Thursday, February 24, 2011

The List Experiment Update

For those of you just tuning in, on Feb 15th I dropped the price of my technothriller novel, The List, from $2.99 to 99 cents on Kindle and Nook.

As of 2/15/2011 7:30pm, The List had sold 592 copies sold on Kindle this month. That had earned me about $1200.

Here were the Amazon rankings prior to changing the price:

#1,078 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

#13
in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery & Thrillers > Police Procedurals

#14
in Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Police Procedurals

#57
in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Action & Adventure

Now nine days into the experiment, here are the new numbers:

#123 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

#2 in Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Police Procedurals

#2
in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery & Thrillers > Police Procedurals

#9
in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Action & Adventure

So we've seen a dramatic increase in sales.

But is it enough of an increase?

At $2.99, I was earning $2.03 per download. And I was selling an average of 43 ebooks a day.

At 99 cents, I only earn 35 cents per download. I'm now averaging 205 sales a day.

At $2.99, I made $87 a day.

At 99 cents, I'm making $71 a day.

But in the last few days, The List has been selling stronger, averaging about 250 sales a day. If it can hold that number, or do even better, that's $87 a day--matching what it made at $2.99.

This is curious. At first glance, it seems like price and profit have found an equilibrium.

But there are obvious certain benefits to the 99 cent price point. Because it is now higher on the bestseller lists, it is seen more often. And 99 cents is more of an impulse purchase.

I like this book, and so do readers, and it's logical that the more people I get to read it, the more potential fans I'll make, and those fans will probably so and buy my other, more expensive ebooks.

What I've done here is the equivalent of putting turkey on sale for 19 cents a pound at the grocery store. The sale brings people in, then they buy other items that aren't on sale.

So is it working? Are my other sales going up?

Prior to this price change, I was selling 534 books a day of 14 other fiction titles, not including The List.

After the price change, I've been selling 547 books a day.

So there's a slight raise, which adds up to about $12 a day.

Now, this isn't a perfect experiment. I also launched a new ebook, KILLERS, this week. While I'm not including the KILLERS numbers, it has increased my virtual shelf space, and might be a small factor in slightly higher overall sales.

On the surface, this experiment looks to break even for me monetarily. But I won't know for sure until I get more data.

However, if The List does crack the Top 100, then these numbers could indicate that I'll make more money at 99 cents, both on that ebook and on my backlist, than I did at $2.99.

I've still got a ways to go. Last night, The List was ranked as low as #112. If it can stick around this rank until the weekend (when people buy a lot of books) then I may have a shot at the elusive Top 100. I've hit it three times before, but those were with new releases. The List has been on Kindle for two years.

Wouldn't it be amusing if it hit the bestseller list after two years of sales?

136 comments:

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Geez, here's how impulsive a buy it is at $0.99. I bought the damn thing the day you announced the sale. Just now I forgot I'd bought it and tried to buy it again. Fortunately, Amazon told me I'd already bought it.

Eric Christopherson said...

FYI, my thriller, Crack-Up, hit the top 100 for the first time last August, 13 months after its release.

I wouldn't be surprised if some ebooks take years to do the trick.

Julianne MacLean said...

Hi Joe - I think you will hit the list, because the higher the book goes in the ranking, the more it begins to fuel itself, which is, as you say, because more people see it.
I believe in the power of the 99 cent book, but I also think it can do well as a "promotional price" for a limited time only. I have a book out now which I released a month ago at 2.99. I sold 77 copies in the first two weeks. I dropped the price to 99cents a week ago Monday for ONE WEEK ONLY, and promoted that limited time.

It was listed on DailyCheapReads on Wednesday morning, and by Wednesday afternoon, it hit the Top 100 list. It climbed over the next few days to #27 where it peaked, then the week was up for the promo price, and I raised it back to 2.99. I was terrified that this would make it drop off the list, but it has held steady for the past 4 days, howevering between #30-35. So now I'm making 6 times as much money, and the sales have NOT decreased by any measureable amount. I'm still selling the same number of books per day.
So I'm just saying, once you hit that list, I think it begins to fuel itself with the exposure alone.

Joe Konrath said...

I will say part of me is tempted to list all 20 of my books at 99 cents for a month, just to see what happens. I wonder if I'd earn the same I'm earning now...

Tony Southcotte said...

Personally, I am a fan of the .99 cent price point for older books, series starters, and debut novels. When I eventually get this novel up to par, I plan to price it at .99 cents to get a small reader base going, then work my other novels in at a higher price.

I'm not sure it will work, being that luck and the right amount of marketing (mostly through reviews and a few freebies) are what will make it stick.

E.J. Wesley said...

I think the real unknown is how many of the .99 purchasers are new Konrath readers. If even 25% of those folks are brand new readers and subsequently purchase more of your work, then it's a slam dunk decision to lower the price.

Unfortunately, that seems like an impossible thing to track. As a data nerd, thanks for the diversion Joe!

EJW

Julianne MacLean said...

If you did it as a big promo blitz for one or two weeks only - that's how I'd do it. Improve your rankings, then raise the prices back up. I am now wishing I had raised the price up a bit sooner, because I confess, out of fear, I gave it an extra 3 days at 99 cents, and when I think what I could have earned over those three days. I was afraid to mess with the momentum, but it was okay in the end. $2.99 is still a really cheap book when you're on the top 100 list, and most of them are over 5 dollars.

Layton Green said...

This price discussion is so fascinating. I have one book out, and have struggled mightily with this issue, and am quite sure I have made impulsive mistakes. I was selling really well at .99, but raised it to 2.99 after a month. I am making more money now and plan to stick with 2.99 for this book, but every day I wonder what if . . .

Also, my book seems to sell better at BN, where it is not on any lists, than at Amazon, where it is routinely on Top 100 for Men's Adventure and Horror/Occult. Go figure.

Layton
www.laytongreen.com

Christy Pinheiro said...

Joe, I dropped the price of one of my books to 99 cents as soon as you posted your experiment. The sales rank and overall sales also increased.

I think it's important to see how this affects all sales across the board. It's probably a much more profitable option for authors who have multiple books for sale-- if you get a single reader, then that person is potentially a fan. It's hard to get new readers, but once you get a fan, they will buy everything you publish.

I'm really curious to see how this plays out, and I hope you decide to keep the List at 99 cents.

My prediction is that it will boost the sales of all your other books across the board. Not immediately, but slowly and steadily. It's a loss leader.

W.W. Kolb, said...

Classic case of cutting price to try to make it up on volume. That's pretty hard to do. But, over time, the amount of new eyes might translate into a little steeper slope and ultimate higher profits down the road. I think it will pan out to be an overall good move, but it's relative to the fact that Konrath/Kilborn has a full catalog of offerings. Certainly interesting and indeed useful. Proves that there has to be SOME METHOD to the pricing and it has to fit into the overall marketing strategy.

Steven Savile said...

Interesting, as ever, in terms of the economics of independent publishing. For the longest time Variance, the publisher of my thriller, Silver, were charging 9.99 for the ebook alongside the 27 dollar hardcover. I convinced them in January to drop the price to the 2.99 price point (I wanted the 99c price point but was told it wasn't financially viable, really, to do that) and I've been rewarded with a massive spike in sales (not to your level, but in comparison a book that was 'dead' sold several hundred copies in the last couple of weeks, proving that price beats blurbs from Kevin J Anderson, Douglas Preston, Steve Alten, etc) in terms of moving e-copies.

What particularly interests me is the fact that I retained electronic rights for other territories outside the US and Canada, so I'm putting it up on the UK kindle store at 71p (just waiting for the price change to go through) and will get to 'put my money where my mouth is' and see if the UK edition can out sell the UK edition....

(first comment despite being a long time reader - so be gentle)

Lovelyn said...

I think lower your price to attract new readers is a viable option. It works well both new authors that readers might not want to take a chance on and for more established writers with a back list. A 99 cent ebook encourages new readers to buy. It they like your novel they'll buy more of your books.

ezbeanz said...

cool...congrats

Sam said...

It's a great strategy.

