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Old 12-12-2010, 02:01 PM   #1
Robin Spano
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Post What's A Fair Price For a New Release Ebook?

I'm at war with my publisher. It's not a real war - as in, we both like each other a lot. But we disagree about how to price an ebook.

-------------------------
I've learned 2 things after posting this: 1: There's already a discussion thread about this same promotion/challenge that someone started several days ago. I'm thrilled that they did this, but I wouldn't have posted again if I'd known. I'll participate in both threads going forward.

2. This post probably belongs in the author promotion forum, rather than discussion threads. To me it's a discussion (I'm passionate about lowering ebook prices in general), but it's also surrounding the promotion of my book - so if I could go back in time, I'd post in the other forum. (And in lieu of time travel, I'll post this acknowledgement at the top of the post so you can discreetly click away if you'd like to!)
-------------------------

Anyway, the challenge:

My publisher has priced the electronic versions of mystery novel at $10.99 - which is the industry standard for new releases.

I think the industry should lower that standard. It costs less to produce and distribute ebooks, they don't sit around warehouses until they get sold or returned, and they can't be loaned out (you're effectively buying one read, not several). I think a fair price is $4.99. I think that's fair to the publisher, writer, and book-buyer.

So we've been running a challenge this week - it's a short experiment to see if a lower price leads to more sales - where the book has been $1.99 at Kobo, Kindle, and iTunes.

My publisher thinks there will be no effect on sales. They think if someone wants a book, they'll buy it as long as it's reasonably priced (you know, industry standard). They've run similar promotions with other books, and have seen zero increase in sales.

The idea is that if they're right - if sales stay static - I'll concede at the end of the week, and agree that their original pricing was fine. But if sales jump, they'll analyse it. Their eyes are open - they're a cool, small Canadian press who wants to hear what readers have to say. If sales jump enough, they might lower the permanent price - at least for a longer experiment time - to around that $5 mark.

My big lofty goal is to help reshape the industry toward lower ebook pricing. One person can't do this, but in times like this, where the industry is in flux, smaller voices like mine - when put together in chorus with readers and other writers - can be heard, and can effect change.

It's been interesting so far. Sales have jumped, but not skyrocketed. I don't have access to specific sales statistics, but I know the rankings have increased a lot - enough that I consider the point proven, but not so much that I'm sure my publisher will agree!

I've been guesting on book blogs - I learned about this forum in one of those comment sections - and a lot of readers are jumping into the discussion.

So why am I posting? Two reasons:

1. To spread the word about the challenge in its final hour (it ends at midnight tomorrow).

2. To hear feedback. I've heard that this is a great forum for discussion, and I'd love to hear other people's opinions about the question in the post's title: What is a fair price for a new release ebook?

RS

Last edited by Robin Spano; 12-12-2010 at 03:39 PM. Reason: new information learned after posting
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Old 12-12-2010, 02:09 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Spano View Post
... So why am I posting? ...
Guerrilla marketing?
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Old 12-12-2010, 02:12 PM   #3
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LOL. Yeah, but more like in the sense of guerrilla warfare. I would love to get as many people as possible together who are passionate about creating change in the industry.
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Old 12-12-2010, 02:35 PM   #4
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Hi Robin, glad to see you here. Sorry to hear that the sales do not appear to be what you had hoped. In some ways, it's to bad that the experiment was only for a week. I doubt they would want to run the experiment for a month instead, but that would have given more time for word of mouth to get around about the book.

It is a good test to see how many people that would have run across the book anyway would buy it. Unfortunately, if those people liked it and told others, it does not give a chance for a repeat of the cycle which might show more substantial growth. In fact, even if the price goes back up, if the additional people liked it enough and are able to pass that on to people they know there is a chance that there may still be some increase in sales for the next one to 3 weeks. It is hard to say, since I am no expert at marketing, but since it is an ebook and the people I know are not going to give up their electronic reader in order to allow me to read it (nor am I likely to do this) if someone strongly suggested it to me, I would certainty be likely to buy it (although I typically buy mass market paperbacks because of price unless I want to collect the book in question so I personally would not have been likely to pick it up at $10.99).

Anyway, good luck again. I am at work (I know, shame on me for reading forums at work) so I have not had a chance to read any of it yet.
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Old 12-12-2010, 02:39 PM   #5
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1) Aren't you skewing the stats by going around giving extra promotion to your e-book where you normally might not have at the $10.99 mark on the basis of its having an 80% discount?

This seems a bit unfair to your publishing company, since it essentially loads the data they get. Perhaps a better comparison would come a couple of weeks after this promotion has ended, and there was a quiet price drop with no formal announcement and relied on word of mouth for promotion on the book's actual reading merits, rather than just its cheapness this time around.

See how $10.99 sales after people had presumably read and talked about your $1.99 books stacked up against maybe a couple weeks' worth at the $4.99 you've been pushing for. They might be pleasantly surprised.

2) Someone else already showed up here last week and started a thread to push this exact same "experiment".

They never returned after their one and only post ever (abandoning MR approximately 2 minutes after said post, according to their profile), despite the fact that a fair amount of discussion and further questions regarding it all and their exact involvement with ensued.

3) Welcome to MobileRead! Always nice to have more Canadians around.

Please see the Author Self-Promotion forums for the guidelines on self-promotion here at MR, and there are some member location polls you might like to vote in, if you're so inclined.
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Old 12-12-2010, 02:46 PM   #6
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Hey thanks rwizard! It was you who brought me over here. It's totally an imperfect experiment - and they gave me less than a week's advance notice! My strong hope is that the results are decent enough that we can try $4.99 more long term (like for a month or even longer).

