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.