"Alone" was a 5-year-old thriller that went to #1 at 99 cents. They raised the price to $1.99 on Sunday, and $2.99 yesterday. It's still holding at #1.

(My own book is back at $2.99, as it seemed to hit a ceiling where the lower price wasn't boosting sales rank.)

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

I think the idea of a permanent $0.99 price to draw in readers to the rest of a series is an excellent idea. If I were Joe, I'd have one such book for each of my several series.

However, unless a series really needs to be read in sequence, I wouldn't automatically use the $0.99 pricing on the first book of the series. I'd use that price for the strongest book in the series. Putting one's best foot forward is likely to gain more readers than promoting a weaker title in a series.

Also, as someone who is reasonably conversant with statistics, I have to say that people are taking all of these "tests" I keep reading about here much too seriously. The samples are much too small, the times are much too short, and there are far too many uncontrolled and uncontrollable variables to draw any valid conclusions. That said, my gut reaction is that Joe is right about most or all of what he's been saying.

Robert W. Walker said...

THIS IS AN IRONY, Joe, as I just a week ago lowered my medical examiner title, FLOATERS from 2.99 to .99 as an "experiment" as well. Great minds think alike. Thus far, too early to tell, but my motives were the same, drop one of my best and favorite titles to a "giveaway" price to hopefully see more sales across the board after offering this 'sampling'. I too am waiting and watching to see how it goes. Ironically, I just dropped it about a week ago not knowing you had done same.

Also have had 4,051 views of a thread I began on Kindle Community under author/publisher speaks area and that has been amazing as I just put the thread up Feb. 1st. The thread is titled: What Moves ebooks off Shelves. And no fights have broken out there! That's cause I am moderatin' things! HA!

Rob Walker
www.robertwalkerbooks.com

Jennifer St. Giles said...

Excellent Info Joe. Kudos for forging this Self pub path and clearing some of the numbers fog for us learning the ropes. Will have to try this with my Jennifer Saints books.

Robert W. Walker said...

I just realized another IRONY of my decision....I am "floating" FLOATERS and Joe also has a book entitled Floaters. So am "floating" this experiment...this title...and my most expensive title is my only 3.99 title and that is Titanic 2012 and there we are talking a lot of stuff floatin' and it may be a bloat of a book too as it has 2 books in one (bloat). Bloat, float, get it? GET it? Do you get it? All of my others are sitting at 2.99

Rob

Boyd Morrison said...

Using the Kindle ranking as a measure of success is inherently a zero-sum game, so I'm glad to see Joe also listing his sales figures.

It would be interesting to know if sales dropped off significantly once a book was no longer in the top 100 on any sub-genre list. If so, then ebook sales would still be a world of haves and have-nots, but instead of revolving around store placement, it would revolve around list placement.

David Wisehart said...

Of course, there are factors other than price at work here.

In addition to lowering the price, you've increased your promotion of the book via your blog, twitter, facebook, kindleboards, etc.

For example, I bought the book when I read about the experiment on your blog. If you had simply lowered the price without the hoopla, I probably would not have noticed the price change and may not have ever gotten around to buying it.

You are comparing $0.99 and a big online promotional push to $2.99 with no extra promotion.

In any case, congratulations on your increased sales. :)

David

Brian Drake said...

Hi, everybody. I, too, tried this experiment with my three ebooks, as I'm a newb and I thought it might help. I have sold a book a day all month so far. It looked for a bit as if I might average two books a day, but it doesn't look like that will happen. I also gained a few sales on the Amazon UK site, which was nice to see.

I didn't do a huge promotional push, though, except for a post on the Amazon kindle forum. Readers seem to be finding the books on their own. I sold a lot of books in January, so perhaps one or two have found their way into Amazon's recommendation matrix and they're getting noticed that way.

I have four more books planned for this year with the first of the four almost ready to go, and I think I'll set that at .99, too. I think if I have my first five books at that price point, that will give readers a real cheap introduction to my material and those who like it will pay more for future books.

Anonymous said...

I admit, I bought a copy at .99 because I figured what did I have to lose. It was something interesting to check out and I was curious because I have gotten more into the mystery/thriller genre recently.

I'd seen it before, impulse buy for the win. And I can see in action why pricing the first in a series at .99 cents or even 'free' can be valuable marketing.

Julianne MacLean said...

Layton - you mentioned the "what if" question, that you will always wonder about your price choices. I feel the same way, and no matter what we do, I think that question will always exist in our minds. I raised the price, and the book stopped climbing the list. If I had left it at 99 cents, how high would it have gone? I'll never know. But if I had kept it at 99 cents, I would have always wondered how much money I was losing at the lower rate.
That "what if" question... we writers can't get away from it :).

www.juliannemaclean.com

sparkie said...

Joe,
I think I just wanted to say that I read your blog on a regular basis. I am not a writer or even a fan of Mysteries. I am very interested in the economics of digital goods and found your blog via Techdirt.com. At 99 cents, this price point enticed me to buy The List. Keep the blog coming it is very informative and entertaining.

PJ Lincoln said...

Joe,

I think if you drop everything to 99 cents, even for just a few weeks, you might risk devaluing your product. If you attract new readers at that price point, they're going to always expect that price point. I think all indie writers must avoid A Race to Zero.

All I'm saying is that that kind of move could have a lot of unintended consequences.

Pale Rambler said...

How much do you think the experiment was impacted by the attention drawn to it by your blog, your thread on kindleboards, etc.?

Not that I'm complaining. For someone with your level of notoriety, this was a brilliant piece of marketing, in addition to being an interesting experiment. I also agree with others that 99 cents is a great starting point for unproven authors (or the first in a series to help jumpstart sales).

It's just that not everyone has the same pre-existing degree of exposure to help bring attention to such an exercise, thereby making it a great example of how an established author could impact his/her sales more so than a newbie.

Anonymous said...

I've got a question... Why is Jason Pinter such a douche bag?

Joe Konrath said...

I've got a question... Why is Jason Pinter such a douche bag?

Let's play nice.

I'm met Jason, and he's a decent guy. I suspect he's trying to find his way in this current publishing climate.

Sheri Leigh said...

I think a lot of "nice guys" in publishing may be out of a job soon, though, if they don't wake up. That latest PW article was a shocker. The level of denial in the industry is amazing. Goliath really believes David just can't win.

K.L. Dillon said...

Hey Joe,

Another great post. First, even though the price change isn't astronomical, i think you've proved the point that a price of .99 cents you'll definitely reach more readers. Just look how far you jumped in the Top 100 lists you mentioned. It's one thing to talk about it, but to see it. Wow.

Second and lastly, just for fun, I wonder how well it would sell at 1.99. Is it still 70 % royalties? If so, perhaps try that out. Half books .99 and half 1.99. I'd think that would be fun to watch.

Oh, and for my first novel, when I publish it, would you recommend making it for .99? or 2.99? Thanks!

-K.L. Dillon

http://kevinlyledillon.blogspot.com

Joe Konrath said...

Goliath really believes David just can't win.

Denial is a powerful opiate.

Brian Drake said...

"Sheri Leigh said...
I think a lot of "nice guys" in publishing may be out of a job soon, though, if they don't wake up. That latest PW article was a shocker. The level of denial in the industry is amazing. Goliath really believes David just can't win."

Is there a link to this PW article?

Kendall Swan said...

HERE. Selena Kitt posted in the comments on the last post.
After hanging out with indie publishers all the time, it was freaky reading that. Opiate, indeed.

Kendall
NAKED Neighbor

L.J. DeLeon said...

I suspect the reason the $0.99 books sell is for the same reason I buy them, to discover new authors. If I've never read the author and like the book, I'll buy more at the higher price. It's because of this reason, my former co-writer and I are discussing lowere the $2.99 price to $0.99 for one of our backlist.

Walter Golden said...

