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Old 10-23-2010, 03:34 PM   #1
markstani
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Pricing

Hi, I'm interested in what fellow authors and readers think about e-book pricing. I recently published a collection of short stories via Smashwords. My primary intention - based on the assumption that I was never going to earn enough royalties to make a living - was simply to get my work out there, perhaps build a little following to set things up for a bigger response to future, more significant works, ie a novel. I priced my book at a rather nominal USD2.99, but soon came to the conclusion that having a handful of extra dollars in my pocket was nothing compared to having no dollars but literally hundreds of extra readers. So I made it free and overnight, in terms of download statistics, it took off. I just wondered what others thought about this conundrum. Do too many of us fall for the illusion of short-term gain? Shouldn't we as authors be using e-books effectively to promote our talents, rather than simply to try to do a hard sell on them? I love that hundreds of people are reading my book. I'll happily sacrifice a few dollars for that.

Oh, since you asked: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/22744

"Porn stars and serial killers, Nazis and nymphomaniacs, hunchbacks and bare-knuckle boxers: just a few of the disparate cast of characters who call the remote moorland community of Fryupdale their home. These 18 short stories reveal the unflinching truths behind their lonely, sad and sometimes hilarious lives - and why the world beyond village limits will always seem so distant."

fryupdale.blogspot.com
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Old 10-23-2010, 05:23 PM   #2
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$2.99 is probably a reasonable price.

I think indie authors get too caught up in the number of downloads. Downloads are not readers. Especially when the download was free.

You can't "make it up in volume" when there is no positive dollar amount to multiply the volume against.

Long term sales are going to be more about your marketing efforts than your price.

-David
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Old 10-23-2010, 08:40 PM   #3
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This is a question self-published authors have been asking for a while. I've read two interesting points of view on it, one by JA Konrath, and the other by Moses Siregar. Both make very good points. In the end, it's something each author should decide, but both articles are well-worth reading.
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Old 10-24-2010, 05:06 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markstani View Post
Hi, I'm interested in what fellow authors and readers think about e-book pricing. I recently published a collection of short stories via Smashwords. My primary intention - based on the assumption that I was never going to earn enough royalties to make a living - was simply to get my work out there, perhaps build a little following to set things up for a bigger response to future, more significant works, ie a novel. I priced my book at a rather nominal USD2.99, but soon came to the conclusion that having a handful of extra dollars in my pocket was nothing compared to having no dollars but literally hundreds of extra readers. So I made it free and overnight, in terms of download statistics, it took off. I just wondered what others thought about this conundrum. Do too many of us fall for the illusion of short-term gain? Shouldn't we as authors be using e-books effectively to promote our talents, rather than simply to try to do a hard sell on them? I love that hundreds of people are reading my book. I'll happily sacrifice a few dollars for that.
How do you know that "hundreds of people are reading your book"? Hundreds of people may have downloaded it, but downloads certainly don't equate to readers.
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Old 10-24-2010, 05:38 AM   #5
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hundreds * $0.00 = $0.00.

sell it once at $2.99 and you'd be financially better off, and more certain of at least one reader?
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Old 10-24-2010, 05:43 AM   #6
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hundreds * $0.00 = $0.00.

sell it once at $2.99 and you'd be financially better off, and more certain of at least one reader?
I agree with Geoff. Making a free sample available, and then charging a moderate amount for your book will give you a far more accurate picture of whether or not people find your work worth reading. There are lots of people out there who will download anything "free", with no intention of ever reading it.
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Old 10-24-2010, 09:15 AM   #7
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don't agree

I don't agree at all. You're right that having 100 downloads doesn't mean you have 100 readers. But it almost certainly means you have more readers than the single reader who buys it for USD2.99.

Of course, if the book you've e-published is your big, once in a lifetime novel, you want some return on your investment, so I suppose USD2.99 from one guy is the best bet.

