Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Guest Post by Victorine Lieske

Today's guest post is an interesting one, because it contradicts some of the things I constantly preach about.

But it's damn hard to argue with success, and Victorine Lieske is certainly successful.

I'll let here tell her story, then pop in for comments at the end. Here's Victorine:

My Publishing Journey
by Victorine Lieske

It all began in the summer of 2009. I had written a novel that I felt was good, and had put it through a critique website twice, getting a great response. I was fairly confident in the book. However, I wasn’t sure that traditional publishing was for me. I had done my research. I knew the odds were slim for getting an agent, and even slimmer to sell the book to a publisher. I knew what to expect as a typical advance for a first time author, and understood that the book would likely be on the shelf for a few months before going out of print. But I had also heard self-published books sold very few copies and I didn’t like that any better. So I typed up a query email and sent it to eight literary agents.

The first email I got back made my heart pound. An agent read my query and sent me a response. I held my breath and opened it: a rejection. Relief flooded through me. What? Relief? At that moment I realized I didn’t want to get an agent. I didn’t want to spend my advance traveling and doing book signings. I didn’t have time to travel with four kids and a business. I just wanted people to read and enjoy my book.

I stopped sending out queries. One other rejection came, and the rest never responded. The book had been sitting on my hard drive for a while when I found out I could upload it to Lulu where they would sell it as an ebook. All I needed was a cover design. Great! I uploaded the book and told everyone I knew. I sold three books in six months, two of them to friends.

I had just about given up hope when I stumbled upon this blog and read about Joe’s success selling on the Kindle. (I confess I hadn’t even heard of the Kindle before reading about it here.) This excited me, and the best part was I could upload it for free. With the current economy and our business suffering like every other business, free was just the right price for me.

Before I uploaded the book, I read as many of Joe’s blog posts as I could to gather information on how to do it right. I learned the importance of good formatting, a low price, and marketing. When I felt ready, I signed up for an account with Amazon and uploaded the book. That was the middle of April, 2010.

I priced my book at $1.99 and began socializing with the wonderful people over on Kindleboards.com. When sales were slow I realized my cover design needed work, which was embarrassing because I have an associate’s degree in graphic design. I played around with it until I came up with something that I felt was eye-catching and represented my genre well.

It took a while for sales to build, I didn’t have instant success. But I tried every marketing idea that I found on Kindleboards, and by the end of June, I had sold 614 books. With the royalty change in July, I raised my price to $2.99. I had been selling an average of 20 books a day the week before I raised my price, and that fell to an average of 9 per day. Then it fell again to 7 per day. By the end of July I was selling around 5 books a day.

I left my price at $2.99 through August, and sales slowed even more. I was selling around 3 books a day. I marketed my book heavily, and in September I was featured on Dailycheapreads.com and had a Kindle Nation Daily free short. On those days sales spiked, but after that they slowed back down.

The only thing I hadn’t tried was lowering my price. I took a hard look at the most successful indies, and realized they all had at least one book priced at 99 cents. What the heck. I was only selling 3 books a day, so to break even I needed to sell 17 books a day at 99 cents. I lowered my price near the end of September and announced the sale price.

Sales took off right away; I’m sure because I had been marketing it heavily. I began selling 35-40 books a day, much more than the 17 I needed to keep earning the $200 a month I was seeing. After sales kept steady through all of October, I called my experiment a success and decided to leave the price at 99 cents. I mean, I was earning more money than I had, and reaching more readers. Why not leave it?

Then something unexpected happened. In November my sales increased. Instead of hanging around 550 in rank, I climbed up to around 350. I stayed there all through November, and saw a huge increase in UK sales as well.

December brought another climb in rank, the same 200 positions as last time, and I stayed around 150 the entire month. This meant I was selling quite well, over 100 sales each day, and some days over 200. Christmas sales exploded and I ended December with a little over 11,000 sales.

January brought another climb in rank, this time around 100 spots to hang round 45 to 50. I was now in the top 100! I was selling about 600 books a day, and amazed that new people were finding my book, with very little marketing on my part. The only way I can explain it: Amazon recommended my book to hundreds of people each day. It’s certainly nothing I did.

I sold over 21,000 books in January. That means I earned over $7,300 in January alone. I am actually earning real money on one 99 cent novel. I hadn’t expected that. I figured I would “give” away my first book in order to get people to try me, and then go on to purchase my next novel at a higher price. I never thought I would earn thousands of dollars each month on one book. It boggles my mind.

In total, I’ve sold over 51,000 books and have earned over $18,000. I doubt I could have gotten that kind of an advance on a single romantic suspense novel.

I’m finishing up my next book. I plan to release it at $2.99. If I can sell half as many of the new book and keep up sales of Not What She Seems, I’ll be earning $27,000 per month for two books! Even if sales slow to half, I can definitely live on $162,000 a year.

On a side note, I have been contacted by Tuttle-Mori in Thailand for foreign rights. I doubt I would have been noticed had I kept my $2.99 price and sat at 3 sales a day.

What’s my suggestion for other indie authors? Price at least one novel at 99 cents and leave it there at least two to three months. Even if you lose money at first, the better rank and more readers could propel you to huge sales and more readers for your higher priced novels.

Joe sez: First of all, Lieske's cover is one of the best I've ever seen. Deceptively simple, it both intrigues and conveys an entire story using just two stock images and a catchy title.

I haven't read the book yet, but my wife loved it, and she's a real tough one to please.

The product description, in my opinion, needs to be tweaked. But Not What She Seems has been in the Top 100 for the last 46 days, so apparently the description isn't hurting sales.

I constantly preach about low prices, and 99 cents is as low as it gets. This low price hasn't seemed to hurt Lieske either--she's on her way to earning a very nice annual income on a single ebook.

So far, Vicki has done everything I've preached about. But the thing that surprises me is the fact she's been so successful with only one book available. I've droned on endlessly about the importance of taking up as much virtual shelf-space as possible. Lieske has shown, in her case, this isn't necessary. It's entirely possible to sell very well without having a big backlist.

Naturally, this brings up a lot of questions, which I'll list here.

Q: Though she's selling a lot of ebooks, isn't she losing money by pricing it so low?

A: That's an impossible fact to prove. Unless we can split into parallel universes and keep track of 99 cents vs. $2.99, it's all just guesswork. But we can take some things into account.

1) 99 cents sells more than $2.99 in the majority of cases. I've seen many people whose ebooks began selling six times as many (the number need to keep the profits equal) just by going to 99 cents.

2) Raising the price means fewer sales int he majority of cases. One example is Sam Torode. His book cracked the Top 100 at 99 cents, he raised the price to $2.99, it fell out of the Top 100, he changed it back to 99 cents, and it is currently at #174. I haven't talked to Torode lately, so I don't know his reasoning behind changing his prices, but if I took a guess it would be he dropped the price to keep the sales momentum going.

3) I'm guessing (and it is only a guess) that the visibility of having a Top 100 bestselling ebook more than makes up for the lower royalty rate, at least int he short term. But what about the long term?

Q: Since it's selling so many copies, won't it reach a saturation point?

A: That's what I would have thought. But people are still buying Kindles, and those who already have Kindles are always looking for ebooks. Until Lieske sells 20 million copies of her ebook, she isn't close to saturating this market.

Q: How did this ebook catch on if Lieske is a complete unknown and has no other titles?

A: Luck. That's how all books catch on.

There are things that help maximize odds, like writing a good book with a good cover at a low price, and having lots of books available. But ultimately random chance will dictate what sells.

In Vicki's case, it took seven months before she really started selling well. So what looks like instant success actually took a long time to build. And once a body is in motion, it tends to stay in motion. Success begets success.

Q: Should Lieske try raising her price?

A: If it were me, I wouldn't do it. Why mess around with something that works? Instead, I'd be working my butt off, writing my next book. Or, at the very least, a short story. Anything to capitalize on the current wave of sales.

