Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Amazon's new royalty rate means to me

Amazon's 70% royalty rate for indie authors is kicking in w/in the next couple of days (provided the book is priced no lower than $2.99), and after much hemming and hawing, I've decided to opt in on it.

You may recall earlier in March, when I changed my price from 99 cents to a buck-99, my rankings especially took a hit (and kept falling, albeit gradually). In hindsight, I was either too hasty in raising the price, or too hasty changing it back to 99 cents after less than a week (because the sales units weren't that bad once I saw them on the spreadsheet)--I can't tell. I suppose the more accurate, technical description of my response is that I freaked out a little. But in the last couple of months, I've grown disenchanted w/ the 99-cent price-point; and yet, I was still reluctant to change, fearful of another plummet in the rankings. As of an hour ago, I was hovering around #450 for Faking It and #1200 for Ordinary World-- not bad, considering there are currently over a half-million books in the Kindle Store. Kindle Store rankings seem to be the equivalent of location, location, location in a brick-&-mortar store.

Prices usually go down, not up, after a product has been on the shelf for some time. Certainly this new strategy does not conform to the norm. How will customers respond? Besides, Kindle readers typically don't want to invest more than 1.99 on an indie/unknown author. Will a reader who's not heard of me be willing to take spend the extra two bucks? Would I?

On the other hand, I've read discussion threads in which readers automatically assume that the writing (i.e. content) of 99-cent books is just as cheap as the price, and won't go near them for that very reason. I have no doubt that I wouldn't have sold as many units as I did had it not been for the 99-cent price-point, but I'm sure I lost sales as well.

Which leads me to the deciding factor: value.

I ultimately chose to raise the price because I believe my book is worth more. When I originally set my price, I put readers before royalties, and I achieved my goal of establishing a readership and good reviews. 65% of reader reviews for Faking It are 5-star. To date, I've sold approx 50,000 Kindle units of Faking It and Ordinary World combined. Faking It peaked at #6 on the best-seller list, Ordinary World at #35. All phenomenal accomplishments. The market has spoken: these books have value.

Of course, all books have value. I don't mean to imply that my book is worth more than another indie author's simply because it ranked higher or sold more. But, as I said, I achieved my goal. 99 cents no longer works for me. I'm now willing to take the risk and lose my place in the rankings in exchange for perceived credibility. Note the word choice. Indie authors who price their books so low are already credible. I was already credible. But the 2.99 minimum is a good thing for indie authors, I believe. And while I think Kindle owners will be reluctant to jump on board at first, they'll come around when it becomes the norm. I'm already noticing that many traditionally published Kindle books (including best-sellers) are priced higher than $9.99, and I remember how many Kindle owners were refusing to pay more than that for an ebook.

And, as for the royalty increase, I won't know how that pans out until I get my July statement. Maybe I'll make more by selling less. Maybe the past two months I made less while selling more. Maybe I'll break even. We'll see.

One thing is for sure: this is one more incentive for authors to seriously consider self-publishing. If they've got a book that is well written and edited, with a professional cover, then they have a chance at making more than they ever could w/ a traditional publisher or literary agent. And it's one more shift in the publishing paradigm that I suspect the Big 5 publishers (are there even that many?) have yet to negotiate for themselves.

(P.S. As of the time of this writing, the price change hasn't gone through, and my books are still 99-cents--get 'em while you can!)


Debbi said...

I've been toying with the notion of raising the price of my book, too. I also raised mine to a $1.99 a couple of months ago and saw my rank drop. A month and a half later, I dropped the price again. Now my rank has been restored.

I agree with you about the positive effect the $2.99 minimum will have on value. I've been concerned that ebooks are being valued without regard to the inherent value of their content.

I actually wrote about this issue here:

I'll be interested to see how readers react to the price hike. I'm crossing my fingers for you. And all of us. :)

Elisa said...

Thanks, Debbi. I just read your post and left a comment -- excellent job!

Here's hopin'... :)

Anonymous said...

I thought your book was underpriced.Even if you are uknown your book shouldn't be underpriced. Most books on Amazon that I pick seem to be 5.99 or above. When I saw how low your book was I honestly couldn't believe it. In my opinion I would go off of ratings when deciding a price. If most readers liked my book I'd change my price based on rankings. I usually will pick a book if the ratings are decent..price be danged. Just wanted you to know that from a buyer's standpoint. And after reading the Faking it book being that the book was so great, I would up the Ordinary World book up about a dollar. Keep up the good work! :)