Saturday, March 19, 2011

KIndle Bestsellers: It's all About Pricing, Pricing, Pricing!

Seems like everyone is playing with pricing these days when it comes to E-Book sales. The eternal question being, what's the optimum price for an E-Book, in particular a Kindle book, where myself and my publisher StoneHouseInk/StoneGateInk make the majority of our dough-ray-me (sp?).

Most of my in-print books are priced at $2.99, which I believe is a fair cost or, if you will, a fair trade with consumers (readers). You give me just short of three bucks and I give you a novel I made up all by myself. One of my books is a combo special edition with bestseller Aaron Patterson (Sweet Dreams/The Remains), and that's priced at $4.99 which is also a bargain 'cause you're getting two novels for less than 6 bucks. I'm not sure you can get a Big Mac, fries, large Coke, and chocolate shake for that price these days. Finally, another one of my novels, Moonlight Falls, is priced at 8.99, which I believe is too much for an E-Book. Why too much? I believe that part of the attraction of E-Books should be their price. A lot of middlemen are bypassed by publishing digitally and those cost saving should naturally be passed on to consumer.

But recently, my publisher has discounted the two books that make up my Jack "Run, Jack, Run" Marconi series which was originally published some years ago by a Random House Imprint. Their titles are THE INNOCENT (formerly, As Catch Can) and GODCHILD. While the books are "temporarily" discounted to $.99 they are, as a result, enjoying brisk sales and have even allowed me to enter into that coveted 1,000 sales in a single month club (actually, The Innocent will likely sell more than 2,000 copies for March alone) and the books have been in the Top Ten for Amazon's Hard-Boiled Bestsellers for all of this month, and will likely remain there for the duration (currently The Innocent is #151 overall in Bestselling Kindles). Because once you begin to sell a certain amount, Amazon does a lot of the selling for you by recommending your work to readers who consistently purchase books in your genre.

Of course, the big question is this: how well will the novels fair when the prices are switched back to the normal $2.99. If my stand alone thriller, THE REMAINS, can be considered an indicator of what will happen, than I suspect the ranking to diminish somewhat by holding steady within the top 30 or so, bestsellers. How do I know this? For a brief period, The Remains was being offered up at $.99, and it happened purely by mistake after SONY/BORDERS took it upon themselves to discount the book, and naturally Amazon followed suit...SOP for their pricing policy. The Remains enjoyed a huge surge and made the novel a big gainer. But it's still enjoying excellent sales at it's normal price and should continue to gain momentum as the year progresses.

There's a larger point to all of this pricing stuff. If I weren't being published by a small to medium sized indie house, I would have little or no say over pricing. But in this case, I do. Because my publisher is taking the time and effort to experiment with the pricing, lots of people are able to take advantage of the sales and that translates not only into more Vincent Zandri readers, it also translates into making more of my current and future books bestsellers.

Here is the Amazon Hard-Boiled Bestseller List as of today, Saturday, March 19, 2011 (Note: Aaron Patterson's Sweet Dreams is no 6, giving us StoneHouse/StoneGate guys 3 of the top 10 spots...not bad for indie newbies!):

Bestsellers in Hard-Boiled Mystery

The most popular items in Hard-Boiled Mystery. (Learn more)

  1. 1.
    Stephen Carpenter (Author)
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    $2.99
  2. 2.
    Debbi Mack (Author)
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    $0.99
  3. 3.
    Debbi Mack (Author)
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    $0.99
  4. 4.
    Vincent Zandri (Author)
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    $0.99
  5. 6.
    Aaron Patterson (Author)
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    $2.99
  6. 8.
    Robert Crais (Author)
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    $7.99
  7. 9.
    Vincent Zandri (Author)
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    $0.99
  8. 10.
    Robert Crais (Author)
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    $7.99
BTW: Just Click on which Books you want to BUY!!!

BLOG Update: As of 2:00PM Saturday, March 19, The Innocent has broken the Amazon Top 100 Bestselling Kindles to debute at No. 97 (Godchild) is currently No. 775 and climbing....

BLOG Update: As of 12:47 Pm Sunday, March 20, The Innocent is ranking No. 69, Godchild 621. My publisher texted me with the news that Innocent has sold more than 3,000 Kindle editions so far this month...and counting.

9 comments:

  1. Great post.
    I just wrote two posts about this subject:
    Greed vs. Library eBook Lending
    http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=1797

    and

    Self Published Success Story
    http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=1754

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  2. The fact that readers are coming to expect the 99 cent price point as the norm scares me. It's obvious from my own 99 cent experiment that it does entice sales, but it's terrible for the author. One of my Twitter followers actually sent me a tweet that said "Stop selling your book at 99 cents, it undervalues your work" and she did a post over on Indie Horror about "Why I won't buy your book for 99 cents." I'm not sure this race to the bottom is a good thing, Vin. I'm afraid its going to blow up in all of our faces and we won't see it coming because we're too ranking-obsessed.

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  3. Hey B:

    Wondering when you're chiming in...You're right, $.99 would undervalue the work (and lighten out wallets) should we decide to keep the price there. But I know at StoneHouse/StoneGate, the strategy is to run frequent sales while keep the price $2.99 for the majority of the time. If I'm selling 3000 books a month at the .99 price, I'm probably making as much as selling 1000 at 2.99....I haven't done the math, but I'm sure it's something like that...My feeling also is that sooner or later, publishers, sellers and authors alike are going to have to agree on a standard price. It will probably be in the $2.99 range it will probably ring in the death knoll for major publishers who simply can't afford to put out an ebook for less than 9 or so bucks.

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  4. Hi all,

    I've kept out of this debate for the most part, because pricing is such a difficult decision based on numerous factors. However, I don't think that pricing one's work at $.99 necessarily undervalues other authors' work, anymore than the old dime novels undervalued hardcover novels back in the day, if you get what I mean.

    In other words, if you're not a big name, you price your work to sell, and if you have to price the work to sell based on volume, that's what you do ... period. At least, that's my take on it. Got it? :)

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  5. I agree...I've been pub'd by the biggies and the small presses, but let's face it, I'm still in the audience-building stage. If I can reach out to 3,000 readers in a period of just three weeks, with a work that I consider some of my best, then there's a real good chance these same readers will consider my more expensive novels absolutely worth it...Our plan, as I understand it, is to have two or three novels at the 2.99 price, a couple at .99 and maybe one or two at 4.99 plus ad infinitum....

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  6. As a consumer, I thoroughly enjoy the pricing structure for ebooks on Amazon.com, especially when the ebooks cost less than their counterpart in-print books. I will only purchase the in-print book when shipping + book = less cost than ebook. (Cookbooks are an exception to the rule...they gotta' be in-print.)

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  7. I wanted to chime in as a newbie and at one of my publishers is it's based around the word count. Intermittent sales at a lower price does lift sales, which therefore increase in reviews, which makes the big Amazon machine suggest your book after it goes back up to a normal price point.

    Ranking isn't a big thing for me. I'm no where near where you are V. But I only have 2 short stories published. And I have not dropped out of the 100,000 range. Out of 750,000 books I'm pretty delighted.

    Great post V...

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  8. Outstanding numbers, and very well-deserved, too...

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  9. My novel has been out for less than two months. It is available for .99. I don't think it's been out long enough to figure out anything so I hesitate to make changes to the price too soon. However, I have been thinking that I might raise the price to 2.99 when I release my next piece, which will probably be shorter in length and therefore lower than 2.99. Strategies...still trying to figure them out.

    ReplyDelete