I've been listening to alot of buzz about price points - and if you're an indie author right now, I'm sure you've heard it, too. The differing opinions about pricing, what works, can you be a bestseller on Amazon with anything other than .99, yadda yadda. There's no clearcut answer so, you've gotta figure out what works for you. Personally, I love Amy Rose Davis' opinion about price, so I asked her to share:
99 Cents is Not a Magic Wand...
When Heather asked me to share my thoughts on the e-book pricing debate, I got a little nervous. I mean, who am I to say? I’ve only been doing this for about three months, and Amanda Hocking and J. A. Konrath and Zoe Winters certainly have more track record and experience in pricing and selling books.
Winters first published Kept in 2008, before the big “gold rush” mentality of the e-book revolution took over. Hocking published last spring (2010), while it was all fresh and new and even Konrath wasn’t convinced it was the way to go. And Konrath—as much as he likes to say it doesn’t make a difference—had a following before he started self-publishing. He and Hocking both had backlists, too, so they could regularly feed their fans new or new-to-them stuff.
Why does that all make a difference? Because the publishing world tilted sideways sometime in the last year, and now all bets are off and things that may have worked before may not work now.
I first published my novella, Silver Thaw, in December 2010 and put it on sale for $1.99. On January 29, 2011, my full-length novel, Ravenmarked, went live. That’s it. I have no massive backlist. I’m new to the game. Yes, I write a lot—I don’t have a “real day job” aside from being a mom and an occasional freelance copywriter—but it’s still going to take me some time to build up that backlist.
This is a very different environment for me than it was for Winters or Hocking or Konrath. And in pricing, I have to take that into consideration.
So here are some general thoughts:
1) A novel is worth more than 99 cents. It just is. I don’t care if it’s a short novel or a long one, a YA title or a gripping mystery, an unedited manuscript or one that’s been validated by a New York Sanctified Honest-to-Goodness Publishing House Editor—it’s worth more than 99 cents. This post sums up my thoughts about the value of the writing art beautifully, so I see no need to repeat what she has already said.
2) Most readers don’t think of pricing the way indie authors do. Time and again, I mentioned my $5 novel to readers, and they said, “is that all?” A co-worker of my husband’s considers a $10 e-book an impulse buy. And when I poke around online, it seems that the biggest complaint I see from readers is when an e-book is MORE expensive than the paperback or even hardback version. Otherwise, they tend not to say much.
3) Furthermore, most readers don’t even think of publishing the way we do. When I mention my book in the circles I run in, the questions of “who’s publishing you,” “who’s your agent,” and “what kind of advance did you get” never come up. The questions I get? “When does your book come out? Where can I buy it?” The average reader doesn’t seem to give a hoot who published a book. They just want a good story.
4) Low prices scream “Indie! Self-published!” And really, as indies, don’t we keep saying that we want to legitimize this? Don’t we want to be indistinguishable from traditionally published book? With ultra-low price points, we only highlight our indie status.
5) Low prices don’t make that much difference in the long haul. Oh sure, it’s great to look at Hocking and say, “well, her 99 cent to $2.99 price points make a big difference for her! I wish I had her millions of sales!” But know what? I wish I had J. K. Rowling, Dan Patterson, Stephen King, Terry Goodkind, or George R. R. Martin’s sales, too. And for every Hocking, there are hundreds of e-book novelists sitting in the 99-cent bin waiting for their millions to roll in. Did they write good books? Possibly. But the truth is Hocking tells good stories that connect with readers. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have sold books no matter how she priced them. It’s entirely likely that she would have had some level of success at much higher price points.
Because on the flip side of the Hocking/Konrath examples are the Michael Sullivans and Brian S. Pratts. They defied the conventional wisdom and priced their books between $4 and $6. And both are making very healthy livings, and Sullivan just signed a six-book deal with Orbit. Again, good stories that connected with readers—not overnight, but ultimately, and that’s what counts.
Which leads me to my big point:
6) The biggest thing you can do to ensure success as an indie author is write, write, write. I’m beginning to think it’s far less about pricing, luck, or Amazon rankings than it is about good old fashioned hard work and persistence. And you know what? You’d have to do that anyway as a traditionally published author. You don’t just sell one book and sit back to let the millions roll in. The authors who make a living do this over and over and over again. 99 cents is not a magic wand.
So, here’s what I’ve decided when it comes to e-books: A short story is like reading a feature in a magazine. I’ll charge 99 cents for those and occasionally give them away for free. A novella is like reading a whole magazine in an evening. I’ll charge $2.99 or more for those, depending on length. And a novel is… Well, a novel. It’s worth $7 to $10, most likely. I’ll charge at least $4.99 for my novels, possibly more.
It’s not about rankings for me. It’s about the long haul—being indistinguishable from a traditionally published book, making long-term sales, and building a long-term audience that loves me and shares my work with other people. It may take longer my way—it may not. That’s fine. I can wait. In ten years, maybe I’ll be an overnight success.
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Amy Rose Davis is an independent epic fantasy author. She lives in Oregon with her husband, Bryce, and their four children. Bryce provides comic relief, editing, and inspiration, and regularly talks her off the various ledges she climbs onto.
She is the author of: RavenMarked and Silver Thaw. Amy’s books are available in all major e-bookstores.
Book trailers on YouTube:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004LGS312
Barnes & Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Ravenmarked/Amy-Rose-Davis/e/9780983226420/?itm=2