Book pricing. That slightly ugly elephant that sits somewhere between self-loathing, desperation for sales, pride in what you’ve completed, and the necessity of, you know, having enough mulaah to feed your kids.
But what to do? What to do? What if you have a series? What if you have a single book? What if you write non-fiction?
I recently *praise the literary gods* managed to land the holy grail of marketing – a Bookbub. I’ve learned a few things about pricing along the way and wanted to share my experience.
Before anyone gets their book-knickers in a twist, I’m not suggesting THIS strategy is THE glorious sales panacea that will work every time, hell it might not even work for you – I do write in a specific genre and anyone with an ounce of marketing sense will appreciate that genres vary as much as my mood during the final week of editing!
Here’s what I’ve learned about book pricing
I wrote a post not so long ago on The State of The Industry which reviewed the findings of the recent author earnings report. It has an examination of what we’re earning and price point sensitivity. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth a look. But the biggest takeaways for me were:
- Books no longer NEED to be bargain basement, there’s a gradual rise in pricing again (although cheaper books are still easier to shift by the metric crap ton).
- $1.99 seems to be a bit of a dead price point – while it is still used and selling, you as the author are on 35% royalty on Amazon, which means you get bugger all, and if you’re going to get bugger all, you might as well get it at 99c/p and sell a ton more books.
With series, you can get out your winner pompoms and do a happy dance because, with more books, you have more pricing flexibility. Oh, I recently wrote a resident writing coach post over on Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s so read that for tips on How NOT to Mess Up Your Series.
Now, try not to twitch buuuut, if you’re a relative unknown, then money shouldn’t be at the forefront of your mind. What should be in the gooey bits of your grey matter is gaining AS MANY READERS (and subscribers – but that’s a blog for a different day) as possible.
If you’re anything like me, then book one in your series was slaved over for an unacceptable amount of time, so parting with it at a bargain basement price is like having acid dropped on your tongue. But go back and read that previous paragraph. The point is, you want readers. Readers you can turn into lifelong fans who will continue to buy your books.
If you have a six book series, then losing money or earning a minimal royalty on book one doesn’t matter so much because you have five other books to earn your groceries from. So price book one low, as low as you can stand in order to gain as many readers as possible. At the end of the day, no one’s going to read book four if they haven’t read book one, two and three first.
The Prequel Novella
If you absolutely can’t stand to drop the price of book one then a strategy I’m seeing more and more frequently would be to write a prequel or a short story of some variety or another that you can use purposefully at a low price point to hook readers.
Word of warning – if you do use the prequel/novella strategy, don’t rush out a mediocre brain vomit of a story. This is going to be a reader’s first impression of you, you need it to be supercallerfragalistically awesome or you can kiss goodbye to later book sales.
I’m currently in the process of writing a prequel novella for mailing list building purposes rather than using it as my series entry point because I want book one to be the book that people read first. So I‘ll put my novella on sale BUT I’ll give it away for free to subscribers – if I get extra sales from non-subscribers then bonus for me.
What will I price it? I don’t know yet, it sort of depends on how long it turns out, but either 99c/p, 1.99c/p or if it’s closer to novel length then maybe 2.99c/p – super specific I know. Sozbuckles.
The Real Cost of Marketing
If you’re going to advertise your books, then I hope, you’ll be assessing their performance and ROI (return on investment). You’ll probably find when pricing a book one at super low prices, for example, 99c/p, that you don’t appear (at face value) to be getting a return on investment. BUT you need to take into consideration whether you’re getting an increase in sales on later books – called ‘sale through’ (or read through). If you are – then losing a bit on book one is fine because you’re making the profit back on later books.
There’s some nifty math you can do to work this out, but my math is about as good as my ability to follow rules. So I’ll recommend a book instead – check out Brian D. Meek’s Mastering Amazon Ads for a bunch of wicked sick knowhow on AMS ads and the nifty read through sums.
The BookBub was for Keepers (which is currently still 99c/p by the way). Usually priced at 2.99 (it’s the first book in the series). I dropped it to 99c/p for the sale.
I also immediately put Victor on pre-order. I’ve heard that while BookBubs make their money back, typically, you earn the bucks on the sale through – there’s that word again. So I took the plunge and put Victor on pre-order. Oh, you can pre-order it here.