One thing you do not give enough weight to is the need for a following. On the computer, or on a back list, every author needs a following so that their books can be found. If no one knows you or your title, you will disappear.
From what I can see,, unless you are heavily promoted by your publisher, it will take eight to ten years to build a following under the old system. The E-book way it will take six novels.
When you are seventy five and have five novels ready to go, that can make a difference.
I have had agents ask me at conference. if I had any novels in print. Their real question was--what was my following. I don’t blame them. I was in sales and no one in sales wants their later years to be the same as their earlier years. E books are a way for the older author to build a following fast

Katie Klein said...

Thanks for posting the link to the PW article, Kendall.

Did that line at the end about writers being delusional rub anyone else the wrong way?

Maybe they forgot that, without writers, there's no publishing industry. . . .

S.J. Harris said...

I've been experimenting with price some myself. I raised the price of Journey Into Darkness to $4.99, and Amazon has now discounted it to $2.99. Pretty cool.

Journey Into Darkness: A Kim Journey Thriller

Jill James said...

Katie, that comment just plain pissed me off. Without writers they have no product. Duh!

S.J. Harris said...

I should add that I'm a traditionally-published author writing under a pseudonym. Eventually I'll post the results of my experiments under my trad pub name.

Robert said...

Regarding the PW web seminar, I had to chuckle at this:

"Though there are, of course, many reasons most self-published books don’t sell well. One of the main reasons mentioned by the panelists? Marketing.... Indeed, a crowded marketplace is both a testament to the increasing options for self-publishing, as well as a factor working against selling self-published books."

Would you legacy-publishing vets here tell the rest of us just how much focused marketing money and attention they've given to your titles? How can the big houses direct much marketing to your books, if they get most of their revenues from pushing a handful of big-name authors? (The old 80/20 rule in action.)

Seems to me that self-publishers have a huge marketing advantage over the big houses: They can focus 100% of their resources on promoting only their own titles. That's a much better prospect for success than being published by the Big 6, who scatter their budgets and attention among a host of authors and works, with preference for the anointed few.

Comments?

Joe Konrath said...

If you sell eggs, don't piss off the chicken.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Joe, the one factor not discussed here is the long-term effect of the price move--PJ mentioned the "devaluing" of product, and in fact, you've just triggered a wave of people moving to 99 cents, which is rapidly becoming an accepted price for ebooks (recent analysis by ireaderreview.com and KND show a shocking drop in ebook prices).

I know you've predicted an ever-expanding market and one that can't be saturated, and last year I predicted 99 cents would be the standard price in FOUR YEARS. Now, like most every other e-book prediction, I think I severely underestimated, though people laughed at me at the time.

I have always priced 99 cents to $4.99 (for omnibus works) so I know a good bit about price/ranking, but I can't help but wonder if there's a bottom fast approaching as more writers compete for 99 cents--along with all those happy to give their books away to "build audience."

Of course, it's as ludicrous to think everyone will hold the line at $2.99 just as the $9.99 was ludicrous, but the rapid change over the last two years leads me to suspect that there is no "long term" left to even worry about. Because everybody's going to do what's best for them right now, and who can blame them?

Scott

no-bull-steve said...

"Wouldn't it be amusing if it hit the bestseller list after two years of sales?"

A Time to Kill
The Celestine Prophesy

It wouldn't be the first time that would've happened. I think we're entering into a brand new age of "word of mouth" that's really more "word of click". Amazon makes no bones about suggesting books that are popular and liked...which makes them more popular. I'm hopeful we'll be seeing better books rather than more highly marketed books with better table space hitting the best sellers lists more regularly.

Hey someday maybe even the NYT Bestseller list will actually mean something (other than a bump in sales).

Stephen Prosapio
author of DREAM WAR

James H. Byrd said...

You got my $0.35, Joe. Just bought The List, mainly because your experiment made me curious. My heart is still racing after reading Chapter 3. Nice work. Nice formatting too. I like the way you did the chapter headings.

Regarding the price experiment: As others have said, I think there's a lot going on here, and there's no way to generalize what works best. I believe running a $0.99 promotion once in a while makes sense, particularly on the first book of a series. As you said, 99 cents is an easy impulse buy (it was for me anyway), but that impulse is spurred by the idea that the price is a "limited time offer." However, I believe that the entertainment "value" you get from a book is easily worth a $2.99 price point.

Regarding the PW article: I attended the DBW roundtable session they were talking about. It was fascinating to hear the panel, who were all deep into traditional publishing, comment on the future of self-publishing. Like they have any clue! I was busy thinking, "where the heck is Konrath! He'd tear these guys a new one." Some of the things they said really riled me up. It was a more enlightened group than most, but the idea that they were discussing the future of *self publishing* was a joke.

Sheri Leigh said...

I moved my books to $0.99 from $2.99, but I have no following, so it's probably where I belong. But I wonder about Scott's predictions too. I'm not sure there will ever be a "race to the bottom" though because once writers get a following (if they're good enough or lucky enough to get one, I guess I should say... ;) then they will raise their prices, and new "newbies" will come along and price at $0.99. So the cycle will continue.

The PW article, sorry I forgot to post a link! Thanks Kendall for doing it. :) I was just picking my jaw up off the floor after reading it. The "gatekeepers" were so busy guarding their gate, they didn't realize that authors were just taking another route. Now the Big Six don't have a lock on the distribution and can't guard that particular gate anymore.

You can't fence it in if you don't own the property!

If the publisher is the farmer and we authors are the chickens...I just wonder who the fox is in the chicken and egg scenario...

Lindsay said...

It is interesting to see the results of your experiment.

I've stuck to my guns, releasing my first two novels at $2.99 and not tinkered with going lower (I write high fantasy, not exactly a popular genre, so I'm highly skeptical I'd see a 6x increase in sales), but with all the success people are having at $0.99, I am tempted to try the lower price point with my more popular novel. I will probably wait until I have a couple books in a related series though.

Just need to stop spending so much time reading blog posts and do more writing... ;)

~Lindsay
Ebook Endeavors

S.J. Harris said...

I read The List on my computer back before I had a Kindle. I think it was free on your website at the time. Cool book, and definitely a steal at $.99.

But ultimately I think ebooks should be priced a lot higher than that. For promo, that's fine, but not too many people will ever earn a living selling books for a buck.

Journey Into Darkness: A Kim Journey Thriller

Anonymous said...

"The level of denial in the industry is amazing."

Staying anon here just in case someone from my writing group follows this blog. Last night at a writing group and experienced, agented author announced to us all that "Borders isn't going bankrupt. They're just restructuring!"

If someone relatively objective can maintain that level of denial, imagine what it must be like for those whose careers depend on it.

jack said...

Joe said:

"If you sell eggs, don't piss off the chicken."

I love it! That article really pissed me off and I haven't published yet. It pretty much sealed the deal for me. If their opinion of the people who put food on their table is that high, then i will not ever publish the "Traditional" route. That attitude is just ridiculous.

jack

no-bull-steve said...

"I can't help but wonder if there's a bottom fast approaching as more writers compete for 99 cents--along with all those happy to give their books away to 'build audience'."

What comments like that and the Chicken Little "race to the bottom" comments presuppose is that all books are created equal. They're not. We're not selling buggywhips or cheeseburgers here, kids.

Yes, the prices will come down. As much as I'm sure people want to read JD Robb's latest, (far) fewer will purchase it at $12.99 than would at $2.99, the fact is that people are still buying that title in droves (currently listed at #8 in Kindle Store) when there are a multitude of $0.99 books available. The only reason that happens is that we're not selling a widget, we're selling an artistic product. Values on those have always and will always range in value.

Otherwise no one would pay millions for a Picasso when they could get "similar" works for $20 at the local farmers' market.

Stephen Prosapio
author, DREAM WAR

L.J. Sellers said...

Hey, Joe, The List bumped The Sex Club out of its #2 spot on the police procedural ranking! I'm gonna have to see what I can do about that. :)

Selena Kitt said...

"Borders isn't going bankrupt. They're just restructuring!"

Well that's sort of true. They're declaring bankruptcy in order to restructure. But they still may go completely under anyway. There won't be any government bailouts for big publishing. And they know it.

Jason said...

L.J. - just wait until Joe starts his next experiment...re-naming The List to The Sex List. ;-)

Edward G. Talbot said...

