Archive for December, 2011

Amazon is reporting sales of at least 1 million Kindles per week.  Where are you at to get your book on those new devices?  CNET article here:


This question is difficult.  What do I price my ebook at so that it will sell?  I’m sure some math whiz could reduce the answer to probabilities, statistics, and formulas…but, that’s not me, so I did what I do best.  Trial and error.  I was the first one to jump out of the plane.  I swam in shark-infested waters for you.  I was the damn penguin!  Enough of the pity party–here’s what I found.  (As an aside, the following is all about pricing of ebooks.  I think pricing of paperbacks is much more nebulous, and gets into word count which I don’t want to fret about in this post).


Perhaps you’re about to release your first book, and you’re looking at authors selling copies of their ebooks for $7.99, $8.99, $9.99!  You put that price into your royalty calculator, and by God, you would earn a chunk of money  just by selling a thousand books.  You smile to yourself and say, “What’s so hard about this author gig?”  Wipe that smile away, mon frere.  If you price your book in that neighborhood, I GUAR-UN-TEE you’ll soon be looking at the bottom side of the 400,000’s in your sales rank.  You’re new, and even if you aren’t new, you probably aren’t well known enough to command those prices.  That gets me to our first rule:


People simply are not going to pay more than $3.99 for an ebook from an unknown author.  Shoot, even people that know you may hesitate to pay that much.  Why?  The biggest reason is that your universe, the universe of the unknown author, the independent author, the grinder (and make no mistake about it, I’m in there too) is very, very big.  And, what’s it full of?  Many, many books by other, similarly situated authors, at prices well below $3.99.  Supply and demand, Watson.

I know what the protest may be.  “$3.99 is nothing!  It’s less than a drink at a bar!  It’s less than a hot dog at a baseball game!”  I know.  I agree.  It’s mildly ridiculous.  However, it’s reality, and that trumps.  To prove this reality, I toyed with the price of my book over the course of several weeks.  From $0.99 to $3.99.  Anything over that was so clearly a graveyard even I dared not tread that ground.  I used a nifty Google Adwords coupon, and drove traffic to my book’s Amazon site.  The result?  A significant drop off in sales when priced at $3.99.  Probably a magnitude of around 100-200% less sales.  Why?  I’m no psychiatrist, but in addition to the universe argument set forth above, I think people start comparing your book to what they can get for $3.99.  They can get that latte.  They can rent a movie, or two.  They can buy used books for cheaper.

Still, I wasn’t quite persuaded.  I thought, maybe I don’t have enough reviews.  Or, maybe my Amazon page wasn’t luring enough people in to buy the book.  So, I went and took a look at the Amazon Top 100 lists, in conjunction with some successful authors I have come across on Twitter.  Lo and behold, all of their books were priced at $2.99 or below.  The vast majority of them were priced at $0.99.  Leads us to the second rule:


First, if you don’t know who John Locke is, Google is your friend (okay, one hint, add “author” to your search).  Second, that heading sounded like Darth Vader in my head–hope that puts it in perspective.  John Locke is the king of independent publishing.  John Locke sells all of his fiction for $0.99.  John Locke has one book with 469 reviews, which is flippin’ mind boggling.  He has reached a pinnacle of writing where his name is so well known that he could price his books higher, if he wanted to.  And, they would still sell.  Why hasn’t he?  No clue, but that’s irrelevant.  If John Locke prices his books at $0.99, where do you think you should price yours?

Depends on who you are, but definitely not higher than $3.99.  The answer also depends on what you want.  When my book was priced at $0.99, I had a month where I sold just about 150 copies.  All of a sudden, I had a moment of panic and said to myself, shit, what if 75 of those 150 don’t like it, and write bad reviews?  I wanted to turn the flow of water down a bit to see some of those reviews come through, and to continue to feel out the market for whether my book was well-received.  You may have other reasons to price your book above $0.99.  What if you have a $0.99 event coming up?  May want to keep that price at a normal list price until just before the event, so that the participants get a great deal.  This leads to my final rule:


I thank the damn stars every day that I’m able to control the price of my book.  If, for instance, Enemy in Blue had been traditionally published, that would not have been the case.  And, the book would have been priced much, much too high for a first-time author.  I also wouldn’t have had enough control to throttle sales up or down.  From one control freak to another–relish fact that you can change price whenever you want.

A couple of miscellaneous notes on pricing.  First, it seems that Amazon has gotten much better at changing prices in a timely fashion, after you make the change in KDP.  In Smashwords, it is instantaneous, which is brilliant.  In Amazon, what used to take 24-48 hours now takes less than 12, and sometimes less than that.  I tried one other thing that didn’t seem to work, at least not yet.  I priced my Amazon book at $2.99, and priced my book on Smashwords at $1.99.  I wanted Amazon to match the lower price, thereby displaying a percentage off of my list price.  The thought process is that people like to see they are getting a deal.  After about 5 days, Amazon still has not matched the price, so this doesn’t seem to be a reliable method of lowering the price of your book.

The conclusion?  Remember what universe you reside in, don’t price more than $3.99, and if you really want to expand your readership, $0.99 is your key.