Q: Isn't 99 cents devaluing a novel?

A: No. The value of a book is how much of a profit it earns, not its cover price. If you can sell more units at a lower price, your ebook has a bigger value than it would at a higher price.

Q: Aren't low ebook prices just a race to the bottom?

A: The laws of supply and demand don't work with ebooks, because the supply is infinite, the availability is infinite, and the demand isn't close to saturating the market.

I don't know of any economic model that can predict what happens in a situation like this. The closest one I can think of is file sharing. Piracy has proven there a world market for media, and that market is insatiable. Piracy sites continue to be some of the most-visited on the net, and at any give time there are millions of files being shared.

This tells me that there will always be a demand for digital media.

The way to combat piracy is with cost and convenience. This tells me that low priced ebooks will continue to sell well, and that prices across the board will probably drop.

But I don't believe they'll drop so low that a writer won't be able to make a good living. Especially if that writer keeps writing.

If I release a novel a year, and price it at 99 cents, and sell 15,000 copies, thats $5250--which is still more than the average debut novelist gets from the traditional publishing world.

Ten novels at that price, selling at that rate, is better than the average income in the US.

But until EVERY Kindle Top 100 bestseller is 99 cents, I think there's room for slightly higher priced ebooks.

TRAPPED, my current bestselling ebook, is priced at $2.99. It has earned $13,700 in the last six weeks. People obviously aren't balking at $2.99.

Q: Do you ever think about lowering the price of Trapped to 99 cents?

A: I do. I also think about raising the price to $3.99. But for now, like Vicki, I'm abiding by the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" rule.

That said, I think I am going to try to price one of my novels at 99 cents, just to see what happens. I'll do an update here when it goes live, and share my numbers.

Added several hours later:

So here's what I did.

I lowered the price of my ebook, THE LIST, from $2.99 to 99 cents, for the remainder of February.

As of 2/15/2011 7:30pm, The List has sold 592 copies sold on Kindle this month. That has earned me about $1200.

Here are its current Amazon rankings:

#1,078 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery & Thrillers > Police Procedurals

in Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Police Procedurals

in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Action & Adventure

I'm going to tweet about the price drop, once a day, for the next few days.

I'll announce the price drop on Kindleboards.

Then I'll watch and wait to see what happens.

If I sell an equal number of copies at 99 cents as I did this month at $2.99, I'll earn around $200. That means, at most, I'll lose about $1000 on this experiment.

Now, I expect to sell more copies, so the loss will be smaller than that. If I do wind up selling six times what I did in the first half of the month (3552 copies) then I'll break even.

In all honesty, I don't expect to sell 6x as many. But that isn't the main point of this experiment.

The main reason I'm doing this is to snag new readers who wouldn't have bought it or noticed me otherwise. Besides tracking THE LIST, I'm also going to be watching my sales numbers on 17 of my other ebooks. If their sales go up, it's a pretty good indicator that people who bought THE LIST went and tried some of my other ebooks.

I'm guessing that I'll see a spike, but I don't know to what degree. At the end of February, I'll have a lot of figures to analyze. If I break even overall, or even make a bit extra, then this might be a good case for occasionally putting ebooks on sale. That's the retail model, so it will be interesting to see if it translates to Kindle readers.


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Joe Konrath said...

I may not have proof but all I need to do is look at other industries and see how they crumbled under the 99 cent load.

Show me proof.

You mentioned the mobile games industry has imploded, and yet there are more games available than every before. And they're available at reasonable prices.

In the early 1980s, there was an implosion in the home video game market. The result? A several year gap in sales until Nintendo NES came around.

I see no gap in music sales, app sales, game sales, or movie sales. In fact, all of these medias are thriving.

Show me how 99 cents ruins industries.

Eugene said...

Most books (movies) I'll read (watch) only once. A CD I listen to only once is a waste of money. Hence the proliferation of MP3 singles. The market has priced a single music track at $.99. Listen to it sixty times and that's two to three hours of entertainment for a buck.

Or about what I'd expect from the typical novel.

When I was growing up, any purchased or gifted book was widely shared, and often ended up donated to the local library. The library, in turn, regularly cleared its shelves of worn and unread books for pennies on the dollar. So the per-read price again ended up around a buck (or less).

I think Dean Smith is onto something when he argues that the last half-century was a publishing aberration, and the ebook is taking us back to the future.

Robin Sullivan said...

Joe, I have read all entries of your blog from the beginning - (did that some time ago as well as going through the book that has a bunch of them in it). That's how I now you did the library and bookstore tours.

As for real life experience. I'm not some young doe-eyed person who is just dipping my toes. I've been a successful business person for years.

1 - was born poor and put myself through Engineering College earing a BSEE top 3 in my class - worked 60 hours a week while taking 25 credit hours and maintained a 3.87 GPA.

2 - Started as a grunt programmer and became president of the software company and drove its sales to 5 Million and 35 employees

3 - Started my own advertising agency and grew it to 150+ high tech companies

4 - Started my own publihsing company and have been profitable every month of operation

5 - Have promoted my husband's books such that he now makes $30,000 to $40,000 a month

6 - Closed on 4 foreign rights deals and am considering a US big-six contract.

Was I lucky?? Nope I'm intelligent, hard working, and did't let obsticles keep me down.

As to the authors you are talking about...I would assume that most (if not all are traditionally published?) If that's true then they have received some degree of success by the mere fact that they made it through the gatekeeper process that only a fraction of people can get through. Maybe their works didn't sell at the levels they wanted to - but it is that a fault of "the system"...if so go around the system.

If it did not work for them...then why are they not doing what we are doing...if they are and just haven't "hit" yet - my prediction is they will - if they keep at it and don't give up. (and of course they are talented and skilled)

As far as efficiency goes, there isn't a single more important thing a writer can do for his career than befriend a motivated bookseller. Websites and blogs don't sell books. People do.

That is an matter of opinion - "in person" can only do so much - In the same number of "hours" I can reach many more people online then you can in person. Do you deny you reach more people now with your blog then you ever did face to face? Electronic means ARE more effienent and there are many places like GoodReads where a small amount of time spent can reap many many sales.

Michael has done signings - (his first publisher set up 30-40. And yes it is not a fun experience. But we sold out because we "worked hard". Stayed extra hours until they were gone - had store managers love the enthusism etc. It is because of these experiences that I'm convinced that the electronic means are more efficient then the bookstore face-to-face.

I know you think I'm inexperienced and you are wizened but you really don't know enough about my life and background to be able to know that.

The funny thing is...I think that we can both agree you are a success. I look at what made you the success and I see that you prove my point by persistence, marketing, talent, skill, etc. Yet you look at yourself and say ... hey I was just lucky? I really don't see why you want to begrudge your accomplishments so.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Tara Maya said...

I have no problem with the $.99 price point if it earns the author more money. I don't believe in a book has an extrinsic price that equals its "value."

But I'd also like to point out that we have no proof Victorine's book took off just because of the price change. That may simply have been correlation, not causation. (The same may be true of Joe's book, if Amazon just sent out an ad. In my case, I'd been planning to buy it and the reminder, plus the sense it was "on sale" moved me to buy it.)

The key element may not have been price, but time+exposure. She has only one book out, so the necessary time to create more exposure was longer. The lower price probably helped reduce the time needed, but still, another few months or a year, and the book still might have started to sell better at the higher price.

The problem with a lot of these experiements is that to many factors are changing all the time to isolate the biggest one.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Moses Siregar III said...

the "welfare of the collective"
is _not_ served by higher price.

it's the opposite: lower price is
a rising tide lifting all the boats
of the writers and the readers...

I don't think so. Lower price (99 cents) is going to help some authors break out, but driving the collectively expected price for a novel down to 99 cents (to be followed by free ebooks with ads?) wouldn't be good for authors, collectively.

