Friday, January 07, 2011

Guest Post by Robin Sullivan

Some incorrect presumptions are just too good to die.

The "JA Konrath is selling a lot of ebooks because of his traditional publishing background" presumption has practically become an internet meme, being parroted by both my detractors and indie authors. This misconception makes it easy to dismiss me as an anomaly, which means people don't have to actually examine the issue and seek more data.

So I'm happy to provide that data.

These are DECEMBER sales figures for some indie authors. In other words, they account for only 31 days of sales.

Are you ready to be blown away?

Blake Crouch - 2500+
Nathan Lowell - 2500+
Beth Orsoff - 2500+
Sandra Edwards - 2500+
Vianka Van Bokkem - 2500+
Maria Hooley - 2500+
C.S. Marks - 2500+
Lee Goldberg - 2500+
Lexi Revellian - 4000+
Zoe Winters - 4000+
Aaron Patterson - 4000+
Bella Andre - 5000+
Imogen Rose - 5000+
Ellen Fisher - 5000+
Tina Folsom - 5000+
Terri Reid - 5000+
David Dalglish - 5000+
Scott Nicholson - 10,000+
J.A. Konrath 10,000+
Victorine Lieske - 10,000+
L.J. Sellers - 10,000+
Michael R. Sullivan - 10,000+
H.P. Mallory - 20,000+
Selena Kitt - 20,000+
Stephen Leather - 40,000+
Amanda Hocking - 100,000+

For a more detailed breakdown, visit Derek J. Canyon's blog http://derekjcanyon.blogspot.com/2011/01/keys-to-epublishing-success.html. This was compiled by him, and Robin Sullivan.

Now, this list is hardly comprehensive. There are many others who belong here, but neither me, Derek, or Robin are going to spend weeks tracking down every independent Kindle bestseller just to prove a point. I think the point has already been proven. To wit:

MORE WRITERS THAN J.A. KONRATH ARE DOING WELL SELF-PUBLISHING, AND THEY DON'T HAVE PUBLISHING BACKGROUNDS

That's right. On this list, only six people had previous print deals with major publishers. The rest did not. (Originally this article said five, which was erroneous on my part.)

In the upcoming weeks, I'm going to feature several of these indie writers mentioned on this list, asking them to share their self-publishing journey with readers of this blog.

Hopefully it will kill the "only J.A. Konrath can do it" bullshit that continues to circulate.

Speaking of Robin Sullivan, she brings a unique perspective to this. First, she's not a writer; she's a publicist for her husband. Second, they price their ebooks higher than I suggest.

As many have mentioned, having a lot of sales is great. But if they're all 99 cent books, it's tough for a writer to earn a living.

Robin and Michael price quite a bit higher than that. Here's their story.


History of an Indie Published Nobody

by Robin Sullivan

Many say that Joe’s success is a direct result of his traditional publishing foundation and that new authors can’t hope to do the same. Since we don’t have a time machine so that Joe can remake his career, perhaps looking at someone who started with nothing, and is currently selling similarly, can be used as an example for what is possible.

First, who am I? My name is Robin Sullivan and I’m the wife and self-appointed publicist of my husband Michael J. Sullivan. I basically handle all the business aspects for Michael allowing him to focus on doing what he loves—writing. Yes I know, every author wants to have someone like me, Michael gets requests all the time…sorry…after 30 years you can’t pry us apart so you’ll just have to find your own “Robin.”

Anyway…Michael has released five of a six-book fantasy series. It is called The Riyria Revelations and they are all “self-published” and sold through ebooks (Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords for iPad, Sony, Kobo, etc.) and dead tree varieties using POD through CreateSpace. The release schedule looks like this: The Crown Conspiracy (Oct 2008), Avempartha (Apr 2009), Nyphron Rising (Oct 2009), The Emerald Storm (Apr 2010), Wintertide (Oct 2010) and Percepliquis is in editing.

Now why did I use quotes around self-published? If you look at the copyright pages, the publisher listed is Ridan Publishing. Ridan has 6 authors with 18 released books (2 more authors are signed, 4 books are under development), which classifies Ridan as a small press (sometimes referred to as an indie press). Ridan is…well us. I (along with interns and paid freelancers) do the editing, Michael creates the covers and does layout, I convert to e-book formats. Marketing and distribution are handled by myself.

So…technically the other 5 authors are published through a small press but Michael is self-published since he was not independently vetted. (Sleeping with the submissions editor, even though you are married to them, pretty much guarantees you’ll get signed).

One thing that I’ve done differently than Joe, and I know he’ll take issue with this, is I set the price of all of Ridan’s ebooks at $4.95 except for Wintertide which I priced at $6.95. (There are many reasons why Wintertide is $6.95 but I don’t want to derail the post). His print books sell between $12.95 and $14.95.

Now I’m not saying Michael is Joe (we all know there is only one of him) but Michael is producing Joe-like numbers for November and December. Now I’m talking only about Joe’s self-publishing numbers (not including traditional publishing sales, and his super-secret (I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you) AmazonEncore sales, prevented by NDA).

Since Joe is so generous with numbers I’ll lift up my…err…spreadsheet and do the same. Ebook profits are $3.46 to $4.97 for US and $1.73 and $2.43 for overseas. His print books make between $3.50 and $3.80. As I write this (12/29/2010) Michael has sold just under 10,000 books for December: 570 print books 9,250 kindles, 85 Nooks, and some unknown number from Smashwords (I’m too lazy to look them up right now). While the US/Overseas division is not known I’ll use a 90%/10% split (which has been typical) so his expected income for December will be…drum roll please while I check the calculations on the spreadsheet…

$34,820.

Wow, is that really right? Had to check the spreadsheet six times to make sure I had not done something stupid.

As for November, I did a lot of playing with price points (believe it or not when I tried $2.99 I actually lost sales – not income but actual number of books was lower). When all was said and done the Kindle Royalty report shows $17,575 and CreateSpace $1,485. That came from 7,860 books of which 450 were print.

So that’s $53,880 in 2 months.

Now for the $64,000 question…is November and December part of a trend? Or is it a blip? Ask me come June 2011 and I’ll let you know. My crystal ball is too foggy for me to proclaim that 2011 sales will be $323,280 (53,880 / 2 * 12). And I still have my day job (Michael writes full time…so yes I’ve been supporting him during the lean months but I think I won’t be able to hold that over his head much longer).

Part of the problem is there are too many other factors in play here, we just released book #5 which was highly anticipated and sold over 1,000 for each month (1036, 1112, 1642). In addition, I did a lot of strange promotional stuff in November (messing with price points and even taking book #2 “free” for a short while).

But now let’s look back in time to get a historical perspective. Prior to October 2009 Michael was selling about 50 – 60 books a month. When Book #3, Nyphron Rising came out in October the sales went as follows: 190, 205, 355, 445, 576. Then March 2010 sees the release of Book #4, The Emerald Storm and the sales were: 960, 1105, 1044, 925, 835, 930. Book #5, Wintertide was released and the sales have been 2420, 7860, 10000.

Now Joe gave me a word count for this post, and I want to stay within it, but I do want to circle back to one thing that was pretty instrumental in Michael’s success (or at least I think it was). I’ve always positioned him as traditionally published even though he was self published. I can’t really describe the techniques I used to do that in this post now (not enough space left) – but maybe Joe will have me back at some point and I can elaborate. (Joe sez: the comment section would be great for that, Robin.) But this is how you can tell that I was successful in doing that…

If you look on the Amazon print books you’ll see down at the bottom a section that is entitled Customers Also Bought Items by. This is a listing of 17 authors that are cross selling to his audience. (NOTE: This is basically a pooling that takes in account those 100 books you see in the customer also bought list). For Michael, you see standard industry names such as Sanderson, Rothfuss, Weeks, Scholes, etc). Nothing unusual there but…

If you go to THOSE authors books and look at their cross lists…you’ll find Michael in the #1 spot for the following: Ken Scholes, Peter V. Brett, N.K. Jemisin, Robert V. S. Redick, Rachel Neumeier, Celine Kiernan, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jon Sprunk, James Barclay, Mark Chadbourn, Jill Williamson, James Enge, Rowena Cory Daniells and a few more. All respected authors from traditional publishers. In addition, you’ll find Michael on the list (one of the 17) with industry heavy weights such as: Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, Tad Williams, Scott Lynch, and Guy Gavriel Kay. I have checked these numerous times (and saved the screen shots) and Michael is the ONLY indie on ANY of these lists. What does this mean? It means he sells very well to THEIR audience.

Another indication that I’ve been successful in aligning Michael with the other traditional fantasy authors is the following: Fantasy Book Critic (a well regarded review site for his genre) named Wintertide and Emerald Storm to the 25 best books of 2010 (every other book listed was…you guessed it from a traditionally published fantasy author). Also, Michael’s Emerald Storm was picked as one of 15 books in the Fantasy Category for the 2010 Goodreads Choice Awards (again no other indies). Lastly, Avempartha won the 2009 BookSpot Central Tournament of books where 64 novels of the previous year are pitted against one another in a March Madness competition voted on by the readers (guess how many other indies were there? Yep same as before…none).

So that’s my story about a little indie that could. I’m at 1308 of my 1500 words so I’ll wrap up. I just want to say Michael and Joe are not unique. There are hundreds of authors that are doing the same. Take a look at the Top 100 lists on Amazon and you’ll find a lot of indie authors there just like Michael, who started with no sales, no platform and are now selling thousands and thousands of books a month. I want to close by thanking Joe for allowing me to tell Michael’s story. I hope you found it both interesting and inspirational, and as always thanks Joe for being “you” and helping to light a torch that other indies can follow. Outside of the Dan Poynter (who I consider the father of self-publishing), you’ve done more than anyone I can think of to promote this publishing revolution.

Joe sez - This is an eye-opening post for many reasons, the first of which is Robin and Michael made $10k more than I did in December, even though I sold more books. It certainly makes me rethink my "$2.99 is the magic price point" stance.

But when I read this post, one thing jumps out at me: this is only the beginning.

Ebooks currently account for 10% of book sales. What happens when they're 40%? 60%? 85%?

What happens when, in a world economy, Amazon begins selling Kindles to China, India, Japan, Russia, and all the other countries?

There are perhaps 15 million Kindles now, and 70 million Kindle apps.

I foresee a day when there are billions of ereaders.

When that happens, I predict I'll be earning a wee bit more than I am now. And so will the other indies smart enough to jump on this bandwagon.

221 comments:

1 – 200 of 221   Newer›   Newest»
Mark said...

Hey, thanks for this -- very interesting. One thing Robin didn't mention and I'd love to hear about if she reads this is that recently one of their books was free at Amazon.

First, did you get paid for any of the free downloads?

Second, do you think it helped sales?

Third, just how did you manage to get a book listed for free? That's not a normal option.

Thanks so much for the writeup!

Joe Flynn said...

I was really interested to read Robin's comments on how the numbers for her husband's series climbed. My best-selling e-book is The Hangman's Companion, the second book in my Jim McGill series. McGill is the first private eye to live in the the White House; he was introduced in The President's Henchman, which was traditionally published. I'll be bringing out the third book in the series later this year, and five more after that. Good to know how an audience can build.

Karen McQuestion said...

Robin, I've enjoyed your comments in previous blog posts, and found this breakdown very enlightening. Thanks so much for taking the time to give us the rundown. I'm particularly interested in knowing your thoughts on why the higher price points work so well for Michael's books--perception of value, maybe?

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for April and the posts detailing how much tax these authors had to pay to the government...

I expect some epic rants!

XD

Jason Jack Miller said...

Thanks for the perspective, Robin. it's nice to see ePubbed writers being able to move away from having to defend themselves toward discussing the craft from an independent angle.

It's not even that the numbers inspire me (although those are some pretty inspiring numbers), it's the truly independent spirit you guys seem to be fostering and the way your persistence has paid of critically and financially.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Robin, thanks for sharing this information. It's amazing that you are able maintain that level of sales at a price point of $4.95.

I've found that pricing one book of my suspense series at $0.99 helps draw attention to the entire series, and that I can sell the other books at $2.99 (although currently mine are discounted to $0.99). I've noticed that this is what Amanda Hocking does.

My new mystery book, which is the first in a series, is inching its way up in the rankings. And I know that once it hits the Kindle Bestseller list for Women Sleuths (which should be soon), sales will really heat up.

Heidi C. Vlach said...

(believe it or not when I tried $2.99 I actually lost sales – not income but actual number of books was lower)

Hmm, this is interesting. I wonder if it has something to do with the genre? Fantasy readers are known for investing in furniture-sized books and long series, so maybe a slightly higher price point feels more appropriate for a good-quality fantasy ebook? As opposed to a brisk-paced thriller you devour in an afternoon.

I'm just wildly speculating, here. I'd definitely be interested to see more authors' price point findings.

Gary Ponzo said...

Thanks for the post guys. It's very inspirational to see those type of numbers. I've never felt more optimistic about my writing career than at this very moment.

L.J. Sellers said...

I'm thinking I should raise the price of my books. :)

Sonia said...

Oh wow this is really amazing. Interesting too. If I ever reach this point . . .

Ellen Fisher said...

Anon, we don't actually get paid for December till February, so I believe you won't see epic rants on this month's earnings till April 2012.

Thank you for the post, Robin.

Layton Green said...

As always, uplifting post. As a newbie gaining steam, I'd like to use this comment to give a shout out to Scott Nicholson, who is not only an amazing author on the top end of your list (read him!), but who is also an author who is helping bring along other indie authors. Go Scott!

Scott William Carter said...

"It certainly makes me rethink my "$2.99 is the magic price point" stance."