LJ and Joe - I've bought both The Sex Club AND The List a while back, so I can't help either of you in that battle for rankings.

Re: traditional publishers and price points. I have come across three books in the past months that I really wanted to buy from traditional publishers. In one case, I was prepared to pay $9.99, in the other two the paperback is out, so I was willing to pay a bit less.

All three of the effing things were $11.99 or $12.99 on kindle. All three were MORE expensive than not just the paperback but the hardback. I'm sorry, but there are too many good books out there for $3 or less for me to put up with that. At this point, with 9% of book sales being ebooks in 2010, they can still hang on with such stupidity as charging more for the ebook than the hardcover. But if it hits 18-20% in 2011 (and maybe a lot more for some genres), something's going to give, and it will not be pretty. I can understand them resisting things, but this level of denial about the market is truly breathtaking.

Debbi said...

FWIW, my latest novel LEAST WANTED is $0.99 and hit the Top 100 less than 2 months after its release. In addition, sales of my first novel IDENTITY CRISIS have taken off, too. I think the sequel is encouraging more sales. Also priced at $0.99. At least, for now. :)

Valda said...

Amazon doesn't let me put my book on for 99 cents. It gives a range from $2.99-$9.99...

I've several books, and I'd love to price my favorite at .99 cents so it catches afire. The hook is so controversial, if enough people read it, I'd really start having fun...

S.J. Harris said...

Question for Joe (or anybody): If Amazon discounts your book, do you get the royalty on the discounted price or the listed price?

Journey Into Darkness: A Kim Journey Thriller

Kendall Swan said...

I thought they only paid on the discounted price but I'm not completely sure.

Also, as of 10 minutes ago, The List was at 101--almost there!

Selena Kitt said...

Question for Joe (or anybody): If Amazon discounts your book, do you get the royalty on the discounted price or the listed price?

If you're at the 35% royalty rate, it's the list price. If you're at the 70% rate, it's the discounted price.

wannabuy said...

@PJ"I think if you drop everything to 99 cents, even for just a few weeks, you might risk devaluing your product."

As a reader, I doubt it will 'devalue' other ebooks.

I am into a new series via the $0.99 intro followed by reasonably priced sequels. I just finished book #2 and purchased two more ebooks from the author (2nd trip starts tomorrow).

I already have a $6.49 price ceiling. I just finished a novel that was $6.49 that I *loved*. Macmillan just raised the series ebook price to $7.99... I just will not click at that price. :(

Joe,
I bought the List before your experiment, so I too cannot help the stats. ;)

Neil

S.J. Harris said...

Thanks, Selena.

Hmm. Very interesting. So if a publisher prices a book at $9.99 and expects to net about $7.00 a copy, Amazon can come along and discount the book to $2.99 and the publisher will only net about $2.03 a copy?

How is it that Amazon is able to determine how much money a publisher makes per copy?

It seems they could eventually drive the competition out of business and make Amazon Encore the KING OF THE PUBLISHING WORLD.

If that happens, well...

Back to square one for authors.

Christy Pinheiro said...

How is it that Amazon is able to determine how much money a publisher makes per copy?

This is only true if you accept the terms that go along with the 70% royalty program. If you accept the 35% royalty, then you can price your book any way you like and Amazon must pay you 35% no matter how much they discount it.

Obviously, most authors opt for the 70% rate, even if that gives them less control/money on a discounted book.

Brian Drake said...

Thanks for posting the PW article. I'm afraid I couldn't get too riled up because it was, dare I say, more of the same. The "traditionalists" aren't changing their record--they'll keep playing it until they break the needle or warp the vinyl. Meanwhile, I'm too busy writing books and cashing (small, for now) checks.

S.J. Harris said...

This is only true if you accept the terms that go along with the 70% royalty program.

So the 70% royalty program is rigged...

Somebody please explain to me how this is not going to eventually be very bad for authors.

Anonymous said...

sj harris:

i worry about that too, but i think the way to see it is this:

amazon will get 30% of whatever the customer pays, and so it's in their best interest to get the customer to pay as much as possible. so really, their incentives are lined up with the author's, and they wouldn't just randomly discount your book, because doing so would reduce not only your take-home but also theirs.

the only time they would discount is to price-match (if their web-crawlers find it discounted somewhere else), or (and i don't know if this happens) if they use some of their own data / algorithms that say they can sell enough at a lower price to make up for the reduced profit (which is precisely what joe is testing here).

Nicholas La Salla said...

This is an interesting experiment. I myself have wondered about the whole impulse buy idea. And it is curious that it only added $12 in backlist sales. One thing to keep in mind too is that you haven't given readers enough time to read the book, decide what they think of it and opt to buy another one of your titles. They'd have to read quite a bit to finish it up in nine days.

Not to say that I don't read a lot -- I do, and I'm sure many others do. But Average Joe may not, it might take longer.

Perhaps your sales will spike in the future...

My ghost story novel, One More Day, is officially on Amazon. My current price is for $0.99. I'm hoping the low price will encourage impulse buys from readers who might not ordinarily try out a new author. Then, hopefully the same readers will write a review on my page.

When I buy a book, I know I look at reviews always, it's a huge determining factor in whether I buy or not. If there are sixty bad reviews and three good ones, I know there may be something wrong.

I'm not sure when I'll up the price to $2.99, particularly if my statistics are similar to yours -- if the amount of money I'm making in the long run is similar regardless of asking price, then it doesn't much matter. I'd rather more people read than fewer, no matter how much money I get.

Good luck with your new e-book and as always, love your blog!

Best,

Nick

Anonymous said...

to add to my previous comment for sj:

amazon won't be able to drive all the other big publishers out of business. they could start messing with prices and cause a lot of chaos (and lost profits for a lot of companies including their own), but remember, not so long ago when Macmillan (i think) did not yield to them and Amazon stopped selling Macmillan books for some time, in the end it was Amazon that blinked.

Moses Siregar III said...

Does anyone know the figures on how much Amazon takes out of each ebook sale based on the file size? IIRC, the base royalty is 70% on $2.99-$9.99 and 35% on everything else (right?). But I've been told that Amazon also takes out a certain amount based on your file size.

This could make a significant difference when you're only making about 35 cents per copy in the first place. 5 or 10 cents off of every 35 cents would be a big deal.

S.J. Harris said...

...they wouldn't just randomly discount your book...

But they did. My book is not available in any of the other formats.

I listed it for $4.99.

They immediately discounted it to $2.99.

The way I see it, I should be getting 70% royalties on the price the book was listed at. I should be getting $3.50 per copy on every $4.99 ebook sold.

That's the price I chose, and it falls into the 70$ royalty rate, as dictated by Amazon.

How can Amazon just arbitrarily change the amount of money I, the publisher, expect to receive per copy?

Um...because they can?

Meet the new boss...

Moses Siregar III said...

This is a good article on Amazon's delivery fees (and more).

Delivery fees only come into play when you're at the 70% royalty. At 70% royalty, you pay $0.15 per every 1 MB of the file size. So if you have an ebook file that's 333 KB (1/3 of 1 MB), you lose about 5 cents per ebook sold. So if you're making about $2.09 at $2.99, you'd make $2.04 instead (assuming a 333 KB file).

The List is 759 KB. So Joe was making 11.4 cents less than the base $2.09 royalty on a $2.99 book. So if I've got this right, Joe was making $1.97915 on The List at $2.99.

On a 99 cent ebook, everyone should make a straight 34.65 cents per sale (35% of 99 cents).

Anonymous said...

sj:

yeah, just looked at your book. it has been discounted. and you're saying it's not on smashwords or ibookstore or pubit or anything? and you've never sold it via your website?

i don't know. maybe it's the fact that it's a shorter book (49K words) and they are going by file size compared to other thrillers?

or maybe they do in fact have some algorithm that tells them that discounting it (maybe just for a short time) will net more total money (due to higher sales). and that would benefit both you and amazon, btw.

i'll be curious to see if they bring the price back up to $4.99 in the next couple of weeks (it's been up less than a month, right?)

Moses Siregar III said...

