Heads Up: My E-book Prices are A-Changing

Chuck Wendig wrote a post some time back on Terrible Minds in which he argued (as far as I can recall because I can’t find the original post!) that it was fine to charge 99c for your e-book as long as you didn’t charge 99c for all your e-books. He said that when you have a number of titles available you should have the e-book equivalent of a gateway drug – something that gets readers to try you out in the hope that they will succumb to your literary charms and buy everything else you have available for a higher price. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that rather than having everything priced the same, the best way forward is to have tiered price points.

Um, Why?

The longer I’m in this game the more convinced I become that the biggest driving force behind my e-book sales are Amazon’s algorithims: people discover my book because Amazon happens to churn it up out of the masses through features like “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” and personalized recommendations. But this only happens if you sell enough books – and so, create enough connections – to get noticed by the all-powerful computer code. A 99c or similarly rock bottom-priced novel seems to be the best way to achieve this, volume wise. But would a reader who knew nothing else about me really jump from a 99c novel they bought for entertainment to a $2.99 memoir about topics they potentially have no interest in? Probably not. So in between the 99c novel and the $2.99 travel memoir, I create a stepping stone, a $1.99 travel memoir to ease you in.

Something’s Getting More Expensive

I’m also raising the price of Self-Printed to $4.99. Yes, raising. When I first released it I, of course, wanted people to buy it, so I set it at $2.99. But based on the feedback, reviews, etc., the amount of information that’s in it and its usefulness in potentially earning other people money, I think it can take a higher price than that. 

Now before you all start screaming about how this is hypocrisy considering how many times I’ve said that the price of a book does not determine its value, I think this is different. First of all, this isn’t about I think it’s worth more than that. Well, it’s not just about that. This is about I think I can raise the price and still sell it, and hey, it takes a lot of coffee to keep me going. This is how I make my living, and I need to make it wherever I can. 

There’s also the issue of perception. If I want a book to tell me how to write a novel and the #1 bestseller is a 99c e-book and the #2 is a $9.99 e-book, which am I going to think is the better book? Aren’t I going to think that the 99c is just #1 because it’s 99c and that if the #2 book can be #2 at ten times the price, it must be pretty damn good? When what you’re selling is advice and information, I think a higher price helps rather than hinders. 

So here is my new e-book price list, as demonstrated in this snazzy graphic I prepared earlier:

I’ve also done this in PDF. If you are buying anyone a Kindle for Christmas, kindly print it out and stuff it in the box. Or if you know anyone who’s getting one, print it out and tape it to their fridge. Or if you work in a place that sells Kindles, print it out, make photocopies and slip them into your customers’ bags.

I’m kidding, of course. 

(Or am I…?)

Some Other Stuff

It may seem stoopid of me to tell you that some of my books are going to be decreasing in price soon, but I’m assuming those of you who’ve been around these parts for a while and would ever have wanted to read my books already have. The real reason I’m telling you is that Self-Printed is still $2.99 – if you want it, go get it now before it goes up to $4.99 next week. Aren’t I nice? The other books have already had their prices changed.

When both Mousetrapped and Backpacked were $2.99 each, the combination title – Mousetrapped and Backpacked Too – was $4.99. Readers saved about a dollar by buying them together. But now that Mousetrapped is $1.99, I still want them to save a dollar, so Mousetrapped and Backpacked Too is $3.99. Likewise but in the opposite direction, when Self-Printed goes up to $4.99, the Self-Printed shorts will go from 99c to $1.99. 

This isn’t a Let’s See How This Goes for a While deal. This is how it’s going to be. Trust me, I learned my lesson back with the whole Mousetrapped-99c-promo headache. The next time I change a book’s price, it’ll be because I’ve released a new one.

