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The rise of the 99-cent Kindle e-book

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#1 AQCrew



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Posted 18 March 2011 - 06:46 PM

Here's an interesting article for all of you -- but especially those who are considering going the e-pubbing route sooner than later:


Here are a few of the points that stand-out to us:

1. Blogification of the book industry

Just like everyone now has a blog, we do believe that almost every writer will have their books up on the internet for sale in 2 years time. It's going to be too tempting and too easy not to do it. And there's going to be continued attrition in the print market, so writers are going to hear about the fall-out and assume they can do better. That said, it is going to be like starting a blog... many, many, many will try. And many, many, many more will fail to stick with it, much less make something out of it.

But for those of you who enjoy blogging and who are inherently good at it, you reap the rewards. The same will happen for those of you who decide to publish and market your own eBooks.

We do believe that those writers who have been through the agent query game are much better suited to make something out of their e-pubbing endeavors than the vast majority of your-average-wanna-be-writers. Most of you have been around the block -- several times over -- and your industry knowledge, connections, and internet expertise will help you more than you realize.

2. Yes, 0.99 is certainly the pricing sweet spot.

The author of this article counted the total number of books on the top 100 Kindle list that had a price of 0.99, and came up with about 20%. 1 in 5. That's interesting.

We've been doing our own e-pubbing research and experimentation specifically on Amazon, and there's no question that pricing your book on the lowest end of the scale is currently the best way to get exposure as a complete unknown writer because your book will show up early on the "low-to-high price" sort feature. Especially the first week you go live with your book.

This is currently true, but we're not sure for how long this will last. We feel the $0.99 eBook tsunami coming already, and we actually think there are less Kindle buyers and readers than you'd assume. Will both sides of the coin change? Yes. There will be more Kindle readers/buyers, but there will also continue to be a flood of new eBook uploads. And more and more of those new e-pubbing writers will go straight for the $0.99 price point.

3. Switching back and forth on price in order to manipulate your ranking

The article's author is citing Christopher Smith and his novel, Fifth Avenue as his case study. Here's what the article cited about Smith's manipulation of the price as a marketing tool:

"When I went to 99 cents, I was going for longevity," Smith says. Later, when he was firmly planted in the Top 100, he started playing with pricing and listed the book back at $2.99. For every $2.99 book he sold on the Kindle, he needed to sell six books at 99 cents to make the same amount of money. While he drifted downward on the best-seller list, if he priced at $2.99, he says he was making significantly more money. "To keep the book on the list as long as possible, I'd just switch it back to 99 cents and it would quickly climb the list again," Smith says. "Rinse and repeat. This went on for months."

We were surprised, in fact, to see how much our own ranking jumped with only a few initial sales the first week our AQCREW's TEST BOOK (we're using a pen name and intentionally engaging in zero marketing exposure as a "control" case study -- reporting on those details later) was up on Amazon. And jumped even higher in ranking on Amazon UK (with same amount of sales, but less titles to compete against)...

We were also surprised to see several mid-list books in the same genre, released by publishers, that had a price of $4.99 or higher and have ZERO ranking.

While price manipulation is certainly a marketing strategy, we really think it's a lazy tactic. And in the end, all it proves is that there are more Amazon readers who will buy a book listed at $0.99 more frequently than one listed at a higher price.

That said, if you're entering into the e-pubbing arena, especially on Amazon -- know this fact and use it to your advantage.

#2 Darke


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Posted 18 March 2011 - 07:48 PM

Very interesting. Thanks for the article post.

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#3 C. Taylor

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 08:40 PM

Thanks for the post! I asked April E. a similar question about pricing strategy, and she recommended the same. I know that if I decide to throw something out there, I'll probably start low for a while to get reviews and rankings and then think about boosting the price.

Cali MacKay




#4 Tom Bradley

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 12:02 AM

Terrific info. I've debated what to price my e-book at once I go that route and had pondered something along the lines of $3.99.
But now you have me thinking.

#5 Rick Spilman

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 07:28 AM

I have noticed a similar effect at the other end of the book pricing scale. I follow a number of books on NovelRank.

A friend's books are priced at $16-17 for trade paperback and $9.99 for Kindle. He consistently sells between two and four times as many Kindle books as he does paperbacks.

It works in the other direction as well. Jim Nelson's newly released, With Fire and Sword: The Battle of Bunker Hill and the Beginning of the American Revolution is priced in hardcover on Amazon at $16.05. The Kindle version is priced by McMillan at $14.99. So far in March the book has sold roughly 80 copies in hardcover on Amazon and only 40 copies in the Kindle version.

Likewise John Konrad's Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster, ($16.45 hardcover, $14.99 set by Harper Collins) has sold roughly 71 copies in hardcover and about 30 copies on Kindle.

Bernard Cornwell's The Fort:A Novel of the Revolutionary War is interesting because his Kindle sales ($9.99) initially were higher than his hardcover sales ($13.82) but then dropped when the Kindle price was raised to $13. His Kindle sales rebounded when the price returned to $9.99.

Whether we are talking about a book for a buck, in the case of Christopher Smith's Fifth Avenue, or traditional publishing, pricing seems to have a direct impact on book sales. The basic economics of the elasticity of demand apply to books as well as cans of soup. The insistence by traditional publishers that lower prices "devalues the product" may appear to make sense in a boardroom in the corporate headquarters, but doesn't appear to work in the marketplace.

#6 richard p

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 09:24 AM

The pricing of the book is pretty important, no doubt.

I'm selling my collection of short stories for $2.99 on Amazon. Now that we're 3/5s through the month of March and I have sold no copies other than the original three to myself, my sister, and my blogging friend, I'm thinking the price is too high, especially for a book of short stories, and have thought seriously about lowering the price to $.99. I'm not sure that would help sells much, because short story collections don't usually sell, anyway. But I realized I'd have to sell six at $.99 to make the same money as selling one for $2.99. I'm not sure it's worth the tradeoff. I'm still debating the price change. I'll probably go to $.99 as an experiment in April if I still haven't sold any more copies.

All the points you make about ranking is pretty important too, I guess. I'm still trying to figure all of this stuff out.

Richard P Hughes a.k.a. R Patrick Hughes

#7 MzBuzz


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Posted 19 March 2011 - 04:11 PM

It changes all the time, too. Every month more gimmicks emerge. Thanks to all the posters for the great info.

From my own research (friends, business associates, clients, etc) $9.99 is big point. Beyond that, they aren't willing to pay for much past authors they really like well.

#8 Rick Spilman

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 04:52 PM

It changes all the time, too. Every month more gimmicks emerge. Thanks to all the posters for the great info.

From my own research (friends, business associates, clients, etc) $9.99 is big point. Beyond that, they aren't willing to pay for much past authors they really like well.

I wonder whether we will see a continued stratification between the big houses who think it is smart to effectively price e-books separately as hard-cover and paperback (to maintain e-book prices in the $12 - 14 dollar range when the hard cover is published and drop them to $9.99 only when the paperback edition is released) and the rest of the publishing world including the indies and self publishers who will sell happily below the $10 price threshold.

#9 jwmstudio


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Posted 02 April 2011 - 07:55 PM

I think the free or $.99 price is a good way to build readership for authors with a series of novels. Several times I've downloaded a free book, liked it and gone on to purchase other books the author has written. If you can manipulate your price to boost your rating and you have a good book, you may be able to make money on the second, third, etc.

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