Tag Archives: pricing

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…

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June sales numbers

If you’d like to follow along with this post on my sales pages you can find I Wish… on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

*****

June was a cruel bitch mistress. I was lulled into a false sense of happy security the first couple of days when I actually made pretty good sales (ie 5-6 a day rather than the more normal 2-4). Could it be that I was finally starting to take off? Yeah, not exactly.

As pretty much every indie knows, the first couple of weeks of June Amazon had a “sunshine deal” where they sold trad books for $.99-$2.99. Price is the key advantage that an indie has over traditionally published books. Unless you are competing with someone’s favorite authors, if you present an equivalent cover, blurb, and story you have a good chance of them taking a chance on you if you’re 1/3rd of the price of the other guy. So that whole thing with dropping the prices? Owie.

You might also recall that on the 16th or so I raised the price of I Wish… to $2.99. I had mixed feelings about that move. I mean on the one hand, I think it’s wise to try to get my books into as many hands as I possibly can which I did through mass giveaways the week of release. My thinking being that I need reviews and return customers more than I need the money. But after the first couple of weeks my sales dropped to 2-4 a day and frankly, if that’s all I’m selling at $.99 then I have nothing to lose by raising the price because even 1 sale a day will still be several times as much money.

I’m actually rethinking my entire pricing scheme. I assumed that I, like most indies, would just price on the $.99-$2.99 structure. But I’ve been doing some reading of opinion pieces lately and I think I’m beginning to think that people are starting to just assume that $.99 means a book is either total crap or spam.

Now I KNOW that Amanda Hocking and John Locke built their empires on that very price point and others do very well too. I’d be curious how many people are actually able to earn a living at $.99 and when they started publishing. My guess is that most of the people who sell like wildfire at $.99 have been priced that way since at least January. I’m open to the fact I don’t know anything though. If you’re someone who’s published more recently than that and you’re having mega success, let me know. I’ll publicly retract my statements. They are just guesses and speculation, after all. I’m not married to them. Winking smile

Here are a couple of articles that explain why they don’t agree with $.99 pricing:

Zoe Winters

Jeff Kirvin– He makes an interesting point about $.99 sales not being sustainable.

Jack Wallen

Karen Dionne" When people don’t know what a fundamentally new product should cost, they are strongly influenced by the first price they encounter…”

Alistair Barr– “Aspiring spammers can even buy a DVD box set called Autopilot Kindle Cash that claims to teach people how to publish 10 to 20 new Kindle books a day without writing a word.”

Dean Wesley Smith– This one is my personal favorite.

So yeah, that’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve never agreed with the $.99 price point and I’m thinking that I’m going to trust my initial instincts and price my books at $4.99, which is what I feel like an indie book should really be worth. It’s still only half the price of a traditional ebook and let’s be honest, I feel like my story is a good one. I think it’s worth $5.

sales numbers 7 02

Hopefully, that’ll expand to a readable size.

sales numbers 7 02 closer

This is the main gist of it though. I sold a total of 24 books at $2.99 since I marked it up on the 16th. I made just under $50. Which is fully half of my total earnings since I published in mid May.

Is it hurting my sales? It’s hard to tell. My only full week I sold 17 copies @ $2.99. But two weeks ago I only sold 20 copies @ $.99 so…

My main concern lately is that the awesome momentum I had the first couple of weeks seems to have slowed down. I can tell by looking at my blog stats that several people are going from my blog to my book every day. That’s great! That’s what I hope for. However, my sales are telling me that they aren’t buying. That part? Not as good.

Something is making people decide not to buy. I’m taking price off the table for now since this has been going on since before I changed my price. I have good reviews (15 5 stars, 4 4 stars, and 2 3 stars), I’m actually rated in the top 100 of two different categories.  So it’s not that people are hearing bad things about my story that’s scaring them off.

So that leaves either my blurb or my cover. I think my blurb is ok. It tells the information in short, punchy sentences. My cover though… I’m pretty sure it’s not conveying the message I want it to. I don’t think it screams “I’m a suspenseful paranormal book about witches and life or death struggles.” That is a decidedly unfortunate thing since it IS a book about those very things.

I’ve hired a cover artist, the sweet Tammy Luke, who designed 2 of Courtney Cole’s book covers. She’s been really easy to work with and the sample images she’s sent me to approve have been awesome; pretty and creepy. I have great faith that she’ll come up with something eye catching and hopefully I’ll be able to report that that’s the thing that was holding me back.

Oh! And I almost forgot! I finally put I Wish… up for purchase on Barnes & Noble. I made 9 sales in the two weeks it was up there. I’m going to call that a success since nobody seems to sell all that great there. Only three of those sales were at $.99. I made just under $13 in June from B&N. So my total earnings for June were about $80 (not counting foreign sales since I’m not exactly sure how the payout will work on those). I officially earned enough to fill my van with gas. Yay!

I forgot to mention the total I sold. Including all sales from all avenues (US/UK/DE/B&N) I sold 110 books. To put it in perspective I sold 105 books in May and I was only published between the 15th and the end of the month. So as  you can see, I am not living up to the standard I set coming out of the gate. That’s a bummer.

