setting, the buck-a-book royalty system is more or less accurate. Sell 5000 copies, you've made around $5000.

Midlist writers used to rag on me for self-publishing all the time for years--gee, funny how things have changed since their market dried up; can I be one of the cool kids now? Wait, is your shoe on the other foot? Self-publishing because no one will publish you? Awwww. Yes, partly sour grapes to be sure because no midlister has admitted to this profound truth--and my aim had always been to write fulltime. When you make $7+ per sale, I only needed to sell anywhere between 500-1000 copies to match their "bigtime advances" from a mass market publisher. (i.e. Dorchester, even Tor) But they had to sell 5000+ copies, depending who they went with, to earn that advance back.

All comes down to goals, and Scott Nicholson was 100% right when he recently said the "new currency" amongst writers in terms of "success" is number of books sold versus actual dollars earned.

Can't we just grow up and all get along? What's with all this competing? Hey, I'm all for having a healthy competitive nature. It's what keeps you sharp, especially if you're a businessman (which a true self-publisher is, anyway). But, seriously, new cliques are forming now because of this whole numbers thing.

I love this business and I love my job, but some days I honestly feel like I'm in high school again.

If an author is after numbers, just put your stuff out there for free. Seriously. You'll get rid of hundreds of thousands of books in a relatively short time (David Moody, for example, before his legacy deal).

If you want to make a living, then price your work in a way to actually manage that.

As said, because self-publishing earns you quite a bit more than the buck-a-book royalty, your numbers don't need to be high to match the income of those under legacy contracts or those pricing their books dirt cheap.

Personally, the most devasting thing I'm seeing happen to writers' careers right now--and I'm not alone in this as I've read other writers' blogs saying the same thing--is this whole indie bandwagon, screw the traditional publisher mentality. Goes to show that no matter what business your in, people can't march to their own drummer. They need to be part of the parade for fear of looking like the odd man out even if they're actually making smart sense by doing what works for them and not what works for so-and-so.

End of sermon. I have publishing work to do, the business side of this job.

Tara Maya said...

How effective is being high in ranking in a particular genre? Speaking for myself, I don't usually search the top hundred, because it's too generic. I search by genre. The top hits there are much more likely to come to my attention.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Raymond said...

Joe,

I think I got blogspotted. I typed a comment, hit "publish your comment" and it disappeared. Sigh.

My comment was a question borne out of curiosity.

Since a lot of us have benefitted from the collective wisdom of the many here in the comments section of your blog - what if you bundled up said comments on a daily / weekly / monthly / or by topic basis and sold them as a .99 ebook?

Circular consumerism?

Whose "intellectual property" are these comments - once they are on YOUR blog - in a public forum?

Would anybody buy it?

Would there be issues of violation of privacy, publishing someone else's thoughts or work?

I'm asking satirically of course. Maybe.

I'm sure this will draw the ire of many, but regardless of the objections - I think everyone would admit it would be an interesting experiment.

Raymond

Jason said...

"...because the buyer gets reamed.

-bowerbird"


I disagree here bb. The buyer is not getting reamed when there is only a $2.00 difference in the price points. Now, if Joe was switching between .99 and $9.99...or even $7.99, then yes, that would be reaming the buyer.

But when he switches from a normal price of $2.99 to a temporary sales price of .99, then back up to the regular price of $2.99 there really isn't a loser. No one is seriously going to be pissed for getting 'screwed' out of a measly 2 bucks because of a sale.

Coming from a marketing background, I see this as a brilliant move - if .99 can get a book into the top 100 then it should most definitely be done. Followed by enjoying the increased revenue from better sales at the $2.99 price while the book is still in the top 100 as it slowly descends back down.

And maybe in some cases, the book would actually stay in the top 100 at the $2.99 price!

Stephen said...

"...to succeed in the long term, you have to write a good book and then keep writing good books, and that's something that very few people can do."

Consistently good advice that rings own the years. Or as an agent once said, "Very people can write this stuff. Well."

10% of the stuff hitting the Amazon compilers is readable; under the old Agency Model only 1/100th of it would ever have been published. So, ebooks are a good thing on just so many levels.

Debbi said...

Welcome to my world, Joe. :)

mjtwrites said...

I see lots of discussion about pricing for shorter works: novellas, collections, etc. What about longer novels, i.e. epic fantasy? What should pricing be for 100K plus books? Is $2.99 still the sweet spot, or should an epic fantasy writer seek to write shorter works and publish more frequently. I'm months away from finishing, but the discussion is quite interesting.