Weird. I just wrote a post that disappeared. The royalties work a little different than I said in the previous post, because Amazon subtracts the delivery fee from the price of the book before it calculates the royalty. So that's a little better (it shaves off 30% of the delivery fee, since the royalty is 70%). So if your "delivery fee" is 10 cents, it's actually only 7 cents off your bottom line.

Okay, so The List is 759 KB.

759/1024=.741
(1 MB is 1024 KB)

.741 x 15 cents = 11.12 cents

$2.99 - $0.1112 = $2.8788

$2.8788 x 70% = $2.015

So if I've got this right, Joe was making $2.015 per sale of The List at $2.99.

Joe, like everyone else, would make 34.65 cents on a 99 cent ebook.

That doesn't change much, but I wanted to make sure I understood how the numbers work.

David Wisehart said...

Just saw that The List is now at...

#100

on Kindle.

Congrats!

David

bowerbird said...

> "race to the bottom"

hey, who knew that _that_
is where all the money is?

***

p.j. said:
> devaluing your product.

get over that notion!

***

david said:
> You are comparing
> $0.99 and a big online
> promotional push to
> $2.99 with no promotion.

except for the fact that
the price-drop gave him
_something_to_promote_.

the people do love a sale.

so it's a reason to contact
them and let them know...

but a contact that's just a
repeat of a "buy me" spiel
is a turn-off that will only
make them tune you out...

***

w.w. kolb said:
> Classic case of cutting price to
> try to make it up on volume.
> That's pretty hard to do.

that line was a comedic classic
in the old world, a place where
the variable cost of each unit
was often a significant amount,
usually dwarfing the fixed cost.

but in the new world of digital,
where the variable cost is zero,
you do "make it up on volume".

indeed, that is the _best_ path
to success with digital products,
since every unit is pure profit...

you must update your thoughts.

***

julianne said:
> It climbed over the next few
> days to #27 where it peaked,
> then the week was up
> for the promo price, and
> I raised it back to 2.99.

how do you know it'd "peaked"?
it might well have kept going up,
in which case you cheated it out
of the momentum it was gaining.

joe thought his experiment was
a failure after a few days, since
it hadn't gone up "enough" yet...
it was just the case that he had
not yet given it a good chance...

***

so yes, joe, i'm happy that you
stuck with it and found out that
a low price really does work...

but you still are seeing nothing
but short-term effects. before
you can really evaluate it fairly,
you will have to wait 2 months,
or -- better yet -- 3 months...
when long-term effects kick in.

they might not change much
from what they are right now,
or they might be even bigger,
or they might fade with time,
i'm not making any predictions,
i'm just saying that you cannot
_know_ until you give it time...

-bowerbird

Dana Michelle Burnett said...

I think as an indie author, you have to find a way to make your work an impulse buy so people will take the chance on you.

Naomi Clark said...

I lowered the price of NIGHT AND CHAOS to 99 cents last week and have definitely seen a jump in sales. Nothing worth shouting about yet, but I write urban fantasy, which is already an overcrowded genre, so I know I'm going to have a battle to attract attention. I'm planning to keep the price there at least until book two in the series is out.

I'm also getting a new, professional cover done to see if that has any effect on sales too. That's one of the most attractive things about indie publishing for me - you can keep experimenting indefinitely.

S.J. Harris said...

Hmm. Now it's listed for $4.99. Not sure what the rationale behind discounting was...

Journey Into Darkness: A Kim Journey Thriller

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

@S.J. Harris

I'm curious about what you're trying to accomplish here. It seems to me that $2.99 is pretty expensive for a 49,000 word novella, even from an established author, let alone $4.99. Aren't you afraid you'll kill sales?

At $0.99, I'd take a chance based on the description. At $2.99, I wouldn't have even thought about buying it. At $4.99, I *really* wouldn't have given it even a second glance.

S.J. Harris said...

It seems to me that $2.99 is pretty expensive for a 49,000 word novella, even from an established author

Joe and Blake are selling their 18,500 word novella for $2.99. That's a couple of hours of entertainment for the price of a Big Mac.

$.99 is a ridiculous price for a book. If it gets to where that's all people are willing to pay, then there won't be any such thing as professional authors anymore.

Fran Yoakum Veal said...

I'd say 49k words is more of a novella length unless you are writing YA.

I agree with Robert, $4.99 seems a bit high given the competition.

Julianne MacLean said...

SJ Harris said: "Hmm. Now it's listed for $4.99. Not sure what the rationale behind discounting was..."

Maybe they're watching us and listening in....

Julianne MacLean said...

You're at #110 right now Joe. I'm going to go buy it, and I will Tweet about it also.

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Bruce Thompson said...

@S.J. Harris

It seems to me that $2.99 is pretty expensive for a 49,000 word novella, even from an established author

Joe and Blake are selling their 18,500 word novella for $2.99. That's a couple of hours of entertainment for the price of a Big Mac.

$.99 is a ridiculous price for a book. If it gets to where that's all people are willing to pay, then there won't be any such thing as professional authors anymore.


Of course there will. There's nothing ridiculous about $0.99 for the first book in a series, or for novellas, collections of short stories, and so on.

You're not selling a product; you're selling a story, and stories are worth what people are willing to pay for them. Right now, the price of a used paperback is the price ceiling for ebooks, and that just happens to be about $2.99. (Don't think Amazon didn't take that into consideration.)

Certainly there are outliers right now. Some ebooks by known authors are selling reasonably well at higher prices. But that's just temporary. I predict that this year $2.99 will become the standard price for a full-length (> 125,000 words) novel by a known author who also has a backlist up. Some will be able to sell well at $2.99 for short novels (~ 75,000 to 125,000 words), but not many.

Newbie authors will have no choice but to sell most or all of their titles at $0.99, because that's going to be what people are willing to gamble on an unknown author. Some of those newbies, the ones who can actually write, will become established quickly and continue to price the first in their series at $0.99, with the other titles at $2.99. (Although, if Amazon changes their royalty structure to make 70% available on $1.99 titles, that'd probably be a better price point.)

The real problem with the current goldrush is that there are an awful lot of wannabe authors who are publishing books that aren't ready for primetime. There's no excuse for publishing a book with the number of typos I've seen in some of the indie books I've bought/sampled. And many/most of them are simply too short. (Tastes terrible ... Yes, and the portions were so small.)

My guess is that maybe 3% to 5% of the indie authors currently publishing will actually make it in terms of being able to make a living writing full time. That's actually a very high percentage, because most of the indie stuff I've seen simply isn't very good.

The ones who do make it will be the smart ones--the ones who price at $0.99 and release their books without DRM. The ones who are concerned about "devaluing" their books or "piracy" are going to sink like stones.

Anonymous said...

"How do you guys feel about trailers as promo tools?"

I never look at them. Even if a trailer is well done, all it does is make me want to watch the movie version of the book, which of course doesn't exist.

Jude Hardin said...

I have a conference call with my publisher this afternoon to discuss marketing ideas for Pocket-47. I'm going to suggest offering the ebook for $.99 initially in an effort to get on some bestsellers lists. We'll see if they go for it.

They're planning on pricing the ebook at $9.99. I doubt we'll sell many at that price, if any.

S.J. Harris said...

You make some good points, Robert. I might have to reconsider my philosophy on pricing. Anyway, I'm just experimenting right now. I really wasn't selling many at $.99, but maybe I was too impatient. I'll probably try that price again soon.

Moses Siregar III said...

I have a conference call with my publisher this afternoon to discuss marketing ideas for Pocket-47. I'm going to suggest offering the ebook for $.99 initially in an effort to get on some bestsellers lists. We'll see if they go for it.

They're planning on pricing the ebook at $9.99. I doubt we'll sell many at that price, if any.


Jude, I'd see if they can release it for free for a few weeks or so (maybe a bit longer) and then move the price up to somewhere in the $2.99 - $4.99 range. JMO.

On the other topic, I'd pay $2.99 for a good, 50K-word novella, no problem.