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A scrapbook page? Stop the madness!

I’ve been in an artsy mood lately. I made my index card and finished a journal spread and still wanted to do more art so I decided to use one of the thousands of photos I’ve taken with my iPhone in the past few months and make a scrapbook page.

I started scrapbooking back in the late 90s. I was a poster child for pictures cut into odd shapes and sticker vomit across the page. I wish I was exaggerating, but sadly, I’m not. I remember being nearly orgasmic when I moved to California and realized that there was a specialty scrapbook store in town that sold aisle after aisle of stickers and the tackiest patterned paper you can imagine. Oh my gosh, and did I buy it? You betcha!

Somewhere along the line I started to get more involved with mixed media collage and made around 5 scrapbook pages of that style before I finally just gave them up entirely for art journals. I’m not sure why I’d rather work in my journal than make scrapbook pages since I do pretty much the same routine on both. I think it’s mostly just a lack of desire to get my photos print ready. It’s a lot easier to just find a picture from my journal fodder that goes ok with my theme.

I’m not saying I want to commit to a page a day or something, but it’d be nice if I managed to make more than one.

Swim June 11

I’m pretty excited about my book. I finally got my issues straight with Barnes & Noble a couple of days ago. I was excited to realize today that I’ve sold a couple of copies there. I’m not expecting an enormous amount of sales from that direction, everyone agrees B&N sales are only a fraction of what they get on Amazon, but still. I was pretty happy about it.

If you’re a Nook user who’d like to read my book, you can find it here. I don’t expect anyone who reads it to do anything more than enjoy the story, but if you decide you’d like to leave a review, I’d be really grateful for that.

I took my price up to $2.99 on the 16th, expecting my sales to dry up completely, but they’ve stayed consistent (about 4 a day). The thing is, I get to keep around $2 for every purchase vs. the $.35 I get per book on a $.99 book. So I’ve already earned more in 2 days than I made the entire week last week. Hopefully, I’ll see that reflected when it tallies my sales for this week. I’m going to be really curious how the royalties match up with everything that’s come before.

And my ICAD:

icad jun 18 11

Paint on book page background. The paper on the right was a book page that I’d tested a stencil on. I cut it from transparency with my Silhouette machine, along with a few others. It involved cleaning a lot of tiny bits of plastic off the sticky sheets, but it was worth it.

My art journal:

AJED Jun 18 11 

It evolved from this half finished page:

AJED Jun 16 11

I tried a gel transfer with an image that was on a thick sheet of paper, almost like cardstock. It didn’t work very well so I attempted to peel the gel off the page. It came off, but it ripped into the page. Oddly, it didn’t rip an actual hole, just pulled off the top layer of the page.

I rolled with it and decided to patch it up with some book page scraps sitting around my desk. My plan was to paint over it, but I actually liked the way the scraps looked. the thing was that I used another one of those pages with black patterns on it like on my ICAD. I wouldn’t be able to write on top of that and have it show up so I used my wide masking tape and laid down a couple of strips to cover it enough to write on top of it, but it’s still somewhat transparent.

Then I ended up adding the sheet music that I wrote over with a paint brush and ink because I made another mistake. For some reason I was totally zoned out while I was writing and I spelled “living” as “livinging”. Ok, no problem. I grabbed a scrap and glued it down and journaled right across the top of it.

Other than my mistakes, it’s a pretty simple page and it came together pretty fast (or would have…).

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Trying a new experiment

I decided to try a pricing experiment this month. As I mentioned yesterday, my total income for all of the last week was only $7. While I’m grateful for every copy I sell, the profit I see on a $.99 is only $.35. I doubt very much I’ll ever be able to be able to make a living at that pace. Those same 20 sales would have netted me $40 at the $2.99 price point. Still not ready to retire on it, but it’d at least fill my gas tank.

So for the next month or until the sequel of I Wish… comes out, I’m pricing at the higher point and seeing what it does to sales. I’d hate to take a hit on sales, but the higher profit might make it worthwhile. As always, I’ll report my numbers openly at the end.

One more bit of book related news. I logged onto my page today and was delighted to see this:

june 16 amazon ranking

I’m not sure when this happened, but today is the first time I’ve ever seen it on my page. I’ll admit, I get thrilled by the little things so you can imagine how excited I got about it. So there’s another reason to read I Wish… if you haven’t so far. It’s the perfect opportunity to see what all the fuss is about.

Now for my artsy stuff of the day.

icad jun 16 11

This background might look a little familiar. I made about 5 cards at the same time using the same paints. I’d say that’s my biggest time saving tip. Work on 4 or 5 cards every time you have your paints out.

AJED Jun 16 11

This is the background I was working on for Art Journal Every Day. I’m not sure where I’m going with it, but that yellow is pretty bright. I might tone it down with another layer of color. At the very least a more muted shade of yellow.

I don’t think I’ll be finishing this page just yet though. I told Courtney that I’d attempt to take some step by step photos of how I work in my journal for her. Of course, the helpfulness of such a gesture is questionable given the quality of my photos, but it seems like an interesting challenge so I’ll give it a shot.

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