Saturday, April 30, 2011

From Obsecurity to Top Seller

Sorry I've been quiet lately. I have been heads down editing Nathan Lowell's Full Share to make sure it is ready for the upcoming Balticon.

But I did want to share a success story. Ridan's two big sellers have been Michael J. Sullivan (husband) and Nathan Lowell (sci-fi author extraordinaire). Marshall Thomas has a six-book sci-fi series that really wasn't moving much in the way of sales.

I wanted Marshall to get the exposure his books so richly deserve, and being tied up with other things at the moment, I did the only "quick fix" I could and changed the pricing. I put his Soldier of the Legion and March of the Legion at $0.99, his next two books, Slave of the Legion and Secret of the Legion at $2.99, and list last 2 books, Cross of the Legion, and Curse of the Legion at $3.99. Well sales skyrocket and he now occupies 6 of the Top 100 Best Sellers on the Amazon Kindle List (Solider #8, March #24, Slave #65, Cross #72, Secret #75, Curse #100).

His first book has shot up to surpass both Michael's and Nathan's best sellers and he sold more than 1,200 copies of that book alone in just a few weeks.

One of the reason I took this move, is in his genre there is a very high concentration of indie authors in the lower price range dominating the top 100 list. So I was not pricing his books consistent with the market.

Now, that's not to say you should just carte blanch lower all your prices. Nathan will sell about the same number of books as Marshall in April and his are $4.95 and only 2 titles as compared to 6 titles of Marshall, but I've done more work promoting Nathan's works. So...the bottom line, at least in this case. If you do a lot of marketing you can maintain the $4.95 price point and be successful. But the $0.99 and $2.99 definitely has a place and gets books noticed as a quick fix.


Donald Wells said...

Hi Robin,
Pricing is certainly an issue when it comes to eBooks. I raised the price of my own books and sales came to a grinding halt. I lowered them to nearly the level they were at prior, and sales started coming in again. I have three more eBooks coming out next month and I think I will price on the low side until I figure out how much of a readership they enjoy.
So happy for the new post. I was getting withdrawal symptoms.

Robert Bidinotto said...

Robin, I suspect that you're right: Genre matters concerning pricing. Authors may be have more upward price latitude in some genres than others. All we can do is study the pricing in our own sub-markets and experiment.

Your own pricing experiments seem to confirm a strong suspicion on my part: Once an author attracts a loyal following (and low introductory pricing may be a part of that), he can later raise prices (especially for subsequent works) and still sell well -- and even more profitably. You've seen this happen with your husband's books, and now you're seeing it with the follow-up titles in Marshall Thomas's series.

Similarly, even much-higher-priced ebooks from traditional publishers still land in the Top 100. Why? I think because the authors have developed good storytelling reputations, and thus have attracted loyal followings. The high prices they're able to command tell me that readers are eager for good stories, and many are willing to pay handsomely for tales by authors who have developed strong "brands" as storytellers.

So I think your pricing strategy for Mr. Thomas makes perfect sense in terms of both building his public reputation and maximizing his income. Congratulations on the careers you are steering to success!

Eric said...

Pricing a book is one of those arguments which is going to be around for a long, long time.

My personal view is that one size does not fit all.

For really new authors or authors who have a large series the $0.99 price is right for their first few books. After all who would feel bad spending a buck on a new, or new to you, writer.

The $2.99 price is good for up and coming authors and authors who have a reputation (large following). This is the price where people can still not guilty in spending money. If it’s an author that I like I feel good in supporting the high price.

Anything above $3.00+ it greatly depends on my feelings on the subject, author and length of the book.

David Gaughran said...

Hi Robin,

Interesting article, thanks for sharing your information with us again, and great to hear another of your writers storming the charts.

Reading the article, and the comments, the takeaway points here for me are that one should be flexible with price, look at your genre, and experiment.

The only bad thing a writer could do is be too rigid with price (whether high or low).

I'm uploading my first story tonight, it's a short, so I am up against the minimum, and I can't be flexible there. With collections - maybe a little.

I presume the biggest seller will be my novel. And I'm hoping that a longer novel (100k words), combined with my genre (historical fiction), and the fact that potential readers will have a low-price entry point with my short stories, will allow me to test a higher price. I'm considering $4.99.

If it's doing badly after a month, or if I want to experiment with a lower price, I can always put it down to $3.99 for a week or two.

I am considering splitting the novel into two (there's a natural break in the middle) and giving people the option to by it in parts at $2.99 a pop.

I think there's pros and cons with this idea though.


* potentially more revenue
* readers have more options
* might capture a few readers who would be put off by a 100k novel, given the trend towards shorter work
* might capture a few readers who aren't sure if they should take a risk at $4.99


* extra work
* extra cost in terms of editing, cover, formatting, and promotion
* some readers who read the first, then want the second, might be annoyed that it ends up costing them a dollar more
* it could undermine the whole price strategy of positioning the novel as a quality purchase at $4.99

I'm really not sure what to do, but I have a month or two to decide.


Joan Reeves said...

Robin, I'm so glad you posted this today. Since you had commented on my pricing of my second ebook, I spent a day thinking about it. Like I told you, my first ebook Just One Look was selling great. Hit the 1000 ceiling and keeps going!

But you nailed it about the 1.99 price of my second ebook The Trouble With Love. You had said go lower or higher because 1.99 was no man's land.

So, I just went in and lowered the price to .99. Thanks for another important post on pricing.

You're a must read I keep telling my friends who are starting the ebook trail.

wannabuy said...

@Robin:"Well sales skyrocket and he now occupies 6 of the Top 100 Best Sellers on the Amazon Kindle List"

Wow! Six in the top 100.

Joan: $1.99 is no man's land. Either drop to $0.99 or climb to $2.99. Either look like a bargain or price up with the mainstream.