J. E. Medrick said...

@MJTWrites

Robin Sullivan's husband does very well with his novels in the $4.95 - $6.95 range. There has also been discussion that epic fantasy readers are willing to pay more for their product, especially the longer works. They want a series with which they can really become involved and attached.

Some others also use the first in the series as a "loss leader", pricing it low to draw in readers and then the rest higher because (ostensibly) they would want to finish the journey.

Hope that helps :)

Shackled
Cheat

Michelle said...

Joe,
I'm in the process of making pricing decisions on my eBook and print on demand version of my first novel and I am really grateful to you for running these experiments. Yes, I do have a bit of a headache, but would rather be informed with a headache than flying completely blind! I have decided to price my eBook at 2.99, for a few reasons: a) it is my debut novel and since I don't have other books to offer, I cannot play off the promotional pricing in the same way you can; b) the 70% royalty jump; and c) signalling -- 2.99 is already a bargain compared to traditionally pubbed eBooks, and I want to signal that this book is worth more than 99 cents because the reader has to decide to spend his or her precious time actually consuming it. We'll see how it goes! Thanks as always for your incredibly valuable insights.

Lee Rogers said...

>>There has also been discussion that epic fantasy readers are willing to pay more for their product, especially the longer works.<<

I'm going in at $4.95 for a 99k words, first-in-a-series, YA fantasy. See how it goes.

www.animaia.com

Michael Kingswood said...

Not to throw water on the fire or anything, but one question:

Post hoc ergo proctor hoc?

Be careful of correlation vs causation, Joe. As you've said there are a lot of variables out there as to why a book sells or doesn't sell. Do you REALLY know that The List went up in ranking so far BECAUSE you dropped the price and for no other reason? The controls in this experiment are pretty limited to come to a definitive conclusion, IMHO.

Michael Kingswood
www.michaelkingswood.com

Joe Konrath said...

Do you REALLY know that The List went up in ranking so far BECAUSE you dropped the price and for no other reason?

Yes. I do.

The List has been selling steadily for two years. I drop the price, and it sells better than ever, hitting the Top 100 in nine days. While this isn't a controlled, scientific experiment, I believe I'm able to draw the conclusion that a lower price equaled more sales.

Raymond said...

Joe,

I think I got blogspotted. I typed a comment, hit "publish your comment" and it disappeared. Sigh.

My comment was a question borne out of curiosity.

Since a lot of us have benefitted from the collective wisdom of the many here in the comments section of your blog - what if you bundled up said comments on a daily / weekly / monthly / or by topic basis and sold them as a .99 ebook?

Circular consumerism?

Whose "intellectual property" are these comments - once they are on YOUR blog - in a public forum?

Would anybody buy it?

Would there be issues of violation of privacy, publishing someone else's thoughts or work?

I'm asking satirically of course. Maybe.

I'm sure this will draw the ire of many, but regardless of the objections - I think everyone would admit it would be an interesting experiment.

Raymond

Anonymous said...

Joe,

I think I got blogspotted. I typed a comment, hit "publish your comment" and it disappeared. Sigh.

My comment was a question borne out of curiosity.

Since a lot of us have benefitted from the collective wisdom of the many here in the comments section of your blog - what if you bundled up said comments on a daily / weekly / monthly / or by topic basis and sold them as a .99 ebook?

Circular consumerism?

Whose "intellectual property" are these comments - once they are on YOUR blog - in a public forum?

Would anybody buy it?

Would there be issues of violation of privacy, publishing someone else's thoughts or work?

I'm asking satirically of course. Maybe.

I'm sure this will draw the ire of many, but regardless of the objections - I think everyone would admit it would be an interesting experiment.

Raymond

Raymond said...

Joe,

I think I got blogspotted. I typed a comment, hit "publish your comment" and it disappeared. Sigh.

My comment was a question borne out of curiosity.

Since a lot of us have benefitted from the collective wisdom of the many here in the comments section of your blog - what if you bundled up said comments on a daily / weekly / monthly / or by topic basis and sold them as a .99 ebook?

Circular consumerism?

Whose "intellectual property" are these comments - once they are on YOUR blog - in a public forum?

Would anybody buy it?

Would there be issues of violation of privacy, publishing someone else's thoughts or work?

I'm asking satirically of course. Maybe.

I'm sure this will draw the ire of many, but regardless of the objections - I think everyone would admit it would be an interesting experiment.

Raymond

Anonymous said...

