Monday, March 12, 2012

My surprising experience with ebook pricing

For the past year or two there has been a lot of hype about how you have to price your ebooks low in order to gain readers. Make the book inexpensive and more people will give it a chance. I gotta say that didn't work for me. At all. I started my ebook adventure last May when I self-published my third novel, Blank Slate. I had two traditionally published books out at that point, but neither was available in ebook format. Since then--because I nagged my publisher about getting them out there--the first book is just recently available on Kindle, and oddly my second one is out for Nook. I don't understand publishers....

I'm going to share actual sales numbers, even though they aren't at all pretty. I'm never going to be Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking, but I think what I learned is applicable to all kinds of books--including those that are already selling way better than mine.

Anyway, when I released it, I priced my 85K word novel at $1.99 and sold a handful of books in May, June and July. I don't think I ever broke double digits those months, and then August through November I sold 3 or 4 per month. Understand, that if you price the ebook at less than 2.99, you only get a 35% royalty on the sales. When you reach $2.99 you start getting 70%, which means I was getting 70 cents per sale at $1.99. Before Christmas I decided to raise the price to take advantage of the Christmas sales bump everyone talked about, and so I could get the higher royalty amount of $2.10 per sale.

Indeed, there was a little bump. I sold twelve or thirteen books over the two weeks right after Christmas--and then I only sold two more in the next three weeks. Yeah, that was discouraging. 

During this three weeks I loaded my novella, Shear Luck to all ebook platforms for 99 cents. It got some face time on people's blogs since I launched it simultaneously with my fourth novel, which my publisher released in early January. In the same three weeks that I sold two copies of Blank Slate, I sold fifteen of Shear Luck.

During January I started reading blog comments from authors who said they had raised their prices and seen an increase in sales. I thought, heck, it can't get any worse, so I decided to play with prices. I raised them both $1 and did nothing else. I didn't post any links to them, I didn't talk about them online, I just bumped the prices a dollar.

Over the next three weeks I sold fifteen copies *each* for Blank Slate and Shear Luck at the higher price. Needless to say, I was shocked, and totally thrilled. I decided to try again, so I raised them bother another dollar.

In the past three weeks I sold twenty-five copies of Blank Slate, and nineteen of Shear Luck. Apparently this sales increase is related to people thinking that the book must be worth the higher price and worrying that if the book is priced too low, that there's something wrong with it.

I know, these aren't life-changing numbers, but I've done no publicity whatsoever--Blank Slate has been out for nine months. I'm basically making nothing on my traditionally published books by the time they've been out nine months, even if I killed myself to spread the word and do signings, giveaways, and presentations all over the place--and I've done plenty with my traditional books. And it's kind of fun to look at my sales numbers and calculate royalties, then look at BookScan numbers (for the paper sales of my traditionally published books) and realize that I made about the same, and sometimes *more* in royalties on my self published things without nearly as much time or wasted money for publicity. And that the royalties will continue to come in. (And yes, I know Bookscan only reports about 75% of sales, I compensated for that in my estimates.)

Now I can start tweaking things in the background like the back cover copy or putting a new cover on Blank Slate, getting a few more Amazon reviews, but put most of my focus on my upcoming projects because I'm a writer and--get this--writers write. We're not writers because we spend a thousand hours hawking our single book, we're writers because we're actively writing. I know, amazing isn't it, that I'd want to spend my time doing the thing I love instead of driving all over the state and hassling people about buying my books and posting reviews?

Now, back to writing. =)

8 comments:

Stephanie Black said...

Fascinating! Thanks for sharing this info.

Marsha Ward said...

I had the same sort of experience when I raised my prices, Heather. I didn't tell anyone, yet I had increased sales. Maybe it was the Sweet Saturday Samples I did every week, or maybe it wasn't, but for some reason, people were buying in bigger numbers with a higher price.

Thanks for sharing.

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen said...

I had the same experience with my chapter book. When I launched it, I thought it would be good to start out at .99. It sold a few, but not tons. I soon after raised it to the 2.99 price I originally intended to sell it at, and it's selling. I think you're deductions are right.

Nichole Giles said...

Yes, interesting. And nice to know you'll actually get paid, right? Plus, I think once you've established your quality as an author, that helps too. Or hopefully, it will in the future.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

I love the cover for Blank Slate. Why do you want to change it?

Thanks for sharing your ebook pricing experience. =)

Heather Justesen said...

Thanks for your feedback, ladies. This indie-publishing thing has been an interesting phenomenon, and really kind of fun.

Danyelle, there are at least two other books (that I know of ) by Utah authors with the same art. Maybe I won't change it, I've been in the air about it for a while now. =)

Penny Freeman said...

Hi, Heather. I know you're not actively promoting your books, but would you be interested in letting me review them? My blog's at http://amindwandering.blogspot.com if you want to check out my reviews.

Joan Sowards said...

This is valuable to all of us who toy with the idea of self-publishing ebooks. We can learn from your experience. Best wishes with your endeavors!