Glad to hear it. We need to kill that sucker right now. Anything under $4.99 is a good deal for most readers. Same old standards apply: good cover gets them to read the blurb. Catchy blurb gets them to download the sample. Great writing in the sample gets them to buy the book, assuming it's a fair price. It really is that simple, I think. Maybe a low price can "kindle" the fire for a week or month or two -- sorry, couldn't resist the pun -- but seems insane to leave it there long term.

Robin makes a great point about the books people are buying listed at the bottom of Amazon's page. (Though I don't agree that there's any "positioning" that can affect this other than not pricing too low. The book will position itself naturally.) That's something I've noticed as I've been trying to get a handle of this indy publishing thing. And here's what's interesting: most of the really cheap 99 cent authors have mostly other 99 cent authors down there, which means there's a class of bargain shoppers out there that are probably a bit different than your average reader. My gut instinct tells me these people are divided into two groups: 1) the new Kindle owners excited about their Kindle and filling up their ereaders with cheap books to get started, and 2) the readers that will ONLY buy cheap books.

If you're getting some of #1, maybe you can convert them to readers willing to pay more, but the #2 folks never will. Which is why it seems insane to me to leave your books priced too low for a long length of time. Short time, maybe, as a promotion, but do you really want to be a writer that people are only willing to pay 99 cents to read?

Not trying to pick any fights here, but I'm glad to see that Joe has an open mind about pricing. I think we all should.

And thanks for sharing, Robin. Really glad there's someone out there fighting against the "price low" myth that's taken hold.

Kristie Cook said...

Thank you, Joe & Robin, for this inspiring post. Our numbers are nowhere near there, but we're just getting started. It's encouraging to know that we're on the right track and that it Can. Be. Done. (And not just by Joe Konrath!)

Derek J. Canyon said...

Thanks for the link, Joe! And, thanks for reminding me to credit Robin with compiling the original list of authors and numbers. I have corrected that on my blog post.

David Wisehart said...

Excellent post, Robin. Thank you as always (and you, Joe). It's great to have real numbers.

I am curious about your positioning strategies. Hope to hear more on that soon.

I'd also like to know how this has worked out for the other authors you publish.

Best,

David

Jeff said...

Just a note Robin. You may want to consider publishing directly with Apple vs. Smashwords.

Speaking from my own experience as an eBook publisher, I used Smashwords first, then stopped distribution to Apple's iBookstore from Smashwords and set up my own Apple iBookstore account.

I'm not selling the numbers that Michael is, but Apple is producing steady sales - day in and day out - vs. when I was relying on Smashwords for Apple.

I can't explain why they weren't selling through Smashwords, but you may want to consider selling via Apple directly vs. Smashwords.


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wannabuy said...

"That's right. On this list, only five people have previous print novels. The rest did not.

I'm blown away. Well done Indie authors!

Robin, thank you for the great post. I can see a billion ereaders in just a few years. Note: I do not mean Kindles. By then I might have a chip implanted with mp3 option. ;)

Considering Amanda has been 'published' less than a year, it amazes me that anyone thinks we won't have multiple new 100k+ indie authors appear in 2011.

Ps, thanks for the Adventures in publishing link. The graphs on the 54 "Thousand plus" authors tell quite a tale.

Neil

D.D. Scott said...

Thanks sooo very much, Joe and Robin!!!

I'm now quickly approaching the 50 - 60 per month starter sales club, but on my way up and fast!

I especially can't wait to see what happens to my numbers after my January 27th Kindle Nation Push!!!

And like you, I can't believe, with every book I add, how much all my books' sales increase.

I think that's a huge, huge part of making it as an Indie Author...you've got to keep crankin' out great books to continue building your fan base.

Thanks so much for sharing!!!

And speaking of sharing, that's what we're doing too over at my new site The WG2E - The Writer's Guide to Epublishing.

Nothing beats Paying It Forward by sharing our experiences in this brave new Epublishing World!!!

Smiles and Thanks --- D. D. Scott

wannabuy said...

Considering the discussion in the last thread, this from the Adventures link was facinating:"It can take me six months to get a book written and ready to upload. Other authors might be quicker, others slower."

Ok... two books per year per author (if a full time author). I'm willing to change my mind. :)


@Heidi
"Fantasy readers are known for investing in furniture-sized books and long series,"
ROTFL. So true. A good fantasy title has barely completed the outline at page 500... ;)

Neil

evilphilip said...

"Anon, we don't actually get paid for December till February, so I believe you won't see epic rants on this month's earnings till April 2012."

I have had to deal with huge royalty checks in the past -- set aside 33% (the highest tax rate currently in the USA) and you will be safe.

What kills you is that if you have a good year the IRS acts like you are going to have a good year EVERY year and starts asking for quarterly payments.

Convincing them that your one-time windfall was a one-time windfall is like jumping backwards through a flaming hoop.

Laurie said...

wonder how well the comics/ graphic novels do?

Karen Woodward said...

Great post Robin! It gives me hope that, one day, I might be able to support myself as an author. Thank you.

I would love to learn more about how you positioned Michael as traditionally published. In your post you mention that you don't have the word count to go into it but I would very much like to learn more about this.

scott neumyer said...

Truly awe-inspiring post!! It's just amazing what some of you guys and gals have done. Makes me smile thinking of what's to come in the next few years. I never (NEVER) expected to sell the amount of copies of Jimmy Stone's Ghost Town as I've sold in this first month and a week since release. It's overwhelming and completely awesome!

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Excellent post, Joe. As always, loaded with information and stats and lots to think about. Thank you, Robin, for sharing your husband's success story. It's very inspiring. :-)

I've been pricing new releases at $4.99, backlist titles at $2.99 and $1.99 and a short novelette at $0.99, in the past, though right now they're all on for $0.99 as part of a holiday sale that ends on the 10th.

I was considering going down to $3.99 for new releases and sticking to $2.99 for backlists. Now I'm not so sure.

I do agree with keeping prices competitive. If you go too low, there's not much you can do to put your book on "sale".

Thanks again!

Cheryl Kaye Tardif
www.cherylktardif.com

Merrill Heath said...

"It certainly makes me rethink my "$2.99 is the magic price point" stance."

Glad to hear it. We need to kill that sucker right now. Anything under $4.99 is a good deal for most readers. Same old standards apply: good cover gets them to read the blurb. Catchy blurb gets them to download the sample. Great writing in the sample gets them to buy the book, assuming it's a fair price.


Agreed. I like Selena's pricing model:
$0.99 Short Shorts: Under 3K
$1.99 Shorts: 3-7K
$2.99 Stories: 7-15K
$3.99 Novelettes: 15-35K
$4.99 Novellas: 35-50K
$5.99 Novels 50-70K

For my books I'm considering $3.99 for the novellas and $5.99 for the novels. Then go with $2.99 and $3.99 respectively as promotional prices.

Come on, Joe. Get off the $2.99 bandwagon!

Daryl Sedore said...

Excellent Post!

The highlight of the week is to walk on by Konrath's blog and see what's going on in the Indie world.

Thanks guys and I'm a few months away from (hopefully) being on this list.

My eleven titles are selling well but not quite that well yet.

Thanks again,

Daryl Sedore

Garry M. Graves said...

...interesting, your comments about price points. You might think marketing (sales) research is a science, it's not. Pin-pointing what you believe to be a specific reason for increased sales, may not be. Ask Joe K., about this, he's commented for some time now, why one book sells better or worse, than others.

Personally, have just added a new book to my stable...and now see my previous work (different genre), gaining additional sales.

Take a look at this WWII biography of a 'war hero' who crashed beaches of Omaha, like the movie Private Ryan.
http://www.amazon.com/Bloody-Omaha-Remembrances-That-Day/dp/0984446257/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_2
Sorry Joe for the shameless plug.

Tina Folsom said...

Pricing my novels a little higher hasn't hurt me either. Here's what I normally do:

Shorts (under 20k) $0.99 - $1.99
Novellas / short Novels (between 30k - 50k) $2.99
Novels (mine are between 85k - 95k) $4.99

In December I sold over 10,000 copies now, and about 80% of those are my novels at $4.99. So, while price matters, it also depends on the genre in which you're selling.

My paranormal romance novels still sell at less than what authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon, JR Ward, and Kresley Cole sell their Kindle editions at. I figure, as long as I stay under that price point, I have a chance.

Tina Folsom said...

Evilphilip: What kills you is that if you have a good year the IRS acts like you are going to have a good year EVERY year and starts asking for quarterly payments.

As a former CPA, I know exactly what you mean. However, you do not have to base your quarterly taxes on your previous year. You may estimate at current year assumed income. It's a little trickier, but that's what I normally do.

Ruth Harris said...

Thank you, Robin. Illuminating and thought-provoking.

I'm new to e-pub, very experienced on both sides of TradPub. I've been Kindle-izing my OP backlist (originally published by Random House, St Martin's, Macmillan etc) and pricing at $2.99. I still have more OP backlist to make available & have been thinking $2.99 for them, too. But Robin's post has made me wonder and maybe re-think.

When it comes to publishing new work, I will definitely consider a higher price.

Congratulations to you and Michael! And to all the other writers who have made the leap! What an inspiring group...

Donna said...

Another terrific post to support my decision to go indie. Thanks for sharing those numbers! After a whopping 3 weeks as a Kindle-published girl, I have no complaints :D

Mark said...

"Glad to hear it. We need to kill that sucker right now. Anything under $4.99 is a good deal for most readers."

It's funny. Dean Wesley Smith's blog today is about the myth that writers compete, and then we get writers urging other writers to price higher.

It's almost as if some writers feel they will be at a pricing disadvantage if a lot of writers are pricing at $2.99 and they are pricing higher.

If you want to price at $4.99, go ahead. What's the harm if some others price at $2.99? I don't get the posts urging other writers to price higher.

As a reader, I really like the $2.99 price for novels. Will I pay more? Maybe. I'll probably poke around in $2.99 land first just to see if I can't find something there. I like it that Amazon lets me search by price, lowest to highest.

Tom said...

I've been reading this blog for a little while, and I have to say that I've always been a bit wary of the notion that a complete newbie can make it in the e-market. Now, of course, I see that it can be done. Those figures are very impressive.

Despite being prove wrong once, I'm not convinced that e-readers are going to take over the world. They are an expensive gadget/luxury item that not everyone can afford, or even wants. I can foresee a day when they might make up as big a slice of the market as paper books, but the casual reader just isn't going to buy one. Despite the big growth at the moment, it will eventually slow down as it reaches the point of saturation.

That said, I don't think it will matter to the indie author when writers with no prior publishing experience can move numbers like that at this stage in the e-market.

Imogen Rose said...

Thanks for the post. The numbers are amazing and inspiring. I did a double take when I saw Amanda's numbers, wow!

Ellen Fisher said...

"Despite being prove wrong once, I'm not convinced that e-readers are going to take over the world. They are an expensive gadget/luxury item that not everyone can afford, or even wants. I can foresee a day when they might make up as big a slice of the market as paper books, but the casual reader just isn't going to buy one."

No doubt true, but what about apps? A lot of casual readers may be perfectly happy reading their books on their cell phones or iPads or netbooks. We'll have to see what happens, of course, but the ebook market probably isn't limited by the price of e-readers.

Jon Sprunk said...

Me respected?

Ms. Sullivan, you are far too gracious. Continued success to you and your talented family.

Mark said...

"Despite being prove wrong once, I'm not convinced that e-readers are going to take over the world. They are an expensive gadget/luxury item that not everyone can afford, or even wants. I can foresee a day when they might make up as big a slice of the market as paper books, but the casual reader just isn't going to buy one. Despite the big growth at the moment, it will eventually slow down as it reaches the point of saturation."

I agree that it will be a long time before paper books disappear, but don't forget that ebooks are about more than just e-readers. The tablet market is exploding (the Nook color is really a tablet), and those are nice for reading ebooks. Lots of people read ebooks on their iPhones too.

The casual reader is going to have a device that works as an e-reader.

Also, Borders is about to go under, and if they do, that's 10% of the print market disappearing.

You should take a look at the Nook color. It's a nifty device. Fine for book reading, but you can surf the web, listen to music, read email, watch video, etc. I think devices like this are the e-readers of the future, at least the high-end ones. At the low-end we may still have dedicated e-readers at $99 or lower.

Anonymous said...

Terrific post. Two thoughts here. Our local Menards (building supplies) had e-readers listed for the holidays at $69. The brand name was something like Augen, or Auden. Said they came with hundreds of free books and could be used anywhere the Kindle was usuable.
I'm glad the debate over pricing has returned. Once again, there is something unpleasant about writers determined to back other writers to the wall by balking at paying more than the cost of the cup of coffee for their work. We know what goes into good writing. Why make them more desperate? Yeah, yeah, I know they get "more" by selling more books at low prices, but that don't change the fact that years of work is now only worth a dollar or two.
I want to pay writers well for their work.
The writers I admire and read over and over are worth a lot more than three dollars to me.

Scott William Carter said...


It's almost as if some writers feel they will be at a pricing disadvantage if a lot of writers are pricing at $2.99 and they are pricing higher.


But Mark, my point is the exact opposite of what you're saying. A lot of writers are going low because they think that's the main reason readers buy them. What I'm saying is that's not true, and Robin's husband proved it.

Of course, writers can price their books however they want. I've experimented with prices too. But I'm not writing this because I want to help my own books. I'm writing this because I think writers are cutting themselves off at the knees, taking a short term income boost (and sometimes not even that) that they'll regret later on when the surge in new ereaders starts to slow down. I'm trying to help writers. As Dean wrote over on his blog that you mentioned, writers don't compete against each other. Doesn't work that way.

This is why I sometimes feel like I'm shouting into the wind. Ah well. None of us has a crystal ball.

~Scott
www.swcarter.com

Mark said...