But if you plan on sticking around in the e-book game - perhaps if your big novel is yet to come; perhaps if you're serious about one day making a living out of it, then surely it's better to speculate to accumulate in the hope of attracting and establishing some kind of readership base, some kind of blog traffic, some kind of hype?

The idea that you can just arrive out of nowhere and plonk a book up on Smashwords or wherever and expect people to part with money for it is, I think, seriously flawed - irrespective of the quality of your book. Sure you could quote odd example - but not many.

I think along with the whole new e-book movement there ought to be a new way of thinking in terms of pricing and publicising. Perhaps future e-authors' royalties will come predominantly via traffic to their websites and advertising spin-offs etc - not, at any rate, through simple (e-) book sales.

Mark Staniforth
author, Fryupdale
via fryupdale.blogspot.com
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:32 AM   #8
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Well here is what a writer friend of mine did - he gave away chapter one and sold the rest of the book at a similar price point to you. He looked at the costs to him for selling the novel and found that it cost him a lot more to sell it in printed form then it did in electronic form. So he took the savings from the electronic form and split the savings with his customers, in other words his customers would get a 20% discount on the electronic book versus the printed book price. I think that your price is reasonable and will get a wider customer base then the over priced $10 paper backs these days. I refuse to pay that any more.
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Old 10-24-2010, 11:36 AM   #9
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I think you have to look at what else is available to readers and at what price. For example, if the reader can buy a commercially produced and professionally edited mass market paperback for $7, pricing your own self-published, e-only, not edited by a publisher book at anything over $4 (i.e. $7 minus $1.50 for the paper, minus $1.50 for the services a publisher provides which your book has not benefited from) will be a hard sell, I think. I certainly wouldn't pay that! $2-3 is about the sweet spot for a total self-publish by a newbie author.

What I have seen some people do is give away the first book to get a bit of a reputation, and then charge more in the $5 range for subsequent books. That is fair and I would pay that if I wanted the book.

I have been reviewing one Smashwords book a week for some time now, and fwiw I have only found 2 books so far that I felt were of commercial quality. One of them was a backlist republication by a commercial author so perhaps it does not count, and only one of them was an indie publish by a total newbie. Many of the others really did need one more pass by a proper editor in order to be ready for prime time.
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Old 10-24-2010, 01:00 PM   #10
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What I have seen some people do is give away the first book to get a bit of a reputation, and then charge more in the $5 range for subsequent books. That is fair and I would pay that if I wanted the book.
You can do that with your second book (and subsequent books), because then you're using your first book as a loss leader for the others.

When you have only one book, though, it can't be the loss leader for itself.

Which is why it's important for authors to be continually working on their next book (or collection of stories). Your best marketing move for your first book is the release of your second.

And in the meantime, while you get your second book ready, it makes more sense to *sell* your first book at a reasonable price instead of wasting the value of "Free!"

-David
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Old 10-24-2010, 01:17 PM   #11
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I don't agree at all. You're right that having 100 downloads doesn't mean you have 100 readers. But it almost certainly means you have more readers than the single reader who buys it for USD2.99.
It doesn't mean that at all. You can *hope* it means that, but 1 definite sale beats 100 downloads.

In the indie software arena (once known as "shareware"), which is where I've been making my living since 1999, a popular bit of data is the "1% conversion rate". That is, 1 out 100 downloads of the free trial version of the software results in a sale. It's not entirely accurate (some people do better than 1%, most do much worse), but it's a good rule of thumb. If you want one sale, you need 100 downloads of your trial version.

But what you're talking about isn't even "try before you buy" situation. You're just giving the book away. In which case, no amount of downloads equals any amount of sales.


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Originally Posted by markstani View Post
But if you plan on sticking around in the e-book game - perhaps if your big novel is yet to come; perhaps if you're serious about one day making a living out of it, then surely it's better to speculate to accumulate in the hope of attracting and establishing some kind of readership base, some kind of blog traffic, some kind of hype?
If you're planning to make a living off of writing, then you're not pinning your hopes on one book. You're working on your next book, with plans to do a book after that, and then another, and so on. Each book builds on the audience of the previous book and you end up with a sum that is greater than the parts.