I'm not overly concerned about this, though. I think it's clearly a bad thing (JMO) for the publishing industry and indie authors as a collective entity, but I intend to write the best books I can and if people won't pay $3.99 (or $2.99 or $4.99--I'm not sure) for what I write, then I'll find another industry to tell stories in. I think it'll be a long time before people won't spend $3 or $5 for an author they like. I'm want to try to build a following over time.

I'm not opposed to 99 cents as a pure capitalist, though. If 99 cents makes you the most money, then obviously you should do it.

I don't think everyone is going to go to 99 cents, though. For one, it simply won't work as well when so many more people are trying it. It will be much harder to stay in the top 100 and get that Lieske effect. Many authors are going to come to the same conclusion they already are: Even though they sell more copies at 99 cents, they make more money at $2.99+. Even today, that's true for so many indie authors who have already tested 99 cents and found that it didn't work for them.

But I think having at least one title at 99 cents makes sense for many authors.

Moses Siregar III said...

Here's another thing about moving a novel to 99 cents. If you just drop an ebook to 99 cents, you'll probably sell more copies (but not necessarily make more money on that title) and sell more of your backlist, too.

But if you do what Vicki did a while back and what Joe just did, which is to advertise the price drop as a temporary sale, then you'll get a lot more sales than if you'd just dropped it to 99 cents and not told anyone.

So Joe's current experiment with 99 cents has to be seen in that light. He's got a big platform and he's telling everyone he's dropped his price to 99 cents for the rest of February. He's going to do a lot better with that 99 cent promotion than the average writer. Your mileage will vary.

Victorine said...

"A few times in the blog Vic mentions that she "marketed it heavily" any details on the marketing that she/you did?"

My latest blog post is on my marketing, if you're interested in overall what I've done. When I lowered my price, I started a thread about it on the Amazon forums. (That can bite you, if you're not careful, but I try to be polite and not spammy over there.) I also posted about it on the Facebook Page for Amazon Kindle. (Don't do it more than once a week.) And I changed my sig line over on Kindleboards to include the price. I always had my genre listed there as well, which I believe helped with sales. Before I lowered my price, I managed to get on DailyCheapReads.com and had a Free Short on Kindle Nation Daily. I believe those were a factor in sales as well, although nothing propelled the sales forward until I lowered my price.

Robin Sullivan said...

Guido Henkel said...
I really wish indie authors would have the backbone to stand up and collectively say "No, my work is worth more than that!"

Are we all really that desperate? The problem now, of course, is that the expectation has already been created in readers that first-time indie books have to be 99 cents. By doing that the indie community has navigated itself into very treacherous waters.

I so agree with this statement - the $0.99 price point (and $2.99 for that matter) is (as I've said before) putting yourself in a self-imposed ghetto.

Unfortunately, I think the ship has sailed and now more than ever people are coninvced this is their only option.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Moses Siregar III said...

I said: I intend to write the best books I can and if people won't pay $3.99 (or $2.99 or $4.99--I'm not sure) for what I write, then I'll find another industry to tell stories in.

I should've also said that I've had a 99 cent intro to my novel out there since last August. I'm all for using a low price point to attract more readers. I don't think I'd drop the price of any of my novels to 99 cents for more than a short period of time, though. If I was writing in a really hot genre (I don't think fantasy is quite that) or if I had a number of other titles at $2.99+, then I'd consider pricing a novel at 99 cents, though.

Anonymous said...

"The mobile games industry has completely imploded under the wave of 99 cent and free iPhone games."

Very flawed logic, Guido. Just because one industry has suffered from a technological innovation, it doesn't mean another necessarily will. Case in point, you all are welcome to come to my house and watch FREE home movies any time you like. I somehow doubt that means you'll stop shelling out $12 to see new releases or even $4 for DVD rentals.

Books are almost nothing like instant mobil games. Readers want quality. They search it out and listen to other readers about what they're reading.

ezbeanz said...

Congrats to Victorine! I've enjoyed reading these posts. You are an inspiration to us all! :)

Victorine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bowerbird said...

moses said:
> I don't think so.

is that an argument?

do you expect that i will
find it to be convincing?

> Lower price (99 cents)
> is going to help some
> authors break out, but
> driving the collectively
> expected price for a novel
> down to 99 cents (to be
> followed by free ebooks
> with ads?) wouldn't be good
> for authors, collectively.

you just restated your belief,
but again gave no reasoning.

maybe you presume that if you
repeat it enough times, it will
somehow gain in credibility?

it was wrong when you said it
the first time. it is still wrong.

and yes, i absolutely realize
i'm not doing anything more
than repeating _my_ point,
for which i made no argument.
but if you can do it, so can i.

this is _not_ how argumentation
works, though, just so you know.


Rebecca Stroud said...

Regarding the poker analogy, something Joe said rings true: But sometimes the cards don't fall for you, no matter your skill. And, as a very long-time poker player - and writer - I think he's right.

As a former reporter/columnist, I don't think I'm a slouch in the writing department. Yet my sales are dismal. Maybe because I write for a niche market (animal-related short stories, for example). But there are tons of people who love dogs...So, I'm way more inclined to think that luck (aka timing) is a crucial part of an indie's success. Unfortunately, my timing has always been atrocious.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm a shitty writer and should quit while I'm not ahead. In any case, I don't think all work should be automatically judged by price (i.e., cheap=sucks; expensive=genius). On that note, Zellwood: A Dog Story is - to me - my personal best and I've priced it at $.99. Admittedly, it's very short but I'm going for quality vs. quantity here. Again, I may be wrong...if any of you read it, you can let me know.

Zellwood: A Dog Story

mark said...

"I may not have proof but all I need to do is look at other industries and see how they crumbled under the 99 cent load. The mobile games industry has completely imploded under the wave of 99 cent and free iPhone games. I see the exact same thing happen with books. The parallels are frightening."

But they aren't parallel. Game studios have trouble making money at $0.99, but individual developers don't. Lots of indie developers have made a lot of money with $1 games and cheap XBLA stuff.

The real parallel would be a traditional publisher selling at $1 vs. a writer self-publishing at $1. The former has too many expenses to make it work. The latter doesn't.

Nick Cole said...

I just found this blog yesterday and I am riveted! Really great posts, advice and discussion. I really want to get my novel onto Kindle.

Eric Christopherson said...

We need to figure out how to earn the most money.

Cough, cough, price fix, cough.

Victorine said...

"I so agree with this statement - the $0.99 price point (and $2.99 for that matter) is (as I've said before) putting yourself in a self-imposed ghetto."

I totally respect you, Robin, but I have to disagree with you on this. If sales stay steady, I'll earn $10,000 this month. One one book. Amanda Hocking and HP Mallory both use the 99 cent price. Neither one are in the ghetto. We are all using it to entice readers to try out our books. It's a proven fact that people are more likely to buy a book by an author they've read and enjoyed. This is why I'm sticking with my 99 cent price. I'm in this for the long haul, not to make a buck on one novel.

If you were to successfully get into the top 100 with one of Michael's novels priced at 99 cents, and sales were to increase with your other books, it's quite possible you could make $100,000 a month rather than $40,000.

But I think you'd have to stick with the 99 cent price for a few months, and I can see why you would balk at that, losing what you would in the short term.

Thomas Brookside said...

The cover really has always gotten me, since the first time I saw Vicki post at Kindleboards.

She hit a grand slam with that cover.

Moses has the second best cover I've seen among indies. I put 33 AD second for a long time, but then the main stock image got re-used by other authors, and that dilutes it just enough to let Moses sneak by.

Moses Siregar III said...

Thanks very much, Thomas. The cover for the novel is similar, but I like the new one better as an ebook cover because the artwork is bigger.

David Wisehart said...

@nwrann A few times in the blog Vic mentions that she "marketed it heavily" any details on the marketing that she/you did?"