"The List has been selling steadily for two years. I drop the price, and it sells better than ever, hitting the Top 100 in nine days. While this isn't a controlled, scientific experiment, I believe I'm able to draw the conclusion that a lower price equaled more sales."

Well, you TOLD everyone you lowered the price, and that created buzz. I personally think the cover is a big reason it's doing so well (not that the writing isn't, but the cover is all we see). I wonder, if you raised it to 6.95 for a while to artificially inflate it, then dropped it to 2.99 after a blitz like this, would the numbers be close to what you've seen with 99 cents?

Visibility is the most important thing, and The List is still very visible on the Thriller list. Who cares if its gone down on the top 100. YOUR readers are looking at the Top Thriller list.

Sheri Leigh said...

If you need someone else for your guest spots, Joe, here's an author who made $52K on one book ("Faking It"). According to the article, she made it to Kindle's #6 spot.

Interesting quote in this, though:

That's not all. Some established authors also are choosing to self-publish. Last year, Stephen King, Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho and "Seven Habits" guru Stephen Covey all self-published some works at Amazon's Kindle store.

What was Stephen King's self-pubbed work? And did he do it himself??

ahmad said...

Now that my name is out there, I have had some reviewers say, "It was only 0.99 so it can't be that good, but after reading I was more than wrong." I like .99 to create exposure, but I believe that already having one book out at that rate only hurts me right now. If nothing happens within the next month I am just going to bump my new book back up to 2.99

Joe Konrath said...

Well, you TOLD everyone you lowered the price, and that created buzz.

That's why you bought it, right?

Wait, you didn't?

Guess what? Neither did 90% of the people who read this blog.

If my name is so big and the buzz around me so great, why are other authors outselling me? And why don't all my books sell equally well?

Sorry, you're wrong. Buzz among my peers doesn't account for 1500 sales a day.

The majority of my sales are to complete strangers who see a pretty cover and a low price.

Sheri Leigh said...

Sorry, you're wrong. Buzz among my peers doesn't account for 1500 sales a day.

But authors buzzed it. It was Twittered and FB'd and Kindleboarded all over the place by authors. And guess what? Authors have readers. :)

I think you underestimate the power of this blog sometimes. The people who read this blog may not be your readers - but the people who read this blog HAVE readers who cross over and become (or already are) your readers.

So it may not be direct marketing - but it's still marketing. And it's effective.

Tara Maya said...

There's a simple way to see if this book can help sell books, and that's to see if authors who do guest posts here see a boost in sales. There have been several now, what has been their experience? If a new experiment is required, I will be happy to volunteer. ;)

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Robert Bidinotto said...

The ebook revolution spreads to Canada. Prize-winning author Peter Darbyshire jumps in and reports, giving a hat tip to Joe, too.

--Robert Bidinotto
RobertTheWriter.com

Tara Maya said...

That's an interesting link because it's also talking about a literary book. We've had some questions here about whether a lit book can make it as an indie ebook.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate (US)
The Unfinished Song: Initiate (UK)

Raymond said...

Anyone else having issues with having comments disappear completely?

Raymond said...

Joe,

I think I got blogspotted. I typed a comment, hit "publish your comment" and it disappeared. Sigh.

My comment was a question borne out of curiosity.

Since a lot of us have benefitted from the collective wisdom of the many here in the comments section of your blog - what if you bundled up said comments on a daily / weekly / monthly / or by topic basis and sold them as a .99 ebook?

Circular consumerism?

Whose "intellectual property" are these comments - once they are on YOUR blog - in a public forum?

Would anybody buy it?

Would there be issues of violation of privacy, publishing someone else's thoughts or work?

I'm asking satirically of course. Maybe.

I'm sure this will draw the ire of many, but regardless of the objections - I think everyone would admit it would be an interesting experiment.

Raymond

Raymond said...

Joe,

I think I got blogspotted. I typed a comment, hit "publish your comment" and it disappeared. Sigh.

My comment was a question borne out of curiosity.

Since a lot of us have benefitted from the collective wisdom of the many here in the comments section of your blog - what if you bundled up said comments on a daily / weekly / monthly / or by topic basis and sold them as a .99 ebook?

Circular consumerism?

Whose "intellectual property" are these comments - once they are on YOUR blog - in a public forum?

Would anybody buy it?

Would there be issues of violation of privacy, publishing someone else's thoughts or work?

I'm asking satirically of course. Maybe.

I'm sure this will draw the ire of many, but regardless of the objections - I think everyone would admit it would be an interesting experiment.

Raymond

Anonymous said...

