Thursday, April 08, 2010

eBook pricing and promotion questions

Self proclaimed 'midlist author' Joe Konrath is saying some very thought provoking things about eBook pricing on his blog. Of course, Joe has a number of advantages that I don't: he writes genre thrillers for a start, and fans of that genre are rabid for the buying of new books. He's also been published by a large New York outfit and done all the promotion/tour stuff which has helped him build up some good name recognition and a loyal fan base. So when Joe talks about selling 800 eBooks a month (per title?) he's talking about what can be achieved by a good author with an established track record who already has a market to sell to.

Whereas I have no platform, no track record, no ready market. And no sales.

So I'm thinking maybe I need to revise my sales strategy, both on the promotion side of things and on the pricing of the eBook version of The Gods in the Jungle.

First off, pricing. The hardcover version of the tome is priced at £9.99 from, which gives me a £2 profit per copy sold. I need to sell 11 copies to break even; I would have had to sell around 80-100 copies to break even if I had gone with one of the lulu distribution packages, but selling the tome through Amazon would have necessarily doubled the unit price (so Amazon can do their 50% off cover price offer thingy). All-in-all, I have no particular worries about the hardcover price - I'm sure I can sell a minimum of 11 copies over the next few years.

Where I'm being clueless is on the eBook pricing. Currently the tome is on sale via Smashwords for $9.99 (US dollars rather than sterling, as Smashwords are entirely American). I chose that price point because that was the price that everyone - 'kay, Amazon and their Kindle hoardes - was bandying about a few months back. A price of $9.99 gives me a net profit of around $7 for copies sold via Smashwords; $6 for copies sold via iBookstore.

But Joe is suggesting that my price point is way too high. He's talking about pricing his eBooks at $2.99 per unit, which would garner a net profit of just under $1.80 for each iPad sale.

So, a question for you both: Would you be willing to invest $2.99 in a book by an unknown author (after you'd checked out the quality of the writing, of course)? Would you be willing to go as high as risking $3.99? $4.99?

Secondly, platforms and fan bases and stuff. I ain't got 'em. Which is not a good thing as if people don't know the book exists, they ain't gonna charge out of their doors to buy it. One way around this is to get people to review the tome, but I don't know of any reviewers willing to drop everything to read and post a review of my book in popular SF/Fantasy venues. Yet I need reviews.

So, another question for you both: would you be willing to review my book if I sent you a free pdf version of the tome?

Rik is edging ever-closer to penury. Something has to be done.


  1. Anonymous11:39 pm

    On the pricing issue, I don't have an e-reader, though I'm tempted to get one. But when it comes to iPhone apps I find that £2.99 is about the upper limit for an instant impulse purchase, £3.99 for something that feels more substantial; £4.99 feels psychologically significantly harder to spend. Notice that's pounds not dollars, but I slightly suspect the numbers are as important as the real cost: i.e. 5 feels like the first important price boundary as you count up from zero.

    On the other hand my expectations about price are generally lower for iPhone apps than books, so that may not be a useful comparison at all. Although with second-hand books I think it's a similar price point: for a paperback in a secondhand bookshop, £2-3 pounds is an easy impulse buy, £4 is just slightly off-putting, £5 is like a real purchase.

    I think it will be interesting to see how the pricing of ebooks works out in the long term; I think I would buy books more readily if I didn't have [literal] piles of unread books around my bedroom already; that is, I would feel less bothered by buying books and then not reading them if I was buying electronic copies. But until I get an e-reader I won't know for sure.

  2. Harry - I think cheaper is going to be the new black(tm pending). People can download whole albums of music for much less than a tenner, and buy videos of big films on offer from Amazon for a fiver.

    I'm thinking £3.99 has a nice ring to it: you feel you're buying something substantial - a book to wallow in for a whole weekend or more, while at the same time it's still cheaper than a couple of beers (or a bottle of wine).