Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Question

I'd like to get your opinions on something. When I first published Killing Trail, I set the price at $2.99. The price seemed both reasonable to me, and it allowed me to get the 70% royalties from Amazon for each copy. However, I've since seen other, roughly equivalent, books published at 99 cents. I've been wondering whether I should drop my price to 99 cents. I've not made a decision on it and I'd like to gather some information first. So, given that Killing Trail has now been out for a little more than a year, here are my questions.

1. Would dropping the price upset folks who paid $2.99 for it, or would it be more likely seen as a natural discounting process for a book that has been out a while?

2. How do readers view it when an author drops the price on a book ‘temporarily’ as a promotional offer. I know some writers start out with a lower price for a week or two and then go up, but in my case I was thinking about dropping the price to 99 cents for say a month. What are your thoughts on that.

I tell you, the business end of writing gives me fits. I neither want to be seen as a money grubbing author, nor do I want to sell myself short. I probably spend as much or more time agonizing over this kind of thing as I do a plot twist. The latter is much more fun, though.

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46 comments:

Paul R. McNamee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul R. McNamee said...

There are a lot of "singles" going for $.99. Because you have a collection, I believe $2.99 is reasonable.

Also, though self-published, Killing Trail is backed by your track record of previous publication. I know if I get something from you , it won't be a half-hearted mess. So, again, $2.99 is justified.

I hold no grudge over someone getting your ebook cheaper than I did. People are allowed bargains - and that sometimes involves timing. (Plus, it's a couple of dollars - price of a fancy cup of coffee. Not like missing out on a $3 ebook that normally has price of $15 and a hardcover of $30)

I am a big fan of the temporary sales. I think that would be a fine idea for you. Drop the price for a month and then let it go back up.

That's my vote.

Christina said...

If you're going to do something like that, wait until Dec. or Jan. when people get e-book readers for Christmas and are looking to fill them up.

A lot of authors, probably me included, put the first book of their series out for 99 cents only because we're new authors and we want people to give us a chance. Frankly, as much time as I spend editing and making sure this is a good product, I kind of feel like this is selling me short, but I've been following the arguments on this subject and being new, it's a risk I'd be willing to take.

Not all my books are going to be 99 cents. It's a business too and I would like to make a living off doing this.

If you did this for a month to get new readers, that's one thing, but like what Paul said, you're an experienced writer, people should understand that. The 99 cent book shouldn't become the norm, but I have a feeling it might, and that will make it hard to make a living from.

So many e-books are cheap. 99-4.99 isn't much considering books now cost $8-12 to buy in hard copy. I think the price you set is reasonable. One month of 99 cents might not set you back. Advertise it hard though, so people will notice your other works too, or maybe you'll pick up 2x the number of reviewers.

I'm still working out the kinks on the business end.

Keith said...

I think the $2.99 is reasonable. OTOH, if you have several titles (collections or novels, not short stories) then discounting one for a specific period as a loss leader to attract readers to your other books makes sense. Short fiction at 99 cents can act as a gateway drug to longer works at a higher price or collections of short works.

I agree with Paul about not being upset if someone gets a book cheaper than I did. There are a variety of factors that can cause any product's price to change.

You can always raise the price again if you see you're making less money at a lower price point. I don't think there's a one size fits all answer to what price a book should be. There are too many variables, such as author name recognition, audience demographics, what else is competing for readers' money, etc. for there to be any one answer to this question.

I guess what I'm trying to say is lower the price for a while and see what happens.

Lana Gramlich said...

I agree with Christina...A holiday sale might be best.

jodi said...

Charles, although what everyone said makes sense, I would leave the price. It IS reasonable and you won't gain much by dropping the price. You have to value your art before anyone else will.

laughingwolf said...

what paul sez... xmas special may be ok, end nov. - end dec.

ensure your potential buyers know 'special' is for holiday only, and price will go back up after that...

Chris said...

I wish more writers would hold the line at $2.99. I think the occasional sale price can be a good idea, but all the .99 stuff is conditioning readers to not want to pay more. I don't mind 2.99, but even I find myself blinking at 5.99 . . . until I kick myself for doing so.

Merisi said...

I would say dropping the price for a month may bring you new readers. Saying from the onset that it would be a special temporary offer sounds fair to me, also to those who already purchased for the higher price and would do so again because they already know you.

I can understand that the business end giving you fits. I finished my degree two months ago and have to think about making money in the long run and it baffles me to no end.

Tom Doolan said...