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

@S.J. Harris

You make some good points, Robert. I might have to reconsider my philosophy on pricing. Anyway, I'm just experimenting right now. I really wasn't selling many at $.99, but maybe I was too impatient. I'll probably try that price again soon.

Here's my advice to you, which is probably worth what you paid for it.

1. Set your price for your first novella at $0.99, and keep it there. If you have DRM on it, republish it without DRM. You *want* people to copy your book, give it to friends, and so on.

2. Sit your butt in a chair and knock out the next two or three Kim Journey books as full length novels, at least 125,000 words each. Try hard to get a new Kim Journey novel published every three to four months. Price them them at $2.99 each, and publish them without DRM.

3. Have patience. You're a good writer, and your cover is good. Some authors will catch on very quickly, but most will see months of slow sales until they reach critical mass. If you're in the latter category, well that's going to be the norm.

4. Keep writing full-length Kim Journey novels and publishing them at $2.99 (or whatever the lowest price for the 70% royalty ends up being).

You may never reach Amanda Hocking's numbers. In fact, you probably won't. But there's no reason after a year or 18 months you shouldn't be selling several thousand books a month, if not more.

Carrie L. Lewis said...

Congratulations, Joe!

Your experiment prompts a question.

Why not start ebooks out at 99 cents? Is there a marketing benefit to starting high, then dropping the price as opposed to starting at a low price?

S.J. Harris said...

Thanks, Robert.

Isn't anything over 40K words considered a novel? That's what I've always heard.

And 125K is longer than most commercial thrillers. A bit too long, I think.

David Wisehart said...

Sit your butt in a chair and knock out the next two or three Kim Journey books as full length novels, at least 125,000 words each.

I disagree with this advice.

125,000 words is a long novel. Don't write long just for the sake of it. Every story should be as long as it needs to be, and with ebooks all story lengths are viable.

From a sales perspective, you're better off writing two 60,000-word novels than one 120,000-word novel.

David

David Wisehart said...

The List is now at #114, but last night I took a snapshot of it at #100 and posted it in the kindle boards thread:

http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,53036.msg926568.html#msg926568

David

Selena Kitt said...

So the 70% royalty program is rigged...

Somebody please explain to me how this is not going to eventually be very bad for authors.


Yes it is. I made much more at the 35% rate when I was on the Mobi feed and Amazon was discounting my books. (So did the Big 6... the idiots...)

But they don't do that anymore - they will only discount to price-match. So 70% is the best option. It's not a great one - they have indie authors over a barrel. We have to allow price matching AND lending at 70%.

BTW, SJ - most of my "novels" are around 50K and they sold for $5.99 for a long time. Since switching over from the Mobi feed, I dropped the prices to $3.99. Depending on who you ask, 50K and up is "novel" length. But opinions vary.

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

@S.J. Harris

Thanks, Robert.

Isn't anything over 40K words considered a novel? That's what I've always heard.

And 125K is longer than most commercial thrillers. A bit too long, I think.


Depends on genre and other factors. The SFFWA, for example, defines anything over 40,000 words as a novel. Others set the minimum word count to qualify as a novel in the 70,000 to 90,000 range. Years ago, I polled my many novelist friends about what they considered word count for a novel, and the consensus was about 70,000 to 75,000 words for a short novel, with anything less being a novella. They considered the break between a short novel and a full-length novel to be anything from 90,000 words up.

Readers tend to judge by page count, with anything under 300 pages commonly considered a short novel. That's fine for some genres, such as some mysteries, SF/fantasy, and so on, but in thrillers my gut reaction is that most readers are looking for longer works. If you look at what sells in thrillers, it tends to confirm that.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that you pad your new books with extra words just to make them longer, but 49,000 words is much too short for a mainstream thriller, IMO.

Geoff said...

Thanks for being out there on the front line running these numbers, Joe. You're really an inspiration, and that's not just lip service.

Can't wait to finish my stories and get them out there with yours.

Cheers.

Geoff

Kendall Swan said...

As a reader, 125k feels long to me. The story needs to be pretty good for me not to get bored and move on. I think the last one that kept me was last year's The Passage. But even that one had some slow parts.

Also, I have no prob paying 2.99 for a novella. And to me, novella length is probably 20-40k. If it's a good story, I'm happy for the cheap entertainment.

But regardless, form guidelines are becoming less stringent as story takes over as the main driver of length and price. With no printing/distribution costs driving length, it truly is whatever the story calls for. Which, as mentioned, does vary by genre.

M2c.

Happy writing, y'all!

Kendall Swan
NAKED Parent Teacher Conference

Tara Maya said...

When I was still querying agents, most of them had an upper limit of 120,000 words for a novel from a newbie--and this was in epic fantasy, which runs long.

This was a problem since my story was about 180,000 words for each book in a quartet.

Since I've gone indie, I've decided that it makes sense to break up each original book into installments of 50-000 to 70,000 words. I plan to price them at $4.99.

Last month I sold about 3 books a day, with the price at $.99. This month, I raised the book to $4.99 and dropped to sales of 2 books a day. I still made more money. The number of sales at $.99 doesn't seem to justify the lower price yet. I will try again in a couple months perhaps.

I would LOVE to offer my books for $.99, but I don't yet believe the "one price fits all genres" theory yet. Romance readers read differently than fantasy/sf readers.

My books do have a strong romance. If it turns out there's enough of a crossover appeal to garner gobs of the Hocking/Mayers crowd, then that might be a game changer for me.

I'm also considering lowering titles randomly to the lower price, to reward fans who on my list by letting them know in advance about the sale. I already have some enthusiastic readers who have written to me and I would love to thank them with surprises and discounts.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Douglas Dorow said...

@Jude good luck getting that ebook price down from $9.99. I agree it's gotta come down of you want to make some e-sales.

I've read the novel and you've told a good story, great cover and title. Just need to complete the equation with a price e-readers will be willing to pay to try a new writer.

I follow another guy on twitter whose published and wants to go to mass market with his paperback, buts been told he needs more sales. His publisher has his ebook priced at $9.99. He's frustrated, marketing his book without much publisher support and no control over price.

Let us know how your discussions go.

bowerbird said...

s.j. harris said:
> Now it's listed for $4.99.
> Not sure what the rationale
> behind discounting was...

amazon knows lots of tricks
that help it to sell books...

it will often do experiments
with different price-points,
and -- if things work well --
stick with the best numbers.

what is sad in your case here
is that, evidently, a lower price
did not stimulate enough sales.

that means that you will be
struggling with an uphill battle,
since lowering the price is
the easiest solution available
for a book which isn't moving.


> Joe and Blake are selling
> their 18,500 word novella
> for $2.99.

joe is a known commodity
to many kindle people...

you need to earn their trust
the same way that he did...


> $.99 is a ridiculous price
> for a book. If it gets to
> where that's all people
> are willing to pay, then
> there won't be any such thing
> as professional authors
> anymore.

you might be right, and we
will have to leave it to the
amateurs who are making
over a million dollars a year,
like joe and selena and
amanda and victorine and
many more who are hiding
because they don't want you
to know about their fortune.

-bowerbird

Julianne MacLean said...

Hey - your 99 cent book is now #99 in the Top 100 :)

Kendall Swan said...

#95 Woohoo!

Joe Konrath said...

Now if it can stay in the Top 100 until 5pm, when the weekend begins, I think I can really move a a lot of ebooks...

Jude Hardin said...

They wouldn't budge on the ebook price, Douglas. It's going to be $9.99.

Anonymous said...

sj & robert the bruce:

49K is absolutely novel length. Maybe a short novel, but soon even the 'short' label will disappear. Anyone who has followed the history of the novel will see that the length has been inflated over the past couple of decades simply because you need a heavy book to justify charging $27.99 for a hardcover. And although SF&F is not my genre, I just saw someone quoting one of the genre's heroes as saying 40k-55k is the ideal length for an SF book.

Like someone else just mentioned, we are selling stories, not words, and if you think a 50K novel cannot deliver a story as well as a 100K novel, then you haven't read enough fiction in your lifetime.

sj - if you think you have a lot of books in you, and you have the patience and the faith in your own work to believe that your readers will eventually find you, stick with your $4.99 price and just keeping writing your hard-hitting 50K novels.