I think pricing is more a function of the market than anything else. And it's certainly not a measure of the quality or worthiness of a book. I don't think a $4.99 ebook is inferior to a $9.99 ebook, for example.

Maybe a way of looking at it is to forget it's about writers. Once someone self-publishes a book on Amazon, that person is acting as a publisher. Publishers think about things like promoting their products, figuring out how to price them at a point that returns the most profit, etc. It has less to do with perceived quality and more to do with determining where the market is for the book and how to connect that book to that market.

Anyway, I think people are mostly going to be shouting into the wind over this one. Amazon has effectively encouraged the price to be $2.99 by setting the minimum 70% royalty rate there. I don't see people moving off that price much if their sales are not high volume, and if they do start to sell a lot, like Joe and Amanda do, they may not want to upset the applecart by upping their prices.

But it would be interesting if Joe experimented and raised all his books up to $3.99 for a month.

Shayne Parkinson said...

Robin, thanks for being so generous with sharing your experience. I hope things just keep getting better and better for Michael and you.

no-bull-steve said...

Awesome post. Thanks Robin and huge thanks to Joe for allowing others to "take over" his blog. This site has become *the* gathering point for Indie authors (and I feel even most published authors will dabble in the Indie world at some point).

Sharing information helps shape the future!

Stephen Prosapio
=================
Author, DREAM WAR

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

> Really glad there's
> someone out there
> fighting against
> the "price low" myth

really easy to label something
a "myth", isn't it?

here's a suggestion, and
yes, i am dead serious...

all of you authors here should
raise your $2.99 books to $5.99.

you got $4.99 books? $9.99.

do it today, and do it in unison
(so nobody bears the brunt),
and leave the new price in place
for 6 months. no, make it _12._

(and yes, your sales will drop...
for a while... but they will rise
again... sometime... maybe...)

do it.

_do_it._

do it now.

right now.

i dare you.

i double-dog dare you.

whatsamatter? you chicken?

because this rocket is about
to _blow_, and if you ain't a
believer, i want you to get off
the launch-pad now, to make
room for someone deserving.

show us your courage.

show us your stupidity.

do it. do it right now.

and then come back here
and tell us that you did it.

i dare you.

-bowerbird

Linda Acaster said...

Great post Robin. Thanks for contributing. I think you should do one on 'being a publicist' and take us indies through your planning schedule to fruition, with all the bells & whistles you use that authors like me probably wouldn't think of.

no-bull-steve said...

bird,
I'm yer huckleberry.

Why the heck not. If my sales go kaput, I change it back in 30 days. I just upped Dream War from $2.99 to $4.95. It's current rank is 20,926 which is about its midpoint. It's gotten as high as 10,000 last month and dipped as low as 40,000. So that's a few sales a day on average. 74% of the people who go to my page, purchase the book which is higher than most other books I've seen.

So I'll wait and see where we're at on Feb 7th and report back. Unless my sales dry up completely and then I'll probably be crying and pouting in about 10 days!

Stephen Prosapio
=================
Author, DREAM WAR

STH said...

@ Scott "I'm writing this because I think writers are cutting themselves off at the knees, taking a short term income boost (and sometimes not even that) that they'll regret later on when the surge in new ereaders starts to slow down."

You make a good point, and like you said afterward, nobody has a crystal ball. But, speaking as someone new to publishing I think it all depends on what your career plan is.

I've been writing professionally in other fields for a while, but started to seriously prepare myself for a career as a fiction writer 2 years ago. Everything has changed in real time right in front of me. The things I took to heart as gospel then do not seem to apply - at all - now.

I suspect that I've come to this business at just the right time. Just by luck of timing. A little earlier could have been a disaster, a little later might be too late to catch this wide open window (or not, who knows?) But catching that window is what dictates my pricing and my strategy.

I think it will be quite a while before the influx of e-readers slows down, but I also suspect it won't be too long before there is a glut of books on the market.

But "millions" is a lot of readers. Plenty for everyone worth his salt to earn a living. The trick will be standing out among many thousands of books.

With a level playing field and the ability to market ourselves and find our own audience, I think the time is now to establish a presence, upon which to build with future books.

Or, to better to address your point, I'm selling novellas at 99 cents not for an income boost, but to lay a foundation for the future. I think it will be quite a while before I make back my cost of production (editing, cover art, etc).
But when/if the market becomes flooded, I want to have built a nice piece of high-ground to stand on as I release future books.

I certainly could be wrong. Like you said, no crystal ball. This whole situation is all very new and very exciting. Lots of possible roads to take.

But for the newcomers like me, starting from scratch with no backlist, if 99 cents gets an audience's attention, then 99 cents it is. Beyond that, the quality of the work and tenacity of the salesman will decide who swims.

Debra Lee said...

Thank you Robin for a great post. And of course thank you, Joe. If it hadn't been for you I'd still be trying to snag an agent.

I'm hopeful one day soon I will be able to say I had 1000 sales in a month. Until then I will continue to cheer on those receiving those numbers.

Robin, I'd like to hear more on how you positioned your husband's books.

Anonymous said...

Again you left me off the list! What is it with you Kornwrath?

Over 5k ebooks sold since July 2010

http://www.mrmathias.com/

The Daring Novelist said...

The thing that everybody seems to miss is that Robin did not pick a number out of a hat. She did her research, chose how she wanted to position the book, and she double-checked to see if it was right.

$4.95 is not a magic price point either.

Books are not commodities. They're artisanal goods. Their price depends less on the market than on two things - economic factors for the artisan and the prime customers (which varies a LOT) and DESIRABILITY.

You have to know your audience to figure out that economic factors - and unfortunately, there are audiences out there which are invisible to the existing publishing system (used book buyers are coming over to Kindle fast, for instance). IMHO, the low pricing Indies are doing us a favor by doing that market research for the rest.

As for desirability, you just have to keep writing, keep writing well, and keep flogging your books. (I did a related post on my blog when Dean said he was going to do his. Mine titled "Book are not commodities! They're... pastrami sandwiches!" http://daringnovelist.blogspot.com/2011/01/books-are-not-commodities-theyre.html )

Me, I'm pricing my books at about the upper used book market. My books are off-genre and sometimes pretty old-fashioned, and I suspect that's where my prime audience is. (60k+ novel at 3.99, short novel 2.99, novellas 1.99.) As soon as I can get BN to up the price, I'll run that for 6 months to a year, and we'll see what happens.

bowerbird said...

stephen said:
> I'm yer huckleberry.

great! c'mon now, you others...
it's been 2 hours now, and only
steve answered the challenge!
myth-busters, where are you?


> If my sales go kaput,
> I change it back in 30 days.

oh, don't you worry about that.

there's a lot of inertia in pricing;
a month isn't enough to notice,
especially since the number of
kindle-owners is increasing so.

you won't see a drop for a bit,
likely not for 2 or 3 months...
(but then it'll drop like a stone.)

of course, then when you lower
the price back, it will also take
2-3 months to recover. or more.
assuming that it _does_ recover.

it might not _ever_ get back to
where it _would_ have been, if
you wouldn't have messed with
your momentum. but you know,
myth-busting is tough business!

-bowerbird

p.s. i'm kidding, of course. you
won't do any real _permanent_
damage. or not much... at least
i don't _think_ so. let's hope not.

but seriously, where are all you
other big brave myth-busters?
you do know that you have to
be willing to experiment, yes?
and to take _risks_? that risks
sometimes _do_ pay off, highly?
c'mon! get just a little greedy!
_raise_those_prices!_ why not?
so what if you lose your place
on the magic rocket? so what!

Erik Williams said...

Fantastic post. Lots of good stuff in here. Thank you for being honest and straightforward. Very helpful.

Jude Hardin said...

Great post and great news. I don't think there's much chance of sales slowing down anytime soon, so I'm happy to publish traditionally now and indie later.

Hope Welsh said...

This was very interesting. I'm assuming reviews must help with sales. I'm selling--but have NO reviews. How do we manage those? Any ideas? (anyone can reply)

Joe Konrath said...

Over 5k ebooks sold since July 2010

That's great. These are December numbers. Did you sell over 2500 ebooks in December?

Frank Marcopolos said...

Seems like a vast majority of Joe's list are sf/f, thriller, or romance writers. Is it harder for a literary writer to succeed to the level of these writers as an indie in e-publishing?

Ellen Fisher said...

"Is it harder for a literary writer to succeed to the level of these writers as an indie in e-publishing?"

I think it's always harder for a literary writer, period. A few literary books hit big, of course, but in general, genre tends to sell better.

Two indie writers I could think of who could be classified as having written literary fiction are R.J. Keller (Waiting for Spring) and Karen McQuestion (A Scattered Life). But some might categorize these as women's fiction rather than literary.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Mark said...Hey, thanks for this -- very interesting. One thing Robin didn't mention and I'd love to hear about if she reads this is that recently one of their books was free at Amazon.

First, did you get paid for any of the free downloads?

Second, do you think it helped sales?

Third, just how did you manage to get a book listed for free? That's not a normal option.


Actually I did mention it. For three weeks in November (and 6 days in January) I drove Book #2 Avempartha to free. There is no doubt that this drove more sales to Crown Conspiracy and Crown sold about 5x in November over October. But...Sales were already on the uptick before the free promotinon (October sales were double September sales for instance).

There is no doubt that Nov/Dec Sales were much higher than previous months but we had several things coming into play.

#1 - We just released Book #5 which was highly anticipated

#2 - We were selected to major "year end lists" include GoodReads Choice Awards, and Fantasy Book Critic's Top 25

#3 - We had many great reviews from book bloggers on the recent releases.

#4 - Avempartha was free for 3 weeks in November

#5 - Christmas Season was in full fource

#6 - All of the "bigger" kindle solders saw incredible months in November & December and all noted that they were way above average

Now to your specfic questions - No I did not get paid for the free downloads because I was at 70% royalty. I know there are others that got to free when under the 35% model and they all reported getting paid for the frees.

Yes, I'm certain that having book #2 free certainly helped sales for book #1. Now books 3 - 5 also went up...I'm not sure there were "that" many people reading all 5 books in just a few weeks so many of those sales are probably "existing people" already in the series. Overall I'm seeing good "series continuation" so getting people in on Book #1 and Book #2 will pay great dividends.

#3 - I've posted several times on Kindle Boards (Writer's Cafe) how to get your books to free it bascially takes advanatage that underthe 70% model Amazon will "match" the lowest cost book. So I went to Smashwords and set the book to free ....it populated to free to B&N,ibookstore, soney ereader store, etc. An Amazon "bot" saw it for free at other venues so it "matched it".

The Daring Novelist said...

Frank - good question. I am curious about that myself.

This is just pure speculation from observation of sales and the audience - but I think right now that the audience is in pockets. I believe there are some pockets of mainstream and literary, just from anecdotal reports from the early days of Kindle.

Of course literary authors fall into two groups. There are those who are dependent on academia, and they have to publish "legitimately" or perish. They tend to publish in small presses. Ironically, I suspect that some of these writers - with their more specialized audience and more experimental work, might do well with self-publishing. But they can't at the moment because it would threaten their academic jobs.

I'm curious about the more mainstream literary authors. Sure, a few of these make it to stardom, but I think that most sweat it out with small presses like the academic writers.

You asked if literary writers could make it to the level that the genre writers do. Genre writers have an easier time marketing, I think, so maybe it would be tougher to reach high levels of success. But it still might be better than slogging it out with small presses - and I think there is a larger overall "mainstream" audience.

And, imho, mainstream works like anything else - you keep writing and become more familiar, and if you strike it well with a later book, people will be buying your earlier books. That's something that doesn't happen so much in traditional publishing any more. The old books are out of print.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Karen McQuestion said...
I'm particularly interested in knowing your thoughts on why the higher price points work so well for Michael's books--perception of value, maybe?


I tried to build in that "perception of value". I looked at the top sellers in his category (epic or historical fantasy) and the trad published books were selling for $6.99 - $9.9 so I priced them below that (to signify a bargin) but never down to the $2.99 or $.99 which helped to continue the illusion of traditionally published even though they were not.

After hearing so many people talk about $2.99 as 'magic price' I eventually tried it and as I mentioned it was a disaster. It hink I did lose that perceived quality of the book so I put it back to $4.95 and sure enough the sales returned immediately.

The Daring Novelist said...

Robin: actually, MOST books that are free through other venues never get made free by Amazon. That happened to a select group. (It was a round number, and they promoted the titles that made it. They may have chosen randomly, but it appears to be planned, imho.)

A lot of us had free titles on Smashwords and B&N that were never made free on Amazon.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Heidi C. Vlach said...
(believe it or not when I tried $2.99 I actually lost sales – not income but actual number of books was lower)

Hmm, this is interesting. I wonder if it has something to do with the genre? Fantasy readers are known for investing in furniture-sized books and long series, so maybe a slightly higher price point feels more appropriate for a good-quality fantasy ebook? As opposed to a brisk-paced thriller you devour in an afternoon.


I'm notsure. But...Michael's books are definitely not like most fantasy in the "brick" category. His run about 312 - 340 pages (as opposed to 800 - 1500 pages) which is another reason I wanted to be below the typical $6.99 - $9.99 of most books in the category - they were shorter and therefore probably should be lower priced.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Scott William Carter said...most of the really cheap 99 cent authors have mostly other 99 cent authors down there, which means there's a class of bargain shoppers out there that are probably a bit different than your average reader.

I totally agree that there is a big segment of people who consume $0.99 in very large numbers - that's why so many of the "Top lists" have a bunch of $0.99's on them.

I suspect that they actually "buy" more than they read as they collect them like pretty pebbles and can't get to all the ones they collected.

Robin Sullivan said...

@David Wisehart said...
I am curious about your positioning strategies. Hope to hear more on that soon.


