Posted on 11/30/2013 at 12:00 AM by Jeffrey Bruner

(First in a three-part series.)

No matter how brilliant your novel or book may be, there are three factors that can easily sink you when it comes time to actually sell it:

Even though your mom and dad warned you about the pitfalls of discussing money, politics and religion in polite company, let's talk about money today.

The toughest thing for many authors, especially first-time ones, is that there is no correlation between how long you spent writing your novel and the price. Or how fantastic your novel may be and the price. Or how much your mother loves you and ... you get the idea.

Zero. Zip. Zilch.

The only thing that matters is how much money a reader is willing to pay. Period. It's pure capitalism at its cruelest.

How you compete and succeed in this market depends on the stage of your career. So let's break it down:

  • NEW AUTHORS (1-2 novels) / UN-ESTABLISHED AUTHORS (10,000 or fewer career PAID sales): The vast majority of readers have never heard of you, so let's think what's going through their mind as they scan over book titles and blurbs. "What's the most I want to pay and not feel I wasted my money if I don't like it?" That's how most people decide whether to buy a book, a CD or a ticket to a play. You need to lower that "risk" in the mind of the reader as much as possible. Price your books at 99 cents or give them away. You should not be concerned about earnings at this point — it's all about building a readership. Include in the back of your book your email address and invite readers to email you if they want to know when your next book is released. Use a program like MailChimp to store the email addresses.

  • ESTABLISHED AUTHORS (you're close to making a living as a novelist): Your name gets mentioned sometimes in a Goodreads group or Facebook page during discussions by readers. You have a mailing list of several thousand fans. On bad days at work, you dream about telling your boss to stick it where the sun don't shine and write novels for a living. But let's face it — the vast majority of the universe still doesn't know who you are. You need to keep free and 99 cent books to draw in new readers while charging $2.99 for your other novels. It's worth experimenting with $3.99 — some authors can have success at this price while others do not.

  • SUCCESSFUL AUTHORS (this is how you pay the bills): You can launch a book into the Amazon 100 just on the strength of your mailing list, which probably has 10,000 or more names on it. You'll still want to create that staircase of price points — 99 cents or $2.99 on one novel to draw new readers, $2.99 or $3.99 for your back catalog, and $4.99 or $5.99 for your newest release.

Of the 1,300 authors we have in this group, I would guess 90 percent are in the first category, 9 percent in the middle group and 1 percent in the third.

I want every single one of you to make it to the third group and you can do it. But you need to adopt a strategy that gets you there over a period of time, because it's easier to win the Powerball jackpot than become an overnight success in this industry.

Remember: Slow and steady wins this race.