And yes, I did get some pre-orders so I’m convinced that little nugget of sales goodness is worth listening to.
I wanted to see what the BookBub did in isolation, so I made a point of not promoting it anywhere else. Previously my BookBub tail lasted about three days. Which was a similar experience this time. So after three days, I was surprised to find I was still selling copies. I can only put this down to the fact I had a sales rank boost and the book was still at 99c/p. So I’m now using other slower burn ads to keep the sales ticking over and praise be the bookish gods, it’s working, and the pre-orders are still trickling in too.
What I’d Do Next Time
Well for one, I wasn’t expecting to get accepted – so I’d already done a weeks ad stacking not that long ago which meant I couldn’t apply for ads like Robin Reads or eReader News Today. So I might reconsider when I apply next time!
- But book ads on other platforms on the days around the BookBub
- Now I’ve experimented with a pure BookBub, I’d do more by way of promoting the sale to subscribers and on social media as I’m less worried about the effectiveness and more concerned with sales.
- Wait until I had at LEAST three books out in my series.
Tips On Getting A BookBub
I don’t claim to be an expert on BookBub Featured Deals, but having managed to get more of them than not, I thought I’d share a couple of things I’ve done to secure them
- Make sure your cover is shit hot shiny (for the literal ones of you out there, I don’t actually mean shiny, I just mean good quality) and something that fits in with the other covers in your genre
- Have an enticing blurb
- As many reviews as you possibly can – I went on a review drive after being rejected the first time. I secured a ton more reviews, applied again, and boom boom shake the sales, I got one.
- Use the comments box – actual humans read your application so talk to them… like humans! Say whatever you can, all your successes, mention the number of reviews on all the Amazon’s and GoodReads. Editorial reviews and previous success.
- Being wide is generally preferred from what I can tell
- Be flexible with dates
- Be willing to accept an international one (which excludes the U.S.A)
With my non-fiction, I spent a long time with 13 Steps To Evil priced at 2.99c/p for the ebook. But having gone out and looked at comparative authors and books in my genre, I discovered that for the length of the book, I was actually underpricing. After crippling self-doubt and a bout of fear induced hyperventilation, I convinced myself to up the price to 3.99c/p.
What difference did it make to sales? Absolutely none. I continued seeing the same amount of sales month on month, only now I was earning more on each sale. WINNER POM POMS! Am I going to stick at 3.99? No not forever. I’d like to rise it to 4.99 but I need an injection of confidence first and probably some more books out!
So yeah – market research, don’t be afraid to experiment… Did I mention experimenting? DO IT. Do it like it’s pancakes smothered in bacon and syrup and you haven’t eaten in seven weeks.
N.B. as a vegetarian with a severe hatred of bacon I find the previous metaphor utterly repulsive. So for the veggies out there, take your pick of wine, chocolate or tofu.
Let me summarise:
- Experimentation is sales oxygen – just because some marketing demigod has said they priced their book on the fictional life of potato peel at 20.99 does not mean that it will a) work for your more mainstream book about a superhero and b)that you should take it on face value and not experiment for yourself. EXPERIMENT PEOPLE. Do the work. Find out you’re own stinking lessons.
- Stick at a winning price forever – let’s say you hit on a cushy price that ramps up the sales volume. That doesn’t mean you need to stick with it forever. Unless you experiment you won’t know if you can up your price without affecting sales or not. Did I mention experimenting? No? Well, you should. Just saying.
- Don’t undervalue your work – This is especially true of non-fiction you’d be surprised at what you can price and still make sales. But the only way to find out is to… yeah, you feel me, EXPERIMENT.
- Covers and blurbs – even if your books free, if you have a second-rate cover and a boring blurb, no reader is going to pick up your book.
- Non-fiction can be priced higher than fiction
- Sale through – remember that you might lose money when advertising book one in your series, but if you have many other books in your series, then check your sale through profit before ditching an advert.
- Market research – go look in your genre and check comparative authors – what are they pricing – that’s your benchmark.
How do you guys price your books, whether fiction, non-fiction or series books? Let me know in the comments.
You can get more awesome writing tips in my book 13 Steps To Evil – How to Craft Superbad Villains. Click this link and just tap the logo of your device or regular bookshop and it will take you to the right page. You can also get a FREE villains cheatsheet by joining my mailing list just click here.