Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The List Experiment Update

On February 15 at 7:30pm, I dropped the price of my ebook The List from $2.99 to 99 cents.

It has now been that price for a month. So I'm raising the price back up to $2.99. The price change should take effect sometime tonight.

The List peaked as high as #15 on the Kindle bestseller list. It is currently at #23, and selling more than 1500 copies a day. In the 28 days it was 99 cents, it sold about 20,300 copies. It took 9 days to reach the Kindle Top 100, and has been there 20 days. Each copy sold has earned me 35 cents.

The total I earned during the 99 cent experiment was roughly $7100.

Now we'll see how long The List can stay on the Top 100, and how much I'll make in the next 28 days.

When The List hit the Top 100, I lowered the price of Shot of Tequila to 99 cents. It went from a rank of about #2400 to a rank of about #600. It turned out I was earning about the same at both ranks, so I went back to $2.99 a few days ago, and dropped the price on Disturb. Disturb was ranked around #1200. Now it's ranked at #251.

I dunno if Disturb can crack the Top 100 or not. If it doesn't by the time The List drops to #90, then I'll put it back to $2.99 and drop the price on another, better-selling ebook. I believe Origin, Endurance, or Trapped could hit the Top 100 at 99 cents.

The concept of putting items on sale has served retailers well. I'm thinking that my new sales strategy will always have one or two novels at 99 cents, and then rotate the titles monthly.

It should be fun to watch what happens for the rest of March. If The List sells 500 copies a day at $2.99 for the next seven days, I'm make as much as I did in the previous twenty-nine.

We'll see...

211 comments:

1 – 200 of 211   Newer›   Newest»
Daryl Sedore said...

Loved this experiment!

Well done and I cannot believe the asshats at NYT.

They announced they wouldn't be printing the paper by 2015. Maybe there's a reason...

Either way, the knife still slices through sh*t.

Phil said...

Fascinating data. Thanks for being so generous and transparent with your processes and experiments.

Question: if you were starting fresh, would you launch your first book at $0.99 or $2.99? I can see arguments being made for either choice. (Incidentally, I've read your blog back through December and don't think I've seen this specifically addressed--if I missed it, apologies!)

bowerbird said...

this will backfire on you.

that's my prediction...

-bowerbird

Andrew said...

Here's another one of those heart-wrenching stories illustrating why legacy publishing is dying http://www.iantregillis.com/index.cfm?blog=212

Anonymous said...

I'm a new Kindle/Pubit author and was referred to this blog by fellow Kindle author Debbi Mack via Twitter. She also made the recent NYT Bestsellers List.

How do you feel about putting all your works at $0.99 though long-term? Can that really be a good thing in the long run for both the market and for authors?

Just thinking out loud.

PS: OpenID's not letting me post as my Wordpress handle, so I'm posting anonymous, but I'm signing my name so people know it's me and someone random.

-Elijah Joon
http://www.elijahjoon.wordpress.com

V. Furnas said...

Thank you so much for blogging about this experiment. It has been interesting and educational to follow.

Susie McCray said...

Wow, I want to be like you when I grow up. Great experiment.

Derek J. Canyon said...

Wow! Great results, Joe!

I'm also running my own pricing experiments. Being a new, unknown author, my results are much more modest. My price drop to 99 cents has about doubled my sales.

Check it out here: Derek's pricing experiment report - 2 weeks in

Coolkayaker1 said...

Nice experiment, Joe. The List may have some “legs” from the 99 cent recent sale though—people recommending it to friends, and such. So, it may not be the same as listing it independently at 99 cents.

Comment—if you do may the same selling a gazillion copies at 99 cents as you do at selling just a shitload of copies at $2.99, maybe your thought on your other blog post might be right – the sweet spot for sales and profits might be $1.99. Good luck to you, man.

P.S. I know many thing Negra Modelo is shitwater, but I really love it. Try it sometime.

Coolkayaker1 said...

correction: listing it independently at 2.99 cents

Ellen Fisher said...

Eeeeee. It's selling 1500 copies a day and you want to raise the price? That's definitely messing with success. But good luck!

Simon Haynes said...

Don't you get any backlash when people buy one of your ebooks for $2.99 one day, and the next it's 99c? Or do you feel $2.99 is so cheap anyway that nobody is going to moan about overspending by $2?

The reason I ask is because I'm keen to run a sale on my ebooks, but I don't want to annoy people who already paid a higher price.

Rambling Expat said...

Hi there,

I am very impressed by your honesty in regards to your business experiment.
Kudos to you.

Have a good day,
Rambling Expat.

Douglas Dorow said...

Thanks for sharing and letting us learn from your results.

We'll wait, watch and learn.

Good Luck!

www.thrillersrus.blogspot.com

Kendall Swan said...

Fascinating to watch!!

Urgency helps induce action, hence 'sales'.

To 'The List' staying in the top 100 for at least a month or two at 2.99 - (glasses clink)

Kendall Swan
NAKED Vampire

John said...

Good luck on the price change. I chime in with another thanks for all the transparency!

Joe Konrath said...

if you were starting fresh, would you launch your first book at $0.99 or $2.99?

$2.99. I may release my next one at $3.99. 99 cents is great for sales.

How do you feel about putting all your works at $0.99 though long-term?

At this point, I only see 99 cents being a viable money-maker if the book hits the Top 100. Otherwise, $2.99 makes more money.

Eeeeee. It's selling 1500 copies a day and you want to raise the price? That's definitely messing with success.

Not really. Next year I'll put it on sale again, and it could very well hit the Top 100 again. So could any of my other ebooks.

If you look at the genre bestseller lists, they're filled with backlist titles. Stephen King's The Stand, written in 1979, is on some bestseller lists.

Ebooks don't have shelf lives. The List was on Kindle for 2 years prior to hitting the Top 100.

What goes up, must come down. But I'm thinking that things can go back up.

Don't you get any backlash when people buy one of your ebooks for $2.99 one day, and the next it's 99c?

Nope. $2.99 is cheap and folks don't care.

chris said...

If you look at the genre bestseller lists, they're filled with backlist titles. Stephen King's The Stand, written in 1979, is on some bestseller lists.

Amazing.

It's kinda hard to get your head around this ebook business sometimes, almost as if it is too good to be true. And yet, the figures are there.

Chuck said...

Thanks, Joe.
Appreciate your taking the time.

J.A. Marlow said...

And Shot of Tequila stalled out? Interesting how one book shot up, but another doesn't. Maybe the buyers 'mood' isn't in the mood for that one. ;) Disturb is rising fast, though.

Having the .99 price point available as a sale price is a very good thing to keep in mind. I'll be watching your $3.99 experiment just as closely. When do you expect to start that experiment?

J.A. Marlow
Night of the Aurora - A new life in Alaska, a massive aurora... and a hidden spaceship under the snow...

Robert Bidinotto said...

Joe, you are too modest. When I checked at 2 pm Tuesday afternoon, Amazon definitely had "The List" ranked #13 on the Kindle list, not #15. (At the same time, Stephen Carpenter's "Killer" stood at #12; John Locke held 4 spots in the Top Ten, including #1 and #2; and Amanda Hocking had 3 in the Top Twenty. That was nine indie titles in the Top 20. Amazing.)

As someone racing to finish and publish my first thriller very soon, I'm grateful to you for your willingness to share your success and wisdom. Largely because of your blog and Robin Sullivan's, I've finally become motivated to make the big jump from nonfiction to fiction -- something I had always dreamed of doing. It took the examples of pioneering indie authors like you to show me that my efforts would not have to face the torture and near-certain futility of running the Gatekeeper Gauntlet.

Thank you for your daily doses of inspiration and advice.

--Robert Bidinotto
RobertTheWriter.com

Glenn McCreedy said...

It appears that there is considerable downward price point pressure being applied by the reading market. Story after story gets told on Joe's blog and others, and on the forums, about how sales skyrocket after drastic price reductions. Joe's experimentation is revealing. Very cool -- balancing price point and demand. Is anyone doing formal research on this--acquiring and crunching data?

Will the shakeout be a business model that ultimately is based on free product while driving other revenue streams as a result? Remember the Grateful Dead, they pioneered "freemium" product -- essentially giving away the recorded music (even letting fans freely record the live concerts), while making a killing on ticket sales, merchandise sales and other revenue sources. And this was before the Internet.

So...will eBooks pricing be inexorably driven downward, forcing authors to find alternate revenue streams to be competitive and to ring the cash register while meeting the demand for free, or virtually free product?

We may be seeing the evolution of the TV business in reverse -- going from a completely paid model to a fully advertiser/sponsor supported model. There may be other revenue models we haven't even seen yet (placing another author's book promotion for cash in the back of your own Kindle book, a form of co-promotional sponsorship, is only the beginning). Any ideas?

Tara Maya said...

I've also wondered if it might come to a model of free books paid by advertisers. But I hope not. Because I think one always ends up writing for the people who pay you. Writers under the old system wrote to please publishers; finally we had a shot at writing to please readers. I'd hate to go to writing to please advertisers.

Tara Maya

Robert Bidinotto said...

Incidentally, I just checked (Wed., 1 am Eastern) the Kindle FICTION list, and here is what I see in the Top 20:

John Locke: #1, 2, 4, 6, 18, and 20.

Amanda Hocking: #9, 14, and 15.

Joe Konrath: #11.

Stephen Carpenter: #10.

That's 11 indie novels in the Kindle Fiction Top 20. Meaning that indie ebook fiction is whipping traditional ebook fiction.

--Robert Bidinotto
RobertTheWriter.com

Anonymous said...

"That's 11 indie novels in the Kindle Fiction Top 20. Meaning that indie ebook fiction is whipping traditional ebook fiction."

In units sold, not necessarily in dollars earned.

wannabuy said...

Joe,

If The List was dropping in sales, so be it. I had hope it would rise higher. ;)

Daryl:
As to the NYT stopping printing by 2015, that makes sense. There is a huge fixed cost to offer a newspaper in print format. It isn't just the printing, but the distribution, etc.

The same is true of print books. It takes a minimum volume to justify offering volume book printing. (POD is different and thus far costlier per title.)

Interesting times ahead...

Neil

Mary Sisson said...

@Glenn

I don't see a lot of writers being able to make money on fan products, and most probably would rather be writing than hawking T-shirts or whatever (the big exception being the people who publish books basically as a marketing tool to drive sales of seminars or diet products or the like). So I think that's going to limit the willingness of most authors to offer books for free. The "rush to the bottom" is happening because the bottom (or at least the $.99-$2.99 price range) is turning out to be reasonably profitable for writers.

Glenn McCreedy said...

@Mary
"I don't see a lot of writers being able to make money on fan products, and most probably would rather be writing than hawking T-shirts or whatever"

Agreed, I would rather my authors focused on writing more books. The Grateful Dead example is more of an indicator from history how innovation in entertainment marketing and business models can take on new forms.

It may be that, at least for now, sponsored eBooks will be of the corporately-created ala Kraft Foods (cooking with Philadelphia cream cheese).

Still, I'm curious to know if anyone is doing some quantifiable research on price sensitivity in the marketplace and optimal pricing strategies.

bowerbird said...

j.a. marlow said:
> Shot of Tequila stalled out?
> Interesting how one book
> shot up, but another doesn't.

um, first of all, "shot of tequila"
most definitely didn't "stall out".

it was in the process of climbing.
but a climb isn't just straight up.

even climbing mountains, where
"straight up" is the desired path,
you occasionally have to jog off.

and climbing a bestseller list is
way more complicated, because
you are interacting with _many_
books in your direct vicinity that
exert influence on any progress.

because the bestseller list _is_
a zero-sum game, by definition.