- z

Robert said...

Okay, Joe. Just did my little bit to keep you in the Top 100. Look forward to reading "The List."

Walker Publishing said...

This has been supercool to watch!

Miriam Minger

S.J. Harris said...

Thank you, z. I dig your style.

Journey Into Darkness: A Kim Journey Thriller

Joe Konrath said...

The List is currently #90 in the Top 100.

But more interesting is the Top 100 Fiction category. This includes all fiction, including print. The List is currently #64, and apparently has been in the Top 100 Fiction for 3 days. I never even thought to look.

That means only 63 fiction titles on all of Amazon are selling better than I am. That's... staggering.

The Top 100 is filled with non fiction, periodicals, and games, so it's cool to see the fiction I'm keeping company with.

Guess what? There are a LOT of indies.

Legacy publishing needs to wake up. Fast.

Robert W. Walker said...

Novel length of 80,000 words at .99 cents, that is what my FLOATERS does. What does length have to do with anything in a virtual world? Two of my books, one my highest selling title priced at 2.99 is 160,000 wds. as it is 3 vols...count em, 1,2,3. The other lengthy novel is at 150,000 but it is two books (two totally different storylines alternating) and it is priced at 3.99 and still searching for its audience. Most of my titles are in the 80-90,000 range and are all set at 2.99. What will length in the long run determin of price or price of length? I can't say, but so far as I can see the link between them is determined by the Indie author with some sense, whereas with the publisher not so much sense.

I take it on faith there are those readers out there who really do not want a good book to end...thus I write long, a long-distance writer. My audience, what I shoot for, is the guy whose job keeps him bored out of his gourd, so he needs a book that is going to fill up his hours as well as fill up the space on his kindle.

My feeling is the author ought to have the freedom to say he wants his book, which he has worked on for YEARS, his most challenging and ambitious work available at a price anyone can afford--at the price of a Big Mac. Since it is of no consequence to the author that the length should dictate the price, it should not be a concern for anyone else in my humble opinion. If I were to charge by page...whoa, it would blow way past 24.99.

However it shakes out, I am experimenting same as Joe but with a novel running to the length of most NYC paperbacks, and that is a sales point I am using along with many other tactics to entice readers to try one of my best titles, not experimenting with one I feel less than spectacular about.

Kinda cool that my thread on Kindle Community has reached 4,200+ views now to remind me how viral this stuff can get.

Rob Walker
www.robertwalkerbooks.com

Moses Siregar III said...

Exciting times, Joe. Did you believe me a while back when I said you'd be making over a million a year?

Victor Redman said...

@S.J. Harris:

$.99 is a ridiculous price for a book. If it gets to where that's all people are willing to pay, then there won't be any such thing as professional authors anymore.

I wholly understand your line of thought there, -- I still feel it's no longer true, though, as it is based on old numbers and old rules.

Is your creative work worth more than a burger at the local fast food joint? Of Course, it is! A book isn't a burger, though. Once a burger is sold and eaten, it's gone. You need to make a new one. Your book will be on the virtual shelf for as long as you want it there, and will -- hopefully --continue to attract paying customers. Individual readers can't be expected to compensate authors *in full* for the time they spent writing a book. Writing in the modern age is, and has always been, a numbers game. The advent of e-publishing has simply upped the ante in that regard.

Yes, 99 cents does sound like a ridiculously low price for a book. However, e-publishing allows you to put your in front of an international audience of *millions* at little to no charge. That's a game changer right there, and one that *does* make it feasible to offer people a full-length novel for the price of $0.99. It can work. We've seen enough success stories to prove that point, IMHO.

Jude Hardin said...

Jude, I'd see if they can release it for free for a few weeks or so (maybe a bit longer) and then move the price up to somewhere in the $2.99 - $4.99 range. JMO.

No dice, Moses. They wouldn't even go for anything under $9.99. Go figure.

Pocket-47 Book Trailer

Robert said...

Right now, "The List" is at #74 among ALL Kindle ebooks, and #62 in Kindle fiction.

Merrill Heath said...

Here's what I go by...
Classification -- Typical word count
Novel -- 50,000+ words (200+ pgs)
Novella -- 20,000 to 50,000 words (80 - 200 pgs)
Novelette -- 7,500 to 20,000 words (30 - 80 pgs)
Short story -- 1,000 to 7,500 words (4 - 30 pgs)
Flash fiction -- under 1,000 words (>4 pgs)

But before I get too wrapped around the axle about word count vs price...I remind myself that The Old Man and the Sea is a novella. Does that mean it's only worth $.99? Not to me.

Merrill Heath
Alec Stover Mysteries

Laura B. Cooper said...

We have just started publishing our books, and we have struggled with this topic daily. On the one hand, bringing a product to market, especially for new authors, or new series, a low price point allows a greater exposure of your work. However, we started writing quality novels that are, at least we think so, quality work. I think long term, quality content is what we are all striving for. Sometimes you get what you pay for, and that is the only measure of quality most people will use.

Of course, my genre is not a genre in which i worry too much about it being a literary masterpiece. I do plan to migrate to more mainstream genres, and I want to know that quality work brings a quality price.

I agree with the person who said, let's not price our indie works down to zero.

We have chosen a price structure that is based on the quality of content.

We are bringing new series in at a price point, but only for a limited time.

Nevertheless, great thread!

Moses Siregar III said...

Btw, I think you made the right call with choosing The List for this promotion. Not including Shaken, I think that title has your best cover, by a mile. JMO, but I think if your other covers were at the level that The List is at, you'd be selling even more.

Jennifer Hudock said...

Interesting results on your experiment so far. I saw you mention it over on KindleBoards and have been peeking in to see where you stood with it all. I think it's particularly interesting that you are selling enough to even out the price difference. Hopefully it will stick and you can crack that top #100 at long last.

Jennifer Hudock said...

Interesting results on your experiment so far. I saw you mention it over on KindleBoards and have been peeking in to see where you stood with it all. I think it's particularly interesting that you are selling enough to even out the price difference. Hopefully it will stick and you can crack that top #100 at long last.

Robert said...

Oh, I just saw this: another reason for authors to think twice before accepting a traditional publishing contract:

HarperCollins has announced that new titles licensed from library ebook vendors will be permitted to circulate only 26 times, before their license expires. "While HarperCollins is the first major publisher to amend the terms of loan for its titles, two other members of the publishing "big six"—Macmillan and Simon & Schuster—still do not allow ebooks to be circulated in libraries, much to the consternation of librarians."

Nothing like limiting your potential market by making it difficult or impossible for all the many libraries out there to buy your books, eh?

Joe Konrath said...

Right now it's at #79.

Mission accomplished.

bowerbird said...

jude said:
> They wouldn't budge
> on the ebook price, Douglas.
> It's going to be $9.99.

that "free" editing you got
from them has just revealed
its (big) hidden price-tag...

-bowerbird

Chris said...

Joe I feel you owe me .99 cents after buying your book off dirty jokes and poems a couple days ago. Only thing of your I have bought that I didnt love. Actually I hated it and coulndnt bring myself to finish it. As for the list I want a sequel along with a sequel to Origin. Then I will forgive you for the book of jokes.

Chris

Jude Hardin said...

that "free" editing you got
from them has just revealed
its (big) hidden price-tag...


At $.99, or even $2.99, I might have a shot at some of the bestseller lists, and from there it's possible to build a fan base.

That was my rationale, but they wouldn't even consider it. Baffles the hell out of me.