P.S. Yes, the color of the text has changed. People have been complaining that the light grey was hard to read on a white background while I have been saying, “Turn down your screen brightness, then!” Problem is, the light grey is what’s part of the theme. It’s what goes. And we know how I feel about things co-ordinating, about things going, don’t we? I know the light grey isn’t great to read but I have never in my life chosen function over style and I’m loathe to start doing it now. Suffice to say that I will probably have to get up in the middle of the night to switch it back so sleep can come. We’ll see. 

14 thoughts on “Heads Up: My E-book Prices are A-Changing

  1. Peter Jones says:

    Hi Catherine – very interesting post! Doesn’t the fact you’re selling one of your books for 99 cents (ie. less than $2.99 threshold) mean that your royalties of ALL of them will drop to 35%? Certainly seemed that way when I tried a similar thing last week. How are you getting around that? Do you have more than one Kindle-publishing account?

    • Peter Jones says:

      Actually, scrub that last comment – I’ve just realised that the royalty rate is PER BOOK, which isn’t quite what I was trying to achieve.

      Anyway, here’s hoping the new price structure works 🙂

  2. Jennifer M. Hartsock says:

    I do agree: if I were searching for a good how-to book, I would go with the more expensive #2. Higher price generally means more credible and better quality. I wish you luck on future sales, and that your pricing ladder works.

    Take care,
    Jennifer

  3. Shannon Young says:

    Thank you for the heads up Catherine. I just bought Self-Printed, even though I don’t know yet whether I’ll be self-publishing. I bought Results Not Typical too for good measure.

  4. adrian white says:

    Excellent post, Catherine. I think the whole world is still trying to get to grips with ebook pricing so your rational, well-thought out and humorously presented case is an invaluable addition to the debate.

  5. Laura Reese says:

    Catherine, your Self-Printed book is very worth it @ 4.99!

    I paid for the paperback version (For me, it’s much easier to grab it when I need to use it as a reference!)

    Laura

  6. David Wright says:

    Pricing is a tricky beast with Amazon. I look forward to seeing how your strategy works. I believe you need to price for the market as well as readers. If something automatically has less of a reader pool to sell to, I’d price a bit higher. For instance, John Locke sells his main books for .99 while he sold his writing book for a few dollars, since there was a much smaller audience. I like your introductory price tier idea, though. It could bridge the gulf.

    From what I’ve read about Amazon’s algorithms, price drops temporarily increase book visibility. Once you reach a plateau, though, your book is shown less and less to customers. The trick here is to do temporary price drops. Not sure why this works better than always leaving your book at .99, but from what I’ve read from others on the subject, it works better. When your title reaches its peak sales-wise, adjust the price up. This allows you to also draw a higher profit while the book is still selling well.

    Wait a month or two, then do another price drop to get another shot of Amazon adrenaline.

  7. Steven Lewis says:

    Good points, all, Ms Howard. I think the perception issue is missed most of the time because everyone is hellbent on believing that readers are cheap or that $2.99 or more for hours of reading is somehow gouging one’s customers. (But $20 for a cinema ticket isn’t.)

    In my seminars for people who want to publish on Amazon I argue that there are two things that are missed in the pricing debate. The first is that a low price will be seen by some as an indication of a low quality and a lack of self-belief in the author. It is, therefore, a signal not to buy, not a “bargain” to be snapped up.

    The second is that time is important. I can afford to pay more than 99 cents for a book; what I can’t afford is time wasted getting a few chapters in to find out that a book is rubbish. If you value your time, you’re going to swerve anything that so much as hints at wasting it even if you have to pay a couple of bucks more for those hours of reading pleasure.

    Having read two of your books so far, I’d pay a lot more than 99 cents for them and say they’re all worth at least the $4.99 you’re (still modestly) going to be charging for Self-Printed.

  8. Rose says:

    Thank-you so much for telling me. I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo this year so felt that Self-Published would be a good motivator (naturally of course, it’s insanely unlikely that what I produce during the NaNoWriMo will be printable, but finger’s crossed!). I really enjoyed Mousetrapped and just started Self-Published, it’s still humorous but it doesn’t make it seem unprofessional. I love it! 😀

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