"tequila" climbed to the top-500,
where it started being buffeted,
but it was under two weeks into
its journey from #1500/#2000
so that shoulda been expected...

especially since all the attention
was still focused on "the list"...

why did joe bail? good question.

***

glenn mccreedy said:
> Will the shakeout be
> a business model that
> ultimately is based on
> free product while driving
> other revenue streams
> as a result?

um, no.

there will be lots of free e-books
down the line... heck, there are
lots of free e-books right now...

but the answer to "monetizing"
the internet is to capture a very
_small_ amount of money from
a very _big_ number of people.

that is what is happening here...
it's a miracle gift from amazon...

let the price of a book fall to $1.
so you can make a million bucks
by selling it to a million people.
or $350,000 as the case may be.

but unless you don't care about
making money, don't go to free.

but do sell copies to the library,
so any folks who need to read it
for free have an option for that.

-bowerbird

p.s. it's ok to not care about
making money. it ain't a sin.

p.p.s. even better is an artist
saying "my art is a _gift_ to you,
but sure, i need money to live,
so if you wanna give me _back_
a gift of money, i'd be happy to
get that from you, with thanks."
because _those_ are the artists
who'll create tomorrow's world;
you cannot usurp their power...
they will be the guerilla artists.

John said...

There are similarities here to the stock photography business. Four - five years back, it was still possible for a photographer to make good money from his/her stock images - earning perhaps $500 - $1500 per 'use' of an image. Some photographers were earning $100k per quarter or more. Stock was their pension fund.

Then digital photography grew and grew, and microstock came along. The stock image market was flooded - not necessarily with good quality photography - and the price dropped to $1 - $5 per image use. There are lots of possible urban myths about how much money microstock photographers made. No revelations like Joe and others, with verifiable numbers sold, etc.

There is no myth regarding the very significant negative impact on the stock image companies and photographers resulting from microstock impact. Profits and income have sunk remarkably.

Kinda like the impact that ebooks will have on the traditional publishers - with the indies the equivalent of the microsotock photographers.

Like microstock - we are seeing inadequate plotting, lack of editing, bad formatting [even John Locke's books in Kindle are badly formatted] - similar flags to the lack of quality in microstock. And of course the occasional gems are released.

However, while some of us may like to eat out at a good restaurant, lots of people like MacDonalds and other fast food outlets.

Ebooks are there - some are fast food. Some lack quality. Some may be better quality. It will be an interesting ride.

John West
Broken Glass - target May, 2011

Alexander said...

Interesting stuff! Any intention of going the other direction, raising the price to 4.99 or 5.9 on a title?

Ellen Fisher said...

"That's 11 indie novels in the Kindle Fiction Top 20. Meaning that indie ebook fiction is whipping traditional ebook fiction."

"In units sold, not necessarily in dollars earned."

True, Anon, but if a book is in the Kindle Fiction top 20, it's making lots of money even at 99 cents. That's nothing to sneer at, for sure.

Andy Conway said...

@Anonymous ...

"In units sold, not necessarily in dollars earned."

As Joe has pointed out many times before, those indie authors are making much more money than their print published counterparts.

What they're not doing is simultaneously supporting a small army of editors, publicists, publishing staff, printers and New York realtors.

antares said...

Anonymous said...
"That's 11 indie novels in the Kindle Fiction Top 20. Meaning that indie ebook fiction is whipping traditional ebook fiction."

In units sold, not necessarily in dollars earned.


Dollars earned for whom? If you are counting gross-dollar sales, maybe the the TradPubs outweigh the indies. But if you consider net to the author, a $2.99 indie eBook earns the author more than a $12.99 trade paperback.

Ellen Fisher said...

"As Joe has pointed out many times before, those indie authors are making much more money than their print published counterparts."

More percentagewise, yes. But a 99-cent book is only getting about 35 cents in royalties on Amazon. Even so, if you sell enough copies, you can make a substantial chunk of change.

If you can break into the Amazon top 100 at $2.99, of course, then you are really making quite a lot per book. But as Joe has discovered, it seems easier to do with a 99-cent book.

JD Rhoades said...

It appears that there is considerable downward price point pressure being applied by the reading market.

I don't know...I see a few people clamoring on blogs and such for everything to be .99. But, as noted elsewhere, we also see e-books selling well for more--sometimes much more--than that.

As for my own stuff, it may be too small a sample right now, but my most expensive book (LAWYERS GUNS AND MONEY, 2.99) is selling slightly better than my least expensive (THE DEVIL'S RIGHT HAND, my first backlist title, for .99). I just released GOOD DAY IN HELL, the second book off my backlist, for 1.99. We'll see what happens.

Beauregard said...

About a year ago I surveyed newspapers and found only about 75 that still produce their own book reviews. I did not find any that would consider a "vanity" book, which is how they still view indie pubs and self pubs, which is also another demonstration of how editors are mired in attitudes of the 19th century and also why most news(papers) are slowly sinking into a tar pit of oblivion.
I did not ask, when talking with the few remaining "book editor" types I found, how they handle ebooks.
There may be an issue that they don't get them for free or know how to handle them (no Kindle, techno-phobic, they are old fashioned or just snobs...).
With regard to reviewing books, their logic seems to be that traditional publishers edit, check facts and spelling and screen for quality.
Duh.

Thrilling Covers said...

Pricing is so strange. I had a book at $4.95 which was my third best-selling at that point. For grins, I raised it to $5.95 and it jumped up to be my best-selling title.

Robin Sullivan said...

@ Robert Bidinotto said...
Largely because of your blog and Robin Sullivan's, I've finally become motivated to make the big jump from nonfiction to fiction -- something I had always dreamed of doing. It took the examples of pioneering indie authors like you to show me that my efforts would not have to face the torture and near-certain futility of running the Gatekeeper Gauntlet.


Thanks for the shout out Robert. Joe and I sometimes come from slightly different perspectives but we both believe 100% in self-publishing as a means to success. I'm glad you've found my posts useful.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Robin Sullivan said...

Tara Maya said... I've also wondered if it might come to a model of free books paid by advertisers. But I hope not. Because I think one always ends up writing for the people who pay you. Writers under the old system wrote to please publishers; finally we had a shot at writing to please readers. I'd hate to go to writing to please advertisers.

Very good point Tara.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Michelle Muto said...

Joe - I've noticed a few people are trying the $1.99 price point. Would you consider trying dropping one of your$2.99 books at that price as an experiment?

I listed my debut, The Book of Lost Souls, at $1.99. Sales are starting to pick up, but I'm wondering if I should have started with a different price.

Robin Sullivan said...

Anonymous said..."That's 11 indie novels in the Kindle Fiction Top 20. Meaning that indie ebook fiction is whipping traditional ebook fiction."

While I agree with all the other posts here by indie authors that they are still making a good living at those cheaper prices - and they don't have the overhead of the traditional presses - I still am waiting for the day when indies and traditional go head to head - i.e. same price point (hopefully indies going up but if it means traditional going down so be it). When both are similarly priced AND making similar number of sales. Then the lines will truly be erased between the two. For now...indies HAVE to offer lower prices to make the same number of sales - and I'm waiting for this milestone to fall for there to be a true "level" field.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

ezbeanz said...

You should have raised the price to 1.99 instead of 2.99. I think sales would be about the same for a dollar more.

Belinda said...

I, too, am an unknown author and I released my novel, Dead Spell, at the end of February for $2.99. I had something like 3 sales and when that went on for a week, I panicked.

I dropped Dead Spell's price to 99 cents hoping to pick up momentum. In the last 16 days, I sold 36 copies. I still can barely afford a Starbucks coffee on the lower royalty rate, but I have a day job so don't cry for me, Argentina.

What the 99 cents price point DID do for me was a)get me readers and b)get me reviews. I have seven 5-star ratings on Goodreads, 5 great reviews. Three of those reviews are cross-posted to Amazon which makes my product a little more enticing for when I put it back up to $2.99 which will be as soon as print copies are available.

I'm not a fan of the 99 cents price point, especially if you have only one book out at the time. To me, it under-values good work and it's just another dollar store sale.

As a consumer, I feel like I'm cheating authors by paying only 99 cents because I know how hard being a writer is. I also agree with the race to the bottom camp. That argument makes good sense.

Regardless, it does work for sales.

Anonymous said...

"As Joe has pointed out many times before, those indie authors are making much more money than their print published counterparts.

What they're not doing is simultaneously supporting a small army of editors, publicists, publishing staff, printers and New York realtors."

1500(.99) .35 = $519.75/day ($189,000/year)

1500(8.99) .25 = $3,371.25/day ($1,230,000/year)

RĂ©ussie Miliardario said...

Can't wait to see what happens! Thanks for sharing the data.

Robert Bidinotto said...

Anonymous, you're assuming in your calculations that the Trad author has gotten an advance that will "earn out," and thus allow him to actually reap that kind of money.

You're also forgetting that the author shares that piddling 25% with his agent. His actual percentage is much lower.

Finally, you're assuming that the Trad author's title will remain an ebook bestseller at that high price level for a full year. Experience suggests not. On the other hand, sales for indie ebooks at lower price levels have a much longer tail. "The List" is two years old, from what Joe's said somewhere. Amanda Hocking's e-titles were first published a year ago, and are still earning. Etc.

Ask yourself how many of the Trad titles on the bestseller list will still be there at those prices in another 2-4 months.

--Robert Bidinotto
RobertTheWriter.com

Joe Konrath said...

1500(8.99) .25 = $3,371.25/day ($1,230,000/year)

Nope. An $8.99 ebook from a legacy published author earns 14.9% of the cover price. That's $733,000 a year.

But you think it is tough being an indie and getting an ebook in the Top 100? It's a lot harder to do it traditionally.

There are no indies in the Top 100 selling for more than $2.99. That's because brand name bestsellers and the NY marketing machine are still relevant.

But give it a few years...

Anonymous said...

We can't assume all authors get 14.9% and will continue to do so in the future. And I don't know why you say it's harder to break into the top 100 as a traditionally published author.

You found it easier to gain success as an indie, but most reading this blog probably won't. Yes, there are many more hoops to jump through with legacy publishing, but the ultimate hoop that everyone has to jump through is the marketplace. The reader is the ultimate gatekeeper and determines who gets into and stays in the top 100. The ones that are there are the ones people want to read (for whatever reason.)

I think Joe, Amanda, and some others are fortunate (though fortune favors the prepared) to be getting in on the ground floor and establishing their brands early on. It's going to be much more difficult later on.

wannabuy said...

@Andy:"What they're not doing is simultaneously supporting a small army of editors, publicists, publishing staff, printers and New York realtors."

Not supporting Realtors?!? Didn't we learn in the bubble they're the chosen ones? ;)

It amazes me authors live better off $0.99 books than 'legacy priced books.' Just amazing gatekeepers think they're worth that much more than the author...


Neil

noothergods said...

Seems like this was a good experiment. Though I have to echo Phil's question, if you were starting fresh would you launch at $.99 or $2.99. I have a novel almost ready for publication and a number of short stories. If I can get enough together to get some art for the short stories I'm think about putting them up at $.99 as well and possibly put some collections of stories up at $2.99.

wannabuy said...

@Robin: I still am waiting for the day when indies and traditional go head to head - i.e. same price point (hopefully indies going up but if it means traditional going down so be it)."