Categories: Pricing

Comments
<p>I would tend to agree about giving it away when you are new, but I have to say that after experimenting with it for most of a month, the very lowest price point -- 99 cents -- did not work well for me compared to keeping it higher. It's possible I'd be better off with $2.99 rather than $3.99, but the truth is that price also sends a signal about quality. So if your book is one of a series or meant to be devoured without too much thought, it make sense. If it's a stand-alone and meaty, I think 99 cents may turn off some readers who might otherwise be tempted.</p>
Sandra Hutchison | 05/24/2018 at 02:32 AM
<p>I was thinking 99c may be to low but I do agree that it is about the readers, but I wasn&#39;t sure about the making my book free either, so I was thinking &#39;what can I live with&#39;. So I was an ebook set at a price $1.99 is ok. So my anthology is like first book before I do publish my first real novel that will be publish a month after the anthology. I also think it to think like a reader and not a author we as author&#39;s are readers before we are authors. From looking at from a readers stand point you can think of it as what you would write as feedback to these authors. Pay attention to readers comments &nbsp;on sites like BN, Amazon, &amp; Goodreads, and &nbsp;also look at what you would be willing to pay for a book that may or may not be good especially if you never heard of them.</p>
Raquelle Stepney | 05/24/2018 at 02:32 AM
<p>What a wonderful post! Thought-provoking! I am an author as well who chose to start my book at $2.99. &nbsp;However, I was a brand newbie and read advice similar to what you&#39;re written here. In the first few days, it was free and I had over 150 downloads. I was happy and my book was in the Top 100 of its category. Then, when the KDP free days were over, it sat and sat and SAT with no sales despite a few very good 4* &amp; 5* reviews. Needless to say, I dropped the price to $0.99. &nbsp;Still, no sales. In the last few months, I&#39;ve upped my marketing (it was word-of-mouth and very little true marketing) and I have sold several books with the increased exposure. &nbsp;However, I am feeling the pull of the low price being an indicator of poor quality. It seems the next &#39;fight&#39; over ebooks is the quality vs. price point perception. Books that are well-written (edited, good covers, marketed, blog tours, etc.) selling for $0.99 and books that are written but not edited professionally, covers not professionally designed, etc. also selling for $0.99 -- how is a reader to choose? Let&#39;s be real -- for every single book purchase, will we read the 1st 5 pages of reviews to identify which is which? &nbsp;Because ultimately, this is what it comes down to.</p>
The NoteBook Blogair | 05/24/2018 at 02:32 AM
<p>I&#39;m not so sure I agree. I self-published my debut novel and hit the #1 in Western Romance (paid Kindle) with only one 5-star review and an e-book price of $3.85. Come Back is a well-written, well-edited, full-length book that can hold its own against any traditionally published book in the same category, so I priced it as such. I did drop the price to $2.99 for about a month, to both test the pricing waters and encourage anyone with their budget-minded finger hovering over the buy button to go ahead and click, but then I put it back up to regular price. I may feel differently after I&#39;ve been in the publishing world a little longer, but for now, I&#39;ll save 99c sales for brief, special promotions.</p>
Melissa | 05/24/2018 at 02:32 AM
<p>I am not a writer.&nbsp;&nbsp; I post this message only as a reader.&nbsp; One of the hardest things for me, going from hard copies to e-books, is how much harder it is to sample and skim in electronic form.&nbsp; Amazons, 'try in now' web tool is useful, but is pretty slow even on my supposedly high speed internet connection.&nbsp; I've seen some authors offer free sample chapters.&nbsp; I both like and dislike the 'first chapter of the next book' included at the end.&nbsp; Or even, 'first chapter of a different book by this author.'&nbsp; It annoys a bit as I don't quite get the sense of being finished.&nbsp; But I think that's something I can easliy get over if it helps me sift through the pile of options. I am a conservative person, a trailing edge adopter.&nbsp; But I don't know that I could bring myselft to buy a book without reading a bit of it, knowing the author from previous books, or knowing personally, and considering the pruchase a suportive donation if i'm underwhelmed by the story.&nbsp; My husband did find out that you can return ebooks if you find out early that you can't stand to finish them.&nbsp; But my usual experiance with ebooks that I wish I hadn't read is just being underwhelmed at the end.&nbsp; So that's not a lot of help. So being able to read a bit of the book, quickly and easily, is what I've found most persuasive.&nbsp; I wonder if this is something that might fit in the 'blurb' bit.&nbsp; Maybe a second 'see more' ?&nbsp; (as the first 'see more' just show the rest of the 'back of the cover' intro).</p>
Hannah | 05/24/2018 at 02:32 AM
<p>&nbsp;My first novel, Big Lake, has sold over 160,000 copies, spent &nbsp;over 78 days on Amazon's Top 100 list, and made the New York Times bestseller list for e-books. I never gave away one copy. I started it at 99&cent; and have raised the price to $3.99 without seeing any noticable impact on sales. Now all of my books are priced at $2.99 - $3.99. All freebies do is glut the market and create a feeling among too many readers that there is no need to pay for books when there are thousands being offered for free.</p>
Nick Russell | 05/24/2018 at 02:32 AM
<p>If you've got the reviews and got the rating, I don't think readers will see 99 cents as &quot;junk.&quot; It's not that I'm saying you can't have some success at $2.99, but that you'll grow your audience faster with at least one book that's 99 cents or free.</p>
Jeffrey Bruner | 05/24/2018 at 02:32 AM
<p>Interesting post, and while I can understand your reasoning, I disagree somewhat on experience. I am in your first category for sure - I have one book out with another due shortly. I charged $2.99 from the word go, as I felt that to charge less would be an indication of lack of quality. So far it seems I'm right - in the 4 months since I published, I haven't changed the price, and it sells steadily 10-12 a day, with around 1750 sales in total now, and is very often It is right now) in 2 Top 100 categories on Amazon UK. I haven't done anything out of the ordinary in marketing, but the cover and blurb seem to work very well, and I will put my next release in at the same price point. I've been tempted to raise it to $3.99, but as it's going so well I'm leaving well alone.</p>
Deborah Jay | 05/24/2018 at 02:32 AM
<p>&nbsp;I took the advice to charge the higher price for two reasons. I believed it sent a message about quality, and I figured it gave me room to make special offers.&nbsp; I haven't marketed it well, and the book isn't selling despite some positive feedback and no bad reviews. I know there's a lot more I can do to market, but now I'm more confused than ever about the price I should charge.&nbsp; This advice makes sense to me, so maybe I'll give the 99c price a go with book number 2, and drop the price on number one at the same time. It will be interesting to see what happens.</p>
Juli Townsed | 05/24/2018 at 02:32 AM
<p>And others say .99 is too low. Makes readers worry that it's junk. Free for a short period seems to work well. Can't seem to have it permanently free on Amazon or B&amp;N.</p>
Kate Wyland | 05/24/2018 at 02:32 AM
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