Originally posted 08 August 2011Pricing for eBooks has been the topic of leading blogs for the past month. And, I was contacted by Lynnette Phillips, [Link: http://lynnettesbookworld.blogspot.com/ a couple of days ago to chat about ‘book pricing’. We had an interesting discussion, and I’d like to hit on the high points of what I am observing in how eBooks are priced.
eBook pricing for fiction is coming down to (1) market demand; (2) the author's 'emotional comfort zone' and (3) 'trial and error'. The fiction market - except for the insatiable paranormal/action stories - is totally and completely glutted. Soaked. That includes romance, westerns, YA, and historical fiction.
As the economy cooled, book sales waned, book stores closed, writers discovered a way to make an income in the easy-to-publish eBook industry. Writers – good and bad – have flooded the market. Now readers do the job of ‘scoring’ good and bad fiction – the job that used to belong to agents.
So how do ambitious, new writers get the attention of a global marketplace when there is ‘so much out there’? Like Boyd Morrison [The Ark, Touchstone, 2010] a lot of them give away their fiction on initial release – literally and on a large scale – free! As an exercise this morning I surveyed the pricing of Kindle Top 10 fiction sellers (not free books). Here is the line-up:
$ 09.99 The Help, Berkeley, TradPub
$ 00.99 Caribbean Moon, Rick Murgittroyd, IndiePub
$04.49 Hunger Games, Scholastic, TradPub
$12.99 Now You See Her, Brown, Little & Company, TradPub
$11.99 A Stolen Life, Simon & Schuster, TradPub
$07.99 Catching Fire, Scholastic, TradPub
$07.14 Mocking Jay, Scholastic, TradPub
$00.99 Stealing Faces, IndiePub
$02.99 Deceitful Moon, Rick Murgittroyd, IndiePub
$02.99 A Small Fortune, IndiePub
There! The average price of Big Six (GreedyPubs) is $9.09. GreedyPubs have been hit with a backlash for their predatory pricing in recent months. Hachette’s Brown, Little & Company was hit with a meteor storm of *-star reviews on their Mike Connelly titles in May. Pricing for the IndiePubs in the Top 10 fiction category is either $.099 or $02.99. Not conclusive enough, so I turned to the people I have selected as mentors for my own publishing efforts:
Starting with Dean Wesley Smith [Link: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=3940 Smith advises $2.99 for short novels, $4.99 for a short story collection, and $4.99 for standard length novels. Smith puts the thumbscrews to discount publishers – those who ‘sell’ for free. I am so onboard with every piece of advice Smith has ever given. Another wildly successful IndieAuthor, JA Konrath, hired an eStributor this summer who collects 15% for edistribution of Konrath's titles. Follow his blog, he has a few things to add about eBook pricing. It is a topic that he brings up routinely. Tony Elridge, writing for BookBuzzr suggests $2.99 and discusses ‘book bundling’ as a way to sell sets of titles at a higher price – interesting. [Link: http://www.bookbuzzr.com/blog/book-marketing/5-tips-on-setting-e-books-prices/ . Nathan Bransford points out the obvious economics of eBook pricing and attracting readers in his blog on the topic of pricing. He observes that when presented with two titles, in the reader’s preferred genre, a reader will hit ‘Buy Now!’ on the cheaper title even if that title has been written by a lesser known author or even an unknown author, or a "bad" writer. Bransford also notes that the price of eBooks have dropped dramatically over the period June 2010 - June 2011.
Which brings me to John Locke. He claims he’s not the best writer, but notes to his readers that he’s selling millions of books (readers seem to disagree with his self-assessment). His eBook fiction titles sell for $0.99.
His non-fiction, ‘How I Sold 1 Million Books In Five Months’, is going for $4.99. So let’s move over to that category of pricing.
Non-fiction eBook Pricing?
Lordy! Sex Sells when it comes to non-fiction, whereas Crime Sells when it comes to fiction – or so it seems. My Lustful Life and Loves, Erotic Evolution, publisher holds the first six positions in Kindle sales ranking (no pun intended - I don’t think) with pricing at $2.99 and $6.99.
Then a series of how-to guides follow (having little or nothing to do with the first six non-fiction best sellers). The most expensive non-fiction title in the Top Kindle ranking is selling for $7.00.
What Does This All Mean To Me?
I attended a Steve Berry ~ Jim Rollins writer's workshop over the weekend. To their credit these two exciting veteran authors support the 'History Matters Foundation'. The revenue generated from the Seattle workshop added to the $75,000 dollars that Berry and his Foundation have contributed to history museums across the nation. In closing his remarks Berry stated the mantra of seasoned authors: "Write the best damned novel that you possibly can. Edit it, re-write it; and then start over and re-write it again". I add, "Do your marketing!" A book that you upload but do not market is like a child left standing on the corner of 5th and Main. Lynnette Phillips takes the cake when it comes to her passion - books and marketing.
Want My Opinion On Pricing?
Authors who give away their eBooks to boost their ranking are frauds, in my opinion. They either lack confidence in their work, don't want to devise a marketing plan, or haven't made friends with their fan base (some of them can't even profile their fan base!) I say this with emphasis.
Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m holding my fiction at $3.99; I’m lowering [non-fiction] ‘Mexico On A Motorcycle: Riding Out The Recession’ to $6.99; I’m upping my ‘All Smart Cookies Can Self-Publish’ to $3.99. How about you? What are you doing about pricing – and marketing – your titles?
This exercise did make me want to find out about Rick Murcer (Caribbean Moon and Deceitful Moon) – so I linked to [Link: http://www.strongscenecontest.com/2011/07/5-questions-for-author-rick-murcer.html Cool story, nice enough guy; okay so he likes murder; but so do 9 out of 10 of the Kindle Top 10 Fiction writers.