"Sorry, you're wrong. Buzz among my peers doesn't account for 1500 sales a day.

The majority of my sales are to complete strangers who see a pretty cover and a low price."

How'd these strangers find out about it? How did they know you lowered your price if they've never heard of you? How did they get to see that pretty cover in the first place? You're crazy if you think you can factor out the buzz factor completely.

bowerbird said...

thanks to a suggestion by
robin, i have been tracking
"the color of heaven" since
the price was raised on it
from $.99 to $2.99, way
back around march 6th,
when it was ranked #17.

you can see the progress:
> http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/03/list-experiment-update.html

it's now ranked at #83,
so it has fallen 66 ranks,
but that's taken 14 days.

the latest update there
is not sticking, however,
so i'll post it here instead.

***

as of now, march 20th, at noon,
two days since our last report,
"the color of heaven" is at #83,
down 4 spots in the last 2 days.

"the list" is at #39, down just
one rank in the last 2 days,
meaning joe is getting _rich_.

pay attention, folks! time to
price your books at $.99 and
move them up the rankings,
so you can then switch back
to $2.99 and get rich like joe!

-bowerbird

Tara Maya said...

Well, although I think bowerbird is still disapproving, I plan to introduce Book 2 of The Unfinished Song, Taboo, at a sale price of $.99 when it comes out next week. After that, I will raise it to $4.95. So if you want to buy it on sale, keep an eye out for it next week!

I don't expect this will get me into the top ten, I just want to reward the buyers who have been waiting eagerly for the second book before I set it at what will be the usual price. I've decided to go with that price because, for epic fantasy, I think it makes more sense to go for fans than looky-loos. I will leave the first book at $.99 to allow readers to see if they want to invest in the series. (Time, not just money.) That way, if they don't like it, they haven't lost much, but if they do, hopefully they will be willing to spend five bucks every two months for the rest of the series.

I've been helped so much by other authors sharing their experience, I will try to pay it forward and share how it goes.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

bowerbird said...

tara said:
> I think bowerbird is
> still disapproving

well, ok, but first of all,
who cares what i think?

second of all, look at that!
joe's making $1700+ a day!
on a book that used to be
making a mere $80 per day.
that's over 20 times as much!

and all that _recognition_
which joe is getting? great!
his visibility might now be
higher than it has ever been!

and all of those new readers!
surely some will become fans.

so...

why not go for what he got?

all of the marketeers here
label the move as "brilliant".

so why are you people here
reading this here blog if ya
ain't gonna learn the lessons?

what good does it do for
joe to be so transparent
if nobody pays attention?

don't let other authors
beat you to the punch!

lower your price _today!_

over 20 times as much money!
what more evidence do ya need?

-bowerbird

Tara Maya said...

well, ok, but first of all,
who cares what i think?


I do. But I also respect the opinion of a lot of the other contributors here, and I don't think it's all that straightforward what will work best for any given book. As Joe says, luck plays a big part.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Joe Konrath said...

How'd these strangers find out about it? How did they know you lowered your price if they've never heard of you?

The same way they found out about all of my other ebooks, and all the books on Amazon.

They were browsing.

I don't doubt some were specifically looking for me. But the majority were on a genre bestseller list, looking for a horror novel or a police procedural, and found my ebooks.

Or they just bought someone else's ebook, and saw the "customer's also bought" link.

Again, if I had a brand name, why don't all of my ebooks sell like crazy? And if I alone were capable of starting a buying frenzy, why haven't other experiments I've done--ones that were retweeted--met with huge success?

Sheri Leigh said...

And if I alone were capable of starting a buying frenzy, why haven't other experiments I've done--ones that were retweeted--met with huge success?

When have you previously reduced a book to $0.99?

My guess is that it was social networked by readers of this blog, and that pushed readers of those tweeters and FBers to go buy the bargain book - it got picked up by bargain book sites, too (I saw it listed several places that advertise Kindle discounts) and THEN once it had climbed the ranks, your theory about recommended reading and browsing kicked in.

But that theory doesn't hold water UNTIL you get high enough in the rankings.

Robert Bidinotto said...

For a writer, the potential value of a price drop to 99 cents is that you may buy better advertising space on Amazon. Because that's exactly what a position on a bestseller list is: paid advertising space.

Let me emphasize that you PAY for this advertising space. By dropping from $2.99 to 99 cents, you lose $1.69 per unit sold. Why is that? Because at $2.99 (and its 70% royalty) you would clear $2.04 (after fees). But at $0.99 (and its 35% royalty) you clear only 34 cents. The difference is a loss per sale of $1.69.