AT - Yeah, the promotion has to be taken into account, too - I think that's why the results might not be dramatic enough.

Tell me more about the $4.99 vs. $10.99 idea - it sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I understand it.

Someone already posted here???? Maybe it was one of my blog hosts. I know the blogosphere has been interested in this. I'll go try to find it. That sucks that they bailed on the forum.

Thanks for the self-promo guidelines. (And for saying it nicely!!) Maybe I should delete this post and go participate in the other thread that someone apparently already started on my behalf! Can you delete a post? Or is that unfair to forum etiquette?
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Old 12-12-2010, 03:00 PM   #7
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I think you've picked the worst week possible to try this. People are busy spending their money on gifts for others rather than on themselves. A week would also be too short to get any meaningful data.
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Old 12-12-2010, 03:16 PM   #8
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Don't delete. It wrecks the discussion context for anyone reading later and looks kind of like someone's abandoning ship when things don't go their way. If you like, you can edit your first post to include a mention and link to the previous discussion and answer any questions that have come up there as well.

I think the problem would be that the results from pushing the $1.99 price will be dramatic in terms of sudden boost, but won't be useful for demonstrating lasting effect for which you could argue permanently lowered pricing, which appears to be the point of your experiment in the first place.

As for the $4.99 vs $10.99 idea, I picked that number because you stated that $4.99 was your ideal price.

Basically, now that you've gotten a promo push from sales of your book at the $1.99 level and your publisher's taking it back to $10.99, wait a couple of months for people to read it and reviews to start appearing and such.

Then when you think you've got good word of mouth going, see if you can get the publisher to drop the price to $4.99 for a month or two, with no more than maybe a simple announcement on both their and your websites. No going around from blog to blog pushing it as an experiment this time.

I think that should give you a reasonably decent baseline for "sales at $10.99 price after the book is promoted and known and read and talked about" and "sales at $4.99 price after the book is promoted and known and talked about and interested people have had a chance to get it at $10.99 under your publisher's 'reasonable price' hypothesis".

If your sales are even moderately better at $4.99 without the extra push of you/maybe your blog hosts promoting a special time-limited discount price everywhere you go than for the same preceding period length at $10.99 and they also drop down when it goes back to $10.99 again after, then you could very reasonably argue to your publisher that $4.99 is the "sweet spot" at which they'll get a sales boost from a customer-appealing price point without dropping into "deep-discount fire-sale" territory like $1.99 is (because you'll get an automatic boost in sales for anything, if the price is low enough, but the effect won't last and will eventually saturate the market audience).

Hope I've explained this well enough and good luck convincing your publisher!
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Old 12-12-2010, 03:19 PM   #9
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Hey, that's SO smart. Thanks for your thoughtful advice. I like that. Leave it at his price to establish a baseline, then see if the lower price (for longer than one week, but minus any extra push) does sell more books.
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Old 12-12-2010, 03:31 PM   #10
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Sounds like an excellent idea.
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Old 12-12-2010, 04:38 PM   #11
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I'd agree that for your books $4.99 is a quite fair price and would likely help you build a readership.

$10.99 is closer to industry standard for well known authors who have an established customer base. At $10.99 you are competing with the likes of JD Robb, Evanovich, Nancy Martin, Emily Giffin and other well known "Chick Lit" type. You could have the best unkown book in the world but coming from a small/unknown publisher written by an unknown author those are battles for the sale you will lose almost every time.

My only other thought on the subject is where you write that author feels the lower prices "devalue" the book - which frankly sets my teeth on edge.
However I'd at the very least encourage you to point out that the price of your book is irrelevant because the value of your book is NOT the price tag that is put on it, rather it is the price people will be willing to pay for it.

And frankly, when there are thousands and thousands of books being listed daily that at $1.99, $2.99, $3.99, $4.99 - your book as already been devalued because your competition for readers are charging half to a third of your price. Your publisher is pricing you right out of the race in the eBook publishing world.

I'd suggest you start combing through some of the offerings from Berkley, St. Martin, Random House and the other big pubs and then ask your Publisher "So why would you expect customers to buy my book at $10.99 when they could have any of these at $6.99/$7.99?

Last edited by abookreader; 12-12-2010 at 04:46 PM.
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Old 12-12-2010, 04:47 PM   #12
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$4.99 is a really fair price. As a cheap bastard, I"d even settle to pay 6.99 or 7.99 for a new release. 9.99 isn't TOO bad, but it makes me very leery of buying a book I don't already absolutely need. Making it the price of a paperback would make it more likely people take a chance on your book.

On the flip side, if you make it too cheap off the bat (say. 1.99 or something) you run the risk of people thinking it's cheap FOR A REASON. Don't undervalue yourself. In my opinion aim for the 6.99-8.99 range. You'll make some money, you won't be considered a cheap author, and it's only a minor reduction in price that, if it works, could lead others to follow.
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Old 12-12-2010, 04:50 PM   #13
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Hey, thanks abookreader! Yeah, the devaluing argument seems funny to me, too. It's like they're saying, we value it at this price despite what buyers think. But I do like that my publisher is at least open to what buyers think - they're just as interested in the results of this experiment as I am - even though, like ATDrake has pointed out, it's not the perfect experiment.
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Old 12-12-2010, 04:53 PM   #14
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and MV 64 - also good point about making it too cheap - and creating the wrong impression, like that the book sucks!
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Old 12-12-2010, 05:00 PM   #15
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The first question is how much is a Rob Spano book. Have you established your ability to sell books at $10.99? If nit, then this isn't about ebook pricing

Lee
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