Back in July, Victorine was one of the very first interviewees on my then-new blog, Kindle Author. My blog was only four days old, and hers was my 7th interview (out of more than 500 now).

Given that my blog was less than a week old at the time, I don't know that I helped her sales much, but the interview has been sitting online for seven months now, finding new readers.

The moral of this story is that Victorine was very active in getting the word out. When a brand-new blog offered to do author interviews, she jumped at the chance and was one of the first in line.

Other authors I interviewed in my first month include some other pretty good sellers: Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory, Zoe Winters, Lee Goldberg, Elisa Lorello, Ali Cooper, Ruth Francisco, Beth Orsoff, Tonya Plank, and many more.

These authors were all actively promoting their books online, and have seen their promotional efforts pay off.

Here's Victorine's interview from July of last year:



bowerbird said...

victorine said:
> If you were to successfully
> get into the top 100 with
> one of Michael's novels
> priced at 99 cents, and
> sales were to increase
> with your other books,
> it's quite possible you could
> make $100,000 a month
> rather than $40,000.

yeah, robin doesn't know
what she is truly missing.

> But I think you'd have to
> stick with the 99 cent price
> for a few months, and
> I can see why you would
> balk at that, losing what
> you would in the short term.

very clever phrasing there, since
"losing" in the short-term isn't
really "losing" much at all, is it?

robin has said that she isn't in it
for the money, which is why she
is entertaining a big6 offer, even
as she admits it would cost her.

but she's not willing to risk the
short-term "loss" in order to see
if she can get a long-term gain
that's head-and-shoulders above.

hey, michael could be the leader
in this race, instead of amanda.
and we see how much attention
the front-runner gets, don't we?

a pity, isn't it, that cash-in-hand
has already trapped her mind...
she might as well be with a big6,
what with her risk-avoidance...

(you know i love you robin, and
this is just me teasing you, even
if i really believe it, while you
believe otherwise, as we know.)


joe's experiment has too many
flaws, but goodness gracious,
it's interesting to see the book
rise so quickly in the rankings...

#584,#5,#6,#24<-13 hours in
#438,#4,#5,#21<-17 hours in
#432,#3,#4,#19<-19 hours in
#405,#3,#4,#17<-20 hours in
#387,#3,#4,#16<-20.5 hours in


ezbeanz said...

The cover really stands out!

Trance St. Croix said...

Two bigs shifts happened recently in the publishing industry. First, Borders filed bankdrupty today and will close at least 30% of its stores in the next few weeks as it tries to restructure. Whether it will ultimately survive in any form or percentage remains to be seen.

Seond, and more importantly to Kindle authors, Apple now requires a 30% cut of all books sold on apps, effective 6/30/11. What that means is for all those readers buying kindle books from their kindle app on their iPad or iPod, Amazon will no longer be able to keep 100% of the sale, but will have to pay 30% to Apple and keep 70%. Since Amazon pays the author 70% for Kindle sales, this means that for books sold via those apps, Amazon will get nothing.

I would look for Amazon to either: (1) not play with apple and withdraw their sales app, meaning sales though current apps will no longer be made, meaning less sales for authors; or (2)cut the author's % of payment, say from 70% down to 40% for those particular sales. In either event, or other likely scenerio, the net effect is likely to be a collective shift of money from Kindle authors to Apple.

Aimless Writer said...

Inspiring post Victorine.
Joe,...I'll go buy the list for 99!
I just got my kindle and when I see a book for 99 cents I don't think it might be bad, I think what the heck, I spend more on coffee. If it's a hit - great, if not what did I lose? Certainly not the 15 to 20 dollars I would have blown on a hard cover book that I didn't like.
I'm polishing my own book now with intent to kindle it. The only thing I worry about is the editing process that I'll miss out on in traditional publishing. What if I make a really stupid mistake!

Victorine said...

The nice thing about selling on the Kindle... if you make a mistake, you can fix it and upload a new file. :)

Sideburns said...

I tried to post this yesterday, but the software sent it to /dev/null instead of publishing it. Oh well, let's try again.

There's something important about this post that people seem to be either missing or ignoring: if you self-publish your book through Kindle and it doesn't do well, don't just shrug and walk away, try tweaking it to see if you can't get your potential readers interested. Work on the cover, the blurb, the price, work on anything you can think of that may get people interested in buying it because you quite literally have nothing to lose. If you tweak something and things get worse, you can always go back to what you had before.

Self-publishing books is a business like any other and you need to treat it that way. If you're not willing to put the effort into making your book attractive to your audience, you shouldn't be offering it in the first place. Thank you, Ms. Lieske, for showing us how to turn a dud into a success!

mark said...

"I would look for Amazon to either: (1) not play with apple and withdraw their sales app, meaning sales though current apps will no longer be made, meaning less sales for authors; or (2)cut the author's % of payment, say from 70% down to 40% for those particular sales. In either event, or other likely scenerio, the net effect is likely to be a collective shift of money from Kindle authors to Apple."

There's a third possibility: Amazon negotiates a different deal with Apple.

I do think it's likely that some of the cost of this is shifted to the publishers. I wouldn't be surprised to see the 70% royalty reduced to 50% or something like that.

And if that happens, it puts a whole new spin on the $1 pricing. A 50% vs. 35% royalty isn't that much different. Now you don't need to sell six times as many -- it's more like four times as many.

S.E. Gordon said...

A point may be getting lost in this little experiment. One of the lures of the 99 cent price point is to gain readership that you otherwise wouldn't otherwise. The hope is that these new customers are converted, and thus "upsold," to more expensive (i.e., $2.99) books. Success of "The List" should not be looked at singularly, but rather its affect on the overall sales. Of course, that's the dilemma--how can you tell one of those new customers actually purchased another book?

My apologies if this point has already been made. Off to my writing! ;)

Dustin Wilson said...

One really unfortuante thing about this whole 99 cents issue is that it has never been driven by business sense and as such, no matter how little sense it makes fiscally, people will continue to di it because they do not understand the effects it has on a larger scale.

You say that it is bad business sense, but there are people who have made a very good business of it while you have struggled to sell your novellas at the price points you've chosen.

You have been trying to sell novellas at $2.99 in a digital form. Supposing each of your Jason Dark novellas is 40,000 words, that would still add up to $12 to get to 160,000 words of material.

I bought Neil Gaiman's American Gods (180,000 words) for $7.99 in paperback. This is a physical book with physical costs associated with it, and it was a better deal dollar for word than the novellas you've been trying to move.

Admittedly, I picked a book with a word count and price that you would match up unfavorably against, but I also chose this title for two other reasons:

1. It has been previously made available for free online in its entirety.

2. Neil has spoken favorably about how having his work available online for free has drastically increased his book sales.

You're deeply concerned with devaluing your product. Understandable. But, the value of a book that sells zero copies is zero dollars.

Mark Asher said...

I've often thought novellas at $3 were a bit pricey. I do the math and think that three novellas are equal to a single novel in word count. And then I think three novellas at $3 are $9 novels, and I can buy a physical book for $8, and less with a discount coupon.

I can also go to the used bookstore and pick up novels for $3.

So I'm reluctant to spend $3 on a novella based on what paper books cost, not on what other ebooks cost.

Jacqueline Howett said...

Congratulations Victorine! I enjoyed your story. Here's wishing you continued luck and success. Wow! what a lot of comments!

Russell Brooks said...

@Stephen T Harper I know this is off topic, but I just had to ask if you have any Canadian fans. Did you know that our Prime Minister's name is Stephen Harper? lol. Try marketing to Canadians, who knows, you might get some impulse buyers, regardless how much you price your book at.

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

Anonymous said...