That $1.69 loss per sale is, in effect, an advertising investment that folks like Joe pay to get their book into the Top 100, where it will get much greater visibility. In other words: He's buying advertising space.

After his book achieves the visibility that he PAID for, it can create a self-sustaining "buzz" that may continue to generate increased sales, even when he raises the price back up to $2.99.

So, there is absolutely nothing, nada, zip that's manipulative or dishonest or "unfair" about this. Joe had to gamble that losing $1.69 per sale for an extended period would pay off in the long run. It was an investment which may or may not have paid off.

It's the same thing as a company investing in an advertising budget. That investment is a "loss" until the money is recouped on increased sales in the future.

If you think your ebook, priced at 99 cents, either can be propelled onto a bestseller list, or can generate sufficient sales to overcome the per-unit loss of $1.69, you should go for it. And go for it with a clear conscience, because there is absolutely nothing devious about investing advertising money in the success of your book -- or in the success of any other product.

--Robert Bidinotto
RobertTheWriter.com

kathie shoop said...

Well, I'm a little over a month away with the release of The Last Letter. Your advice has been so helpful and I can't wait to try my own little experiment. My book is historical fiction so it's a bit different from the genres everyone seems to think are better for ebooks...will it sell? We will see. Thanks to you and all your other readers whose perspectives have been so very helpful in making my decision to self-publish.

bowerbird said...

robert said:
> That $1.69 loss per sale
> is, in effect,
> an advertising investment
> that folks like Joe pay to
> get their book into
> the Top 100, where it will
> get much greater visibility.
> In other words: He's
> buying advertising space.

well, that's a novel take;
kudos for the cleverness.

thankfully, the history was
recorded at the time, so we
don't have to rewrite it now.

joe traded away profit to get
volume for less than 10 days.

by february 24th, at rank #123,
he was making the same profit
that he'd been making at $2.99.

> http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/02/list-experiment-update.html

in addition, however, he now
had greatly increased volume,
in the form of more readers...

6 times as many readers, every
day, and this was even before
he had reached the top-100,
when, yes, it all ballooned up.

by the time he hit the top-100,
that "advertising" which he had
"bought" essentially cost nada.

even his "failed" experiments,
which nobody seems to notice,
would've given joe a boost of
at least 6 times as many sales
if he'd stuck it out with them.
but joe wants very fast results.

-bowerbird

Mister Snitch! said...

"joe wants very fast results"

If that's so, I think that's a good instinct on his part. You want to give a new book (or even an 'old' book that you're re-marketing in some way) a hard shove if you can. The movement gets it noticed.

Joe Konrath said...

Between March 1 and 16, at 99 cents, The List earned $5647.

Between March 16 and 20, at $2.99, it has earned $7261.

I'm making $73 an hour on The List.

Tara Maya said...

by the time he hit the top-100,
that "advertising" which he had
"bought" essentially cost nada.


It paid for itself, and brought in additional profit. Ads which did not would not be a wise investment.

I still can't quite tell if you are objecting because you think keeping the $.99 price longer would make more profit in the long run, or because you object to the idea of profit itself, as a matter of principle. Either position is fine, but conflating them is confusing.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

J. E. Medrick said...

Joe, I didn't know who you were _until_ I found your blog. I never saw one of your books in stores or had it recommended to me on Amazon. I came to your blog and read about how you could finish a book in 16 weeks or less and I went, "What kind of book will that be?" So I browsed through your catalog and bought "Disturb" and "The List". I liked both of those concepts and the "The List" had a cover that was very interesting to me, personally. (I like science.)

Yes, your intended audience is the author community. Yes, a lot of _are_ authors.

We are also readers.

We buy your books and spread the word. Don't discount our power ;) We tell our friends, "Have you heard about this Konrath guy..." and they get interested, buy your stuff, et cetera and so forth.

You may be the head of the dragon, but we are your tail (wrapped around that huge pile of cash you're earning) :)

Shackled
Cheat

Jason said...

I'm with Joe...there's no way that this blog can account for anything but a fraction of his current sales.

But it would be fun for you to test this theory Joe - make some price adjustments without announcing them on the blog. Then after a month tell us what happens...

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> I'm making
> $73 an hour
> on The List.

joe's getting rich! rich!