Deadly by the Dozen

Pocket-47 Book Trailer

bowerbird said...

jude said:
> they wouldn't even consider it

i hope you will incorporate this
new-found knowledge into your
assessment of legacy publishers,
who you continually defended...

their system isn't all that it is
cracked up to be...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> What I've done here
> is the equivalent of
> putting turkey on sale
> for 19 cents a pound
> at the grocery store.

well, not really... not at all...

because the store still has to
pay for that turkey themselves.

and what they pay is probably
more than 19 cents a pound...

so they _lose_ money on every
single pound of turkey they sell.

that's why such a thing is called
"a loss leader" -- because they
actually take a loss on the item.

your "turkey" costs you nothing.
you pay zero cents per "pound".
(although you do have to pay
70% for the "shopping-bag".)

so anything you make is profit.
pure profit. _anything_ at all...

at a price of 19 cents a pound,
your profit is 6 cents a pound
(after the shopping-bag cost).

so yes, you might "lose money"
in the sense that you do not
make as much profit as you
could have, if you would have
sold the same amount of turkey
at a higher price, but in the end,
you're not _really_ losing money.

you have _more_ money in your
hand after each customer buys
than you had in-hand _before;_
that's _not_ true for the grocer.


> The sale brings people in,
> then they buy other items
> that aren't on sale.

i know this is how you _hope_
it'll work. and it may happen.

but even if that does not occur,
still examine your bottom-line.

it's quite easy. you made $1200
in the first half of february, with
a price-tag on the book of $2.99.

in the second half of february,
with a price of $.99, you made
_fill_in_the_blank_here_.

i will assume you made _more_
pure profit in the second half,
despite the fact that amazon is
ripping you off with a "royalty"
rate that is half of what it was
during the first half of february.

that's the power of a lower price.

oh, and by the way, you also
obtained that book a boatload
of new readers, which -- as a
_writer_ -- should make you
very happy. no, not because
"some of those readers might
generate more profit for me
in the future", but just because
your story wants to be heard...

_and_ you made more money.

and your book -- which had
already been out for 2 years,
and hit a sales "stability" --
is now on the bestseller lists.

that gives you higher visibility
as an artist, which is _nice_...
and again, joe, no, not because
you can "leverage" it into some
future sales, but just because
it is nice to get such recognition,
even if you don't seek it, or care.

(and you don't spoil any of my
logic even if you protest loudly
that you don't need validation.
the rest of the logic still holds.)

_and_ you made more money.

and the customers love $.99...
that's nice too.

_and_ you made more money.

have i mentioned that already?
because it's an important point.
it's actually the most vital point.
especially if profit is your object.

it's a win-win-win-win situation,
and it's all thanks to that $.99...

now if only amazon would stop
penalizing people for choosing
a price-point less than $2.99...

oh, and you want to know the
"secret" of selling your _other_
books, you know, the reason
why you put this book on sale?

very elementary.

price each one at $.99 as well...

preferably one at a time, so as
not to steal your own thunder.

-bowerbird

Frances Grimble said...

Speaking for myself as a writer, I don't have any desire whatever to acquire readers who are willing to pay little or nothing. I already have too many. They just borrow my books from the library and photocopy them. I derive zero gratification from this--quite the reverse. I don't care how much they butter me up. I don't believe anything they say if they are unwilling to back it with their wallets.

I've been self-publishing since before Amazon, and their reducing book prices more than I can afford to do has not increased my readership at all. I'm still selling the same number of books to the same people. Granted, I have never mounted a marketing campaign on Amazon's discounts.

I would ask, what's the effect of a big marketing/publicity push without reducing the book price at all? Because, the publicity itself is a major factor in the increase in sales. In a sense, the reduced price is a gimmick.

More comments: If you don't have an announced, limited time window for the reduced price you may not see nearly as big a spike in sales.

And, the more people who use the super-sale technique, the less effective it is likely to be. It'll become old hat, and that will devalue books even more than they are already devalued.

For all you non-writers out there, I will point out that the book not only has to be written, it has to be designed, laid out, proofread, often illustrated, often indexed, sometimes translated. All the people who do these tasks want up-front payment. Then, whoever publishes the book, even a self-publisher, has all the overhead of some sort of office, computer equipment, office supplies, occasional services from accountants and lawyers. In other words, book printers are not the only cost. I spend an average of two years on each of my books, during which time I have no other income but have to pay for my housing, groceries, and everything else.

So, no 99-cent book sales for me.

Frances Grimble said...

Oh yes--the readers who get my books without paying just tell others to get them without paying. Which also does me no good whatever.

Personally, I think these days, libraries hurt sales more than they help them.

B.J. Keeton said...

I am interested in price, too. I don't have anything up on Amazon yet, but I'm thinking about putting some short stories of varying lengths up and then collecting them all into one volume by the end of the year. I'd also have them posted for free on my blog.

Given the discussion over price, has anyone found a good price for short stories of any length? Or how many stories are best to put into a collection at what price?

Tara Maya said...

That book of jokes was the first book of Joe's I bought. Still brings a grin to my face.

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

Peter said...

Joe, I don't know if you have any control over this, but is the $0.99 price on The List U.S. only?

The reason I'm asking is, I just bought the Kindle version of The List from Amazon.com... for $2.99.

But I'm in Sweden.

Robin Sullivan said...

Bruce Robert Thompson said...
Newbie authors will have no choice but to sell most or all of their titles at $0.99, because that's going to be what people are willing to gamble on an unknown author.


Gah I hate hearing this!!

There are plenty of newbie authors that sell thousands of books, not at $0.99, not at $2.99 but at $4.99, $5.99, and even gasp $6.95.

The $0.99 price point is argued over more by authors than readers. There is a large enough population of readers who will pay $5 for an ebook that you don't have to drop your pants to find an auidience. If EVERYONE does it then it will be even harder to stand out from the crowd.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

bowerbird said...

robin said:
> There is a large enough
> population of readers who
> will pay $5 for an ebook
> that you don't have to
> drop your pants
> to find an auidience.

dropping your price is _not_
equal to dropping your pants.

joe dropped his price and he is
going to the top of the charts...

he's not losing any dignity.

he _is_ gaining lots of readers
_and_ a boost in his _profit_...

argue with that... go ahead...


> If EVERYONE does it
> then it will be
> even harder to
> stand out from the crowd.

i'm sure your $6.49 price will
"stand out from the crowd" fine
when everybody else is at $.99.

but the people who didn't take
an advance need to move units,
and that low price moves units.

_and_ makes 'em more money.

-bowerbird

Frances Grimble said...

Dropping the price does NOT automatically sell more units. I've been in business since before Amazon. When Amazon started to discount my books as much as 37%, at their own expense, I did not gain any increases in sales.

Most books simply do not have the capability of being bestsellers, whether because of an inherently limited audience for the subject or genre, keen competition in the market, flaws in quality, or other reasons. That's why most print books are not printed as cheap mass-market paperbacks with huge print runs to lower the print costs.

As for the comment that readers should not be expected to pay writers for the full costs of writing the book--most people, even if they enjoy their work, expect to be paid fairly for it and need to support themselves. Writers are no different. Writing is a profession and publishing is a business. And, reader appreciation means squat to my creditors. They require money--the money I make from writing and publishing my books.

I am happy this experiment has worked out for this author, at least in the short term. That does not guarantee that it will work for most other authors.

Finally, people are willing to pay for what they really value. I'm not insulted by readers being uinterested in my books, but I am insulted by their not wanting to pay but wanting the books anyway, even asserting I am somehow forced or obligated to produce them.

AuthorVStone said...

And there you have it, you've hit the bestseller list!

~Vanessa

Frances Grimble said...

Oh yes--there is a way to gain a high Amazon ranking, temporarily, without dropping the book price. It's even described in a couple of marketing books. I personally know several authors who have used it successfully.

Basically, it seems high activity on a low-activity book will boost your Amazon rank way up temporarily. What these authors did is ask their readers to concentrate purchases of a new book into a short time frame. A "buy within X time frame on X day and boost my Amazon rank" publicity campaign, mentioned everywhere on the net the author could find to mention it and hyped for days, if not weeks. These authors also asked all friends and relatives who planned to buy the book, to buy it from Amazon and at that time. In every case I know of, the book's ranking went way up--for a short time. These authors then released a press release saying their book had been on the Amazon bestseller list and used that statement in future marketing.

Everyone I know who did this, did it without lowering the book price. It's really just a publicity gimmick, but you can try it.

I first heard about this marketing method on the Yahoo self-publishing list:

http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/Self-Publishing/

It's free and anyone can join it.