I firmly believe that once you're established, true fans will purchase a novel no matter how much it costs (as long as it's reasonable priced, of course). I wouldn't have rushed to purchase Shaken any faster had it been priced at 99 cents instead of $2.99. When I know the author writes well and always keeps me entertained, price is the last thing I look at. Wouldn't it be fair to assume that your true fans will purchase your ebooks at $2.99 or even $4.99, but in order to entice new readers to try you out, then drop your ebooks to 99 cents, hook and bait em, then raise the price back up after a while.

@Russell I think that's an excellent point. I also think getting established is tough. I do know that when I raised the price, my sales dropped to where I made less than I could with lower royalties and higher volume, so it seemed to make financial sense to price the book lower. At least, for a while.

I think with two books I'll have more latitude to experiment with different prices.

Since I'm estimating my sales per book this month will be roughly triple my highest to date, I think having two titles is also having a synergistic effect.

In addition, I have a short story anthology that was selling a few copies now and then. Currently, it's selling extraordinarily well. To the point, where I've sold almost 200 downloads so far this month. That's a record.

And, oddly enough, my UK sales have also been unusually high.

What can I say? Life is good. :)

Russell Brooks said...

@Debbi Mack So far, I've sold 2 copies since I brought down the price to 99 cents. Are there UK websites that you promote on in order to get UK sales?

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

Natalie said...

Hi Victorine - inspiring story! I'm working on my first novel and have revised it a number of times. I'm wondering about the critique websites you mentioned. Where are they and what do they offer? I'd really appreciate your help on this. Thanks - and congrats on your success!

Kippoe said...

Congrats Victorine on all the sales of your book it was one of my favorite reads of 2010, looking forward to the new one.


Robin Sullivan said...

@Victorine - I totally see what you are saying - and yes it is working for you and and HP and Amazda - but...it doesn't work for everyone - nor can it. There are only 100 spots on the top 100 and some of those are going to be eaten by traditional pubs so that really only leaves like 70 "slots" if you will.

The problem is EVERYONE thinks this is their only choice so we have tons of books at this range and many/most of them are not going to make it there.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Robin Sullivan said...

bowerbird said...yeah, robin doesn't know what she is truly missing.

Except I do...I tried the $0.99 experiement and it cost me $9,000 a month in income. Now granted I only lost $5,000 because I didn't do it for the whole month but how many are willing to give up that kind of cash. In Joe's experiment he already mentioned that the most he could $1,000. Yeah if I was only risking $1,000 a month I might be more inclined.

At the present, I am in "maximize profit mode" because I do expect to take a huge hit if/when I take the big-six deal. I know I'll lose money then so can't afford to lose it now too ;-)

The ONLY reason to go with the deal on the table is the "chance" to hit breakout status ... if it turns out Michael only makes midlist then yeah we gambled and lost. He's doing very well but I think we've hit a peak for what THIS series can do as an indie. And in many ways the big-six is just one more experiment and maybe it wins, maybe it loses, but it's not like these are the only books Michael will ever write.


Joe Konrath said...

The List is currently at #401.

It went from selling 1.6 an hour at $2.99 to selling 5.5 an hour at 99 cents.

I'm losing money. $3.24 an hour for the old price vs. $1.92 an hour for the new price. That's $78 a day vs. $46 a day.

So if this rate keeps up, I'll lose more than $11k a year.


Now I plan on leaving the price there for at least two weeks. If The List finds more readers and hits the Top 100, I'll be making money instead of losing it.

But right now this looks to be an expensive gamble. It isn't wise to risk a sure thing for a shot at something bigger. Bird in the hand and all that...

Jude Hardin said...

The only thing I worry about is the editing process that I'll miss out on in traditional publishing. What if I make a really stupid mistake!

A reviewer from a major newspaper found a factual error in my debut thriller Pocket-47, and now my publisher is rushing to get the plate changed before the book goes to press. The change amounts to a couple of words and will cost $40.

So it happens, even in books that are traditionally-published and tightly edited.

Like Victorine said, though, much easier to fix when you're dealing strictly with ebooks.

Jude Hardin said...

But right now this looks to be an expensive gamble. It isn't wise to risk a sure thing for a shot at something bigger. Bird in the hand and all that...

Of course you have to consider that some of those readers who buy for $.99 now will become fans and purchase books you publish at a higher price in the future.

sheri.leigh said...

And, oddly enough, my UK sales have also been unusually high

What does "unusually high" mean exactly? :)

Walter Knight said...

Okay Joe, you convinced me. This week (Feb 10 I reduced the price of "America's Galactic Foreign Legion (Book 1) Feeling Lucky" to 99 cents. I sold 940 AGFL-1 books in January, but I wanted a better gateway for the rest of the AGFL series (7 published, 6 more being edited).

The Amazon Kindle sales ranking went from 3,300 to the teens immediately for AGFL-1, but more important "AGFL-2 Reenlistment (still selling at $2.99 went from 8,000s to the 2,000s and 3,000s in days. All seven books are now selling better.

We'll see. Your selfless educating of writers is better than going to college. I've been to college, but try to not let it interfere with my education.

Stitch said...

I think it was Les Brown that said something like:

"You love it so much that you would do it for free, but you do it so well that people pay you for it."

That's the dream, right?

Reaching readers have never been easier than it is today, so if you want to be read, that is easily achieved. Getting paying customers isn't quite as easy, but it's very simple:

>>> Provide a product that people want, in a format that people want at a price that people are willing to pay, and you will get paid.

It's a very simple formula.

Unfortunately, not all "creators of content" will be able to make a living from doing what they love, and will have to have a "day job". This is nothing new. When was "making it" as a writer ever easy? But the truth is that right now, it's easier than it's ever been before. Mostly, thanks to the internet.

But, to echo JK... No-one is entitled to anything. The universe and its inhabitants are not obligated to give you money on your terms. Deal with it.

Penn Jillette said:

"Luck is probability taken personally."

As others have already pointed out, you can give yourself an edge by knowing what you're doing and working hard. You can increase the odds of more people seeing your book, more people reading your book, more people liking your book, more people paying for your book.

But selling digital products will never be on your terms. You can stomp your feet and cry about how your work is "worth more than that", and all you'll do is piss off your potential readers and customers, driving them away towards other alternatives. Other ways to consume our works, maybe without paying at all. Or other books entirely, making your loss total, by not even being read.

Increase your odds instead. Provide convenient and cheap ways for people to consume your work, and you will get paid. If enough people pay you, you can quit your day job. If not, produce more and sell more. Increase the odds of getting paid.

It's not easy, but it's simple, really.

Sheri Leigh said...

If I decided to offer one book for $0.99... which one, I wonder? I have two, but one is YA and the other is a horror/romance... so different audiences, mostly.

Graveyard Games


Star Struck

Because whoever said "the value of a book that sells zero copies is zero dollars" is absolutely correct.

What do I have to lose dropping one of them to $0.99?

Heck, maybe I should drop both of them to $0.99.

Burritoclock said...

The example that the "race to the bottom" is killing mobile gaming is so far off the mark. First of all that sector is the fastest growing game sector. Not to mention it's irrelevant because it actually BACKS the other side of the argument.

If the .99 cent price of mobile gaming is hurting EA or Activision (which I DO NOT BELEIVE), it is a WEALTH of money pouring into previously unknown and previously IMPOSSIBLE independent, small studios! The internet is changing the game for all creative industries.

Slowly (or quickly in some cases!) the gatekeepers are dying, in music, movies, books, and gaming. Suddenly a guy in his garage can make a simple game and make a living. He doesn't have to pitch it, he doesn't have to get approval, he doesn't need to change his ideas, he doesn't have to come up with 8 mil to make it. He doesn't have to even find someone to produce the physical media and publish it to game stores.

We all have the opportunity now to create and sell direct to the customer. Doesn't mean everyone is going to make it, or get rich. But a hell of a lot more will today than could even 10 or 15 years ago.

I won't even go off on the rant I want to about how ridiculous the basis of the .99 ghetto argument is. "The collective"... give me a break.

Sam said...