The number one strategy was pricing. Number 2 was concentrating on bloggers who review books by traditional publishers.

I have a blog: <a href="www.write2publish.blogspot.com>Write2Publish</a> that I post a lot of my marketing techniques on. I'll be posting more on this as well there I suggest you poke around there or watch for future posts as I obviously can't cover it in this little reply.

Robin Sullivan said...

@David Wisehart said...
I'd also like to know how this has worked out for the other authors you publish.


I took the same strategy with Nathan Lowell (pricing at $4.95) and he is also on Joe's list (sold 3,000 books in December).

This strategy is not working for some of my other authors, so I'm going to try some experimenting with them including taking one or more of their books to $0.99. I'll let you know how that works for those.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Jeff said...
Just a note Robin. You may want to consider publishing directly with Apple vs. Smashwords.


I actually have this on my list of things to do. I recently moved B&N to pubIt from Smashwords. In some ways I feel bad because I live Mark Corker and what he has done but the real issue is the ability to have tighter control over changes (with long feed times through Smashwords this can be bothersome)

no-bull-steve said...

"She did her research, chose how she wanted to position the book, and she double-checked to see if it was right.

$4.95 is not a magic price point either."

--I didn't suggest it is a magic price point. I'm merely listening to those who've gone before me and experimenting on what works for me. Books are "art" when they're written. The moment you slap a price tag on them, they become a commodity. IMO Hence the market research.

The Daring Novelist said...

No-bull-steve:

I wasn't actually responding directly to you, but I have to take on this one statement, because it's really misleading.

"The moment you slap a price tag on them, they become a commodity."

Commodities have a very specific meaning in marketing and economics. There are other kinds of goods. Artisanal goods have a whole different pricing thing going on.

I don't want to go into it all here, but I'll go over it quickly and refer you again to my blog post for details:

You can buy a loaf of bread, or a pound of salt for a minimum, market-set price. And yet people will order a $15 loaf of bread from Zingerman's Deli, and pay a fortune to have it shipped everywhere in the world. Zingerman's also has shelves of salt some of which costs $25 for a tiny bottle.

I should point out that Zingerman's is a Michigan business, and they are doing well even in a bad economy. My sister makes artisanal jams, and her business is also doing well, at a premium price, in a bad economy.

If books were really commodities, all ebooks would be free - because the Gutenberg Project offers a great selection of books for free, and has for nearly thirty years.

But books are not a commodity. Commodities pricing depends upon interchangeability. Books are not interchangeable the way a gallon of regular unleaded gas is.

I don't want to go into it all here, but here is a post I wrote on the subject: http://daringnovelist.blogspot.com/2011/01/books-are-not-commodities-theyre.html

John Brown said...

Robin said "But...Michael's books are definitely not like most fantasy in the "brick" category. His run about 312 - 340 pages (as opposed to 800 - 1500 pages)"

Robin, how many words per book does that translate to for Michael's books?

Ian Edward said...

Writers live in a world where there's much criticism, rejection, dejection and dead end roads, so inspiration is always needed...and these posts by Joe, Robin, Derek and others do just that. Inspire by sharing with us the ups, downs, highs, lows of their publishing experience.

Most of what is shared here relates to the US readers, so I'd like to bring a perspective on ebooks from Sydney in Australia. A year ago or thereabouts I'd never seen an ereader. Anywhere.

I'm a train commuter and throughout 2010 I began to see commuters reading books on the occasional kindle, and then on Sony and Kobo and Iriver ereaders. These last 3 and others began being sold in bookstores and in other brick and mortar retailers.

I'm now seeing books being read via apps on Ipads and cellphones.

There's still plenty of commuters reading print books and mags but the fact is it's gone from zero to small numbers reading on e-devices. And that's here in Oz in a short period of time.

So it's begun.

Guy Dragon said...

Thanks for the wonderful post, Robin.

Did you price Michael's books at the higher prices when you first started, or did you begin with lower prices at first, then increased the prices to what they are now?

author, Dodge Winston said...

WOW! Awesome post. Lots of fun numbers. And I only hope I can do as well someday:)

Thanks for sharing!

Dodge

Robin Sullivan said...

@ Karen Woodward said...
I would love to learn more about how you positioned Michael as traditionally published. In your post you mention that you don't have the word count to go into it but I would very much like to learn more about this.


Keep an eye on Write2Pubilsh Blog. There already are details out there but I'll be adding to it over the next few months.

Robin Sullivan said...

@scott neumyer said...
I never (NEVER) expected to sell the amount of copies of Jimmy Stone's Ghost Town as I've sold in this first month and a week since release. It's overwhelming and completely awesome!


Scott - I've been keeping my eye on your release - you are doing very well and should be proud...you're climbing fast - keep up the good work.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Mark said...
It's almost as if some writers feel they will be at a pricing disadvantage if a lot of writers are pricing at $2.99 and they are pricing higher.


There are 3 - 4 writer's who I'm trying to get to raise the price of their books: H.P. Mallory, David Dalglish, and Victorine Lieske. My motivation is directly related to I think they'll sustain their sales and make more money. I think the low price points are good for "getting your foot in the door" but once you have the numbers that indicate you are gaining word-of-mouth-sales I think it is worth getting a higher return on each sale.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Tom said...
I've been reading this blog for a little while, and I have to say that I've always been a bit wary of the notion that a complete newbie can make it in the e-market. Now, of course, I see that it can be done. Those figures are very impressive.


Hey Tom, you are exactly the audience I was hoping to reach when I approaced Joe about doing this guest blog. Glad it is helping to open some eyes

Robin Sullivan said...

@Anonymous said...I want to pay writers well for their work.
The writers I admire and read over and over are worth a lot more than three dollars to me.


Glad to hear there are people like you out there (and I think there are many who feel that way. I've said before that I can't wrap my head around the fact that a package of M&M's costs $1.49 but an ebook at $0.99 is a reasonable price?

Robin Sullivan said...

@Scott William Carter said...
But Mark, my point is the exact opposite of what you're saying. A lot of writers are going low because they think that's the main reason readers buy them. What I'm saying is that's not true, and Robin's husband proved it.


What I would like is for the new wave of "indie authors" to think of themselves as something more than second class citizens. I see many post that they price at $2.99 because they feel people won't pay $4.95 for an "unknown writer". The issue is the quality of the work and sometimes people just need the confidence that they have produced something worth charging a reasonable price for.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Linda Acaster said...
Great post Robin. Thanks for contributing. I think you should do one on 'being a publicist' and take us indies through your planning schedule to fruition, with all the bells & whistles you use that authors like me probably wouldn't think of.


See my other posts about my Write2Publish blog...as this is where I do most of my more in-depth discussions on marketing aspects.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Frank Marcopolos said...
Seems like a vast majority of Joe's list are sf/f, thriller, or romance writers. Is it harder for a literary writer to succeed to the level of these writers as an indie in e-publishing?


It's the same across publishing (traditional and indie) genre fiction has "specfic" audiences of fairly high numbers.

Michael actually has a strictly literary fiction novel that I can't quite get my marketing head around yet. I'm still formalizing a plan for it. I'm not 100% sure if you can be successful with this type of book - Bottom line - once I figure out a "strategy" I'll try it and let you know how it goes.

Robin Sullivan said...

@The Daring Novelist said...
A lot of us had free titles on Smashwords and B&N that were never made free on Amazon.


Interesting...I didn't know that. But was this "some time ago"? It may be fairly new that the Amazon bots started paying much attention? I'd be curious if there have been recent $0.00 books not promoted to free at Amazon. If so then maybe it is a byproduct of sales? Or possibly multiple books? I just figured it would "always happen."

Robin Sullivan said...

@John Brown said...
Robin, how many words per book does that translate to for Michael's books?


The Crown Conspiracy is around 90,000 words Nyphron Rising is 107,000. The final book which is not released is presently 168,000 but is in editing.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Guy Dragon said...
Did you price Michael's books at the higher prices when you first started, or did you begin with lower prices at first, then increased the prices to what they are now?


All the books were priced at $4.95 from day one with the exception of Wintertide which was released at $6.95. The reason for the higher price on it was that it was the 'latest release' and my research indicated that it was pretty "anticipated" so I didn't think anyone would object and to date I've not received a single email or post about poeple being upset at this price. I did lower it to $4.95 for a short period and saw zero difference in sales so I put it back at $6.95. I suspect that when the 6th book comes out I'll move that $4.95 with the rest and then bring out Percepliquis at $6.95 - but that is speculation at this point - it really depends on what is going on when that day comes.

Robin Sullivan said...

Whew! So I'm now caught up with all the questions/comments - sorry I was so late and they are all "bunched at the end" I didn't realize this blog entry went live until late last night when I returned from a night on the town with some friends. I'll check back from time to time in case there are other questions.

Once again Thanks Joe for allowing me to share Michael's story. I think that there are now opportunities for indie authors that never existed before and my hope is hearing that there are authors other than just Joe will help others to "take the leap" and reap some rewards form a profession that traditionaly has been very difficult.

Guy Dragon said...

Thanks Robin. I really appreciate what you are doing for everyone.

I don't blame you for going out for a night on the town. You must have worked very hard to get the sales you guys have been getting. You deserve to celebrate.

http://tinkerstoys.blogspot.com/

jtplayer said...

Well 2.99 might be the magic price point for many authors based on their own sales performance, but as a long term strategy I think it's flawed.

Beside, IMO, the buyers didn't necessarily set that mark, they merely gravitated towards it as more writers capped their work there.

Think about the current "boycott" going on with many Kindle owners over high priced books and the Agency Model. It seems the real outrage is reserved for books over 9.99. Another point of contention, understandably, is ebooks priced higher than their paper counterparts.

Over at the Kindle Community there's one thread with nearly 4k posts on this subject. And what I've found by reading the responses is many buyers are quite reasonable in their expectations when it comes to ebook pricing, and they are more than willing to pay a higher price for work they deem worthy.

Seems to me there's a lot of pricing opportunity to be had between 2.99 and 9.99, and you wouldn't necessarily piss off a lot of buyers if you took advantage of that.

I've seen it written here that there's plenty of profit in a 2.99 ebooks at the 70% royalty rate, and to price any higher than that would be somehow obscene. I don't really get that logic, but to each his own I suppose.

The thing is, what happens when they reduce that royalty? I realize many here think that isn't gonna happen. In fact, many think the royalty will go higher. I don't see that happening myself.

Lexi said...

Thanks for the mention - but to put the record straight, I sold 4,278 copies of Remix in December, not 2,500.

wannabuy said...

@JT"Seems to me there's a lot of pricing opportunity to be had between 2.99 and 9.99, and you wouldn't necessarily piss off a lot of buyers if you took advantage of that."

For an ebook author with an audience, I 100% agree.

Personally, I'm more willing to try a $2.99 (or less) book than a pricier book. Note: I'm not saying I won't buy it, but rather I will do more research for higher price points for authors I haven't tried yet.


Up to $6.49, it isn't worth searching further if I have already 'vetted' the author personally. I will pay up to $19.99, but I wait now. Each author has a different 'I'll wait' price point that is dependent on how much I'm anticipating their next work. For well written 200k+ Fantasy, the works should start creeping up towards $9.99.

Each author should have a few titles in the $0.99 to $2.99 group. Some of hose 'cheapskates' are students. In the future, they will buy at higher price points or will 'spluge' if they like your works well enough. But you will not make the 1st sale at a higher price point.

@JT"The thing is, what happens when they reduce that royalty? "

Google books becomes far more competitive. ;)


The royalty would only be reduced in a mature market if one vendor has a commanding market share. That is at least five years away. I personally believe ereading will drift more towards 'other devices' by then. I think this is like $0.99 songs. It will be

jtplayer said...

"The royalty would only be reduced in a mature market if one vendor has a commanding market share. That is at least five years away"

Perhaps.

But if the current pricing mindset continues, that's 5 years of conditioning the buying public into believing 2.99 is the "fair" price for an ebook. If and when the terms change out of the writer's favor, it's gonna be awfully hard to undo that.

I personally believe the royalty situation will change much sooner. I only base this on my intuition, and the way I've seen big business operate over my lifetime.

And despite all the touchy-feely sentiment directed towards Amazon and all that they "do for indies", I see them as no different than any other large corporation out there. I fully expect them to make business decisions based strictly on their bottom line, not the writer's.

And all those other epublishing players out there? Well they're gonna follow suit, because right now Amazon is the leader.

The Daring Novelist said...

Bezos is an analytics hound - and I think we have a model for how they generally behave if you look at they handle the Amazon Associates. They don't give things just to lure you in and then take them away later - they aren't interested in luring. They give incentives to control behavior, which is an ongoing thing.

Amazon set that higher royalty to encourage (or manipulate, if you prefer) their providers into setting an optimum price. As long as they want that price (and as long as the incentive works) they'll keep offering it.

Judging by the Associates program: They'll look at the profitability, and odds are they'll tweak the system - possibly even changing which prices are eligible. (If the number of indies at 2.99 doesn't suit them, they may raise the eligibility price to 3.99, for instance.) They'll also probably add different classes of goods - and reward vendors for using certain features. They will probably do something with that new program for shorter lengths they sent us emails about - maybe allow a better royalty on a lower price if the work is in that program.

Amazon seems to see it's associates as a hybrid between vendors and customers. As I said, the games they play are less about capturing interest (or abandoning it) as it is about manipulating it.

Which is a long winded way of saying that I do expect the 70 percent program to change, but I don't expect it to go away.

jtplayer said...

"As I said, the games they play are less about capturing interest (or abandoning it) as it is about manipulating it"

Well, IMO, that's splitting hairs. "Capturing", "manipulating", it's all the same thing in my mind.

