Pricing a novel and some links

Dean Wesley Smith has an interesting post that covers pretty much exactly what I was saying yesterday. Of course he speaks from volumes of experience so it’s worthwhile to read his blog.

David Gaughran and Mark Coker both address Amazon’s KDP Select. I’ve opted not to do it at this time, although not for the listed reasons so much as I think that an exclusivity contract would bone my non-Kindle using readers. I’m not willing to do that, although if David is right and the reading world is heading toward subscription based services for reading, I might not have a lot of choice since Amazon pulls in the lion’s share of my sales.

Actually, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more debate about the KDP Select program. It seems like it would be one of those things that polarize the indie community, but if it’s being discussed, it’s not on the blogs I follow.

In unrelated news, I’ll be raising the price of I Wish… to $4.99 sometime in January. It’s my personal belief that a novel should be priced higher than $3 or, god forbid, a dollar. It might hurt my sales numbers, but I’ve done some changing in the year that I’ve been at this.

When I first started last January I came into indie publishing with no prior knowledge. I hadn’t even *heard* of it before then. I fell in love with the concept of being my own boss and threw myself into the process with a lot of enthusiasm, but no real idea of what I was doing. I read everything I could find on indie publishing, of course, but 99% of what you find is based on conjecture and guesswork. It’s impossible to do exactly what someone else does and expect the same results. No two authors have the exact same path to success. Hell, an author can have two books and not expect them to sell exactly the same.

I felt pressured to price I Wish… at $99 when I first published it. I felt like that’s what every other paranormal YA author was doing and that I HAD to in order to compete. I tried that for a month before I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. My sales were better than a lot of indies have the first month, I’ll grant you that, but they weren’t so great that I could justify the price. I priced it at $2.99 and that’s where it’s been sitting ever since.

The thing I’ve come to realize is, much as I don’t believe self promotion is a necessary evil that every indie must spend countless hours working at, I don’t think you need to price your books incredibly low in the hopes of moving huge numbers in a short period of time. I’d rather price my books at point that I feel is fair market value for my work and wait for them to find their audience.

When I first published I Wish… I was obsessed with checking my sales numbers. I mean I’d do it every 20 minutes. Now, I think it’s been 3 months or more since I’ve looked at any of my numbers. If I were to try a new method of promotion I’d be a lot more proactive so I could determine if it was having any effect, but otherwise, there’s not a lot of point to it. I should probably check at least once or twice a month to make sure the sales are matching what I’m being paid for, but so far I haven’t bothered.

There’s a pretty common saying in the indie world “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”, but until you’ve been doing it for awhile you won’t believe it. It’s true though. It’s tempting to spend all your time trying to turn your one novel into a best seller. And why not? Writing a novel is tough. It’s easier to focus all your attention on the one you’ve written than to write another one.

As for me, I’ve worked through that stage. I don’t care about having best selling numbers, although that would be incredible, don’t get me wrong. What I want to do is create a sustainable livable income by writing. I’m well on my way thanks to the short fiction I write under my pen name, but in 2012 I’m going to add significantly to my novel length works of fiction. I’ve set up a production schedule, which I think I’m going to blog about tomorrow. By doing that I have a good idea of what projects I’ll be working on and when they should be done. According to schedule I should have 6 novels written by the end of 2012. That’s 8 titles total with I Wish… and the omnibus edition of the Witches of Desire trilogy. All priced at $4.99 (except the omnibus which I’ll probably price at $9.99 to take advantage of the 70% royalties, but what a good deal for my readers). I might have a livable income from my novels alone by the end of next year, but if I keep that pace up for a few years (6 books a year), I’d have 30 new titles in 5 years. All earning $3.50 a sale. Even if I don’t sell thousands of copies per title per month, I’ll still have a pretty nice chunk of money coming in.

The alternative, which is the route I was heading down, was to spend all my time marketing my one book which I sell for a dollar or two. And then where would I be in 5 years? Maybe I wrote 1 book a year for all those years so I end up with 5 titles that I sell for a buck each in the hopes of securing high sales ranks. Or maybe I’d price the later books at $2.99. And maybe I’d sell more copies per book, but a huge amount of my time would be spent promoting my books instead of writing new ones. Lots of people would know who I was, but I wouldn’t have very many books to sell them so my marketing wouldn’t do very much good in the big picture because they’d run out of things to buy and soon forget me while they move onto other things to read. So when I do finally get a new title out there, I’d have to REmarket it to those same people who haven’t thought about me in the last year.

Neither approach is right or wrong. I’m not judging anyone, nor do I expect to be judged for my choices. I’m just sharing the conclusions I’ve reached based on my own personal experience. This is why I plan to price my books higher than most and why I won’t be doing the same level of promotion that I did with I Wish…



Filed under indie publishing, promotion

6 responses to “Pricing a novel and some links

  1. Thanks for posting this Wren. So much hype is placed on marketing, but as you’ve pointed out, if that’s done at the expense of getting new writing done, where does it leave us in the long run? Gave me something to think about.

    • I’ve gone back and forth on it. I really have. I can see the value of both approaches. But for me, it plays to my strengths to just focus on the writing and let my readership grow organically over time. I might change my mind again, but at this point, I think this is the right choice for me.

  2. I think the higher price is important. Those in it for the long haul understand that you can’t price at the cheapest rate just to get a few quick sales.

    Plus the $0.99 cent purchases tend not to get read as quickly and frequently as those that are higher priced. Basically, the more a reader invests in your story, the more they want to read it.

    Ever since I took on a pricing scheme that added value to my works, my sales went up!

    • I’m hoping that more indies will realize this. If more people would price their novels fairly, there’d be a lot less reader expectation to buy grossly under-priced books. But that’s a circular line of logic which leads to the question “what is a novel actually worth?” – a rabbit hole that could suck up hours of my life in pointless debate with people who don’t agree. So I’ll leave this now by saying this is my personal opinion about what works best for me.

  3. I can’t see pricing something that took me 8 years to write at .99. I think all that time is worth SO much more. My short stories I price at 1.99 and that’s because they are short.

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