I just saw that Donald Rumsfeld's memoir is priced at $19.99 for Kindle, and yet is # 152 overall. Wow.

bowerbird said...

robin said:
> Except I do...
> I tried the $0.99 experiement
> and it cost me $9,000 a month
> in income.

no, you didn't.

dropping the price for 2 weeks
is _not_ what i'm talking about.

and besides, as i have said,
it's a huge mistake to drop
your price by more than 50%.

so you should have gone from
$4.99 to _$2.99_, not to $.99,
to stay at the same royalty rate.

and once you drop a price,
leave it there for _months_.
at least 2 months, 3 is better.

that's the only way you can
gauge the effect of a price.

joe is making the same errors
with his current "experiment".

sweeping in people who were
on the fence at a higher price
is counterproductive. oh yes,
the temporary bump is nice,
but those people would have
converted "eventually" at the
higher price, so you have only
just cannibalized your efforts.

further, now you have nobody
on the fence, so you're starting
from scratch with all buyers...
it takes time to bring 'em along,
so there will be a dry spell until
your fence gets some sitters...

the effects you see immediately
are short-term effects, and you
need to have the courage and
the intelligence to ignore them.
because in the long run, it's only
long-term effects that matter...


Bella said...

BIG NEWS!!! Vicki hit the USA Today list at #81!!!!

Break out the champagne!

:) Bella

* * *

(Currently #72 on the BN.com bestseller list!)

Coral Russell said...

This has been a hot topic and very interesting.

As far as luck goes - we don't really know the intentions of other artists or most people for that matter. I think that makes a big difference. You may think you intend to do something, but not be that clear about it - I intend to sell a whole lot of ebooks on Amazon with a great story!

And then, if you're hard-working and smart, you'll do whatever you can to figure out how to get that done, IF it makes you happy or for however long that dream holds your attention.

As far as $.99, I can only tell you from personal reading/buying experience. If your work is an unknown entity to me, I will find your book free (I am a pirate and please believe me - you can find it free), buy it for a very cheap price AFTER I've read a sample, or go to the library and find it. You can download ebooks from the library now.

Once that relationship happens, and I do feel personal connections to books and story series, I will most likely read EVERY SINGLE WORD that you write. If I really like you!


Christopher Bunn said...

If selling books was a science, anyone with a good cover, a good book, and a low price would hit the Top 100.

And the other problem with that is, if that were true, there wouldn't be enough room in the Top 100 for everyone, thus negating the idea that science+good cover+good book+low price=Top 100.

Basil Sands said...

thus negating the idea that science+good cover+good book+low price=Top 100.

Ah, but it is a science.

Problem is, it's quantum science which means we have no idea the logic behind it yet, but as we keep trying the atoms keep squishing about into different shapes until eventually a mass of them might fit into the place shaped like my books and !BING! Top 100.

So it's:
good cover + good book + low price + luck + chance + blueberry poptart crumbs @ 88 miles per hour = Top 100.


Victorine said...

But really, being in the top 100 is about selling a lot of books. Last year at this time, selling x number of books got you to #10 in the top 100. That same number of books sold now I'm sure gets you a much lower rank. But you're still selling x number of books!

So, if 1,000 books were suddenly selling 1,000 books a day, of course not all of them would be in the top 100, but they wouldn't need to be. At that point, we would all be wanting to get into the top 1,000.

Sure, there's only 100 spots in the top 100, but there's no limit to how many books can sell thousands each day. :)

And I totally believe Amazon's recommending system is why I'm selling, not that people are scanning the top 100 each day to find something to read.


bowerbird said...

victorine said:
> I totally believe Amazon's
> recommending system
> is why I'm selling, not
> that people are scanning
> the top 100 each day
> to find something to read.

well, it's both.

but the former is far more
important, in all likelihood.

and collaborative filtering
like this is exactly why you
don't need to worry about
"being found" in the future,
no matter how far down
you might be in the pile...

if people like your work,
that will bring in others
who like the same things
that those people like...

it's like using a _magnet_
to pull the needles out of
a haystack. it works fine,
no matter how big a stack.

(i don't know if magnets
actually attract needles,
but pretend that they do.)

and a good system will
_not_ fall for some b.s.,
like the current system
at amazon is prone to...

currently, their system
links a book with other
books that were _bought_
by a customer, without
any regard for whether
the customer _liked_
either book, or both...

so when you get that
recommendation, say
"the people who fell for
the hype on _this_ book
also fell for the hype
on this _other_ book",
and you'll understand the
recommendation better.
(especially as it relates to
the advertising that's done
by corporate publishers.)

amazon built its system
because it cares more if you
_buy_ a book than _like_ it.)

but once we have a system
correlating _judgments_
instead of just purchases,
it will be a lot smarter --


Tara Maya said...

If 99 cents is the point where I'll earn the most, I'll price everything at 99 cents.

This makes perfect sense. My only concern with $0.99 is whether I can earn a living at that price point. If I could sell six times as many books and leave those readers with more $$ left in their pockets, hey, wonderful. I have no problems with that.

But there are two limits on how many books people buy: (1) price and (2) time. I think this is why genre is so important to setting price. I have some theories about people in my genre (sf&f):

(1) they read fewer books over all but longer books
(2) they re-read books
(3) they have high author loyalty
(4) they are a minority of the reading population

Compare this with romance readers:

(1) they read more books over all, but shorter books
(2) they read books once, and frequently discard it
(3) they choose more by genre than author
(4) they are a majority of the reading population

Even in trad publishing, you saw books by unknown romance authors in supermarkets for $3 but have to but have to buy your $8 (or $35) fantasy books in the bookstore.

I admit that I don't know enough about mystery, thriller or horror to make these kinds of guestimates about the readers.

Anecdotally, I know two readers. One reads three books a week and gets most books second-hand. The other reads five books a year, always hardback, until he bought a nook two months ago. Guess which one reads romance and which reads sf.... I will say, though, that the sf reader has read more books since getting the nook than in the previous 12 months. So maybe everything I said is wrong after all!

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate

Ursula said...

You know what's great about this book? Its what's been missing in romance for a while. I'm a long time reader of romance, and category romance. At one point envelope pushing went so far that romance stopped being about romance. This book really halmarks back to the classic elements that a lot miss. So while pricing may get notice, I think readers who are missing this in many of the NY pubbed books, are finding it in Not What She Seems. The quality of the storytelling shines through.

Sam said...

Re: "And I totally believe Amazon's recommending system is why I'm selling"

Yep. I'm sure you're jumping up and down for the success of "Alone" (currently #1) because you're listed as one of top books people buy along with it. :-)

Until tonight, I had no idea that "Alone" was actually released in 2005. The publisher just put it out as a 99 cent ebook in advance of the author's forthcoming work... and it's become a #1 seller because of the 99 cent price. Very relevant to this discussion...

Basil Sands said...

If selling books is how you want to make a living, then no, pricing them all at 99 cents is not the way to go unless you have a "Ronco" style marketing machine that can sell millions of them.

But Pricing one or two at 99 cents and the rest at higher prices, or giving one away free when you come out with the newest one priced at $4.99 is smart Marketing.

The point is the cheap stuff is, like the free samples at Costco, just there to get you to buy the whole pallet load of work.

Draw them in, get them hooked, then "ask whatever the market will bare" ... but make sure your stuff is good and keeps'em hooked.


J. Noel said...

Wow. This one post is packed with so much writing/publishing sweet goodness. I should print it out and just keep it posted on my bulletin board.

So glad I found your blog!

Anonymous said...

Are there UK websites that you promote on in order to get UK sales?

@Russell That's the really strange part. I've posted to one Amazon UK forum where authors basically self-promote their books. I've done it only once.

I've got three Amazon reviews for my first novel and two for the other. I think that helps.

