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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If only ebook pricing were an intuitively obvious task...

I've been doing a little mid-month accounting. I'm on track to sell fewer books than I did last month, but I have already made more money, and there are still eight days left in March. I think I'll make significantly more money than I did in February. When it comes to keeping score, I'll go with money every time. This is a business, after all. If I wanted to give my work away, I'd post it here.

It's not a slam-dunk that I'll make this month's goal: to gross enough money through sales of my self-published e-books to pay my cell phone bill with its obscenely priced data plan, but it's very possible. So how did I accomplish this marked improvement? By very much.

That's not true. I've posted on message boards and offered some free books on sites frequented by readers. A friend is letting me run a banner ad on her site. All of these things were free. All of them might be expected to generate a few impulse buys, but not all that many.

I didn't place any ads. I offered no special prices this month. This last thing is significant, because lowering the price of my biggest seller, Wounded Earth, costs me big-time. Its regular price, $2.99, is the minimum price that qualifies me for Amazon's 70% royalty. Lowering it to $2.98 would drop me to a 35% royalty, decreasing my income per book by half. Lowering it to the price that popular wisdom says will attract attention, $0.99, decreases my income per book by a factor of six. This bargain price had better generate some serious sales, or it is very expensive for me. I tried it last month, and I can't say that the results were worthwhile.

People say that you have to drop the price and leave it there for a while to get results. I'm not saying that I won't try that at some point, but it will be part of a carefully considered plan, and it won't be soon. I want to try some other marketing strategies first, because I'm concerned that bargain-basement prices devalue my professional work. And I am a professional, with six books in print that people routinely pay more than $0.99 for the pleasure of reading. The improvement in my income this month, which occurred while maintaining my prices at a level that seems to be becoming established as a professional rate, encourages me to think that I can build a bigger following without slashing prices.

Yes, I know cutting prices can increase sales and improve that coveted Amazon ranking, driving yet more sales in that very desirable upward spiral. Therefore, I am not saying that I won't give it another try. My short-term plan, though, is centered around two things--buying ads and getting more reviews. I've been giving away review copies in selected venues. (See, I'm not against free books when there is a business-related reason for giving them away. I just don't want to devalue my work unnecessarily.)

I have also bought some ads, most of which will hit in April. I'm lucky enough to have several books already out there earning money, so that I can afford to do this. I've decided to take advantage of that opportunity. I saw marked results from ads purchased last month, but they hit while my price was at $0.99, so the income was low. I guess I'll see whether those ads will attract readers at a $2.99 price point. It's a gamble, but so is any business venture.

How will this all work out? I guess I'll find out soon enough.