Friday, April 22, 2011

Recent Developments in the Amazon Top 100

While I've been too busy to do my usual weekly Top 100 posts, I have none the less captured the data so I can do them retroactively. But during my hiatus a few important things have occurred.
  • We finally had an indie break the top 100 with a price higher than $2.99. J.R. Rain's third Vampire for Hire Book, American Vampire sells for $3.99 and is at #43 and has been in the Top 10 for 19 days. I meant to post several weeks ago when it "broke and stayed". It reached it's best rank of #30 from April 14 - April 16. The first book in the series is Moon Dance and with a price of $0.99 has been in the Top 100 for 111 days. It's been pretty routinely "in the middle" of the top 100 ranging from 50 - 80 it's top spot was #40. The second book in the series, also at $3.99. Hit the 100 but so briefly that I didn't count it (only a few hours on one day) but even so Vampire Moon is a very nice seller at #112.

  • David Baldacci's latest book, No Time Left, is in the top 100 (#84) and has been for 4 days. This marks one of only a handful of big-six releases at $0.99. And interestingly enough is the second from Hachette Book Group (#3 publisher as of 2009 rankings). The Orbit imprint of Hachette put Iain M. Banks, Consider Phlebas at $0.99 and it also briefly hit the top 100 but again not long enough for me to count it as a true Top 100. What is interesting about this release is that even though it is still at $0.99 it is ranked 712 which surprises me.
What's this all mean...I'm not sure I know as I'm reporting the facts and not necessarily attributing weight to them. For myself personally it shows that indies are gaining ground at a "respectable" price, and the big-six is experimenting with the bargain basement - and not fairing as well as the indies in this regard.


Donald Wells said...

I'm beginning to think that in, oh, say another two years, most top 100 eBooks, both indie & legacy, will be right around the $4.99 level. I've also come to the conclusion that this is a good price point. I sure hope it is, as of today I raised the price of my novels to $4.99. Wish me luck.

crw said...

Interesting stuff. Years ago when I did a marketing unit on my MBA I learnt that if you price a product too cheap the consumer will believe they are getting a cheap product and will not buy it, unless they want a cheap product. Maybe the public are beginning to learn that often you get what you pay for; although my book "Call me Aphrodite" is priced at $0.99 and clearly is worth much more :)

Robin Sullivan said...

@Donald - I hope you are correct - $4.99 is a great price - for both author and reader IMO

Robin Sullivan said...

@Christopher - The perceived loss of value is exactly what keeps me off the $0.99 price.

Anonymous said...

It would help if anyone knew who the people are buying the 99-cent books. I suspect a lot of teenagers, but who knows? The Big 6 might want to try some different authors.

Robin Sullivan said...

Based on the books that are selling well at this level - I don't suspect they are teenagers. My guess is that it is a population of voracious readers who go through many books in a single week.

I would suspect these are people with a great deal of spare time - probably work-at-home people and those that have retired.

Just my speculations.

wannabuy said...

@David:"It would help if anyone knew who the people are buying the 99-cent books. I suspect a lot of teenagers, but who knows?"

It is everyone. I'm far more likely to try a new author if they price low.

I'm at the 'low end' of a voracious reader (only 120 books in 2010). Only 20 pbooks last year. Perhaps 30 $0.99 ebooks. Only 3 ebooks over $10. I suspect my distribution isn't that odd. The intense readers are driving the ebook train. :)

What I notice even more than the top 100 is the huge fraction of indie/small pub authors that dominate the genre lists. :) Excluding a few genres that compete with top name authors.


Robert Bidinotto said...

Interestingly, Baldacci's 99-cent title, "No Time Left," is a short story. That's not exactly the same as pricing a full novel at 99 cents.

I'm not sure what the strategy there is.

Suzanne said...

Christopher wrote: if you price a product too cheap the consumer will believe they are getting a cheap product and will not buy it.

This is exactly what the organization Sisters in Crime discovered when they contracted recently with an outside group to conduct a survey of consumer book buying habits. For a crime fiction ebook, potential readers indicated that $3.49 was too low, and they wouldn't purchase the book due to perceived lack of quality. Most traditionally-published ebooks comparable to mine in the historic mystery/suspense genre are priced in the $3.99 - $5.99 range. That's where you'll find mine.

Suzanne Adair

Robin Sullivan said...

Hmmmm I didn't realize it was a short. Notsure if I didn't look closely ror whether it wasn't marked as such.

Joan Reeves said...

I would love for 4.99 to be an accepted price. I priced my first ebook Just One Look at $.99 when I published it, based on Joe Konrath's mantra about price point *g*.

Also, I figured I was new to the ebook reading market so I wanted to gain momentum fast. I've sold almost 600 copies in a little over 3 weeks.