The prisoner's dilemma Tells us that indie authors will discount to get into the top 100. The chances among 10,000 authors that a few hundred will not break ranks is almost zero.

Big6 ublishers cannot afford to drop down to indie prices. They simply have fixed costs that are too high to survive.

There is a reason the big6 tried to 'price out' ebooks in 2010. Heck, they still over-price ebooks to support print books. The value of 'trapped shelf space' is worth a fortune to publishers. Even if it is just that pallet of books at a big box to remind a customer to buy a certain title/author.

Once ebooks hit greater than 20% of the market, the economics of book selling change. You've blogged pbook sales trends.


The 'unintended consequences' of the agency model are... interesting. :) As Joe alluded to, once the publishing machine starts to break down, there will be opportunity for $2.99 indie authors in the top 100. :)

Neil

S.E. Gordon said...

Big mistake. Ugh...

Michael said...

I don't understand why people think it's a big mistake for Joe to make a change. He's got many books and is making a killing even without The List. What Joe is doing is trying to experiment until he finds the right strategy to maximize income and sales. He's willing to sacrifice some short term profits to find the sweet spot for various books. In the long run, he'll be better off than if he just sat on whatever seemed to be working at the moment.

Of course, it would be far riskier for someone with a single top 100 book, such as Victorine, to try this, but this is one of the advantages Joe has with his numerous titles and his name recognition.

Coolkayaker1 said...

Joe: "There are no indies in the Top 100 selling for more than $2.99. That's because brand name bestsellers and the NY marketing machine are still relevant."

He blinks!

S.E. Gordon said...

I'm sorry, but this is madness. You have a book in the top 20 and you want to make a change? What if it cracks the top 10? You shouldn't mess with it period, because there is no guarantee you can get back here.

Just my personal opinion.

S.E. Gordon
http://segordon.blogspot.com
http://www.segordon.com

Coolkayaker1 said...

I just read an article about bestselling traditional author Jodi Picoult. Often criticized, evevn by NY Time book reviews, as a commercial and, frankly, poor quality writer. There are websites dedicated to how poorly written are her works.

Traditional publishing has garnered her a documented 14 million books sold. If every book sold for $10, and she got 15%, she’d have banked 21 million dollars off her books (not including the Cameron Diaz My Sister’s Keeper movie rights).

So, although there are certainly some “winners’ in e-publishing, I think before anyone completely turns tail on the traditional houses in 2011, they’d better at least submit to make sure they’re not the next Jodi Picoult.

S.E. Gordon said...

No way I'd ever submit my work to the big 6. I'm with Joe on this. Besides, I watched my mother get screwed over by traditional publishers for years.

S.E. Gordon
http://segordon.blogspot.com
http://www.segordon.com

Tara Maya said...

So, although there are certainly some “winners’ in e-publishing, I think before anyone completely turns tail on the traditional houses in 2011, they’d better at least submit to make sure they’re not the next Jodi Picoult.


You're forgetting that she did not start publishing in 2011. The industry was completely different. If she were starting from scratch today, it might not make sense for her.

If we haven't seen indies make 21 million yet, I suspect it's only because ereader penetration has penetrated fully yet. But it keeps moving closer to that, not the other way around.

Leigh Sunders said...

In addition to promotions, different price-points also work well for different products. I've got short stories up for $0.99 and a novelette up for $1.99 All are clearly labelled on the cover as to the length (that's important) and are selling well at these prices -- especially the novelette.

I'll be releasing a full-length novel soon (with ties into one of my short story worlds); I'll probably price it somewhere between $2.99-$4.99 -- which seems like a fair price for an ebook, and less than a trad paperback.

S.E. Gordon said...

@Leigh:

I like your pricing scheme, and I plan to do the same with my vampire novel Enura. But if I put it on sale for .99 and it gets anywhere near the top 20, I'm not touching it.

S.E. Gordon
http://segordon.blogspot.com
http://www.segordon.com

Sheri Leigh said...

There are websites dedicated to how poorly written are her works.

She isn't a bad writer, even from objective standards. She actually has some turns of phrase sometimes that are quite remarkably beautiful. There are times she moves from genre writer into literary writer. She's no Cormac McCarthy, no, but still. Granted, I haven't read much recent stuff of hers. Maybe it went downhill? But I can't imagine someone calling her a "bad writer." Really?

Coolkayaker1 said...

S.E. Gordon: your mother is obviously not Jodi Picoult.

Robert Bidinotto said...

@ Coolkayaker1:

A two-word reply to your message: "Opportunity costs."

That's what you're not considering. How much time (and time = money) is an author supposed to waste waiting, from the point where his novel is finished, to its (increasingly unlikely) pub date by some Legacy Publisher? Joe has already blogged on this, and I invite you and others to read or re-read it. His considerations are not just persuasive; they're unassailable.

Look: If I self-publish, I have a 100% guarantee of my novel being available for sale within weeks of when it's finished. I could start earning money immediately, and go on to write something else.

So, how much would I trade away -- in time, money, and creative independence -- if I must go through the 2-3 year ordeal to find an agent, for her to find a publisher, and for the publisher to finally get around to putting my book into print? Even assuming that this all works out (which is increasingly unlikely), the most common financial reward will be a $5k advance for all that work and waiting.

Self-pubbing vs. trad pubbing? For me, it's not even a contest.

--Robert Bidinotto
RobertTheWriter.com

Anonymous said...

"If we haven't seen indies make 21 million yet, I suspect it's only because ereader penetration has penetrated fully yet. But it keeps moving closer to that, not the other way around."

I doubt e-book indies will ever see those numbers, especially the .99 cent ones. I mean, you'd have to sell 21 million of them!

E-readers will ultimately take over, but we also have to factor in the exponential growth of the number of book choices available in the future. That will dilute the available pool of money that'll be spread around.

I also think books will become shorter, more like how they used to may, and spend less time on the top 100 list as they make way for new ones.

As iTunes may have been the final nail in the coffin for the millionaire rock star, so Amazon and the e-reader revolution may spell the end of rock star authors like King and Patterson.

Renee Pinzon said...

@Coolkayaker1" I just read an article about bestselling traditional author Jodi Picoult. Often criticized, evevn by NY Time book reviews, as a commercial and, frankly, poor quality writer. There are websites dedicated to how poorly written are her works."

LOL! I had not heard that. But I guess I'm not too surprised, human nature being what it is.

There have always been reviewers who are snobbier-than-thou. But I have to marvel at the notion that some would have the drive to dedicate a website to such a topic. What do they get out of it? Seriously.

Probably frustrated writers who are, shall we say, writier-than-thou.

S.E. Gordon said...

@Coolkayaker1:

Just to set the record straight, my mother is Anita Gordon, who has published 6 novels traditionally, 3 under the pseudonym Kathleen Kirkwood. And no, not everyone can be the next Nora Roberts, either; however, I am urging her to publish her work in e-book format, though she's wary about the format.

One thing that you fail to mention about traditional publishing is that can take years to get your rights back. I've seen this happen firsthand. Eventually (and reluctantly) they give them back. Thankfully, my mother now has all her rights. Truly, what is she waiting for? Good question, that's why I pointed her to J.A. Konrath's blog.

wannabuy said...

@S.E. Gordon:"One thing that you fail to mention about traditional publishing is that can take years to get your rights back."

New contracts are not reverting.

Read, IIRC clause 6, of MacMillian's new contracts. They gain derivative rights! I'll let the authors discuss... It only makes your point, there is no longer a contest.

What is also in favor of indie publishing is the bandwidth. How many big6 authors are allowed to publish multiple books per year? If an indie author can write a book, there is nothing stopping it from hitting the market. :)

e.g., I *love* Nathan Lowell's books. If they were only available at 1 per year... that would be one sale per year. He's 'cranking up' to 3 per year. :) That is 3 sales to me. ;)

Some authors have put their career backlist onto Kindle (or are in the process). Talk about a pension fund. :)

All evidence is that ebooks are expanding the book market... So the armagedon some worry about, I just don't see happening. Well, not for 'low overhead' operations. ;)

Neil

S.E. Gordon said...

Ah, yes. Derivative works. I remember reading about that earlier on this blog. Shows what true parasites they are.

S.E. Gordon
http://segordon.blogspot.com
http://www.segordon.com

Coolkayaker1 said...

Hi SE Gordon: Your mother sounds like a fine writer and has had some success in traditional publishing, but not perhaps what she expects or deserves. I can see why she’d turn to e-publishing. She should.

That said, I have followed this blog closely, and am truly unbiased because I’m an avid and logical reader, not a writer.
Although Joe’s blog is hugely informative and Joe is as candid as the day is long, this blog is quite provincial in its scope.
Certainly e-books will rule (I know, I bought a Kindle 1 when they were $400). And self e-publishing can make money—in a few cases, serious money.

But, a broader perspective from other news stories, bestseller lists, literary awards, and blogs, still shows a strong bias for traditional publishers. I am not convinced that a new author should avoid traditional publishing. For those few that “make it” there, the potential to earn (like Jodi Picoult or your example, Nora Roberts) a truly mind-numbing amount of cash, in an environment that still has a strong hold on advertising and Hollywood, is hard to pass up. That amount of cash is not yet available to e-self publishing.

For those that have had a falling out with traditional publishers, or who have not been accepted for any reason, self-publishing seems to be a new answer to sticking the manuscript in the desk drawer. And that, as Joe states, is a good thing for us readers

Tara Maya said...

I doubt e-book indies will ever see those numbers, especially the .99 cent ones. I mean, you'd have to sell 21 million of them!

Actually, at $.99, you only earn .35 on the dollar, so you'd have to sell 60 million books to earn 21 million. However, if you had 10 books and sold each one for $2.99 at 70%, you'd only need to sell one million of each book. I am sure we will see some authors do that in the next few years. Probably we will read about them on this blog

Anonymous said...

ONLY a million times ten? Hmmm. How many people reading this blog are happy to be selling 3-4 books a day? And though e-books will have a larger percentage of the big pie (maybe even most of the pie), there will be many more writers diluting the available money pool, competing for the reader's dollar (or $2.99). If there's one top supernatural romance writer today, tomorrow there will be a hundred more. Even with e-books at 100% of the market, I'm not sure we'll see those numbers from indies. And all of this assumes readership increases rather than decreases. People might be in love with their kindle today because it's the newest and coolest thing, but what about tomorrow?

Remember a few months ago when everyone was saying you had to have your own blog--platform, platform, platform--and then a few weeks ago everyone was saying how blogs aren't really the thing anymore, and now it's all about tweets. What's it gonna be next week, or hell--five minutes from now?

Maybe everyone shouldn't jump off the good ship Legacy just yet and rush to self-publish the 200,000 word monster they finished before lunch.

bowerbird said...

"anonymous" said:
> 1500(.99) .35
> = $519.75/day
> ($189,000/year)
>
> 1500(8.99) .25
> = $3,371.25/day
> ($1,230,000/year)

you will never see a better
example of the assumption
that demand is totally static.

but, back in the real world,
you will find that it is much,
much, much more difficult to
sell 1500 copies daily of an
$8.99 book than a $.99 book.

it's also the case that the 25%
"royalty" from "legacy" houses
is computed _after_ amazon
has extracted its 30% share,
so that's overstated as well...

no wonder that "anonymous"
didn't want to put his name
on such a garbage comment.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

"anonymous" said:
> As iTunes may have been
> the final nail in the coffin
> for the millionaire rock star,
> so Amazon and the
> e-reader revolution may
> spell the end of
> rock star authors
> like King and Patterson.

great! let's kill _all_ the stars!

it's far better for the ecosystem
if more writers make a _living_
and fewer writers make a killing.