I agree with the majority here in that a .99 sale would probably be a good idea. Ideally, it seems it would be even better if you were on the verge of publishing something new. And I would personally hold no grudge. I feel I got my $2.99 worth and then some with Killing Trail.

I also agree that your standard price shouldn't fall below $2.99. Though I think the quality of your work would merit something higher.

BernardL said...

Random House dropped Stacia Kane's UNHOLY GHOSTS to 99 cents I believe to gather more initial readers for an outstanding series. The decision will definitely garner more readers for the rest of the series at regular price because it's a fantastic series. KILLING TRAIL isn't a series, but it might mean an increase in sales for your other books. It's a gamble, but I'm certainly not going to be upset about paying 2.99. I thought it was a bargain then. Name recognition and present sales should be taken in to account also.

For example, in Stacia's case her first 'Downside' series book has possibly reached a plateau. Her publisher naturally wants an up tick in sales on the first one by going the 99 cent route because they're confident it will mean a increased base for the rest of the series.

Randy Johnson said...

Holiday sales could be a good idea. You have a reoutation for delivering and it could work for new ereader owners.

And no, I wouldn't be bothered by folks getting it for less. Good sales could bring more such offerings from you. A good thing. I'm greedy that way.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't see anything wrong with $2.99. I've only purchased two .99 books - the bulk of what I buy is $2.99-7.99.

Charles Gramlich said...

Paul R. McNamee, that makes sense to me, and is one reason I thought the 2.99 was OK originally. And thanks for the input. I think I may do the temporary thing.

Christina, The holiday sale kind of thing is really good idea. I hadn’t thought of that but I definitely think that’s the way to go. Thanks.

Keith, so far I have only the one self published piece, but I do have other books that are available as ebooks so maybe a temporary discount on Killing Trail might help those. Hadn’t thought of that either so thanks for the hint.


Lana Gramlich, I think so too. That was a really good idea.

Jodi, that’s for sure. If you don’t value your own work why should anyone else. I am thinking about a holiday sale, a temporary drop. Maybe that would be the way to go but lower it permanently.

Laughingwolf, yes, that’s a really good thought. I will look very closely at doing something like that.


Chris, I know exactly how you feel. It’s almost inevitable to make comparisons between books at 99 and those at 2:99, but you have no idea the differences in sales figures really, and then that is a different issue than the amount of money earned from the sale. Since Killing trail isn’t a full length novel, I thought 2:99 was reasonable. For a 60 to 70 thousand word book, it seems like 4.99 might be more reasonable. And the price increases make sense as you go up from there.

Merisi, it’s so nice to do things for love, but you still gotta eat and send your kids to school and pay your electric bill.

Tom Doolan, Good point about having something new coming out. I don’t have at the moment, but the holiday sale makes sense anyway. And when I do have something new coming out I could do something along those lines again, especially if the new item was related to a western.


BernardL, yes, good points. I have to think about the relationship between one book and another. It would be more effective if Killing Trail was also fantasy, like the Talera books. But eventually I will probably do another western.

Randy Johnson, thanks, man. Very kind of you. The Holiday sale idea is garnering a lot of support and it makes sense.

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex, I so far haven't bought a lot of ebooks for more than about 5.99 but I'm not adverse to paying more depending on the author, the book itself, and the size of the book

Erik Donald France said...

Personally, I would not drop the price. Ever.

What I've seen is that writers need to increase their prices slightly, or hold steady. Them's my two ducats.

Ron Scheer said...

I would add only this to what's been said already, that if you're discounting the book for a while, it should be part of an orchestrated promotional campaign for your "brand," which is yourself. For you, that may sound too much like huckstering, but I'd recommend giving it some thought.

Dionne Charlet said...

This thread is very interesting to me. I haven't even begun to think about publishing books at this price versus that price, but to see all this information from everyone is enlightening. Thanks!!

Charles - $2.99 is a bargain price for a work of fiction with your level of craftsmanship and imagination.

Oscar said...

I'd give the 99 cents deal a go with as much advertising as a special discount for a short time as you can do. Or, offer it for 99 cents for the first 25 or 50 buyers to see how it goes.

Steve Malley said...

Poison Door first came out at .99. When sales leveled off I figured people buying it now are more interested in the book than the price and raised it to 2.99.

Same time, sales for Crossroad Blues had gone sluggish, so I lowered that one from 2.99 to .99.

Sure enough, the dollar book moves more copies. The three dollar book earns more royalties.