In that case, if you want to give away your first book, go for it. Don't let anything I say or anyone else says stop you. Just don't count downloads as readers. That's wishful/hopeful thinking. I would look for feedback from readers as the metric. Actual emails or people leaving comments on your blog or FB page. That sort of thing.


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The idea that you can just arrive out of nowhere and plonk a book up on Smashwords or wherever and expect people to part with money for it is, I think, seriously flawed - irrespective of the quality of your book. Sure you could quote odd example - but not many.
The quality of the book is the main point, I think, combined with your efforts at promoting the book (beyond making it free), accumulating reviews, and then writing the next book (and the next).

People will pay for something they enjoy. That is not in question.

-David
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Old 10-24-2010, 03:00 PM   #12
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Pick out a couple of short stories and release them individually for free with a note at the end that others are available for a limited time at $2.99. For a long book, write a short standalone story featuring some of the characters and release that for free with a similar note at the end.

As others have said, a lot of people will download something if it is free and then forget all about it. But a very small minority of them will read it, especially if it is short, and they are the only people who will ever buy your full price book.

Another thing you might be able to do is team up with other short story writers working in the same genre and put out a bumper collection for free. That way you will all be sharing each other's readers, and you might all pick up a few new ones.
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Old 10-25-2010, 05:04 AM   #13
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I kind of agree with the OP. I'd rather have people reading my work than be making money out of it -- if I had to choose. That said, I intend to price the young adult novel I am now editing at $0.99 - $2.99.

I don't suppose I've gained any huge readership by having the titles in my signature offered for free. They're not that good. Though I do know that people have read them, because I've received feedback.
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Old 10-29-2010, 05:50 PM   #14
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How do you know that "hundreds of people are reading your book"? Hundreds of people may have downloaded it, but downloads certainly don't equate to readers.
I have discovered this. I gave away my short stories for free to build up a readership, several thousand people downloaded each one. I put my book online and in about the same amount of time the first thousand took to download two of the short stories about 44 people have downloaded the sample and 4 people have downloaded it for free; one was a reviewer and the other three were troops on active service - I did operation e-book drop. I didn't use feedbooks though, and I probably should have put my teaser excerpt on there, with links... and on amazon directly, maybe, rather than through smashwords!

I did wonder but even with my no-time, slow burn strategy, I thought I'd sell a few more... correction some e-books. Just goes to show, hey.

The thing is, I was tempted to give away my novel for free but if I do that, I'll never know if I have any real readers. The first third is kind of a story, in itself, so I'm giving that away and if people want to read more, they can. Interestingly all the reviews so far have been rave. Two, Amazon and Smashwords, both five stars. It's my first book though, so we'll see...

cheers

MTM

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Old 10-29-2010, 06:14 PM   #15
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I have just discovered this forum and this is the first thread which I have read. Wow! I loved the responses and found them really helpful.

I am also a new author, about to hit publish on my first novella. I have been trying to make a pricing decision for several days and decided to use my blog to conduct a poll.

The question which I asked my readers was, "What would you charge for Henry Wood on Kindle?"

Note: I wrote the novella as a serial, so most of my readers have read it.

Here are the results:

Price Votes Value
$0.99 63 $31.53
$2.99 7 $58.60
$3.20 2 $47.04
$3.99 6 $53.07
$4.99 9 $45.41
$5.99 4 $16.77

The value column calculates the net profit, assuming that those who voted for a higher price, would also pay a lower price. This is not a scientific poll, by any means, but it does help me know that the best price, for me, and my audience is $2.99. I should note that if the next 8 votes come in for $3.99, then it would shift the profit in that price point's favor.

This data has been helpful to me. I don't know if it is valuable to anyone else, but I hope so.

Thanks,

ExtremelyAvg

Last edited by ExtremelyAvg; 10-29-2010 at 06:15 PM. Reason: typo
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