-bowerbird

Anonymous said...

"People might be in love with their kindle today because it's the newest and coolest thing, but what about tomorrow? "

Reading has been popular for a couple thousand years. Unless we get nuked to oblivion and go back to oral story-telling I don't think there's a problem.

The kindle, nook, or generic ereader device will be around for many years to come. No worries. As long as people love to read we'll need writers to quench the thirst.

The argument about where more money can be made -- in self-pubbing ebooks or in legacy publishing -- means nothing to me. I was rejected by big publishing and I'm making thousands a month on Kindle book sales. Am I worried about missing the $21 million? Do I think I'm Jodi Piccoult?

Not even close! I know what I am (midlist), and I'm just happy to be paying my mortgage and my daughter's medical bills every month.

Big publishing can motor on without me (as they have been) and I'll swim in a smaller pond without them. It's working for me, and I figure if I hit it big like Hocking or Locke they'll all find me with their technology. After all, I'm still listed in the phone book.

A.P. Fuchs said...

Speaking of experiments, some here might recall a couple weeks ago I embarked on a "new cover" experiment to see how much of an impact a new cover makes on a product, everything else remaining the same.

I've updated my blog today with the latest sales and earnings. Feel free to go here and see how things are turning out.

I've also did some .99 cent price drops and there has been one surge of sales, but then it's backed off, which only confirms that .99 cents works for some books and not all, and feeds another theory that I'll be conducting an experiment of the end of this month.

wannabuy said...

@anon:Maybe everyone shouldn't jump off the good ship Legacy just yet

The good ship Legacy isn't really taking on anyone who isn't an indie success already...

So if authors want on 'the good ship' that takes all their money, they first have to take the alternate path anyway.

And why aren't you using a handle? It isn't difficult to be anonymous with accountability in blogs.

And instead of 70%, take 17.5% of far lower sales as you have to pay the Legacy executives. The dollars for midlist in legacy publishing are evaporating.

And that derivative works clause is outright theft...

Neil

Joseph said...

"The good ship Legacy isn't really taking on anyone who isn't an indie success already..."

Sorry, but this is pretty far off the mark. Publishers Lunch lists debut novel sales to legacy publishers practically every week.

Michael said...

I'm another person who came close with traditional publishing, but failed, and is now making 4 - 5,000 a month with the indie model. Of course, I've also got several books, and those several conceal several more that you'll never see where I learned how to write.

There are a fair number of writers on these forums with the attitude of, "My first book will be done at the end of the week. I'm going to make a KILLING!!!!"

They might. Some writers produce great first novels and achieve instant success. Most do not.

Joe Konrath said...

It finally switched to $2.99 at 3pm on March 16.

Prior to that, I sold 16135 copies this month at 99 cents. That equals $5647 this month.

If I had to guess, I'd say The List will earn more from now until the end of March than it did for the first 16 days of March.

Place your bets...

K.L. Dillon said...

That's awesome. awesome. awesome. Definitely a great "study" for young chaps like myself who want to know everything there is to know about self-pubbing i.e. pricing, before I do it. I'm considering pricing my first novel at .99 cents but I'm not sure. Hm...

Joe Konrath said...

There's another unintended aspect of this experiment that may come into play. Kobo lowered the price of The List to 99 cents to match Amazon's price.

Even though Amazon is at $2.99 again, it may spot the Kobo price and lower it to 99 cents again to match it. If so, Amazon would still pay me 35% of $2.99, which is $1.05. Meaning they'd lose money on each sale. But they've done that before.

Should be interesting...

Mary Sisson said...

make sure they’re not the next Jodi Picoult

You know, I keep seeing things like this--but what if you're the next Jodi Picoult? what if you're the next Stephen Kind? what if you're the next Danielle Steele?

Guess what? If you sell a gazillion copies of your indie e-books, traditional publishers will be happy to work with you!

And isn't the problem with traditional publishing that it works for the writer ONLY if you're some huge bestseller? As a reader, I certainly don't limit myself to the bestseller list, and I certainly don't think it's the best source of quality literature. It's a lot more exciting to me that people who are less commercial can potentially make a living self-publishing. That means something.

Mary Sisson said...

That's Stephen KING, sorry. I don't know who Stephen Kind is, but hopefully he's doing well self-pubbing.

Matthew W. Grant said...

Joe,

Wouldn't Amazon pay you 70% of 2.99? When you raised the price back to 2.99, you would have increased your royalty level.

That would mean you made make roughly 2.04 (depending on the size of file and delivery charge).

Also, Joe, do you still have that Overdrive post in the works? I tried to look into that starting with my local library, but they had no idea how things work on the back end with Overdrive. I figured you would be the expert.

One more thing while I'm asking questions...did you ever hear back about the discrepancy between the Amazon website product description and the Kindle product description in reference to the lack of paragraph breaks in some people's Kindle descriptions? (You and I had e-mailed about that a while back.) I went back and forth with Amazon support several times and never got an answer out of them.

Matthew W. Grant
Sex, Sin & Scandal In A Small New England Town...
Discover The
SECRETS OF SLATERS FALLS (currently just .99)

Anonymous said...

When you self-publish ebooks in collaboration with another writer, do the various publishing platforms divide the payments among both people...or do the people have to split it themselves? Thanks!

Imogen Rose said...

Very interesting. Thank you for sharing your numbers.

chris said...

If so, Amazon would still pay me 35% of $2.99, which is $1.05.

Mmm, so they don't actually base it on the sales price?

Interesting.

I think you're right, you should do quite well out of the tail end of this month even if the title nose-dives.

antares said...

Joe Konrath said
"There are no indies in the Top 100 selling for more than $2.99. That's because brand name bestsellers and the NY marketing machine are still relevant.

But give it a few years..."


I agree.

The TradPubs are moving forward on inertia. But there is a lot of friction in the system.

The economic model the TradPubs use is not suited to the 21st century. It centers around a monopoly on distribution and, like all monopolies, allows the TradPubs to be economically inefficient.

Amazon broke the monopoly. The beast does not yet know it, but it has been mortally wounded.

When a train goes off its track, it doesn't stop immediately. It takes a while for all that mass to grind to a halt. The TradPub train is off its track. This is not the time to buy a ticket.

Jude Hardin said...

There are a fair number of writers on these forums with the attitude of, "My first book will be done at the end of the week. I'm going to make a KILLING!!!!"

They might. Some writers produce great first novels and achieve instant success. Most do not.


That's a very good point, Michael. Most of us have to spend years honing our craft before we start producing work of publishable quality. The argument that novelists can now earn while they learn (like the pulp writers of yesteryear) is flawed, I think. As a reader, I'm not too keen on paying anyone's way through "college." If I buy something that turns out to be crap (even at $.99), I'm not likely to give that author a second chance. Life's too short to waste time on bad fiction.

Joe Konrath said...

In the last 90 minutes, I sold 100 copies at $2.99.

That's $200, for those keeping track.

We'll see if my ranking holds at #23.

Jude Hardin said...

In the last 90 minutes, I sold 100 copies at $2.99.

Largely because you spent years honing your craft. ;)

Tara Maya said...

Another writer ill-served by legacy publishing:

http://www.iantregillis.com/index.cfm?blog=212

Ian Tregillis wrote a beautiful book called Bitter Seeds. It was supposed to be part of a trilogy. Just think how much money he has lost because he wasn't selling the other two books himself.

Truly sad.

commitmentengine said...

I'm sorry, but this is madness. You have a book in the top 20 and you want to make a change?

Madness? This...is...KONRATH!!!

Sorry...the Internet demanded this be done.

Seriously though, adventures in e-pricing aside why wouldn't you want to explore the boundaries? I bought "The List" when it was .99 and I've been tickled with it. Would I have bit at 2.99?

Maybe...probably....

Better to risk it and see what happens than to grope around in the dark with no data.

Michael said...

Still holding at #23. I was one of the ones who thought you would make more money at 2.99, but I still guessed you'd drop a few places every hour until you settled at about 300-400 ranking. I was certainly not expecting that you'd hold your exact same ranking at 2.99.

It makes me awfully tempted to see if I can still sell 175 copies of The Righteous per day if I raise the price to 2.99. Then again, I don't have as much leeway to experiment and the 99 cent book is helping the sequel to sell a very respectable number of copies per day at a higher price.

Nick Sireau said...

Just wondering if there's any data from first time self-publishing authors out there about how their novels are doing, how long it took them for sales to pick up, what worked for them, etc?

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> Even though Amazon
> is at $2.99 again, it may
> spot the Kobo price and
> lower it to 99 cents again
> to match it. If so, Amazon
> would still pay me 35% of
> $2.99, which is $1.05.

that's not how i read it...

amazon will pay 70% of the
sales price, which would be
70% of $.99. which would be
a nice way to get 70% on a
$.99 book, which would be
sweet. except most people
observe that amazon will
_not_ match such a price,
likely for that very reason.


> If I had to guess, I'd say
> The List will earn more from
> now until the end of March
> than it did for the first 16 days
> of March.
> Place your bets...

i was unsure how to explain
your course of action, but i
do believe that this clears up
the ambiguity of the situation.

i'd bet you are _correct_...

i would also bet that things
are a bit more complicated
than that, in the long run...

-bowerbird

S.J. Harris said...

Just wondering if there's any data from first time self-publishing authors out there about how their novels are doing, how long it took them for sales to pick up, what worked for them, etc?

Look here.

I suspect my results are more typical, though. Since March 1 I've been selling 3-4 books a day at $.99. At this rate it will take years before my earnings equal even the minimal advance I might have gotten from a traditional publisher.

Journey Into Darkness: A Kim Journey Thriller

Cover Art Review

Michael said...

I suspect my results are more typical, though. Since March 1 I've been selling 3-4 books a day at $.99. At this rate it will take years before my earnings equal even the minimal advance I might have gotten from a traditional publisher.

On the other hand, I've sold over 6,000 books since my first book went live on January 21. I did labor in obscurity for over 20 years, however, before I hit that point.

J. Viser said...

Very interesting to see that kind of quick response. For Joe's books, we're seeing some fairly strong price sensitivity of demand. Good to know and makes sales easier to model.

I would anticipate that alot of the ebook buyers are new customers for Joe (just a guess). If that is the case, then the 99 cent strategy clearly helps build market share and a ready audience for new works. That could mean even faster adoption of new ebooks in the future.

I am an unknown indie and have dropped my price on four distribution channels from $2.99 to $0.99 at the beginning of the month. So far, I have sold as many books month to date as I have in my "average" month since releasing Lie Merchants in November 2010. What's average? Yeah, well...it is only seven books per month. I don't mind divulging my pitiful sales numbers, embarassing as they may be.

January was my best month and if my March run rate continues, I'll be about even with January. That is not enough for me to say that lowering prices to 99 cents was the best move for me, because I will make much less profit at the lower royalty rate.

Why haven't I experienced the same kind of response as Joe? Probably several reasons: (1) He's a better writer, (2) he has more books for sale, (3) my topic is somewhat controversial and (4) my cover art needs improvement. Those are all things that can be fixed and I am in this for the long haul (working on sequel to Lie Merchants now).

Thanks to Joe and all the other participants, at least I don't feel like I am out here alone off the reservation! Appreciate the sharing of experiences and data.

Coolkayaker1 said...

