The Great Indie Pricing Debate

4 Jul

This is a topic that my friend Wren and I bicker over like old women.  What is the best way to price our books as Indie authors?   You can read her latest argument on this debate here.   And if you want to hear mine, keep reading…

Amanda Hocking revolutionized the e-book world. We all know that. She turned it on its ear and that’s a great thing- I honestly believe that all industries should be shaken up from time to time to keep it fresh.  However, she also created a trend and an expectation in the indie world:  That all e-books from new authors should be $.99.  It wasn’t just her, you understand.  People who read about her success started pricing their books at $.99 and the whole situation snowballed.  It is to the point now, where I firmly believe that readers aren’t going to pay more than a buck for an unknown author’s work.

There will be exceptions, of course.  But my opinion is that as unknown authors, our sales are not going to boom with even 2.99 pricing.  Not with a first book, anyway.  We have to price our first book low, to draw readers in and prove to them that we have what it takes to entertain them.  And I will be the first to admit that even as an author myself, I’m the same way. I’m leery to try out a new author who charges the same prices as top-shelf proven authors.   

I’m not going to make a habit out of sharing my sales numbers, only because I think that like any good marriage, there should be some mystery involved.  However, I’ve done some experimentation with my own books in order to test my theories on this issue.  So to illustate my findings, I’m going to share my numbers with you today. 

Every Last Kiss was my debut novel.  It came out on April 21, priced at $.99.  In its first week, it sold 28 copies.  In its first full month (May) it sold 271 copies.   In its second full month (June), it sold 1,258 copies.   That is quite a growth curve. 

Comparitively, I priced my second book, a stand-alone novel titled Princess, at $.99 cents for its first week and sold 22 copies.  I then raised its price to $2.99 and sales for the entire month of June were 44. 

My second book in the Bloodstone Saga came out on June 25.  I priced it at $2.99 out of the gate, since it was the second book in a series.  I felt like I had already ‘proven myself’ to readers with Every Last Kiss and because of that, I felt that it was safe to raise the price on Fated.  It sold 112 copies in its first week (the last week of June).  

July sales.  Since July 1 (3 full days of sales), Every Last Kiss has sold 180 copies, Fated has sold 88 and Princess has sold 4. 

What does all of this mean?  To me, it means that my pricing strategy is working.  Pricing Every Last Kiss low has allowed readers to get to know me.  Paying a buck for an unknown author isn’t a risk and so many readers are willing to do it.  I proved myself with that book, and now readers are willing to come back for seconds with Fated.   Princess’ sales are slow… whether it is because it is a stand-alone book or a less desirable genre (Contemporary Fiction), I don’t know. 

But here’s something else.  My degree is not in literature.  My degree is in business.  So, I have a creative mind coupled with a business head.  And I was taught to capitalize on any advantage that you might have in any given market.   As indies, our biggest advantage that we have over our colleagues from the big publishers is PRICE.  We don’t have the huge overheads that the big guys have, so we can afford to price lower and still make a profit.   On the flip side, our biggest disadvantage is VISIBILITY.  Authors from big houses have the luxury of being stocked on shelves at Barnes and Noble and being marketed by marketing teams.  By pricing low for a first book, Indies can take advantage of Amazon algorithms to try and gain some visibility.  So, that is what I’m doing.   And so far, it seems to be working for me.

Are $.99 sales sustainable?  I have no idea.  Regardless, I enjoy the feeling of knowing that so many new readers have my book in their hands.  I have no idea if that would have happened if my debut hadn’t been priced at $.99.   I’m realistic enough to know, though, that someday, that pricing stragegy may not work for me anymore.  But the good news is, that being an indie, I can be flexible in nearly every aspect of my book business.  If I need to, I’ll raise my prices.  And then if I need to lower them again, I can do that.   As indies, we’re free to do whatever we want and that’s the beauty of being an indie writer.  Yay Indies!  🙂


4 Responses to “The Great Indie Pricing Debate”

  1. Wren Emerson July 4, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    Princess will never be a good comparison as it is both a stand alone and a different genre. If you priced it at $.99 I still think it wouldn’t see the same numbers as ELK.

    Actually, THAT would be an interesting experiment. Price it at $.99 and see if price alone helps move a relatively unpopular book.

  2. Courtney Cole July 4, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    Drat, lil’ Wren. I thought I could sneak this one past you before you got out of bed. You miss nothing!! 🙂

  3. Moses Siregar III July 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your results!

  4. Mary Preston July 4, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    Being an Indie, the Business Degree must be invaluable.

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