Thursday, July 8, 2010

the "less is more" price argument from two perspectives

We're a week into Amazon's new author royalty rate program, and some interesting threads have popped up on the Kindle discussion boards. On one hand, you've got readers insisting they'll not be spending "so much money" (when did $2.99 become "so much" for a book? that alone tells you what the ebook revolution has done to the market) on an unknown author. (Incidentally, you've also got readers who insist that if a book is priced at 99 cents, the writing's got to be just as cheap. Which just goes to show you that you'll never be able to please everyone.) On the other hand, you've got readers and authors alike who think the raised price will also raise the credibility of these same unknown authors.

In other words, less is more.

This argument can be made from two points of view. In the first case, you've got "a lower price leads to more sales." Yes. Absolutely. This was my experience late last year and earlier this year. It certainly got my book into the hands (er, Kindles) of those who otherwise wouldn't have given me a chance. What's more, Amazon has been discounting certain 99-cent titles even further (I picked one up for 79 cents the other day!), and those authors have been seeing significant spikes in their sales.

And who wouldn't want to spend 99 cents or less on a book, especially when you've shelled out 250 bucks (or, more recently, 190) on your Kindle device to begin with? You want to use your Kindle. I certainly do. I'm a bargain-hunter for sure.

Ever since I raised my price, my sales and rankings have dropped a bit. However, my numbers were already steadily decreasing at the 99-cent price, and if I maintain my current numbers for the remainder of the month, I'll still make twice as much as I did last month. Hence, the second case of less is more. Less sales, more residuals.

This tells me that a) people are willing to pay more for my product, and b) as indie authors, we may be selling ourselves short.

It all comes down to intent. What do you want? Do you want readers, rankings, or royalties? Do you want all three? Which is most important to you at what stage of your publishing career?

My experience is that these three things varies. I debuted Faking It on Kindle at 1.99 a year ago, and while it had a decent start, sales dropped so drastically that I barely made $25 in royalties in 2 months. Following Stacey Cochran's lead, I lowered the price to 99 cents (and debuted Ordinary World at that price), and lo and behold, sales picked up.

You know the rest. Six months and some 40,000 downloads later, I got what I wanted: readers. And, subsequently, the royalties and rankings followed. And, as you know, I briefly returned the price to $1.99, but hastily changed back to 99 cents because my intent shifted from readers to rankings. I had a following. I had favorable reviews. But I wanted to stay high in the rankings, and the low price was doing that.

But, as sales (and rankings) started to decrease, the 99-cent price seemed to have lost its luster on me. I decided I wanted to put royalties first. The time was right. My work spoke for itself, and everyone else spoke on behalf of my work.

If you're reading this blog and you've written a novel, congratulations! From here on in, it's all about intent: Which publishing route will you take, and why? Will you seek an agent? Why or why not? If you self-publish, will you do so in print, electronically, or both? Why? How will you price your books, and why? Do you know your audience? If you've honed your craft and written/revised/edited the best book you could, if can answer those questions clearly, then the road map will appear before you. No one said the journey is a straight line, but at least you'll know which direction you're headed.


Anonymous said...

I'm a proponent of the "loss leader." I debuted by novel at .99 and it's paying off (literally and figuratively). That being said, I think that as more indie authors take advantage of the 2.99/70% royalty, that will become the default loss leader price, rather than .99. It's an interesting and exciting time to be a writer!

Elisa said...

RJ, agreed. It certainly paid off for me, and I don't knock either option, really. It's whatever works best for every author and matches his/her intentions.

And yes, it is exciting to be a writer these days with so many options at hand!

(heehee, my word verification is "trist"...)

David Wisehart said...

I recently repriced my novel from $.99 to $2.99. I'm selling fewer copies, but making more money. So far, I'm happy with the change.

Elisa said...

Me too, David. And even the drop in rankings isn't substantial enough to make me want to switch back.

notesfromnadir said...

J.A. Konrath has recently written about this subject. It seems that $2.99 is still about the price of your average cup of coffee & a lot less than what many mainstream publishers are pricing their ebooks at.

Elisa said...

Konrath's posts on the subject are fantastic. Indie authors need to take notes from him!

author Scott Nicholson said...

Sounds like a wise move--balance your happiness with the happiness of readers!

Scott Nicholson