The arguments for time value of money is moot when we are speaking of millions of dollars. It’s a delay at the beginning, with first book, but then a pattern of publishing and writing is set and it’s a non-issue. Same with lost book rights—Barbra Kingsolver and Joyce Carole Oates don’t lose a ton of sleep over old boom rights, just so long as the delivery truck keeps backing up to the castle with their royalty checks.

Plenty of modern authors are making it big—huge, actually—in publishing recently: Emma Donoghue (“Room”), Sara Gruen (“Water For Elephants”) and Karen Russel (Swamplandia!”) to name a few. Kathryn Stockett (“The Help”) was unheard of before her 2009 book, which spent over 100 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller list and is soon to be a movie. Who would pass up the potential for success of these modern female authors.

To Mary Sisson's point, the next Jodi Picoult has not come from the e-world yet.

I think traditional publishing, even in 2011, holds the trump card for excellent authors who are “allowed into the inner sanctum” –sure, there’s luck involved, too, and if you don’t get in then it might not be the quality of the writing (although that’s it most of the time); maybe it’s just that the legacy publishers are ignorant asses and have it out for most to fail.

Large scale advertising, connections to Hollywood and potential giant success and notoriety are what you are paying for with reduced per copy royalties (not just for book covers and formatting, as other posts here would suggest).

Any new author would be amiss to not try traditional publishing in 2011-2012.

J. Viser said...

And, just as a follow-up comment, I am very happy to have gone down the self-publishing route. I am a compulsive entrepreneur to begin with and like the ability to control the message, do the marketing and experiment. Learn and repeat.

Tara Maya said...

I think the cover of Lie Merchants looks very good, very professional.

Christy Pinheiro said...

Madness? This...is...KONRATH!!!

So true. Joe is partially successful (IMHO) because he's also painfully curious.

The legacy publishers are going to change, no doubt about it. But I don't know what they will morph into, exactly.

Perhaps we will eventually have genuine author service companies (rather than vanity presses) for authors who have real talent but don't want to do anything themselves. There are a few companies doing this already.

I think the academic publishers will survive the longest, but even then, I'm not so sure.

Michael said...

Christy,

It's a great time for a freelance editor or graphic artist with some networking skills, that's for sure.

Steve Thomas said...

Just so you know, one of those .99 is mine! I loved the List. Sequel coming? I'll buy that one too.

Michael said...

So true. Joe is partially successful (IMHO) because he's also painfully curious.

Ain't that the truth. The other thing that's unusual is how much he's willing to discuss the facts, instead of speaking in hints and innuendo. As in, "I made X dollars last year, selling X books, with a contract that was worded like this..."

Part of the reason writers have struggled is because they feel obliged to keep these things secret, to not make any noise, etc. Hat tip to Joe for ignoring that particular unspoken rule, not just now, when he's independent, but when he had a traditional contract, as well.

Ellen O'Connell said...

"Just wondering if there's any data from first time self-publishing authors out there about how their novels are doing, how long it took them for sales to pick up, what worked for them, etc?"

There are regular threads over in the Writer's Cafe part of Kindle Boards where some indies share that kind of info. It's not scientific and there aren't that many who participate, but it might give you an idea.

I think there's a lot of understandable fascination with those having big successes as indies, and then some attention always called to those who can't pay some monthly bill with what their sales bring. However, I suspect there are just as many of us in the unremarkable middle, making a modest living or welcome supplement to other income and smiling a lot.

toetag said...

I did the same type of experiment. During the month of October I gave a Halloween special discount, all 8 of my elusive clue titles for .99. It worked for me. I sold lots and then the next month I went to 2.99. Readers who bought at .99 were hooked on the series and continue to buy at 2.99. I'll have four new titles to release in the next couple of months. I plan to play around with the prices.

Michael said...

Ellen, you're being modest. I bought your Rottie book after seeing your fantastic reviews and reading a great sample and it's on my TBR list, waiting my upcoming vacation. The only thing stopping you, IMO, is that you need to get some more books written and published.

wannabuy said...

@Joseph:"Sorry, but this is pretty far off the mark. Publishers Lunch lists debut novel sales to legacy publishers practically every week."

Is it? Those are 'debut' authors picke 6 to 18 months ago. Are they really signing a significant number who haven't proven themselves?

I'd appreciate any links that aren't to 6 to 18 month trailing indicators...

Neil

Joe Konrath said...

Six hours after raising to $2.99. Still selling 50 copies an hour. Still making $100 an hour.

At 1500 a day at 99 cents, I was making $22 an hour.

Sheri Leigh said...

Still making $100 an hour.

Even while you're sleeping.

Beauty! ;)

T.J. Dotson said...

However, I suspect there are just as many of us in the unremarkable middle, making a modest living or welcome supplement to other income and smiling a lot.

You know Ellen, thats not a bad place to be. I have no problems aspiring to the middle. You'll still be miles ahead of other authors. Who are wasting time sending in query letters and collecting rejection notices.

Looking forward to some day being in the middle myself!!

Gary Ponzo said...

Joe I think you underestimate the power of this blog when it comes to your sales. There are many people who read this blog yet never leave any comments. I know I followed it for 6 months before I left one.

Joe Konrath said...

I know I followed it for 6 months before I left one.

That's great.

I've got 23 ebooks for sale. How many have you bought?

Joe Konrath said...

I realize this probably won't last, but right now, with The List and my other titles, on all platforms, I'm making $164 an hour.

This is 24 hours a day, obviously.

If that were to happen to stick, that's $1,438,100 a year.

I expect The List to cool, but I also predict other titles of mine will take its place. Especially since I'm adding many more new ebooks this year (10 are slated.)

A million bucks a year doesn't seem all that outrageous.

Holy fuck.

James Harden said...

You know what's cooler than a millon dollars a year?

A billion dollars a year.

(Sorry, couldn't resist)

Gary Ponzo said...

I've got 23 ebooks for sale. How many have you bought?

3. And for the record I was the first to review "Wild Night is Calling."

My point is, your brand has become massive and this blog drives that brand. I'm not disparaging anything you've accomplished, in fact I'm rooting for you. Hard. I'm just noting the power of your blog.

elijahjoon said...

The problem with suddenly deciding to change the price on your ebook (or make any modification, edit, or other change) on the Kindle DTP platform is that the ebook is no longer "Live" but back to "In Review" status. Doesn't that effect sales between when changes are submitted to when the ebook is actually "changed" on the Amazon Kindle site?

Does anyone know?

elijahjoon said...

I posted this elsewhere, but since a lot of authors engage in discussion here, I want to bring the discussion here too:

I want to note that the big sellers on Amazon Kindle and PubIt! are all genre fiction, especially paranormal romance. There's hardly ANY Literary Fiction on those bestseller lists as far as indie authored ebooks are concerned.
That makes it pretty discouraging for literary authors.
Luckily, I write both kinds of fiction... Just saying.

Ellen O'Connell said...

@ Michael - Thanks. I really enjoyed The Devil's Deep and hope you like my mystery.

@ T. J. - The openness of many indies about how they're doing helped me a lot to kind of find my place in the crowd. They've sure drummed into me how to keep that place (write more). Joe was the first one I found setting out his actual numbers and then others followed. Information people share here and in other forums still helps.

Tara Maya said...

I believe genre fiction usually outsells literary fiction, regardless of medium. The usual remedy is to sneer at how shoddy genre fiction is. Throw in a few jibes at capitalism for added feel-good smugness.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate (US)
The Unfinished Song: Initiate (UK)

Lee Rogers said...

Tara said:
>>If we haven't seen indies make 21 million yet, I suspect it's only because ereader penetration has [not] penetrated fully yet. But it keeps moving closer to that, not the other way around.<<

If I understand this correctly, yes, I agree. Once the English-speaking, westernised middle classes in places like the Indian sub-continent, China and the Middle East supplement the western world's buying of ereaders, and the pipe through Amazon et al remains open, pretty much the sky is the limit.

Robin Sullivan said...

Coolkayaker1 said...For those that have had a falling out with traditional publishers, or who have not been accepted for any reason, self-publishing seems to be a new answer to sticking the manuscript in the desk drawer.

I think that perception is antiquated. The whole "so you're not good enough for the big league so do this as an alternative." Was a view of self-publishing for years. But now, the financial $'s make it MUCH more lucrative to self-publish so it's not the "rejected" works going that way...it is authors who are trying to maximize control and profit.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Robin Sullivan said...

wannabuy said...Big6 publishers cannot afford to drop down to indie prices. They simply have fixed costs that are too high to survive.

I usually agree with you but not on this point. Big6's overhead is not based on per book. If they sell 100,000 ebooks they have no more cost then if they sell 10,00 so yes they can lower to $0.99 - the only reason they are not is they don't wish to canablize their print sales which they have invested large capital outlays of cash and they can't afford to have them stay in warehouses.When ebooks totally dominate print (We aer stil only at 8% - 25% ratios atm)then they can and will use the $0.99 and beat indies.

Joe showed a 36x increase in sales and 6x in profit. Let's look at a book that they are making $5,000 a month on. They get (5,000 *.75)$3,750. If they decreae to $0.99 and make $30,000 they make ($22,500 which is $18,750 more money to pay for the same expenses they have when they are selling at the higher price.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Robin Sullivan said...

I mentinoed before that Julianne MacLean had used the $0.99 to get into top 100 and raise to $2.99 to maximize profit before - so yes I predict the increase in price will produce a higher income - and...Originally the List was pretty stable at a rating of 1500 once it settles out - it will most certainly be below that - My guess is at least half (700ish) but could be in the mid 300's for a long time.

Just my predictions.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Joe Konrath said...

I'm just noting the power of your blog.

I'm not trying to be cute here, Gary.

This blog is for writers. Fans don't care about any of this stuff I'm talking about.

If A Newbie's Guide to Publishing was an effective marketing tool, you and every other visitor will have bought all 23 of my self pubbed ebooks, plus my 7 legacy published ebooks.

But that isn't the case. Some blog visitors may have bought a few ebooks, but you folks aren't my audience. You certainly aren't the group driving my 2000+ sales per day.

Having a platform is helpful, and having some notoriety is helpful, but people who visit my blog aren't the ones making me rich.

Joe Konrath said...

And thanks for reviewing Wild Night! :)

Joe Konrath said...

On a whim, perhaps because it is St. Patty's Day and I'm already drinking, I raised Disturb (now ranked #280) back to $2.99, and dropped Origin to 99 cents.

The List is ranked at #29, and has sold 620 in the past 15 hours since raising the rice.

Origin is has sold 1937 copies so far this month (6am on the 17th) and is currently ranked #291.

Disturb and Tequila went down in rank when I dropped their prices, but they didn't seem to move as quickly as The List did. We'll see if Origin does...

Coolkayaker1 said...

Robin. Reread what you've quoted from me and then how you interpreted it. You'll see the difference.

Anonymous said...

Joe,

Considering the rise in the ebook market share, and how you have been consistently increasing your sales for the last several months, I think a million dollars is a very conservative estimate for your profits this year.

Jude Hardin said...

But now, the financial $'s make it MUCH more lucrative to self-publish so it's not the "rejected" works going that way...it is authors who are trying to maximize control and profit.

It's both.

Kathleen Dienne said...

And let's not forget that "rejected" doesn't automatically mean "this book made the acquisitions editor want to gouge out her eyes and pour bleach in the sockets."

It can also mean "we just bought a book like this."

It can mean "we can't publish this fast enough to take advantage of the trend it represents."

It can mean "we've bought all the books we can for the year."

It can even mean "I personally do not like this book."

None of those things have squat to do with quality.

TF Rofkahr said...