And besides that, every successful business manipulates their targeted demographic. It's how they stay in business.

I do agree the 70% program won't likely go away, but rather it will be reserved for a more select segment of Amazon's content providers.

Star-Dreamer said...

Wow... I should know better than to wait when I want to post a comment... now this will be way down the list.

Thanks Robin for the wonderful posts. I know people have said this already, but those figures really are awe inspiring and make me double think my aim of becoming traditionally published.

What I'm most curious about, though, is publicizing and promoting. For a newbie who's looking to get a book published, I'm worrying about this all the time. What if my marketing plan isn't large enough, or is insufficient? I would like to hear what some other authors have done to help promote their books in the public's eye. Especially if one has a... um... rather low budget.

Thanks!

Nichole

The Daring Novelist said...

What I meant by them not being so interested in capturing or luring is that, unlike customers, they are not trying to attract us.

They don't really care if we stay or if we go. The 70 percent option is not about wooing authors into offering books on the Kindle platform. They know we'll be there anyway.

jtplayer said...

"They don't really care if we stay or if we go"

Are you sure about that?

They need content, and with the Agency Model pissing off so many Kindle owners, the indies represent a lot of product to sell at a lower price.

And Amazon is all about low prices.

The Daring Novelist said...

Oh, and I just realized you said this: "I do agree the 70% program won't likely go away, but rather it will be reserved for a more select segment of Amazon's content providers."

But that's exactly what they're doing now: to Amazon (in nearly all its dealings unless the vendor has extra leverage) the 'select group' is the one that follows special rules.

Amazon's whole corporate identity - their brand, their internal culture - is not about exclusivity. Their success is built on an open model. All of their more profitable moves have been based on the idea that they don't judge.

However, they are extremely data driven, very behavior based. They almost always make the non-intuitive choice. But they're always very consistent. They also plan very far in advance, and build things up very slowly.

Unless the whole 70 percent option has turned out to be an utter disaster for the company (which doesn't seem to be so) there is no reason for them to change their whole working method.

It's true, a healthy indie side might give Bezos some leverage against the big publishers, and maybe it's all a plot to get the big publishers to knuckle under and then Bezos will drop the indies... but I don't buy that one either.

You are correct though - don't count on ANYTHING staying the same.

Helen Ginger said...

Excellent post. Used to be most authors didn't have to worry about the pricing of their books. Someone else did that. Now we have to figure out what price will sell the book. In addition to writing, we're doing a lot more of what used to be done by others. The pricing needs to fit in with other books, but I admit that a 99 cent, although enticing, would also make me wonder if it's as good at a $4.99 book.

jtplayer said...

"and then Bezos will drop the indies"

I definitely don't see that happening.

The thing is, Amazon carries a lot of overhead in order to provide this service in it's current design. There are assuredly operating costs that most do not consider, mainly because Amazon simply absorbs them as they work to build market share.

Subsidizing their customer's 3G service is an example of one of them.

And right now they are paying out more than they keep, at least at the 70% rate.

They don't charge an independent author anything to upload and manage their booklist, and they provide timely accounting and payment of royalties, and more importantly they get your ebooks onto their customers devices without hassle or complications.

All of that costs money. IMO, it's foolish to think that someday those costs won't be partially shifted to the content providers, in some form or another.

Tara Maya said...

Thanks for this information. And any of you authors who want to plug your books on my blog, 500 Words, email me a 500 word excerpt of your book and any other info you want to include (author bio, image) and I'll post it and link to your Amazon page.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence

Robin Sullivan said...

jtplayer said...
Well 2.99 might be the magic price point for many authors based on their own sales performance, but as a long term strategy I think it's flawed.

Beside, IMO, the buyers didn't necessarily set that mark, they merely gravitated towards it as more writers capped their work there.


Thanks for bringing this up - I believe you are right about the reason why so many are at the $2.99. Ideally you want to set the price on what the market will bear which I personally think is higher than $2.99.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Star-Dreamer said...
What I'm most curious about, though, is publicizing and promoting. For a newbie who's looking to get a book published, I'm worrying about this all the time. What if my marketing plan isn't large enough, or is insufficient? I would like to hear what some other authors have done to help promote their books in the public's eye. Especially if one has a... um... rather low budget.


Marketing budgets don't get much lower than mine. I've only bought 1 ad (print in Foreword Magazine) I think it cost me $80 or so). I've not bought any banner advertising. My marketing is mainly "time based" not money based.

My best recommendation...use your marketing for review copies. It costs me about $6.50 to send out a review and I reap major rewards from that small investment. That's the only place I've really spent money...everything else is "working" social networks such as GoodReads or book forums.

jtplayer said...

"Ideally you want to set the price on what the market will bear which I personally think is higher than $2.99"

I completely agree.

2.99 seems like an artificial benchmark driven more by the pricing necessary for the 70% royalty than anything else.

wannabuy said...

@The Daring Novelist:"If the number of indies at 2.99 doesn't suit them, they may raise the eligibility price to 3.99, for instance."

Lower is more likely. Amazon is very data driven. If they think more people will go to Amazon if ebooks can go down to $1.99 for 70%... they'll do it.

Amazon will do nothing to scare away the soccer mom. Ebooks are a lure to the web site and one part of a holistic approach to profit.

That 'soccer mom' is buying a lot of:
Indie romance novels
Diapers
Toys
"Stuff from the associates"

There is a reason Amazon bought WOOT and diapers.com in 2010... As long as ebooks make some profit, Amazon will be willing to use them as a lure for their other services. (e.g., downloadable videos or music).

Amazon just did a surprise price cut to 'cloud services.' This is to ensure they keep the economy of scale, and thus lower costs.

Amazon is a brutal competitor... but they compete for customers more than anything else. Denying the soccer mom her romance titles at $2.99 is not going to generate customer good will and return visits to Amazon.com. I have no doubt Amazon is making a profit at 30% of $2.99.

Neil

Star-Dreamer said...

Thanks Robin. Review copies are definitely a good idea. :) And you're right... they wouldn't be that expensive.

I guess I just need to start figuring out the social medias... for a 22 year old, I must seem pretty far behind. lol! Just started realizing the benefit of Facebook last year, but that's what you get when you don't have a good internet connection at home. lol!

Thanks so much for the advice. :)

jtplayer said...

"I have no doubt Amazon is making a profit at 30% of $2.99"

Of course they're making a profit. It would be foolish to think they weren't.

But is it the profit they ultimately want to make?

That's the key question, and the answer will obviously drive any and all future changes in their business model for ebooks and DTP.

bowerbird said...

jtplayer said:
> I've seen it written here that
> there's plenty of profit in a
> 2.99 ebooks at the 70%
> royalty rate

$2 per book is _more_ than a
traditionally-published author
gets on the sale of a p-book...

> and to price any higher
> than that would be
> somehow obscene.

where'd you see it written here?
where did anyone use that word?
give a link, or stop making it up.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

robin said:
> Ideally you want to
> set the price on
> what the market will bear
> which I personally think
> is higher than $2.99.

that's the kind of thinking
that ruled in the halls of
the corporate publishers,
and that's precisely why
they're in hot water today.

just like their brothers in
the corporate record labels,
who took great delight in
forcing customers to buy
an expensive album when
all they wanted were the
only 2 decent songs on it.

just like their brothers in
corporate film companies,
who seem to think that
12 bucks is a fine price
for a movie in a theater,
(where the popcorn also
costs as much as 6 bucks),
when at the same time
$9 a month means i can
stream unlimited netflix.

i mean, really, charge what
you like, but don't get the
impression that customers
don't notice, or don't care.

there _are_ consequences.

they may pay today, but
decide to pirate tomorrow.

-bowerbird

jtplayer said...

"where'd you see it written here?
where did anyone use that word?
give a link, or stop making it up"


Joe's previously used the word "obscene" a number of times when talking about the profits he currently makes under the 70% royalty, and what he would make if he were to price his books higher.

Look it up if you doubt me.

Btw...do not accuse me of making stuff up. Got it bird? Your assholishness is showing again, and it's not flattering.

Once again...ignore me and I'll ignore you. Dig?

bowerbird said...

jtplayer said:
> Joe's previously used the word
> "obscene" a number of times

where? link to it. _prove_it_.

"obscene" is a loaded word...

you can't just make up stuff.

-bowerbird

jtplayer said...

"you can't just make up stuff"

I'm not making a damn thing up. So get off my back bird.

This blog has no search function, and if you think I'm gonna start going through blog posts looking for the quote just because you don't believe me, you're nuts.

Which, btw, I believe you are anyway.

So think what you will...makes no difference to me.

My God, you are an effing annoying individual.

bowerbird said...

jtplayer said:
> I'm not making a damn thing up.

well, from the best that i can tell,
indeed, you _are_ doing just that.


> So get off my back bird.

i'm not "on your back". i'm merely
asking you to back what you said.

you say joe used "obscene" to
refer to pricing over $2.99, but
i can't find a shred of evidence.


> This blog has
> no search function,

have you heard of google? i have.

so, when you said people used
the word "obscene" to describe
pricing over $2.99, i googled for
where that had happened, and
i found that it hadn't happened,
as far as i see. so i asked you to
give evidence on what you said.

you repeated what appears to be
nothing but a bald-faced lie, and
attributed it specifically to _joe_.

except -- as far as google finds --
joe's _never_ used the word here,
not once, on any topic at all, and
certainly not "a number of times".

and the few times other people
have used it, it had nothing to do
with the _pricing_ of e-books....

google's certainly not infallible,
so maybe it has happened here,
which is why i'm asking you to
provide some links as _proof_...

(continued...)

bowerbird said...

(...continued)



> and if you think I'm gonna
> start going through blog posts
> looking for the quote just
> because you don't believe me,
> you're nuts.

you said joe had used that word
"numerous times". where's proof?


> you're nuts. Which, btw,
> I believe you are anyway.
...
> you are an effing
> annoying individual.
...
> Your assholishness
> is showing again,
> and it's not flattering.

i've challenged enough assholes
to know the first thing they do --
it's always the first thing they do
when challenged, _always_ -- is
to call _me_ "an asshole". it's so
predictable i told all my friends,
so now they laugh if they see it
happening again, like clockwork.
for me, it's now the acid test of
if a person really _is_ an asshole.
so hey, congratulations, jtplayer,
you passed!


> do not accuse me of
> making stuff up.

if you don't wanna be "accused"
of making stuff up, i'd suggest
that you stop making stuff up.
it's pretty simple, really.


> Once again...
> ignore me and I'll ignore you.

that's another thing assholes do...

they badger you, so that you'll
agree to a mutual "ceasefire"...

but i'm wise to that little trick.

so no, mr. player, i ain't gonna
"ignore" when you make up stuff.

i ain't gonna "ignore" when you
spout something stupid, again.

and i ain't gonna "ignore" when
you badger people on this blog.

i'm unafraid of your name-calling.
you might regularly fail to notice,
but your cheap tactics don't stick.
they just make _you_ look bad...

-bowerbird

jtplayer said...

Unbelievable.

You clearly have some issues.

I could type a more lengthy response to that diatribe, but f*uck it man, you aren't worth the time.

Have a really wonderful day bird.

And for the record, I was referring to profits relative to the pricing of ebooks at the 70% royalty rate. And Joe has most definitely expressed that for him to make more than he does now, he would consider that an "obscene" amount of profit.

I never meant to imply that pricing an ebook over 2.99 is obscene, or that anyone here made such a claim.

For a guy who claims to be so observant, you apparently missed the nuance of my earlier comments.

And speaking of nuance, I said your "assholishness" is showing, quite a different thing than saying you_are_an_asshole.

Dig man?

Anonymous said...

^^You guys are being an absolute pain in the ass.

Please fuck off elsewhere and stop being pedants.

This comment thread WAS interesting thanks to Robin's great input.

Karen Woodward said...

Thanks for the reply Robin, that was thoughtful. I just subscribed to your blog, Write to Publish, and look forward to reading your posts. Cheers.

no-bull-steve said...

Daring Novelist

I see now what you're saying. Thanks for clarification. I thought you were using a more generic use of commodity (i.e. product). Point taken.

FYI to all. I raised my price to $4.95 on Amazon and Smashwords, but Amazon quickly established that it was still selling for $2.99 on B&N (through Smashwords affiliates not direct) and discounted the price. At least it now looks to customers like they're getting a deal...

HEY -- Has anyone gotten an unsolicited email from someone claiming to be with a publishing house in China inquiring about the rights to your work after reading about it on Amazon? I know when something sounds too good to be true it generally is but I fail to see how this could be a scam unless they start asking for money up front for translation services. My agent specializes in foreign rights, so she'll investigate. Curious if anyone else has experienced this.

Stephen Prosapio
=================
Author, DREAM WAR

Anonymous said...

JT and Bird:

Why don't you take your bickering, childishness and rage where others don't have to be subjected to it? You might think you're amusing and interesting and righteous, but you're anything but.

Diff anon

jtplayer said...

Bickering? Sure.

Rage? Not for me.

But I agree it's all bullshit. The thing is, I don't lie. Ever. And when I'm accused of doing it, I'm gonna respond.

And for the record I have asked for bird to ignore me. I will certainly ignore him, unless he attempts to denigrate me.

Selena Kitt said...

I sold over 20,000 books in December. And that was just two vendors (Amazon and Barnes and Noble).

I can probably thank Amazon for banning three of my books from their site for the boost in sales. Ah the irony.

Speaking of irony - just an update:

http://theselfpublishingrevolution.blogspot.com/2011/01/amazon-book-banning-irony.html

Verilees said...

@Neil: Amazon is a brutal competitor... but they compete for customers more than anything else. Denying the soccer mom her romance titles at $2.99 is not going to generate customer good will and return visits to Amazon.com.

