price point philosophies

One great thing about self publishing (or a terrible thing, depending on how you look at it) is that the writer is in full control of the price of their work.  This also means that for the most part, they get to control the percentage of royalties they receive (through Amazon, anyway).

When I released my first self published book last February, The Masks of Our Fathers, I priced it at $2.99 mainly because that seemed to the average price that most readers thought of as being fair coming from an unknown writer.  For the first few months, it sold well.  When I released a short story collection a few months later, I did the same.  I priced it at $2.99 and it sold so-so.

But as sales began to tank, I thought I would jump on the 99 cent bandwagon.  I saw where a handful of writers were doing very well at the $0.99 price point.  Almost instantly, The Masks of Our Fathers, started selling well again.  But that influx of sales only lasted two weeks or so.

In the last half of 2011, I kept experimenting with prices.  And I discovered something:  there is no fixed formula for a price point that everyone will agree upon.

Case in point…Birdwatching from Mars, Issue 1 has been priced at $1.29 ever since it was released last July.  It has never fluctuated, with the exception of a brief Free Promo once KDP made its appearance.  I have had a few people contact me to say that I should charge more for the book because of the artwork and the time involved.  Some have said that being priced at $1.29, it’s a steal.  On the other hand, I have had one or two people complain that the 24 pages don’t warrant a price as “steep” as $1.29.

Honestly, I don’t know where my opinion falls.  I have some behind-the-scenes info onBirdwatching from Marscoming soon, but that’s another post for another time.

Now, as 2012 opened up, I noticed a trend on blogs and Kindleboards where the $0.99 price point was becoming a red flag to some readers.  I understand the reader logic here: if a novel is priced at $0.99, what does that say for the writing?  Is the writer so desperate for readers that they will sell their work for pennies?

But I also understand the writer’s logic, as I have been there.  By pricing low, one would think that your readership would grow.  For about a month in 2011, I saw proof of this firsthand.  But near the end of the year, I saw the opposite.

Another example for you (wherein I have to reveal my weak sales numbers)…in January, with The Masks of Our Fathers priced at $0.99, I sold a staggering 3 copies.  Then, in the second week of February, I changed it back to $2.99.  In the course of less than two weeks, I sold 6.  This could easily be a coincidence, but I tend to think not, seeing as how other writers around the internet are reporting similar trends.

I have even toyed with the idea of releasing the next Everything Theory book at $3.99 just to see what happens.  I’ll probably chicken out in the end, but this book is flirting with 100,000 words and I feel is worth the extra buck.  With 5 books in the series, there are a few ideas I have for pricing gimmicks that I am currently trying to talk myself into.

Of course, some titles I am wary of pricing at the $2.99 point.  The Only Moth Among the Dark, for example.  I knew when I released it that there was a very small audience for it.  And because of that, I want to draw in as many readers as I can…particularly those that usually wouldn’t enjoy a chapbook of narrative poetry.  (Hell, even when I set this as free for a weekend, it barely had 200 downloads).

So how about you guys?  Readers and writers.  What is your pricing sweet spot and what has worked for you (and what hasn’t)?

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5 comments

  1. I don’t think price (as long as its below $10 USD and even then I’m unsure) is going to make any difference at this point in your career. What your up against is the wall of anonymity. Its something you will have to break through and you can only do it two ways. One is throw money at it so you can advertise everywhere, not something poverty stricken self publishers can usually do and the other is to take the time to get yourself known. I’ve got some new ideas about how to achieve this and I’d like to talk it through with you when we both have some time.
    In the mean time, since price makes no difference I suggest you hike all your prices to 9.99 just to see what happens.

  2. I’ve only been publishing for about seven months, and with three novels out (one very recently), I haven’t found a sweet spot yet. Reading reports from other writers, and stats from places like Amazon, makes me doubt that there’s such a thing. I published my first two novels at $2.99 and $1.99. The second was a sequel and much shorter, so I felt that was a fair price. I’ve since raised both by a dollar, and published the latest at $3.99. Sales come and go, either way. The problem is that there’s no way to account for external factors. I’m thinking about changing all three novels to $2.99 and staying with that until I’m better known, and also have more books to offer, which helps in getting known.

    Personally, I will never publish a novel for $.99. A short story? Yes. I also think that changing your prices too often is counterproductive because the current state of affairs, if it’s poor sales, could possibly be a result of temporary external factors. Becoming a known author whose books sell regularly is a long-haul affair, and requires patience in seeing how any change effects results.

  3. I recently published my first novel and, perhaps ill-advisedly, opted for both print and ebook versions. The problem I’m running into now is that people are telling me the $2.99 ebook price point is too cheap and devalues the print version (which retails for $15.95, and since it’s POD there’s not much room to lower that price). I raised the ebook price to $4.99 but have seen little in the way of sales since doing so. Has anyone else encountered this issue?

  4. I’ve stopped looking at sales but once a week and it is quite freeing. Sales do come and go based on too many external factors to count.

    I have control over my content and price, to a point.

    As a reader, I rarely, if ever, pay 99 cents for anything. So why price it there? Different price points attract different readers, that’s why. Some folks won’t skim below $4.99. Others won’t pay more than $2.99. I rarely, if ever, download free novels I know I won’t read, but offering my stuff for free certainly attracts a lot of “downloads”.

    Who knows? Right now, I’m price pulsing. I doubt I’ll drop below $1.99 for my longer stuff again, though. Time (and the market) will tell.

  5. The 99 cent price point is not a good idea. It works for major publishers promoting a title for a day or two, but for the regular self-published writer, it sucks. I don’t even see the point in the $1.99 price point. Readers who waffle between that and $2.99 aren’t readers you’re going to miss. Stick with $2.99 or up.

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