I think that perception is antiquated. The whole "so you're not good enough for the big league so do this as an alternative." Was a view of self-publishing for years.

That's a really good point. There are a lot of folks that still carry that perception around though.

Jude Hardin said...

Very true, Kathleen. Some great books that would have otherwise gone unpublished will now be able to find an audience. I think it's great.

Anonymous said...

When ebooks totally dominate print (We aer stil only at 8% - 25% ratios atm)then they can and will use the $0.99 and beat indies.

Robin, I agree that the big6 ebook costs do not depend on volume, and they would take in more money at 0.99. But won't they still have so much expense in the form of excess staff and expensive real estate that they cannot match the royalty rates that authors can get elsewhere? If they also are forced down to $0.99, I cannot imagine that they could keep the biggest authors (at least those who are big due to talent, not just due to costly overpromotion) unless they do so at a loss, and when the biggest names go to self-publishing, (and assuming that the big6 give up on print once ebooks dominate) what do the big6 have left? I'm not sure they can compete at an equal price point. They would have to basically become author service companies, or lose their best writers, right? I think Michael got the best contract I've heard of, and maybe that could become more common, but still, it isn't clear to me that big6 has a place in the future.

Sheri Leigh said...

There's hardly ANY Literary Fiction on those bestseller lists as far as indie authored ebooks are concerned.

Isn't Karen McQuestion more literary fiction? (I think we had this discussion a month or so ago - literary fic written by men = "chick lit" written by women?)

Robin Sullivan said...

Coolkayaker1 said...
Robin. Reread what you've quoted from me and then how you interpreted it. You'll see the difference.


I'm not 100% clear what you mean. I think we are both saying the same thing which is not to let a manuscript languish in a drawer. My point is it that many are FOREGOING the submission process in lieu of more control and a bigger share so it's not JUST those that are rejected that should go indie.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Ellen Fisher said...

"Isn't Karen McQuestion more literary fiction?"

And R.J. Keller, too. Both have had huge success as indies.

Robin Sullivan said...

Anonymouse said...If they also are forced down to $0.99, I cannot imagine that they could keep the biggest authors

There's no question that publishers can't match the royalty shares of going direct. But not all people WANT to "go it alone". I'm an entrepreneur. Ridan is my third business (the other two being software and marketing) so for me it’s easy to do. There will always be those that just want to write and turn it over to someone else. They will be willing to give up $’s to not have to worry about those things.

I think the role of publishing will change – publishers will be less about distribution (which will be a more level playing field) and more about promotion (marketing). In the past their marketing efforts have largely been to large chain book buyers at to increase distribution, but in the new world order I think they’ll be more concentrated on “gaining tribes” for authors.

So far there has not been a mass exodus from traditional publishing to self publishing – do I think its coming – yeah. I actually wish it would get some momentum as that would force the 25%/75% ebook royalty issue. Once enough authors walk BECAUSE OF THIS then the rates will change.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Kendall Swan said...

Joe, is your $1k beer green?

Anonymous said...

Happy St. Patty's Day Joe!

And Holy Fuck is right -- I hope those numbers take off for you. It will be a nice surprise for your accountant at tax time next year.

Even in your alcoholic haze I think you were right to go with Disturb. I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

Josie Wade

Anonymous said...

Ooops, I meant Origin not Disturb. The St. Patty's Day elves have been here too.

Josie

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> Having a platform is helpful,
> and having some notoriety
> is helpful, but people who
> visit my blog aren't the ones
> making me rich.

"i'm rich! i'm rich! i'm so rich!"

(sorry, joe, couldn't resist.) ;+)

i agree with you, but it _is_
the case that the readership
for this blog (mostly writers)
can help immensely with the
matter of word-spreading...

for instance, the retweets on
the "list" experience were huge.

that's why it shot up so fast...
the word went out big, and fast.

i'm tracking "dirty parts" now,
and it's trending up now that
its price has been reduced,
but the going is rather slow...
no rocketship to the top there.

you can't separate out the
effects of "platform" and
"notoriety" and acknowledge
them, yet then deny the blog
has any effect. it matters...

other authors need to know
that they won't get _nearly_
the effects that you got in
the same time you got 'em.

anyone who thinks _they_
can rocket to the top-100
from rank #1078 _without_
"notoriety" and a "platform"
is gonna be sadly mistaken.


> On a whim, perhaps
> because it is St. Patty's Day
> and I'm already drinking,
> I raised Disturb
> (now ranked #280)
> back to $2.99, and
> dropped Origin to 99 cents.

a whim? a _whim_?

perhaps. but i doubt it.

i'd guess that it's probably
because "disturb" showed
no signs of going up at all,
once it hit the #250 range.

it was #251 when you posted
in late afternoon on tuesday,
dropped to #286 overnight,
crawled back to #251 by 1pm
yesterday, and is #272 now,
at 10am, even though it is
still listed at the $.99 price.

(10am pacific, not central,
where joe is, so don't worry
because he's drinking in the
morning... besides, it _is_
st. patrick's day, you fools.)

of course, this is _natural_.

(the wobble in the rankings,
i mean, not drinking at noon.)

it can take a while to make
the climb up the lists, even
if you have "notoriety" and
a "platform", but joe konrath
is looking for a quick effect.

you know those rich people.
they can be very impatient...


> Disturb and Tequila
> went down in rank when
> I dropped their prices

well, first, "disturb" is still
listed at $.99, so it didn't
"go down" because of price.
it's just the natural wobble.

"tequila" did go down, and
it fell like a rock in a vacuum;
it's now where it was before
you lowered the price on it,
so all those low-priced sales
created little long-term value.


> they didn't seem to move
> as quickly as The List did.

no, because "the list" was
a novel experiment where
many people did not seem
to know what the outcome
would be, and were curious.

it appeared -- to _some_ --
that you were "taking a risk".

once they knew the results,
their curiosity was quenched.

and now they know it works,
so your further attempts to
exploit it seem manipulative.
your heart is no longer pure.

so they aren't gonna retweet
and spread the word in the
same way they did before...

-bowerbird

Milton Bagby said...

Joe -- Can you comment here or in a future blog about which genres seem to be doing the best? My hunch is that some do better than others, and that there is a younger demographic out there of early adopters who want one kind of fiction versus another.

Thanks,
Milton
http://bagbufile.blogspot.com

bowerbird said...

ok, now "disturb" is #263...
it was #272 a half-hour ago.
that's how the wobble works.

and "origin", which joe said
was #291 early this morning,
was #331 at 3am wednesday,
and is #277 at 10:30am now.

which might lead you to
believe that the price-drop
has caused it to jump 65
ranks within just 36 hours.

wow! what a strong effect!

except that the price has
not yet actually dropped.
it's still listed at $2.99...

but all the links to the page
led people to go visit there,
and some of them bought
(perhaps not noticing that
the price hadn't gone down
yet, or maybe not caring)...

this is the kind of stuff
that can happen within
a compressed time-frame,
which is why you have to
let the thing sit for a while
-- meaning _months_ --
if you want to know the
actual long-term effects.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

robin said:
> When ebooks
> totally dominate print
> (We aer stil only at
> 8% - 25% ratios atm)
> then they can and will
> use the $0.99
> and beat indies.

well, robin, i carefully explained
why your argument doesn't work
in another thread... but i guess
you will just keep repeating it in
new threads as they come along.

if a corporate publishing house
uses the $.99 price-point and
gives the author 35% "royalties"
and gives amazon its 65% cut,
how does the publisher make
any money -- any money at all?

and if a corporate publisher
doesn't give an author 35%,
why would any authors sign?
especially since the publisher
no longer has deep pockets
with which to lure authors?

now watch robin ignore these
questions, even as she goes on
to another thread to repeat the
same point that she made here.

-bowerbird

Anna Elliott said...

Joe -- Can you comment here or in a future blog about which genres seem to be doing the best? My hunch is that some do better than others, and that there is a younger demographic out there of early adopters who want one kind of fiction versus another.

Derek Canyon has a post with pie chart that was based on some original work by Robin Sullivan. I can't say whether it is an accurate picture, but it might help answer you question.

Kendall Swan said...

Bowerbird,
Dude...
U seem perfectly humble, kind, and yet dismissive when people give u critical feedback regarding the style of your posts. (I'm not referring to content, mind u, just style.)

But it might be that style that induces people to completely skip over what u r saying.

The reason I point this out is bc u repeatedly get annoyed when people don't remember your previous comments. If it matters that much to u to be heard, try a little harder to get people to listen.

Otherwise, stop whining.

Just a thought.
Happy St Patrick's Day, all!
Kendall

Anna Elliott said...

Apologies if this is a duplicate post. I had a browser issue and couldn't tell whether my first attempt was accepted...

Milton asked:

Joe -- Can you comment here or in a future blog about which genres seem to be doing the best? My hunch is that some do better than others, and that there is a younger demographic out there of early adopters who want one kind of fiction versus another.

Derek Canyon has a post with pie chart that was based on some original work by Robin Sullivan. I can't say whether it is an accurate picture, but it might help answer you question.

Sheri Leigh said...

But it might be that style that induces people to completely skip over what u r saying.

I'm going to echo this, although I don't know if you'll hear it.

There are a lot of people that just skim over what you say here, Mr. Bird, simply because of the broken lines.

If you want to actually be heard in the dialogue, perhaps you should try less to stand out (and in turn, possibly alienate) and more to engage.

Just someone else's two cents...

Anna Elliott said...

Milton asked:

Joe -- Can you comment here or in a future blog about which genres seem to be doing the best? My hunch is that some do better than others, and that there is a younger demographic out there of early adopters who want one kind of fiction versus another.

Derek Canyon has a post with pie chart that was based on some original work by Robin Sullivan. I can't say whether it is an accurate picture, but it might help answer you question.

bowerbird said...

kendall said:
> u repeatedly
> get annoyed
> when people
> don't remember
> your previous
> comments

we know that
robin reads
my comments,
because she
replies to 'em.

she just ignores
the parts that
don't support
her position...

***

sheri leigh said:
> broken lines

i would guess
that you are
reading the
comments in
a window that
says "post a
comment on:"
at the top of it,
with a brown
background...

if so, then
you can click
on the orange
header at the
top of the page
giving the title
of the post...

that will take
you to a page
where the
comments are
displayed in
a column that
is a bit wider,
and where
my comments
do not "break"
inappropriately.

this other page
has a blue
background
up top, and
joe's picture.

and of course,
it's totally fine
with me if you
still skip over
my comments.

-bowerbird

p.s. in this
comment,
i made it so
the lines
will break
correctly
even on
the "post
a comment"
page, but as
you can see,
this makes
the lines of
the comment
very narrow.

Jason said...

But it might be that style that induces people to completely skip over what u r saying.

Wow...talk about hitting the nail on the head!

Anna Elliott said...

Joe -- Can you comment here or in a future blog about which genres seem to be doing the best? My hunch is that some do better than others, and that there is a younger demographic out there of early adopters who want one kind of fiction versus another.

Derek Canyon has a post with pie chart that was based on some original work by Robin Sullivan. I can't say whether it is an accurate picture, but it might help answer you question.

Aimless Writer said...

Every time I come here I'm inspired.

Dan McGirt said...

Joe: Seconding bowerbird on Amazon-instigated price drops, I think you're wrong about the royalty effect if Amazon drops a 2.99 sale price to match a lower price elsewhere. I priced my story Sarah Palin: Vampire Hunter at $2.99. Amazon noticed it for $1.99 at B&N (in a slightly different version) and dropped their price to match. However, they are paying me 70% of $1.99 on each sale ($1.40 before 4 cent data charge), not 35%. When Amazon itself lowers the price below $2.99 they continue to honor the 70% rate. At least that is my experience with this title. Whether that would still hold with a drop to 99 cents I can't say.