Don't dis the romance buyer. I don't think that there are as many romance novels selling as the RWA claims, but romance readers are book buyers. They buy many, many books. In fact, I think that the pricing issue would benefit from some of the information I have seen on romance blogs-- DearAuthor and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books are my favorites.

Romance readers glom-- trans.: buy entire back-lists of newtothem authors who happens to catch their interest. And they are both savvy shoppers and sociable. When Jane at Dear Author first started talking about ebooks the concerns were 1) no used trade in value to ebooks and 2) inability to share with friends.

That's something agency pricing got wrong. The publishers did not look at the value to the buyer. They looked at their cost and profit. That of course ignores that best sellers on the used market eventually drop to a penny-- $4.00 with shipping. And you get an actual physical book with some value for trade in and sharing.

All of this has to be taken into consideration when pricing. I've seen romance authors put up their backlists for $9.99 each-- and they appear on the same page with the penny used books.

I also tend to read Mike Masnick's technical/legal blog Tech Dirt. I am fascinated by the Tech Dirt business plan for any business with an infinite good (ebook files would be an infinite good): Connect with Fans (CwF) and give them a Reason to Buy (RtB). CwF+RtB=$$$ Joe Konrath does it, Amanda Hocking does it, I'm sure other ebook authors do it, they just haven't hit my radar yet.

In conclusion, authors have more to sell than the words on the page (or screen) they just need to figure out how to monetize it. And the words on the page may be the cheap lure. Someone just needs to figure out that you have to juggle more than the idea of what one person will pay for one book on one site on one day.

Uh, I think I need to shut up now.

Layton Green said...

I think those with an established audience of some sort could certainly command a higher price than 2.99. It's extremely hard for the average reader to tell if a book is self-published online -- IF it is done professionally. i don't know many non-author readers who pay attention to the publisher, so if the formatting and etc. are top-notch, it's just a non-issue. I think the bigger issues are 1) readers want ebooks to be cheaper, which I understand, and 2) debut/newbies need to build an audience with a lower price point. I think Robin's strategy was genius, but for the most part I think it's probably best to stick low with the first book. As a reader, this is what I love about online books (and I am a huge print fan): the chance to try new authors for cheap. It was so hard before to get noticed, because who wants to pay full price for a complete unknown? It's a real risk, and I love that us newbies have the opportunity to reach readers at a lower price point. Fascinating post and discussion though, very interested to see how it plays out.

bowerbird said...

dear "anonymous".

i'm not "bickering".

i'm as cool as
a cucumber...

i simply asked for
substantiation on
quotes that were
reported by jtplayer.

he wants to place
loaded words like
"obscene" into the
mouths of others,
so he can "argue"
against straw men.

then when asked
for substantiation,
as anyone can see,
all he can provide is
continued hot air...

he _wants_ to cause
a flamewar, so that
you will stop reading,
and thus fail to learn
that he makes up stuff.

and that's why i stay
cool as a cucumber...

-bowerbird

Selena Kitt said...

"Denying the soccer mom her romance titles at $2.99"

Just FYI - the romance reader has been used to paying more than $2.99 for ebooks for years. $2.99 is a bargain to the romance reader.

"Selena's" pricing structure, listed somewhere in these comments, was actually based on the market in 2008, and most ebook publishers and ebooks were romance at the time.

bowerbird said...

verilees said:
> I think I need to shut up now

oh please no. you're perceptive.

_creating_ fans via low pricing,
and then giving hard-core fans
an option to give _more_ money
-- however you can manage it --
is probably the smartest model.

cory doctorow is "trying out"
self-publishing, but finds that
the biggest money he'll get is
from the "collectors editions"
-- high-quality leather-bound --
which he is selling at $250 per.
that's right -- two hundred fifty.

and those are being purchased
by people who got his e-books,
originally, at the price of _free_.

if you really want to be able to
count on your fans for the rest
of your life, it might be smart --
starting out -- to treat 'em nice.
believe me, they'll remember...

-bowerbird

Moses Siregar III said...

The Crown Conspiracy is around 90,000 words Nyphron Rising is 107,000. The final book which is not released is presently 168,000 but is in editing.

Robin, I think those numbers may be too high. I have The Crown Conspiracy on my kindle at 3,585 "locations." I have Avempartha (book 2) at 3,881 locations.

My novella averages around 25,000 words (MS Word count) per 1,500 locations, so I would guess those two books are roughly around 60-65,000 words (I could be off by a bit, but I'm more confident that they are between 55-70,000 words).

And they are good, solid, fun reads, btw.

Moses Siregar III said...

Here's the interview I conducted with Robin's husband Michael earlier this year.

I interviewed him because I thought he was destined for greatness. Looks like I was right for a change ;-)

Who's the next person destined for greatness? If I can risk going 2 for 2: Scott Nicholson (Amazon). But I think he's already well on his way to that goal, so I shouldn't count that as a prediction.

Let's see then. The other person I've written about this year is David Dalglish (for all you fantasy fans). I'm proud to say that I wrote about David on two popular SF/F sites in October, before his book A Dance of Cloaks really broke out.

Blake Crouch said...

Robin - Great post...so fascinated by discussion of tinkering with pricing structure. I just released my first $4.99 book, a complete short story collection, and I'm dying to see how it does. Hard thing with messing with price right now is that everyone's having such a nice holiday bump, no one wants to jinx it!

Paul William Tenny said...

"Amanda Hocking - 100,000+"

Has anyone actually verified that? I've seen the claim and absolutely no proof to back it up.

J. Viser said...

Derek Canyon made an insightful observation on his blog just this week about what helps drive/make ebook sales.

Number of titles.

His posting at http://derekjcanyon.blogspot.com/2011/01/keys-to-epublishing-success.html may be helpful to identifying some of the more important variables in ebook sales volume.

Anonymous said...

@Paul

Check her blog. She has screenshots of her sales.

A remarkable number... and good on her.

Paul William Tenny said...

I will, thanks!

wannabuy said...

@Selena"Just FYI - the romance reader has been used to paying more than $2.99 for ebooks for years. $2.99 is a bargain to the romance reader. "

You are correct, I should have found a better way to phrase that "if the person who controls the money of the house doesn't find a good reason to go to Amazon, she will buy elsewhere."

I tried (and failed) to use humor to illustrate that $2.99 ebooks are like loss leaders to bring the customer into the store. Customers might not buy... but they'll look and then shop elsewhere on the website.

My main conclusion: Amazon is very unlikely to mess with ebooks as they are a gateway for bringing customers in to sell other products.

Neil

Anonymous said...

Just on the topic of Amazon and shopping...

Every author should look into linking their books back to Amazon with their own affiliate ID. Do this every time you post a link ... on your blog, on other blog's comments, in emails, Spacebook... wherever.

I'm not sure of the TOS for ebook affiliate sales so double check this.

People may be under the impression that the 4% extra they would receive on a sale of their own ebook isn't worth the hassle. But if that same customer buys a TV, camera, Kindle etc while your ID is still in their browser's cookies you still receive a cut.

Anonymous said...

@above

I should add, you can shorten your affiliate links using the usual URL shortening services like www.bit.ly etc.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Moses Siregar III said...
The Crown Conspiracy is around 90,000 words Nyphron Rising is 107,000. The final book which is not released is presently 168,000 but is in editing.

Robin, I think those numbers may be too high. I have The Crown Conspiracy on my kindle at 3,585 "locations." I have Avempartha (book 2) at 3,881 locations.


Hey Moses, I'm getting that information from MS Word. Just before posting I opened up the raw files that the books are built from and those are the numbes it gave me. So all I can do is go by their algorithm. As you can see the final book is running longer than the others and will remain so even after editing.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Paul William Tenny said...
"Amanda Hocking - 100,000+"

Has anyone actually verified that? I've seen the claim and absolutely no proof to back it up.


Although she has provided screen shots to prove this - she really doesn't need to. She has MULTIPLE books in the top 100, and has for weeks. Switched is #10 for god's sake - you have any idea how many books are selling at #10 - IN ALL OF KINDLE SALES?

#10 - Switched (43 days in top 100)
#29 - Torn (38 days)
#39 - My Blood Aproves (21 days)
#67 - Fate (12 days)
#69 - Flutter (11 days)
#81 - Wisdom (16 days)

That's more than enough proof even without the screen shots.

Selena Kitt said...

"She has MULTIPLE books in the top 100, and has for weeks. Switched is #10 for god's sake - you have any idea how many books are selling at #10 - IN ALL OF KINDLE SALES?"

Yep, and she's higher than that at B&N, she pretty much dominates their PubIt top ten.

It kind of makes me laugh, when people question sales numbers. Until Joe came along, no one wanted to talk about the numbers and the money. It was all hush hush. Now the numbers get thrown around all the time and no one wants to believe them. I don't know, is it jealousy? Sour grapes? *shrug*

I mean, it's not like someone with rankings in the 100,000's is coming here and saying, "I sold 100,000 books!" It's already a fairly verifiable thing, to look at Amazon or B&N and see someone's rankings.

Moses Siregar III said...

Something is off then, Robin. 3,500 locations on a Kindle cannot be 90,000 words. Are we talking about The Crown Conspiracy that's available for Kindle right now--not a file that has two of the Kindle books in one?

Marie Simas said...

I can probably thank Amazon for banning three of my books from their site for the boost in sales. Ah the irony.

I had a feeling this would happen. There's no such thing as bad press, or so they say...

Moses Siregar III said...

Just to show that I'm only partly crazy, this review is for a book with 63,710 words and it's 3,790 Kindle locations. That's consistent with what I estimated above.

Selena Kitt said...

"I had a feeling this would happen. There's no such thing as bad press, or so they say..."

Apparently, "they" are correct, whoever "they" are... :) They only bad publicity is no publicity!

Tara Maya said...

The Kindle's bizarre pagiation system drives me nuts. I do wish they would use regular page numbers, or wordcount. This is one advantage of the Nook. I can cite page numbers when I quote.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence

Mark said...

"The Kindle's bizarre pagiation system drives me nuts. I do wish they would use regular page numbers, or wordcount. This is one advantage of the Nook. I can cite page numbers when I quote."

I wish Amazon would approximate page counts in the product description. It's confusing when you have no idea if the book is a novel or novella.

Moses Siregar III said...

I wish Amazon would approximate page counts in the product description. It's confusing when you have no idea if the book is a novel or novella.

Seriously.

I intend to put the word count of all my works in the description section (as I've done with my first offering).

Tara Maya said...

Moses: I intend to put the word count of all my works in the description section (as I've done with my first offering).

I'd noticed you and a couple authors did that. I think it's a good idea. (I did it for my novellas, but I think I will go and add that info to the description on my novel as well.)

Tara Maya

The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence

bowerbird said...

moses said:
> Robin, I think those numbers
> may be too high

i'm not sure why you doubt her.

kindle location numbers do _not_
correspond to the word-count...

i've been told that they equate to
128 bytes in the file, which means
they will be highly susceptible to
variations caused by word-length
and formatting idiosyncrasies...

-bowerbird

Robert Burton Robinson said...

@Moses said: I intend to put the word count of all my works in the description section (as I've done with my first offering).

I started including Print Length in my descriptions. I think most readers think in terms of the number of pages rather than the number of words. Of course, if you also have a print version of the book, Amazon lists the Print Length in the Product Details section (sometimes).

If you don't have a print version, it might be worth formatting the book for print just to figure the page count, so that you can include it in your description.

It doesn't make sense to compare the File Size of various ebooks, by the way. For one thing, some ebooks include the cover and some do not. That can make a huge difference.

bowerbird said...

mark said:
> I wish Amazon would
> approximate page counts
> in the product description.

word-counts might work...

but page-counts are _highly_
manipulable monsters, as any
book-typographer will verify.

-bowerbird

Moses Siregar III said...

i'm not sure why you doubt her.

It's not about doubting her. I've read the book, so I have a pretty good idea about the length. I also have a very good sense of the length for 3,500 Kindle locations for a book with normal formatting (I read on my Kindle a lot). Someone wanted to know how long the books are, and I'm sure Robin would want to get the numbers right. She and I are friends, btw.

Regardless of the length, the books are great and I recommend them. The plotting has some great twists and Michael is a fantastic storyteller.

Blake Crouch said...

"but page-counts are _highly_
manipulable monsters, as any
book-typographer will verify."

I think it's on the writer to provide an accurate word count of the novel/collection/novella being sold in the product description. I've started doing that so no one can complain (and they still will);)

The Daring Novelist said...

Eventually readers will prefer word count, because it's closer to universal. But they don't know what it means yet.

I think that including word counts (AND approx page counts) is a good idea.

At the very least, say 'novella' or 'short novel' when it's especially short - but most people don't know what that means either.

Camille

bowerbird said...

moses-
> It's not about doubting her

well, you were "questioning"
her word-count numbers...

and no, that doesn't mean that
you and her cannot be friends...

for all i know, her numbers
might be wrong -- it's possible --
and it is your friendship that
causes you to "question" her.
i made no judgements there.

but you had seemed to assume
that the locations are related
to word-count, but they aren't,
at least not in a direct way...

so i just told you what i have
heard, which is that they are
directly related to the filesize.
might help you figure it out.


> I've read the book, so I
> have a pretty good idea
> about the length.

maybe you estimate that well...


> I also have a very good
> sense of the length for
> 3,500 Kindle locations for
> a book with normal formatting

you might not know if the books
have "non-normal" formatting...

-bowerbird

Moses Siregar III said...

bowerbird, my understanding is that "locations" on a Kindle are definitely not related to filesize in a proportional manner.