Yet, the low price really nags at me even though I understand the reasoning.

So when I published The Trouble With Love, my second ebook, a much longer novel btw, I got gutsy and priced it at $1.99. It's languishing, and I'm agonizing.

Should I lower it to see sales because I'm still new and an unknown quantity? Or should I hang tough? Even at 1.99 I still don't get the higher royalty so maybe in for a penny, in for a pound? Suck it up and drop it to .99?

For me, the pricing issue, even though I know about price elasticity etc., is the biggest conundrum of being an indie author.

crw said...

I've now increased the price of my ebook to $2.99 from $0.99. I originally dropped to try and get some sales so I could increase visibility of my book but it hasn't worked; I still only sell 1.5 copies a week. I'm going to print through CreateSpace which might help but the reality is that at the moment marketing online is a mystery to me :)

wannabuy said...

@Slingwords:" I got gutsy and priced it at $1.99. It's languishing",

$1.99 is 'no man's land.' Konrath recommends $2.99. As Robin noted, $4.99 is a great price and fair to all. Good luck.


Robert Bruce Thompson said...

I'm beginning to think that in, oh, say another two years, most top 100 eBooks, both indie & legacy, will be right around the $4.99 level.

I doubt it. If anything, the "standard" price in the top 10,000, let alone the top 100, is more likely to be $0.99, with a smattering of $2.99 titles, assuming Amazon royalty policies stay the same. There's simply too much good stuff at low prices.

As I keep saying, the "natural price" of an ebook is half the price of a used MM paperback. That's the "cost" of reading a story. Actually, it's less, considering that many people read mostly library books. But half the price of a used paperback (because one can resell the paperback, but not the ebook) is sustainable, and is actually good news for authors, at least those who are self-publishing. Newly released titles can be sold for more, because some readers will pay a premium to read something immediately, but that premium price is likely to be $2.99 for any author who wants to sell in volume. (Obviously, I'm talking about popular genres; less popular genres will be able to price books higher because they're selling to a more limited market.)

It's also possible that longer works will be able to sustain a small premium, but for mainstream length works (say, 300 to 400 print pages), I think $0.99 and $2.99 are it. Right now, higher prices are supported by inertia, but as more readers discover just how much good stuff is available at $2.99 and under, sales volumes of higher priced books will start to drop rapidly.

And those who are currently pricing novellas, let alone novelettes and short stories, at $0.99, let alone $2.99, are going to see sales volumes dropping fast. These ignore reader perceptions of value for money spent. If you want to sell short stories, you'd best do a collection with a novel's worth of word count for $0.99, let alone $2.99.

Incidentally, I'm in the voracious reader category. Since I bought my Kindle in mid-January, I've bought close to 150 ebooks, ranging in price from $0.00 to $2.99, with only two higher than $2.99. And the bulk of those are $0.99 titles. I haven't kept track of how many of those I've read, but my TBR pile is no longer growing, so it must be over 100 so far this year. And I work seven days a week and around 60 hours. Authors tend never to retire, but if I ever do I expect I'll probably average three or four books a day.

Tara Maya said...

Something occurred to me. If, as Kristin Kathryn Rusch has suggested, it is true that traditional publishers have been grossly under-reporting and underpaying sales and royalties to authors, then it is possible that the higher priced ebooks are *not* selling as poorly as has been reported?

wannabuy said...

I wonder if the unseasonal spike in February is due to more honest reporting? Then again, Indie authors have been seeing a tremendous spike too...

Either way, the lack of bookstore sales (of books) is real. Heck, just due to the reduced floor space (toys, expanded cafe, ereader sales area, and closed stores).


Jools Sinclair said...


Thanks for the interesting observations!
I've been experimenting with price...I had my YA book, 44, sell pretty well over at BN in March at .99 so I raised it to $2.99 for a week to see what would happen....Wow! Sales sure fell...I changed it back to .99 (with the idea of finding readers and climbing the charts...)
Anyway, thanks, I really enjoy reading your blog!
Jools Sinclair

Kate said...

My take is that if it's a good story, it WILL stay in the top. Obviously some of the midlist "legacy" titles are like the indies... just not good enough, not at any price.

I think it's a given for indies: there is a lot of crap out there. But we talk so much about gatekeepers that we forget there is also crap in the legacy side as well.

As to who is buying all these books... probably people like me, taking our Kindles and iPhones to the gym. 2 hours worth of reading in a day is a lot for a fast reader. :)

Tara Maya said...

If a book is at a certain price point, it may be lumped with other books at that price point. I.e. people who buy $.99 books are likely to buy other $.99 books, people who buy at a higher price point are likely to be less price sensitive. So if your book is $.99 and most of the "Customer Also Boughts" maybe $.99. If you then raise your price, the customers are most likely to see your book because of Amazon's algorithm are no longer your target demographic.