Rebecca Stroud said...

For what it's worth, bowerbird, I always read your comments and your "style" bothers me not in the least...it's almost like a weird kind of poetry...:-))

Rebecca Stroud
A Three-Dog Night
Zellwood: A Dog Story
The Animal Advocate

J. E. Medrick said...

It's crazy how your ranks are jumping around! We all watch what you do very carefully :) I know a lot of authors hang around here, so I'm going to post this:

I'm looking for some authors to participate in the Traveling Author Stomp (guest posts, interviews, etc).

Please consider stopping by:
http://jemedrick.blogspot.com/2011/03/travelling-author-stomp-traust-tour.html

:)

Shackled
Cheat

Joe Konrath said...

So far this month, Origin has sold 1980 ebooks before dropping to 99 cents at 3pm on the 17th. Which means it has earned $3960.

In the past 24 hours, The List has earned over $1700. It's now #31.

Even if it drops off the top 100 quickly, I should earn more than I did at 99 cents in far less time.

Sheri Leigh said...

In the past 24 hours, The List has earned over $1700.

Yowza.

So, Joe, how do you feel about adoption? I don't eat much and I could do lots of proofreading and editing! :))

Jo Vraca said...

The exposure you're getting from this experiment sounds amazing! And $7000 is better than a 5% royalty on limited sales. Well done for taking control of YOUR WORK.

Anna Elliott said...

Milton asked:

Joe -- Can you comment here or in a future blog about which genres seem to be doing the best? My hunch is that some do better than others, and that there is a younger demographic out there of early adopters who want one kind of fiction versus another.

Derek Canyon has a post with a genre pie chart that was based on some original work by Robin Sullivan. It might help answer you question.

Anonymous said...

Milton asked:

Joe -- Can you comment here or in a future blog about which genres seem to be doing the best? My hunch is that some do better than others, and that there is a younger demographic out there of early adopters who want one kind of fiction versus another.

Derek Canyon has a post with a genre pie chart that was based on some original work by Robin Sullivan. It might help answer you question.

Anna Elliott
annaelliottbooks.com

Anonymous said...

Joe, I tried to post that last comment about 5 times before it showed up. I tried my google acct, OpenID, and my name/URL. I got that message that comments may not appear immediately, but I waited hours and nothing showed up. When I tried to post anonymously just now, it worked right away. That seems odd. Am I doing something wrong that you can see on your end?

Thanks,
Anna Elliott

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> In the past 24 hours,
> The List has earned
> over $1700.

well, at that rate, you should
surpass your $.99 proceeds
for the last month in 4 days.

that's the good news, for you.

the bad news, for everyone,
is that now, lots of authors
will try to game the system
in a similar manner, meaning
that anything _not_ priced
at $.99 has very little chance
of making the list at all, or
staying on the list if it does.

c'est la vie... c'est la guerre...

-bowerbird

Mark Asher said...

"When ebooks totally dominate print (We aer stil only at 8% - 25% ratios atm)then they can and will use the $0.99 and beat indies."

They are always going to have more overhead than indies, though, and indies can remain at $0.99 and be patient. The NY publishers can use it as a sale price, but not a long-term price.

What writer will be satisfied with a tiny cut of $0.35 profit per book sale -- at the current 25% royalty on the publisher's take of ebooks, that's all of $0.09. And then the writer gives the agent 15% of that. Writers will not agree to that, and if publishers force that on them they will self-publish.

I don't see $1 being a price NY publishers can live at.

And even if they do figure out how to keep some books at $1, so what? They get sales. That doesn't drive indies out of business. Writers like to write. Maybe they make less money, but I bet they keep on writing and keep on publishing.

wannabuy said...

@Robin: If they sell 100,000 ebooks they have no more cost then if they sell 10,00 so yes they can lower to $0.99 - the only reason they are not is they don't wish to canablize their print sales which they have invested large capital outlays of cash and they can't afford to have them stay in warehouses.When ebooks totally dominate print (We aer stil only at 8% - 25% ratios atm)then they can and will use the $0.99 and beat indies."

In the spirit of respectful disagreement... (For I too usually agree with you): I do not think that would allow the big6 enough total revenue from all their books to pay their fixed overhead costs (lease on the NY building, executives, large staffs, etc.).

For if one author was dropped to $0.99, it doesn't just compete with Indie/small pub, it also competes with other big6 books. Now, a bunch of $0.99 ebooks will grow the ebook market very quickly. This isn't a 'zero sum gain.' I still think in the end only the 'low cost providers' will thrive.

A staff of 1 to 3 producing ebooks can, once ebooks are more than half the market, earn an income at $0.99. I forget how many people were employed for each big 6 book, but it wasn't a small number (12 IIRC...). If it is a price war at $0.99, efficiency matters (as in books per employee per year).


Note: I see a substantial 'mid-list' market of ebooks selling for $2.99 to $6.99. But unless big publishers figure out how to cut costs, the big6 will be competing with their own authors backlists in that arena. Oh, and will indie/small pub too. ;)

Neil

wannabuy said...

I blogged the graphs of the January AAP book sales:

http://ebookcomments.blogspot.com/2011/03/january-2011-ebook-sales.html


Quick summary:

1. ebooks rocked
2. Paperback had a horrid month
3. Hardcovers did ok


Neil

wannabuy said...

Robin,

I should have mentioned, I think the big6 currently have a HUGE advantage having their books in the window, at Cosco, etc. People see a novel and recall it when they purchase ebooks. Once that marketing advantage diminishes, I see the expenses that the big6 have built up supporting print pulling them down.

Business have a hard time 'shedding costs.' Once a high cost culture is in place, it is very tough to shake it off. It is the poor authors and small publishers who have had to adapt to a 'low cost culture.'

Neil

J. E. Medrick said...

Bowerbird,

I love reading your comments. It reminds me of my college days when I participated (and only won once - there was some tough competition!) in Poetry Slam. Ah, youth.

Can I say that? I'm only 26. But I graduated at 21, then real world job, taught in Japan for three years, back to the States... Ah, youth :P

I actually made a newspaper photographer cry - she came up to me after the show and said she wanted to hit me because I made her feel bad about her job.

Ah, youth!

JEM
Shackled
Cheat

Tara Maya said...


the bad news, for everyone,
is that now, lots of authors
will try to game the system
in a similar manner, meaning
that anything _not_ priced
at $.99 has very little chance
of making the list at all, or
staying on the list if it does.


Why is that bad news? I thought you advocated a $.99 price point (though not the difference in royalty rate on Amazon). I can see an advantage to readers if their favorite books periodically go on sale. Readers who are price sensitive can still snap up good stuff for cheap prices. Readers who are less price sensitive can get the books immediately if they are too impatient to wait for a sale.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate (US)
The Unfinished Song: Initiate (UK)

bowerbird said...

tara said:
> Why is that bad news?
> I thought you advocated
> a $.99 price point

ok, now i know you're just
messing with me, to see if
i will repeat _again_ that i
don't care what you charge.

i don't care what you charge!

charge 99 _dollars_ a book --
it makes no difference to me.

-bowerbird

chris said...

@Bowerbird

...charge 99 _dollars_ a book --
it makes no difference to me.


But it makes a difference to Tara obviously, which is why she asked for your take on it.

And she asked without venom or malice.

Same as when most people ask you direct questions.

mIlton Bagby said...

Anna wrote: "Derek Canyon has a post with a genre pie chart that was based on some original work by Robin Sullivan..."

I saw that in a January post by Joe, but I am wondering about more pinpoint numbers. Canyon's chart has Thriller and Mystery at 12% each, but no sub genres. There is nothing in the chart about Erotica, which I suspect is huge. And his numbers (by his admission) don't include blockbuster writers like John Locke.

I wondering if someone else has drilled down into the numbers since December.

Julie Kramer said...

People have long wondered how the New York Times decides its bestsellers...and it's always declined to comment or clarify.
but as so much information is available online and authors like yourself willing to share sales figures...their list isn't going to mean what it used to mean.

Sheri Leigh said...

Can I say that? I'm only 26.

No, I'm afraid you cannot reference "youth" in your twenties. It's like a natural law of the universe or something.

Re: gaming the system at $0.99. Where in the world have you guys been? Pricing at $0.99 to get to the top and then changing your price to $2.99 has been around for months! (translated into ebook-months, ala "dog years" - that's like two years! ;) Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. There are still no guarantees that anything (even going "Free" if you have the opportunity) is going to make your book sell. Look at all the books that are free on Smashwords.

So "all the writers" who will "game the system" aren't going to actually change that system or the way it's currently working, because they're already doing it, and the cream is still rising to the top. Eventually, that's going to happen, if we let it.

Another natural law. :)

Selena Kitt said...

If I'd been included on the pie chart (what is it with people excluding my genre everywhere? lol I'm on the list elsewhere - I think Joe added me because I wasn't active on KB at the time...) I would have been up there with HP Mallory and Victorine Lieske. 20K that month.

Someone else do the math. I'm too hungover from all the green beer...

How big of a piece a pie would erotica have?

Michael said...

How big of a piece a pie would erotica have?

I don't know, but reading pie and erotica in the same sentence makes me ravenous.

Mark Asher said...

"I should have mentioned, I think the big6 currently have a HUGE advantage having their books in the window, at Cosco, etc. People see a novel and recall it when they purchase ebooks. Once that marketing advantage diminishes, I see the expenses that the big6 have built up supporting print pulling them down."

I've thought that too. It's a huge marketing advantage having a physical book in stores. It just gets seen more often, and some of those people who see it are ebook buyers.

The big box stores like Costco are going to be selling paper books for a long time. Those aren't going away anytime soon. The problem for publishers will be finding venues for their midlist offerings if a lot of bookstores close up.

And as ebook sales rise, it's hard to see book sales rising in bookstores as well. It's more likely they will decline. Look for bookstores to start selling lots of other things besides books to increase revenue, which in turn will result in reduced shelf space for books.

Here's an article in my local alternative weekly paper about what the remaining indie bookstores are doing to survive:

http://www.riverfronttimes.com/2011-03-17/news/indie-bookstores-join-forces-left-bank-puddnhead-subterranean-main-street/

Selena Kitt said...

I don't know, but reading pie and erotica in the same sentence makes me ravenous.

*snerk*

You devil, you.

Angie Mohr said...

A very interesting and enlightening experiment. I'm intrigued both as an author (print and ebook) and as an accountant. My ebooks, Managing a Freelance Writing Business and Tax Preparation & Planning for Freelance Writers are nowhere near that price point, but I am working on a series of YA novels that I will experiment with those price points. Mega thanks for sharing your intell!
Freelance Writing Ebooks

bowerbird said...

chris said:
> But it makes a difference
> to Tara obviously, which is
> why she asked for your take
> And she asked
> without venom or malice.

hi chris. tara is a regular here,
and she reads the threads and
my comments, so i'm fairly sure
she knows quite well that i am
_not_ an "advocate" of the $.99.

she was just poking me, for fun,
because she knew she would get
reaction, so i gave her reaction.

i woulda put a smiley on it, but
that would ruined the subtlety...

she was also giving me a setup
to explain _why_ i said that this
strategy was "a bad thing", but
it was late and i didn't feel like
writing up that part of the post.
but i did appreciate the prompt.

so, at any rate, my reply was
"without venom or malice" too.