For example, a book with a lot of images will have a very large file size (as measured in KB, for example. This file size is listed on any Kindle book's Amazon page). But those images take up almost no space in terms of "locations." So you *really* cannot judge the length of a book's wordcount by its file size. I think this might be what you were thinking of. What you were probably told is that the file size has no bearing on wordcount (that is 100% true).

However, the "locations" are directly related to the text. For example, I have a large image in my novella that takes up one screen on a kindle, but it's only 2 "locations" long. That's negligible.

There is still some weirdness related to locations, so it's not a direct formula that you can precisely convert to word count. I think there are some formating issues that come into play. But locations give you a very good general idea of the length of the book if the formating is relatively normal.

Michael's book is formatted normally, though. There's nothing really odd about how the text is formatted.

no-bull-steve said...

"I think most readers think in terms of the number of pages rather than the number of words."

That's a good point. It seems it's the 2nd question everyone asks after hearing I'm a writer. "What's it about? How many pages is it?"

Which as you all know is rather an absurd question until it's in print. But that's what they want to know...so we should provide it in our product descriptions.

I agree readers will eventually understand word count. And I am annoyed as well regarding Kindle's non pagnation non system. They can display the % of the book read, and can look up each word for meaning, but they can't display the word count on a page-by-page basis?

GraceKrispy said...

Wow, amazing numbers and a fantastic look at Indie Publishing efforts.

The Daring Novelist said...

I started looking at individual pages to try to figure out "locations" and I can say without a doubt that it is not related to numbers of words on a page.

It SEEMS to relate to some aspect of punctuation. Many of the pages I checked, the number of locations equated to the number of sentences (including the partial sentences at top and bottom). But some did not. In those cases the sentences were complex, so I wondered if colons or dashes also got "location" juice.

They are fixed locations within the text, and the intent seemed to be for footnoting and things like that, so it would make sense if it were on a sentence by sentence basis.

It would also explain why there is such wide variation. (Some people write with longer sentences than others.)

bowerbird said...

moses said:
> Michael's book is
> formatted normally, though.
> There's nothing
> really odd about
> how the text is formatted.

that's not what i meant...

there are all types of things
you won't necessarily see...

to use an extreme example,
if the book was formatted
using something like utf16,
it will be 4 times bigger than
if it was encoded in latin1...

same characters, just done
with a different encoding,
thus 4 times as big, and
therefore perhaps having
4 times as many "locations".

but again, i haven't done
any kind of research on
kindle location numbers,
so i can't provide much
enlightenment on them,
and thus do not like to
post on them too much.

-bowerbird

Moses Siregar III said...

There is a very strong correlation between locations and word count. "Locations" does not have a precise correlation to word count per se, but the correlation is very, very strong. I've found a lot of contradictory info on exactly how locations work, but I can say from experience that it gives you a very good idea of the length of a book.

The correlation between locations and file size is very dicey, because a kindle book with a lot of images will have an inflated file size. A book with a lot of big images will not, however, have a significantly inflated number of locations.

The Daring Novelist said...

Moses said: "There is a very strong correlation between locations and word count. "Locations" does not have a precise correlation to word count per se, but the correlation is very, very strong."

Then why does my 57k novel have 4177 locations, and my 64k novel have only 3689? Neither of them has any odd formatting.

And I just checked several pages on the longer novel... and can find no correlation with word count. The page with the most words had the fewest locations, the one with the fewest words was in between. Again, periods and commas seem to have the closest correlation, but not completely. (And not at all if you count question marks and dashes....)

Locations are definitely not a measure of word count length.

Moses Siregar III said...

Then why does my 57k novel have 4177 locations, and my 64k novel have only 3689? Neither of them has any odd formatting.

And I just checked several pages on the longer novel... and can find no correlation with word count. The page with the most words had the fewest locations, the one with the fewest words was in between. Again, periods and commas seem to have the closest correlation, but not completely. (And not at all if you count question marks and dashes....)

Locations are definitely not a measure of word count length.


For example, remember when I said that his 3,500 location novel might be around 60-65K words? That's consistent with your 64K novel with 3689 locations, as well as the other novel I linked to above that had 63,710 words and 3,790 Kindle locations.

It's like I said, it's not a precise equation, but word count corresponds very strongly with locations. Contrast that with file size which does not necessarily have any correlation at all to word count because file size includes the images you include. There is huge difference between those two correlations. One of them correlates very strongly and the other does not necessarily correlate at all.

So while you cannot draw any conclusions about the length of a book from its file size, you can draw some pretty good rough conclusions about its length from how many locations are in the file.

You're misunderstanding me if you think I'm suggesting that there is a direct and precise relationship between locations and word count. There is no formula that you can plug into a calculator to get precise figures. Locations are not equivalent to words. There is, however, a very strong correlations between the two. In other words, they are roughly comparable, unlike file size to word count.

My guess is that there's something different about the way your two books are either formatted or written. I still don't know exactly how that works, though. I'm 99% sure that a 3,500 location book isn't 90K words long, though. Sorry this became a big deal.

Moses Siregar III said...

Looks like that 1% came through. I was wrong :-)

Some explanation in a sec ...

Moses Siregar III said...

First things first. Michael's book was so good and I read it so easily that I thought it was considerably shorter than it was. I'm not kidding, either LOL.

Now for the egg on my face. I counted up the words in 50 'locations' on Michael's first book and it was around 1257 words, or 25 words per location. 25 x 3585 comes really close to 90,000 words.

Damn you, Amazon!

So yeah. Very sorry about that. I didn't realize that converting locations to word count can vary this much.

There is some correlation between word count and locations on a Kindle (i.e. these things are not like two things with no relationship at all), while file size and word count have no reasonable relationship at all, but I've learned from this discussion that it's a lot harder to approximate book length from locations than I thought. It varies from book to book--I don't know why.

I wonder if it has to do with how the files are created, or if Amazon has changed the calculation over time, or if Amazon changes it from book to book. It may be about punctuation or sentence length or unusual lines of code. I have no idea and every time I search for info on this online, I find someone saying something different.

So I've learned from this that even though "locations" on your Kindle take the place of page numbers, you cannot contrast the word count of different books based on the number of locations they have on your Kindle. I guess it's like page numbers in that way (two different books, each 500 pages long, could be very different in terms of word count).

Sorry for the digression, but at least I/we learned something from it. Please accept my apology, Robin.

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

moses said:
> A book with a lot of big images
> will not, however, have a
> significantly inflated
> number of locations.

um, i never mentioned _images_
in terms of an effect on file-size.

that's because the mobi file is
converted from an .html file and
-- as most people will know --
images get pulled in via a tag,
which takes up very little space.

so those images are likely to be
stored separately from the text,
and thus won't affect locations.

the people who appear to know
how location-numbers are made
report it is 128 bytes in the file.

again, that's the mobi file, and
i am not familiar with details of
how text is stored in such a file,
so i cannot elaborate any more.

-bowerbird

Bella Andre said...

Joe - Thanks so much for including me on this list! Putting out my own ebooks (in addition to the books I'm writing for NY publishers) has been a huge thrill.

Robin - I've just started to get to "know" you on-line in the past month and I can see exactly why you and your husband are having such success. Not only great books, but such a smart approach.

Like you, I'm a bit of an outlier on price. My best selling books are $5.99 (Game For Love, which came out mid-December and hit #55 on the BN.com bestseller list within a week - another good case for a reasonable price for a 70k word book not being an issue with readers) and $4.99 (Love Me). In my case, both of these books are sequels to NY published books, so I'm sure that accounts for some sales. That being said, I am receiving many emails every day that say: "I've just discovered your books!"

Best of all, I'm having a great time writing - more fun than ever before. And from the lovely notes I've been getting, it seems like my readers are happy too. :)

Bella
www.BellaAndre.com

Moses Siregar III said...

that's because the mobi file is
converted from an .html file and
-- as most people will know --
images get pulled in via a tag,
which takes up very little space.

so those images are likely to be
stored separately from the text,
and thus won't affect locations.


I'm pretty sure that the file size you see on a Kindle book's Amazon page (like when it says 150 KB or whatnot) does take into account images. Books with images will have a larger file size than books without them. From all I know, that doesn't seem to have any significant bearing on the locations, though, even though it does increase the file size. We're probably misunderstanding each other, though :-)

That goes back to a point I've been trying to make. It means that if you see a Kindle book with a large file size on its Amazon page, it doesn't assure you that the book is long (or that it has a lot of locations) because the images might be padding that file size.

the people who appear to know
how location-numbers are made
report it is 128 bytes in the file.


I've seen that, too, but then when I tested it on some files I had it didn't add up. For example, a 100 KB file should have a predictable number of locations if that's true, but that has not been true with some files I've looked at. The math hasn't added up.

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

moses said:
> I'm pretty sure that
> the file size you see
> on a Kindle book's
> Amazon page (like when it
> says 150 KB or whatnot)
> does take into account images.

yeah, i'd think it would, but
that has nothing to do with
what we're talking about here.

you'd have to factor out the
size of all the images before
you could draw conclusions.


> For example, a 100 KB file
> should have a predictable
> number of locations
> if that's true

ok, i'm quite sure the numbers
are "predictable", on the button,
providing one knows the details
of how they are computed...

but there are many details that
you might be totally unaware of.

mobi files are compressed, just
as one "for instance", but you
don't know if those 128-byte
chunks are computed with or
without the decompression...

you don't know how the c.s.s.
might affect those locations,
either from the stylesheets or
from any in-line markup, or
even if those two might differ.

you don't know how often any
"key frame" data gets stored,
and whether that data counts
in the location numbers or not.

you don't know how image tags
are represented, or .html links
(internal or external), and how
they'd affect location numbers.

you don't know if locations are
figured on the document tree,
or the text inside of that tree...

or any of a number of other
possibly important variables.

and all this is compounded by
the fact that several variables
that _might_ be crucial are
highly positively correlated.
the obvious pair at the top is
word- and character-count...

until you do controlled tests,
you'll only confuse yourself...


> The math hasn't added up.

i've generated some test files,
and it looks like it adds up fine.
i'll post a link to 'em tomorrow.

***

and remember the moral, folks.
the sullivan books are positively
page-turners/location-burners,
and you'll be done reading them
before you want them to finish.

so go and buy 'em, because they
are _not_ too expensive for you!

-bowerbird

Guy Dragon said...

I like the idea of putting both word count and page count in the product description. I've gotten so used to looking at word count on MS Word, that I forgot that, at this time, most readers don't think in terms of word count.

Tinker's Toys

Megan Duncan said...

Thanks for the post, as always you are very informative and extremely helpful. I look forward to the day when my sales are even half what those authors sell monthly. :)

Megan Duncan said...

Wow, I was reading through the comments more and there seems to be quite the debate going. Personally I think I am going to price my books at $0.99 to help build a base of faithful readers and eventually move up to $2.99.

Moses Siregar III said...

yeah, i'd think it would, but
that has nothing to do with
what we're talking about here.


One of the topics that came up was file size and whether it corresponded neatly to the number of locations or the number of words in a document. We've been speaking around each other at times, but that's one of the points I brought up.

i've generated some test files,
and it looks like it adds up fine.
i'll post a link to 'em tomorrow.


I'd be interested in seeing that. None of mine worked out so that you could divide the size of the file by 128 bytes to get the number of locations on a kindle document, even without images in a file.

Selena Kitt said...

"I like the idea of putting both word count and page count in the product description."


We post word count on our site. Most epublishers do and have always done. I don't understand why Amazon, B&N, et al, hasn't figured this out yet. With all the research they're into doing, you'd have thought they would look at the small indie pubs already succeeding in epublishing and take some cues!

I mean, Amazon lists page count on print books. Why wouldn't they just put in a "word count" section on DTP that pubs/authors could complete? Other distributors I work with do (Smashwords does - so does Fictionwise, Omnilit, All Romance Ebooks, Bookstrand...) It's only the big boys - Amazon, B&N, Google, Kobo - who are still in the dark about this one.

David A. Todd said...

I've been reading this blog for about a week now. Frustration with being published through the traditional route has caused me to consider e-self-publishing. I'm not sure I'm there yet. I don't really have funds to hire out formatting and cover design. I could probably get through the formatting with some effort, but cover design and production are way beyond me, and several hundred dollars for a cover design is too much right now.

I suspect I'll eventually do it. There's really no option. The chances of breaking into traditional print publishing are so tiny, even if you are very, very good, that there's not much point in continuing to try. I've wasted seven years as it is.

rjkeller said...

"Two indie writers I could think of who could be classified as having written literary fiction are R.J. Keller (Waiting for Spring) and Karen McQuestion (A Scattered Life). But some might categorize these as women's fiction rather than literary." (Ellen Fisher)

Thanks for the mention, Ellen. I maintain that anything lumped into the "women's fiction" category is, by default, literary fiction. If Karen and I had penises, there would be no question as to where A Scattered Life and Waiting For Spring would go on bookshelf stores.

Selena Kitt said...

"If Karen and I had penises, there would be no question as to where A Scattered Life and Waiting For Spring would go on bookshelf stores."


Or just pretend penises for that matter! :P

:)))

bowerbird said...

blogger seems to be on the fritz.
maybe it's all the talk of penises.

by the way, if you women did
have penises, you'd probably
write something different, so
you can thank your lucky stars.

i will post my message about
penis-size, i mean _file-size_,
later, when blogger allows me.

-bowerbird

Selena Kitt said...

if you women did have penises, you'd probably write something different, so you can thank your lucky stars.

because men don't write literary fiction? :x

But I do thank my lucky stars - I like penises, but I don't want one (of my own), in spite of Freud's assumptions. :)

Robin Sullivan said...

@Moses Siregar III said...
Something is off then, Robin. 3,500 locations on a Kindle cannot be 90,000 words. Are we talking about The Crown Conspiracy that's available for Kindle right now--not a file that has two of the Kindle books in one?