This could be a total coincidence, but I've struck up a correspondence of sorts with a UK blogger. I answer trivia questions on his blog every night. And leave the URL to my blog there so ... maybe his readers see it. Who knows? :)

Recently, I added information to my Amazon UK Author Central page. Maybe that's helped.

I'm also signing up for their "Search Inside" program. Why not? :)

For all I know, I could be (slowly) building a UK readership. lol

Russell Brooks said...

@Debbi Mack I have 17 reviews on Amazon.com and 1 review on Amazon UK. Since I dropped my price to 99 cents a little over 24 hours ago, I sold one more UK copy and 3 more US copies. I expect those numbers to increase. My original strategy was to keep my current novel at $2.99 and drop it to 99 cents when my second would be released later this year. That way, new readers would be baited by the 99 cent novel and those that become my TRUE fans would purchase the second at the higher price. I'll search for more UK forums right now, if there are any in particular that you know, please share them with me. I'd appreciate it.

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

Mark said...

I've been keeping up with The List experiment and it cracked the top 100 Mystery/Thriller yesterday and is now at 90. I think 373 overall. Janet Evanovich with Sizzling Sixteen, under 3 stars overall reader review, is just behind at 95. Sizzling Sixteen is selling on Kindle for 12.99. The reader reviews stack huge against Sizzling Sixteen with the vast majority being 1 star, yet Sizzling Sixteen is making hay, again at 12.99.

Now, I haven't read either book, but am making an objective point, Sizzling Sixteen has been panned by THE MAJORITY of its readers (so much for reader reviews), yet it is selling well in its genre. What does all this mean? Well, it proves to me the power of marketing, branding and series. People will blindly buy the next if they like it, Pavlov's dog at work. Also formula at work, another topic, I know. It has been proven before that readers are creatures of habit and the fact that genre fiction and the use of pen names by authors reinforces this FACT. From my limited previous experience in past career one of the biggest things I learned is the power of price suggestion. At certain price points the consumer is being given a message through price alone. Higher prices equate value and lower prices are a bargain. Also, lower price moves units. Higher prices encourage actual consumption or use after purchase because of perceived "value". So with lower prices, yes you will move units, but will they be consumed/read?

To gain an audience, said audience has to actually read your book, of course it has to get onto their Kindle to be read. Low pricing clears only one hurdle, getting you onto the device. The second hurdle is the important one, gaining actual readers where YOUR WRITING AND STORY, or overall skill has a chance. It's called a complex sale as opposed to a simple sale. Selling snow cones at the beach is an example of a simple sale. This experiment ONLY proves to me that low pricing is ONLY EFFECTIVE in getting you onto devices, but maybe not in garnering overall support. Its effectiveness will wane as devices fill, so it's only a "land grab" strategy. Building audience through branding in order to elicit the conditioned response will result in the most sales, confirming what the marketing departments of the big houses already know. Clancy, Patterson and the like sell because of trusted brand built over time with consistency.

Just some provable observations thrown out there that reinforce my thought that there needs to be methodology applied when using lower pricing. This is the beauty of books and story, there has to be some effort put forth by the reader, a CONNECTION must be made. This is where the TRUE SALE happens allowing your SKILL AS A WRITER the opportunity to close the deal. Word of mouth is powerful because it clears the preliminary hurdles thus enabling less effort by the consumer. Low price will move units, brand will move the most units over time. Just some thoughts from my marketing side of the brain and sorry for the long post.

Robin Sullivan said...

For those rushing to $0.99 have you paid any attention to Stephen Carpenter who is at #20 with Killer at $3.99?? I'm going to guess that is 1200 to 1500 books per day which is $100,548 to $125,685 PER MONTH!!

Now that's something to get excited about.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Gary Ponzo said...

Robin, Stephen Carpenter's "The Killer" is at $2.99. As far as I now it's always been that price.
It's also a terrific book.

Stacey Cochran said...

Hey, folks, I've just launched kindlechat.org

Come join us and plug your book, while we're new enough for you to stand out from the crowd.

S.E. Gordon said...

Most of all you want buzz; the money will flow from there.

Christy Pinheiro said...

Sizzling Sixteen has been panned by THE MAJORITY of its readers (so much for reader reviews), yet it is selling well in its genre.

It's suspect--The majority of the negative reviews are not verified purchases, and a big chunk are people that are pissed off by the Kindle price.

It happened to Shit my Dad Says, too-- tons and tons of negative review from Kindle readers pissed off about the price. Here are some examples:

I refuse to buy this book for my Kindle because it's ridiculously expensive.

The unreasonable price for the Kindle edition... Been nice to know you Steph.

I know that a lot of the reviews sound legitimately negative, but the book is still selling despite all of this.

Mark Asher said...

What the heck is Random House doing with Sizzling Sixteen? The mass market paperback is selling at $8.99. Why on earth would they have the Kindle version at $12.99?

Are they actively trying to discourage ebook sales?

Merrill Heath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Merrill Heath said...

Gary said: Robin, Stephen Carpenter's "The Killer" is at $2.99. As far as I now it's always been that price.

Based on Robin's numbers, that's still anywhere from 75-95K per month. I'd be OK with that.

Merrill Heath
Bearing False Witness

Sheri Leigh said...

"Are they actively trying to discourage ebook sales?"

Of course they are! Do you really think they're not? Joe is 100% correct - if ebooks succeed, publishers (and their big overheads) fail.

Burritoclock said...

Unless they change the way they do things... I think we all know how that's gonna work out.

bowerbird said...

mark said:
> What the heck
> is Random House doing
> with Sizzling Sixteen?
> The mass market paperback
> is selling at $8.99.
> Why on earth would they have
> the Kindle version at $12.99?

why? to punish kindle owners.

besides, it takes a big bunch of
advertising money to get people
to purchase a $12.99 e-book...
you gotta make 'em want it bad,
and that advertising ain't cheap.
plus it's becoming less effective
all the time, they're sad to find.

but that's the way the rich boys
play the game -- big money out
(all tax-deductible, of course)
and big money in. they want to
force you to play the same way,
because they know you _can't_.

> Are they actively trying to
> discourage ebook sales?


they loathe a level playing field.

so you better believe that it is
pissing them off _big-time_ that
konrath is breathing down their
neck on the best-seller list with
his 99-cent book, _and_ making
more profit per book than them.


Mark Asher said...

I just thought of something. Isn't Random House the only publisher that decided against agency pricing?

If I'm right on this, they may just be crossing their fingers with Sizzling Sixteen and hoping Amazon takes a loss on it and lowers the price to $8.99 to match the paperback.

Before agency pricing, Amazon was taking a loss on lots of ebooks to price them at $9.99 to help grow the market.

Anonymous said...


To be honest, I use forums sparingly these days. Seems like you don't get much return for your efforts there.

Try a sponsorship on Kindle Nation Daily. Ebook of the Day. That's become my new mantra. :)

Otherwise, blog, Twitter, Facebook, podcast, guest posts, interviews, rinse, repeat, etc. :)

Russell Brooks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russell Brooks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russell Brooks said...

@Debbi Mack I agree with you with the forums. I go there but I don't post as often. I get hits to my website when I do so, but not necessarily a whole lot of sales that way. My blog gets a lot of hits, especially the time I was dared to sing a song and put it up on YouTube.

I sponsored Kindle Nation Daily once and made Amazon's Bestseller list in 3 categories while my ebook was still priced at $2.99. But after 3 days I was out of the top 100. After reading this guest post, I dropped the price to $0.99. Sales are beginning to pick up again, even in the UK. I'm still doing a lot of promoting, I have a total of 32 reviews. I'm going to be on Kindle Nation Daily in April and May, this time with their Silver plan, plus another ebook of the day, which should be another boost. I'm experimenting with ads on other sites too. I'll keep you posted on the results.

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

Joe Konrath said...

#324. Stuck in the 300s and losing money.

But my other ebooks seem to have slightly increased in sales. Need more time to be sure.