***

tara said...
> I still can't quite tell
> if you are objecting
> because you think
> keeping the $.99 price
> longer would make more
> profit in the long run, or
> because you object to
> the idea of profit itself,
> as a matter of principle.
> Either position is fine, but
> conflating them is confusing.

you should stop trying to
psychoanalyze my position;
simply take me at my word.

i'm not "objecting" to anything.

profit is a beautiful thing.

joe is getting rich. quick.

so go and do what joe did.

all of you. just do it. go!

you know you want to.
so just go do it... now!

the longer you wait,
the longer will be that
big line in front of you.

-bowerbird

jack said...

looks like the experiment is working well. looks like you are staying in the high 30's in ranking. you cant buy that much exposure. thanks again for sharing the way you do. we all owe you a big thank you

Christy Pinheiro said...

In other words: He's buying advertising space.

This is the first time I've ever heard this take on Joe's blog, and it's correct. Joe is creating a "loss leader," just like any other retailer.

The difference is that he has complete control over the pricing, and he can see the cause and effect in real time, rather than quarterly on a spreadsheet that a big publisher may (or may not) have manipulated.

It's the first time that midlist authors have had so much power over their own product.

PatriciaW said...

Zoe Winters talks about her experiences with ebook pricing, and why a 2.99 ebook reader might be better for you in the long run than a .99 reader.http://bit.ly/hrA7Id

bowerbird said...

christy said:
> Joe is creating
> a "loss leader,"
> just like
> any other retailer.

except it's not "a loss leader"
because joe never took a loss.

when a retailer pays more for
a product-unit than it sells for,
_that_ is taking a loss. but joe
didn't pay anything for each
additional unit which he sold.

every penny on every sale was
_profit..._ totally pure profit...

i'm also always perplexed why
people here -- not only christy,
but everyone -- seem to want
to equate digital markets with
physical stores of yesterday...

they are completely different,
and it's smarter to figure out
those differences, and exploit
them, than to try to artificially
find points of similarity, when
those points rarely match up...

the _total_ absence of _any_
variable costs is the hallmark
of the new digital environment
-- its most significant aspect --
and that _never_ occurs with
physical products in the world.

-bowerbird

J. R. Tomlin said...

"What does this mean?

Hell if I know...."

Haha. Nothing like being frank about it. But it's comforting that I'm not the only one confused.

Tara Maya said...

simply take me at my word.

ok

:)

Cheryl Tardif said...

A sale is just that--a sale, not the official list price. Every smart business uses some form of sales promotion to drive traffic to their location, business or site.

My bestselling suspense thriller DIVINE INTERVENTION has made numerous top 100 lists over the years, and when I put the Kindle edition on sale last week, it almost immediately jumped into 3 lists, 2 in the top 40 and 1 in the top 3.

DIVINE INTERVENTION's price will go back to $2.99 soon, but for now the $0.99 sale price is helping me reach more readers--and that's something every author needs. :-)

DIVINE INTERVENTION, a psychic suspense - $0.99

Cheers!

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
www.cherylktardif.com

Russell Brooks said...

@PatriciaW Thanks for sharing the Zoe Winters article. She raises several valueable points, the most important one being that 99cent eBooks will mostly attract people that buy according to price and doesn't necessarily create long-term readers. And I like the Wal-Mart reference because I've worked in sales for more than 10 years and I have first hand experience knowing that when you price something too cheap, you tend to attract people that will complain about anything. In addition, they may just purchase 99cent eBooks, load up their Kindles that it may be months before they start reading yours. Will they even remember you when they're done? Maybe. However when an eBook is priced higher at $2.99 or more, then you tend to attract more quality readers. People that will more likely read the entire story because they invested in it. And if they enjoyed it, then you'll more likely get a review or blurb from them, which is something all authors need.

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

Barbra Annino said...

That's why I became a writer- so I could do math. UGH. Thanks for the numbers, Joe.

Barb

bowerbird said...

and here's today's report on
the price-switch experiment.

as of now, march 21st, at noon,
"the color of heaven" is at #85,
down 2 spots since yesterday.

"the list" is currently at #44,
down 5 spots since yesterday,
but still making tons of money!

time to lower your price, folks,
so you can get in the top-100,
then raise your price back up,
and make a killing just like joe!

you know other authors are
doing it. don't let them push
your books out of the race...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

it might also be instructive
to look at "origin", which is
joe's latest attempt to move
a book of his into the top-100.

> 2011/03/17, 1pm, #284
> 2011/03/18, 2am, #202
> 2011/03/18, 9pm, #187
> 2011/03/19, 1pm, #190
> 2011/03/20, 2pm, #195
> 2011/03/21, 1am, #196
> 2011/03/21, 1pm, #200

after a big immediate jump,
the book has been "stalled"
for four days around #195...

will joe wait out this plateau,
or is he just too impatient?