Robin Sullivan said...

@Donald -- yeah I have lots to post abou - just no time the present. Be patient - I've got som good stuff coming.

Robin Sullivan said...

@eric - yes totally agree about the one size not fitting all.

Robin Sullivan said...

@David - you're a smart guy and approaching this well - whatever you decide I'm sure with some experimentation you'll find a good price point.

Robin Sullivan said...

@slingwords - thanks - glad it was of help - I study the picinng a lot and I've not seen anyone do well with the $1.99 'no man's zone'.

Robin Sullivan said...

@wannabuy - yeah sx in the SCI-FI top 100 - we're not fortunate enough to hit the Amazon top 100. Just looked at Marshall's books now and they are currently at:
Solide #7, March #25, Slave #53, Secret #72, Curse #79, Cross #82

Devon Matthews said...

Thank you for this blog! I've just dived into the self-publishing waters within the past week. After reading this post, I reset my price to $2.99. Makes perfect sense to me.

Merrill Heath said...

@ David

If your novel can be split into two books that are long enough to stand alone then I think this is a good idea. I recently purchased a book that contained two "companion novels" in one. The price was the same as the other print books, so I felt like I was getting a bargain.

I'd suggest selling them individually at $2.99 and together at $4.95. That way you offer the readers a discount if they buy both together.

Merrill Heath
Bearing False Witness

David Gaughran said...

Hi Merrill,

I think that's what I'll do, I think it's worth the risk and the extra expense, and if nothing else, it will increase my virtual bookshelf and my internet footprint, assuming the "break" can be done cleanly of course, I have to look at it in more detail, but I have some time.

I uploaded my first short story on Saturday, and despite it being #3400 in the Smashwords queue, it was through it in less than 24 hours. I uploaded to Amazon just before that, but it is still "Publishing".

I can see the listing, but there is no cover pic attached. I guess that will take another day or so, then I start telling people its there.

A lot of friends have been asking me which site they should buy from, and which will make me more money.

It's priced at $0.99 so I would make a lot more from Smashwords (I can't remember off the top of my head but I think you end up with around 55 cent) than the 35% from Amazon, but I thought the possible gains from extra exposure from any rise in the rankings (if it sells any) make that a wash, so I will probably direct them to buy at Amazon.

What do you do with friends/family? Do you tell them to buy at a certain site, or not push any particular one?


Merrill Heath said...

@ David

It all depends on the ereader. Whenever possible I push people to Amazon. Their cross-referencing and "people who bought this book also bought..." is a big plus. They also provide the ability to tag your books which helps when readers are searching for a particular genre.

Merrill Heath
Bearing False Witness

Anonymous said...


heads down?

one of the reason?

carte blanch?

6 titles of Marshall?

your blog has great info - but you're not doing your business any favors by publishing these error-filled posts!

David Gaughran said...

Hi Robin,

Some more figures from the UK. It looks like things are really taking off there.

The Publishers Association has revealed staggering e-book growth in the UK in 2010.

In figures just released today, e-book sales - across all categories - have grown to over £16m ($26m), growing by over 300% on 2009 levels. By end of December 2010, they had captured 6% of the market.

They didn't release a full breakdown of the figures, but did say that both adult fiction and non-fiction grew by 300%, and, bucking the trend we have seen in the US, children's/YA grew [B]faster[/B] - by over 500%.

These figures did not include what the PA calls "consumer reference" digital sales (presumably dictionaries and encyclopaedias etc.) which showed strong sales of £14m ($23m).

Very interesting.

Full article here from The Bookseller

David Gaughran said...

Hi Robin,

I was worried about the trend towards lower prices and increasing numbers of novels being priced at $0.99, because I was planning to release short stories at that price.

Well, I released one the other day, and sales are pretty brisk, I'm holding a place in the Top 100 for Short Stories, which is a pleasant surprise, after only one real day of sales.

Quite a relief!


Margo Lerwill said...

David, I'm glad you mentioned how your story is doing at 99 cents. I've been planning on doing the same thing and had the same concern.

Robin, I've been lurking and reading for quite awhile. Just wanted to finally step forward and say how much I appreciate you collecting do much information and sharing the data so freely.

David Gaughran said...

Hi Margo,

I actually got up to #40 in short stories for a little while (and just outside #5000 overall). The obligatory screen shot sandwiched between Stephen King and Dating My Vibrator was duly taken.

I have slipped a little since.

I'm convinced this is just friends and family, and the real test will be how well the sales hold up in the coming days and weeks.

What impressed me most was that 4 people bought it before it had a cover and while the description was full of typos (Warning - Amazon doesn't like special characters in the description).

One even left a nice review.


Kate said...

I think it was smart waiting until your author had a whole series to try this on. I think that is why Hocking, even with her massive typos sold a ton of books. Her price was right, and her story was good.

I'm in the middle of a YA series myself, so I may try it when I get the third one out. For now, it's the standard: $2.99.

David Gaughran said...

Hi everyone,

To celebrate cracking the Kindle Top 40 Short Stories with my first e-book, and to say thank you for all of the advice I have gotten here and from the commenters, I am giving away 25 copies of my story collection "If You Go Into The Woods" on my blog.

Competition ends midnight PST. Details here:


Robin Sullivan said...

Hey Anonymous...and all the others reading here. Just so that you know. I rattle off the posts quickly and yes I don't spend a lot of time going over them and editing etc. - I feel getting the "information out" is the important point. It doesn't change the message to have a typo or five in them. If you feel that those typos negate the information - that is your prerogative but the other option is to post less frequently because I would have to spend more time in the editing process. I'd rather post more with a little nit here and there than to post less and make them perfect.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Margo - glad to see you come out of the shadows ;-). Welcome and I'm glad you are enjoying the information.