I've priced the first book in my series as a loss leader at $.99, but I've noticed most of the Customer Also Boughts are also $.99 and I wonder if I am really targeting the buyers I want. The sequels are at $4.95.

Kendall Swan said...

Good question, Tara.

I totally hope 4.99 becomes the new sweet spot. That would rock.

Splitter's Blog said...

To me with only one new book out there, the pricing issue is secondary to exposure and reviews.

I could drop my price to $.99 to get some traffic, but that still wouldn't make me any money. $99 screams lack of quality to me (just a perception).

Instead, I am going the "free coupon" route as a test. All of a sudden, I am getting feedback and praise. People who don't know me are actually reading my book. If they post reviews, those endorsements might make it possible to sell books at $2.99 and up.

70% of no sales is nothing. My thought is that 0% of free equals the same amount of money, but at least there will be a small fan base out there that may lead others to buy at the normal price.

Writing was the easy part...

David Gaughran said...

Hey Robin,

It looks like e-books are finally making a move in the UK. There was an article in The Bookseller today analysing Amazon's quarterly figures.

In the first quarter of 2011, Amazon’s #1 selling product across all categories (presumably in terms of revenue rather than units) was the Kindle 3G.

Out of the top ten selling products across all categories, five were books.

But out of those, only one was a print book (the non-stop-selling Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver was’s – the third highest selling product)

The other four were e-books, in positions four, five, nine, and ten: The Hanging Shed by Gordon Ferris, The Basement by Stephen Leather, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and Stephen Leather's Hard Landing.

All of the e-books (and the print book) come from trade publishers, except for “The Basement” which is one of Stephen Leather’s self-published works (he has both, but has a long history in trade-publishing and was a bestseller for years in the UK before he decided to self-publish).

I'm pretty sure "The Basement" is one of the novellas that his publisher - Hodder - turned down.

The full article is here:


Tara Maya said...

Instead, I am going the "free coupon" route as a test.

On Smashwords? Amazon has gifts, but I don't know of any free coupon system there.

Splitter's Blog said...

Yes, free coupons on smashwords only...darn it. The good news is that through the coupons or normal sales, I now have two reviews on smashwords and one of them cross posted to Amazon (thank you whoever you were lol).

It is frustrating when someone sends you an email saying they enjoyed your book. You feel like, "Thanks but I would have preferred something a little less private." But you can't say that, any praise is encouraging.

Robin Sullivan said...

@slingwords - I think the $1.99 price point is a a no-win price. I would definitely either go $0.99 or $2.99. Congrats on 600 books in a few weeks - that's great and I think since you're only on book 2 right now you should be concentrating on 'more eyes' -- Get some reviews some social networking to get your name out there and then start raisin the price.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Christopher - what are you doing for promotion of the book? 1.5 sales a week is a bit slow but understandable if you're just starting out. I suggest instead of working on the CreateSpace version you do some social networking - join Goodreads and maybe do a giveaway there of your book. I think the time promoting would be more beneficial than the dead tree version in your particular situation.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Bruce - I'm starting to see a segmentation of ebooks that will actually help for higher prices -- and that's the "shorts". We now have Kindle Shorts making the Top 100, Orbit has made a whole devision for shorts and Kindle has a whole section for them as well. I think these "shorts" will be priced at $0.99 and $2.99 and that will give a place for the higher price for full length novels - at least that is my hope.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Tara - the whole under-reporting aspect is frightening to be sure. I just checked with our agent to make sure that Michael's sales will be based on actual sales an not some algorithm.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Jools - I highly encourage experimentation - but don't change too quickly. It takes a while for people to settle in regardless of price.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Tara - you are right and smart to watch the "customers also bought" - Michael's demographics in this area COMPLETELY changed when I was doing promotional pricing. Before then the also bought was filled with mainstream fantasy authors such as Rothfuss, Sanderson, and Weeks. After the promotion it was all the little indies now that the prices are back up to normal - some of that remains(as there were large numbers purchased then) but the price is sening a message and appealing to different audiences.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Splitter - giving away free copies to get some exposure and reviews is a great approach - If you have a print version - I suggest a GoodReads giveaway. It costs you just the price of a book (or a few) and will get a bunch of people to start to be familiar with your name.

Joan Reeves said...

Robin, thanks for the insight on pricing. I should break 1000 in sales on Just One Look in an hour or so. It's been on 1 month and a few days. Sales have surprised me -- pleasantly so.

I'm going to take your advice on The Trouble With Love, my second ebook. I'm changing price from "no man's land" of 1.99 to 2.99 and see what happens. Have probably sold 30 since I first commented so I'm up to 56 sales -- it will have been on 2 weeks tomorrow.