-bowerbird

Jonah Gibson said...

Some thoughts on pricing: when I was in public accounting I went to a seminar on how to increase revenues in accounting firms by strategic pricing. The presenter had an illustrative anecdote about his father, who had owned an antique store someplace in New England. He said that whenever his dad had a piece of inventory that had remained unsold for too long he would move it to another location in the store. If that didn't work, he would raise the price, and that almost always did the trick. I'm not sure what this teaches about pricing eBooks, if anything, but I suppose it's possible that just changing something up gets it exposed or noticed by a different mix of potential buyers, and it's the increased exposure that moves the merchandise. Worth thinking about anyway.

Marta M. Sprout said...

Joe,

You are further ahead of me on this path, but I've learned from you and a few others that have been this way.

Early on you said it right. Success as a writer comes down to persistence and hard work. You've done both; ok and just maybe a little luck.

I think that a .99 or even a "lost lead" (free) gets readers to read your work but then the quality of your work has to speak for itself. And you have to have more than one or two titles out there.

Once they are hooked, you have to keep them hooked. Yup, there you are again. You have to deliver. It all comes back to hard work - again. (It a good thing that we all have such a passion for this crazy craft.)

Best of luck and thank you for sharing the journey. I'm learning, writing, and trying to figure out an effective marketing plan.

Best wishes,
Marta

Lynn said...

Dear Joe, my first time visiting, and I am LOVING the fierce-eyed view. As someone who has been published conventionally, I'm very intrigued about the self- determination and empowerment in this new e-world. I'll sift back though your posts, but I'm curious about how one succeeds in creating critical mass in the medium. It seems a subject under-served.
Again, many thanks. And cheers!
-Lynn B @ skydiaries

bowerbird said...

and here's today's report on
the price-switch experiment.

as of now, march 22nd, 9:40am,
"the color of heaven" is at #87,
down 2 spots since yesterday,
down 70 spots since i started
watching, at #17 on march 6th,
an average fall of 4 spots a day.

"the list" is currently at #47,
down 3 spots since yesterday,
down 24 spots since its price
was raised back up to $2.99,
when it was #23 on march 16th,
an average fall of 4 spots a day.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

in the last 2 hours, another
interesting thing happened...

"run", from blake crouch,
has been "honestly" priced
at $2.99 all along, and has
steadily moved up the charts.

"dirty parts of the bible"
has jumped from $.99 to
$2.99 and back again and
back again and back again
and now is priced at $2.99.
all that price-switching has
caused it to bounce around
between #250 and #500...

what has just happened is
that "run" has now eclipsed
"dirty parts". (run is #372,
and dirty parts is at #419.)

i think the feeling among
some people here is that
you can use price-changes
to yo-yo your book up and
down at will, but the reality
might be that that ends up
being counterproductive,
as opposed to a firm price.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

today's price-switch report
is an absolute shocker, folks!

as of march 23rd, 10am pacific,
"the color of heaven" dropped
from rank #87 yesterday to
rank #106 right now, which is
a stunning fall of _19_spots_...

i would normally just call that
an extraordinary wobble, and
expect it to bounce back near
to where it had been before...

but this is a special situation,
since the book has fallen out
of the top-100 bestseller list,
and thus now lacks the very
visibility it got from the list...
which handicaps it greatly in
terms of climbing back there...

it still has the word-of-mouth
it had yesterday and last week,
and the star-rating and reviews,
so i'm not writing it off entirely,
but it has suffered a _big_ blow.

further, even if the book _does_
manage to stage a comeback
of sorts, the overall downward
trend it's been on is very clear:
the price-switch up to $2.99
basically knocked it off the list.

in other news...

"the list" is currently at #46,
_up_ 1 spot since yesterday...
perhaps all of those people
coming here to joe's blog is
more effective at selling books
than joe professes to realize...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

in today's price-switch report,
on march 24th at 11am pacific,
"the color of heaven" continues
its dramatic free-fall, dropping
to rank #125 as of this moment.
it's lost 38 spots in just 2 days!
barring a price-drop back to
the $.99 point, odds are slim
that it will regain the top-100.

robin advised us to watch this
book because she hoped that
it would maintain its position
even after its price went up,
but the book has been steadily
losing ground ever since then.

it has still managed to pile up
a bunch of cash as the lethargy
of the list dynamics let it stay
in the top-100, even when it
no longer deserved to remain,
and that pile of cash certainly
will serve as a lure to authors
who will try to repeat the trick,
but at least those of us who see
this "tactic" as exploitation can
rest easier knowing that it's one
which eventually self-corrects.