***

rebecca said:
> bowerbird, I always
> read your comments
> and your "style" bothers me
> not in the least...it's almost
> like a weird kind of poetry...:-)

yes, but we know you're looney,
rebecca, so it figures... ;+)

***

j.e. medrick said:
> I love reading your comments.
> It reminds me of my college
> days when I participated
> (and only won once - there
> was some tough competition!)
> in Poetry Slam. Ah, youth.

oh gee, all the loonies are out!
batten down the hatches... ;+)

-bowerbird

Joe Konrath said...

Origin is #190.

The List and Disturb are making a lot more than they did prior to dropping them to 99 cents.

Tequila is making the same as it was previously.

I think, if this holds, Origin will break the Top 100, and I'll have two books up there at the same time. Should be interesting to see if they feed each other.

Ellen Fisher said...

"How big of a piece a pie would erotica have?"

I might be throwing off that chart a bit, since I report on Kindleboards as "Ellen Fisher," but probably half my sales are actually erotic romance under a different name. Of course, erotic romance might be classified as either romance or erotica, but... *shrugs*

Erotica really rocked the B&N charts in February. I'd love to see a pie chart for that month including numbers from Selena Kitt, Bella Andre, and Tina Folsom. I have a feeling the erotic piece of pie would be really, really big... so to speak.

bowerbird said...

the references to poetry
are interesting, because
it is precisely my history
helping to create the art
of performance poetry
for the 21st century that
gives me experience in
the self-publishing realm.

the whole process of taking
something that was seen
as "worthless" and trying
to obtain the attention
of an audience is one
with which i am familiar.

i've seen a lot of people
trying a lot of different
tactics to get a leg up...

so i know which ones
work, and which ones
don't work, and which
ones backfire on you...

i have had "skin" in this
"game" for a long time...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

as for the $.99 price-point...

lower prices are inevitable...

because supply will outrun
demand. it is that simple...

but just because low prices
are "inevitable" doesn't mean
that you have to jump to 'em,
especially not immediately...

now, in particular, given the
unfair "royalty" from amazon,
it's stupid to jump to $.99...

but writers want readers and
any "royalty" beats none, and
customers love low prices, so
the die on this has been cast.

but i don't "advocate" $.99...

yes, i sometimes make fun of
the writers who try to tell us
that "i lowered my price and
my sales went down" and that
"customers don't mind paying
higher prices" and "i will not
devalue my product" and all
of that wishful thinking crap...

sure, you'll find some people
who "don't mind" high prices.
but if you think that _your_
product is so special that it
defies general economics,
you are deluding yourself...

$.99 _will_ sell lots of books.

but that doesn't mean that
it's the "right" price, and i
certainly don't "advocate" it.

because i simply don't care
how you price yer darn book,
since i ain't buying it anyway.
put that in a pipe. smoke it.

***

as for gaming the system...

yes, i think it's a bad idea...

i think it's a _terrible_ idea!

but not because it won't work.
it will work. and spectacularly.
that's a big part of the problem.

thanks to a suggestion from
robin, i've been tracking the
ranking for "color of heaven",
which used its $.99 price to
get in the top-100 and then
raised the price up to $2.99...

because of the higher price,
its ranking has been falling,
but it has taken a full 12 days
to drop from #17 to #74...

> 2011/03/06, 04pm, #17
> 2011/03/07, 05pm, #26
> 2011/03/08, 05pm, #38
> 2011/03/09, 02pm, #42
> 2011/03/10, 05pm, #46
> 2011/03/14, 04pm, #54
> 2011/03/15, 02am, #62
> 2011/03/16, 01am, #76
> 2011/03/16, 04pm, #74
> 2011/03/17, 01pm, #68
> 2011/03/18, 10am, #74

it might take another 9 days
-- or more, who knows? --
to drop out of the top-100,
so it has made _boatloads_
of cash after its price-raise.

and "the list" will do the same.

(and it's not like either will
_stop_ making money after
they fall out of the top-100.)

so this "strategy" does work,
in the sense that it delivers
a bunch of cash to a writer...

the unintended side-effect,
however, is that it also ruins
the usefulness of the engine
that does recommendations,
and the value of the top-100.

readers depend on those
systems to cull through the
massive amount of e-books
being offered these days!

and every writer, including
konrath and other authors
who are gaming the system,
wants to -- _needs_ to! --
_make_use_ of those same
recommendation systems,
and thus depends on them
to be healthy and work right.

that's how your work can be
_found_, for crying out loud!

so gaming those systems is
like shitting where you eat...

now, hopefully amazon will
realize that it, too, depends
on having a healthy system,
and it will make rules that
prevent any such "gaming".

(it will be easy enough to
have a rule that says that
you lose your ranking if
you raise your price and
you have to start over...
or maybe you would just
forfeit 200 ranking slots,
or whatever does the job.)

in regard to the point that
authors have been gaming
the system for months now,
that might well be true, but
when joe konrath uses a trick,
his transparency means that
a big bunch of people will be
using that trick from now on.

so the issue is now serious...

-bowerbird

Sam said...

Dan: When Amazon itself lowers the price below $2.99 they continue to honor the 70% rate. At least that is my experience with this title. Whether that would still hold with a drop to 99 cents I can't say.

This is the most important question. To me, it seems like the holy grail of pricing to have a 99 cent book earning 70% royalty.

I will try to see if Amazon can do it on Dirty Parts of the Bible, by keeping the Nook price at 99 cents and then raising the Kindle price (hoping Amazon will then strike it down to 99 cents). It will take at least week (for the next Amazon sales report) to see if it works...

Has anyone else tried this?

bowerbird said...

sam's "dirty parts of the bible"
experience is a very telling one.

he rocketed up to rank #50
on the basis of the $.99 price,
thanks to some leverage from
the amazon recommendations
based on "water for elephants".

then he raised his price, and
his ranking fell. precipitously.
the book fell as low as #592...

he put the price back to $.99,
and has been crawling back, as
the rocket is not quite as fast
the second time up the charts.

here are his numbers:

> 2011/03/06, 06pm, #592
>
> switch from $2.99 to $.99
>
> 2011/03/09, 07pm, #436
> 2011/03/09, 11pm, #350
>
> 2011/03/10, 09am, #363
> 2011/03/10, 04pm, #353
> 2011/03/10, 08pm, #312
>
> 2011/03/11, 08am, #301
> 2011/03/11, 01pm, #325
> 2011/03/11, 02pm, #310
>
> 2011/03/12, 05pm, #424
>
> 2011/03/13, 01pm, #323
>
> 2011/03/14, 01am, #284
> 2011/03/14, 04pm, #282
> 2011/03/14, 08pm, #320
>
> 2011/03/15, 02am, #285
>
> 2011/03/16, 01am, #256
> 2011/03/16, 04pm, #272
>
> 2011/03/17, 11am, #268
> 2011/03/17, 01pm, #294

as you can see, the trend is
clearly upward, but there are
obvious wobbles throughout,
and the rise is not so speedy.

so this does not appear to be
a trick you can use repeatedly
on one book in a short time...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

sam said:
> (hoping Amazon will then
> strike it down to 99 cents)

you do know amazon
can hear you. right? ;+)

tricking customers is one thing.
(there's a lot of them, and most
of 'em aren't probably listening.)

fooling amazon is quite another.
(you can bet amazon's listening.)

-bowerbird

Tara Maya said...

I'm sure bowerbird knew I meant no harm. I still don't agree, however (I think) that changing the price somehow accrues bad karma, or that Amazon should do something that encourages price stickiness. (I think it's much better to let authors experiment with price without feeling afraid of losing their ratings. Personally, such a penalty would make me never want to introduce a $.99 book, for fear of never being able to change it.)

It's not bad, at least from the consumer's point of view, to have turnover in the top 100 books. And from the authors point of view, I don't see why you should suddenly not deserve the good reviews of your book if the price changes. If reviewers think a book is "okay since it was $.99" they usually say so. Otherwise, if they liked it, I don't think they would tell people they liked it only at a certain price. Maybe I'm wrong, but that seems weird to me. You can read pbooks at a variety of prices too, including free from the library.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate (US)
The Unfinished Song: Initiate (UK)



Tara Maya

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Asher said...

"fooling amazon is quite another.
(you can bet amazon's listening.)"

Yes, I'd think that in the terms writers agree to when publishing at Amazon, Amazon reserves the right to price-match, and if the price drops down into the 35% royalty rate, that is what Amazon will pay. It doesn't make sense otherwise.

If it happens and you get the 70% rate, great, but I'd put that down to a glitch rather than Amazon policy.

And frankly, the more indies try to game the system and get around Amazon's intentions, the more Amazon will tighten things up and, possibly, begin to pass on that expense to the self-publishers.

John said...

>Dan and Sam
I can confirm that the 70% commission rate continues on 99 cents books when The River drops the price to match B&N.

Sam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hotboy said...

Hi! I've had two novel published and eight plays produced, but I stuck an unpublished novel on Kindle and it sold diddly squat. Victoria Strauss put me onto this blog. Great stuff! I'll have to read it and try to understand how to do this stuff. I've got seven other unpublished novels to go!! johnmckenzie.blogspot.com

bowerbird said...

maybe i shouldn't have been
quite so flippant there... :+)

i'm _glad_ that sam is open
about what he is doing, and
i think joe has done writers
a _tremendous_ service with
how transparent he has been.

so when i talk about matters
like "gaming the system" and
rail against them, don't mistake
any of that as condemnation...

joe has done nothing "wrong",
any more than a kid who takes
apart an alarm-clock to see
how it works is doing "wrong",
even if it ends with the thing
not working correctly when he
puts it all back together again.

even when joe's heart is not
completely pure, his openness
buys him a lot of forgiveness...

just so we're all clear on that...

and i think sam should do the
price-matching experiment...

but he should also grok that
amazon is probably listening.
i would be, if i were amazon.

***

mark said:
> I'd think that in the terms
> writers agree to when
> publishing at Amazon,
> Amazon reserves the right
> to price-match, and
> if the price drops down
> into the 35% royalty rate,
> that is what Amazon will pay

i woulda sworn that that's what
those terms used to say, but
when i checked just yesterday,
when the subject came up here,
i discovered that amazon pays
70% on a price-matched book
with a normal price of $2.99...

so now i am a bit confused...

because it's also the case that
amazon has a "favored nation"
clause that prohibits you from
selling a book at a lower price
_as_list_price_ at another site...

so i guess if you list a book at
the kobo site as $2.99, _but_
kobo itself slashes the price,
then amazon will still pay 70%
if it _matches_the_price_...

which is what john is saying.

but john was not specific that
amazon _will_ actually match
a $.99 price on another site...

in the past, i recall reports
that amazon would _not_
price-match below $2.99...

so, again... more confusion.

so hey!, do the experiment!

the worst that can happen is
amazon sandbags your book
-- stops selling it completely.

-bowerbird

Jude Hardin said...

I noticed one of Scott Nicholson’s books is priced at $.89. Amazon must have matched that from somewhere, since their minimum is $.99.

Pocket-47

chris said...

@Bowerbird (somewhere way back in the comments)

No problem. I brought it up because your comment seemed a little 'short'.

But, hey, I'm Australian, I get things upside down.


@Hotboy:

John, read through Joe's blog and glean the info you need to get those unpublished books into the cash. Also go and read Robin Sullivan's blog (write2publish.blogspot.com) she's got some great stuff there too.

Hope it goes well for you.

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