Moses,
Just to be absolutely sure -- I downloaded the file from dtp and copy/pasted into words and did a word count sure enough Crown is 89,027. Which is dead on with what I came up with before - and I rounded up to 90K

Ellen Fisher said...

"I maintain that anything lumped into the "women's fiction" category is, by default, literary fiction. If Karen and I had penises, there would be no question as to where A Scattered Life and Waiting For Spring would go on bookshelf stores."

I concur that "women's fiction" is a woefully broad category, but it's not always literary, IMHO. Danielle Steel is women's fiction, but definitely NOT literary fiction. You and Karen are far more deserving of the latter label:-).

bowerbird said...

selena said:
> because men don't
> write literary fiction? :x

i'm not sure.

does that have anything to do
with football? or maybe beer?
sports illustrated supermodels?

if not, then no, probably not.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

moses said:
> One of the topics that
> came up was file size

yes, _i_ brought up filesize,
since it's the crucial variable,
according to the people who
seem to act like they know...

locations are 128k file-blocks.

but no one (except, i guess, you)
ever considered images were to
be included in that filesize, not
as related to location-numbers.

you were arguing with yourself.
or against yourself, i'm unsure.
...but you were the only person
to participate in that particular
part of our little debate here...

***

so, i generated some .mobis,
for location-number research.

> http://z-m-l.com/misc/holymoses/

as you see, there are 5 .mobis
in the directory, all based on the
.html file and the auxiliary files,
which are included for you too...

the first thing to note is that the
cover image is 280k, so that size
needs to be subtracted from the
.mobis, to obtain their text-size.

(even then, you are getting the
_compressed_ size, which is not
-- as we will see -- important.)

examination of their text reveals
that the differences are simply
that "triplets" of vowels were
repeated at different rates...

in holymoses-03.mobi, it's 3.
in holymoses-06.mobi, it's 6.
in holymoses-12.mobi, it's 12.
in holymoses-24.mobi, it's 24.

so each file has twice as many
characters as the earlier one
-- not exactly, but roughly --
and yes, the finding is that
each also has twice as many
_locations_ as the earlier one.

(there are about 35 locations
that seem to be "overhead"
in all of the versions; they
are probably related to the
auxiliary files in the mobis.)

to tease out the confound of
word- and character-counts,
i joined together some words
in the holymoses-06w.mobi file.

thus it has the same number of
_characters_ as holymoses-06,
but only half as many _words_.

however, the location-numbers
are exactly the same, proving
it is the characters that count,
not the words. (as we'd expect.)

(continued...)

rjkeller said...

@Ellen, hmm...I've always thought of Danielle Steel as romance. Just goes to show ya how difficult categorizing fiction is. As opposed to ending sentences with a preposition. (And thanks again for the compliment.)

- - -

@Selena "I like penises, but I don't want one (of my own), in spite of Freud's assumptions. :)"

Heh heh heh.

bowerbird said...

(...continued)

again, there are all kinds of
complicating factors, like the
variety i mentioned up above,
and you would have to study
the mobi file-format specs to
see the ripples they cause in
location-number determination,
but that makes my eyes bleed,
so you'll have to figure that out
on your own, if you really care.

but hey, once moses admitted
that he'd done the original math
incorrectly, most people stopped
caring at that point. (or before.)

but, ya know, give a dog a bone,
and he's gonna chew on it...

the 128k-block story holds up...

***

now let me take care of a few
pieces of unfinished business
so i can bow out of this thread
before it hits the 200-post mark.

***

i have said before, and repeat,
that everyone should charge
what they want for their e-book.
whatever they want... exactly...

i also think you should aim for
the most profit you can get...

if that means pricing high, do it.
if that means pricing low, do it.

in the trade-off of short-term
versus long-term profit, you
should do whatever feels best.

it makes no difference to me.

but don't expect that a higher
price-tag will mean more profit.
it might. but it also might not.

on the face of it, it's as naive as
the child who believes a nickel is
worth more than a dime because
it's bigger. sounds good; untrue.

***

there's been some "confusion"
here about what joe has said,
but there really shouldn't be...

as _anyone_ can _clearly_ see,
just by looking at this very post,
joe _actually_ said this:
> This is an eye-opening post
> for many reasons, the first
> of which is Robin and Michael
> made $10k more than I did
> in December, even though
> I sold more books. It certainly
> makes me rethink my "$2.99
> is the magic price point"
> stance.

so joe clearly does _not_ think
that any pricing above $2.99 is
"obscene". probably never has.

-bowerbird

Ellen Fisher said...

Danielle Steel is often filed as romance in bookstores, but she's not true genre romance, in which there is (usually) only one couple and a happy ending.

But you're right, trying to label books is a very difficult thing to do.

Selena Kitt said...

so joe clearly does _not_ think that any pricing above $2.99 is "obscene". probably never has.

I think we can all agree that $12.99 on a backlist book that has a paperback counterpart available for $9.99 or less is pretty obscene.

If Amazon is going to ban anything, they should start by banning THOSE! :P

But on a new book, or even a backlist book - anything between $2.99 and $8.99 (or even $9.99 depending on how hefty a read it is) seems reasonable enough to me.

jtplayer said...

"so joe clearly does _not_ think
that any pricing above $2.99 is
"obscene". probably never has"


Since bowerbird wants to resurrect our little dust-up from over the weekend, I guess I'll step in here and respond.

Turns out this blog does have a search feature. Not a very good one, but it's there. And yes, I did spend some time trying to find the quote I honestly remember reading. While I could not, I did find these:

Joe on 7/3/2010:

"Jude, if I priced an ebook at $9.99, I'd be making $7.00 fir every sale. That reeks of price gouging"

Joe on 9/25/2010:

"There isn't a single reason, other than greed, to raise my prices. And while greed is good, money ceases to be a motivator for me because I'm already making X amount of money"

My original comments were never meant to imply what bird said in the above quote, that Joe thinks it's "obscene" to price over 2.99. I explained this during our "debate". Bird has chosen to ignore this explanation. But then again, he thinks I'm a liar.

I am well aware that Joe has strong feelings on the issue of pricing, profits, etc, and this is what I meant to reference in my posted comments.

Now maybe I imagined the word "obscene" from some long ago post. I am more than willing to admit that. But the intent of my original comment was honest, and the quotes from Joe clearly support that.

I fully expect bowerbird to disagree, and possibly go on another rant about what a liar and bully I am. So be it. As my wonderful mother used to tell me, "consider the source son".

Thanks mom...and I will.

bowerbird said...

jtplayer said:
> I've seen it written here
> that there's plenty of profit
> in a 2.99 ebooks at the 70%
> royalty rate, and to price
> any higher than that
> would be somehow obscene.

that's what he said, and he
even _italicized_ "obscene".

which is a loaded word...

you can search and find it;
it's right here on this page.
(until he deletes it anyway.)

he attributed it to others,
but nobody else said that.

then he put it in joe's mouth,
only joe never said anything
close to that, and the only
direct quotes jtplayer finds
have joe talking solely about
his _own_ prices, and not
the prices of anybody else...

this is all right here, in
black and white, and not
the colorful prose that was
"imagined" by jtplayer...

i'm not sure why jtplayer
takes offense at this, or
thinks i'm out to get him.

these are simply the facts.

they constitute no "rant".

no, i recite them exactly
like i will now tell you that
santa monica's temperature
is at 57 degrees fahrenheit,
and a congresswoman was
shot in the head saturday,
and the bowl championship
football game is scheduled
to begin in about 20 minutes.

-bowerbird

Anonymous said...

Since bowerbird wants to resurrect our little dust-up from over the weekend, I guess I'll step in here and respond.

JT, please stop responding to Bowerbird. You're just feeding a troll. I skip over all of his posts, and have so for months-- the forced line breaks after every two words make his LOOOONG posts almost impossible to read.

And Bowerbird, learn some goddamn HTML if you want to embellish your posts. The emo-kid, lower-case teenage-style texting is okay if you're 15-- not if you're 40.

jtplayer said...

"or
thinks i'm out to get him"


What the hell is your problem bird?

I do not believe you are out to get me.

I never said that. Those are your words.

Got it?

But then again, you have a history of interpreting people's posts around here:

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


Bowerbird to Moses Siregar on 9/24/2010
------------

Now dig this fool.

I believed what I originally posted. I fully admit I may have confused reading the word "obscene" (which, btw, is simply a word, not a loaded one as you put it), and I took the time to backup my original intent. I know what I wrote and what I meant to convey, despite your rantings to the contrary.

And I do not intend to "delete" any of my posts.

Now kindly fuck off and go hassle someone else for a while.

I spend my share of time at Internet message boards and blogs, and you are without a doubt one of the biggest assholes I've ever run across.

jtplayer said...

To all the rest of Joe's regular bloggers and participants, and to Joe as well, I apologize for my part in carrying on this insanely childish bullshit for so long.

This is a cool place to hang out and interact with smart, funny, talented people. And the information Joe provides is a Godsend to all writers, myself included. Thank you for that.

I will do my best to not respond to any more of this nonsense.

In my mind, it's fine for the conversation to get contentious at times, but this latest back & forth is beyond ignorant.

Have a great evening everyone.

dafaolta said...

Robin- Thank you for your post! It had never occurred to me that you could really tell an Indie by their lower pricing. The Agency model requires the higher ebook prices, so using a price point that lets you swim with the big fish is a clever idea.

And you're right that someone who writes well can be successful at this new game of publishing, even if they've never been published before. Michael proves Joe's point that its easier for readers to find good writers when their names are out there on multiple titles. It's easier to have 1000 sale months when you have 5 or 6 books being sold than if you only have 1.

@Tom- You are probably right about the current generation of stand-alone ebook readers like Nook or Kindle. But I've been reading ebooks for literally decades. My first ebook reader was my Palm III and there are cell phones now that have bigger screens, never mind the iPod Touch I now use. I have Kindle and Nook and Stanza and the original eReader from my Palm days.

I can, and do, literally carry 1000 ebooks in my pocket with this device, along with all the other apps and games I've accumulated. Why give that up for a one-trick pony? There are some ebooks I would want a larger screen for, but I'll wait until the iPad 2 before I look for that. After my current netbook dies.

Amazon is under no illusions about the benefits of providing the software for multiple platforms. they'll put Kindle every place they think they can sell people books to read. Nook is backing into the idea, but I don't want to spend an hour on what's wrong with B&N. They got the idea of 'lending' right, but they screwed their customers by exempting ebooks from their discount program.

Beverley said...

Good Grief! I'm in the wrong job! Actally, I'm not in any job at all at the moment and reading this article has sparked a bit of a Eureka moment... Maybe I should finally put pen to paper and look at writing some of the tales I've often day-dreamed about! I have to say, I don't have a clue where to start, but I'm curious (with the info you have given on previously unpublished writers successes) as to whether or not I could go from Zero to (self via Kindle) published with no previous experience... I have nothing to lose and (at the moment) plenty of time to write so time for some frther research I think!! Thank you Robin!!!

Anonymous said...

Bird and JT:

I suggested two days ago that you both take your childishness and rage somewhere where people don't have to be subjected to it.

I'm astonished to check back and find that you've both gotten even worse, to the point where I can't even read any of the intelligent comments from others because they're smothered in your mess.

I've seen people like you who have ruined entire blogs to the point of where people stopped coming just so they didn't have to be in the same room with you.

Joe has a good blog going. Why don't you respect it?

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

I'm on my way to being inclued in the list on this post. I have one sale in the US and one in the UK. Hell it's a start. I'm also doing a giveaway if anyone is interested.

Anonymous said...

Wow how many posts on word count and what not? Seems like an awful waste of time.

Anyway, I saw a few posts about what readers are "used to" with regard to price (e.g., romance readers "used to" paying more than $2.99 so $2.99 is a bargain).

I'd be careful with that logic. What people get used to changes pretty fast. If they find good deals at $2.99 that's what they get "used to" overnight.

I bought a $5000 Apple II+ new. I didn't get used to that price for very long at all.

Mark said...

"Nook is backing into the idea, but I don't want to spend an hour on what's wrong with B&N. They got the idea of 'lending' right, but they screwed their customers by exempting ebooks from their discount program."

At least the Nook works with library ebooks, which is really nice. Amazon really needs to let the Kindle work with libraries too. Don't make people feel like a pirate because they have to strip off DRM just to read a library book.

jtplayer said...

"I'd be careful with that logic. What people get used to changes pretty fast. If they find good deals at $2.99 that's what they get "used to" overnight"

Very good point.

If Amazon had initially pegged their 70% royalty at 3.99 (or any other price), then that would be the benchmark considered "fair", because indies would have priced at that level in order to take advantage of the higher rate.

And the readers would have adapted and paid the higher price. IMO.

In all my reading on the subject of pricing it seems to me the majority of "anger" on the part of the buyer lies with 9.99 and above. I rarely see bitching over 3 to 5 dollar pricing on ebooks.

bowerbird said...

jtplayer said:
> But then again, you have
> a history of interpreting
> people's posts around here:
> ...
> Bowerbird to Moses Sirega

you didn't link to that, did you?
you pretended to link to it, by
giving a quote and a date, but
you didn't actually give a link...

so you still don't get it, do you?

because if you _would_ have
given the link, people could've
seen that _i_ gave a link, back
to the blog of moses, where he
had said the very thing which
i had supposedly "interpreted".

> http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/09/ebook-pricing.html?showComment=1285544510110#c1101881764111632512

so here you are again, jtplayer,
making stuff up and failing to
give links so people can check.

but hey, at least you have the
integrity to sign your comments,
unlike the "anonymous" trolls,
who have nothing to lose
by cursing and being rude...

-bowerbird

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