"the list" is currently at #51,
down 5 spots since yesterday.
aside from the symbolism of
dropping out of the top-50,
another mental marker today
is that "the list" has just today
been a crossing ship with the
worst-ranked john locke book,
"follow the stone", which is
now lodged at position #47...
this means all _7_ of the books
by john locke (all $.99) are now
firmly within the top-50, with
6 of the 7 lodged in the top-25.
so it seems that you can _visit_
the top of the list with a "sale"
at the $.99 price-point, but you
can _reside_ there if you make
the $.99 price your steady one.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

yet another milestone today...

at one time, there was some
speculation that many of the
people who bought "the list"
hadn't yet read it, and thus
it wouldn't impact the sales
of other konrath books yet.
this speculation was based
on people's own self-reports
that they hadn't read it yet...

i made the suggestion that
we could assume it was true
until the number of reviews
for "the list" had _doubled_
from the 80 it had when the
"experiment" was undertaken.
objective measures are nice...

just now, the total number of
reviews hit 110, meaning that
the book has gotten 30 more
since the experiment began...
not nearly the 80, not yet, but
the total is growing, steadily...

so, if you're looking for effects
which are _immediate_, you're
probably gonna miss a bunch...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

the john locke juggernaut
continues to astound us...

as of 3pm on march 24th,
6 of his 7 books are now
listed in the kindle top-20.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

as of now, march 25th, at noon,
"the color of heaven" is at #148,
accelerating its traumatic spiral,
down 23 spots since yesterday,
losing 61 spots the last 3 days.

and "the list" is currently at #57,
down 6 spots since yesterday...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

as of march 26th, at 11:30am,
"the color of heaven" is at #178,
down 30 spots since yesterday,
losing 91 spots the last 4 days.

and "the list" is currently at #59,
down 2 spots since yesterday...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

as of march 27th, at 12:30pm,
"the color of heaven" is at #178,
_unchanged_ since yesterday,
a refreshing change-of-pace...

and "the list" is currently at #57,
2 spots _better_ than yesterday.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

as of march 28th, noon pacific,
"the color of heaven" is at #185,
down 7 spots since yesterday...

and "the list" is currently at #59,
2 spots worse than yesterday...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

as of march 29th, noon pacific,
"the color of heaven" is at #203,
18 spots worse than yesterday...

and "the list" is currently at #60,
1 spot worse than yesterday...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

it's march 30th, noon pacific,
and "the color of heaven" has
bounced 14 spots up to #189.

"the list" is currently at #63,
3 spots worse than yesterday.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

another notable moment...

joe hasn't made a big deal
about his price-reduction
to $.99 for his book "origin",
but it has been constantly
moving up the chart, albeit
in a rather wobbly fashion...

nonetheless, it's now at #99,
marking its first appearance
in the top-100 list. it might
continue to wobble, certainly,
or its presence on that list
might help it remain there,
but either way, joe now has
2 books in the top-100 list.
so watch out, john locke! :+)

-bowerbird

p.s. here are some of the
origin wobbles during its
2-week trip to the top-100:

#284, 2011/3/17, 2pm
#202, 2011/3/18, 2am
#187, 2011/3/18, 11pm
#190, 2011/3/19, 12pm
#195, 2011/3/20, 3pm
#200, 2011/3/21, 1pm
#176, 2011/3/21, 8pm
#190, 2011/3/22, 9am
#177, 2011/3/22, 11am
#169, 2011/3/23, 9am
#173, 2011/3/23, 3pm
#159, 2011/3/24, 1am
#169, 2011/3/24, 8am
#181, 2011/3/24, 3pm
#156, 2011/3/25, 1am
#166, 2011/3/25, 1pm
#161, 2011/3/26, 2am
#147, 2011/3/26, 11pm
#138, 2011/3/27, 11am
#146, 2011/3/27, 7pm
#141, 2011/3/28, 7am
#125, 2011/3/29, 1am
#132, 2011/3/29, 11am
#138, 2011/3/29, 8pm
#149, 2011/3/30, 1am
#099, 2011/3/30, 5pm

Gisele said...

Joe said: "There's probably a formula in it somewhere."

Newton's law of motion: A body in motion tends to stay in motion.

It certainly applies to this experiment. Very exciting.