My conclusion? Having a book for a buck is an easy way to hook new readers. And having a *good* book for a buck (and Killing Trail is very damn good indeed) is a great way to sell those more expensive titles. WIthin a week or so, every uptick in dollar sales leads to a rise in three dollar sales, roughly 2:1.

My advice? Give it a go and seriously, don't stress it. No matter how we slice it, these books cost pocket change.

My *best* advice? More Gramlich titles on offer!!! But then, I am kinda greedy that way... :)

G said...

I'm surprised that no one tried to answer your question from a potential readers perspective.

If I was going to by an e-book, I would look at the 99 cent ones the same way I would look at buying a used c.d. of an artist who has a song out that I like.

Basically as a great sampler.

If you're loathe to spend a good chunk of change on a unknown writer, buying an e-book for 99 cents is an excellent way of test driving w/o investing too much.

If the test drive is satisfactory, then you go exploring for more stuff from the author.

If not, you haven't lost anything beyond spending 99 cents.

You can look at your particular e-book as a loss leader and drop the price in order to attract new readers who would be interested in purchasing other books/e-books from you.

Angie said...

Another vote for having a temporary sale (January is a good idea -- I agree with Christina there) but otherwise holding the price. $0.99 is fine for a sale, or a book-one-of-a-series enticement, or a single short story. For a novel length book, though, even if it's an anthology, $2.99 is perfectly reasonable and even a bit cheap.

Angie

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, I’d like to see the prices go up a bit myself. It’s a buyer’s market at the moment it seems, because so many folks are wanting to get their material out there. And people outside of writers don’t always understand how much work is involved with producing a good quality story or novel. I’ve decided definitely not to drop the price to 99 permanently. But I may still look at a holiday sale.


Ron Scheer, that’s true. The Christmas break is also a good time for me to do something because I would have some time for a campaign. During the regular semester I just wouldn’t have time for it. It might be also a kind of exploratory thing.

Dionne Charlet, it’s a lot to think about. There are all kinds of pros and cons. And thank you for the kind words. I appreciate them. :)

Oscar, It couldn’t hurt to do a little experimenting, I think.


Steve Malley, And the Talera books and Bitter steel are available in ebook, although not from me. I still get royalties on them so if an uptick occurs I’ll be in good shape. I sure wish I could write faster!

G, Yeah, I wish I had something else ready to publish on Kindle. Then dropping Killing trail to 99 might jump start that. I don’t though, and probably won’t. I think you’re point about a kind of sampler is really good. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

Charles Gramlich said...

Angie, thanks. I like the idea of doing it after folks have got their new nooks and kindles for Christmas!

Cloudia said...

" I tell you, the business end of writing gives me fits. I neither want to be seen as a money grubbing author, nor do I want to sell myself short."

Amen. Bro, amen-


Aloha from Waikiki;


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Travis Cody said...

I wouldn't be bothered if you dropped the price, but I think the collection is priced just fine at $2.99.

X. Dell said...

I can't really help you. I notice, however, when things are overvalued, people tend to gravitate to them. Dropping your price to 99 cents might make it seem as though the book is somehow not as good as a $2.99 book--even though it's the same book.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, yeah, would be nice to just write. Not gonna happen, though

Travis Cody, thanks. I did a lot of thinking before I went with that price originally.

X-dell, nothing will get to everyone, of course. but you have a point.

eric1313 said...

I agree with X Dell, though my personal experience is non-existent, I have talked to lots of people about pricing such things as well as the rest of this god awful part of the craft that is known as 'the business'.

You seem to feel that you put $2.99 worth of effort in that book, keep it there. 3 bucks is still a small price to pay for good literature. I just paid 6 bucks for a used copy of The Children of Hurin by Tolkien and it was worth every penny. Also I highly recommend it, it's right there in your zone, taking place 6500 years prior to the War of the Rings, filled with the early warlike men who sided with the Elves against the true Dark Lord, Morgoth Bauglir, the Great Enemy (sauron was just a scheming runt). End of promo, back to the subject :)

People who love literature will understand and likely not bat an eye.

Also, from what I have heard, dropping the price now probably will not translate into increased sales. Especially not enough to make up the gap in monetary value that you will be losing if you do drop the price of your work. However, it might spread out your readership, so I also understand that side of the the argument

But then again, as said, I have sold nothing and give it all away. Just thought I'd chime in.

Ty Johnston said...

Charles, I think $2.99 is a fair price. However, I see nothing wrong with a temporary sale of 99 cents, but I wouldn't bank on it doing much good. It might, but my own experience has been it doesn't help all that much.