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> #324. Stuck in the 300s
> and losing money.

how many retailers put an item
"on sale" and expect to make
_more_money_ on it that way?

a "loss leader" is something on
which you expect to take a loss.

and if you want to gauge the
effect of a lower price on the
number of units moved, you
_must_ leave the lower price
in place for at least 2 months,
or 3 if you want to be certain.

i have said this repeatedly...

short-term effects mean zilch.


Joe Konrath said...

Now at #174.

Anonymous said...

I just bought both books on my Nook. The thing about the .99 price point is that it's so low I just figured; why not? Compare that with A Discovery of Witches, a book I'm very interested in, but which sells for a whopping $14.99. I didn't even finish the last $15 e-book I bought, so really, no.

With .99 I can pick up a book I may or may not finish and not feel guilty when it sits on my Nookshelf for months. I have also discovered that because of smart pricing, I'm more willing to buy the next book of a .99 author at a higher price point (say Moonlight Mile from Dennis Lehane at $11.99.)

Moses Siregar III said...

A good post on the race to the bottom in ebook prices from ireaderreview.

And I quote:

"1. Percentage of books at or below $5 out of the Top 100: 5% in 2008, 22% in 2010, 48% in 2011.
2. Percentage of books at $1 out of the Top 100: 0% in 2008, 4% in 2010, 21% in 2011.

The best way to put it would be -
In 2008 there were zero books priced at $1 out of the Top 100 bestsellers of the year.
In 2011 there are 21.
In 2008 there were only 5 books priced at $5 or below out of the Top 100 bestsellers of the year. In 2011 there are 48.

We have gone from 5% of the Top 100 books being at or below $5 to 48%. It’s an incredible change."


Btw, the main reason for this is simply the rise of the indie. But it's also definitely a trend.

For the record, I think the race to $1 is a bad thing for authors and in many ways a bad thing for readers, too, because it's bad for traditional publishing and because with less profit to be made by indie authors at 99 cents, less time and energy will go into the production of indie books, as well. Most authors will simply make less money at these prices, while relatively few will make more.

And again, I think pricing a book or two at 99 cents is smart from a promotional standpoint.

bowerbird said...

lots of authors are now
seeing that they benefit
_greatly_ from low prices,
regardless of how loudly
some people try to deny it.

many writers are now
making great money
from the new system,
when they made little or
no money from the old.

readers, of course, do
not need to be persuaded
that low prices are good.

both writers and readers
are very happy to observe
that authors now can get
a bigger percentage of
the money readers pay...

it's quite sad that the
bald vast greediness of
the corporate publishers
ruined their industry and
took down bookstores
in the process, but we
warned them all along
that they had to change,
and they did not listen...


Ward Jones said...

It's obviously more difficult for those of us not writing in the crime genre to have, dare I say it, the eye catching cover Victorine's has. Mine, for example, shows nothing but a floating hawk seen from a distance, just close enough to see that it is in fact a hawk. A metaphorical symbol, I thought, of my main character, a lonely man drifting through life despite his job as executive vice president of a large corporation. After Isaactown has, with the help of my publicist, received some very nice reviews. But it takes more than nice reviews, especially if they're online like mine are. It takes luck, as Joe pointed out, and patience, which Victorine has in droves. If I weren't so old, I would too.
ward jones

Cunningham said...

Let's do some "out of the traditional publishing box" thinking here and see if we can alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding the move toward pricing books at 99 cents:

- In my estimation, Joe has only priced ONE VERSION of his book THE LIST at 99 c. He makes less on that version than he would at $2.99...

- But he gains more potential readers, by lowering the 'sales threshold'. More people read this book, like it, and seek out other books of Joe's.

- But the crowd here seems to be focused on just this book, when in fact Joe could be making more money potentially if after a certain time he were to also follow this up with a bundle of books. Say 3 books for $2.49 or some such figure. Add that into the mix and you have those sales figures (divided by 3) to add to the mix.

(This happens in DVD all the time).

- I'd also like to see Joe's figures for his print sales to determine if they are affected by the gateway of offering THE LIST for 99c.

The snag is that people are seeing 99 c as a missed sale, when instead it's an opportunity for more sales across the board - especially in areas like print where he can charge more for creating a more "collectible" package.

There's (potentially) a lot of wiggle room here to find the right pricing combination for someone to:

- get more readers in the door...

- get more products into their hands...

- get them to buy...

- and more importantly, get them to buy regularly, sight unseen.

evilphilip said...

"It isn't wise to risk a sure thing for a shot at something bigger. Bird in the hand and all that..."

Ironic that in another thread you are recommending someone turn down a $400,000.00 publishing deal.

Bird in the hand is exactly right.

Anonymous said...

"The first email I got back made my heart pound. An agent read my query and sent me a response. I held my breath and opened it: a rejection. Relief flooded through me. What? Relief? At that moment I realized I didn’t want to get an agent. I didn’t want to spend my advance traveling and doing book signings. I didn’t have time to travel with four kids and a business. I just wanted people to read and enjoy my book."

This struck home - I totally get what you mean. I have a regular job, I have two young children, and all I want is for people to read my books. I don't need to strike it rich, although money is always welcome. I want to live in relative anonymity, write books and have them enjoyed. Although I have high standards about my books, I remember what Alistair McLean once said, "If my story eased your boredom waiting at the airport, I'm satisfied", and I do feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

Pricing is difficult. I understand the reasons behind each approach. Myself, I think that I will price the first novel in the Amsterdam Assassin Series $3.99, then lower the price with one dollar when the sequel comes out. And another dollar when the third book comes out – that means the third book will be 3.99, the second novel 2.99 and the first novel 1.99. By that time, the first novel will be out for a couple of years, and will serve as a low-cost introduction to the series.
Martyn V. Halm, author of Peccadillo, the Amsterdam Assassin Series.

Rachel Howzell Hall said...

So, on Friday (2/18), I joined this experiment - slashing the book price of my ebook The View from Here to 99 cents. I didn't expect much -- well, I expected to be disappointed.

You see, I was traditionally published back in 2002. Sold a decent amount of novels. Since then, nothing. Slammed doors over and over. Finally, last November, I decided to put one of my many trunked novels on Kindle. It did okay, more than it did sitting on my hard drive but nothing to make you swoon.

Well, since this past Friday, after reading Joe and Vickie's posts, my heart has been racing. As of 1:16, my ratings on Amazon were:

#350 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

* #67 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense
* #74 in Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense

And for some freakish reason, I was also listed on Pixel of Ink today as well. As I expressed to a writer-friend, this type of thing NEVER happens to me. I'm grateful it did.

And that's why I love this community of writers. So much advice, so much encouragement -- something that's so sparse in New York.

Thanks, Joe and Vickie for sharing your experiences and inspiring all of us to take chances.


Russell Brooks said...

Congrats, Rachel.

Russell Brooks
Author of Pandora's Succession

Jake Barton said...

What a fascinating story, thank you so much, Victorine, for sharing your experiences. I also came to the conclusion that offering my book at the lowest price point was the best way to gather interest in it. At the 99c / 71p price, after a slowish start, I've sold 200 books a day for the past week or so and am ranked number 6 in the UK Thrillers chart, in the top 20 All Books.
Nowhere near as successful in the US, but with a crime thriller set in Liverpool there may be a degree of reluctance to try a 'foreign' novel!

Joe Konrath said...

Ironic that in another thread you are recommending someone turn down a $400,000.00 publishing deal.

Not the same thing.

If a book is earning money at a certain price, it doesn't make sense to mess with the price in an effort to make more money, because it is already working.

With the $400,000 deal, the author WILL make more money self-pubbing. It is only a question of how long it will take.

BTW, The List is at #126...

Barry Knister said...

What neither Victorine nor you discuss are the marketing methods she used. You say "luck" is key, and no doubt it is, but I would like some info on the marketing Victorine did and does.

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