David J. West said...

I have nothing new to add but that I agree with the general concensus of a limited sale.

Maybe you could get a Christmas rush as it were.

the walking man said...

If your time isn't worth more than three cents an hour go ahead and drop the price. Personally I would have paid twice what I did for it but Nyah Nyah Nyah I got it for $3.

laughingwolf said...

also, look into 'dynamic pricing', it's an eye-opener...

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think $2.99 is fair for a book. I think devaluing is not a good idea unless it's for a limited time. I mean a whole book for $3 is not much.
I think writers have got to stick together and limit this downward plunge.

Charles Gramlich said...

eric1313, lots of things to think about. Yeah, I’m more thinking about expanding my readership than the money making thing. But maybe it would be better to have something else coming out before doing that.

Ty Johnston, I was wondering about that. I may just have to chock it up to an experiment to see what will happen. Gotta study the stats a bit more.

David J. West, that sounds like the most viable idea.

Mark, hum, I’ll have to remember that for next time. :)

Laughingwolf, I’ll have to check that out. I’m completely unfamiliar with that.

pattinase (abbott), that’s true. I’m pretty much clarified that any drop would not be permanent. Have to decide on timing I guess.

Deka Black said...

Being a collection i think 2.99 is the right price.

is the just amount of money, i think. 0'99 for a collection is too cheap for me and make me feel a lack of trust, being honest. ilike cheap stuff. but if i think is too cheap...

so 2'99 is right to me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Deka, thanks, I appreciate the feedback. I've got quite a bit to take in.

Greg said...

I don't think $2.99 is too high, but I do think you'd increase sales if you dropped it to 99 cents. Speaking for myself, I wouldn't be upset if I paid $2.99 for something and then later saw that it had dropped -- that's happened on a lot of books I've bought (Empire and a couple haiku books are the only ones I can think of) and it didn't bother me.

I think if you drop it to 99 cents, you should definitely make sure people know it used to be $2.99, that way they'll feel they're getting a better deal. Whichever way you go, good luck!

Carole said...

I've yet to get an e-reader so this discussion is interesting to me. Mostly I would say, if I would pay .99 for something I would also pay 2.99. Especially if it were an author I wanted to test out.

Charles Gramlich said...

Greg, good idea. I'm thinking I'll give it a try for sure. Although how long I'm gonna do it is the question.

Carole, I wonder how the culture is changing on this issue, and how readers are coming to expect something for less.

Snowbrush said...

"I tell you, the business end of writing gives me fits."

That's why I can't do it.

I say drop the price. We're not talking a thousand difference here, so I can't imagine people giving your much flack.

cs harris said...

Interesting question to ask, Charles.

I always hate to see authors undervalue their work, yet there's no denying books priced at 99 cents sell very well. It just seems wrong for Amazon to take such a huge chunk of that, though.

Elaine Ash said...

Hi Charles, I'm struggling with the whole price thing myself, and my 2 cents is leave it where it is. I think it's unfair to charge the first-comers 3-times what others get to buy on sale. With the new book, charge 99cents for two weeks or so to get it in the top 100, and to also give your closest friends and supporters a price break. Then raise it to $2.99 and leave it there.

That's what I'm going to do, anyway. Hope this is helpful.
Elaine Ash

Single Mom Weekly said...

Hi, Charles:

While I think that $2.99 is a reasonable price, dropping it to $0.99 will make it even more appealing to those on the fence. Depending on the size of your collection, you may even consider using one of your shorter works as a lead magnet in pdf form and give it away free in exchange for subscribing to your updates. That way, you can market to those you know really appreciate your work and are more than willing to pay your asking/premium price. And there is not a thing wrong with a sale.

April

Charles Gramlich said...

Snowbrush, it sure is hard to make those kinds of decisions. I hate even spending time thinking about it.

Candy, they take more of the 99 cents than of the 2.99, at least on a percentage basis.

Elaine Ash, Yeah, I think if I do it again I will start with the lower price and then raise it. But I can't do that with Killing trail,.

Single Mom Weekly, I've considered that lead in offer of a free story. I'm probably gonna do that if I go this kindle route of self publishing again. Lots of thought needed and that's unfortunately not my strong point. :)

Travis Erwin said...

I'm of the try it and see mentality. I priced Whispers at .99 cents because 2/3rds had been either published elsewhere or on my blog. It was more of a test that a true business venture and sometime the only way to know things for sure is to test the waters.